Posts Tagged ‘Doctor Faustus’

This week I only managed one book – but what a book to have tried, I was clearly delirious when I picked it…!

Book 25 – Doctor Faustus, by Christopher Marlowe.  I have long thought that Kit Marlowe is unfairly missed from school reading lists: not only a contemporary of Shakespeare, he has the added mystique of a violent death and an arrest warrant out for him when he died, aged just 29.  He is the type of character that would be at least infamous in the public eye nowadays.

Anyway – onto the book!  This was actually a play and as such I can’t really judge it like a book.  It was in Elizabethan English which made reading it a challenge but it wasn’t as dense or complex, reading-wise, as some of the Shakespeare plays I’ve read and I was able to follow it pretty easily.

The story follows Faustus as he offers up his soul to the devil in exchange, ostensibly, for knowledge and power.  The cast involves humans, angels and devils and as such runs from good to bad and everything in between.

As a play the pacing was inevitably different from that of a book – I found the whole thing a little rushed but there were a few good examples of how far Faustus was prepared to push his own morality in the knowledge that it didn’t matter.  His sudden fear at the end of the play as to how he would cope in purgatory was rather less effective than may be hoped; he made the choice in knowledge of the outcome, benefitted from his pact for over 2 decades, and used his strength against others, so any sudden change of heart was a little late in the day!

In terms of structure, I am used to the rhyming couplets of Shakespeare which don’t appear as regularly here – there is much of the play that appears to be in genuine prose style as we would see it now.  This in a large part accounts for the ease of reading – there is no tortured sentence structure required.

All in all, I’d say read it if you want to get a wider perception of Elizabethan tastes – as well as some Philip Sidney, my next Elizabethan to try!

Happy reading



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