English literature Dr Faustus Essay WJECWatch this thread
Marlowe’s dramatic use of magic and necromancy is what is most appealing to audiences examine this view of Dr Faustus
Black magic and necromancy is constantly mentioned and displayed throughout Dr Faustus and during the renaissance many magical practises and rituals were considered evil and irreligious moreover black magic has been referred to the use of supernatural powers for evil and selfish purposes. Marlowe by showing a physical representation of black magic and necromancy through the character of Faustus educates and informs the audience of the consequences of practicing black magic and necromancy.
It is evident that Faustus’ hamartia is what causes him to fall into black magic and his desire for power and knowledge sees him calling up Mephostophilis in order to aid his quest. The dramatic use of magic and necromancy would be most appealing to audiences because at the time Dr Faustus was written no morality play would have shown hell nor the use of black magic so it was both visually pleasing especially to the groundlings and moreover insightful. The way in which Faustus neglects divinity and strives for the art of black magic would have been shocking to an audience “necromantic books are heavenly” this statement was particularly Blasphemous and audience watching/ reading this would have been intrigued to see what would happen once someone defies god in particular Elizabethan audiences would have felt a mixture of shock, fear and excitement when Lucifer, Mephostophilis and Beelzebub appear which would engage them into the supernatural element of the play. Marlowe presents the black magic that Faustus has to be nothing but trickery and shows, however this would have entertained the audience especially the groundlings as they would have understood the tomfoolery that was going on, on stage, however a modern audience may interpret these scenes as making a mockery of black magic and it can be seen as Marlowe’s subliminal message that necromancy and black magic is foolish and is only to please the mind of the practiser. The use of dark magic and necromancy within Faustus is also to put on a spectacle and please the audience through marvellous imagery such as the personified versions of the seven deadly sins would have been a splendid sight for audiences however before this show it is evident that Mephostophilis is showing these sights to ease Faustus’ mind and stray him away from religion “ill fetch him somewhat to delight his mind” this can be seen as Marlowe’s warning to the audience that black magic can be tempting as it looks appealing and delightful but it should not tempt you away from God and religion. It can also be seen that even Faustus is appalled and horrified by the appearance of the devils “thou art too ugly to attend on me” this Can be seen as ironic as Faustus is being greedy about his power it is also ambivalent and it is evident that he is repelled but even this doesn’t persuade him to repent.
On the contrary to this the real appeal of the play can be seen as Faustus’ tragic fate and vacillating mind and soul as once he sells his soul to Lucifer he instantly thinks of repenting, in this sense the dramatic use of magic is almost incidental to the real story of Faustus’ internal struggle with himself which Marlowe intended not as a fantastical battle but that of a realistic portrayal of a human being divided between good and evil. The internal confliction between religion would have been quite common during the renaissance period as science and more intellectual reasoning became a lot more popular and many people including Marlowe himself would have been dissuaded from religion, however Faustus’ tragic fate would have been most appealing to audiences as they would have been aware of the downfall they would face if they followed the same path as Faustus “his waxen wings did mount above his reach” this can be interpreted as Marlowe showing that aiming too high will cause a large downfall which ultimately can be argued as the plays greatest appeal. “Faustus is the living, struggling natural, personal man” (Taine H.A history of English Literature) the way in which Marlowe portrays Faustus not only following Aristotle’s tragic hero but he also demonstrates some of humanities hamartia’s such as gluttony and a hunger for power which is arguably the main point Marlowe is trying to establish throughout the play and the magic and necromancy only adds as a spectacle towards the audience highlighting the morals within the play.
Referring back to the original question even though the use of black magic and necromancy is appealing to the audience and gives them images of hell and dark magic that they would never have seen ultimately the most appealing aspect of the play would be the downfall of Faustus himself and his internal confliction between good and evil as it acts as a reminder to the renaissance audience to remain faithful to god or face the same consequences as Faustus “cut is the branch that might have grown full” with black magic hand in hand Faustus was wasted potential and the visual of hell and necromancy adds to this message and undoubtedly appeals to the audience both modern and past.