Christopher Marlowe (1564–93) was the first great playwright of the Elizabethan and Jacobean stage. Indeed, apart from the works of Shakespeare, Marlowe’s play Doctor Faustus is the best known of Renaissance dramas. You might occasionally come across the suggestion that Marlowe is important as a dramatist only because he was a forerunner of Shakespeare, and that his plays merely paved the way for Shakespeare’s works. This is emphatically not the case; Marlowe is a great dramatist, in particular a writer of great tragedies, whose plays still make a very powerful impression on stage. To appreciate just how his plays make such a strong impact we have to look closely at what he wrote; we have to see how his plays work and what kind of view of life they convey. The whole purpose of this book is to show you how to achieve this for yourself. In the following discussion of Doctor Faustus, therefore, do bear in mind that my interpretation is not an infallible guide to the play; my aim is to show you how to build your own critical analysis stage by stage. Such an analysis always has to start with reading the play and getting some broad ideas about what is going on. We can make this our first step.
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