Monday, July 02, 2012

Marlowe's Faustus: The Pursuit Of Totality

"The god thou serv'st is thine own appetite"~ Doctor Faustus
Christopher Marlowe and William Shakespeare were the Stones and Beatles of the Elizabethan Age. Both were contemporary rivals in an art form that was rapidly expanding to encompass the full range of human experience during a golden era of discovery.

(Queen Elizabeth I)
Marlowe was a wild man, an alleged spy who helped thwart a Catholic plot to assassinate Queen Elizabeth I and a bombastic reveler in life's sensuous pleasures. A transgressor of cultural taboos, he thrived during a period when people weren't identified solely by their appetites. And like Brian Jones, he was dead before 30.

Nevertheless, Marlowe left behind a body of work that continues to resonate to this day. The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus, his greatest achievement, is an attempt to recast the Faustus legend as a tragedy. Like the biblical Adam, Doctor Faustus wants what he shouldn't and it eventually leads to his damnation. His pursuit of absolute knowledge assumes a totality that's divine, not mortal, and therefore can't be accessed by any other means than by the offering of his soul for the elixir of genuine universality. Faustus' mistake is in assuming that this unifying knowledge is the sole preserve of the gods.

His drive to unify the atomization of the collective should be familiar - it's at the heart of recent attempts by Occupy activists to unmask globalization's relentless desire to render totality an abstraction, a futile endeavor to realize the commonality of the 99%. Ironically, it's Faustus' faith in Lucifer, an abstract divinity, that vitiates his attempt to overcome the abstraction that totality has been reduced to. He's been corrupted - or duped - into believing that humanity is at the mercy of invisible forces, or what might be referred to today as the invisible hand of the free market.

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