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It is interesting to trace how some of Renaissance and Reformation ideas interact in The Tragical History of Dr. Faustus by Christoper Marlowe.

Protestantism which established itself in England and in other European lands as a result of the Reformation, was even more rigorous on the issue of sin than Catholic theology. Punishment for sin was viewed as a testimony of God's righteous judgment. And in Calvinism in particular, with its doctrine of predestination (which some treat as a Christian version of fatalism), it was regarded as proof of the sinner’s eternal damnation.

Marlowe reportedly felt a special dislike for Protestantism. His aversion to the doctrine of doom may be reflected in Faustus’s consideration of the Bible interpreted in the vein of Protestant theology. He soliloquizes:

If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and there's no truth in us. Why, then, belike we must sin, and so consequently die: Ay, we must die an everlasting death. What doctrine call you this, Che sera, sera, What will be, shall be? Divinity, adieu! (1)

Though Faustus wants to reject such ideas, they are nevertheless reflected in Marlowe’s work. Protestant morality plays usually ended in a terrifying scene of the protagonist’s being dragged into hell. Some of the features of those plays can be seen in Dr. Faustus. The protagonist does not heed the good advice of the positive figures such as the Good Angel and the Old Man. He rather follows the deceptive counsel of the Bad Angel and Mephistophilis, which eventually leads him to the terrifying destruction.

While criticizing Christian dogma, especially in its Protestant version, Faustus, a true Renaissance man, dreams of becoming like God. He paints his ideal in biblical colors:

Couldst thou make men to live eternally, Or, being dead, raise them to life again… (1)

He wants to work biblical miracles and compares himself to Christ. As a true humanist, as a man of practical mind, he is concerned about issues that promote progress and man’s well-being. He wants to unify Germany and banish the spirit of asceticism from universities. And in all his hopes and pursuits, he relies on the power of knowledge rather than on piety. However, with science being still in infancy at the time of Renaissance, he turns to magic. This was the path that many of the famed humanists followed. Delving into the occult, they wanted to bridge this gap.

Dr. Faustus is a hymn to humanism, but Faustus’s humanistic individualism is tragic, because the pursuit of personal liberation and power over the world leads to rebellion against authority, loneliness, and spiritual ruin.

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