Walking on Sunshine

Christopher Marlowe – Doctor Faustus – 2010/043

The Back of the Book: This new edition of the A text of Doctor Faustus follows the format of our New Longman Shakespeare series.  It has been specifically developed to help students make the transition to AS and A Level a smooth one.

The complete text is accompanied by:

  • close textual analysis alongside the text, which helps students to understand difficult words, historical references and key imagery.
  • general notes opposite the text, which develop student understanding of the play and cover themes, character, plot, language and different actors’ interpretations.
  • AS and A2 exam and coursework questions at the end of each act, in addition to activities to help students explore the play as a piece of theatre.
  • information on sources, performance history and the social, historical and literary context.
  • a selection of extracts from key critical works to build understanding of different critical interpretations.
  • a section to help develop the study skills required for AS and A Level.

NotJustLaura’s Review: I first read this play as a student at Dundee University.  At the time, hating Shakespearian language, I was just glad to get through it.  I may have gone to a tutorial and it’s quite possible that I wrote an essay although I don’t remember having done so.  This time around, reading for AA100, with A177 already under my belt, I’m glad to report that I got a lot more from the experience.

The Longman edition is aimed at A Level students.  The text is broken into bite-sized sections each of which is presented with a little summary such as:

The deed specifies that Faustus may be a spirit and that Mephistopheles will be at his command.  In return, Lucifer is allowed to carry Faustus off, body and soul, at the end of twenty-four years. (p38)

This made the play a whole lot easier to read and understand.  There is a line-by-line explanation of the text (which I’ve dipped in and out of as I read), a relevant photograph and an ‘Ideas and interpretations’ section which, I confess, I haven’t read yet.

The play itself is a dark tale concerning a man (Faustus) who sells his soul to the devil.  It could be read as a tragedy or a morality play – I lean over to the morality side although one could hardly argue that it is not tragic!

Although, the first time around, I identified the language as Shakespearian (the play is Elizabethan) it is actually very different and Marlowe utilises his own style.  I think the main difference between the two playwrights is their use of imagery.  Shakespearian texts seem a lot more ‘flowery’ with one metaphor overlaying another.  Marlowe seems a lot more likely to call a spade a spade and leave it at that.  For me, this made Doctor Faustus an easier but less satisfying read.

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