The set text is the final soliloquy in Christopher Marlowe’s tragedy Dr Faustus, based on the A text. The following textual analysis will be looking at tone, structure, and sentence length and type. There will also be the close analysis of patterns that occur throughout the text and Marlowe’s use of sound effect and how they affect the textual structure. The final soliloquy marks the tragic consummation of the play. The essence of this soliloquy is time, throughout the text, the clock is ticking away.
The final soliloquy is written in blank verse in iambic pentameter. This leads to a powerful and involved speech, replicating the passing of time. Faustus is discovered on the final stretch of his journey to perdition, he is presented as desperate and remorseful. The rhythm and use of blank verse within Faustus’ last soliloquy provides an understanding into the impact of Marlowe’s intention for the text. The first sentence within the text contains only monosyllabic words, apart from the final word ‘perpetually’. Marlowe’s use of this polysyllabic word alerts the audience to what Faustus fears most, the notion of living in a damned existence forever. The use of monosyllabic creates an echo effect, which is heightened by the use of internal rhyme by using words such as ‘Now’ and ‘How’. Marlowe provides specific attention to Faustus’ notion with the use of enjambment, which can be seen in the following lines “Where is it now?” ‘Tis gone: and see where God / Stretcheth out his arm, and bends his ireful brows!” (73-74) this use of enjambment can also be found earlier on in Faustus’ soliloquy “Fair nature’s eye, rise, rise again, and make / Perpetual day; or let this hour be but / A year, a month, a week, a natural day”. The way each line spills onto the next creates a feeling of acceleration at a moment when Faustus is trying to slow time down, to avoid the inevitable perpetual damnation. These techniques are coupled with the difference in the number of lines between the first half hour which contains thirty one and the second half hour that only contains twenty six lines. Marlowe’s use of repetition within the text emphasizes Faustus’ state of mind and details that who he truly fears, as the word God mentioned six times in a rather small passage of text. Faustus is fully aware that God is the only one who can limit his time in hell and the soliloquy reveals the intensity of his plea. Marlowe appears to use repetition to relate the fear and panic experienced by Faustus to the audience.
Marlowe’s pairing of long and short sentences within the text, creates a stronger impact, and provides focus on Faustus’s thoughts. The closing lines of the soliloquy provide the shortest sentence’s almost as Faustus is gasping to take his last breath before delivering his final plea. The final sentences are so short that line 110 contains two sentences, Ugly hell gape not! / Come not, Lucifer! The use of punctuation reveals the tension and panic that Faustus is experiencing, knowing that his final hour is due to pass. The use of statements such as “All beasts are happy, for when they die, / Their souls are soon dissolved in elements” (98-99) guides and informs the audience of Faustus’ point of view. Marlowe makes great use of didactic rhetorical statements, reminding the audience how powerless they are against God.
Marlowe’s use of imagery and sound effects provides great depth to Faustus’ statements. They also lead the audience to question whether the punishment fits the crime. Faustus fails to acknowledge God or Jesus Christ as his saviours until he has exhausted all other options, his prayer to the stars asking them to save his soul, is an example of Faustus turning to the occult for assistance, rather than praying to God. This act of desperation features the use of personification, recognising the stars as a living presence “You stars that reigned my nativity, / Whose influence hath allotted death and hell, / Now draws up Faustus like a foggy mist / Into the entrails of yon labouring cloud, / That when you vomit forth into the air / My limbs may issue from your smoky mouths” Marlowe’s blend of sentence structure, imagery and sound effects, adds depth to what is a dark and unforgiving scene.
As Faustus arrives on the final stretch of his journey to perdition, he curses the devil, himself and his parents. The first half hour Faustus is so busy pleading for redemption that he ignores the cause and materials that have assisted with his downfall and only after the clock strikes half past the hour, does he consider destroying his books, a final acknowledgment that his greed and hunger for knowledge has led to his downfall. Faustus fails to acknowledge God or Jesus Christ as his saviours until he has exhausted all other options, his prayer to the stars asking them to save his soul, is an example of Faustus turning to the occult for assistance, rather than praying to God. The tone throughout the text is desperate and remorseful. Faustus’ journey to perdition is finally coming to an end, with just one hour left to plead for redemption. The opening lines “Stand still, you ever moving spheres of heaven, that time may cease, and midnight never come.”(58-59) Compares and discuss the human dissatisfaction with the movement of time. This paired with the ironic Latin quote from Ovid’s Amores, “O lente, lente currite noctis equi!”(64) which translates as ‘Go slowly, slowly, you horses of the night’ mans imprisonment by time is the cruellest fact of mans condition. The text has a didactic tone, with a final reminder to the audience of how powerless they are against God, following the traditions of the morality play.
Marlowe’s Dr Faustus contains a didactic tone similar to morality plays. The use of literary techniques not only emphasise the character of Faustus, but also adds strength to underlying messages within the play.
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