Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
Hostname: page-component-848d4c4894-v5vhk Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2024-06-14T05:57:00.838Z Has data issue: false hasContentIssue false

“Straunge Motion”: Puppetry, Faust, and the Mechanics of Idolatry

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  10 June 2021

Get access

Summary

THE history of the Faust legend is one of cultural appropriation and considerable intermeshing of “high” and “low” art forms, and Marlowe's Dr. Faustus occupies a central role in this history, both appropriator and appropriated, engaging in metaphysical tragedy and slapstick comedy at once. Critical trends privileging the 1604 A-text over the 1616 B-text, and vice versa, have remained in flux since the play's inception, the former supposedly possessing authorial fidelity and the latter supposedly presenting a more complete and more often performed version. While the A-text, which primarily attends to Faustus as a tragic figure, certainly has its dramatic merits, the B-text with its comic interludes lends itself readily to popular performance. As a result, the B-text gave rise to a rich tradition of mummery and puppet plays that disseminated the legend through country fairs and street shows. No few historians of the puppet theatre have traced these miniature manifestations of Faust as they travelled between Germany and England from the seventeenth through the nineteenth centuries. Very little critical attention, however, has been paid to the complex relationship between puppetry and the Faust legend as they grew in popularity during the sixteenth century or what influence they may have had upon one another afterward. A further assessment of the bonds the legend shares with puppetry—not only as a means of cultural dissemination, but also as an apt metaphor for mechanisms of bodily and spiritual control—might provide a better understanding of the legend's historical contexts and add yet another level of depth to one of its central tensions, namely, the question of who is in control of whom.

Though Dr. Faustus remains a complex and emotionally moving piece of drama for modern audiences, in many ways, we simply do not or cannot understand the anxieties that underpin much of its former dramatic force. We no longer concern ourselves with the power that demons, witches, and sorcerers might have to control our actions and do violence to our bodies. In the sixteenth century, however, witchcraft and demonic possession came to be perceived as real threats, threats to individual autonomy and agency, in particular.

Type
Chapter
Information
Publisher: Boydell & Brewer
Print publication year: 2015

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
×