1. 1.
    traveling from place to place, especially working or based in various places for relatively short periods.
    "the peripatetic nature of military life"
    synonyms:nomadic, itinerant, traveling, wandering, roving, roaming, migrant,migratory, unsettled
    "I could never get used to her peripatetic lifestyle"
  2. 2.
  1. 1.
    a person who travels from place to place.
  2. 2.
    an Aristotelian philosopher.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Finding Evidence of Career Anxiety in Marlowe's Faustus

Anyone anxious about making a career change can learn a lot by reading Christopher Marlowe's The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus. Marlowe himself was probably wondering what to do with the rest of his life when he wrote the drama. (Please see some interesting facts and theories about his life and death at the following website: He was an accomplished scholar, having been educated at Cambridge, but he evidently did not desire the life of a scholar, holed up in some dusty study. Preferring to cast his lot with other writers of his time (late 1500s), including Thomas Kyd, John Lyly, Thomas Dekker, and other notables, Marlowe hoped to make his fortune with the emerging entertainment industry.

That industry was beginning to reach a broad audience through production of elaborate dramas on stage, and the time was ripe for well-educated, ambitious young writers like Marlowe to break free from the mold society had cast for them. Marlowe and several of his colleagues were, after all, sons of tradesmen and not expected to rise above their stations in life. Previous successful writers were almost without exception members of the nobility. A good education provided Marlowe and others like him the opportunity and the skills necessary to make their marks on the literary world. Still, they had to hone those skills in the religiously/politically censored, yet rough-and-tumble world of commercial theater. They could not expect to receive instant acclaim and fame, let alone fortune, and many of them did not live to reap the benefits of their work. Often, the satisfaction of knowing that they had written something that would cause a critic or colleague to learn something about himself provided the only reward for months or even years of research and labor on some drama. We can be thankful for that remarkable work ethic and love of irony.

Doctor Faustus allows what could be considered a tongue-in-cheek peek at the damage that self-doubt, fostered by others' self-righteous opinions, can wreak on someone's life. Faustus is anything but politically correct in his quest "To sound the depth of that [he would] profess" (1.1.2). He chooses to align himself with the devil rather than God because he fears the punishment of having his flesh torn apart (sarcasm by his peers??). Perhaps Marlowe was similarly fearful of having his career choice sneered at by people who knew him well. I believe that he wrote a remarkable piece of literature aimed directly at making his naysayers at least uncomfortable, if not remorseful, about the havoc their opinions can create in a person's psyche.

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