Dr. Faustus: Movement into the Renaissance

Deal with the Devil
Deal with the Devil

Dr. Faustus was written in the Renaissance and therefore represents how to be a good Christian. As a character, Dr. Faustus is not a good Christian. But he teaches readers of the time what they shouldn’t do. Faustus is showing the way not to die; if you live life as a good Christian and avoid the devil and temptation then you will go to heaven.


On page 14 we can see a shift away from the divine, and the definition of something more temporal. Faustus says “Had I as many souls as there be stars, /I’d give them all for Mephistophilis. /By him I’ll be great Emperor of the world, /And make a bridge through the moving air, /To pass the ocean with a band of men; /I’ll join the hills that bind the Afric shore, /And make that [country] continent to spain, /and both contributory to my crown. /The Emperor of shall not live but by my leave, /Nor any potentate of Germany. /Now that I have obtain’d what I desire, /I’ll live in speculation of this art /Till Mephistophilis return again” (p.14, scene 3). In this speech and throughout scene 3, Faustus defines hierarchy as the chain of being. He challenges mans place in the divine hierarchy as he is trying to let his own individual desires control his outcome. He believes that by making a deal with the devil, he can outsmart the devil and prove that there is no heaven or hell.


The moral of Dr. Faustus is to be a good Christian. Christopher Marlowe wrote in a time when Christianity and Plato’s idea of the great chain of being were being accepted and shifted towards justifying knowledge with religion and the church. This idea of the great chain of being means that people were born as natural slaves and could become saints if they are good Christians. This shift toward the renaissance and away from medieval synthesis is how Marlowe portrayed the character of Dr. Faustus and the way he wanted to gain more knowledge not given by the church and religion, as the heat of the renaissance was a time when people started to rely on their senses.

4 thoughts on “Dr. Faustus: Movement into the Renaissance”

  1. I agree with you, Harlie. I think that in the beginning of “Dr. Faustus”, Faustus kind of says that he disagrees with religion. He mentions the quote about sin and death and doesn’t fully quote it, showing that he thinks it is pointless to believe in religion if you’re just going to die anyway. He then says that he thinks the magic books are “heavenly”, giving a religious affiliation to something that is not religion. In the end, however, I think Faustus does recognize that he should not have left out the other half of the quote and should be a good Christian because he really could have been forgiven for his sins, but he realizes it when it is too late.

  2. I agree with the argument above that Faustus did not realize until it was too late that he should not have disregarded the second half of the bible verse he quoted, but it also seems as though he should have known from the start that what he was doing was wrong, and what the end result would have been.
    This actually made me think of Dr. Faustus:
    I don’t know if that’s just me, but it seems to make the point that there is a definite price to evil and a point of no return for redemption, which Faustus probably should have given a bit more thought to before selling his soul to Satan.

  3. Just kinda hopping on the Faustus train here. I think its pretty interesting how Jessie noticed Faustus calling the magic books heavenly, the idea that Faustus could have been mocking the whole idea of religion by equating it to Magic. However, I do not feel as though Faustus didn’t realize what he was doing until it was too late. personally, I feel as though Faustus, in naivety and arrogance, thought that he could find the balance between the 2 and maybe hop back on the “good side” before it all hit the fan. Therefore, I can get behind the notion that Dr. Faustus as whole was the paradigm for how to be a good question. Yet, I just feel as though Faustus was no dummy and he was well aware even from the beginning.

    1. I agree completely, especially going off of what we discussed in class Wednesday. Throughout the book Faustus is caught between doing the good thing or the bad thing, especially in the final moments before Faustus strikes the deal with the devil, exchanging 24 years of Mephistophilis’ service for his own soul. Also, going off of Jessie’s point that Faustus equates heaven to magic, we also see Faustus trivialize hell on page 22: “Come, I think Hell’s a fable.” Faustus clearly disregards both ‘sides’ of religion, in a rational state of mind, and knows about what’s good and bad before participating in the deal with the devil.

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