Renaissance Drama

Marlowe’s Mighty Line: Renaissance Drama, Part 1 Respond to two of the following three topics.  Topic 1: The Use of Blank Verse Marlowe and Shakespeare were born at almost the same time, but at the time of his death at age 29, Marlowe was the far more accomplished artist. It has been convincingly suggested by the critic Harold Bloom that Marlowe’s “mighty line” represented a model to emulate, but also a source of competitive anxiety for the young Shakespeare, who would eventually surpass his predecessor, but who, at the time when Dr. Faustus was written, had nothing comparable to show. Imagine the young Shakespeare viewing Dr. Faustus on stage, knowing that this fantastic play, unlike anything else (save other works by Marlowe) was written by a man his own age. Provide some prominent examples of Marlowe’s poetic and dramatic power: focus on the opening scene, in which Faustus describes his ambition, as well as the harrowing last scene, in which he anticipates his damnation. What are some of the astonishing new effects Marlowe creates in blank verse (unrhymed iambic pentameter)? Why is Marlowe’s blank verse particularly well-suited to this kind of larger-than-life dramatic performance? Provide a brief analysis of at least one scene to demonstrate your point. Topic 2: The Early Modern English Devil A modern cliché about theater concerns its “magic.” But in Dr. Faustus, for early audiences, this property might have seemed more literal. Early descriptions of the performance of this play speak of the mysterious appearance of devils and spirits in the theater. Think of how disturbing it might have been to an Elizabethan to hear, in Latin, Faustus’ invocation of Mephistopheles—the context is fictional, but the invocation, after all, is “real.” And devils were believed to be everywhere, plotting our eternal destruction. Describe the character and role of Mephistopheles in this play. What makes Mephistopheles a compelling character, more so than your average medieval-stock devil? Provide a brief analysis of at least one scene to demonstrate your point. Topic 3: The Early Modern English Idea of Self Reflection Self-awareness is one of the main characteristics of Renaissance literature. This psychological state occurred because all the basic values and presuppositions of life in the Middle Ages disappeared, and humans were thrown back on themselves. The people living in this era experienced massive changes to their comprehension of the universe, God, geography, social classes, and politics. Playwrights used their characters as sounding boards to demonstrate that individuals needed to rethink who they were—-and that every aware person must do this. For example, when Faustus talks to himself, notice how he meditates on his destiny. Look for moments where he’s making his choice about which way to turn: whether to despair in God—or to have faith in Beelzebub. Notice where Faustus encourages himself—or when he doubts himself. Do these areas provide a platform for self-reflection? How does Marlowe dramatize this very internal action of a character? As part of Faustus’ exploration into his awareness, you may want to consider key areas where Faustus has to reflect upon himself, the scenes were Faustus considers his next steps, and on what basis he dismisses each of them. For instance, how does he reflect upon his choice of magic, of all things? Provide a brief analysis of at least one scene to demonstrate your point.

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