Sunday, July 3, 2011

Doctor Faustus - Christopher Marlowe

doctor faustus
christopher marlowe
premiered 1592
69 pages
completed 5/29/2011

read for: HSTEU305 (european witch trials)

*may contain spoilers*

Not marching now in fields of Trasimene / Where Mars did mate the Carthaginians, / Nor sporting in the dalliance of love / in courts of kings where state is overturned / Nor in the pomp of proud audacious deeds / Intends our muse to vaunt his heavenly verse.

A fifteenth century German, Georg Faustus, was a learned man with a reputation for magic. He studied at Heilderberg where he showed an interest in occult topics and was an example of the Renaissance magic tradition, a renewed interest in sorcery and other such learned magics. He was an actual figure around whom myths and legends have sense sprung up. Christopher Marlowe's Doctor Faustus is just one of many versions of this tale. In his play, Doctor Faustus is a learned man with an insatiable thirst for knowledge and power. He sees magic as the ultimate form of both and so makes a pact with the devil, his soul in exchange for twenty-four years of magical power. As the time for payment draws near, Faustus grows fearful and contemplates whether his damnation is inevitable or if its not too late to repent.

I read this for school, for my History of European Witch Trials class (which I kept accidentally referring to as simply my "witchcraft" class, as if I'd ditched the University of Washington for Hogwarts) and wrote a paper on it, so I was reading it for a very specific purpose. Rather than for enjoyment in the story, I was reading it as a text on Reformation belief in diabolism (demon worship) and the rejection of Catholic tradition. And in those instances, there is a wealth of information (enough to write an 8 page paper) from the deeper theological questions (if this is a Reformation text, is Faustus automatically damned for his diabolism or is there room for repentance?) to the more comically superficial (such as Faustus demanding Mephistophiles, his demon friend, appear to him as a Franciscan friar). Which is probably good, seeing as how otherwise, it's really kind of boring. Faustus is kind of a jackass. He didn't have enough depth to him to make me care why he chose to consort with devils. Not a whole lot happens, either. I wish when he got his powers he actually used them for something. Instead he did a few tricks and at one point traveled to Rome to screw with the Pope. But there was nowhere near twenty-four years worth of magical happenings. Not even twenty-four years of mischief.

I do think a good portion of my boredom comes from reading the text as opposed to seeing it performed. It's one thing to actually see devils carry him off to his fate at the end of the play, leaving the viewer without a concrete resolution (sometimes it just goes dark, sometimes screams are heard, and sometimes bloody limbs are thrown back on stage as if the demons tore his soul right out of his body), but reading nothing but sparse stage directions leaves a reader a little cold.

There's a faction of people who believe that Christopher Marlowe was the actual author of all Shakespeare's plays, and after reading this I have to believe those people are crazy (no offense if you're on of those crazies). There's a reason why Shakespeare is taught over and over, with whole classes devoted to nothing but his work, and why Christopher Marlowe is relegated to a week in my History of Witch Trials class.


Friday, July 1, 2011

Music Mix Friday...Florence + the Machine "Kiss with a Fist"

By the end of July...

Okay, so I only made it through one of the books from last month, but that's okay. It's only one extra for this month. We'll see what happens.

To be Read by the End of July
The White Queen - Philippa Gregory
The Liar's Club - Mary Karr
Bombay Time- Thrity Umrigar
The Name of the Rose - Umberto Eco
Small Wars - Sadie Jones
Amsterdam - Ian McEwan

To be read...

The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher - Kate Summerscale
The Pun Also Rises - John Pollock
Outlaw - Angus Donald
Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children - Rasom Riggs
The Lover's Dictionary - David Leviathan
Tigerlily's Orchids - Ruth Rendell
Alias Grace - Margaret Atwood
The Uncoupling - Meg Wolitzer
A Wild Surge of Guilty Passion - Ron Hansen
The Resevoir - John Milliken Thompson
Bossypants - Tina Fey
Game of Patience - Susanne Alleyn
Trespass - Rose Tremain
A Mountain of Crumbs - Elena Gorokhova
Herland - Charlotte Perkins Gilman
The Three Miss Kings - Ada Cambridge
The Invisible Bridge - Julie Orringer
The American Heiress - Daisy Goodwin
Finding Emilie - Laurel Corona
Vaclav and Lena - Haley Tanner
Please Look After Mom - Kyung-Sook Shin
Swamplandia - Karen Russell
Lady of the English - Elizabeth Chadwick
The Finkler Question - Howard Jacobson
Everything Beautiful Began After - Simon Von Booy
Sepulchre - Kate Mosse
The Night Circus - Erin Morgenstern
When God Was a Rabbit - Sarah Winman
The Match - Romesh Gunesekera
Butterfield 8 - John O'Hara
The Dark Mirror - Juliet Marillier
The Lake - Banana Yoshimoto
Flappers and Philosophers - F Scott Fitzgerald
Airmail - Naomi Bulger
Case Histories - Kate Atkinson
The Valley of Heaven and Hell - Susie Kelly
Ghost Light - Joseph O'Connor
Adverbs - Daniel Handler
Crome Yellow - Aldous Huxley
The Novel in the Viola - Natasha Solomons
Incognito - Gregory Murphey
Queen Pokou - Veronique Tadjo
In Lucia's Eyes - Arthur Japin
The Good Soldier - Ford Madox Ford
The Rest is Silence - Carla Gulfenbein
The Assault - Harry Mulisch
The Tea Lords - Hella S Haasse
The Slaves of Solitude - Patrick Hamilton
The Collaborator - Margaret Leroy
The Story of Beautiful Girl - Rachel Simon
Leonard's Swans - Karen Essex
Virgin Widow - Anne O'Brien
The Forest Lover - Susan Vreeland
The Goose Girl - Shannon Hale
Bloody Foreigners - Robert Windor
Miss Buncle Married - DE Stevenson (2nd in a series)
The Winter Queen - Boris Akunin (1st in a series)
The Manservant Mysteries - Lee Herman (series)
Children and Fire - Ursula Hegi (series)

55 new books and 4 new series. Every time this list grows longer, it's almost a little sad.