What do the Duke and Duchess of Vanholt represent in Doctor Faustus?

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Marlowe has included the Duke and Duchess of Vanholt in Doctor Faustus in order to show how far Faustus has fallen. Where once he was renowned as a man of learning, now he's been reduced to little more than a magician performing conjuring tricks for the great and the good. The Duke and Duchess represent the worldliness and love of fame that now characterize Faustus's life.

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In scene 11 of Doctor Faustus, the doctor and Mephastophilis are lavishly entertained at the court of the Duke and Duchess of Vanholt. It soon becomes clear, however, that these very important people expect Faustus to do a spot of entertaining himself.

Desperate to please them, Faustus asks the Duchess what she would like him to conjure for her. The Duchess replies that she would like him to make a plate of grapes appear. Faustus duly obliges, much to everyone's astonishment, but only because Mephastophilis is able to go off and procure the grapes himself.

Oh, how the mighty have fallen! Back in the day, Doctor Faustus was a scholar of high repute, a man renowned for his learning among Europe's intelligentsia. But now, he's little more than a court magician doing cheap conjuring tricks for the high and mighty. This particular scene aptly illustrates just how far Faustus has fallen in his insatiable desire for worldly fame, for which he sold his soul to Lucifer.

The Duke and Duchess can be seen as representing Faustus's worldliness and craving for social respectability. They are part of a world in which wealth, power, and social status are everything. Faustus wants all that and more and is prepared to reduce himself to the level of a magic act in order to get them.

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