A Critical Inquiry Posed in Response to the Lecture Discussion of Necromancy within the text of Dr. Faustus

Note: The following is a participatory insight and critical question regarding Friday, October. 12, 2012’s Lecture Discussion of Christopher Marlowe’s Dr. Faustus:
Necromany in Dr. Faustus… is it the only variant of magic explored within the text?

In response to today’s lecture discussion of the concept of necromancy as the conduct of “black magic” or otherwise, “dark magic”, ascribed with a sinister connotation within the text of Dr. Faustus, I was prompted with the following critical consideration: If Christopher Marlowe depicts necromancy and its occult implications as a “dark magic” mired in deviance and malevolence, is he suggesting that other pursuits of knowledge(namely, alternative, academically oriented disciplines) are thus forms of “benevolent magic”, and are therefore commendable by the divine authority of God? Is Marlowe, in effect, serving to convey the conviction that one may access divine authority and identify with God through engaging with a variety of academic disciplines, principles, and practices? Thus, it is more pertinent to consider a more general question: Is knowledge only power, as the old conventional dichotomy states, or is it magic as well? Therefore, if Dr. Faustus assumes necromancy over intellectual activities, is he, in essence, exchanging the practice of one method of magic for another?


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2 Responses to A Critical Inquiry Posed in Response to the Lecture Discussion of Necromancy within the text of Dr. Faustus

  1. bkmilne says:

    I’ll start by saying, this question is something I would not have ever thought of, so thank you for bringing it up.
    In my opinion, I do believe that Dr. Faustus is not simply trading one form of magic for another, because ‘academic magic’ may or may not be anymore benevolent than dark magic. Necromancy is communicating with the dead to predict the future, and knowledge (ie. If we are reading the works of anyone who has passed, is that not a form of indirect communication with the dead) is precisely that.
    Although I think we now need to consider (or check on OED) on what the definition of ‘witchcraft’ or ‘sorcery’ is to help decide if Dr. Faustus is simply changing his practices of magic or if necromancy is closer related to intellectual magic than we thought.

  2. Athena says:

    This is an interesting question to raise. It really depends on your definition of magic, but in this context I would say yes Faustus is just trading one branch of magic for another. He juxtaposes approved academic pursuits for knowledge next to alternative, darker methods for acquiring knowledge. What he is after is not simply ‘magic’, or material wealth, but wealth of knowledge. That’s why one of the first things he does is question Mephastophilis about the planets and who made the earth. Isn’t magic just another type of knowledge/information anyways? Vice versa? Especially a few hundred years ago when science practically was magic. Wasn’t it just as extraordinary to save someone from death with medicine (especially in a time when human anatomy was barely understood) as it was to know the secrets of the heavens? Isn’t it still? The biggest difference is the morality attached to the magic and ways to achieve the knowledge rather than the content of the information itself.

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