Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
Home
Hostname: page-component-768dbb666b-wsxd2 Total loading time: 0.38 Render date: 2023-02-08T01:51:56.967Z Has data issue: true Feature Flags: { "useRatesEcommerce": false } hasContentIssue true

The Soul as Commodity: Materialism in Doctor Faustus

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 December 2013

Andrew Shifflett
Affiliation:
Associate Professor of English at the University of South Carolina, Columbia
Edward Gieskes
Affiliation:
Associate Professor of English at the University of South Carolina, Columbia
Get access

Summary

The well-known premise of Doctor Faustus is that Faustas trades his soul in return for twenty-four years of pleasure served up by Mephostophilis. To judge from the state of scholarly discussion, the fact that this premise is essentially economic in nature goes without saying. But because it has gone without saying, the implications of the play's economic underpinning have likewise gone unexamined. For obvious reasons, critical analysis has focused largely on the play's relation to religious orthodoxy of its time. I propose to look instead at Marlowe's portrayal, in the person of Faustus, of a perspective that, void of any sense of the spiritual, in effect denies the soul any status other than that of commodity. Faustus's commodification of his soul, and the attendant market logic which for us rings so prophetically, is only the most egregious example of his characteristic materialism. The very conception of giving one's soul in trade, after all, exemplifies a reified view of the soul; for Faustus, his soul is a thing—a commodity that he has in surplus and that he will trade in return for goods he lacks. Faustus's reification of his soul extends logically to his sense of the soul as a thing that he owns and that he can dispense with as he wishes: “is not thy soule thine owne?” Faustus asks himself, giving explicit voice to his mistaken sense of property and possession (2.1.457).

Type
Chapter
Information
Publisher: Boydell & Brewer
Print publication year: 2013

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)

Save book to Kindle

To save this book to your Kindle, first ensure coreplatform@cambridge.org is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about saving to your Kindle.

Note you can select to save to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations. ‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be saved to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

Available formats
×

Save book to Dropbox

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Dropbox.

Available formats
×

Save book to Google Drive

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

Available formats
×