Thursday, 2 April 2015

Dr.Faustus as a Renaissance Hero

Faustus as a Renaissance Hero: When Christopher Marlowe composed tragedy Doctor Faustus, England observed the fullest development of Renaissance, “the complex many sided movement”, in the words of Walter Pater, “in which, in various way, the human mind wins for itself a new kingdom of feeling and sensation and thought.” Doctor Faustus in various ways shows its origin deeply rooted in Renaissance aspiration. Faustus himself is a Renaissance man who sacrifices himself to liberate human aspiration from physical instrumentalities and constricting superstition. In this sense, “Faustus may seem...Icarian” (Robert N. Watson, Theory of Renaissance Tragedy: Dr Faustus). In the beginning of the play, chorus also describes the tragedy of Faustus with Icarian myth.
                                                                              As a Renaissance man Faustus rejects all the famous Medieval studies like – Aristotle’s logic, study of medicine, Justinian’s law, theology. These studies were not only unable to reveal the absolute truth, but also to place him in “...a world of profit and delight, / of power, of honour, of omnipotence”. He ultimately chooses sorcery which is “an extension of the emergent Renaissance Sciences” (Robert N. Watson). It involves ancient history, foreign languages, optics, navigation and astronomy, and, “...for exotic delicacies that may be exchanged for money and court favour”. So Faustus never chooses black magic on the basis of mere superstition. Instead he chooses it only to gain power and intellectual satisfaction. C. L. Barber in his creating Elizabethan Tragedy remarked “the heroic quality of magic depends on fusing this divine suggestion with tangible values and resources of secular world.”
                                                                    Renaissance spirit involves immense emphasis on man’s intellectual power and man can attain truth through the critical use of it. The same spirit we find in Faustus’ intense quest for knowledge and truth throughout the play. He questions Mephistophilis relentlessly on various subjects like astronomy, theory of creation etc. But his most important question (“Now tell me who made the world?”) asked to Mephistophilis remains unanswered.
                                                                    It was an age of exploration and discovery of new lands. Renaissance spirit consists in the spirit adventure and heroism. Renaissance hero Faustus too cherishes within himself an impetuous adventurous spirit. He not only plans to send his familiar spirit to “search the corners of the entire new found world”, but himself travels throughout the Europe visiting all the glorious creation of Man.
                                                                As a Renaissance man he is a worshipper of beauties. Actually what is beautiful is appreciated by Faustus. It may be the temple of St. Marks or it may be Helen of Troy. The beauty of Helen elicits from him the beautiful poetic speech: “Was this the face that launch’d a thousand ships,”
                                                                Instead of group sacrementalism, Renaissance religion tends towards personal or individual salvation. Reformation rejects all the meaningless rituals of Catholic Church. As its immediate effect we find in Doctor Faustus, poignant criticism of church in the speeches of Mephistophilis who denounced the “troop of bald-pate friars/ whose summum bonum is in belly-cheer”. Again marriage, a ritual ceremony of church, is severely criticised by Mephistophilis when he says,
“Marriage is but a ceremonial joy”.
                                                           Faustus, a Renaissance man, endeavours to gain limitless power and ultimately achieves it. But he does not know how to use it. That is why, his great ambition to glorify advance human civilization quickly fades. He uses his power to entertain the emperor with groceries and holography. Instead of turning man into God, he uses his magic  to turn his hecklers into beast. Thus Faustus’ tragedy represents the misdirected spirit of Renaissance which gave birth to some cheaters and tyrant who exploited science and navigation to pillage the foreign land. Learning became an instrument to please the monarch in the hope of honour and money and the production of beauty was exploited in the ostentation of power. Reflecting all these social corruption, “Dr. Faustus is a parable about spiritual loss in the modern world, a warning...about the fatal corruption awaiting all Renaissance aspiration.”   (Robert N. Watson, Theory of Renaissance Tragedy: Dr Faustus)      

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