Marlowe pp 44-45 | Cite as

Paul H. Kocher

  • Johan Jump
Part of the Casebook Series book series (CASEBS)


Faustus is the only one of Marlowe’s plays in which the pivotal issue is strictly religious and the whole design rests upon Protestant doctrines. This issue, stated simply, is whether Faustus shall choose God or the evil delights of witchcraft. In the first scenes we witness the temptations which lead to his fall through the witch bargain, and in subsequent scenes his agonized struggle to escape damnation by repentance. Thus the drama is not primarily one of external action but of spiritual combat within the soul of one man, waged according to the laws of the Christian world order. Now this theme allows Marlowe congenial opportunities of blaspheming without fear of being called to account. Through Faustus he can utter strictures on prayer, on Hell, on the harshness of Christian dogma, and then cover them safely with the usual orthodox replies. But withal Marlowe never lets these iconoclastic sallies overthrow the Christian emphasis of the whole. Like a crucible whose walls contain a seething liquid, the Christian structure of the play stands firm around the eruptions of blasphemy, and does not break.

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© The Editor(s) 1969

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  • Johan Jump

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