Themes and issues
Marlowe was writing at a time when there was fierce antagonism towards Roman Catholicism following the break with Rome brought about by Henry VIII and the persecution of Protestants during the reign of Mary Tudor (1553–8). An anti-Catholic play would therefore have been popular. His audience would, for the most part, have strong religious beliefs, be fully aware of the threat of damnation and retain a lively fear of Hell and devils. In stressing Faustus’s alliance with Lucifer and thereby ensuring his eternal damnation, Marlowe was making his play conform to current orthodox theology. But this interpretation is very much at odds with the heretical and blasphemous views ascribed to Marlowe. He may have felt constrained by the religious attitude of the time, but perhaps we may detect Marlowe’s scepticism in his ability to retain our sympathy for Faustus despite his damnable alliance. It is best perhaps to look at the issues and themes separately before trying to draw any general, overall conclusion.
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