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Transkills: supporting transition to University


If you wish, you could now practise some of the strategies suggested above with the following essay title:

An exploration of the origins of power in Marlowe's Dr Faustus and Tamburlaine parts 1 and 2

  • Firstly, analyse the title, using the strategies you have learned, to engage closely with the title and also to respond creatively to it. Consider whether the title is appropriate, according to the criteria suggested for developing your own title.
  • Then, jot down some notes about how you might go about such an essay.
  • Finally, you could compare your approach with that of the student below. The introduction and conclusion to their essay is provided; how have they interpreted the title, and how might you have approached it differently, both in terms of close engagement and creative response? Does the introduction set out the approach clearly, and does the conclusion match that approach?




The Renaissance was an age of great turmoil and change in terms of politics, religion and attitudes to learning. At the heart of most conflicts of the time was the desire of each side to exert their will over the other, whether it be running the country or changing their religious views (and quite often both together). The struggle for power over others and also over the self was a strong element of the consciousness of the age and was much explored through drama, particularly in the plays of Christopher Marlowe. His protagonists consistently strive to to be more than they are and more than anyone around them, and in the cases of Dr Faustus and Tamburlaine ostensibly succeed in their quest for dominance. However, Marlowe shows there to be a wide gap between ambition of power and truly holding it, exploring its sources and nature through his character's attempts to attain it.


Tamburlaine displays the same sense of self-delusion as Faustus, convinced of his own superiority, however Marlowe distinguishes between the two protagonists in the fact that Tamburlaine's association with the divine is created only through his own speeches and comparisons, whereas Faustus moves amongst deities of both good and evil. Marlowe brings them to life on stage and the concept of divine power, which is simply part of Tamburlaine's rhetoric, becomes a solid reality in Dr Faustus. The Good and Bad angels, Mephistopheles and Lucifer all become part of the performance and so in this way Dr Faustus becomes an allegory of the morality of seeking power, whereas Tamburlaine the Great is a study of the character that seeks power.