Goethe's Faust

Performances and Metatheatre in Marlowe’s Faustus College

The theatrical device of performing a play within another play has been employed for centuries, most notably in European theatre and literature (Fisher and Greiden xi). The play within a play “describes a strategy for constructing play texts that contain, within the perimeter of their own fictional reality, a second or internal theatrical performance” (Fisher and Greiden xii). Such a play within a play also has a multitude of functions and tasks, which, according to Fisher, can be grouped into four distinct varieties: metatheatrical (self-)reflection, introduction of different perspectives, interaction or exchange in the social and historical fields, and permitting a play to shift from one genre to another (Fisher and Greiden xii), Christopher Marlowe’s The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus, a retelling of the classic German legend Faust, is a fifteenth-century play which employs this technique on several occasions, providing the audience with an extra layer of entertainment, a deeper understanding of the flawed character of Faustus, and a metatheatrical reflection on the play itself.

The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus was written during the reign of queen Elizabeth. According to Ornstein, a theatre audience during this...

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