What is the theme of Doctor Faustus?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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One of the overriding themes of Marlowe's work is the inherent danger in appropriating the world in accordance to one's own subjectivity.  The element of Faustus making a pact with the devil in order to maximize his own sense of power on Earth heightens this.  Faustus makes this agreement not out of a noble sensibility, or out of a mission driven by benevolence to others, but rather does so in the hopes of controlling more of the world in line with his own vision of self.  Reflective of the exaltation of the powers of the individual, Marlowe's work reminds us that human beings are finite, and their capacity for power has limitations.  In making his agreement with the devil, Faustus denies such boundaries, and seeks to exert his sense of individual identity without such constraints.  In the process, every act of creation leads to another act of destruction.  The stress for understanding limits, accepting natural boundaries, and comprehending that human power has an end that cannot be subverted represents the themes Faustus either learns or demonstrates to the reader via his own experience.

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