"The Supernatural in Marlowe's Doctor Faustus"

Essay by laraalvz November 2012

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The Supernatural in Marlowe'sDoctor Faustus


The Renaissance marked a turning point in history. In this period, Humanism motivated the study of subjects related to man and society, since man, as an individual, had become the centre of interest, leaving theology and religious devotion relatively aside. Therefore, as scholars recognized man's worth and value, some people started to seek further satisfaction in Earth and -partially- stopped longing for Heaven. The highest aspirations were truth and knowledge. The spirit of the time was one of intellectual freedom and defiance; men no longer feared death and even tried to establish direct contact with the afterlife in order to achieve wisdom and power. This thirst for knowledge brought about an inner struggle between the traditional way of thinking imposed by the Church and man's desire to explore the world and discover the truth on his own. The individual was now facing a dilemma: how to live up to the new mindset without completely dismissing old divine concepts.

This dichotomy is clearly seen in Marlowe's play Doctor Faustus, where the protagonist resorts to the supernatural in order to achieve power and knowledge but at the expense of continuous distress by his contradictory feelings of fascination and fear.

This paper aims to prove that Marlowe'sDoctor Faustus reflects the spirit of the Renaissance and the struggle of man between the quest for scientific knowledge and the rejection of religious dogmas and contemplative life. The first section starts with a synopsis of the play. The following section provides a historical background of the Renaissance, with a short description of the concepts and beliefs of the time that are related to Marlowe's play. The last and most extensive section focuses on the analysis of the supernatural elements in Dr. Faustus and their connection...