Book Review: Dr. Faustus by Christopher Marlowe

In this classic play, Marlowe takes up the story of a German scholar who sells his soul to the devil in order to attain worldly pleasures. The story existed before Marlowe and would be treated, in a work far more famous, by Goethe somewhat later, but Marlowe enters into this story in a way that is enthralling and thought-provoking.

Marlowe uses the story of Dr. Faustus to explore themes such as the relationship between knowledge in worldly things and ennui, the tension between will and fate, and the nature of sin. Each scene of the play is like a short meditation upon one of these subjects.

Of particular interest to me is Marlowe’s relationship to Shakespeare. Thought Shakespeare would, by the time this play was first published in print, far exceed Marlowe in the quality of his dramatic works, Marlowe was no doubt an early influence on Shakespeare. Thought Marlowe’s influence waned with time, one can find elements of this influence throughout Shakespeare’s corpus.

I recommend this book to anyone who is looking for good literature that does what literature is supposed to do: provide insight into the human.

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