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Two themes of the Renaissance are clearly evident in Faustus.
First, the time prior to the Renaissance was dominated by strict church doctrine; however, people of the Renaissance began seeking other types of knowledge.
Faustus lusts after knowledge, even-though he has mastered the medical and scientific world, which a “Renaissance Man” of the time would have. Unlike the people of the Middle Ages, Faustus is not complacent with just accepting church doctrine and blindly following along. He seeks knowledge and power. The Renaissance was known for questioning and seeking new kinds of answers. Of course, Faustus resorts to any means necessary to acquire this knowledge, which leads him to the dark arts and Mephistopheles.
A second theme is the Protestant Reformation, where people began to break away from the Catholic church.
The Protestant Reformation, and its distrust of the Catholic Church, is seen several times during the play. Initially, Faustus conjures a demon, but it is hideous, so he demands that it return in a more appealing form. Of course, it arrives dressed as a Franciscan Friar - obviously this is Marlowe's way of ridiculing the Catholic church. Later in the play, Faustus commands Mephistopheles to take him to the Vatican. Once there they play pranks of the Pope and mock Catholic beliefs. Again this is Marlowe's way of mocking the Catholic church.
One of the main themes of the renaissance that is evident in this work is that of individualism. In fact, the renaissance era had its own term-Renaissance Individualism-to define the movement. Individualism was prized during this time, and changes in society reflected this. While before this, society focused on the afterlife, the Renaissance focused on the here and now. The pursuit of happiness and personal fulfillment were emphasized and embraced. The rise of publishing helped improve literacy, economic growth, and new trade opportunities. These factors changed the society as a whole, and encouraged a new way of life. It was not seen as selfish to explore new possibilities and gain power, it was encouraged!
The term "renaissance man" reflects this attitude,as well. This new breed of man did not restrict himself to one avenue of interest, but explored many. The society's perception of a man's character and power contributed to his overall success.
Faustus reflects the negative aspects of individualism. This work shows what happens when power is abused and wasted.
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