Is Christopher Marlowe's play Doctor Faustus similar to a morality play?

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vangoghfan | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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Christopher Marlowe’s drama titled Doctor Faustus resembles a medieval morality play in a number of ways, including the following:

  • It rebukes the sin of pride, which was considered the root cause of all other sins.
  • It teaches Christian lessons without dramatizing a Biblical episode, the common method of so-called “mystery” plays.
  • It presents a mainly secular character in order to make religious points.
  • It presents a character who is very much a symbol of common human failings rather than a completely unique or individualized personality.
  • It tries to show the relevance of the main character’s life to the lives of the audience.
  • It makes no attempt to disguise its didactic tendencies, which are emphasized both at the very beginning and the very end of the play.

One morality play that has a great deal in common with Doctor Faustus is the famous late-medieval work titled Everyman. A key difference, however, is that the character Everyman is completely reformed, spiritually, by the time his play ends. He looks forward to death and is welcomed into heaven by the end of the work.  In contrast, Faustus, who never repents, fears death enormously and is taken into hell as the play concludes. Everyman thus functions as a positive example for the Christian audience, whereas Faustus, in epilogue of his play, is offered as a stark warning of what can happen to anyone who violates God’s teachings:

CHORUS. Cut is the branch that might have grown full straight,

And burned is Apollo's laurel-bough,

That sometime grew within this learned man.

Faustus is gone:  regard his hellish fall,

Whose fiendful fortune may exhort the wise,

Only to wonder at unlawful things,

Whose deepness doth entice such forward wits

To practice more than heavenly power permits.

 

 

 

 

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