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Christopher Marlowe, Doctor Faustus
Christopher Marlowe, Doctor Faustus

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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.