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Staging HarmonyMusic and Religious Change in Late Medieval and Early Modern English Drama$
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Katherine Steele Brokaw

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9781501703140

Published to Cornell Scholarship Online: January 2017

DOI: 10.7591/cornell/9781501703140.001.0001

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Sound Effects

Sound Effects

Doctor Faustus

(p.155) Chapter 5 Sound Effects
Staging Harmony

Katherine Steele Brokaw

Cornell University Press

This chapter argues that Christopher Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus exposes music, magic, and religion as culturally interdependent and all reliant on the human-produced theatricality of sound to give them the illusion of divine or magical power and authority; this illusion masks their inability to make real truth claims. The chapter begins by discussing the material and epistemic failures of sensual pleasure, natural magic, and necromancy. It then explores the Pope’s excommunication ritual as revelatory of the social and political power of religion’s sound effects. Next, it considers the sound effects of heaven and hell at the end of the play—effects that reveal how eschatology, particularly the concepts of heaven and hell, are reliant on theatrical tricks. The final section describes the play’s one surety, examining how the bell-ringing accompanying Faustus’ final moment pits the surety of death against the uncertainty of claims for divine understanding.

Keywords:   Christopher Marlow, Doctor Faustus, plays, music, magic, religion, necromancy, sensual pleasure, sound effects, heaven

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