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Chapter 3 - Multiple Marlowe: Doctor Faustus and Court Performance

from Part I - Elizabethan Court Theatre

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  31 October 2019

Sophie Chiari
Affiliation:
Clermont Auvergne University, France
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Summary

Marlowe’s play survives in the so-called A-Text of 1,517 lines, first printed in 1604, and in the B-Text of 2,121 lines, printed in 1616. The B-Text is not only the longer, but also the more overtly political play, providing more in-set spectacle that is reminiscent of court performance. The difference in length has often been explained with reference to cuts made to allow provincial acting during the plague of 1592–4 or to additions made to the play in 1602 (Greg 1950). However, Eriksen offers another solution, positing that, in fact, the longer and more politically informed B-text is the earlier and was intended for court performance by a dramatist who had already tried his hand at court drama in Dido. Doctor Faustus, Eriksen argues, would be his second attempt, written in support of the self-sovereignty of Elizabeth I before the attack of the Spanish Armada in August 1588. Its consistent staging of imperial iconography in the papal and imperial scenes, especially the use of the 'pillars' and Alexander the Great, portrays Charles V as a wise ruler in contrast to his aggressive son and the Pope as a usurper of imperial power, both posing threats to the queen.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2019

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