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The Devil in Dr Faustus

The Devil in Dr Faustus

In Scene 3 Mephastophilis appears to Faustus in his real form. Faustus reacts with disgust and asks the devil to come back in a shape more pleasant to the eye – as a Fransiscan friar. Faustus’s reaction is typically renaissance – he objects to ugliness and craves aestheticism. It also shows his sense of humour (or rather sense of irony) – as he says “That holy shape becomes a devil best” (l 26). What is striking is that when Mephastophilis appears first, Marlowe does not bother to describe him. True – he does not talk of the physical appearance of any of the characters as well, but a devil is a creature that, in our twentieth century opinion, is clearly in need of some footnote specifying what he looks like. But there is no such footnote.

The early seventeenth century audience did not need a description of the devil like the twentieth century audience does. The Middle Ages had accustomed people to viewing the devil as a hideous, disgustingly ugly and frightening creature. The renaissance was a revolution in terms of imagery. The devil became more hu…

Free Macbeth Essays: Duncan – The Ideal Ruler?

Duncan – The Ideal ruler in Macbeth?

Establishing whether Duncan was or was not an ideal ruler is crucial when examining Macbeth. Not only would a definite negative answer help in our understanding of the background of the play but it would also, in a way, justify Macbeth s decision of killing Duncan.

When the play opens Duncan receives a report from the battlefield. The audience finds out that the threat which Scotland faces is of a double nature. A Norwegian invasion is being assisted by two rebellious thanes – Macdonwald and Cawdor. While an external attack is something to be expected of in the times when fame was gained in military conquests, the internal rebellion is something of a different matter. It suggests one important thing – if a rebellion was possible than the king s power couldn t have been very strong. Traitors can be found in every society, but it is the ruler s duty to discover conspiracies and to punish the people involved in them before they have a chance to enact their schemes. The internal rebellion shows that Duncan lacked the ability (and/or means) to do so – maybe he was naive and did not believe that his thanes could actually turn against him.

Duncan s lack of power and control over his country is also proved by his military dependence. It is uncertain whether Duncan himself has been fighting in the war – it is possible that he has not; as in Act one he only receives news from the battlefield. It might, of course, be argued that Shakespeare did not want to include a huge battle scene in his play but, nevertheless, it looks like Duncan has not been fighting himself. This was not the custom in the Middle Ages – the ruler s conduct in battle was to serve as an example to all the warriors. Shakespeare does not state how old Duncan is but, judging from the fact that he has two grown sons, he is not in his youth. In quite a few stage productions of Macbeth this has been taken into account. In Trevor Nunn s 1976 film of his stage production of Macbeth Duncan is portrayed as an old, feeble and sick man. This may explain why he does not take part in the battle. He is old and ill and depends on the loyalty of his warlords.

Duncan s fate depends upon two of his most powerful warriors – Macbeth and Banquo.

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