July 31st, 2012

atheist teacher

Doctor Faustus by Kit Marlowe

The Tragicall History of the Life and Death of Doctor Faustus surprised me a bit. The major surprise is how much humor there is, and of a rather unsophisticated nature, and that this comic take on Faust is largely drawn directly from the original English source of the Faust legend. I guess when I picture Faust, it's Goethe's later version that comes to mind, rather than this one, in which Faust sneaks invisibly around the pope's palace and punches him in the face. And plays pranks on horse-dealers and a hay-men. Another element, kind of related to the humor, is how grand guignol-esque it is at places. Severed heads and limbs and devils doing devilish deeds. I'm sure all this kept the groundlings entertained, but it just wasn't what I expected. Marlowe took enough grief over it as it was -- maybe if he had invented a serious Faust he'd have burnt at the stake.

Though I was disappointed by the whole, it's hard to argue with a guy who achieved immortality:
Was this the face that launch'd a thousand ships,
And burnt the topless towers of Ilium?

Though I understand in the manuscript, Marlowe has Faust make a pun on 'topless' and then humps Helen on stage. Kidding.