FAUSTUS. When I behold the heavens, then I repent,

And curse thee, wicked Mephistophilis,

Because thou hast depriv'd me of those joys.

MEPHIST. Why, Faustus,

Thinkest thou heaven is such a glorious thing?

I tell thee, 'tis not half so fair as thou,

Or any man that breathes on earth.

The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus was written during the height of classic English drama and Christopher Marlowe was at the time the most competent playwright. He was born in 1564 and probably died 1593. Who was this charismatic figure?  

Little is known about Marlowe apart from myths which only sometimes are supported by facts. He came from a middle class family and attended Cambridge University. Men of the middle classes who rose to prominence were typical of the Renaissance. Marlowe was a freethinker. Many theories say he was a spy for the English spy network. England had a second to none spy network at the time. This was built to counter the threat from Catholic countries.   

He was a part of a group of young English free thinkers who were educated at Cambridge. Marlowe began his career as a playwright after university and became successful. The free thinking eventually provoked society. This led to persecution and a couple of Marlowe’s friends were accused and executed for heresy. Marlowe was taken to the Privy Council for hearing in 1593. Not much is known about Marlowe after this. He was killed a couple of days later in a bar brawl. The person who allegedly killed him had close contacts with Walshingham, a spy master in England. Walsingham was a friend of Marlowe.  Marlowe might have died in a bar brawl. There are scholars who believe the bar brawl was an arrangement for him to escape trial. He might have been killed by order of Walshingham. Some even suggest he continued to write under the pseudonym of William Shakespeare. The person who killed Marlowe was pardoned. 

Doctor Faustus contains many of the most radical thoughts in the English society at the 1500s. The main character is an academic who wants to do more than is humanly possible. Doctor Faustus feels he already knows everything that is possible and only magic can show him more. This makes him call on the devil.

The idea of heaven and hell was extremely alive at this time. Many of the scandalous thoughts in the play represent a small group of educated men who discussed atheism under the protection of powerful lords. This was among the most dangerous things you could do at the time.  This was only possible because of the reformation in England and the tolerance of the regime. English society was at the time very unstable and threatened by other countries. The crown feared for the fate of the new faith. Theatres were supported to help create an English culture. This made new thoughts possible but it also meant that the state needed stability. The crown had to be firm against radical new ideas and thoughts if they were discussed publicly but it tolerated it in the form of a play.

England was trying to survive as a Protestant country among hostile countries. Usually when a struggle like this happens there is a move towards religious hatred. The marvel of this struggle was that it did not give rise to religious extremism but a new support of culture. This climate of openness seems to have opened a small window towards individual freedom and the modern world.

Here is one of the most famous quotes in theatre:

FAUSTUS. Was this the face that launch'd a thousand ships,

And burnt the topless towers of Ilium--

Sweet Helen, make me immortal with a kiss.--

[Kisses her.]

Her lips suck forth my soul:  see, where it flies

Come, Helen, come, give me my soul again.

Here will I dwell, for heaven is in these lips


Marlowe (1604), The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus, Project Gutenberg, http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/779

The Marlow Society (2012), http://www.marlowe-society.org/

Encyclopaedia Britannica, (2012) “Marlowe” http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/365890/Christopher-Marlowe

Wikipedia (2012), “English reformation” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/English_Reformation

Olof Nicolaysen is an independent researcher from Norway who is interested in the origins of our secular society.
Welcome to Uppsala Translations' language blog. Although our website is in Swedish we would like to invite guest bloggers from all over the world. Texts should be in Swedish or English and deal with language.

Some ideas of topics: memories from studying language, literary writing, bilingualism, translation difficulties, tricky linguistics, problems you have encountered in the language field, et cetera.

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Include a short bio. Remember to add your name (pseudonyms are fine too) and maybe a link to your website.

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Uppsala Translations

Hello people. My name is Louise. I’m currently residing in Cornwall, England. Originally I come from Bretagne, France. French is my mother language, but I hope my English is decent enough. My post today will deal with writing fiction.

You see I hadn’t the faintest idea that I could write until a friend of mine repaired my computer two years ago. When I put on the computer there was a screensaver floating across the screen. “Louise, you are a writer” it said in bold colourful letters. I laughed and thought it was just another silly joke from my techno nerd friend. He is like that. Full of crap. But the next moment it was as if I was hypnotized by the words on that wide screen. I put on the word processor program and started to write what came into my mind. Stream-of-consciousness. That makes it sound more important than it was really.

It was not as if I had no experience at all in formulating words. I had written many informative letters, business reports and that sort of things. However I had never written anything remotely literary before, except from stories my teachers forced me to scribble down way back. I was a good reader. I envied people who could create stories easily. I guess I hadn’t really tried it myself. For some reason my friend thought I had a gift for writing fiction. When I asked him why he said he couldn’t say why. It was just a feeling he had. He usually has good intuition, so I decided to trust his gut feeling.

Every evening I spent two hours by that word processor program writing about a woman who leaves her home country to work in a foreign country. I wrote her story basically. I wrote about the people and places she meets, the prejudice she as a Frenchwoman gets at work and elsewhere and how she falls in love with the janitor at her office. I wrote from my heart.

After a year I had the whole manuscript ready. It’s in French. My British techno nerd/literate friend who also knows French has read it and likes it a lot. Another person who is a publisher back home has also read it. She says she likes it, but she wants me to do some more editing and send it again. So that is what I am doing now.

Funny what an impact a simple screensaver can have.

Louise (guest blogger)

Louise is a woman residing in Cornwall, UK. Originally she comes from Bretagne, France. Her passion is the sea. She works as a clerk. Recently she discovered, to her surprise, that she enjoys creative writing.  

poetry to prose transformation:
of expression,
is this move towards more rooted life
experience, similar to that of growing
plants? seek the role of that transformation
in other authors, for example, Aldous Huxley 

Beginning from Poetry

The key to my process of writing poetry is that I never return to a second sitting to change content, therefore it always represents, with a certain strictness, the spontaneous activity of mind, small punctuation or word order and line break changes may be made afterwards, but the single sitting for each piece emphasizes an intentional improvisation as central to sustaining an original, creative process of mental awareness.

Writing Prose

A piece may be written, as introductory doorway of ideas, or anecdotal / historical context with dialogue, etc., however the piece will be dwelled upon in the mind for a period of weeks and months. Everything written within the project undergoes a deep analysis and contemplative pondering on themes of wording, content and order.

Rusty Kjarvik (guest blogger)

Rusty Kjarvik is an emerging writer, world music percussionist and artist. His poetry has been accepted in various online and print publications including 3:AM Magazine, The Body Electric Anthology (and/or), Steel Bananas, ditch, and Marco Polo Arts Magazine. He has also published short fiction in Haggard & Halloo and visual art in Maad Sheep. He performs music regularly with Vi An Diep and lives in Calgary, Alberta where he blogs at www.rkjarvik.blogspot.com