Friday, 3 April 2015

Significance of the comic plots in Dr.Faustus

Significance of the comic plots in Dr.Faustus: Besides introducing the audience to the main tragic theme, Marlowe’s Dr. Faustus offers them a couple of comic scenes. Introduction of comic scenes in a tragedy became a well-fashioned convention in the Elizabethan period. Most of the famous dramatists tended to use them only to please the groundlings. They inherited it from the interlude tradition of the Medieval Miracle and Morality plays. Most of them failed to present them as the integral part of the play until Shakespeare came to harmonise the grotesque tragic-comic contrast of early Elizabethan plays. Though at first glance the comic scenes in Marlowe’s Dr. Faustus appear to be irrelevant and disconcerting to the main theme of the play, a close reading of the text testify to their relevance in the play. In short the comic scenes are important because firstly, they provide comic relief. Secondly, they throw additional light on the meaning of the tragic action. Lastly, they present a contrasting point of view when compared to main theme of the play. To demonstrate this, we have to analyse the comic scenes one by one.
                                                                                                                             In Act-I,sc-II, When Wagner perplexes the two scholars with his logic, he seems to imitate his master’s way of displaying knowledge through verbal jugglery. Here we see that the hero and his servant do not differ in their quality but in the extent their misdeeds.
                                                                                                    In Act-I,Sc-IV, Wagner is engaged in a debate with a clown and tries to befool him. He remarks on the poor condition of the clown saying, “he (clown) would give his soul to the devil for a shoulder of mutton”. Next Wagner invokes Devil to punish the clown. Here Wagner’s desire to get the clown as his servant echoes Faustus’ intention to get Mephistophilis as his servant. This scene thematically parallels and in a way mocks the main tragic action.
                                                                                                                              Next comic scene (Act-II,Sc-II) is the appearance of the seven deadly sins employed by Lucifer to entertain Faustus. Harry Levin describes these deadly sins a “quaint procession” and interprets Faustus’ unalloyed amusement as a sin of moral decay. Next comic scene (Act-III,Sc-I) is the assault of Pope in his privy chamber by Faustus. It reveals the antichristian spirit of the play which was fostered by Renaissance humanism. The prank of snatching the Pope’s cup from his lips is echoed at the end when Faustus sees Christ’s blood streaming in the firmament and longs in vain “for one drop to save his soul”.
                                                                                                                              Next comic scenes are Act-IV, Sc-II and Sc-III where Ralph and Robin steals goblet from the vintner and strive to practice necromancy with help of a book. Their activities parody all the mischief Faustus has done in his life.
                                                                                                                          According to Harry Levin, the comic under plots reduce the main plot into absurdity and the over-plot is luminously adumbrated, sketched as it were lightning against a black sky. Besides, the play may be a pertinent example of Victor Hugo’s formulation for western art – the intermixture of grotesque and sublime. The most important point that these comic plots run parallel with the main tragic theme and often parody it lead to Bakhtinian theory of Carnivalesque where the rational discourse of the authority is mocked and subverted by the marginal ones.

1 comment: