Hamlet engages in self-exploration, Faustus in self-deception

Essay, 2000

6 Pages, Grade: 1,3 (A)


“Hamlet engages in self-exploration, Faustus in self-deception.”

In order to discuss this statement I would like to begin by having a brief look at the age of Renaissance and pointing out some of its typical features. The Italian term ‘Renaissance’ refers to the rebirth of interest in the ideas of classical antiquity between 1450 and 1650 in Europe. The most important events during this time were the invention of movable-block printing (1454), the discovery of the so called New World (1492), the Reformation in Germany (1517) and England (1535) and finally the assertion of the Copernican World System. These developments contributed to the revision of the old, medieval picture of the world. They go together with a total social process embracing a change in everyday life, every day ways of thinking, moral practices and ethical ideas.[1] The concept of Renaissance is strongly connected with the idea of ‘Renaissance humanism’. Renaissance men put themselves more in the centre of their considerations than men in medieval times. According to Agnes Heller one “might better speak of the cult of the ‘self-made’ man”[2], which means that destiny was no longer considered to be God-given, but more and more became an issue of what oneself had made of it. Thus men started to choose their destiny by themselves and to be proud of what they have achieved.

Taking this as a starting point one can consider Hamlet as well as Dr Faustus as embodiment of the stereotype of the ‘Renaissance man’. Both are highly educated persons. They have even studied at the same university in Wittenberg. They both engage in self-exploration, because they are both solitary figures holding marginal places in society. They both dispute a lot with themselves, because they do not really have someone to talk with. Their soliloquies show their mental conflicts with which they try to cope. The difference between them is that Hamlet is solitary, because he is surrounded by faithlessness, corruption and betrayal while Faustus has chosen his solitude in order to study in his house.

Faustus had studied divinity in Wittenberg, but his interests had turned to the study of necromancy and conjuration afterwards. He can be described as “a searching and troubled intellect”.[3] The only aim of his ambition is knowledge. He cannot accept the fact that there are limitations for human beings. To reach the total understanding of the world he is even willing to go beyond the limits of human destination. He strives to know “where the place is that men call Hell”.[4] Faustus is “wrestling with deeper matters, facing with courage and honesty the problems of truth about man’s life and his status in the universe.”[5] That is what makes him a ‘Renaissance man’.


[1] The facts are based on: Hollander, John and Frank Kermode. The Oxford Anthology of English

Literature: The Literature of Renaissance England. (London: Oxford University Press, 1973) pp. 3-10.

[2] Heller, Agnes. Renaissance Man. (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1978) p. 9

[3] Rowse, A.L. Christopher Marlowe. A Biography. (London: Macmillian & Company Limited, 1964)

p. 159.

[4] Rowse, A.L. Christopher Marlowe. A Biography. (London: Macmillian & Co LTD, 1964) p. 160.

[5] Rowse, A.L. Christopher Marlowe. A Biography. (London: Macmillian & Co LTD, 1964) p. 159.

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Hamlet engages in self-exploration, Faustus in self-deception
University of Sunderland  (English Studies)
1,3 (A)
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ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
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404 KB
This essay deals with the comparison of two famous literary characters: Hamlet by William Shakespeare and Faustus by Christopher Marlowe.
Hamlet, Faustus
Quote paper
Hendrikje Schulze (Author), 2000, Hamlet engages in self-exploration, Faustus in self-deception, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/21603


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