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Can Doctor Faustus be defined as a Renaissance man in Marlowe's Doctor Faustus?

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riya1989 | Student, Undergraduate | Honors

Posted July 29, 2011 at 1:53 PM via web

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Can Doctor Faustus be defined as a Renaissance man in Marlowe's Doctor Faustus?

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salimj | College Teacher | Valedictorian

Posted August 1, 2011 at 2:49 AM (Answer #1)

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All the critiques ,without any doubt,agree that 'Doctor Faustus' is a man of Renaissance.  Faustus's inexhaustible thirst for knowledge, his worship of beauty, his passion for classic, his interest in magic, his admiration for super-human ambition and all the other interests prove Dr. Faustus to be a Renaissance man.

In the very opening scene of the play when he rejects the traditional subjects of study and turning to magic, his thirst for renaissance values is very clear.  He was thinking of the the 'world of profit and delight, of power , of honour,of omnipotence" which he thinks to enjoy as a magician. He is filled with curiosity, desire for wealth and luxury, nationalism and longing for power. These were the salient features of Renaissance. Faustus desires gold from East Indies, pearls from depths of sea and pleasant fruits from America.

The paramount characteristic of the Renaissance spirit is the spirit of enquiry. This spirit is a part of the life of Doctor Faustus. Marlow expresses both the good and bad element of this spirit.  The danger is seen in the last soliloquy in which Faustus offers to burn his book. He says, "O,would I had never seen Wittenberg, never read book!". Doctor Faustus owes its ideas and thoughts from Italian Renaissance. Italian Renaissance thinkers spoke about the limitations of man and thought that knowledge as the only solution to come out of this limitation. Here the knowledge of magic helps him , to a certain extent to come out of the limitation of Faustus

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

Posted August 6, 2011 at 2:36 PM (Answer #2)

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Renaissance man is a modern term, first found in the written word in the early 1900s, that stands for an individual who is proficient in many fields and endeavors of knowledge, at times rivaling the proficiency of experts. The concept is based however on the great thinkers of the 1300s and 1400s who were masters of a vast number of fields of knowledge. The prime example of this sort of master is Leonardo da Vinci whose notebooks and art works show that he excelled in many divergent fields of knowledge.

Doctor Faustus, of the legend and of Marlowe's drama, was similarly proficient in every field of academic knowledge open at the time. He mastered such areas as divinity, law, economy, and mathematics. When Marlowe's play opens, Faustus is debating which field to cling to:

Settle thy studies, Faustus, and begin
To sound the depth of that thou wilt profess:

The end of the debate is that he will deepen his knowledge of the art of magic and summon demons to do his bidding and give him the unlimited power he covets. Thus he will add one more area of proficiency to his breadth of knowledge.

A sound magician is a mighty god:
Here, Faustus, tire
thy brains to gain a deity.

From the descriptions above, it is clear that Doctor Faustus does indeed fit both the concept of a man of learning living during the 14th and 15th centuries as well as fit the modern construct of the Renaissance man.

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