Assignment #3: Divide and Conquer: Building an Annotated Bibliography

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1. We must necessarily communicate certain contextual facts in order for the class to understand fully our encapsulation of our assigned time period and the arguments of our project. For example, Christopher Marlowe's upbringing was very religious: he was baptized, and his family brought him up in a life dedicated to the teachings of the Church of England. Somewhere along the line, however, Marlowe changed his religious beliefs and may or may not have become an atheist. (Katie's source specifically states that he was an atheist because of the note he delivered to the Privy Council entitled "The opinion of one Christopher (Marlowe) concerning his damnable judgment of religion, and scorn of God's word".) The Elizabethan society of the day was incredibly protestant, as the Protestant Reformation was well underway; according to "Why Devils Came when Faustus Called Them," their beliefs seriously conflicted with some of the elements of Marlowe's plays, especially the demonic conjurations in Doctor Faustus. We must make a note of this in our presentation. It was also notable that Marlowe was reported as being less interested in the political scene of the day; instead, he was more interested in the grandeur of philosophical ideas, a small detail that may very well be noteworthy along the line. What is also necessary to remember is that playwrights and artists of the day had to jump through hoops in order to get their art approved by certain censors. Marlowe had to submit his work for approval before it was allowed to be performed. His work is controversial, but how, then, was such controversy allowed to pass? This is a vital point of discussion. We should certainly note examples of how serious some of his controversial issues were, taking care to contextualize them. One such example is how his character of Doctor Faustus had been "lying with" Helen of Troy, a demon. This concept in the day would have been outlandishly controversial, so we must note how and why that would be true in order to formulate our argument as to whether or not (and why) Christopher Marlowe was considered a rebel of both his day and ours. It will also be important to communicate that there are two different version of Doctor Faustus. The extent to which we discuss the differences between the two texts will inform how much we describe those differences, but it will be have to be explained no matter what. For the article "The Nature of Evil in Doctor Faustus", the debate about the differences between the two versions is central to the argument the author is making. Another thing that will have to be made clear is that Faust has high aspirations in the beginning of the play and that once given power by Lucifer, he ends up using this power for pranks and tricks. The seven deadly sins are also important to the story, and we'll have to decide how much to assume what our audience knows about the seven deadly sins.

2. We are necessarily going to talk about the beliefs and values of the society in which the play was performed, most specifically the heavily Protestant environment and its impact upon theatre and other aspects of society of the day. Specifically, such topics as the areas of morality in which society and Marlowe's work were in conflict. We will also discuss the various perspectives and ideologies within said society as it relates to Marlowe's work; that is, we will discuss various examples of how society could have viewed his work and why. We must give some factual historical contexts such as Marlowe's own personal history, the history of the Elizabethan reign, and the history of significant political and social movements such as the Protestant Reformation. In terms of historical context, we will have to explain that England was a protestant country at the time of first performance. Therefore, the mockery of the pope in the play could either be viewed as a mockery of Christianity, or a mockery of Catholics (that the Protestants in the audience would have enjoyed). We also will have to address one of the main tenants of Christianity that the play involves: the idea of salvation and forgiveness. Because Faust does attempt to repent at the end of the play, we have to communicate to our audience that this is a very important plot point when put in the context of widely held belief about theology and Christianity. Faust's inability to repent holds very heavy theological consequence.

3. Unfortunately, we cannot include all the fascinating information that we find. For example, we may possibly have to exclude information about his "badass" death and any controversy or mystery surrounding it. We may be able to make this interesting by mentioning all the ways it is speculated that he died and leave it up for the audience to decide what they believe. Also, in our contextual explanation, we may have to exclude an explanation of the economics of the time. In order to ensure that our focus is narrowed enough to be able to concretely analyze our main thesis, discussions of his other plays as they relate to his life, his society, and our argument must be omitted. Finally, we will also not be able to talk much about his espionage experience, other than a brief touch-base, as it is not entirely relevant to our discussion of Doctor Faustus and how it does or does not make Marlowe a rebel.

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You are certainly headed in the right direction, but I think you'll have to continue refining your ideas. Let me explain: in your answer to question 1, you present the following ideas:
1. Christopher Marlowe's religious upbringing
2. His turn away from his religious upbringing
3. Politics of Church of England
4. Role of Witchcraft
5. "grandeur of philosophical ideas," related to Marlowe's life and his dramatic works
6. Theatre censorship
7. 2 version of Faustus

That's a lot! Additionally, were you to talk about all seven of those (big) topics, you'd have to figure out the best way to present all that information to the class. But you can't talk about all of those topics. As such, I have a suggestion, or rather a question: Is the play your main focus, or is Marlowe's life? Choosing one of these things will help you to revise and refine your ideas. If you focus on the play, for example, then you could highlight certain scenes and then relate them back to two or three specific historically significant aspects of Elizabethan England.

So you're doing everything right, by which I mean that you are finding a ton of information. You'll have to lend a concerted effort now to sifting and focusing. Pay attention to the way you've presented your ideas in this latest entry and ask yourself, "Would a class be able to follow our train of thought if we moved through our presentation like this?" Utilize outlines and mind maps to organize the information.

GRADE: 90%

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About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Lauren Tank published on November 15, 2012 10:59 AM.

Annotated Bibliography Entry - "Why Devils Came..." was the previous entry in this blog.

Annotated Bibliography for Marlowe and God: The Tragic Theology of Faustus is the next entry in this blog.

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