Christopher Marlowe, Doctor Faustus
Christopher Marlowe, Doctor Faustus

Start this free course now. Just create an account and sign in. Enrol and complete the course for a free statement of participation or digital badge if available.

Free course

Christopher Marlowe, Doctor Faustus

2.1.3 The comic scenes

There is no doubt though that the play keeps drawing our attention to its protagonist's weaknesses. The comic scenes in Act 1 serve to reinforce the connection between magic and appetite. In Act 1, Scene 4, Wagner tells us that Robin is so poor that ‘he would give his soul to the devil for a shoulder of mutton, though it were blood raw’ (ll. 9–11) and Robin adds: ‘Not so, good friend. By'r Lady, I had need have it well roasted, and good sauce to it, if I pay so dear’ (ll. 12–15). Coming directly after the scene in which Faustus first conjures Mephistopheles, the joke glances at Faustus's own ‘hunger’ and drives home the absurdly high price he is paying for comparatively trivial pleasures. This is one of the main functions of the play's comic scenes – to comment on the serious action. Time and again, Marlowe juxtaposes scenes so that the later comic one comments on the preceding serious one by re-presenting Faustus's ambitions in their lowest form, stripped of the power of his own speeches. By techniques such as these the play diminishes its hero by exposing the triviality and foolishness of his aims.


Take your learning further

Making the decision to study can be a big step, which is why you'll want a trusted University. The Open University has 50 years’ experience delivering flexible learning and 170,000 students are studying with us right now. Take a look at all Open University courses.

If you are new to University-level study, we offer two introductory routes to our qualifications. You could either choose to start with an Access module, or a module which allows you to count your previous learning towards an Open University qualification. Read our guide on Where to take your learning next for more information.

Not ready for formal University study? Then browse over 1000 free courses on OpenLearn and sign up to our newsletter to hear about new free courses as they are released.

Every year, thousands of students decide to study with The Open University. With over 120 qualifications, we’ve got the right course for you.

Request an Open University prospectus371