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Jul 27, 2013

Dr. Faustus

Doctor Faustus
In Tudor Dynasty the `most nearly Satanic tragedy that can be found' is Doctor Faustus tells the story of a certain doctor named `Faustus', meaning `auspicious' becomes an avid follower of the Black Magic and his Temptations go unabated as he desires the famous ‘Hellenic Beauty Helen’ for his company which was unusual for Helen had long been dead. Faustus strikes a deal with Mephistophilis “a servant to great Lucipher” that he will give his soul in exchange for A Kiss from Helen;
Sweet Helen, make me immortal with a kiss.--''[kisses her]''     
Her lips suck forth my soul: see, where it flies!--             
Come, Helen, come, give me my soul again.
Mephistophilis explains that Faustus must “buy my service with his soul” by signing a contract:
But Faustus, thou must bequeath it solemnly
And write a deed of gift with thine own blood,
For that security craves great Lucifer.
If thou deny it, I will back to hell.
Subsequently, as Faustus draws blood and prepares to write the contract, Mephistophilis reminds him once more to “Write it in a manner of a deed of gift”. It would seem that this is not a “purchase” at all. As per Lucifer’s deal: “he will spare him four and twenty years, / Letting him live in all voluptuousness,” during which time he will have Mephistophilis as his personal servant “Having thee ever to attend on me”. At the end he will give his soul over to Lucifer as payment and spend the rest of time as one damned to Hell. This deal is to be sealed in Faustus's own blood. After cutting his arm, the wound is divinely healed and the Latin words "Homo, fuge!" (Fly, man!) then appear upon it.
With blank verse and prose, Marlowe sets the story in Wittenburg, Germany with Faustus selling his soul to the devil. At the end of his twenty-four years, Faustus is filled with fear and he becomes remorseful for his past actions, yet this comes too late. Marlowe creates doubt about the freedom of Faustus's will early when Faustus asks the Good Angel if it is too late to repent. The Good Angel replies: "ever too late, if Faustus can repent". The issue is raised again:
What art thou, Faustus, but a man condemn’d t o die?
Thy fatal time doth draw to final end;
When fellow scholars find Faustus the next morning, he is torn limb from limb, with his soul carried off to hell. Moreover, by magnifying his hero's aspirations (never presume to be `great emperor of the world' or strive `to gain a Deity') and sharply curtailing his realization (gains few of his grandiose dreams).
The roots of Doctor Faustus lie deep in the fertile loam of medieval legend. Faustus rejects God, and in doing so, effaces the traditional theological idea that the soul is “on loan” from God, and thus not his to give away. The stories surrounding magicians were typical Magus legends, the hubristic magician, sought to purchase from St Peter the power of the Holy Spirit. St Cyprian, performed many miraculous deeds and was eventually converted, martyred and canonized. Theophilus introduced into the tradition the diabolical blood pact. The entire drama thus occurs within the human psyche. Faustus appreciate Divinity as useless because he feels that all humans commit sin, and thus to have sins punishable by death complicates the logic of Divinity. He dismisses it as "What doctrine call you this? Que sera, sera" (What will be, shall be).
Doctor Faustus adopts and alters the schema of the morality play to its tragic format. The morality plays conclude with the redemption of the often-erring hero, Marlowe's drama ends in a harrowing denouement. Critics suggest that the religious controversies of the period between Catholic/Anglican/Lutheran free will and Calvinist predestination modify the play's morality psychomachia.
The man who earlier exulted, `The emperor shall not live but by my leave', now serves the emperor. In order to make his contract appear less threatening, he convinces himself that hell is only a fable and confounds it in Elysium. When Mephistopheles comes from hell to seize his `glorious soul' Faustus employs fallacious reasoning to convince himself and ignores Mephistophilis’s passionate warning
`to leave these frivolous demands
Which strike a terror in my fainting soul' (I.III.83±84).
Mephistophilis also stress the appearance of Lucifer instead of Christ in answer to Faustus's desperate plea,  `Ah, Christ, my Saviour, | Seek to save distressed Faustus' soul!', which reads, `Help to save distressed Faustus' soul!', as an emblem of the absence of God or Christ and the presence of evil as the controlling force of the play.
Doctor Faustus questions why man is put on the earth. We see in Faustus a man opposing and questioning the order of the cosmos and railing against the confines of human knowledge. While the play shares many of the characteristics of medieval morality plays it cannot be defined solely in this way. Faustus can be seen as a tragic hero who through his thirst for knowledge and his desire to go beyond the accepted wisdom of his time is ultimately destroyed.
Faustus appreciate Divinity as useless because he feels that all humans commit sin, and thus to have sins punishable by death complicates the logic of Divinity. He dismisses it as "What doctrine call you this? Que sera, sera" (What will be, shall be). Marlowe also allows him to confuse opposites and blur distinctions (he sees his necromantic books as ‘heavenly’ and, more damnably, he signs away his soul to Mephistophilis with Christ’s last words on the cross” “Consummatum est,” “It is finished” or “completed.”
“The stars move still, time runs, the clock will strike,    
The devil will come, and Faustus must be damn’ed”
Here Faustus both clings to his cleverness by quoting, out of context, an amorous line from Ovid “Run slowly, slowly, horses of the night”
Doctor Faustus is a Tamburlaine on the intellectual level; his ambition for the ultimate knowledge; and if knowledge for him means power, the same can be said in some degree of the view implicit in the whole Bocanian tradition” But Faustus is not merely a man who seeks the practical fruit of knowledge: symbolizing in his own behavior the story of the Fall of Man through eating of the tree of knowledge. He had had a less aspiring mind he would have been a better man: less imaginative, less interesting, and less daring, he would also have been more virtuous. In the end of the play he cries:
Adders and Serpants, Let me breath a while      
Ugly hell gape not, come not Lucifer,    
I’ll burn my books,—ah, Mephistophilis.”

Here we have the germ of a truly tragic situation—corruptio optima perrima, the corruption of the best becomes the worst. Marlowe’s real difficulty comes when he has to illustrate the kind of knowledge Faustus has obtained by his compact with Mephistophilis and to present the kind of life he is now able to lead. Marlowe was at loss to illustrate superhuman knowledge and power in concrete dramatic situation. Milton, face with  the problem of putting divine wisdom into the mouth of God say what Milton had already been maintaining for some time; Bernard Shaw, presenting in Back to Methusaleh his Ancients who have achieved a wisdom beyond anything yet available to man, puts into their mouths the views that Shah had been long arguing.


  1. Its quite nice to read it and very helpful for the students of English Literature. I have read this play for more than 10 times. I find Dr Faustus is a victim of his aspirations beyond limit. Had he been contented with the world around him, he would not have been damned to Hell. He desired the impossible that is Hellenic beauty and knowledge that is opposite to positiveness.

  2. One thing which makes the story of Dr. Faustus relevant at all times is that it is all about every human being. There is a shard of Faustus in each man. At some point of time, people become hungry for power and material benefits. Any reviews on Dr. Faustus should be read and analyzed in this context. Get in touch with Custom Essay Writing Service for more articles on Faustus and other important works.


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