How Faustus can be seen as a gothic text.
First when approaching this question it would make sense to assess Faustus as a gothic protagonist. We expect a tragic hero to have a high status. Faustus beginning with ‘base of stock’ has seemingly created his personal hierarchy. He is now ‘graced with doctor’s name’ and he dines alongside ‘noblemen’. The gothic protagonist must also possess the standard hero qualities we as an audience aspect, such as a hubris and a dramatic downfall. This is also usually linked with a fixation of some kind, in Faustus’ case; magic. It could be argued that his obsession with magic and his thirst for power endeavours him to conjure Mephistopheles and indulge in necromancy, in order to try and become omnipotent, however the selling of his soul inevitably ends up with him being dragged in to the realm of hell, as promised, by Mephistopheles and Lucifer. We expect our gothic protagonist to have a sinister element or as others may argue a slight touch of evil, which Faustus portrays in his joy at creating havoc amongst the pope and his men and with torturing the Old man, as seen on page 179, ‘they menace the old man’. His obsession with magic and his strive for control also illustrates this. However a gothic protagonist is also usually associated with some form of intimidating appearance, which is where Faustus is lacking. However Faustus is noticeably set up as a typically dodgy, gothic protagonist in the beginning of the novel, where he begins by talking in third person, “Settle thy studies, Faustus, and begin.” His irrational, objective and analytical personality set up the ongoing slope towards his tragic downfall.
A concept of the demonic which is largely featured throughout Faustus is religion. Interestingly the belief that Satan is in Hell has its roots in Christian literature rather than in the bible. The Bible states that he still roams heaven and Earth. This would relate to Mephistopheles, and the way he walks amongst Faustus and the humans on the Earth, and describes heaven as being all around, page 147, ‘Why, this is hell, nor am I out of it’. Faustus has also studied religion and has excelled in it, but rejects developing it further, and refers to ‘Jerome’, the founder figure of the bible who translated the bible in to Latin and joined it all together. Faustus rejects the study of God, arguably mocking it with his breezy tone and his quote ‘che sera sera’. This could take emphasis off the importance of religion as Faustus seems not to value it, which could also make it less intimidating towards the audience making it less of a tragic text. However religion is an ongoing theme throughout, with many references to God, when the Old man see’s Angels, the features of Lucifer and all the devils are religion themes, and the idea of heaven and hell teamed with Faustus’ damnation. However Marlow himself has been accused of being an Atheist, and if this is true then it casts a great deal of doubt on his in his ability to moralize from a Christian stance.
Gothic texts also usually include supernatural elements. White and black magic is featured within Faustus. Black magic is seen by some to be the practice of an evil practice which uses nature but with the invocation of demons, which is the magic which Marlowe uses in his great work Faustus. The use of necromancy on it’s own reveals a crucial element of the supernatural on it’s own, accompanied by the devils, angels and magical practices such as turning invisible, all of which are featured in Faustus, surrounding him, making the novel seem highly dramatic and supporting the Gothic genre.
Another element of the Gothic is it’s ability to induce fear upon the audience. Hell is largely used in order to do this. When Faustus see’s Lucifer for the first time he quotes on page 159, ‘who art thou that look’st so terrible?’ The idea of a negative and surprising appearance is intimidating to the audience, as it is normally associated with the gothic protagonist and is very threatening. Mephistopheles also reacts to hell with a very daunting attitude. On page 147 he says ‘tormented with ten thousand hells’, the quote ‘ten thousand hells’ holds great emphasis on the suffering Mephistopheles associates with hell, making the idea seem unapproachable to the audience and very frightening. However Faustus and his nonchalant attitude towards hell contradict this fear, which is usually displayed in gothic texts. He believes ‘hell’s a fable’ and disregards Mephistopheles ongoing warnings. Although the audience may see Faustus as naive his upmost ignorance towards hell slightly deflates the intense fear surrounding the idea of hell.
Another element which undermines Faustus as a gothic text is the use of the clown like characters’ Robin and Raef. Their lack of fear and utter unawareness radiates a sense of implausibility and security for the audience. When turned in to animals they Robin reacts with ‘Thy head will never be out of the pottage pot’, on page 167. Raef similarly reactes with ‘And I must be a dog’. Their careless attitudes and lack of intelligence provide comedy, an aspect which is not traditionally associated with the gothic genre. Similarly Faustus displays a clown like aspect to his personality unexpectedly. His mockery of the pope and his childish behaviour also have an impact on how serious the audience may then take the play, undermining the fear factor and arguably demoting the gothic aspect of the text.
However another supporting theme in Faustus is the negative portrayal that lies within sides of human nature, a theme which is commonly associated with gothic literature. In Othello we see him as a hero, a strong, devoted, loyal and powerful leader, however the evil side is brought out in his jealous nature which leads to his sinful murderous acts. Faustus displays negative human traits such as arrogance and his hunger for power. Although his motivation may be seen in a positive light he seeks no good with his ambitions, only to gain omnipotence. His power thirsty side is shown on page 141, when Faustus remarks ‘All things that move between the quiet poles shall be at my command’ and ‘of power, of honour, of omnipotence’. This attitude is a common theme associated with the typical evil character, and a modern audience would immediately associate this with iconic characters from films that strive to ‘take over the world’.
Overall Marlowe’s Faustus contains many recurring themes, all of which support the idea that it can be seen as a Gothic text, in particular the idea of the supernatural and the ongoing references to religion and all things associated with it such as hell and God. There are however certain things which could arguably lighten the mood, but mainly Faustus is seen as a sinful tale, portrayed in a gothic light.