Doctor Faustus (Marlowe)

Contextual Analysis of Act 1, Scene 1 of Dr Faustus

In Act 1 Scene 1, Marlowe continues to subtly parody the structure of a typical Aristotelian tragedy, following the Chorus’ unusual introduction with a seemingly orthodox dialogue from the protagonist, Dr Faustus. However, he does not interact with the Chorus as would be expected, and his soliloquy openly dismisses Aristotle, further revealing Marlowe’s intent to subvert the traditional model. Faustus uses his opening speech to systematically reject the four main areas of academia at the time of the play’s writing: philosophy, medicine, law and divinity. His dismissal of each area in turn reveals his undisputed achievements- having apparently reached the limit of human knowledge he is unsatisfied and hungry for more. Faustus strongly resembles the protagonist of Lyly’s Euphues in this speech, even referencing the same names in Aristotle, Justinian and Galen. Conversely, while that character seems “onely to desire them” and says they have “made such a breache into my minde”, Faustus is finished with the known world of human knowledge and proclaims that “a greater subject fitteth Faustus’ wit.”

In his evaluation of philosophy, Faustus discusses Aristotle and his Analytics, which had been at the heart of the university curriculum...

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