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Written near the close of the sixteenth century, Christopher Marlowe's Doctor Faustus reflects the transition from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance characteristic of this period in Northern Europe. While writers such as Copernicus and Harvey were proposing new views of the universe and the human body respectively, other writers of the same period clung quite tenaciously to medieval perspectives. Tycho Brahe, a Danish astronomer at the close of the sixteenth century, actually adhered to a geocentric view of the cosmos in spite of the general trend to the contrary.
In Doctor Faustus, these conflicting views surface in the title character himself. At the opening of the play, Doctor Faustus studies an array of subjects most of his time considered the sources of wisdom. From theology, to medicine, to astronomy, to law, Doctor Faustus examines the current state of knowledge and finds it lacking. He ultimately determines that an older, medieval, "science" can provide the answers he seeks. Magic, particularly the magic that would allow him to manipulate the world and those around him for his own gain, proves the most enticing for him. Unlike science which governs much of Renaissance thought, and religion which dominated the Middle Ages, magic rides the fence between them. Rather than relying on empiricism as science does, or a passive approach such as revelation characteristic of religion, magic incorporates elements of both. The "magician" must actively involve himself in the process of conjuring, but he must also look/appeal to a power greater than his to accomplish his goal. The choice of magic perfectly represents the fusion of medieval and Renaissance elements, because it incorporates aspects of both.
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