In regards to Doctor Faustus, how does Christopher Marlowe view human nature?

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

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It is hard to say what Christopher Marlowe thought about human nature because his life was short and we have so little to go on, much of which is still conjecture. However, we can surmise a few things from the way he lived. He was in clandestine government service for Queen Elizabeth I; he was in a lot of fights; he was a traitor and gold coin counterfeiter; he was accused of other crimes; a warrant was issued for his arrest; there is much controversy surrounding his death; and he was the first to use blank verse in English poetry after translating Latin poetry.

Christopher Marlowe was a successful scholar who studied history and theology, though his studies were interrupted for a protracted period of time for what is believed to be clandestine service as a spy. He had a volatile temper and was accused of murder on two occasions, though the Queen released him both times. He was caught in the Netherlands making counterfeit coins, which is a treasonous offense. His personal life stirred up as much controversy as his public life because he was suspected of conversion to outlawed Catholicism, of heresy, and of unacceptable sexual orientation.

His death is a mystery. Some believed it was faked by one branch of Elizabeth's government to keep him safe from another branch. He is said to have gotten in a quarrel with a man after dining with him and was supposedly fatally stabbed in the eye. Some accounts say the fight occurred in either a tavern or a "spy safe house."

From all this, it is possible to conjecture that Marlowe held a low opinion of human nature and that he thought human nature was a disposable entity. He may have engaged in clandestine and criminal activities because he believed, like Dr. Faustus, that power was the beginning and end of life. But on the other hand, he was the originator of English drama and the first to use blank verse in English poetry after having translated Latin blank verse to English. This implies a belief in higher beauties because, during the Elizabethan age of the Renaissance, poetry was believed to be an imitation of the truths of God. In many ways Christopher Marlowe parallels the value system of Dr. Faustus, except that Faustus craved unlimited knowledge and it looks like Marlowe may have craved unlimited power.

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