What are the stylistic devices in Doctor Faustus?

One of the most important stylistic devices in Doctor Faustus is allusion. In the first scene of the play, we have the Chorus alluding to the story of Icarus, a foolish young man who, overcome by giddiness at flying high in the sky, fell to his death after flying too close to the sun. This allusion is particularly appropriate to the overambitious and hubristic Doctor Faustus.

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As an avid humanist steeped in ancient learning, Marlowe inevitably makes a number of classical allusions in Doctor Faustus. Such stylistic devices are used by Marlowe mainly to compare his protagonist with certain figures from the mythical past, the better to understand his ambitions and the likely consequences of...

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As an avid humanist steeped in ancient learning, Marlowe inevitably makes a number of classical allusions in Doctor Faustus. Such stylistic devices are used by Marlowe mainly to compare his protagonist with certain figures from the mythical past, the better to understand his ambitions and the likely consequences of those ambitions.

For instance, in the very first scene of the play, we have an address by the Chorus to the audience in which it alludes to the ancient story of Icarus. Overexcited by soaring so high in the sky, this foolish young man made the fatal blunder of flying too close to the sun, which in due course melted his wax wings, sending him crashing from the sky to his death. For thousands of years, his name has become a byword for hubris and arrogance, of going too far.

It's not hard to see why the Chorus should compare Faustus to his hapless forebear. Like Icarus, Faustus wants to soar all the way up to the giddy heights, only in his case, it's the giddy heights of all-encompassing knowledge that he seeks. What's more, he is prepared to sell his soul to the devil in order to get it.

The Chorus's speech to the audience leaves us in no doubt that Faustus, in choosing to avoid the middle way, in exceeding his reach, in aspiring for things not appropriate for mortals, is heading for a similar fate to Icarus.

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