Discuss Doctor Faustus as a Renaissance play.

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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This play cannot be viewed as solely being about the Renaissance age. Rather, Marlow presents the clash of Renaissance values and medieval values in this play and through the person of Doctor Faustus. The Renaissance was a movement that began roughly in the 15th century and replaced the medieval worldview with its insistence of God being at the centre of world and mankind and nature being dependent on God. Instead, the Renaissance worldview celebrated the individual and what could be achieved through science and learning.

Faustus is definitely shown to be a man who captures the spirit of the Renaissance in his self-aggrandising and arrogant speech in Act I scene 1. In turn Faustus dismisses the various examples of tradition and authority, eventually declaring his determination to accept no limits on his learning and the power he hopes to gain through his magic:

O, what a world of profit and delight,

Of power, of honour, and omnipotence,

Is promis'd to the studious artizan!

Note the way Faustus sees study and rational inquiry as the way to gaining "profit and delight" and "omnipotence." God is displaced as mankind's hunger for power and ambition takes centre stage. Ultimately, however, as Act V clearly demonstrates, Faustus has to acknolwedge the ultimate supremacy of God and that he has overreached himself, representing the failure of the Renaissance age in terms of its inability to realise that it went too far in placing the emphasis on the potential inherent in humans. The play therefore does present the audience with an epitome of the Renaissance ideal in the character of Doctor Faustus, but it does this as part of a wider conflict between Renaissance and medieval values that ultimately shows the dangers of the Renaissance worldview.

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