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Doctor Faustus

Christopher Marlowe



Summary: Prologue

The Chorus, a single actor, enters and introduces the plot of the play. It will involve neither love nor war, he tells us, but instead will trace the “form of Faustus’ fortunes” (Prologue.8). The Chorus chronicles how Faustus was born to lowly parents in the small town of Rhode, how he came to the town of Wittenberg to live with his kinsmen, and how he was educated at Wittenberg, a famous German university. After earning the title of doctor of divinity, Faustus became famous for his ability to discuss theological matters. The Chorus adds that Faustus is “swollen with cunning” and has begun to practice necromancy, or black magic (Prologue.20). The Prologue concludes by stating that Faustus is seated in his study.

Analysis: Prologue

The Chorus’s introduction to the play links Doctor Faustus to the tradition of Greek tragedy, in which a chorus traditionally comments on the action. Although we tend to think of a chorus as a group of people or singers, it can also be composed of only one character. Here, the Chorus not only gives us background information about Faustus’s life and education but also explicitly tells us that his swelling pride will lead to his downfall. The story that we are about to see is compared to the Greek myth of Icarus, a boy whose father, Daedalus, gave him wings made out of feathers and beeswax. Icarus did not heed his father’s warning and flew too close the sun, causing his wings to melt and sending him plunging to his death. In the same way, the Chorus tells us, Faustus will “mount above his reach” and suffer the consequences (Prologue.21).

The way that the Chorus introduces Faustus, the play’s protagonist, is significant, since it reflects a commitment to Renaissance values. The European Renaissance of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries witnessed a rebirth of interest in classical learning and inaugurated a new emphasis on the individual in painting and literature. In the medieval era that preceded the Renaissance, the focus of scholarship was on God and theology; in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, the focus turned toward the study of humankind and the natural world, culminating in the birth of modern science in the work of men like Galileo Galilei and Isaac Newton.

The Prologue locates its drama squarely in the Renaissance world, where humanistic values hold sway. Classical and medieval literature typically focuses on the lives of the great and famous—saints or kings or ancient heroes. But this play, the Chorus insists, will focus not on ancient battles between Rome and Carthage, or on the “courts of kings” or the “pomp of proud audacious deeds” (Prologue.45). Instead, we are to witness the life of an ordinary man, born to humble parents. The message is clear: in the new world of the Renaissance, an ordinary man like Faustus, a common-born scholar, is as important as any king or warrior, and his story is just as worthy of being told.

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a personal view

by salesman5, September 13, 2013

I think we should not blame this ambitious man because everyone has a " Faustasian Approach " to some extent. some succeed to restrain their inner wishes while other, like Fuastus , do not .


4 out of 6 people found this helpful

Discuss the character of Doctor Faustus.

by touhidsm, May 24, 2014

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Answer: Dr. Faustus, the main character of the story, is a professor of divinity at Wittenberg, as well as a renowned physician and scholar. Not satisfied with the limitations of human knowledge and power, he begins to practice necromancy. He eventually makes a deal with Lucifer (commonly referred to as the "Faustian bargain"), whereby he exchanges his soul for twenty-four years of the devil’s ... Read more


72 out of 79 people found this helpful

Discuss Doctor Faustus as a man of Renaissance.

by touhidsm, May 27, 2014

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Answer: Faustus’s inexhaustible thirst for knowledge , his worship of beauty , his passion for the classics , his skepticism , his interest in sorcery and magic , his admiration of Machiavelli and super –human ambition and will in the pursuit of ideals of beauty or power, prove him to be a man of renaissance.

Faustus appears as a man of the Renaissance in the very opening scene when... Read more


30 out of 33 people found this helpful

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