Discuss Doctor Faustus as a typical Renaissance Man.

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coachingcorner | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Senior Educator

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Dr. Faustus has aspirations of acquiring knowledge that reach far above the commonly perceived boundaries of the time - maybe even taking him beyond the 'forbidden tree of knowledge'But he doesn't necessarily have the skills to attain this unearthly intelligence, or the linguistic prowess or imaginative scope. The potential merits of existing or even prospering in a world without a God seem unattainable - we and Faustus are only human. However, we can identify with him as we are all questioning curious beings and there are answers that we would all like to have whether they be about the limits of the universe or the cause of the Big Bang. Whether we would be prepared to go beyond the bounds of decency or moral limits is where the difference lies. Also, would we use the privilege of unearthly knowledge to do good or wise acts, or seek to further our own trivial materialistic needs? Faustus seems a Renaissance figure in his infinite appetites and the things he wants and also in his willingness to rid his world of everything that stands in the way of his own illusory enjoyment. Faustus very nearly "had it all" but wouldn't have deserved it and threw it all away.

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Karen P.L. Hardison | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

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Renaissance man is a modern term, first found in the written word in the early 1900s, that stands for an individual who is proficient in many fields and endeavors of knowledge, at times rivaling the proficiency of experts. The concept is based however on the great thinkers of the 1300s and 1400s who were masters of a vast number of fields of knowledge. The prime example of this sort of master is Leonardo da Vinci whose notebooks and art works show that he excelled in many divergent fields of knowledge.

Doctor Faustus, of the legend and of Marlowe's drama, was similarly proficient in every field of academic knowledge open at the time. He mastered such areas as divinity, law, economy, and mathematics. When Marlowe's play opens, Faustus is debating which field to cling to:

Settle thy studies, Faustus, and begin
To sound the depth of that thou wilt profess:

The end of the debate is that he will deepen his knowledge of the art of magic and summon demons to do his bidding and give him the unlimited power he covets. Thus he will add one more area of proficiency to his breadth of knowledge.

A sound magician is a mighty god:
Here, Faustus, tire
thy brains to gain a deity.

From the descriptions above, it is clear that Doctor Faustus does indeed fit both the concept of a man of learning living during the 14th and 15th centuries as well as fit the modern construct of the Renaissance man.

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M.P. Ossa | College Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

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He was a lover of arts, a connoiseur of many disciplines of all forms, a practicing scholar and a philosopher, a dweller in the supernatural, an orator, a professor, and a student of a myriad of different fields. He was able to fit in every circle, even though his own petulance madfe him unable to be normal. Yet, these elements made him whatwe call these days a "Renaissance Man," or a man who can basically do it all with grace.

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nusratfarah | (Level 1) Valedictorian

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Think about these following points:

1) Faustus is an individual man. He is a superior scholar, led by his own will, prefers to take decisions self-willingly, paying heed to nobody.

2) Faustus is a practitioner of knowledge, and not only that, is accused of practising black magic as Albertus Magnus or Roger Bacon of the Renaissance period were accused. He is a famous artisan. And for this, he gets entangled in the cobweb of Power. According to Foucault, there is a nexus between power and knowledge. But it is evident in the play that, Faustus's craving for knowledge, his thirst to cross the limit of gaining knowledge like an Icarus, shows his Renaissance characteristic.

3) Faustus's love for beauty, definitely proves a Renaissance feature, which is manifested through his love toward Helen's Classical beauty.

4) Above all, Faustus chooses knowledge and self over God. that you can take as the most significant Renaissance part of his Character.

Now, if you think about the points above, I think you will find your answer. Please don't forget to include quotes from the play.


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salimj | College Teacher | (Level 1) Valedictorian

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All the critiques ,without any doubt,agree that 'Doctor Faustus' is a man of Renaissance.  Faustus's inexhaustible thirst for knowledge, his worship of beauty, his passion for classic, his interest in magic, his admiration for super-human ambition and all the other interests prove Dr. Faustus to be a Renaissance man.

In the very opening scene of the play when he rejects the traditional subjects of study and turning to magic, his thirst for renaissance values is very clear.  He was thinking of the the 'world of profit and delight, of power , of honour,of omnipotence" which he thinks to enjoy as a magician. He is filled with curiosity, desire for wealth and luxury, nationalism and longing for power. These were the salient features of Renaissance. Faustus desires gold from East Indies, pearls from depths of sea and pleasant fruits from America.

The paramount characteristic of the Renaissance spirit is the spirit of enquiry. This spirit is a part of the life of Doctor Faustus. Marlow expresses both the good and bad element of this spirit.  The danger is seen in the last soliloquy in which Faustus offers to burn his book. He says, "O,would I had never seen Wittenberg, never read book!". Doctor Faustus owes its ideas and thoughts from Italian Renaissance. Italian Renaissance thinkers spoke about the limitations of man and thought that knowledge as the only solution to come out of this limitation. Here the knowledge of magic helps him , to a certain extent to come out of the limitation of Faustus