DRM100Y1 Lecture Notes - Blank Verse, Puritans, Christopher Marlowe

Centre for Drama, Theatre and Performance Studies
Course Code
Alan Ackerman

of 3
Nov 5th
Dr. Faustus
What about my needs? What about me? Dominant theme.
Renaissance means rebirth. It was a time when people started to see themselves as individuals
and produce art and music, etc. because of this rebirth. There were new discoveries about the solar
system and astronomy. It’s a return to the classic, with a heavy influence on the Greeks. Art was
The individual did not have much importance except as a tiny cog in the great wheel that moved
according to God’s will. The basic question arises now: where to turn for guidance and purpose?
“Nothing is of less sacred than the integrity of your own mind”. We observe the facts that are
observable, we reason towards them, and we need to test our suspicions. God was now made not so
The pope imprisoned Galileo for blasphemy. What is humanism?-A term that is applied to the
predominant social, philosophical mind frame from 1400-1600ish. It stimulated the philosophy of
secularism, of worldly pleasures, appreciation of humanism philosophy, individual expression and
started a new excitement about the classics. Men are still governed by theological decree.
The renaissance embraced the pursuit of beauty and pleasure as a legit human endeavor. This
pursuit was not restricted to arts, but clothing, language (more poetic), handwriting, design &decoration
of objects and architecture.
What is the self? It is a sense of personal order, characteristic mode of addressing the world.
There is now a change in the social order of governing identities. The people before this period didn’t
even have last names. Dr. Faustus is obsessed with naming himself. A stress on the power of individual
will as well as paradoxical assault on the will. They were totally aware of this shift on self- definition. The
church was burning and killing people. It was very evident that they were at a vital and dangerous
moment in time, and they were now aware of what is now important. The cosmos themselves were
changing. The fashioning of human identity is an artful, manipulable process. Self-fashioning developed
a new range of meaning, the role of parents and teacher, and the people who can mold you. It makes
the creation of self like a work of art, or an act in theatre. Acting is a mode of fashioning self. It leads to
an uneasy sense for villains like Iago, who don’t seem to have a core self at the center.
Machiavellian is a bad verb, used to describe a politician who manipulates other in an
opportunistic and deceptive way for self-interest. “I count religion but a childish toy and hope there is
no sin but ignorance.- Machiavelli (Christopher Marlowe). He is a combination of evils- still evokes a
sense of deceptiveness- a ditto who can shape themselves. The essence of politics is that you can get
away with murder, than no divine thing will come to punish you. No more rules that aren’t made by
men. The end justifies the means, in Machiavelli’s view.
Protestants insisted there was no purgatory. There’s no point in praying to the dead, whether to
heaven or hell. Suddenly there was a new queen that believed something other than you, and if you
didn’t agree with her, she’d fucking kill you.
Spain and England were the leading places for renaissance drama. In these places, they were
able to transform these classical notions, while infusing native ideals. The English drama of the 16th
century, refused to be bounded by classical rules.
Elizabethan drama is in the age of Elizabeth (hur hur) and continuity into King James after her
death. Central to this period is, in 1576, James Burbidge built the first free-standing playhouse in
England and called in The Theatre. Until that time, Drama had been performed in the streets, palaces,
etc. After the first one, other playhouses sprung up pretty quickly. 1642, 9 theatres were in and around
England until the puritans took control of them and shut them down.
They all basically had the same structure, circular, open top, large elevated platform projected
into the yard, audience on the ground. Women never appeared on the professional stage in London and
yet all classes of society appeared at the theatre. The nature of attacks on the theatre was mostly by
puritan writers, dealing with every acts of the theatre. They thought plays fostered lies and deception,
distortions and exaggerated emotions, and “many a terrible monster made of brown paper”. In other
words, to act is to lie and to lie is to sin.
Kyd pioneered the blank verse form, lines of unrhymed iambic pentameter. English criticism
really focused on the rhetorical side of drama. Most people viewed the impact of drama in moral terms.
Christopher Marlowe lived a short and flamboyant life. He did go to university and was the first
great writer of Elizabethan tragedy. Dr. Faustus- an imaginary view of a scholar’s fall. He rebels in
orthodox but rebels in the terms of his own worlds.
Faustus is a humanist in a world governed by the church. He experiences fiendish fortune,
including a great fall. At the end of the play, we see a paradoxical feeling as the chorus laments at the
waste of human life, and yet the moral is clearly “take heed.” Faustus reaches his heavenly limit. The
Gods would not tolerate a Promethean opposition. There is a problem of free will in the play which St.
Augustine targets- he believed that the grace of Christ was indispensable to human free.
Scholars say that Calvin’s doctrine is dangerous because Faustus interprets god without grace,
which would be a radical problem.
To what degree does Faustus have free will? Marlowe is not advocating any one theological
position, but simply the issues of his time.
Self-fashioning deals with time and space. Ways in which we identify ourselves would be our names.
Names come from family, and family is important to us, therefore, our names are important to who we
are and where we came. Faustus is a self-made man (probably without any familial help). Another part
of our sense of identity has to do with where we live- space is important. Almost all the characters in the
play are homeless.
At the end of his 24 years, Faustus insisted he must return to Wittenberg, the place where he
studied in school. It is during the heart of Protestant reformation. This insistence of time and place has
something to do with Faustus’ self-identity since it’s this particular spot where he wishes to die.
The physical actions in the play, this grand journey, aren’t seen so much as heroic as it is
comical. They travel for years and years but make no progress and simply end up back at the beginning.
Marlowe insists meaningless of theatrical space. All the sets are non-existent or the exact same for each
Throughout the play, we see transcendental homelessness- restless wandering. It is ironic that a
meaningful sense of place shows up and yet it is only a place to die. It is a fatality about the place itself.
The play exposes place to radical questioning: Where is hell? In the book, we see that “Hell hath
no limits”, which loosely is explained as hell being a state of mind. Faustus refuses to accept a limitless
hell, but is told by his companion that it is “only a fable until one experiences it”.
Time is inexorable, space is abstract. All places are alike. Men use violence as a way of marking
boundaries. In the end of the play, there is a violent closure.
How do we express ourselves? By not doing (what our parents want us to). By not doing, we are
defining who we are and what we stand for.