Doctor Faustus

Doctor Faustus Miracle, Mystery and Morality Play


Christopher Marlowe was the greatest dramatist of the medieval period. His career as a dramatist must have begun soon after his career as an actor. He wrote six splendid plays, all reflecting his essential spirit & nature. All were full of passion & poetry. He was also a member of university wits.

Marlowe has been undoubtedly called the most prominent figure of great Elizabethan period. It was Marlowe who raised the matter and manner of the English drama to a high level.

Some of the characteristics of medieval miracle & morality plays are quite evident in the plays of Marlowe. In this respect Marlowe maybe treated as a connecting link between the miracle &morality plays. Liturgical drama in the beginning had 3 forms mystery, miracle and morality. He used these terms in his outstanding masterpiece “Dr.Faustus”.


Word “Miracle” means “Unbelievable incident happens from extraordinary religious persons, who have the extra positive powers”


A Medieval drama portraying event in the lives of Saints and Martyrs. It based on a biblical story or the life of religious persons.

Miracle plays known as saint’s plays also. They specially re-enacted miraculous interventions by the Saints, particularly St.Nicholas or St.Mary, into the lives of ordinary people rather than biblical events.


Liturgical drama confined to the church and designed to embellish the Ecclesiastical rituals, thus gave way to plays in English, performed in the open and separated from the liturgy though still religious in subject matter. Such early plays are known as miracle and Mystery plays.


The main characteristics of these plays were.

  • he story revolved around the main character and the other characters were shortly valued.
  • Comic scenes were also a part of miracles plays.
  • Devil’s character was also presented in the miracle plays.
  • Lives of saints or the scenes from Bible were the subject matter of miracle plays.
  • The structure of miracle plays was generally loose.


  • In “Dr. Faustus” we can easily find the whole characteristics of miracle plays.
  • The play was all about the story of a main character named “Dr. Faustus” and other characters were not given importance.
  • Structure of the play was loose.
  • Devil and spirits were also there in the play. Supernatural elements were presented in miracle plays.


Mystery is from “Misterium” and its meaning is craft, a play performed by craft guilds is called mystery plays.


The play originated as simple tropes, verbal flourish of liturgical texts, and slowly became more elaborate. As these liturgical dramas increased in popularity as traveling companies of actors and theatrical productions organized by local and communities became more common in the later middle ages.


The basic difference between the Miracle and Mystery plays is that Miracle plays deal with “The life history of a saint” on the other hand mystery plays are “The scenes from the Bible”. Miracle plays are the old form and Mystery play came later.


Morality plays are a type of allegory in which the protagonist is met by personification of various moral attributes, who try to prompt him to choose a godly life over one of evil.

In morality plays the hero represents “Mankind” OR “Every man”. It Shows The Difference Between Good & Evil.


It developed at the end of 14th Century and gained more popularity in the 15th Century. •The Morality play developed during the medieval period. The morality plays attempted to educate via entertainment.

  • Christian monks developed the Morality play in the 13th Century by adding actors and theatrical elements. By doing so the masses could more easily learn the basics of Christianity through dramatic spoken words.
  • By personifying Vices, Virtues, the Devil and the Good Angel, stories of Temptation were made accessible to those who were unable to read them themselves.

11. THEME:

  • The Main Theme Of The Morality Play Is This: Man Begins In Innocence Man Falls into temptation, man repents and is saved or killed.
  • The central action is the struggle of man against the seven deadly sins that are personified into real characters.
  • Morality plays help the audience understand the greater concepts of Sin & Virtue.


Some of the elements of morality plays were.

  • In these plays character were personified abstractions of vice & virtues such as good & evil and faith & anger.
  • Theme was dividing in terms of general and main.
  • General: this theme was theological. Main: the struggle between good and bad powers for capturing man’s soul.
  • Seven sins were also the part of these plays.
  • Comic scenes were also included in morality plays.
  • Concept of Damnation/Salvation was also there.


There were various Elements that we can easily Trace out a prove that the “DR.FAUSTAS” was A Morality Play Extent.


  • General theme of morality was theological and in drama of “Dr.Faustas” this theme was presented Dr.Faustas was a religious scholar who was a famous religious figure. He surrenders his soul to desire for having worldly pleasure for few years.


  • In “DR.FAUSTAS” There Is A Hard Struggle In His Soul Between Good Deeds And Evil Desires. The Good And Evil Angles Also Appear In The Play With Their Own Symbolic Significance Personifying The Two Aspects Of “FAUSTAS’S” character.


  • We Know That Comic Scenes were also a part of morality plays; we can see comic scenes in “DR.FAUSTAS”. For Example: “FAUSTAS” Played Vile Tricks on Pop, Horse Course was totally Befooled.


  • It had mentioned that in morality plays the characters were allegorical and they were personified abstractions of vice or virtues. So in “Dr.Faustas” also we find the Good and Evil angels the former stands for the path of Virtues and the later for Sin and Damnation.


  • We find seven deadly sins in the 6th and 2nd scenes of act 2. This spectacle also shows that Marlowe in his “DR.FUSTAS” Adopted some of the Conventions of the Old Miracle and Morality Plays. So the Deadly Sins are given below:


  1. PRIDE= Arrogance, Complex of Superiority
  2. COVETOUSNESS= Materialism, Greed for Something
  3. WRATH= Temper, Anger
  4. ENVY=Jealousy
  5. GLUTTONY=Excess,Capacity
  6. SLOTH=Idleness, Laziness
  7. LECHERY= Lust for Something


Over Eating Then Evil Spirits Are Also A Part Of “Dr.Fautus”. In The Drama the Character OF “Mephistopheles” and “Lucifer” are the Devil Spirits.


We have talked about the significance of miracle, mystery and morality plays. They belong to 14th century and 15th century plays. “Dr Faustus” can never be treated wholly a miracle, Mystery and Morality play. It is also a greatest heroic tragedy before Shakespeare with its enormous stress on characterizations and Inner conflict in the Soul of towering
personality. No Doubted it represented the Humility, Faith, obedience of the law of god, also it represented the power, Beauty, Riches and Knowledge.


Doctor Faustus Drama

Doctor Faustus, Christopher Marlowe’s Legend

Doctor Faustus is probably Christopher Marlowe’s greatest achievement. The work features some of his greatest poetry. The play presents a fascinating exploration of religious observance–without any easy answers. Should we consider Dr. Faustus an exemplary figure who challenges the heavens? Or is the play a cautionary tale about the loneliness of a man who cuts himself off from his God? Powerful and epic–as well as providing more than a little knock-around to delight the groundlings–Marlowe wrote a fantastic drama in Doctor Faustus, which began a legend.
The play begins with Faustus along in his study. He is a man of much learning, but one who has come to the end of his thirst for knowledge (he no longer believes in any of the human science). He turns, instead, to necromancy, and summons the devil–who comes to him in the form of Lucifer’s messenger, Mephistopheles. Mephistopheles offers Faustus a deal: unimaginable magical power in return for his soul.However, the devil cautions Faustus against taking the deal. He tells him of the horrors of hell, nonetheless the tragic exile of no longer being in God’s grace. Faustus ignores Mephistopheles advice and takes the deal (although he considers repentance before signing his name in blood, he lust for power gets the better of him).The next section of the play goes on a number of journeys. He flies into the skies and sees the heavens. However, the audience soon realizes that, despite the enormous powers Faustus has been given, he doesn’t use them to any good end. He travels to Rome and plays a trick on the Pope (a dig at the Catholics within England who, at the time of writing, were being oppressed). He then plays a number of tricks to impress the Duke of Vanholt, who showers him with praises.
Finally, the day comes when Faustus must give up his soul to Lucifer. He summons the legendary beauty, Helen of Troy to be his concubine, but she comes in the form of a horrible demon. Then the clock begins to chime midnight, and Faustus–horrified by what awaits him–determines to repent. However, it is too late. God’s grace cannot save him. Devils arrive on stage and carry him off to the underworld, leaving only his dead body behind.Written in a time when religion was all-powerful, Faustus can be seen as both an affront to the notion of God, or a Christian tragedy. Marlowe seems to be very much sympathetic towards the figure of Faustus–who many think was based on Marlowe himself. He paints him as an Icarus-like figure who flies to high towards the sun of human attainment and who is tragically dashed to the ground. Faustus is a brilliant man who cannot be content with a man’s limitations.However, at the same time, the middle section of the play seems to suggest that ultimate power cannot be wielded with any kind of certainty. The great man that Faustus was, becomes eaten up by performing simple magic tricks and entertaining lesser men than himself. Finally, in the few moments before his death, Faustus regains some of the grandeur that made him a great man, and determines to repent. However, despite Christian doctrine, this repent seems to mean nothing, for God’s forgiveness does not come.
As well as being a great story (the story seems to have been re-written for every generation–for example by Goethe and Thomas Mann), it also has some of the most exquisite poetry in the English language. It is from this play that the famous description of Helen of Troy as “the face that launched a thousand ships” originates.What’s more, it deals with its central character with grandeur and pathos which perfectly matches the elevated themes. The exchanges between Faustus and Mephistopheles, as well as being brilliantly written, are also both touching and powerful. We truly see a man who is stepping over the precipice into tragedy and the sadness of his reluctant tempter who leads him down to hell.Brilliant, powerful and affecting, Doctor Faustus is a feast for the ear. When performed on stage, the play is a spectacle not to be missed. It is one of the greatest plays of the Elizabethan (or any other) era.
Christopher Marlowe's Doctor Faustus
Christopher Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus, (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Doctor Faustus Drama

Doctor Faustus As A RENAISSANCE Play

Renaissance which literally means re-birth or re-awakening ,is the name of a Europe-wide movement which closed the trammels and conventions of the Mediaeval age, and makes for liberation in all aspects of life and culture. There was a shift from heavenly to earthly life. Wealth, knowledge and power of knowledge were the touchstones for the Renaissance man on which he judged and gauged each and everything. The main ingredients of this new spirit were individualism and worldliness. These two traits found manifestation in many forms such as:

1. Yearning for knowledge

2. Learning without fetters

3. Love of beauty

4. Hankering after sensual pleasures of life

5. Spirit of adventure

6. High ambition

7. Lust for power and pelf

Though the influence of the spirit of the Renaissance marks all the writers of the later half of the age of Elizabeth—- in poetry, drama and prose romances and novels, that influence can be seen working with particular force on Marlowe and his fellows who together are called the “University Wits”. Of them again, the writings of Marlowe are the most prominent embodiment of the spirit of the renaissance. Generally speaking, Marlowe himself is the spirit of the renaissance incarnate. In the conception of the central characters of his dramas, he is impelled by the renaissance spirit for unlimited powers, unlimited knowledge for the sake of power, unlimited wealth, again, for the sake of power. On the aesthetic side, love of physical beauty, unbounded desire of love for the pleasures of the senses, infinite longing for truth are the characteristics of the imaginative life which glittered before his eyes in that great age of daring adventures. Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus is the representative of the Renaissance and reflects the contemporary problems of life.

Doctor Faustus being the product of Renaissance and the mouthpiece of Marlowe is dissatisfied with the conventional sphere of knowledge. He has a towering ambition to become a deity. The knowledge of logic, medicine, law and divinity are insufficient for him as he says:

Philosophy is odious and obscure,

 Both law and physic are for petty wits,

Divinity is basest of the three.”

He wants to attain super human power, like Renaissance man, which can

only be gained by necromancy. For him “A sound magician is mighty God”.

So he declares his intention in these words: “Here, Faustus, tire thy brain to

gain a deity.”

There was, an intellectual curiosity during the Renaissance: The new discoveries in science and developments in technology went beyond mere material advances. I t was a youthful age to which nothing seems impossible. Before the European, this period opened a new world of imagination. All these things stirred men’s imagination and led them to believe that the infinite was attainable. I n Dr. Faustus, Marlowe has expressed such ideas, when Faustus says:

“O, what a world of profit and delight,



Of power, of honour, of omnipotence, I s promised to the studious artisan!”



“All things that move between the quiet poles

Shall be at my command:”

In fact, Marlowe was profoundly influenced my Machiavelli (1469-1527), the famous I talian writer, who disregarded all the conventional, moral principles to achieve the ends by any fair or foul means. The ambition of Marlowe led him to rebel against God and religion and to defy the laws of society and man. His refusal is bound to bring mental conflict which results in deep despair and defeat both Marlowe and Faustus.

Dr. Faustus makes a bargain with the devil to achieve his goal. He is ready to pay any price for the attainment of his purpose. Although, his conscience pricks him and there are Good and Evil angels who warn him against the danger of damnation, yet he cannot resist the temptation as Evil angel says:

Be thou on earth as Jove in the sky,

 Lord and commander of these elements.”

And then, Dr. Faustus, as the true embodiment of Renaissance spirit, starts dreaming of gaining super-human powers and performing miraculous deeds with the help of the spirits raised by him,

“I’ll have them fly to I ndia for gold,
Ransack the ocean for orient pearl,
I ’ll have them read me strange philosophy,
And tell the secrets of all foreign kings.”

All these proud assertions clearly show Faustus’ Renaissance spirit of adventure and supreme craze for knowledge and power without any limit. And finally, we find Faustus discarding God and defying all religious and moral principles, when he sells his soul to the devil to master all knowledge and to gain limitless powers. He says:

Ay and Faustus will turn to God again: To, God? He loves thee not’

The God thou serv’st is thine own appetite.”

To Faustus, knowledge means power and its power that will enable him to gratify the sensual pleasure of life like the man of Renaissance; he is a worshipper of beauty. That is why just after making the agreement with the devil for twenty four years of worldly pleasures, and his first desire is that of the most beautiful woman. He asks Mephistophilis:

Let me have a wife, The fairest maid in Germany.

For I am wanton and lascivious,

And can not live with-out a wife.”

Faustus’s keen longing to have Helen and to find Heaven in her lips reveal his supreme love of beauty and yearning for sensuous pleasures. The magnificent apostrophe to Helen in the most inspired and lyrical passage of the play wonderfully illustrates the Renaissance spirit of love and adoration for classical beauty as well as urge for romance and mighty adventures.

Sweet Helen, make me immortal with a kiss! — Her lips suck forth my soul; See where flies it! —
Come, Helen, come, give me my soul again,
Here will I Dwell, for heaven is in these lips,
And all in dross that is not Helena.”

After completing the period of twenty four years, Faustus comes to his tragic end. I n the last moment, he learns that supernatural powers are reserved for the gods and the man who attempts to handle or deal in magical powers must face eternal damnation. He repents of his deeds but it is absolutely of no avail.

Some of the critics are of the opinion that Marlowe in his Dr. Faustus wanted to resist the old religious ideas along with the new ones. He emphasized upon the people that religion could not be completely ignored. Dr. Faustus tried to gain everything possible in his temporary world neglecting religion, but at last, he was damned forever and deprived of heaven. Another group of critics says that free play of man in this world is limited by God. I f a man tries to cross limits, he will be damned, and thrown into hell. Hence according to them God is jealous of man and does not want that man should stand equal to him. So Marlowe revolted against this injustice of God in the person of Dr. Faustus. But he had to end his play with this advice:

Faustus is gone; regard this hellish fall, Whose fiendish fortune may exhort the wise,
Only to wonder at unlawful things
Whose deepness doth entice such forward wits
To practice more than heavenly powers permits.”
Written & Composed By:
M. Zammad Aslam
Doctor Faustus Drama

Conflict in Doctor Faustus

Christopher Marlowe’s play, its genre an English tragedy of the sixteenth century, presents the tragic conflict of the Faustus theme in the tradition of medieval morality plays. There are two kind of conflict in the play: one between rival views of nature of evil and the other between the choice of good and the choice of evil. The first is at its sharpest in the contrast in the first acts between Faustus and Mephistopheles; the second, in the play, soliloquies. Faustus’ initial obstinacy makes him persist in a heroic view of evil and renders him incapable of moral reflection. The concepts of good and evil in these plays and their psychological implications reflect a historical background in which the church dominates the ethical and moral concepts of their time. Faustus defies society’s norms and embraces the devil with courageous desperation, fully aware of the inevitable consequences, but incapable of being satisfied with his human limitations. Faustus in his soliloquy says

“If we say that we have no sin
We deceive ourselves, and there is no truth in us.
Why then, belike, we must sin,
And consequently die.
Ay, we must die an everlasting death.”

One of the most important and prominent themes in Doctor Faustus is by far the conflict between good and evil in the world and the human soul. Marlowe’s play set the precedent for religious works that were concerned with morals and suffering. In the play, Doctor Faustus is frequently accompanied by two angels, one good and one evil. Both spirits try to advise him on a course of action, with the evil one usually being more influential over his mind. These two angels embody the internal battle that is raging inside of Faustus. On one hand, he has an insatiable thirst for knowledge and supreme power; on the other hand, Faustus realizes that it is folly to relinquish heavenly pleasures for fleeting mortal happiness.

Although society is accustomed to believing that good will always prevails, evil gains the upper hand in Marlowe’s play. Innocent and often devout men are tortured at Faustus’s delight and command. He partakes in many pleasures with devils and is even shown the seven deadly sins in person. Thus, Faustus is depicted as doomed from the very beginning. Although he has moments of contrition, he quickly shoves aside thoughts of God and turns to evil. Marlowe attempted to express to his audience that while prayer and repentance are the paths to heaven, sin and mortal pleasure are very hard temptations to pass over.

Lucifer’s acquisition of Faustus’s soul is especially delightful for him because Faustus was once a good and devout soul. Even during his last moments on earth, Faustus curses himself for willingly burning the scriptures and denouncing God. In Doctor Faustus, Marlowe shows the reader that everything in the mortal world is a double-edged sword. In his never-ending quest for knowledge, Faustus exemplifies how even scholarly life can have evil undertones when studies are used for unholy purposes. Doctor Faustus’s miserable defeat against the forces of evil, within and without, enlightens the reader to beware a surfeit of anything.