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Show The Social, Cultural, And Historical Characteristics Of The Extract (Act 1, Scene 1) In Relation To The Renaissance

1924 words - 8 pages

Show the social, cultural, and historical characteristics of the extract (Act 1, Scene 1) in relation to the Renaissance.

The French word renaissance means “rebirth”. The Renaissance in Europe originated in the 15th century. It brought about the awakening of new interest in the old classics as it sought the revival of the enthusiastic study of the masterpieces of ancient Latin and Greek literature. The movement also gave rise to curiosity and the growth of the spirit of inquiry, which as such, encouraged an intellectual revolt against the rigid rules and traditions of the medieval period. The Renaissance prompted the release of the human mind and the birth of original thinking which led ...view middle of the document...

Christopher Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus, for example, can be seen as a profound satire on the questing spirit of the protestant reform. He makes Faustus an intellectual man who wishes to test his personal relationship with God – one of the underpinning notions of protestant theology – by selling his soul to the devil.
When analysing Doctor Faustus’ Scene 1 from Act 1, one can clearly see some Renaissance characteristics in the protagonist of the play. Faustus is a man caught between his allegiance to the Middle Ages and this very strong urge in him to move away from it. The play opens with the Chorus which announces that the play we are going to see will not deal with such things as war, love, kings or queens, or even proud deeds; instead, it will be concerned with “The form of Faustus’ fortunes, good or bad.” The purpose of this explanation is that, traditionally, tragedy deals with great subject matters such the history of kings, great wars, or powerful love stories. Marlowe is preparing us for a complete departure from such a tradition, a Renaissance characteristic, as his play will deal, not with the downfall of kings or great personalities, but with the downfall of a man of common birth. The Renaissance literature ushered a shift by focussing on the individual, an individual that could be from any background. The Chorus proceeds then to shed some light on Faustus’ past. We learn that Faustus was born from “parents base of stock, in Germany, within a town call’d Rhodes”, and that he went to Wittenberg University where “soon he profits in divinity, and “that shortly he was grac’d with doctor’s name, / Excelling all those sweet delight disputes / In heavenly matters of theology”. He is so well learned in the spheres of theology that he eventually becomes “swollen with cunning, of a self-conceit,” which will lead to “His waxen wings” to melt as he “mount above his reach,” causing “Heavens [to conspire] his overthrow.” Then, we meet Faustus alone in his study, reviewing what he has achieved so far in his life. He finds that he has reached the highest learning in all fields of intellectual endeavour: he can dispute excellently on treatises concerning logic; is a superb physician who has saved entire cities from the plague; knows all about the law which bores him; reasons on theology by analysing two religious scriptures, concluding that all men must eventually die, thus dismissing theology for having provided no final or satisfactory answers. Faustus is not fully satisfied with what all his learning and excellence in divinity, theology, philosophy, law, medicine, and physics has brought him thus far. He notes that “Philosophy is odious and obscure; both Law and Physics are for petty wits; Divinity is basest of the three, [being] unpleasant, harsh, contemptible, and vile.” He concludes that so far his learning of and excelling at the various fields has given him knowledge but no power. He remarks, “Yet art thou still but Faustus, and a man.”...

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