Dr. Faustus, Pride And Gree Essay, Research Paper
The Pride and Greed of Dr. Faustus
In the sixteenth century play Dr. Faustus, by Christopher Marlowe, Dr. Faustus, the main character, prevails two distinct qualities: greed and pride. It is these two qualities, one even being one of the seven deadly sins, which lead to the destruction of Dr. Faustus. Faustus already had everything that any person in his time could possibly need or use. Yet, because of his desire for a power greater than he was meant to have, he sacrificed his soul to Satan. Eventually, this would lead to his destruction mortally and eternally, simply to satisfy his greed and pride.
Even before the play begins Marlowe makes obvious that Faustus is swollen with pride. The Chorus tells how Faustus is full of knowledge of theology “Till swollen with cunning, of a self conceit” (page 1, 1.0.20). He is so proud of his accomplishments that he has become conceited. Then he is compared to Icarus with “His waxen wings” which actually could have more than one symbolic meaning (1.0.21). First of all it emphasizes the danger of Faustus’ pride, sense it was Icarus’ pride which led him to fly so high in the sky that his wax wings melted and he fell to his death. Second this could be a comparison to Lucifer who, due to his pride also fell, but not to his death, but from Heaven. Either comparison shows perfect foreshadowing of what will happen to Faustus, due to his deadly sin of pride.
Greed, the other characteristic of Faustus becomes apparent in the first scene. He has already gained all that he can materially and intellectually, being very wealthy as well as a master of logic, medicine, and law. However, he still was not satisfied, he felt confined by mere human knowledge and wealth. Faustus believed that through necromancy (magic) he could have even more, “A world of profit and delight, Of power, of honour, of omnipotence” (page 5, 1.1.1-2). It is this greed and thirst for omnipotence that leads Faustus to sell his soul to Lucifer. For only a short twenty-four years of all out power (power to satisfy his greed and pride), he is willing to spend eternity in Hell. If the deal in itself does not prove greed and pride, or possibly a lack of, then I do not know what can.
Pride and greed are very apparent through out the play. One example is when Mephistophilis appears the first time. Faustus thinks that he is so great that he actually summoned the devil with magic, which he finds out later to be untrue. Plus he is such a proud man that he will not even speak with the devil until it changes into something more suitable for his eyes: “I charge thee to return and change thy shape; thou art too ugly to attend on me” (page12, 1.3.1-2). His greed is also apparent early in the play when he would not settle for a basic knowledge of magic. He not only wanted to learn and understand it, but to be the greatest magician ever (at any price). Had he settled for a mere understanding of the art, his soul would still belong to him.
After he signs, in his own blood, a contract with Lucifer, Faustus begins his decent to eternal damnation. With his new-found, omnipotent power, he believes that he will be “Great Emperor of the world,” able to “Make a bridge through the moving air,” in order to cross the oceans so that he may conquer and control the whole world and all it’s riches (page 14, 1.3.18-19). Yet even with his endless power he never accomplishes anything more than simple insignificant party-tricks. For example, while he could have been out learning the mysteries of the universe, he was placing horns on the head of a Knight, and retrieving grapes in the middle of winter.
Faustus’ greed and pride quickly began diminishing after the deal he made with Lucifer turns out to be far less than what he expected. As soon as Faustus gained his power he was quickly denied one of his first request, a wife. “Sweet Mephistophilis, fetch me one (a wife), for I will have one” (page 23, 1.5.19-20). Even after demanding a wife he is denied of his omnipotent powers. Then later he is denied knowledge of the universe that he requests as well as anything else other than basic magic tricks which could be performed by any decent illusionist today. Anytime he demands such things Mephistophilis or Lucifer himself would simply amuse him with pleasures of the flesh in order to take his mind off what he was promised. For example, when Faustus demands an answer to “Tell me who made the world,” and Mephistophilis simply replies “I will not” (page27, 1.6.7-8), Lucifer appears and shows him the seven deadly sins which humors him long enough to forget about the maker of the world. This is a very dramatic reduction in the greed of Faustus, he went from wanting to conquer the world to being distracted by seeing seven lost souls, and was very satisfied with the whole act. “This feeds my soul!” he said after the event (page 29, 1.6.32). If Faustus would have retained his pride he would have forced the answers he demanded.
The good versus evil angel scenes in the play help to show how his pride and greed lead to his eternal demise. The angels could easily be viewed as his conscience and his pride, pride being the latter. The good angel always speaks of heavenly things and the value of doing right, however the evil angel always emphasizes the value of power and wealth. Since Faustus tends to follow the evil angel’s advice and ignore the good angel, his pride proves to be the dominant aspect of his character.
Faustus has now given his soul for far less than godly powers, and is going to spend the rest of eternity in Hell. Pride and greed have led him to his damnation and also kept him from a possible salvation. The old man in scene thirteen tells Faustus that he can still repent and save his soul,
“I see an angel hovers o’er thy head, And, with a vial full of precious grace,
Offers to pour the same into thy soul: Then call for mercy and avoid despair”. (page 50, 1.13.32-35)however, his foolish pride will not let him. He had made and accepted his deal and would not let his pride be destroyed by breaking it. His pride obviously had a higher value to him than his soul.
By the end of the play Faustus’ greed, pride, and soul are nearly eradicated. His greed went from wanting to conquer the world, to being satisfied with magic tricks. His pride, which at one time made him believe he was invincible, left him begging for mercy when his twenty-four years was only minutes away. And his soul would soon belong to Lucifer, who would have control over it for eternity. So the same aspects of his life which at one time made him believe he was great, now were reduced to nothing. His greed and pride led to his destruction both mortally and eternally. By selling his soul, in search of powers beyond his reach, he went from a wealthy knowledgeable member of society to an eternal servant.