Doctor Faustus (Marlowe)

Blame and Responsibility in 'Paradise Lost' and 'Doctor Faustus'

Throughout both ‘Paradise Lost’ and ‘Doctor Faustus,’ the authors draw upon the ideas of responsibility, free will, and blame. Marlowe, in ‘Doctor Faustus’, melds the conventional religious ideology of the Middle Ages with the comparatively new Renaissance and Reformation thought, thus creating an effective contrast and an element of ambiguity in who exactly causes the fall of the protagonist: is it Faustus’s pride, Mephistopheles or God? Milton’s ‘Paradise Lost,’ by comparison, draws upon the radicalism of the English Republic and Old Testament fables to present the enigmatic question of who is at fault for the fall of man; some critics go so far as to suggest Milton believes God is to blame because he gave Adam and Eve free will. In the words of Milton’s, almost human, Satan: “Whom hast thou then or what to accuse, / But heaven’s free love dealt equally to all? / Be then his love accursed, since love or hate, / To me alike, it deals eternal woe.” This self-questioning embodies the enigmatic inference, morality and theology employed by Milton in his masterpiece.

From the beginning, through his utilisation of the classical chorus, Marlowe takes inspiration from the earlier Medieval ‘Mummings’ and morality plays in his use of...

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