Discuss Doctor Faustus as a morality play.

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Karen P.L. Hardison | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

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While the Renaissance period play Doctor Faustus has some characteristics of a Medieval period Morality Play, it has some striking and significant differences that remove it from the genre of morality play. Marlowe constructed Faustus as an Aristotelian tragedy intended to inspire fear and pity. Audiences feel fear of the situation and pity for Faustus, whom Marlowe characterizes as a complex sympathetic character who develops and does not remain static. This points out two important differences between this and a morality play. A morality play (1) is intended to teach the difference between virtue and sin; between good and evil. A morality play (2) has allegorical characters who are named for what they allegorically represent (e.g., Everyman, Pride, Angel, Fear) and who are therefore static having no character development.

One similar characteristic between Faustus and a morality play is the themes of sin and redemption, though Faustus does not personify Sin and Redemption as a morality play would do. Another similarity is the presence of a Good Angel and an Evil Angel and various Devils, yet these are specific characters with specific relationships or functions in Faustus' struggles; they are not allegorical personifications. Another similar characteristic is the presence of the Seven Deadly Sins, who appear as devils dancing for Faustus (Marlowe changed to this from the devil's pageant in the original 1592 English translation Faust Chapbook), and the presence of the Devil as Mephistophilis against whom Faustus struggles even while collaborating with him. Yet both of these are related to the plot and plot development instead of to the morality message as in a morality play.

LUCIFER. Now, Faustus, how dost thou like this?
FAUSTUS. O, this feeds my soul!
LUCIFER. Tut, Faustus, in hell is all manner of delight.
FAUSTUS. O, might I see hell, and return again,
How happy were I then!
LUCIFER. Thou shalt; I will send for thee at midnight.

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coachingcorner | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Senior Educator

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You need to think about whether Dr Faustus is designed to educate its theatre-going audiences about spiritual issues, for example whether those are the moral dangers of too much knowledge, information or learning or whether they could be the wordly drive towards ambitious goals or material success or wealth. This sixteenth century play by Christopher Marlowe was first 'advertised' as a tragedy in 1604 - of couse it is also a 'history' as in 'hi-story.' In those days a history could mean 'someone's story.' It's also a tragic tale. A tragedy should evoke the feelings of fear and of pity. Consider whether Dr Faustus combines  both genres. Certainly the play has the strong and sober story line of the tragedy. it also has one noteworthy chief character, ordinary in terms of his humanity to begin with, but who progresses through a series of human errors and mis-judgements to a Fall involving sorrow and often humiliation, poverty and loss of reputation. Of course, as audiences, we can immediately identify with a guy like this - he is each one of us. That is what makes us feel pity and danger for him - and for ourselves. Consider whether these feelings are more likely to make us take on the 'moral tale' or message of the story also.

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dssnmurthy | College Teacher | (Level 1) eNoter

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Dr. Faustus by Marlowe is a morality play depicting the society or the people in his period. He has seen how the highly intelligent scholars are ruining their lives for the sake of power and  want to  hold  the world in their hands. Dr. faustus is a typically intelligent man where he feels the the world can be at his doorsteps by engaging himself with black magic to whom he surrounders his soul to the devil for the sake of his greedy power. He overthrows Gods moral values and inculcates the vices where finally it ruins his life. Through the play Marlowe wants to give a message to the world that all intelligent men in the world should follow the moral values and ethics which are coined by the society.  If we violate the moral vaules of the society like Dr. Faustus we will be ruining our lives and have no place in Heaven after death.

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smhaskovec | Middle School Teacher | (Level 1) eNoter

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Dr. Faustus, by Christopher Marlowe, can be classified as both a morality play AND a Renaissance play because it simultaneously employs literary characteristics from each genre. From the Renaissance it explores, up to the point of glorifying, Dr. Faustus's great spirit for human aspiration and quest for superhuman powers. In accordance with morality plays, Faustus is punished for refusing to repent and follow the "right/moral" path. Because the play's two main themes--glorifying the doctor's push to excel beyond human limits and his later grief and inevitable punishment--are dichotomous, Dr. Faustus is sometimes said to be the embodiment of Renaissance ambiguity.

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