Situating Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus within the contexts of liturgical history and sacramental theology, this essay argues that the Eucharist provided an influential aesthetic resource for English dramatists in the wake of the Reformation. Drawing on Eucharistic theology, liturgical books, and the ritual of the Mass, Marlowe’s play reveals the early modern theater as a venue for “contested rites” where liturgical and theological debates could be waged. The essay establishes connections between magic and the Mass by analyzing the “affective textuality” and liturgical rubrics in both necromantic books and liturgical books. It then proceeds to scenes in which Faustus draws on the efficacious language of sacraments, the doctrine of transubstantiation, as well as topoi like Eucharistic gazing and blood sacrifice. In this analysis, conventional oppositions such as parody and piety, medieval and early modern, Catholic and Protestant, and word and flesh are shown to be mutually constitutive at each of the drama’s captivating turns.

You do not currently have access to this content.