In what ways does Doctor Faustus by Christopher Marlowe resemble a morality play?

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vangoghfan | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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Although Christopher Marlowe’s play titled Doctor Faustus is not a “morality play” in the strict sense of the term, it obviously resembles a morality play in various ways.  Here are some of those resemblances:

  • Both Faustus and morality plays are explicitly concerned with moral, ethical issues – with matters of right and wrong, good and bad, virtue and evil.
  • Both Faustus and morality plays are clearly rooted in Christian morality specifically.
  • Both Fautus and morality plays announce their moral meanings quite openly. Audiences are not left guessing what lessons the plays are designed to teach.
  • Both Faustus and morality plays emphasize man’s dependence on God for answers and guidance.
  • Both Faustus and morality plays assume that some form of existence continues beyond physical death and that the purpose of human life is to share that eternal future existence with God, not with Satan.
  • Both Faustus and morality plays are designed to teach moral, religious lessons not only to their audiences but often to their main characters.
  • The main characters in both Faustus and morality plays tend to be infected by pride, the root from which all other sins grow.
  • Both Faustus and morality plays often contain figures who are obviously allegorical or symbolic.  In Faustus, for instance, the following figures appear: Pride, Covetousness, Wrath, Envy, Gluttony, Sloth, and Lechery.
  • Faustus shares with some morality plays elements of comedy which help highlight, through contrast, the serious issues with which the plays deal.
  • Faustus shares with at least one morality play (Everyman) a final scene in which the main character literally descends into death before our eyes. In Faustus, however, the title character is led off to hell by devils:

[Enter DEVILS]

FAUSTUS: Adders and serpents, let me breathe awhile!

Ugly hell gape not! Come not, Lucifer!  [13.111-12]

In contrast, in Everyman, the title character descends into the grave accompanied by his Good Deeds and is welcomed by an angel who says, “Come, excellent elect spouse to Jesu!” (893).

  • Both Faustus and Everyman end with speeches addressed to the audience in which the moral meanings of both plays are spelled out quite explicitly.


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