Comic scenes in Dr Faustus-Marlowe

Comic scenes in Dr Faustus-Marlowe

Comic scenes in Dr. Faustus-Marlowe : Comment on the comic scenes in ‘Dr. Faustus’.  Or Marlowe’s ‘Dr. Faustus’ is a grim tragedy with a blend of rough comedy. Discuss.

Comic scenes in Dr Faustus-Marlowe

Christopher Marlowe was a popular English dramatist and poet of the Elizabethan Age. He is regarded as the greatest dramatist of the University Wits. Scholars have traced his great influence on William Shakespeare. Marlowe infused mental and psychological element in his plays. Later on, Shakespeare developed it. Marlowe popularized tragedy. ‘The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus’ is a world classic. It is honoured as the first play to employ human psychology in the development of a character. The tragic stress is so heavy that comic scenes are weak. Some comic scenes are out of reference and obstruct the development of the serious action. It too is believed that comic scenes are not composed by Marlowe.

Great purpose of comic scenes-

In Shakespeare’s tragic plays, comic scenes are included to serve many purposes. Some of them parody the main action; some preach morality; some satirize imperfections of society; some contribute to the development of the action; some provide comic relief and are introduced just to lengthen the action of the play. Marlowe does not possess Shakespeare’s skill in this field.

Comic scenes : Element of parody-

Marlowe introduces the first comic scene in Act I when Dr. Faustus’ servant Wagner befools a clown. Wagner asks the clown to sell his soul to the devil for a shoulder of mutton. The clown is ready for that on a condition that the mutton should be roasted well and should have good sauce to it. When the clown objects to it, Wagner calls two devils to punish the clown. The scene is a parody to the serious action. There Faustus sells his soul to Lucifer and here the clown refuses to do so.

Comic scenes : Element of morality-

The earlier drama passed through many stages and one of them was the stage of morality plays. In morality plays, the personified form of vices and virtues were presented with a view to preach morality. The march of seven deadly sins in the play is made after that tradition. The march of deadly sins preaches morality by creating the impression that a good man ought to avoid vices. Mephistophilis brings in the seven deadly sins. The first deadly sin is Pride. It claims

I am Pride. I disdain to have any parents.

Pride refuses to stand at the ground which is not perfumed and covered with carpet. The second deadly sin is Covetousness or Greed.

………this house, you and all, should turn to gold,

that I might lock you safe into my chest. The third deadly sin is Envy. It wishes to live alone. Then it would be fat. Wrath or Anger, the next deadly sin leapt out of a lion’s mouth. The fifth deadly sin is Gluttony or Over-eating. Sloth and Lechery or Lust are the other deadly sins. According to Faustus, the sight of deadly sins has delighted his soul.

Comic scenes : Element of satire–

The basic purpose of comedy is to pass satire on what is imperfect. In ‘Dr. Faustus‘, there is a sharp satire on those priests who take interest only in eating and drinking. Faustus sees the Pope taking part in holy Peter’s feast. Pope comes. The Cardinal of Lorraine welcomes him. Only dishes and drinks are gifted to the Pope. Faustus snatches the dish and cup. The satire is on their gluttony. Mephistophilis and Faustus beat them and fling fireworks to make them frightened.

Comic scenes : Development of action-

Some comic scenes help in the development of the action. Dr. Faustus visits courts, kings and princes to delight them with his magic. In the court of Emperor Carolus the Fifth, Doctor Faustus, by skill of his magic, raises spirits of Alexander the Great with his beautiful mistress Thais. A knight underrates Faustus’ skill. Faustus punishes the knight by growing a pair of horns on his head. On Emperor’s request, Faustus releases the knight. Faustus asks Mephistophilis to remove the horns.

Comic scenes : Element of comic relief-

Faustus’ heart is heavy for the period of twenty-four years is passing away. Before introducing Faustus’ pathetic death, a comic scene is presented. Faustus befools a horse-courser. Faustus sells his horse for fifty dollars giving warning that he should not ride the horse into the water. Horse-courser thinks Faustus’ horse would show some rare quality in the water. He rides the horse in to the deep pond. In the middle of the pond, his horse vanishes away.

He finds himself sitting on a bottle of hey. Horse-courser comes to take back his money from Faustus who is sleeping. Horse-courser pulls Faustus by the leg which is pulled away. Faustus asks to get him arrested. Horse-courser pays him forty dollars more for rot calling the police.

Comic scenes : Lengthening of action-

Some comic scenes serve the purpose of lengthening the action of the play. For example, in a cornic scene, Robin the Stableman has stolen a magic book from the library of Doctor Faustus. Ralph and Robin plan to drink costly wine at any tavern without payment. Ralph praises Robin for his magic. They enter a shop and drink. When the vintner asks for payment, Robin calls Mephistophilis to frighten the vintner. Mephistophilis rebukes Robin for it. The scene has no important purpose to serve. It rather obstructs the action.


Thus, comic scenes are important in this play.

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