The handling of themes in Doctor Faustus

Embedded themes

The thematic material of Doctor Faustus largely derives from the characters in action. On the whole, we can understand Marlowe's principal concerns in the play by analysing the preoccupations of the characters and the ways in which they are represented. There are some speeches – especially those spoken by the Chorus or representative characters like the Old Man – that explicitly discuss themes. However, for most of the play the themes are implicit, deeply embedded in the speech and behaviour of the characters.

Arrangement of themes

This section groups the themes under three headings:

These divisions are inevitably somewhat artificial and are used largely as a convenient means of organising the material. In fact, certain themes belong to two or three of the categories. Also, the themes are not discussed here in extensive detail, since they are explored in depth in other sections of this guide. You should particularly bear the sections on Context, Characterisation and Imagery and symbolism in mind as you work through the following ideas.

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