Doctor Faustus as a Subversive Comedy of Errors Essay

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Marlowe’s Literary Double Agency: Doctor Faustus as a Subversive Comedy of Error SUZAN LAST Résumé : Le présent article se veut une réévaluation des éléments comiques du 1616 (“B”) texte de Doctor Faustus de Marlowe, lesquels ont été régulièrement sous-estimés ou trop hâtivement catégorisés comme frivoles, falsifiés, ou nuisibles à l’unité de la pièce. Au lieu de les intégrer dans la tradition homilétique, donc celle du théâtre moralisateur du Moyen Âge, cette étude les trouve parodiques et subversifs. Le traitement de Marlowe annonce une nouvelle sensibilité littéraire d’indéterminisme ludique et ambiguïté morale. The better they were at their jobs, the harder it was to distinguish them from “genuine” subversives. . . . In a sense they did not even know which side they were really working for. . . . The spy kept a foot in both camps, and was ready to jump either way.1 The Gull gets on a surplis With a crosse upon his breast, Like Allen playing Faustus, In that manner he was drest.2 . . . the first time as tragedy, the second as farce . . . 3 he comic material in Christopher Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus has long been a source of critical controversy and consternation, and seen as a major “problem” within the traditionally conceived “tragic” or “moral” structure of the play. I would like to suggest, however, that it is not the comic elements but the attempt to impose a generically consistent tragic or moral reading of the play that is the “problem.” Accepting and indeed relishing the T Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme, XXIV, 1 (2000) /23 24 / Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme comical and farcical aspects of the play can lead to provocative insights into the play’s effects and meanings as a whole. In focusing on the comic elements as integral and important to the text overall, I have come to see the play as containing an

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