Doctor Faustus by Christopher Marlowe

Title: Doctor Faustus

Author: Christopher Marlowe

Paperback: 56 pages

Publisher: Dover Publications, Inc.

Publish Date: 1994

ISBN: 9780486282084

Miscellaneous: Dr. Faustus takes its protagonist from the German Faustbuch (1587), which was based on the life of an actual German astronomer and necromancer named Johann Georg Faustwho died about 1540. Rumored to have exchanged his soul for supernatural powers, he entered German folklore as the consummate naughty trickster, usually indulging in callow mischief. In Marlowe’s play, however he is transformed somewhat, and possesses a certain tragic distinction, though in no way is he exculpated from his crimes. Marlowe is also credited with transforming the English blank verse line, giving it a vigor and range of expression that was to prove a strong influence on his contemporaries, including William Shakespeare.

FAUSTUS:The reward of sin is death?” That’s hard.
Si peccasse negamus, fallimur, et nulla est in nobis veritas.
“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!
These metaphysics of magicians
And necromantic books are heavenly;
Lines, circles, scenes, letters, and characters,
Ay, these are those that Faustus most desires.
O what a world of profit and delight,
Of power, of honour, of omnipotence
Is promis’d to the studious artisan!

A sound magician is a mighty god…

-Doctor Faustus by Christopher Marlowe, Scene 1, lines 40-53, 60

Doctor Faustus by Christopher Marlowe is an age-old tale about a man who makes a deal with the devil, swapping his soul for knowledge and power. Initially, Faustus imagines all the things he will do with the powers he will be given, reroute the Rhine and maybe even give himself a kingdom for example, but in the end he is little more than a conjurer performing parlor tricks for people’s amusement.

Right from the start of the play we see Faustus, a man of incredible intelligence… too smart for his own good, debating the merits of various disciplines from medicine to philosophy and ultimately divinity. Having received his doctorate in divinity from a world-renown school, Faustus should have a better understanding of God’s mercy and the nature of Grace, but he seems to lack a grasp of the basic elementary concepts of Salvation, Redemption and God’s limitless, unconditional Love. Dr. Faustus’ arrogance and pride in regards to his own geniusness shines through and we get a picture of a man jaded by religion and desiring forbidden knowledge for his own personal gain.

For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?   -Matthew 16:26

For all Faustus’ plans, dreams and schemes of political influence and power, to be “a mighty god,” as the play progresses he becomes baser and more ridiculous until he is on the level of a clown and a jester, performing parlor tricks for the scholars and locals and using his unfathomable powers to play pranks on the unsuspecting.

Marlowe wrote Doctor Faustus toward the end of the Renaissance, a period of time that valued the pursuits of knowledge and self over relationship with God, and meant for the play to be both cautionary and commentary. Through Faustus’ questions put to Mephistophilis (his personal assistant from Hell… literally), Marlowe shows that all things have their origins in God. As the kingdom of Hell is set against Heaven, it because an exercise in futility and vanity for Faustus to pursue all the hidden knowledges because he can not follow them to their ultimate ends, God Himself.

Several times in the play (which covers a 24 year period as that is part of Faustus’ contract) Faustus shows signs that repentance is weighing heavy on his heart. Faustus is caught between the Good Angel’s council to repent and that God will forgive him, and the Evil Angel, who first tries to entice Faustus to follow Hell, and ultimately threatens him that if he repents devils will viciously tear him apart. All the way to the last few days, God continues to call to Faustus and tries to turn his heart to repent and return, but Faustus refuses every time. With the final call, Faustus shows how cruel and vulgar he has become by sending devils to torment and kill the old man who had tried to inspire him to turn back.

One of the fascinating things about Doctor Faustus is that it has historical origins. There really was a Dr. Faust who was rumored to have sold his soul to the devil for supernatural knowledge and abilities.

While Doctor Faustus by Christopher Marlowe isn’t one of the best plays of the Elizabethan era, it is intellectually and morally fascinating. It is possible that Marlowe would have become Shakespeare’s equal had he not died at the age of 29. Also, as I read this play it occurred to me why this type of literature can be so difficult for readers. Unlike novels, which include every detail of the story and make it much easier for the reader to be a passenger in its telling, a play requires you to imagine the missing information and to set the timing. Plays are much more interactive than novels. For flexing my brain and using “shoulder angels,” I give Doctor Faustus by Christopher Marlowe 4 out of 5 stars.

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The name of Faustus’ familiar spirit is Mephistophilis, which reminded me of John Lovitz’ SNL performance in the following clip. What is hilariously funny about it is, it’s actually fairly true to the play. Of course, it’s an 18-year-old hair dresser named Vonda Braithwaite instead of Faustus, but for the most part it’s all there. Lol… the ending is different, too, though you have to wonder would Mephistophilis have stood a chance had the doctor taken his case to Judge Wapner?

 
I love the line “Now you listen to me. I’m Mephistopheles, Prince of Darkness. When I start harassing you, YOU’LL KNOW IT!”

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis

Title: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

Author: C. S. Lewis

Paperback: 767 pages

Publisher: Harper Collins

Publish Date: 1998

ISBN: 0066238501

Miscellaneous: This copy is included in a complete collection of The Chronicles of Narnia.

“You have a traitor there, Aslan,” said the Witch. Of course everyone present knew that she meant Edmund. But Edmund had got past thinking about himself after all he’d been through and after the talk he’d had that morning. He just went on looking at Aslan. It didn’t seem to matter what the Witch said.

“Well,” said Aslan. “His offence was not against you.”

“Have you forgotten the Deep Magic?” asked the Witch.

“Let us say I have forgotten it,” answered Aslan gravely. “Tell us of this Deep Magic.”

“Tell you?” said the Witch, her voice growing suddenly shriller. “Tell you what is written on the very Table of Stone which stands beside us? Tell you what is written in letters deep as a spear is long on the fire-stones on the Secret Hill? Tell you what is engraved on the sceptre of the Emperor-beyond-the-Sea? You at least know the Magic which the Emperor put into Narnia at the very beginning. You know that every traitor belongs to me as my lawful prey and that for every treachery I have a right to a kill… And so,” continued the Witch, “that human creature is mine. His life is forfeit to me. His blood is my property.”

“Come and take it then,” said the Bull with the man’s head, in a great bellowing voice.

“Fool,” said the Witch with a savage smile that was almost a snarl, “do you really think your master can rob me of my rights by mere force? He knows the Deep Magic better than that. He knows that unless I have blood as the Law says, all Narnia will be overturned and perish in fire and water.”

“It is very true,” said Aslan. “I do not deny it…. Fall back, all of you… and I will talk to the Witch alone….”

At last they heard Aslan’s voice. “You can all come back,” he said. “I have settled the matter. She has renounced the claim on your brother’s blood…”

The Witch was just turning away with a look of fierce joy on her face when she stopped and said, “But how do I know this promise will be kept?”

“Haa-a-arrh!” roared Aslan, half rising from his throne; and his great mouth opened wider and wider and the roar grew louder and louder, and the Witch, after staring for a moment with her lips wide apart, picked up her skirts and fairly ran for her life.

-The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis, pages 175-176

 

At the very heart of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe lies the message of redemption of the guilty by the substitution of an innocent and willing sacrifice. In all honesty, it is impossible for me to read this book without seeing the parallels to Christianity. As much as I tried to stay away from it in The Magician’s Nephew, I find I am unable to see this book in any other light.

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is by far my favorite Narnia book. This has been my fourth time reading it, as well as watching the BBC production and the Disney version of it (also, multiple times each). It was read to me by my mother when I was still in elementary, I’ve read it to my children, and I’ve read it for my own pleasure, and each time the Salvation story: The redemption of the lost and those who have chosen to follow evil, even as they know in their hearts that it IS evil they follow, by Jesus’ offering Himself as payment for the sin of all mankind.

The story itself is a beautiful and emotionally touching story of forgiveness and redemption and the power of love to overcome evil. As Susan and Lucy watch Aslan lay down his life to satisfy the Witch’s claim for Edmund’s blood, their hearts break as they witness his utter humiliation; his main is shorn off and he is trussed up in ropes and muzzled. Even as the battle rages on not far from them, they are compelled to sit with the lifeless body of the mighty lion, the Creator and Protector of Narnia, the true King.

It is the Deeper Magic that goes back before the Witch’s knowledge, “when a willing victim who had committed no trachery was killed in a traitor’s stead,” that breaks the claim of the Law and “Death itself would start working backwards.” The one concept the Witch could never comprehend is that a person without blame would take the place of the guilty, without machinations, but purely out of LOVE.

Obviously, I love this book… I wouldn’t have read it so many times if I didn’t ;-) . As it was the first of the Narnias written, it can stand alone, and is often the only Narnia book people have read. I could read this book once a month… possibly even once a week… and always get something new out of it. For all these reasons, and more, I give The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis 5 out of 5 stars. Even if you’re not a Christian, this book is beyond worth reading. You will be a better person for it :-D .

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