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Title: This fatal mirror : Marlowe's Doctor Faustus, the legend and the context
Author: Keefer, M. H.
ISNI:       0000 0000 7372 6604
Awarding Body: University of Sussex
Current Institution: University of Sussex
Date of Award: 1980
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This thesis is a contextual analysis of Marlowe's Doctor Faustus and of the origins and early development of the legend which that play dramatizes. It also deals with related literary-historical problems --in particular, those of the role of Calvinism in the development of English tragedy and dramatic characterization, and of the ideological connections between the legend of Faustus and the new philosophy of the 17th century. A unified approach to these concerns is made possible by a demonstration of their common relation to the tension between two ?urrents of thought, Renaissance Hermettsm and Reformation Augustinian- 1sm, which together constitute one of the basic ideological polarities of the period. 1'he argument moves through scholarly analyses of the se currents of thought to a consideration of specifically literary problems. The work is original in several respects. An analysis of patrL:tic sources, early Hermetic texts, and late-15th- and 16th-century writings shows that the Faustus legend originated in polemics, conducted largely b~ Protestants, against Renaissance Hermetism. This analysis is conf1rmed by a study of patristic legends about the magician and heresiarch Simon Magus, which are the main literary source of the Faustus legend, and which developed in an analogous manner out of orthodox Christian polemics against Gnosticism. Succeeding chapters explore the ambivalences of 16th-century Christian Hermetism and the contributions of Reformation theology (particularly Calvinism) to tra~ic structures from Beze's Abraham sacrifiant to Shakespeare's King Lear. Marlowe's Doctor Faustus is analysed in this context as containing an unbalanced dialectic of Hermetic and Calvinist motifs. A close reading of the text resolves certain editorial cruxes and current misinterpretations, and demonstrates the structural integration and aesthetic superiority of the 1604 version of the play. A new interpretation of the tragic form and the innovative characterization of Doctor Faustus emerges from an examination of Marlowe's concern in this play with the illusory promises of Hermetism and the proleptic causality and introverted eschatology of Calvinism. Finally, a discussion of the synthesis of Hermetic and Calvinist motifs in Descartes' early thought reveals hitherto unexplored links between this play and a philosophy which, on a superficial reading, might be thought to have made the legend of Faustus decisively obsolete.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Literature