When I first began reading Dr. Faustus I did not even realize that there werecomic scenes. Only after being told and after watching the movie did I realizethat there were comic scenes. Many critics say that Christopher Marlowe did noteven write these scenes, but instead say that they were written later by otherplaywrights.
After realizing that there was in fact comedy in the play, I beganto ponder why it was in the play. My first thought was that they were there tolighten the mood of such a dark and serious play. Any good playwright knows thatyou can’t hold an audience’s attention with hours of serious, deep and emotionalcontent without also having something to lighten the mood. With this point ofview I realized that it was very possible that Mr. Marlowe did not in fact writethe comic sections of this play (I really wanted to believe that he wrote them),maybe a later playwright found that the play was too serious. The fact that Iwanted Marlowe to be the author of the whole play (I don’t like it when someonecomes along a changes a piece of art, or that people say that someone changed itbecause it is just too good to be true) made me dig deeper to try and findsomething that sounded more sensible to me. I would have to say that it waseight lines in scene five that were spoken by Mephastophilis in response to aquestion from Faustus. These Lines were (pg.
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442 lines 110-125): Mephastophilis.Now Faustus, ask what thou wilt. Faustus. First will I question thee about hell:Tell me, where is the place that men call hell? Mephastophilis. Under theheavens. Faustus. Ay, but whereabouts? Mephastophilis. Within the bowels ofthese elements, Where we are tortured and remain forever.
Hell hath no limits,nor is circumscribed In one self place; for where we are is hell, And where hellis, there we must ever be. And to conclude, when all the world dissolves, Andevery creature shall be purified, All places shall be hell that is not heaven.Not only is this some very powerful poetry but it seems to say everything aboutthe comic scenes.
After I read this part of the play I began to realize thereason why the comic scenes are in this play. What Mephistophilis seems to besaying is that everyone that is not in heaven, is in hell. This means thateveryone on earth is in hell. Mephastophilis says exactly this; “…forwhere we are is hell.
..”. How did these lines put the comic scenes intoperspective for me? It made me look at the whole play in a different light.
Ifeveryone that is not in heaven is in hell, then everyone in this play is in helland has committed some type of sin. The scene in which Lucifer comes with theSeven Deadly Sins (Pride, Covetousness, Wrath, Envy, Gluttony, Sloth andLechery) depicted the ways which people commit sins. When I went back throughthe play and looked at after I was enlightened, I noticed that the comic scenesvery much reflected the scenes with Dr. Faustus. Take for instance when Wagnerconjured up Baliol and Belcher (Scene Four) this is almost exactly what Faustusdid in the previous scenes. The comic scenes that seemed to reflect what Faustusdid, also seemed to increase the readers knowledge of how powerful Faustus was.
In all the scenes that other people tried to conjure up the devil, they couldnot handle the devils and usually failed in their attempts. Take for instancescene eight, lines twenty to forty-five, when Robin and Rafe conjured upMephastophilis they could not handle the sight of him and he changed them intoan ape and a dog respectively, because they were just playing games. This sceneshows how powerful Dr. Faustus was and how seriously he took magic.
The othercomic scenes either showed how everyone in the play had committed some type ofsin, or how Faustus used his magic to play childish pranks. Take scene five forexample when the Clown and Wagner are talking: Clown. But do you hear? If Ishould serve you, would you teach me to raise up Banios and Belcheos? Wagner. Iwill teach thee to turn thy self to anything, to a dog, or a cat, or a mouse, ora rat or anything. Clown.
How! A Christian fellow to a dog, or a cat, or amouse, or a rat? No, no sir, if you turn me into anything let it be in thelikeness of a little pretty frisking flea, that I may be here, and there, andevery- where. O I’ll tickle the pretty wenches’ plackets! I’ll be amongst themi’faith. The last five lines that the clown says here are almost exactly likewhat Pride, one of the Seven Deadly Sins, says in scene five, lines 284-288:Pride. I am Pride: I disdain to have any parents. I am like to Ovid’s flea, Ican creep into every corner of a wench: sometimes like a periwig, I sit upon herbrow; or like a fan of feathers, I kiss her lips.
Indeed I do – what do I not!But fie, what a scent is here? I’ll not speak another word, except the groundwere perfumed and covered with cloth of arras. This points out that evil caninfect even the lowliest of creatures such as the Clown. The last function ofthe comic scenes that I was able to find is that of pointing out how trivialFaustus’ magic is. Many scenes point this out; scene seven when Faustus goesinto the Pope’s chamber, scene nine when Faustus puts horns on the knight, andscene ten where he gives the horse-courser a bum horse and lets his leg bepulled off, are all comic scenes that show how low Faustus has stooped in hismagic. In the end I did find that the comic scenes in Dr. Faustus did in facthave a definite purpose, and not just to lighten the mood (although this verywell could have been one of the reasons). Due to the fact that the comic scenesall fit in so well and had a lot of depth I do think that they were actuallywritten by Christopher Marlowe.
After reading through this play and watching themovie, no matter how whacked out it was, I did really like this play.