Tag Archives: Faustus

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.

Faustus: Intelligent Hero or Overly Ambitious Fool?

Scholarly Origins

Faustus is a scholar who debates between following good and evil but ultimately is won over by greed. Both a good angel and a bad angel influence him. They give him the same amount of advice. However, in heaven Faustus finds nothing of interests. In hell he finds riches and most of all knowledge. I believe that it is Faustus’s thirst for knowledge that truly drives him to seek out the dark arts.

Faustus’s Thirst for Knowledge

Faustus has been brought up as a scholar. He has excelled in his studies and has earned the name of Doctor. Faustus is skilled in many languages and is competent in many subjects such as physics and mathematics. However, he is dissatisfied with the amount of knowledge available to him.  I think that Faustus definitely equates knowledge with power. He wants to become a more powerful man and therefore thirsts for the next thing to boost his worth. The good angel implies that Faustus was once involved in theology. However, even then he scorns divinity and turns to magic to solve his problems. He wants riches, but even more he wants to be able to control spirits.

Link to Genesis

When Faustus is turned towards the dark arts, he appears to be mirroring the events inGenesis that led Adam to taste of the
tree of knowledge of good and evil. Mephistopheles and the serpent appear to be the same force of temptation. They are both sneaky and cleaver and have the ability to influence others. While both Adam and Faustus learn great knowledge after turning their backs to god, they regret it in the end. Also, they are both punished severely. All of these links between Genesis and Dr. Faustus appear to have been made intentionally by Marlowe.

Faustus’s Tragic Flaw

Faustus shares many qualities with the heroes of Greek tragic. First off, he is grand. He sells his soul to Lucifer which an act that rivals Oedipus gouging his eyes or Heracles killing his family. Also, he has a tragic flaw, which is his unquenchable thirst for knowledge. Like Prometheus, he doesn’t think ahead to way the consequences of his actions with the immediate benefit of the act. For example, he sells his soul to Lucifer in order to gain immediate power for twenty-four years and yet he once the term is over he will regret making this grim deal.

Evil’s Appeal

Faustus believes that he has nothing to gain from attempting to gain entry into heaven. Although he listens to both the angel of good and the angel of evil he is more persuaded by the evil angel. This is because the evil angel tells him what he wants to hear. He lures him in with stories of knowledge and power. Faustus is not made of strong moral fiber. Others easily persuade him.  Also, Lucifer acts almost comical when he comes to visit Faustus. He puts on a show and definitely appears as an entertainer. His theatrical personality also serves to lure in Faustus.

Faustus: Intelligent Hero or Overambitious Fool

Especially in an academic setting, it is difficult to blame Faustus when his only crime is to want to have more knowledge. He has basically read all the books and is eager to
transcend the boundary of current human knowledge. Understandably, some may view him as a hero for pursuing his passion despite the cost. However, I believe that in the end Faustus is an extremely flawed character. He is unable to feel content with what he has. He has a high position in society, and because of his doctorate he should also be well of financially. Perhaps Faustus serves as a metaphor for something that is overambitious to the point of being greedy and gluttonous.  Depending, on your personal perspective, you may choose to see him as a hero or a fool or something else entirely.

How would you describe Faustus?