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ERIC Number: EJ1097881
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2008
Pages: 7
Abstractor: ERIC
ISSN: ISSN-0007-8034
Teaching "Doctor Faustus" through the "Ars Moriendi" Tradition
Fike, Matthew
CEA Forum, v37 n1 Win-Spr 2008
The rough edges in Christopher Marlowe's intellectual life serve as a foil to the mainstream Christianity in "Doctor Faustus": the playwright had a reputation for atheism or at least for unorthodox opinions; papers allegedly found in a writing room that he shared with Thomas Kyd denied the deity of Christ; and twelve days before he was fatally stabbed through the eye in a bar fight, the Privy Council had arrested him for heresy (Gill 214). Some readers of Marlowe believe that it is hard to tell if the smoke of bad reputation signifies the fire of actual heresy, but there is little doubt that he qualified as an "atheist," one who disbelieves in God and is unfettered by "moral obligation" ("Atheist"). Marlowe's reputation for making controversial religious statements is partly due to Kyd, who, under duress, attributed a heretical document to him; and the "ascription may well have been correct" (Kuriyama 125). And yet, "however scornfully Marlowe rejected the [Christian] system intellectually, it still had a powerful hold of some sort on his imagination and emotions" (Kocher 118-19). Although Marlowe may not have had a Christian spirit, "Doctor Faustus" clearly shows that he had a Christian intelligence; for the play is built around an element of mainstream Christianity, the "ars moriendi" tradition or the art of dying well. This fact has been part of the criticism for over a half century, most helpfully in Beach Langston's hard-to-find but excellent article, "Marlowe's Faustus and the 'Ars Moriendi' Tradition" (1952). The essay presented in this article enhances a subset of Langston's inquiry, the five deathbed temptations (unbelief, despair, impatience, pride, and avarice), not only to outline a very effective way of teaching "Doctor Faustus," but also to highlight possible connections to other texts frequently read in a British survey or an Elizabethan literature course.
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
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