What is the effect of the way comedy and tragedy is juxtaposed in Doctor Faustus?

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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You might like to think how this juxtaposition reveals something about the key theme of appearance vs. reality. Consider, for example, the famous banquet scene in Rome that Faustus interrupts. The scene's comedy, apart from the slapstick element, is based in the way in which there is an obvious gap between the appearance of this formal event and its reality. The popes and cardinals are ostensibly spiritual and religious guides to the Catholic church, but in reality are shown to be above all political figures that are obsessed with what power they can gain during their lives rather than any sense of spirituality. Faustus, too, is a figure that can be analysed in a similar way. He appears to be some kind of spirit that comes from another realm, but we know that the powers he has only come from Mephistopheles and that these in turn emerge from hell. This comic scene is therefore closely linked with the tragedy of the reality that Faustus himself fails to see. Power on earth is only ephemeral and will pass, just as surely as the clock is ticking that will signal the end of the agreement and initiate the descent of Faustus into the hell that eagerly awaits him.

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