How Far Does Renaissance Drama Endorse Providentialism?

1643 words - 7 pages

Providentialism plays as large a part in renaissance drama as it did in the lives of those who wrote and watched it. Lasting from the year 1450 and extending through to 1600, the renaissance saw the creative expression of religion throughout the world. Examples of this can be seen in the first printed bible and the painting of the Sistine Chapel, however it was also a time of great social turbulence as religious transformations were thrust upon the people of Europe. In a time of amazing discoveries and uncertainties man desperately tried to understand God's plan for him. This is reflected in many of the Renaissance Dramas A prominent example of this is Marlowe's 'Dr Faustus.' The ...view middle of the document...

However even at this early stage there are signs of the conflict within himself between faith and blasphemy, God and Lucifer.'Jerome's Bible, view it well.'He is aware of the correct path laid out for him yet he is captivated by the thought of almost limitless power. The special reference to 'Jerome's Bible' rather than simply 'The Bible' is because Jerome is credited for translating the text into Latin. A language which has long been associated with knowledge and wisdom. Yet, as Jerome was the first to interpret the original Hebrew text, it could be argued that his version is closer to the word of God. Again highlighting the conflict between God's divine plan and man's quest for knowledge.'She (The Church) values especially the Greek and Latin languages in which wisdom itself is cloaked, as it were, in a vesture of gold.'Faustus continues in his soliloquy to recognize the dangers of his current course of action. To sin is to yet again go against God and by doing so one would defy his plan, the punishment for this is clearly shown to be death.'The reward of sin is death. That's hard.'However boastful and confident of his powers he may seems, there are hints that he still fears his punishment, be it from God or Lucifer.'This word damnation terrifies not him.'Marlowe's switch from Faustus speaking in the first person to him speaking in the third suggests Faustus's attempts to distance himself from the inexorable damnation that faces him. To disassociate himself from it in some way. Indeed the denouement of the play centers on this punishment as a stark reminder to the audience. In this matter- of -fact way, yes providentialism could be seen, in part, to be endorsed by Marlowe's play. God is a constant presence throughout the play and the audience is never allowed to forget this fact. Providentialism and the omnipotence associated with it is constantly hinted at;'How now sirrah, where's thy master?''God in heaven knows.'The reference to God could of course be seen as accidental as the phrase used is a common one which with a variation of which still in use today. However, more likely, Marlowe is hinting that although no mortal characters know where Faustus is or what he is doing, the divine is always aware. As if Faustus, even in his blasphemy, is under providence.This theme continues as Marlowe, after setting his protagonist up as a man who once likened himself to god and who holds glorious ambitions;'A sound magician is a mighty god.'He then spends the middle scenes revealing Faustus's true and rather petty nature. Once Faustus dabbles in the black arts and gains his almost limitless powers, he does not know what to do with them. Marlowe suggests that this limited imagination, this lack of creativity, in part, stems from the fact that desire for knowledge and true power leads inescapably towards God. One whom Faustus has renounced. Absolute power and the ever growing distance from God, corrupts Faustus to an increasing degree as the play wears...

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