The Backstairs World of Faustus

For my blog post I decided to focus on something different and that also happened to catch my attention. I decided to focus my attention on Scene 6, which as I noticed was the start of a backstairs world. To begin with, the first 5 lines takes away from the seriousness of the previous conversation with the foreshadowing of Faustus entering Hell. This comedic break also shows some of the 7 deadly sins that were previously shown as well. For example Robin shows the sin of ‘Lust’ strongly when he wants to use the book for sexual pleasures in summoning “maidens in our parish dance stark naked.” He also has the Lust for the Mistress as he would use the book to have her bear his child. Robin also shows the sin of ‘Gluttony’ along side of the of ‘Greed’ when he states that he would use the book to get drunk on just one glass of wine. With these sins that Robin shows, he creates this comedy in the fact that he has all this power but he would use it to only fulfill these insignificant desires. Rafe is only acting as a follower towards Robin, as he finds the significance in him helping Rafe fulfill his own desires. This backstairs world that has been created is used for controlling the intensity and the action throughout the play, and these comedic breaks are used for pure entertainment towards the audience. This backstairs world is what has interested me as I tend to usually like the side stories in novels and movies because of this.

Marlowe, Christopher. “The Tragical History of Dr. Faustus”. Norton Anthology of English Literature. Ed. Stephen Greenblatt. New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 2012. Print

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5 Responses to The Backstairs World of Faustus

  1. rshabalin says:

    I liked how you introduced the backstairs world in your post, because it is often forgotten. I was wondering if you believe that these comedic scenes are strictly for relief, or do they hold more value to the play as a whole? Why is comedic relief so important? Do you think a playwright can trick their audience into thinking they are watching something comedic and meaningless, when in fact it is something very valuable and meaningful? What would happen if Dr. Faustus didn’t have a backstairs world? Would it leave the audience with a different impression?

    • lcmillar says:

      Hey Rachel

      I like these questions because it really gets you thinking. I think these questions are really applicable today because so many movies and books seem to be about utter nonsense. But, there are these sort of backstairs worlds that are presented in these sorts of entertainment if we look for them and analyze their meaning. Dr. Faustus really struggles with the fact that he can seek redemption from his sins or continue to fall into the alluring world of sin. I think these scenes maybe act as an outlet for him too express some of his deepest desires on how much he can relate to the supposed “evil” in contrast to “good” as deemed by Christianity.

  2. OliviaH says:

    I like how you named your blog the “Backstairs World of Faustus.” I agree that this backstairs world is very important to the play because it can control the intensity and comic relief for the audiences. I also think you did a good observation in how Robin and Rafe are mirroring some of the deadly sins from the previous scene. You made a good point with Robin and his wishes to fulfill insignificant desires with power. I think this scene is again replicated in a slightly different way when Faustus met the emperor. Faustus had all these powers and the emperor could have asked for something more relevant to his position, but instead, he asked Faustus if he could see the real dead bodies of Alexander the Great and his paramour. Do you think that scene (9) is also a backstairs world to the play? Do you think Faustus’ presence in that scene prevents it from being the backstairs world?

  3. thetheresak says:

    Ah ha! Someone posted about the backstairs world – and the mirroring – in Doctor Faustus! Thank you for doing so and doing it well.

    Your comments on the seven deathly sins are interesting, especially since scene six does follow the descriptions of the deathly sins in scene five. I think we can all agree that the scene plays intensely with the ideas of the main plot (along with being a comedic break). In this scene, the sins previously described are effectively applied on an ‘average’ life. The application of the sins (what you described in your post) is what I find fascinating in this backstairs world or mirroring. It seems to me that it is a way to keep the previous ideas fresh in the minds of the audience and to give each previous scene a new perspective.

    Do you think that the even-numbered scenes – especially the comedic scenes – are used as a way to convey Faustus’s story in a different perspective to the audience? Maybe to give moral perspectives (like scene two) or apply important ideas (like scene six)? Do these scenes add as much input to the overall objective of the story’s warning as the main plot?

  4. Ali Bayne says:

    I, too, am a sucker for a side story. I found your post interesting as I found myself linking your ideas about the characters demonstrating each of the deadly sins in a backstairs fashion to the prank played on Marvolio in Twelfth Night. Both stories take a comedic turn from the main plot, and both end up playing into that dark humour that most everyone loves. The prank in Shakespeare’s play seems harmless, but Marvolio was cruelly tortured and mocked for his desire that mirrored that of his bullies. In the same way, one might laugh at Robin’s desires to summon women with magic, but this situation can also be viewed as the sad reality of a downward spiral characterized by submitting to desire. Are Robin’s words mirrored in Faustus’ actions just as Marvolio’s desires are mirrored in Maria’s strategy to advance socially? Does the purpose of of scene 6 lie in its comedic value, or its subliminal comparison between Robin and the Doctor? Perhaps both?

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