Faustus Essay, Research Paper
Out of ancient myth of the magician who sells his soul to the Devil for occult powers, Marlowe has fashioned a veritable fable of Renaissance man (Source 5 113).
The goal of any true renaissance man is to improve himself. This goal may border on heresy, as it leads to a man trying to occupy the same position as God. Lucifer commits this same basic sin to cause his own fall. To Doctor Faustus, this idea of sin is of no concern at the beginning of Christopher Marlowe s Doctor Faustus. Faustus goal is to become god-like himself. In order to accomplish this, he learns of science and shows an interest in magic. He turns to the pleasures of magic and art and the poewr of scientific knowledge as substitutes for the Christian faith he has lost (source 5 115). Clearly, this total disregard for God makes Faustus an atheist. However, it is only his renaissance quality, which seals his damnation, not his lack of faith. It is interesting to note how Faustus directly parallels Marlowe himself. The play is written as if Marlowe s vindication of Faustus will vindicate him in the end. This has a direct effect on style as well as the overall spin, which Marlowe takes on the archetype. Such as strong connection between Faustus and Marlowe makes it practical to speak of the damnation of both of these interesting characters almost simultaneously. Therefore, Marlowe and Faustus are both damned by their own self-improvement, not only by God, but also by themselves, and society.
Doctor Faustus opens with a depiction of Faustus as the perfect Renaissance man.
He is partly an artist, who does not wish to glorify God, as his medieval predecessors did, but to applaud and please man; he is partly a scientist and philosopher, whose hope is to make man more godlike and not to justify his miserable life on earth; and, most significantly he is a Protestant, a Lutheran by training who has attempted through Reformation to escape the evils he associates with a Roman Catholic Church. (source 5 113)
As the epitome of renaissance man, Faustus believes that he can infinitely improve himself (4 155). Faustus considers his life before his deal with Lucifer as one that has gone as far as current interests may carry him. He notes in the opening scene Then read no more; thou hast attained the end. / A greater subject fitteth Faustus wit: / Bid philosophy farewell (Marlowe 14). To complete his life Faustus considers following God, however after reading from the Bible he decides that God cannot offer him truth, The reward of sin is death. That s hard. / /If we say that we have no sin / We decieve ourselves, and there s no truth in us. / Why then belike / We must sin and so consequently die, Ay, we must die an everlasting death/ / Divinity, adieu! (Marlowe 15). Having denied God completely leaves Faustus completely desolated from society, In acceptance of Mephistophilis, Faustus completely denies society and all that has been handed to him by science and learning. Marlowe shows that one who rejects his intellectual, social, and spiritual inheritance experiences pain of personal isolation, anxiety, dread, and meaninglessness (source 5 150). Finally, Faustus turns to magic as his method to improve himself infinitely. Faustus decision to become a magician marks the fatal culmination of his attempt to improve himself infinitely. At this point, Faustus notes, A sound magician is a mighty god / Here, Faustus, try thy brains to gain a deity (Marlowe 15). This marks the crossover from attempting to improve himself as a mortal and attempting to become immortal. He believes that magic is his only feasable option to become immortal. He dismisses divinity because it seems to invite a hateful determinism which denies the real freedom to settle , begin , and be (source 10 158). Faustus deal with Lucfier ultimately commits Faustus to this belief. By making a deal with Lucifer, he is putting into practice his belief that he can make himself immortal and challenge both God and death. Clearly, Faustus must believe that God exists since he emprically knows that Lucifer exists.
Even though Faustus knows that God exists he states, The word damnation terrifies him not [Faustus] (Marlowe 25). This early lack of fear of damnation in Faustus stems from two different sources. The first of these two sources is Mephistopheles. Mephistopheles, Lucifer s diplomat, performs his function of convincing Faustus that he need not worry about damnation perfectly. Mephistopheles begins by describing Heavan as a place that is not that wonderful by stating, Why, Faustus, / Thinkst thou heaven is such a glorious thing? / I tell thee, tis not half so fair as thou, / Or any man that breathes on earth (Marlowe 39). Mephistopheles also distracts Faustus from his worry by presenting him with shows such as the seven deadly sins and Helen of Troy. Faustus experiences his own personal hell. To make it tolerable Mephistophilis offers things to delight his mind to take his mind off it, have a good time, and enjoy life. (Source 10 138).
On the other hand, Faustus does not need Mephistopheles to damn him, Faustus himself causes his own damnation. An intense present dominates Faustus life where he does not seem to care how his actions in the present will cause problems in the future. He seems to believe that anything he does may by rectified very simply. After he signs his contract with Mephistopheles, he exclaims, O thou art decieved! (Marlowe 38). The deception which Faustus is alluding to is that, When I [Faustus] behold the heavens, then I repent / And curse thee, wicked Mephistophilis, / Because thou hast deprived me of those joys (Marlowe 38).
A second piece to Faustus character which contributes to his damnation is his attempts to perfect himself. He is a man typical of the Renaissance and modern periods because his tragedy occurs because he has too much knowledge (source 5 190). This tragic flaw occurs because Faustus is eventually forced to realize that men are limited. Man is limited not by his own nature, but by the nature of the world which encloses him (Source 10 158). The world which Faustus lives in treats him as nothing special but an entertainer. He does not receive the ultimate riches and power which he thought that his deal would provide him with. Faustus thinks to be greater, but as he sees in the court, he is only a superior and honored entertainer. The bitterness of this tragedy lies not only in the nature and wages of sin, but the triviality of the profit and delight the world offers, grace not being present in the soul (Source 10 130). This limitation placed on Faustus, leaves him completely decimated. Since Faustus cannot ever become completely immortal on his own will, he must turn to God in order to escape his ultimate fate of hell.
Faustus turning to God implies that he has free will or there is divine intervention. However, divine intervention would destroy the idea of faith, therefore Faustus must have free will in order to extricate himself from his contract. Faustus sees the will as the ultimate power within man (Source 9 158). Unfortunately, Faustus believes that he has lost free will, Faustus is a skeptic who is committed to the possibilities of this world who does not have faith. Therefore since men are guilty by nature and Faustus has no free will to resist evil, he is damned, causing him to lose hope (Source 5 page 117). Faustus develops this cynical view as his life draws to an end, in order to explain his own actions to himself. His Lutheran background only contributes to his idea that man is born depraved and sinful. This is clear because he states in the beginning of the play that, If we say that we have no sin / we decieve ourselves and there s no truth in us (Marlowe 15).
Since Faustus believes that he does not have free will, he also believes that he has lost his ability to repent. If he cannot repent, then his original sin as well as the sale of his soul completely damn him to hell. The only way which Faustus can be saved is by receiving God s grace however, Man can only receive God s grace from faith, not by good acts (Source 9 87). Faustus belief that he will repent later in his life turns to desperation as his life draws to a close. His soul is the stage, a battle between Heaven and Hell (source 10 157). This battle is described by the running allegory of the good angel and the evil angel each whispering in his ears. Faustus is repeatedly told such things as Faustus shall never repent (Marlowe 39) and Thou art a spirit, God cannot pity thee (Marlowe 40), but the whispering of the good angel is never enough to defeat this haunting voice in his other ear. The good angel tries to convince Faustus that it is never too late to repent, Never too late, if Faustus can repent (Marlowe 42). But Faustus can only come up with, My heart s so hard and I cannot repent (Marlowe 42). Even at Faustus last hour, he screams for mercy yet he never repents. Faustus starts to realize the error of his ways and cries out to Christ for mercy when he is stifled by Lucifer.
Faustus cries out, Ah Christ, my Savior! / Seek to save distressed Faustus soul (Marlowe 42). In response, Lucifer states, Christ cannot save thy soul, for he is just; / There s none but have interest in the same (Marlowe 42). This brings up the point that Faustus cannot escape his fate of damnation, because Christ is just. The evil angel is mirrored with this point, however this point must be incorrect because it is said by Lucifer. It is clear from the good angel that Faustus repentance will save him, however, Lucifer would have Faustus believe that it is not true. A just Christ would accept Faustus repentance over his contract with Lucifer without hesitation. This is the point that Faustus fails to see in his belief that he has lost free will and cannot be saved. Even at times when Faustus tried to repent, he was not genuine and therefore was not repenting. He backed down when threatened with clawing by devils, so clearly he lacked the faith necessary to repent. So, in that sense, Faustus own impure heart made it impossible for him to repent and caused him to fall into the trap that he has lost free will. The line of reasoning which leads out of this trap is that a man has control over his own heart and can lead himself towards his ability to repent. Faustus was blind to this because the believed that Lucifer controlled his heart and lacked the courage and faith to find his way out.
This all ties back to Faustus attempts to attain perfection, because the point where he tried to gain perfection was the point at which he lost his faith. It becomes clear from the allegory which Christopher Marlowe has set up that a man who focuses too much on his own perfection will lose any hope of becoming perfect. Marlowe understands this point so well because it is one which ruled his life. Christopher Marlowe was a man of the Renaissance, in love with life and equally in love with the world in which he lived (source 3 3). Marlowe s own life came through in the words of his plays, Marlowe s life sounds like a plot from one of his plays, a gifted individual s unusual abilities and searching mind, though they set him apart, bring him suffering and codemn him to a violent death (Source 5 4).
Doctor Faustus was a hero to Christopher Marlowe (source 3 128). Since Marlowe identified so well with Faustus, he believed that vindicating Faustus (who had already become a well known archetypecal character) would in turn vindicate himself. Marlowe put a spin on Faustus so that he became, In a word, a martyr to everything that the Renaissance prized power, curious knowledge, enterprise, wealth, and beauty (source 5 14). Marlowe s public would see in Doctor Faustus a man and a Christian like themselves, carried a bit too far by ambition and the love of pleasure in life (source 6 13). In vindicating Faustus, Marlowe changed this myth of a man who sold his soul into a fable of the Renaissance man (source 5 113).
Both Faustus and Marlowe endured a separation from society. Faustus separation was more forced than Marlowe s however both shared common views. Marlowe had a notorious reputation for heretical views (source 5 3). This seperation from society also contributed to both of their deaths. Marlowe was stabbed above the eye in a brawl at a tavern, killing him instantly. The killer was released on self-defense although there is reason to believe that he was assassinated (source 5 3). A note was read at the trial by a man who believed Marlowe to be a blasphemer. The note was actually a listing of things which indicated that Marlowe was a blasphemer, containing instances such as He said that Christ was a bastrad and his mother dishonest , That if he were to write a new religion, he would undertake a more Excellent and Admirable method and that all the new testament is filthily written , and That the first beginning of Religion was only to keep men in awe (source 10 363). Clearly, Marlowe s blasphemous views set him away from society in much a similar manner as Faustus. Marlowe s picture of Faustus is probably autobiographical, Marlowe as a student of theology who questioned Christian beliefs, must have felt the pain of loss of religious convicition (source 5 120).
In order to make Faustus seem as person which society should forgive, Marlowe humanizes him. Faustus has the complicated modern soul. He is tragic because his dillema is real (source 6 62). As a realistic character, Faustus experiences the common feelings which occur in any person s battle with faith. Marlowe creates a character whose flaw is so slight, yet who is fatally flawed at the same time. This over ambition creates the perfect balance between the extremes of flaw. There is a desperate fatalism about Marlowe that the most desirable things are subject to cosmic veto (source 9 226). Marlowe succeeds in accomplishing his ultimate goal of creating a character which vindicates his own beliefs.
The damnation of Faustus as well as the life of Marlowe both prove to demonstrate that unchecked ambition lead to complete damnation and utter loss of happiness in society. Although Marlowe does well in humanizing Faustus, it is still clear how he was damned and why. Marlowe s biography also is tragic in the same way. All of Marlowe s as well as Faustus damnation both are easily attributed to their ambitious nature which is almost a piece of the archetype to which Icarus and Lucifer both belong. Clearly, the ultimate answer to this problem is moderation.