Discuss how The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus by Christopher Marlowe is a Reformation play.

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booboosmoosh | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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The Protestant Reformation was led by Martin Luther with his break from the Catholic Church, however, it was embraced by Henry VIII for purely personal reasons.

Politics and religion came to be intricately interwoven with national identity because of the association between the Protestant Reformation and England's Renaissance culture.

The English Renaissance was a "cultural and artistic movement," which began in 1485 under Henry VII. It represents a "rebirth" or renewed interest the arts.

The dominant art forms of the English Renaissance were literature and music.

By the time Elizabeth I came to the throne, she was well-prepared to lead England into a new era of prosperity. She was a brilliant monarch, shrewd like her father (Henry VIII), but more conservative. Whereas Henry's reign was like football or rugby, Elizabeth's reign was more like chess. She managed for a long time to avoid confrontations with Spain (the other major power in Europe—with its mighty Armada), increased the national treasury (which was greatly depleted by the War of the Roses, and the Hundred Years War), encouraged (for the most part) religious tolerance, and supported the arts.

One of the central issues that Elizabeth had to deal with was what to do with the Catholics. Backing up, Elizabeth's father wanted a divorce from Catherine of Aragon and had petitioned the Pope—Henry wanted a male heir and his wife could not give him one. When Rome refused his request, Henry VIII broke from the Catholic Church in Rome, created his own religion, and declared himself the head of his new Anglican church. The first thing he did was give himself a divorce. He then went about persecuting Catholics, monasteries, etc. This was Henry's Reformation.

When Henry died, Edward VI (his heir) came to the throne at only nine years of age and died at fifteen. Though Edward tried to guarantee that a Protestant (Lady Jane Grey) succeed him, she sat on the throne only nine days. Mary I's army was strong enough to take power, and in becoming Queen, Mary began persecuting Protestants, as she was half-Catholic through her mother. After several terrible years, Mary died, and Elizabeth I took the throne. It was with relief that the people welcomed a Protestant monarch, and the Protestant Reformation of England continued.

It was during Elizabeth's reign that authors such as Marlowe and Shakespeare flourished. Marlowe's The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus has clear signs that it was a Reformation play, as seen with several comments directed against Catholicism.

For example, Marlowe "mocks the Pope." Second, Faustus is ultimately damned because he follows the teachings of the "wrong" bible—he suscribes to the teachings of Jerome's bible. (Also known as the "Vulgate", this version of the bible was a Latin translation in the 4th Century by St. Jerome, and was the "bible of choice" for the Catholic Church.) Marlowe infers that Faustus' desire to practice the "black arts" comes from using this bible.

Reading the ''wrong'' version of the bible contributes to Faustus making his fatal decision.

Humanism and the Scientific Revolution were also elements of the Renaissance (and the Reformation), and Marlowe's play...

...satirizes both the New Science and Humanism, which lie behind Faustus's unquenchable desire to know more about the natural world.

These are several indicators that this drama was a "Reformation" play.

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