Christopher Marlowes Dr Faustus

(1) Read the following passage from Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus. Discuss Marlowe’s use of language in the passage and how it contributes to the characterisation of Faustus. Your answer should be no longer than 500 words

In the following passage (2) (Act 2, Scene 3, ll, 13-38) from Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus we are

presented with yet another attempt of our hero at repentance. Faustus seems distressed and not

overly confident in his decision to serve the evil after all. (3)

There are certain aspects of the passage’s structure that Marlowe uses to show the character’s

indecisiveness and inner struggle. We find Faustus talking to himself, the use of metre here gives a

sense of desperation, it sounds as though Faustus is talking ferverently and desperately trying to

persuade himself out of what he has done.

First and foremost the passage is written in blank verse (4) with a full use of iambic

pentameter. Each line is constructed from five strong positively stressed syllable (5) words, this

rhythm is believed to follow the closest to human speech, particularly usefull when the verse does

not rhyme. (Pacheco, Reputations, p43) (6)

It is also important to notice a few repetitions in the passage. The words repeated most are repent,

pity and despair. The author is obviously trying to emphasise what is (7) on Faustus’ mind. Should

he repent and carry on living in “deep despair” ( because the human knowledge is so limited) or

fall for the “sweet pleasures” of demonic forces to keep himself in control?

The passage opens up Faustus’ fears on becoming “damned”. The use of short nouns with a stress

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on the first syllable “poison, guns, halters and envenomed steel”(Marlowe, p49, 23), combined

with the appropriate punctuation (commas in this case) make us believe he is genuinely scared not

only of the whole idea of becoming a “spirit”, but also to be rejected by the human society he is still

desperately trying to fit in and be part of. Some might argue that he is merely scared of the Devil

and is not ready to face the consequences in case of his repentance.

(8) All of this combined creates a story about a protagonist that at first you feel sorry for, and then

change maybe to pity, (9) there is a change of tone and rhythm from a “rapid fire” at the beginning,

to a more pitifull and sorry Faustus towards the end, it paints a picture of a man who is living in a

fantasy world, where he has risen through the social ranks, and learned more then most men, to the

end where he is no longer interested in mortal thoughts and deeds, but wishes for immortality.

The use of the language helps to portray Faustus as living in world he has created, and unable to

differentiate between the real and the imaginary, this is shown especially within the lines where he

is talking to himself almost in a panic “Faustus thou art damned”(Marlowe, p.49. 22). cursing

himself and his thoughts, only to talk himself out of it later on, eventually realising that there is

nothing left to do but allow himself to be taken away by Mephistopheles.

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