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The Play that Continues to Influence on a Generational Scale!
on 29 November 2012
I had not been introduced to Marlowe's work (or, indeed, heard of the legendary playwright at all) until after taking the mammoth decision to start an Open University module. This was a Level 1 module for 60 credits; AA100 `The Arts Past and Present'. During the second week, we had the task of reading the play from this suggested A-Text version, alongside an audio track provided by the university. Having not studied for the past 4-5 years, I found the play initially hard to go by. But, of course, this is expected for a higher education student who has been away from academia for quite some time. My fellow students and I found this text to be a surprising read, and, reading from the perspective of an observer of the production, rather than the reader of a novel (or stage-play) helped to put the play into context.
Having not studied much Shakespearean literature, I found `Doctor Faustus' the perfect play to be introduced into the discipline of Renaissance English Literature, with its vastly complex and visionary characterisation. The character of Faustus, for me, is a living representation of the dangers pertaining to seeking knowledge beyond one's physical (and spiritual) capabilities. The Christian message is embedded throughout the play, as was suitably the norm during Marlowe's lifetime, of repentance, forgiveness and God's ultimate will.
The Pearson Longman edition is especially useful for the Open University student, as this is indeed the first set book for the aforementioned module for the humanities. It provides extensive details on the text and footnotes detailing the many idioms and contemporary translations of early-modern English. There are also many more sections on the life of Christopher Marlowe and his contemporaries, as well as notes on the period and life for the common Englishman during the Renaissance. There are some shocking revelations about his life and, ultimately, his death.
I am so glad that the Open University introduced me to this wonderful stage-play and its amazingly complex themes, but, most importantly, its writer. Now I am continuing on with Level 2 studies and have come across the likes of Charles Dickens et al, but Doctor Faustus will forever hold a special place in my literary heart. Additionally, not to miss is the film translation made famous by Elizabeth Taylor, the `Stage on Screen' DVD of the play recorded at London's Greenwich Theatre, and the upcoming Opus Arte production starring Arthur Darvill (Rory Williams from the BBC's `Doctor Who' television series).