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Christopher Marlowe's play The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus is written in five acts and recounts the decision of the primary character, Doctor Faustus, to sell his soul to the Devil in exchange for twenty-four years of service by Mephistopheles, Lucifer's servant. There are several elements of style that Marlowe incorporated into this play.
The play makes use of the Chorus, an individual or group who provides important information to drive the plot along. (It is the Chorus, for example, in Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet that lets the audience know before the play begins the fate of the "star-crossed lovers.") The use of the Chorus is a long-standing part of ancient Greek dramas, and is made up of a...
"group of performers...who comment with a collective voice on the dramatic action."
The Chorus presents the play's "theme" and provides narration where necessary.
The next element of style is the use of allegory in the plot, in which...
...characters represent abstract ideas and are used to teach moral, ethical, or religious lessons.
During the medieval period, church-based messages most often sermons, were infused with elements of drama were added to appeal to an audience that could not read. They were represented as miracle (and mystery) plays (which were often entertaining), and morality plays, often more serious. (These "dramas" were the precursors to the dramatic movement that would become so popular during the English or Elizaethan Renaissance.) The morality play was still popular during the Tudor period (which would have been the time of Henry VIII and Elizabeth I).
The main theme of the morality play is this: Man begins in innocence, Man falls into temptation, Man repents and is saved.
It is important to note, however, that in Marlowe's play of Doctor Faustus (which is a morality play), Faustus cannot—or will not—be saved.
An "antithesis" is also present. An antithesis deals with opposites: Lucifer is the antithesis of God. In this play, the Good Angel and the Bad Angels are the antithesis of each other, each trying his best to "win" Faustus' soul. Another element present is the "hamartia" which...
In a tragedy, the event or act that causes the hero's or heroine's downfall.
The cause of Faustus' downfall is the agreement he enters into with the Devil. Other elements are "tragedy" and "suspense," as well as comic relief. The final element is "catharsis." In terms of the morality play, this piece offers the audience a release based upon its witness of the experiences of the main character, found in pity for the protagonist or fear in his fate—for a similar fate might await each member of the audience depending upon how he (or she) lived his life. This acted as a "cautionary tale."
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