Doctor Faustus Questions and Answers
by Christopher Marlowe

Doctor Faustus book cover
Start Your Free Trial

Discuss Doctor Faustus as a morality play.

Doctor Faustus is considered a morality play because it communicates a message about sin and salvation to its audience. Morality plays were often comic in their depiction of vices, and Doctor Faustus employs this element when Faustus uses his power of invisibility on the Pope. Faustus ends up being blinded by his pride and becomes vulnerable to the influence of the devil.

Expert Answers info

D. Reynolds eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2016

write11,320 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Social Sciences

Morality plays were Christian plays first performed by traveling troupes during the Middle Ages to communicate a moral message about sin and salvation. They kept audiences entertained with vivid depictions of sinful behavior, the devil, and evil.

While the characters in Faustus are far more developed than in a morality play—where the principal parts were usually simply types named for vices and virtues, such as Envy or Charity—Faustus maintains vestiges of its medieval antecedents in its characters, especially in the role of Lucifer and in Faustus being so identified with pride.

Morality plays were often comedic, too, in their depictions of vices, and Marlowe maintains that aspect as well, such as in the comedy of Faustus using his power of invisibility to plague the pope.

The play, like a typical morality play, also centrally communicates a serious theme about salvation. Faustus is so blinded by his own pride—one of the seven deadly sins—that he falls prey to the devil. Lucifer...

(The entire section contains 4 answers and 1,032 words.)

Unlock This Answer Now

check Approved by eNotes Editorial

Yvonne Scorse eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2016

write135 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Business

Further Reading:

check Approved by eNotes Editorial

Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2009

write5,917 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, Social Sciences, and Business

check Approved by eNotes Editorial

coachingcorner eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2008

write1,346 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, Social Sciences, and History

check Approved by eNotes Editorial

shwetapanda | Student

First you will have to understand what is a morality play. Morality plays were commonly known as simply, moralities at that time. These plays were very famous during 15th and 16th century in Europe. Morality plays demonstrated allegorical representation or personifications of moral characters and virtues on the stage lively in front of the protagonist. These characters were meant to guide the protagonist to do good and to learn what is evil. Not only the protagonist but the dramatist's main objective remained to teach the audience, the difference between good and evil.

Now if we come to the play Doctor Faustus, we should keep in mind that, it is a play which is full of bad characters rather than good. Marlow, by employing the personification of immoral characters, gives us a view of what is bad instead of what is good. There was a parade of Seven Deadly Sins altogether. It makes me recall the parade of vices in the first book of Faerie Queene by Spenser. This play is certainly both a Renaissance play and a morality play. No doubt, it shows how Doctor Faustus got eternally damned due to his immoral activities at the end but in addition to that, it also shows what happens when humans fail to understand their limits and try to conquer what is impossible by achieving superhuman powers. At that time, many highly educated people like Dr Faustus ruined their lives in search of more power. May be Marlow was concerned about that. He was discouraging the masses from following their dreams blindly while still giving the message that we should dream great. The reference at the beginning regarding Icarus tells us that we should dream what is achievable for us. It gives us the message to remain moral and to repent and believe in the mercy of God before it is too late rather than just making us learn about the mercy of God and the biblical stories in early morality plays.

There are features which distinguishes this play from a morality play but we will not go into it right now, as the question needs evidences of this play being a morality and not the other way round. There is also a good angel and a bad angel which used to get a major role in early moralities as well. One more thing we can see here is that whether we like it or not, when we meet Mephistophilis, we sympathize for him. He discourages Faustus from proceeding further by telling him about his own terrible state in Hell. The play gives the audience a message regarding what it feels to be away from God and be eternally damned. 

The good angel always encourages Faustus that it is never too late to repent and that he shouls believe in the mercy of God but Faustus believes in the bad angel and never really repents and finally meets his end.

All these features and themes of this play, makes it a morality play. 

dssnmurthy | Student

Dr. Faustus by Marlowe is a morality play depicting the society or the people in his period. He has seen how the highly intelligent scholars are ruining their lives for the sake of power and  want to  hold  the world in their hands. Dr. faustus is a typically intelligent man where he feels the the world can be at his doorsteps by engaging himself with black magic to whom he surrounders his soul to the devil for the sake of his greedy power. He overthrows Gods moral values and inculcates the vices where finally it ruins his life. Through the play Marlowe wants to give a message to the world that all intelligent men in the world should follow the moral values and ethics which are coined by the society.  If we violate the moral vaules of the society like Dr. Faustus we will be ruining our lives and have no place in Heaven after death.

smhaskovec | Student
Dr. Faustus, by Christopher Marlowe, can be classified as both a morality play AND a Renaissance play because it simultaneously employs literary characteristics from each genre. From the Renaissance it explores, up to the point of glorifying, Dr. Faustus's great spirit for human aspiration and quest for superhuman powers. In accordance with morality plays, Faustus is punished for refusing to repent and follow the "right/moral" path. Because the play's two main themes--glorifying the doctor's push to excel beyond human limits and his later grief and inevitable punishment--are dichotomous, Dr. Faustus is sometimes said to be the embodiment of Renaissance ambiguity.