Prior to looking into the Renaissance spirit in Elizabethan play Doctor Faustus, we need to know about Renaissance.
Renaissance means revival or rebirth. Back in the 14th century, it was the renewal of the fields of the search and information by studying the books of the ancient Greeks and Romans. At that time, Renaissance forced out people from the Dark Ages and effort to think beyond the limits was introduced. In the Renaissance, people started researching and became interrogative of the religious belief as well.
Renaissance spirit in Elizabethan play Doctor Faustus
Some of these and other elements of the Renaissance can be found in the play Doctor Faustus where the yearning for information enhances. Faustus’ this desire of knowledge ends up in bartering his own soul which leads him up to his eternal damnation.
As the knowledge became more valuable the scholars became the vanquisher. From the start of the drama, Doctor Faustus, we can observe that he is the scholar with command on the subject like theology, history, law, medicines, etc., but his thirst of the knowledge is not done yet. He expresses that “Philosophy is odious and obscure; both law and physics are for petty wits; divinity is basest of the three, unpleasant, harsh, contemptible and vile”. He does not feel powerful with these subjects, therefore he decided to excel his knowledge in the necromancy. For his personal contentment and auxiliary wisdom, he took the path of black magic. Doctor Faustus’s eagerness for advancement and the knowledge are the elements that demonstrate the spirit of the Renaissance in this Elizabethan play.
Mocking of Religion Renaissance spirit in Elizabethan play Doctor Faustus
In the Renaissances, the religion was mocked and this is visible in the Doctor Faustus as well when he denounces the Christianity and took the hand of Satan to introduce him to the hidden parts of the world. He also made a mockery of Pope and monks in the Rome by creating chaos during the meal and freeing the fake Pope of Germany. He also exposed that how the Pope and his allies act forge in the name of religion. Before the Renaissance, it was impossible for the people or authors to challenge Christianity.
Thirst for treasures
Being a Renaissance man, Faustus yearns for the treasures and worldly delights. As he seals the pact with Mephistopheles, he instructs them to bring gems from the ocean,
India’s gold, and ornaments from all over the world. This way, he can have a lot of wealth. That wealth will make him powerful and he can be the most powerful person. Thus, Renaissance spirit in Elizabethan play Doctor Faustus is visible that how he wanted more of treasures for him.
Desire for woman as Renaissance spirit in Elizabethan play Doctor Faustus
Another vital aspect of the Renaissance is the recognition of splendour and love. With all the powers in the world, he wanted to have the most fascinating woman by his side and for that, he chose Helen of Troy. He also expressed his joy as, “Was this the face that launched a thousand ships? And burnt the topless tower of Ilium”.
“Till swollen with the cunning of a self-conceit, His waxen wings did mount above his reach, And, melting, heaven conspired his overthrow”. A knowledge that could actually
liberate him winds him up into damnation. He wants to rule the world with the assistance of Mephistopheles and says, “By him I’ll be great emperor of the world, And make a bridge through the moving air, To pass the ocean with a band of men, I’ll join the hills that bind the Afric shore, And make that continent to Spain”.
Seeking Power and knowledge
Faustus’ aspiration for power and endless knowledge led him to an entirely new dimension where he was free from all the boundaries of integrity. Even in the beginning of the play, the chorus informs that the Faustus is “swollen with cunning and self- conceit”. The aspects of deadly sins of the personality of Faustus show that how the knowledge for power actually made him fellow to the evil. He gradually made his way to his damnation throughout his life. He committed deadly sins like blasphemy, pride, despair, the presumption on various occasions of his life.
In the presence of all these events, it is evident that Renaissance spirit in Elizabethan play Doctor Faustus is embedded.
We can witness that where that knowledge would have enlightened Faustus, it doomed him. This happened due to the wrong use. He denied God and sworn into the Beelzebub, by saying “There is no chief but only Beelzebub”.
Moreover, he trades his soul for 24 years in exchange of these powers, which is a very petty bargain.
Even at the end, when the old man comes to him and asks to repent, the Faustus refuses it with despair in mind, even though, his mind thinks about it or once. “I do repent, and yet I do despair”. This was the final act that pushed him towards damnation.
Therefore, in the presence of all these events, it is visible that Faustus was damned for life despite having the character traits like knowledge seeker, inquest spirit, having an aesthetic sense, etc. These character traits also prove him as the Renaissance spirit.
Read next article here.
Follow us on Instagram.