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MonkeyNotes-Doctor Faustus by Christopher Marlowe
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DOCTOR FAUSTUS AS A MORALITY PLAY

Doctor Faustus has many features of a morality play: the conflict between good and evil, the creation of Good and Bad Angels, the Old Man as Good Counsel, the pageant of the Seven Deadly Sins and the appearance of Faustus’ enemies to ambush and kill him.

The conflict between Good and Evil was a recurring theme in the medieval morality plays. From this point of view, Marlowe’s play is a dramatization of the medieval morality play, Everyman. Doctor Faustus becomes a morality play in which heaven struggles for the soul of a Renaissance Everyman, namely Doctor Faustus.

The Good Angel and the Bad Angel are characters derived from the medieval morality plays like The Castle of Perseverance. They are sometimes regarded as an externalization of the thoughts of Faustus. This is a twentieth-century view. The Angels are independent absolutes, one wholly good and one wholly evil. They appear in Doctor Faustus like allegorical figures of a morality play. They reflect the possibility of both damnation and redemption being open to Faustus. A close examination shows that the Evil Angel declines in importance as the play advances. The angles work by suggestion, as allegorical characters in morality plays do.


The audience also observes the pageant of the Seven Deadly Sins in Doctor Faustus. This is another feature borrowed by Marlowe from the tradition of the morality play. In Marlowe’s play, to divert Faustus’ attention from Christ, his savior, Lucifer, comes with his attendant devils to rebuke him for invoking Christ and then presents the pageant of the Seven Deadly Sins as a diversion.

Benvolio’s attempts to ambush and take revenge on Faustus is also a device taken from the medieval morality play. Faustus loses his head, only for it to be revealed as a false one. This theatrical device was originally used in the medieval morality play, Mankind. Similarly, Faustus’ attempt to strike Dick, Robin and the others dumb in the Vanholt show scene is also derived from the medieval morality play. Doctor Faustus has many features of the morality play of the Middle Ages.

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