What is the language in Doctor Faustus by Marlowe?

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Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Christopher Marlowe was a Renaissance Elizabethan poet and playwright, a contemporary of William Shakespeare, and he wrote blank verse in Elizabethan English, which is linguistically identified as Early Modern English and is a Germanic language built from a combination of Anglo, Saxon, Latin, Celtic and Norman influences that reflect the history of England. 

The composition of Marlowe's Dr. Faustus employs many literary devices including allusion, digression, simile and metaphor. Using Scene 1 as a handy example, there are many instances of allusion. Allusion is literary technique of referring to the name of an ancient classical character, author or legendary figure or work of writing that is so well defined and known that it represents a concept that is larger than the name itself/ For example, in Line 145 Cornelius makes a classical allusion.to "the Delphian Oracle." All educated people would know that The Delphian Oracle was the Priestess who delivered messages purporting to be the words of the Greek god Apollo. Delphi was one of the most frequented oracular sites in ancient Greece and the most highly trusted. Marlowe is using this allusion of three words to say that Faustus will have great renown for his magical arts and that multitudes of people will come to him to see what mysteries he knows and what miracles he performs.

Digression is a story or train of thought that is off the main topic of discourse in the story but that is used to make a point pertaining to the subject of the text. For instance, Faustus diverts into some short digressions in Scene 1 in Lines 83 through 97 when he gets side tracked from his logical considerations to imagine how he will manipulated the spirits of the magical world to do his bidding in extravagant tasks: "I'll have them fly to India for gold / ...I'll have them fill the public schools with silk, / ...." It is clear that this flights of fancy won't help him to make his decision of help him move on the first step once he has made his decision: it is a digression from the point.

Marlowe uses tropes to enhance his meaning with figurative language that gives added depth of understanding to his subject matter. A trope is a literary device that employs literary techniques of figurative language in metaphor, simile, personification, irony, metonymy, synecdoche and others, Figurative language is that which has meaning beyond its literal meaning. For example the metaphor "He is a rock" does not mean that someone is a chunk of granite but that he has strength that is compared to the strength of a chunk of granite. [Incidentally, metaphor is a comparison without the words "like" or "as." Simile is a comparison with the words "like" or "as": "He is strong like granite."]