Vision and Illusion
in Marlowe's Dr. Faustus
Magic in Dr. Faustus is a unifying symbol which draws together the three aspects of Renaissance thought with which Christopher Marlowe was typically concerned: the indulgence of the senses and the enjoyment of worldly beauty, the quest for wealth and political power, and the pursuit of infinite knowledge. The play itself, as well as the relevant historical and biographical evidence, suggests that Marlowe was aware that each of these pursuits had at times been justified by Renaissance occult philosophers. As we have seen in the preceding chapters, the Florentine Neoplatonists who founded the tradition of Hermetic/Cabalist magic had argued that humankind's love of earthly beauty sprang from our visionary powers and our love of an immanent divinity, and Ficino had asserted that even human political ambitions resulted from the individual's awareness of the immortality and divinity of the human soul. The values and attitudes which Marlowe was contemplating when he composed Tamburlaine and Dr. Faustus, and which proved so captivating to Elizabethan audiences, are epitomized in Ficino's assertion that "the immeasurable magnificence of our soul may be seen from this, that humankind will not be satisfied with the power of command over this entire world if we learn, having conquered this one, that another world remains which we have not yet conquered.... Thus human beings wish no superior and no equal, and we will not suffer anything to remain excluded from our command.... This status belongs to God alone; therefore humanity seeks a divine condition." 1
Through his contact with Thomas Harriot, Walter Ralegh, and others, Marlowe had become intensely aware of the importance of the occult tradition—as well as the genuine science and technology
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Publication information: Book title: Renaissance Magic and the Return of the Golden Age:The Occult Tradition and Marlowe, Jonson, and Shakespeare. Contributors: John S. Mebane - Author. Publisher: University of Nebraska Press. Place of publication: Lincoln, NE. Publication year: 1989. Page number: 113.
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