The comic scenes in Christopher Marlowe’s play “Doctor Faustus” serve several important purposes, including providing comic relief, highlighting the contrast between Faustus’s lofty ambitions and his actual accomplishments, and satirizing various aspects of Elizabethan society.
The comic scenes offer a welcome break from the play’s overall tragic tone, providing moments of laughter and lightheartedness. This comic relief helps to prevent the play from becoming too heavy or oppressive, and it also helps to maintain audience engagement.
Contrast between Ambition and Reality
The comic scenes often juxtapose Faustus’s grandiose ambitions with his actual accomplishments, which are often petty or even foolish. This contrast serves to highlight the absurdity of Faustus’s pursuit of power and knowledge for its own sake, and it also underscores the dangers of hubris and overreaching ambition.
Satire of Elizabethan Society
The comic scenes also contain elements of satire, poking fun at various aspects of Elizabethan society, such as the corruption of the clergy, the gullibility of the common people, and the superficiality of the upper class. This satire adds depth and complexity to the play, and it also provides a commentary on the social and political issues of the time.
Some of the most notable comic scenes in “Doctor Faustus” include:
- Act 1, Scene 4: Faustus’s servant Wagner convinces a poor scholar named Robin to sell his soul to the devil for a feast. This scene highlights the absurdity of Faustus’s pact with Mephistopheles, and it also satirizes the desperation of poverty.
- Act 2, Scene 5: Faustus performs a series of comical tricks for the Emperor, such as conjuring up a cornucopia of food and making a knight’s nose bleed uncontrollably. These tricks are entertaining, but they also underscore the trivial nature of Faustus’s use of magic.
- Act 3, Scene 1: Faustus plays pranks on the Pope and his cardinals, such as making them see horns on their heads and transforming their food into live animals. These pranks are irreverent and disrespectful, but they also reflect Faustus’s growing contempt for authority.
Overall, the comic scenes in “Doctor Faustus” are an important part of the play’s overall structure and meaning. They provide comic relief, highlight the contrast between Faustus’s ambition and reality, and satirize various aspects of Elizabethan society.