Calvinism and Doctor Faustus

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Calvinism and Doctor Faustus Christopher Marlowe’s play The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus was first performed a decade prior to its publishing in 1604. Since the first performance of Doctor Faustus, there has been much debate on whether or not the play is in support of Calvinism. In the late sixteenth century and early seventeenth century, the Calvinist doctrine of absolute predestination was prominent among the lectures and writings of many scholars. During this time, divinity was taught in all schools and was a normal part of everyday life, and Calvinism flooded the book-market in England (Honderich, 4). Because of the prominence of Calvinism during the time period that Doctor Faustus was performed and published, I feel as though Calvinist ideas are something that Marlowe sought to respond to through the drama. The Calvinist doctrine of predestination suggests that God acts of his own free will and elects select people to be saved, while the rest are eternally damned. Individuals have no control over whether or not they achieve salvation, even if they live with upstanding morals in accordance with religious doctrine, because it has already been predetermined before they came into being (Helm, 139). In the beginning of the play, Faustus concludes that he has come to the end of his studies in fields such as law and divinity, the latter to which he says “Divinity, adieu!” (Marlowe, 1026), which can be taken as a renouncement of religion all together. Before making this statement, Faustus says in his monologue that sin is rewarded by death, but that all must sin and subsequently must die. He concludes by saying “what will be, shall be” (Marlowe, 1026). This opening initially gives the impression of simply being a straight-forward brushing off of religious ideas. However, after research and taking into consideration the prominence of the doctrine of

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