Doctor Faustus Marlowe
Comparison of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and The Tragedy of Dr. Faustus
Because humans have innate tendencies to do both right and wrong, Robert Louis Stevenson’s mysterious, yet captivating novella, Jekyll and Hyde contrasts the danger of unrestrained pursuit of knowledge — observed in Dr. Jekyll’s obsession with his evil identity– with the use of knowledge in the pursuit of power as explored by Christopher Marlowe’s bold, yet insightful play, The Tragedy of Dr. Faustus — as Dr. Faustus aspires to compete with God’s might — suggesting that science, and knowledge as a whole, must be pursued in both restrain and caution. In order to gain a better interpretation of a piece of literature and its themes it can be extremely useful to compare it with another work. The juxtaposition between two works allows the reader to gain a heightened understanding of each author’s respective purpose in writing their piece. In comparing Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde to Dr. Faustus the reader is able to truly understand the degree of impact that science can have on society and its people. The two works enhance each other as they depict toxic addictions to power and knowledge, the value of internal struggle, and the battle between the creator and the created.
Dr. Faustus and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde both bring up the battle between the conflict between the creator and the created. In Christopher Marlowe’s play, Dr. Faustus, the main character is constantly at war with God. Dr. Faustus rejects his assigned role in society, constantly aspiring to be more than human and achieve a god-like status. He is willing to go to extreme ends in order to grow in power in his attempt to grow stronger than his own creator, God. Dr. Faustus even goes as far as to ask the devil for help in his attempt to grow in power, almost guaranteeing his damnation. Dr. Fautus’ struggle represents a refusal to remain confined to the role assigned to humans at birth. Dr. Faustus conflicts with God because he believes that he is capable of achieving more, yet he also still fears God in some respects. Moreover, in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Dr.Jekyll is at war with his creation Mr. Hyde. All throughout his novella Dr. Jekyll struggles with suppressing his creation, “Both sides of me were in dead earnest; I was no more myself when I laid aside restraint and plunged in shame, than when I laboured, in the eye of day, at the futherance of knowledge or the relief of sorrow and suffering,” (Stevenson 10). This quote reveals Dr. Jekyll’s inability to successfully inhibit his dangerous side that is Mr. Hyde. Dr. Jekyll has spent all his time pondering over a way to contain his evil creation of a separate personality, even abandoning the use of the potion that transforms him into this monster, yet when it’s all said and done this creation has already grown beyond control. This battle between the creator and created, between two sets of identities even leads the reader to become confused as to the motives of Mr. Hyde’s crimes, as Bernard O’Keefe writes in his new criticism, “Such vagueness leads the reader to speculate about the true nature of Jekyll’s hidden crimes. Even the ones we do witness seem open to interpretation,” (O’Keefe 10). Dr. Jekyll and his alternate identity have become so entangled that the degree of evil that both are capable of is hard to comprehend. Dr. Jekyll’s corruption to the cruel nature of Mr. Hyde reveals the true importance of the battle between a creation and its god; the creator will foolishly believe that he has the power over his creation, while the creation will always strive to achieve dominance over its creator. The juxtaposition between the two works, Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde and Dr Faustus, allows the reader to understand the conflicts that can occur within a hierarchy. Dr. Faustus alludes to the religious struggle that a person of faith can endure while aspiring to achieve their own goals, while Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde alludes to the struggle of a man and an addiction in the physical world.
Furthermore, the combination of these two works is crucial in understanding the thematic idea of power. Both Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and Dr. Faustus combine to create a greater understanding of the intoxifying danger that is associated with a lust for power. Through these two pieces the reader not only learns of the tendency to be addicted to power, but power’s ability to corrupt man. Power is like a drug; enjoy it enough and it will become a lifelong addiction. In Dr. Faustus, he becomes obsessed with becoming an entity even stronger than God, striving to take his necromancy to levels unheard of. Dr Faustus believes that, “A sound magician is a demigod.” (Marlowe, act 1 scene 1). Dr. Faustus believes that in sacrificing his eternal salvation, and ensuring a sentence for hell that he is able to grow stronger than any mortal or even God. Faustus is able to develop a hubris that ultimately proves to be his own demise; Faustus’ achievements in necromancy inspire his own arrogance, causing him to believe that he is untouchable, even by God. Faustus proves his arrogance when he states, “Shall I make spirits fetch me what I please?” (Marlowe 1). This conceited nature leads to his own damnation. William Hamlin, an author of historical criticism, believes that arrogance is what leads to, “Faustus’s state of imminent and irrevocable damnation, and thereby construct[ing] a superficially logical critique of Faustus’s tendency to cast doubts, to turn his thoughts toward God,” (Hamlin 7). This historical criticism alludes to Faustus’ struggle with remaining in God’s light and his internal battle which causes him to wrongly decide between intense momentary satisfaction and eternal salvation. Moreover, the reader is able to observe power’s tendency to corrupt man through Dr. Jekyll’s experiments with science. Dr. Jekyll was an upstanding citizen, revered for his hard work and status in his community. Yet his experimentation with his own evil nature led to his eventual corruption and demise. When Jekyll states, “You must suffer me to go my own dark way,” he reveals his drunken obsession with the power that his transformation into Mr. Hyde awards him. (Stevenson, 6). The reader further observes the negative effect of power through Jekyll’s actions in the book. He enjoys the liberation that the persona of Mr. Hyde brings him, leading him to continue transforming and cause damage to society. Eventually this power ascends to a level beyond both Jekyll and his science’s control, causing Hyde to consume Jekyll, leading to his death. These two works both depict the nature of a growing addiction to power. Both men in these stories pay the dire and ultimate consequences for giving into their primal urges for power. While Faustus seeks power for status, and Jekyll seeks it for liberation, there is no difference in the consequences that these two men face upon their death. These two works corroborate the idea that power leads man to evil and serve to show the reader that reaching for power can lead to things man was never supposed to discover and cause their own damnation.
Lastly, these two works combine in order to depict the nature of internal battle and strife. In both Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and Dr. Faustus there are internal struggles present. Does Dr. Jekyll choose to allow his evil side take pleasure in enacting evil? Does Faustus finally find God and Repent? Each piece details the harmful effects of conflicting arguments being made in the character’s head. Dr. Faustus is plagued throughout the play between the dilemma of momentary gratification and eternal salvation. Faustus can see his power levels grow, yet he knows that in giving into this power he is straying further from God’s light. Throughout the play, Faustus has a multitude of chances to repent and seek God’s forgiveness in hopes of gaining entrance to heaven. Faustus reaches a point in the play where he believes that he is at a point of no return in respect to God’s love, “My heart is hardened; I cannot repent. Scarce can I name salvation, faith, or heaven,” (Marlowe, 2). Faustus believes that since he has strayed so far from God, he may as well indulge in the pleasure on Earth, because his damnation is inevitable. Faustus’ decision to embrace evil signifies his loss of his own internal battle, in this decision Faustus forgoes whatever good nature may be left and embraces his own evil. Dr. Jekyll faces a somewhat similar internal conflict. Yet, Jekyll’s differs from Faustus’ because Jekyll’s is a conflict between two personalities. Throughout the novella we can see an internal conflict growing within Jekyll as he attempts to appease both his good and evil personalities. Dr. Jekyll recognizes the evil that his alternate personality is capable of and yet he has a difficult time restraining from indulging in this liberating evil. However, Dr. Jekyll reaches a point in the novella where he tries to give up his evil nature, Mr. Hyde, by refraining from using the potion which transforms him. This attempt to become sober from evil fails when Jekyll states “I am the chief of sinners, I am the chief of sufferers also.” (Stevenson 6). In this quotation the reader can interpret the duality of man, as Jekyll cognitally recognizes his two sides battling at the expense of his own health. This quote also implies that Mr. Hyde has grown beyond Jekyll’s ability to control, evident when he transforms into him without even taking the potion. So while one side of Jekyll indulges in the pleasure of sin, his other side weeps in the sorrowful suffering which proceeds the sin. In fact, Kevin Mills, an author of new criticism, likens Jekyll’s transformation to the conversion of a man to christianity. Mills state that the, “continuity-in-discontinuity would later find its way into the strange, unsettling description of self-division in Jekyll and Hyde,” meaning that Jekyll is consistently struggling at the hands of his diverging identities. These two works juxtapose in order to create a heightened understanding of the theme of duality of man and the nature of conflict. As one indulges in one side of their mind, it is always at the expense of another part of them, the tradeoff always persists.
Although never explicitly explored in any of the author’s pieces, I believe it is significant and remarkable that each character endured their journeys alone, embodying the ideas of the outcast and isolation. Neither man endured their unique struggle with a companion and I believe this isolation allowed them to be further seduced by expansive knowledge and suffer the dire consequences. In conclusion, power’s ability to corrupt, the obsession with knowledge and a refusal to accept one’s role in society inspire evil all combine between the two works to truly educate the reader on the nature of their decisions in life. Evil merely a manifestation of the pursuit of related goals. One does not seek to become evil, yet while chasing something else it is possible to become evil inadvertently. The pursuit of knowledge appears to be noble, but it leads to an inevitable corruption and tragedy. The pairing of these two works allows the reader to truly understand the cliche concept that “actions have consequences.” Through the actions and fates of Faustus and Jekyll the reader is able to infer that pleasure is a temptation that one must resist in order to find eternal salvation, even at the expense of short term happiness.
A Complex Character Of Dr Faustus
‘Dr Faustus is a complex character, at times his arrogance is overwhelming and at others we admire his courage but then we are moved to pity him’ – Examine how and why a critic might justify this view of Marlowe’s protagonist with reference to both modern and contemporary views.
Christopher Marlowe lived in Elizabethan England, a period firmly controlled by religion – as Queen Elizabeth I was Protestant, after her father, her country was also, and Catholicism was not permitted. To a sixteenth century audience, the prospect of dark magic or renouncing God would have been the most terrifying thing possible, as unlike today it was faith which shaped their everyday lives. Today, with a massive number of atheists and five very different main religions, it has lost much of the frightening effect it would have had on a contemporary viewer.
The first aspect of Faustus which Marlowe portrays is his overwhelming arrogance. This is seen immediately in his opening soliloquy, where he dismisses four areas of study in order to justify the dark arts to himself. Often he refers to himself in the third person, which adds to this opinion of the character, and he begins by claiming he has mastered philosophy simply by studying ‘Aristotle’s works’. Faustus continues to reject each area in turn, believing as he had studied the greatest minds of each that he has learnt all there is, or that law is ‘too servile and illiberal’ and he can only better in medicine by ‘[making] man live eternally’. Here his hubristic nature shines through, though a contemporary audience would first hear of his arrogance in the chorus. He was born ’base of stock’ yet rose and was ‘graced with doctor’s name’. In the sixteenth century, the Great Chain of Being was believed: a strict religious hierarchy set by God encompassing everything in the living world, stating each position in order. It was thought the nobility were chosen by God, as were the lowest men, and that one should not try and better their position in this chain (a view entirely contradicted by modern attitudes). The fact that Faustus has risen far above his rightful rank would instantly hint of his hubris.
Although this arrogance is prominent throughout the entire play, there are also scenes which could be interpreted as bravery on Faustus’ part. In Scene Three, upon summoning Mephastophilis, Faustus cried ‘I charge thee to return and change thy shape’. The prospect of a devil should have terrified anyone in that period (the audience would certainly have been scared) yet he commands Mephastophilis and seems unperturbed by this apparition. On one hand it suggests foolishness, on the other it commends bravery. Be the audience modern or not, the appearance of a devil would cause fear, but Faustus goes as far as to insult him: ‘thou art too ugly to attend on me’. This commanding attitude links to both his hubris and his bravery, through use of his imperative verbs, such as ‘charge’ which he repeats throughout the play. Originally, the thought of turning against God shows the same senseless bravery. People of the time were God-fearing, the thought of eternal damnation to hell was the worst possible fate, nonetheless Faustus dismisses ‘this be hell, I’ll willingly be damned here’ and ponders little on endless torment. He constantly defies God, asking ‘what god can hurt thee, Faustus?’ He turns against the most powerful force with hardly any contemplation, proving that despite being blindly arrogant, he is also a man of bravery.
Finally, there are moments where the audience could pity Faustus. These are intentionally rare, as the idea of a morality play is that those watching learn from the protagonist’s mistakes and do not follow a similar path. If they sympathised with Faustus then the effect would be lost. Instead, right from the beginning, they are taught that he is hubristic and he brings about his own destruction, despite many opportunities to repent. However, there are areas where the human side of Faustus is glimpsed and it is at these rare intervals that it is possible to pity him. One key example is when Faustus truly comprehends the trade he has made, in Scene Seven (A text) where he tells himself ‘think, Faustus, upon God’ and sends his devil away – ‘tis thou hast damned distressed Faustus’ soul: is’t not too late?’ He shows regret and realisation of his wrongs, which allow the audience to pity him, for he has finally seen the errors he had made. Marlowe allows a brief moment for Faustus to be confused and desperate to repent, calling out to Christ ‘to save distressed Faustus’ soul’. As he looks to godly powers and not to Satan’s, a contemporary audience would permit him a little sympathy for he once again searches for the righteous path. A modern audience would no doubt pity the fear and desperation also, especially when Lucifer appears to him in his ‘terrible’ form. However, like all moments to pity the protagonist, it is brief and soon swallowed by his sinful lust for power, reminding the audience not to sympathise by use of his speech on ‘[burning] his scriptures’ and ‘[slaying] his ministers’.
In conclusion, although there are moments in the play where we are moved to pity him, these are few and extremely brief, as they would contradict the teaching Marlowe intended. However, they would be more prominent to a modern audience who would not necessarily find the thought of turning away from God so impossibly terrifying (living in a world permitting atheism, which Elizabethan England would not). These aforementioned scenes of bravery could also be interpreted as arrogance, yet apparitions of devils should frighten most. The fact that Faustus shows no sign of fear, commands and makes demands of Mephastophilis is bravery in itself, even if driven by foolishness or arrogance. Finally, in Faustus’ complex character, his hubristic nature is his boldest trait. From his use of third person, to his claimed mastery of all the arts, to naming himself ‘conjuror laureate’ on his first attempt of summoning, Marlowe’s protagonist is overwhelmingly arrogant. Whether for more contemporary views such as the Great Chain of Being, or his self-conceit apparent to all, this character was created to serve a purpose for which hubris had to be his most defining feature. Faustus exists to warn the audience of the sin of pride. So to encompass each of these points in both the eyes of a modern and contemporary viewer, Faustus is unquestionably a complex character.
A Question Of Knowledge in Doctor Faustus
In the play Doctor Faustus, the main character deals with a desire to contain more knowledge– it drives him to the need of repenting. Throughout the play he battles with his thoughts to do so. Marlowe is trying to show through the play if the quest of knowledge hints unalterably to God, Faustus, a non-spiritual man, can only go down in despair.
Just before the devils take the quintessential Renaissance man, Doctor Faustus to hell, he recites this detailed speech. This passage lacks rhyming words, but is rich in imagery. The progressions of ideas are rich in emotion. The speech contributes to the play because we finally witness raw emotion and pleading for a life. Earlier, we get an egotistical yet non confident man who battles with himself. Faustus realizes he has one hour left to live, and he must say what is on his mind before he is taken away. He describes the scene, believing the clock will “strike” at eleven as his time comes to an end. When he says “O I’ll leap up to my God!” “Who pulls me down?”( 13.57.9) He is pleading with God to save him. He asks him to bring down his time in hell to a thousand years or a hundred thousand years.
According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the noun firmament means the arch or vault of heaven overhead, in which the clouds and the stars appear, the sky or heavens. In modern use, it is used only in poetry or rhetorical. The implication of the word stems from the book Genesis, where God created the firmament to help separate the source of rain from the underworld. It describes the importance of Christ’s blood to Faustus, as he sees it with the firmament. The word firmament in the speech tells that Doctor Faustus can feel Christ’s blood- it is close to him. He believes Christ’s blood will save him, and that is essential to the play. Yet, there is a force that stops it from happening. The firmament is his salvation, his last resort of “repenting.”
He believes with Christ’s blood, he can be saved- his chance of repenting can appear. He pleads with Lucifer to spare him. The stars to him have guided him in his life and lead him to his demise. His constant yearning to advance has caused him to make reckless decisions. This brings us to his ending line: “Ugly hell gape not! Come not, Lucifer! / I’ll burn my books—ah,
Mephastophilis! (13.57–113) “I’ll burn my books,” shows that his desire for gaining limitless knowledge was what caused him to make the pact with Lucifer. This was the quintessential spirit that began during the renaissance period but looked down upon the “evil” idea of pride.
We can get a sense of the drama and heartache from Doctor Faustus, due to Marlowe’s rhetorical sophisticated writing. He rambles, desperately trying to find a way out of the mess he made. He realizes at this line that he cannot escape: “No, Faustus, curse thy self, curse Lucifer, / That hath deprived thee of the joys of heaven.” (13.57.110)This passage seems to be about the mistake Dr. Faustus has made on one level. One can question why Doctor Faustus did not repent earlier: Why is this the first time he is seeking a way out? When it is certainly too late? His cries to Christ go ignored- if this were a true Christian play, Faustus could have repented at any time. While this play is deemed a “Christian tragedy” he still could not repent. But as he is being carried off to hell, he decides he must give in to the Christian view if he wants to save himself. But now, still being alive, he is damned. Can we conclude that there were signs in which Christ told Faustus not to repent?
Mid speech we get a detailed description of how his body is being carried off to “heaven.” “My limbs may issue from your smoky mouths, so that my soul may but ascend to heaven.” (13.57.104)One can tell he is asking for care, perhaps an easy treatment when he leaves. If God does not have mercy on his soul, than he would prefer to live in hell for a thousand years. On another level, however, it seems to be about man’s battle with himself. If a person is truly not happy in their own skin, and don’t possess the crazy desire to be the “best,” they will suffer. They will suffer just like Doctor Faustus. Doctor Faustus was so caught up with wanting “more” out of life and the limitations of human knowledge that he lost what was truly important. He didn’t appreciate what he already knew- his greed and excessive pride ultimately killed him.
The reader wonders if Faustus has learned his lesson. One minute he is pleading for time to slow down, and the next asking Christ for leniency. He makes himself believe that hell is not so bad or it does not exist. While the gates of hell or firmament are opening, he cannot fathom the idea that his conscience has played him. Marlowe insinuates that Faustus’s self-delusion endures even during his emotional last speech. Being too involved with Lucifer has made him come to the realization he will never be able to break free from it all. While he is remorseful, he realizes his chance of repenting is impossible.
The play, Doctor Faustus, by Marlowe shows the emotional battle the character has with oneself. He cannot believe that he desire for knowledge could drive him to despondency. While he seems unspiritual at first, the image of firmament and Christ’s blood shows how in times of desperation one may turn to spiritual guidance for salvation.
Blame and Responsibility in ‘Paradise Lost’ and ‘Doctor Faustus’
Throughout both ‘Paradise Lost’ and ‘Doctor Faustus,’ the authors draw upon the ideas of responsibility, free will, and blame. Marlowe, in ‘Doctor Faustus’, melds the conventional religious ideology of the Middle Ages with the comparatively new Renaissance and Reformation thought, thus creating an effective contrast and an element of ambiguity in who exactly causes the fall of the protagonist: is it Faustus’s pride, Mephistopheles or God? Milton’s ‘Paradise Lost,’ by comparison, draws upon the radicalism of the English Republic and Old Testament fables to present the enigmatic question of who is at fault for the fall of man; some critics go so far as to suggest Milton believes God is to blame because he gave Adam and Eve free will. In the words of Milton’s, almost human, Satan: “Whom hast thou then or what to accuse, / But heaven’s free love dealt equally to all? / Be then his love accursed, since love or hate, / To me alike, it deals eternal woe.” This self-questioning embodies the enigmatic inference, morality and theology employed by Milton in his masterpiece. From the beginning, through his utilisation of the classical chorus, Marlowe takes inspiration from the earlier Medieval ‘Mummings’ and morality plays in his use of almost overly poetic, bardesque, imagery: “His waxen wings did mount above his reach,/And melting heavens conspired his overthrow.” An assertion such as this only adds to the ambiguity of blame in ‘Doctor Faustus’: the first line of the excerpt clearly indicates an active attempt by Faustus to “mount above his reach”; however, a contradiction then takes place, with an Old Testament image of a “conspiring” and vengeful God being drawn. Also, even in quotations as short as that above, the audience is confronted with a wholly contemporary idea: in the plays of the early and late Tudor period, theatre was used as a powerful propaganda tool against the ‘Machiavellian’ Papacy’s waning influence over English and religious affairs. In excerpts such as the above, Marlowe, contemporary references aside, engenders confusion: why does God “conspire” against Faustus? The playwright offers an explanation of sorts in sentiments such as: “Be a physician, Faustus; heap up gold.” Greed such as this is highly reminiscent of Chaucer’s ‘The Pardoner’s Tale’, with the character of the Olde Man, an entity borrowed by Marlowe later in the play, resembling Faustus in this instance: “Thus seyde this olde man; And everich of thise riotoures ran/Til he cam to that tree, and ther they founde/Of floryns fyne of gold ycoyned rounde.” However, although this similarity lessens the moral status of Marlowe’s protagonist, it is only a temporary lessening: “Yet art thou still but Faustus, and a man.” Such St. Antonian humility, through seemingly heartfelt assertion, again has the effect of incurring a sense of confusion within the audience: surely a man as learned as Faustus cannot be capable of such immoral behaviour, of devil affiliation and of self-destruction? In fact, it is exactly the ‘new-learning’ of Faustus which leads him into the pact with Mephistopheles: “What God can hurt thee, Faustus? Thou art safe” proves to be almost the exact sentiments and ‘delusions’ which Satan utters in his tempting of Eve in ‘Paradise Lost’, the latter of whom musing: “What fear I then, rather what know to fear/Under this ignorance of good and evil/ Of God or death, of law or penalty?” Therefore both authors, in these instances, present the fall of both Eve and Faustus as being born of ignorance, exacerbated by the figures of Satan and Mephistopheles accordingly: so-called ‘Aristotelian Epideictic’. Milton’s ‘Paradise Lost’, on the other hand, contains more entities to which the blame of death entering the world can be attributed: Adam, Eve, God and Satan. The most obvious scapegoat, however, comes in the form of the first woman, Eve: “Forth reaching to the fruit she plucked, she eat:/Earth felt the wound.” This one momentous act, both in the context of religion and literature, is, in the short term, undeniably the fault of the vanity and malleability of Eve. In terms of the long term, Milton offers clues to a ‘chain of events’, with God and Satan at the heart, which led to the fall, an idea which is given credence by the structure of the work: “Back to the thicket slunk/The guilty serpent.” This seemingly insignificant passing incrimination holds vast philosophical meaning: what does Milton mean by “guilty”? It is exactly this that adds to the potency of the poet’s work: the mere fact that he wished to convey such a difficult argument in such simplistic terms adds to its emphasis and importance. Excerpts like the one above, in the words of one critic, “show that Milton does not care about who exactly is to blame nor about whether the reader understands…only about how to present the riddle of conveying this complexity without answering it.” This being said, Milton does graft an element of fault upon Satan through his apostrophe: “O much deceived, much failing, hapless Eve,/Of thy presumed return! Event perverse!” This dramatic technique, originally designed to reveal hidden emotion to the audience, was common at the time, for example, in Shakespeare’s ‘Macbeth’: “Art thou not, fatal vision, sensible/To feelings as to sight? Or art thou but/A dagger of the mind, a false creation/Proceeding from the heat oppresséd brain?” Thus, if the original intention of apostrophe is to be taken into account, most blame can readily be placed on Satan: an idea possessed by many critics of ‘Paradise Lost’, with good reason when extracts like the following are analysed: “[Satan] towards the new-created World/ . . . with purpose to assay/ . . . or worse,/ By some false guile pervert — and shall pervert;/ For Man will hearken to his glozing lies,/ And easily transgress . . . Sole pledge of his obedience.” The presentation of Lucifer as having such malicious intent, “purpose to assay”, is difficult to ignore. Certainly a case can be made that the aforementioned Is ‘to blame’ for what happens in the work. In the words of Martin Luther, whose theology is prevalent in the puritan elements of ‘Paradise Lost’: “For where God built a church, there the Devil would also build a chapel.” This philosophical statement runs in a rich vein through Milton’s presentation of “the arch-Fiend”: “O Earth! How like to Heav’n if not preferred/More justly, set worthier of gods as built/With second thoughts reforming what was old!” This attribution of human jealousy to Satan renders him, if anything, more to blame, for he, like his victims, seemingly possesses the gift of freewill: an idea which inevitably draws the role of God into the fore. It was perceived by both John Milton and Christopher Marlowe that the word of God was law and, therefore, He conceivably can do no wrong: God is thus not presented as being wholly responsible in either works, because, ultimately, to do so would have been declared as heresy, or, in Milton’s case, non-Puritanism or ‘anti-Republicanism’. In the words of Nikolai Gogol: “It is no use to blame the looking glass if your face is awry.”In conclusion, it is clear that the way the two authors allowed themselves to express and explore the idea of blame was very much restricted by the boundaries of contemporary ideals and theology. Despite the real attempt by both to toy with this most complex of ideas, neither reaches a conclusion about who to place the blame on. This ambiguity is intentional; sometimes the use of thoughtful techniques, references and inferences to explore a question is more important – and makes for a more successful work – than coming to a forced conclusion.
Faustus: Alone Among Men
Christopher Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus presents a protagonist who sells his soul to the devil for god-like knowledge and power. The tension in Faustus surfaces from the protagonist’s self-damnation, for he is constantly reminded and aware of his numerous avenues to salvation. His fundamental tragedy is that he refuses his humanity. He convinces himself that, by refuting his personhood and selling his soul to the devil, he can become all knowing. Though he gains the magic promised him by the devil, he slowly becomes aware that he is now void of identity altogether. Faustus does not become less human because he has become a god; rather, he becomes less human only in that he denies his place in humanity. He removes himself from the community of man in favor of a commune of soullessness and debauchery. In fact, if conceit and foolishness are what bring about Faustus’ tragic fall, it is the forsaking of his own God-given human soul that enables the fruition of such conceit and foolishness in the first place. Without his humanity and faith to give his life meaning, Faustus is left without purpose for existence, turning to the pleasures of magic and art as substitutes for his lost personhood.In the Prologue, the Chorus explains that pride leads Faustus to discount his theology and turn to magic. Faustus’ life of fruitful scholarship has enriched him with knowledge: “Excelling all whose sweet delight disputes / In heavenly matters of theology” (18-9). Yet, Faustus finds no contentment with his studies. Though he might “heap up gold, / And be eternized for some wondrous cure” as a physician, such prospects fail to appeal to him (1.1.14-5). He says:Yet art thou still but Faustus, and a man.Wouldst thou make man to live eternally,Or, being dead, raise them to life again,Then this profession were to be esteemed. (1.1.23-6)His discontent is that he is only “a man,” bound by the laws of Earth and limited by his finite existence. His mistake, of course, is that he ignores his theology, which tells him that man’s most profound spiritual needs are answered only in Communion with God, be they knowledge of man’s origins or the miracle to, as Faustus says, “raise [the dead] to life again.” There exists, then, a division in Faustus. On the one side are the desires for knowledge present in all men. On the other side of the division lie the means by which he might gratify those desires: acceptance of his humanity and participation in God’s plan. The wall that separates these parts is constructed of his pride and foolishness.This dissection becomes more apparent when Faustus continues expressing his restlessness and desire:Ay, we must die an everlasting death.What doctrine you call this? Ché será, será,“What will be, shall be”? Divinity, adieu!These metaphysics of magiciansAnd necromantic books are heavenly,[…] Oh, what a world of profit and delight,Of power, of honor, of omnipotenceIs promised to the studious artisan!All things that move between the quiet polesShall be at my command. (1.1.48-59)This may be viewed as the exact moment Faustus refutes his faith and turns to the false promises of magic. He arrives at the conclusion that all men are fated to die by ignoring the most important tenet of his former faith–that the gift of Communion with God is everlasting life. Further, he speaks of commanding all things “that move between the quiet poles,” a hope borne from his belief that the “metaphysics of magicians / And necromantic books are heavenly.” If the books of magicians are “heavenly,” it is still impossible for those texts to be more heavenly than the gospels with which Faustus is aware. Moreover, had Faustus not denied his proper place among men, he would already be in possession of all “that move[s] between the quiet poles,” for God has granted man dominion over those earthly things. Again, it is denial of his personhood, of his place in relation to other men and God, that precedes his downfall. Once he denies God’s charity and chooses covenant with Mephistopheles instead, Faustus’ hunger for knowledge does not, as Faustus hoped, become satiated. He asks Mephistopheles a series of questions about hell and the universe, until eventually, frustrated with half-answers, he sighs, “Well, I am answered” (2.3.66). Faustus’ frustration becomes apparent:Faustus: “[…] Tell me who made the world.”Mephistopheles: “I will not.”“Sweet Mephistopheles, tell me.”“Move me not, for I will not tell thee.”“Villain, have I not bound thee to tell me anything?”“Ay, that is not against our kingdom, but thisis. Think thou on hell, Faustus, for thou art damned.”“Think, Faustus, upon God, that made the world.” (2.3.66-73)The reason, of course, that Mephistopheles cannot answer the most important questions of the universe is that the answers have meaning only with reference and respect to the human condition, as well as reverence for the purview of God. True answers to Faustus’ questions require Mephistopheles to admit that the truth lies with God, not in black magic. Faustus’ theology informs him of this fact, as he laments, “Think Faustus, upon God, that made the world.” Again, it is his pride that subdues his instinctive faith, preventing him from renouncing his devilish pact and restoring his place among men. However, this is not to say that Faustus does not have moments of doubt. On the contrary, Faustus’ instinctive faith surfaces many times throughout the span of the play. He hungers for something to compensate the loss of his spirit, and in Faustus’ most doubtful moments (moments of hope for the audience), Mephistopheles is there, offering trivial distractions and a momentary fix. As Faustus considers the Good Angel’s promise that it is “Never too late, if Faustus can repent,” Lucifer intercedes with a fanciful show of the Seven Deadly Sins (2.3.79). Though meant as a satirical distraction, their words are significant to understanding the importance of Faustus’ denunciation of his humanity:I am pride. I disdain to have any parents. […]I am covetousness, begotten of an old churl inan old leathern bag. […]I am Wrath. I had neither father nor mother. […]I am envy, begotten of a chimney sweeper and anoyster-wife. […]I am gluttony. My parents are all dead. […]I am Sloth. I was begotten on a sunny bank. (2.3.110-51)Though each sin exhibits its own individual characteristics, all of the sins share one critical attribute: each sin either has no parents or is illegitimate. They are all like Faustus in that they have been disinherited; they have either been cut off from or rebelled against their patronage. If Faustus is guilty of each of these sins at some point in the duration of his twenty-four-year covenant with the devil, then this passage suggests the cause of such sin. Faustus, in an attempt to be alone among men as a god, has found himself simply alone. Without faith in the human condition, Faustus is truly lost.Indeed, the scene with the Seven Deadly Sins marks a significant transition point in Faustus. The Sins represent the end result of lost personhood, and now, we are to see Faustus’ journey through such self-hell. Void of spiritual sustenance, he turns to sin to satisfy his hunger pains. Each event demonstrates the extent of Faustus’ loss. At the beginning of Act 3, Wagner says:Learnéd Faustus,To know the secrets of astronomyGraven in the book of Jove’s high firmament,Did mount himself to scale Olympus’ top,Being seated in a chariot burning brightDrawn by the strength of yoky dragons’ necks.He now is gone to prove cosmography,And, as I guess, will first arrive at RomeTo see the Pope and manner of his courtAnd take some part of holy Peter’s feastThat to this day is highly solemnized. (3.0.1-11)Though he has “scale[d] Olympus’ top,” the wonders of the universe fail to satisfy Faustus for very long; one must value one’s own place in the universe before the grandeur of that universe might ever be appreciated. Even before Faustus has sufficient time to rest, he wishes to go on another–probably pointless–journey. He and Mephistopheles go to “see the Pope and manner of his court / And take some part of holy Peter’s feast.” Faustus can only take “some” part of the feast because he has denied himself Communion with God. He turns, instead, to childish pranks to aggravate the Pope, who implores his Friars to “prepare a dirge to lay the fury of / this ghost” (3.1.75-6). Perhaps, for the first time since his introduction, we are now meant to see Faustus truly as a devil. He has completely forsaken his identity as a man, only to gain nothing and be left with his lesser demons and sins.It is telling that, even in moments of greatest effort, Faustus is unable to fulfill the most menial of his wishes. Nothing he can conjure is real or substantial. At the court of the Emperor, Faustus is asked to raise Alexander the Great and his paramour. Faustus replies:But if it like Your Grace, it is not in my ability to pre-sent before your eyes the true substantial bodies of those two deceased princes, which long since are consumed to dust. (4.1.45-7)He cannot raise the “substantial bodies” of the deceased princes, only their apparitions. After Faustus sells his conjured horse to the Courser, the Courser returns to Faustus:[…] I, like a venturous youth, ridhim into the deep pond at the town’s end. I was no soonerin the middle of the pond but my horse vanished away andI sat upon a bottle of hay. (4.1.146-9)The horse Faustus conjured is unreal and cannot even traverse water; the baptism was too much for Faustus’ regressing powers. The horse is unreal. Alexander is unreal. Even Faustus himself is becoming unreal, for the Horse-Courser pulls off one of Faustus’ legs. He has bargained away his real soul for something not very real at all.Faustus’ sin is at its peak in Act 5, as he foolishly tries to stave the void in his soul. The Old Man, strong in his conviction, once more attempts to save Faustus:Old Man: “Ah, stay, good Faustus, stay thy desperate steps!I see an angel hovers o’er thy head,And with a vial full of precious graceOffers to pour the same into thy soul. Then call for mercy and avoid despair.”Faustus: “Ah, my sweet friend, I feel thy wordsTo comfort my distressed soul.Leave me awhile to ponder on my sins.” (5.1.52-9)Despite this apparent hesitation, Faustus is too far gone. The minute Mephistopheles reacts (“Thou traitor, Faustus, I arrest thy soul.” 66), Faustus immediately rejects the notion of a “sweet friend” who might genuinely care to comfort his “distressed soul.” He begs Mephistopheles:Torment, sweet friend, that base and crooked ageThat durst dissuade me from thy Lucifer,With greatest torments that our hell affords. (5.1.75-7)Faustus wishes punishment for he who truly loves him; he is, at last, at the furthest possible point from salvation. He is now completely dominated by his soullessness, wishing only to avoid pain, having given up on hopes to gain knowledge and crying for Mephistopheles to grant him Helen in order to “glut the longing of [his] heart’s desire” (5.1.82).In the final scene, Faustus cries out, “Be changed into little waterdrops, / And fall into the ocean, ne’er be found” (5.2.115)! He, in his last moments, wishes to escape what he has become. He is not at all repentant, nor is he sorry. He simply wishes his identity vanished, a dramatically fitting conclusion for a man whose tragedy is rejecting his God-given identity in the first place. Rather than accept his humanity as a divine gift, he shrugged it as a burden. Faustus wished to be alone among men as a god. In the end, he was simply alone.Works CitedMarlowe, Christopher. “Doctor Faustus.” English Renaissance Drama: A Norton Anthology. Eds. David Bevington, et al. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2002. 250-85.
Ending in Renaissance Tragedy
Among the various definitions of tragedy, the one most commonly proffered is: a play that treats – at the most uncompromising level – human suffering, or pathos, with death being the usual conclusion. According to Aristotle’s Poetics, the purpose of tragedy is to show how humans are at the mercy of fate, and to cleanse the audience by provoking extreme emotions of pity and terror. The tragic actions on the dramatic stage cause the audience to experience these extreme feelings that eventually causes a catharsis or release of these emotions, to reduce these passions to a healthy, balanced proportion. However, the application of this definition to Renaissance tragedy is limited as it makes two over-reaching assumptions about the play, its protagonists and the audience. First, that the death of all protagonists contributing towards the drama is tragic to an equal degree, which prompts an equal level of catharsis in the audience. Does the self-purchased death of one simultaneously learned and overly ambitious Faustus solicit the same amount of catharsis and empathy as do the ‘unnecessary’ deaths of Cordelia, Gloucester, Lear, the Duke of Castile, Horatio, and Isabel among a host of other innocent characters whose corpses litter the sets of King Lear and The Spanish Tragedy? One is left with a terrifying uncertainty – although the iniquitous die, the good die along with them. Second, and perhaps most significant, that catharsis would pour forth in the audience if the play’s dÃ©nouement – meaningful or not – contains fatal twists, surprise deaths and wide-scale massacre. Or in other words, though the play may itself may have physically ended, the repercussions of the deaths, its implied message on human fate and deeper unresolved, psychological issues that had plagued the protagonists’ minds continue to trouble audiences long after they have left the theatres. The deaths of Lear and Cordelia in King Lear confront us like a raw, fresh wound when our every instinct calls for healing and reconciliation. This problem, moreover, is as much one of philosophic order as of dramatic effect. In what sort of universe, we ask ourselves, can wasteful death follow suffering and torture? If characters such as Lear, Gloucester, and Edmund all go through a process of awakening, why then do they die? Even Iago, despite all his evil machinations, lives on to bear the fruit of his crimes. In other Shakespearean tragedies, such as Othello and Hamlet, the play ends with the reconciliation of the tragic hero and society. When Othello pleads “Speak of me as I am. Nothing extenuate, /Nor set down aught in malice,” like Hamlet and Cleopatra he seeks immortality in his reputation and in his story. It is a final attempt to reconcile himself with society and his misdeeds, moments before he stabs himself. In Romeo and Juliet, there is a feeling of hope in the final scene because the Houses of Montague and Capulet are finally at peace with each other, and will erect monuments in remembrance of the two lovers. Peace and understanding is gained from the tragedy. But in The Spanish Tragedy the only monument we see is that of a pile of dead bodies slumped behind a curtain. It is difficult at the end, for the audience to feel whether anything has been gained other than a sense of remorse and misery.In a Christian framework, even the worst deed can be forgiven through the redemptive power of Christ. Thus, however terrible Faustus’ pact with Lucifer may be, the possibility of redemption is always open to him. But each time the play offers moments in which Faustus can choose to repent, he decides to remain loyal to Lucifer rather than seek heaven. “Christ did call the thief upon the cross,” he comforts himself, referring to the New Testament story of the thief who was crucified alongside Jesus Christ, repented for his sins, and was promised a place in paradise. That he compares himself to this figure shows that Faustus assumes he can wait until the last moment and still escape hell. In other words, he wants to renounce Mephistopheles, but not just yet. One can easily anticipate that his willingness to delay will prove fatal. Only at the end of his life does Faustus desire to repent, and, in the final scene, he cries out to Christ to redeem him. But it is too late for him to repent. In creating this moment in which Faustus is still alive but incapable of being redeemed, Marlowe steps outside the Christian worldview in order to maximize the dramatic power of the final scene. Having inhabited a Christian world for the entire play, Faustus spends his final moments in a slightly different universe, where redemption is no longer possible and where certain sins can no longer be forgiven.The effect of inhabiting such an unforgiving universe before his death is however ameliorated in later versions of the text. The ending of the Doctor Faustus B text is vastly different to that of the A text. The latter simply ends with Faustus being dragged away by the devils, and a summarising epilogue. Nothing is revealed to the audience of what eventually becomes of his body. The B Text however is slightly more re-assuring. Despite his self-aggrandisement, wavering, “hair-splitting, and sophomoric misquotations of the Scriptures,” Faustus gets a sympathetic ear to listen to his agonized confession of his pact with Lucifer, and subsequently “a due burial” from the scholars. His scattered limbs are gathered by the scholars, who promise him a burial in accordance with Christian rights, “though Faustus’ end be such.” Unlike Don Andreas in The Spanish Tragedy, proper burial rites will buy Faustus a ride in Charon’s boat across the Styx to Hades. King Lear’s death, in comparison, breaks all dramatic conventions. It is perhaps one of the few tragedies in which the tragic hero dies irreconciled and indifferent to society. The last two acts of King Lear are constructed with a series of advances and repudiations of visions of hope. By choosing to set King Lear in a pre-Christian era, markedly before Christ’s redemption, Shakespeare does not allow one the comfort of knowing that all evil, however bad, can be overcome. Nature seems to be mocking Edgar’s confidence in justice, when he sees his brutally blinded father immediately after claiming that “the worst is not / So long as we can say ‘this is the worst.” In Hamlet, a play equally wrenched by a self-consuming family quarrel, Horatio bears witness to the ensuing tragedy. In the closing scene, he volunteers to go outside and narrate to the world the misfortunes that have befallen this once noble family. He will reveal all the “carnal, bloody, and unnatural acts” as well as the “accidental judgements” and “casual slaughters” so that men may learn from their mistakes. Hamlet’s audience is thus awarded with some release after this gut-wrenching tragedy. The world will be informed that Hamlet was a just man. But what will the world think of Lear? Albeit a symbolic act, no one will tell his story, and in a way, purge oneself of further adversity. Hence, a strong sense of guilt and remorse, what in truth ought to have been the burden of the remaining characters, is instead passed onto the audience to bear.But that does not seem to be happening in King Lear, The Spanish Tragedy or Doctor Faustus. Not one steps forward to offer any words of closure or perhaps a glimpse of optimism. Kyd’s decision to literally give Revenge the last word in his play reflects the thematic message of the final scenes of The Spanish Tragedy: revenge does have the last word, crowding out mercy and all other human emotions, seeking its inexorable satisfaction in an overdose bloodshed and violence. The final scene implies that Hieronimo’s action serves as the fulfillment of justice, but the blood, waste, and carnage of the penultimate scene works against this presumption, seeming to deny the possibility of justice in a world where the machinations of class and power determine the course of men’s lives.In King Lear, Edgar simply offers, “Speak what we feel, not what we ought to say.” Though sensible, his comment is untimely for indeed had this maxim been observed by everyone and not just by Cordelia and Kent, perhaps the tragedy could have been averted. It is perhaps for these reasons that Tolstoy refers to the plot of King Lear to be “stupid, verbose, unnatural, unintelligible, bombastic, vulgar, tedious, and full of incredible events, ‘wild ravings’, ‘mirthless jokes’, anachronisms, irrelevancies, obscenities, worn-out stage conventions and other faults both moral and aesthetic. ” This could well have been a view shared by Nahum Tate which made him revert closer to Shakespeare’s sources, in terms of the dÃ©nouement.Texts such as Holinshed’s Chronicles, which Shakespeare had at his elbow when he wrote his history-plays, end in the reconciliation of a father whom submits his daughters to a ‘love-test’. Shakespeare’s choice therefore, to end the play in such ghoulish bloodshed can be seen as a clear attempt to point out the weakness of humankind, and the evil it is capable of. In King Lear, Shakespeare does not merely adapt his sources, he consciously makes a violent and shocking alteration to them. He converts the folk-tales of medieval literature into a more complex account, where everything is obfuscated and questionable, in a manner similar to the dÃ©nouement itself. (Hieronimo is at least partly aware, and quick to exploit the inability of audiences to comprehend such large-scale tragedies when he chooses to perform his play in a medley of foreign languages, the effect of which Balthazar rightly notes, “…this will be a mere confusion/ And hardly shall we be all understood.” )The deaths in Hamlet are curiously unrelated to the demands of the Ghost. And the latter, unlike tradition, does not return to haunt the stage at the end to revel in the deaths not in the dubiously-gained revenge. Hamlet’s decision not to kill Claudius is indeed a thoughtful mistake, a missed opportunity that would not only have ended the play in less than half the time, preventing the deaths of so many people, but would have also earned him his revenge rightfully. While Hieronimo proceeds to his last rendezvous in as an agent of death in a deliberate manner (“And princes, now behold Hieronimo, /Author and actor in this tragedy.”). Hamlet almost stumbles on his final best chance to kill Claudius as a consequence of a duel with Laertes and various plots of poison that he knew nothing of previously, so that his final act of killing is almost knee-jerk and prompted by self-defence rather than planned strategy. Unlike in Hamlet, in The Spanish Tragedy the choric Don Andreas is quick to take centre-stage and revel in the carnage. With only the promise of an afterlife presided over by Pluto and Proserpina, the dÃ©nouement has nakedly pagan overtones and no sign of completeness. Not only was Don Andreas able to destroy the lives of his enemies while they were living, but also after they are dead. In a frenzy of blood-lust, he demands and gets the authority to provide everlasting judgement for his rivals. Here, there is no end to the incessant pain – the revenge, and therefore the play, continues to perpetuity. Lorenzo has been confined eternally on Ixion’s wheel; Castile is to have his liver perpetually torn at by vultures, and Balthazar is to be hung about Chimaera’s neck.Hieronimo acknowledges the tragedian’s ‘faked endings’ when he notes:To die today, for fashioning our scene,The death of Ajax, or some Roman peer,And in a minute starting up again,Revive to please tomorrow’s audience. While a tragedy suggests a certain irreversible finality in the catastrophic events of the play – an irrevocability that is integral to the audience feeling the catharsis – at the end of the day, it is simply and subversively, a play. Dead actors rise up once more, wipe off the pig’s blood, and reappear on stage again the following day. In real terms, for the audience, it perhaps wasn’t such a ‘tragic end’ after all.Many critics have not just disapproved of the deaths of Lear and Cordelia, but have also expressed concerns with the implausibility in the plot. Among the host of ‘dramatic defects’ that Bradley points out in King Lear, the one that remains the most jarring of them all is Edmund’s long delay in telling of his ‘writ’ on the lives of Cordelia and Lear even after he is mortally wounded and has nothing to gain. Stemming from it is yet the biggest war on the senses. Albany’s most unbelievable forgetfulness (“Great thing of us forgot”) is widely seen by critics as the greatest injustice in the play. For the “loving son of Albany” (who is soon also to take up the rein of power in Britain) to overlook, albeit in the midst of Goneril and Regan’s deaths, the safety of the unwell King and Cordelia, is inexplicable. If we are to remind ourselves of Albany’s prior knowledge of Edmund’s diabolical capabilities and the latter’s arrest “on capital treason,” then to suggest that Albany did not suspect Lear and Cordelia’s lives to be in danger, makes his forgetfulness seem even more implausible. Renaissance dramatists explore the limits of human justice and leave us with doubts about any other form of justice. One may feel that the dÃ©nouements with their varying degrees of penalties are not quite fair, even though all sinners have been punished. Goneril, Regan, Balthazar, Lorenzo and their collaborators are as dead as Macbeth or Richard III, but so are Cordelia and Bel-imperia, and with them, innocence and hope for the future. No number of slain villains can alleviate the accumulated devastation. Perhaps Horatio’s fate ought to have been better than that of a low-life such as Pedringano, and perhaps Goneril and Regan ought to have remained alive in order to witness a happy reunion between Lear and Cordelia. In illustrating this unpredictable hand of justice, both human and divine, the dramatists illustrate the worst features of mankind at work, and in doing so, invite one to react and remain uncomfortable towards any suggestion of a resolution.BIBLIOGRAPHY: Bevington, D. and Rasmussen, E.: Introduction to the OUP edition of Christopher Marlowe: Doctor Faustus and Other Plays Bevington, D: Introduction to the MUP edition of The Spanish Tragedy Bradbrook, M.C.; Themes and Conventions of Elizabethan Tragedy Bradley, A.C.; Shakespearean Tragedy Foakes, R.A.; Introduction to the Arden Shakespeare Edition of King Lear Mack, Maynard; Actors and Redactors (1965) Mangan, Michael; A preface to Shakespeare’s Tragedies Orwell, George; Lear, Tolstoy and the Fool (1950) Stampfer, J.C; The Catharsis of King Lear
The Problem of Evil In Doctor Faustus
The traditional Christian message Christopher Marlowe was working with during the time he wrote Doctor Faustus stated that one should avoid leading a life of temptation and sin, the origins of which were rooted in an enterprising proprietor of evil generally referred to as the Devil. But if one does succumb to these debasements, atonement is always possible so long as the person is alive. Faustus serves as a representative of the common man, or at least a type of common man: he is a knowledgeable seeker of knowledge; the knowledge at his disposal is not enough to satisfy him. Faustus is described as a character with ‘cunning of a self-conceit’ whose ‘waxen wings did mount above his reach’ [Prologue, Line 19]. Indeed, passionate Icarus is an ideal foil for the tragic Faustus. Icarus embodies the idea of inventiveness gone wrong, of humans who push the limits of human knowledge and attempt a compatibility with the godly that cannot be reached. Though warned by his father Daedalus not to fly too close to the sun because it would melt his wings, and not to fly too close to the sea because it would dampen them and make it difficult to fly, Icarus’s exhilaration with the feat of flying provoked him to cross boundaries he wasn’t meant to cross, melting his wings until he fell to his death. Seeking truth in the divine is not a sin, but it is a difficult and daunting task. Faustus gives up the task of understanding the divine and searches for an easier source of knowledge: the devil. Despite warnings from the Good Angel that the endeavor he shall set on is fruitless, Faustus follows the path of the Bad Angel and continues to have his earthly desires satisfied by evil. The presence of this dualism is a symbol for Faustus’s conscience, and implies an innate ability to distinguish between right and wrong. Marlowe’s point, therefore, is to place emphasis on the fact that the decision to be evil is indeed a decision; evil is a behavior that is lured out of us, and not planted within, by a devil. The tragedy of Doctor Faustus is the fact that the modern world is more concerned with who and what the devil is than who and what the divine is. Initially it is difficult to see why the reader should blame Faustus for contractually binding his soul to Lucifer. Faustus’s companion on his diabolic journey is a minion of Lucifer named Mephistopheles. When Faustus asks of him what the precise location of Hell is, Mephistopheles answers, ‘Within the bowels of these elements, where we are tortured and remain for ever. Hell hath no limits, nor is circumscribed in one self place, but where we are is hell, and where hell is there must we ever be. And, to be short, when all the world dissolves, and every creature shall be purified, all places shall be hell that is not heaven’ [2.2 Line 119]. Here Marlowe presents the humanist’s concept of Hell, that is to say that Hell is any place that lacks divinity, and since only Heaven contains divinity, everything beneath it is Hell, including the world in which we live. Essentially, it is the very nature of the human condition to be as close to Hell as possible. Faustus is only doing what is natural in a moment of pain of discomfort: finding a distraction, as in Pascal’s idea of divertissement. If we are not able to think thoughts that give us our dignity, thoughts that grasp the divine as closely as possible, we may as well avert our attention to something more pleasant, which in this case is the sensory stimulation that the devils provide Faustus.The distractions Faustus experiences are not only in the shows Lucifer provides, but are also in the tricks Faustus plays once he is granted power upon entering the pact with Lucifer. Faustus’s initial lofty plans for his powers are a bit ridiculous (e.g. he wishes to redraw the globe, integrating Africa into Europe so that it will be easier to plunder), but they are almost heroic. His plans certainly don’t embody goodness, but they also don’t embody badness; they are seemingly neutral. His fault is that the only reason he wants to do anything is so that he can be known for doing it. Perhaps it is because of this weakness that once he acquires the limitless power from the pact, he resorts to trickery of kings and noblemen, among others, that will garner him more tangible results and more easily observed affects. It is quite ironic that after being granted so much power, instead of being heightened to the level Faustus desired to be elevated to upon binding his soul, he is reduced to a mediocrity. This can be interpreted as the consequence of refusing greatness as ordained by God and accepting greatness from a temptation. To seek knowledge in a muddy origin is unproductive; the only way to guarantee prosperity is to accept God.This is the message that is constantly reiterated to Faustus by the Good Angel throughout the play. Occasionally it seems that Faustus will yield to the advice of the Good Angel. For example, at a point when Faustus meditates in his study with Mephistopheles by his side, Faustus seems to come to a realization that the only good to be found is in Heaven, and that Mephistopheles has, in taking him on his downward spiral, deprived him of this good. Mephistopheles tells Faustus that Heaven is not as glorious as he perceives it to be, that is was made for merely man. But Faustus says, ‘If Heaven was made for man, ’twas made for me. I will renounce this magic and repent’ [2.3 Line 10]. Yet just as Faustus says this, the Bad Angel prevents him from doing so out of fear, telling him that the contract binds Faustus to a life of debauchery or he will otherwise be torn to pieces by the devils who sworn him into Hell. Despite the tidings of the Good Angel that if Faustus renounces Lucifer, he will be rescued from any promised torture, Faustus is forced to reclaim evil because the Bad Angel proceeds to offer him spectacles for the eyes and other forms of hedonistic divertissement. Faustus is too weak to denounce the evil within him; he is too weak to follow the path of good that is intrinsically in him.As if Faustus weren’t enough evidence for the dualism in humans that prompts free will, and is the causation and origin of evil, the devils themselves are described as having dualistic natures. What was Lucifer but a fallen angel? An example with more textual support is the very character of Mephistopheles. Though in an aforementioned excerpt he was portrayed as a kind of ‘Bad Angel’ to Faustus, a tempter more interested having his own minion in the Hellish world, Mephistopheles is also portrayed as a seeker of the divine. On another occasion Faustus was inquisitive about Hell, Mephistopheles responded to his questions as follows: ‘Why, this is Hell, nor am I out of it. Think’st thou that I, that saw the face of God and tasted the eternal joys of heaven, am not tormented with ten thousand hells in being deprived of everlasting bliss? O Faustus, leave these frivolous demands, which strikes a terror to my fainting soul.’ [1.3, Line 75] To describe Mephistopheles as a devil who rues his condition veritably seals the deal on what it is Marlowe intends to assert on the human condition. For a devil to have remorse about being in Hell states that devils also had an innate element of goodness to them. Good and evil are intrinsically a part of all of humans, but distraction and temptation can tamper with those weaker in ability to control their desire. The various incarnations of Lucifer are in their wretched states because they strayed towards the evil, which in its most extreme case is attempting to reach a level of power that is on par with God. It is established in Genesis that to reach a level of compatibility with God is only possible if it is done on God’s terms; Eve ate from the tree of knowledge against the request of God and as a result she and the rest of humanity suffered. We are allowed to strive for God, but we can only strive for Him under conditions pre-established by Him. By the end of the play, Faustus realizes this and calls upon God. He realizes that he will only find a tainted version of truth in the gifts he receives from the devils, and that Hell is only Hell because even if we obtain what we desire, we are only obtaining superficial pleasures, not a real truth. One can only obtain pure pleasure and untainted truth when one has accepted God. But when Faustus calls upon the Good Angel to help him reach God, the window of opportunity for access to the divine has shut, and the Good Angel tells him, ‘O Faustus, if thou hadst given ear to me, innumerable joys had followed thee. But thou didst love the world [5.2, Line 97].’ The world, we established, is in itself Hell. Faustus was too caught up in its distraction to cast it aside as an obstruction to the truth. The tragedy of Faustus is the inability of humans to free themselves from the obstacle that is the Bad Angel, or the evil within us. Marlowe’s presentation of Faustus is interesting because of his radical Platonic recognition of the hedonistic human as the only perpetuator of evil. Still more interesting is the fact that in his ending, Marlowe rejects the Christian orthodoxy that states repentance can occur at any time idea for a more dramatic ending and one that makes Faustus identify more with the idea of the tragic hero. Perhaps in this way, Marlowe is celebrating the human condition, or even pitying it, rather than condemning it. Works CitedMarlow, Christopher. Doctor Faustus and Other Plays. New York: Oxford University Press 1995.
The Connection Between Religion and Corruption in Marlowe’s The Jew of Malta and Doctor Faustus
“Religion hides many mischiefs from suspicion” (I, ii, 279-280) Religion, as Barabas describes in this quotation from The Jew of Malta, acts as a measure in defending one’s actions as moral or just. Christopher Marlowe presents this use of religion in Doctor Faustus and The Jew of Malta. The protagonists in both plays believe in an idea about the nature of religion similar to Marlowe’s own uncertainty. Marlowe’s study of divinity contradicts with his encouragement of atheism in his life and his double life as a spy. This struggle for religions’ role in society and politics appears in the characters of Dr. Faustus and Barabas. In Doctor Faustus and The Jew of Malta, the protagonists justify their corruption and actions against societal laws through religion. The character of Dr. Faustus exhibits a knowledge Francis Bacon describes as “proud knowledge of good and evil, with an intent in man to give law unto himself and to depend no more upon God’s commandments which was the form of temptation” (Bacon 7). Bacon believes that it is not the quantity of knowledge that destroys humans, but the unhealthy aim of challenging God. Faustus encounters Bacon’s destructive aim with his divine ambitions. He blames religious limitations that Bacon stresses for his lack of spiritual understanding. He refuses to recognize these limitations given by God, and therefore he forms an alliance with the evil spirit Lucifer. Faustus trades his soul for knowledge as well as the desire to “give law unto himself.” He supports this decision by the lack in reconciliation between intellectual ambition and religion. Faustus desires to “Be thou on earth as Jove is in the sky, / Lord and commander of these elements” (i, 76-77). This reinforces his rejection of divine limitations as well as his problematic aims for knowledge.Like Marlowe, Faustus is a man aware of scholastic theology. He wants to go beyond human capabilities and pursue a divine, supernatural understanding of the universe. Lucifer and Mephastophilis represent another blame for Faustus’ downfall. Faustus uses this pact in order to explain his desire to know all answers to theological questions. “How am I glutted with conceit of this! / Shall I make spirits fetch me what I please. / Resolve me of all ambiguities” (i, 78-80). The diabolical characters mast the evilness of divine control, placing the decision to overpower God as an action these sprits bring upon the protagonist. Faustus excuses the use of to play God because the devil gives him this desire. Faustus uses magic to access information and creates his own universal laws. He flaunts his magic to gain control of his audience, impressing them with his conjurations of powerful figures in history. This magic oversteps human boundaries and proves that he attempts to become divine. The impression of other’s through his powers fades when his damnation reveals selfish intentions and pride over God. All humans must balance these intellectual expectations with their beliefs. Marlowe shows this common struggle in the contrast between the Scholars and Dr. Faustus. The Scholars represent participation in positive scholarly learning which respects the laws of society and nature without religious manipulation. When Faustus begins abusing his magic, the Scholars comment on his situation. Were he a stranger, and not allied to me, yet should I grieve for him.But come, let us go and inform the Rector, and see if he by his grave counsel can reclaim him (ii, 33-35). This comment resembles Bacon’s view towards scholasticism and religion:God has framed the mind of man as a mirror or glass capable of the image of the universal world and joyful to receive the impression thereof, as the eye delights to receive light, and not only delighted in beholding the variety of things and vicissitude of times, but raised also to find out and discern the ordinances and decrees which throughout all those changes are infallibly observed (Bacon 7). Bacon explains the necessity of healthy intellectual ambitions, and he also cautions about the abuse of learning to become divine. Marlowe addresses scholasticism in the same way with the Scholars. They understand the influence of God in their quest for knowledge, contrary to Faustus. The Scholars concern for Faustus shows the greatness in their understanding of the world. They observe the Faustus’ magic and predict the end result of his demise. This prophetic commentary and desire to save Faustus reappears towards the end of the play, at a time closer to Faustus’ death. “Yet Faustus, look up to heaven; / remember God’s mercies are infinite /…Yet Faustus, call on God” (xiii, 13-14, 27). Marlowe contrasts the Scholars aims at knowledge with Faustus’ in order to show the corrupt measures Faustus takes in the name of religion in order to advance his knowledge. Faustus rejects more than intellectual limitations brought about by religion. He uses the mixed messages and internal conflicts that arise in Protestantism to justify his continuation to follow Lucifer. Faustus goes through a superficial conflict to find the true nature of repentance. He contends with a Good and Bad Angel in a debate between the desire for repentance and his unavoidable damnation. His dilemma serves to prove that his motivations do not go against God entirely. This tricks the readers into believing that Faustus’ move towards salvation is honest, but the spirit Lucifer holds him back. However, it is his personal decision to remain connected to the devil, and he only wants to invoke the audience’s pity by blaming Lucifer. In addition, Faustus believes the confusion in Protestant theology offers reason for rejecting God’s grace. The Good Angel argues one aspect of Protestantism, presenting a merciful God who will save Faustus if he repents. The Bad Angel, on the other hand, believes that Faustus’ transition into a spiritual, magical power eliminates any chance at forgiveness. These dueling ideas culminate in Faustus seeming frustration as he confronts this dilemma between the Angels.My heart’s so hardened I cannot repent! Scarce can I name salvation, faith, or heaven, But fearful echoes thunders in mine ears, ‘Faustus, thou art damned’; then swords and knives, Poison, guns, halter, and envenomed steel, Are laid before me to dispatch myself: And long ere this I should have slain myself, Had not sweet pleasure conquered deep despair… I am resolved! Faustus shall ne’er repent (v, 194-201, 208). This conflict with Protestant religion continues through the character of the Old Man: By which sweet path thou may’st attain the goal That shall conduct thee to celestial rest. Break heart, drop blood, and mingle it with tears, Tears falling from repentant heaviness Of thy most vile and loathsome filthiness, The stench whereof corrupts the inward soul With such flagitious crimes of heinous sins, As no commiseration may expel; But mercy, Faustus, of they savior sweet, Whose blood alone must wash away they guilt (xii, 28-37). The Old Man’s language provides two contradicting messages. He straddles on two different Protestant ideas about redemption. He begins by valuing God’s mercy and Faustus’ chance at forgiveness. He moves to violent language about the corruption Faustus embodies, arguing little hope in Faustus’ salvation. The contradiction continues when he acknowledges the involvement of human will in proactively seeking God’s grace, a commendation of Faustus’ apparent desire to repent, but he then states that mercy might not be possible. Faustus blames this theological confusion for his spiritual and physical death. He cannot repent while Christian messages compete and vary. The Scholars’ belief in prayer and repentance alongside the Old Man’s confusion about God’s wrath pushes Faustus further into the magical world and makes his attempt to conquer the divine more powerful. The only character he encounters with fortifying beliefs is Lucifer who never strays from his pact. The character Mephastophilis, however, represents what Faustus becomes after death. Why this is hell, nor am I out of it. Think’st thou that I, who saw the face of God, And tasted the eternal joys of heaven, Am not tormented with ten thousand hells In being deprived of everlasting bliss! O Faustus, leave these frivolous demands, Which strike a terror to my fainting soul (iii, 77-83).Like Faustus, the character Mephastophilis refuses to accept God’s power. While mortal, he participates in the inner struggle common to mankind. The reader finds glimpses of remorse in his warnings to Faustus. He embarks on an evil, magical quest for knowledge. Mephastophilis’ refusal to repent transforms him into an unhappy spirit cast away from heaven. Faustus does not listen to the warning, and therefore will never be satisfied with his magical abilities but will rest eternally in the torments of hell. Cleanth Brooks argues that “Faustus does learn something in the course of the play and in learning it suffers change and becomes a different man” (Brooks 105). The way Faustus plays around with the nature of repentance in the text contradicts the idea that he changes in an intellectual way. He remains a hypocritical character, deceptively struggling with repentance only to use religious problems to justify transformation to a magical spirit. For example, Faustus fears repentance because of God’s possible rejection. However, he then uses repentance as a threat to Mephastophilis. This questions the sincerity of Faustus’ desire to pursue God and end his devotion to Lucifer. “When I behold the heavens, then I repent / And curse thee, wicked Mephastophilis, / Because thou hast deprived me of these joys” (v, 177-179). Faustus’ attempts at reconciliation with repentance are not believable struggles, only artificial words spoken in situations beneficial to his justification of gaining supernatural powers. Another irony occurs with Faustus’ dedication to Lucifer. Belzebub, To whom Faustus doth dedicate himself. This word damnation terrifies not him, For he confounds hell in Elysium: His ghost be with the old philosophers (iii, 57-61). Faustus claims loyalty to Lucifer; however he aims to be over all spirits, including the devil. The protagonist in The Jew of Malta also abuses religious ideas in order to reclaim and access power. The play opens with the self-characterization of Barabas as a Jew. His Jewish faith acts as a reason for his abundant wealth. It defines his status and societal ambition as “Blessings promis’d to the Jewes” (I, I, 102) yet “come not to be Kings” (I, I, 126). This proud declaration of Jewish heritage contradicts with a later message after he loses his property: My gold, my gold, and all my wealth is gone. You partiall heavens, have I deserv’d this plague? What will you this oppose me, lucklesse starres, To make me desperate in my poverty? (I, ii, 256-259). The association with the divine makes Barabas appear as a devout and aware member of the Jewish community. This shows in greater detail after the Government imposes its taxation policy on the Jews. David Bevington supports the falsity of Barabas’ religious justification: Readers are “suddenly faced with the irony of finding Barabas the sympathetic victim of Christian treachery…Barabas’ defense becomes, by a curious inversion, the pleading of a wronged, sensitive, and helpless person” (Bevington 36). Marlowe offers early clues to Barabas’ deceptive nature, casting doubt on the sincerity of his religious justifications for justice and power. His self-definition as a Jew juxtaposes with his selfish obsession over wealth. “Nay, let ’em combat, conquer, and kill all, / So they spare me, my daughter, and my wealth” (I, I, 149-150). He displays indifferent feelings for the state of Malta, and his only unvarying passion throughout the play rests in his wealth. The fact that he opens the play with evil thoughts makes his religious motivations for reclamation of power unbelievable. In addition, Barabas admits committing crimes against non-Christians. “As for my selfe, I walke abroad a nights / And kill sicke people groaning under walls: / Sometimes I goe about and poyson wells” (II, iii, 175-177). He hates “invalids, orphans, and helpless persons without distinction of sect or nationality” (Bevington 38). Furthermore, his abuse of the law, and evil upon others, is present before he claims Christian prejudice against Jews as justification for violence and revenge. Despite his earlier life of greed and crime, the play focuses primarily on Barabas’ problematic interaction with Christians. This begins with a confrontation between the Governor and Barabas which incites a vengeful wrath for the remainder of the play. This situation portrays Barabas as the sympathetic character mentioned earlier due to the cruelty the Governor, as a Christian, inflicts on the Jew. No, Jew, like infidels. For through our suffrance of your hateful lives, Who stand accursed in the sight of heaven, These taxes and afflictions are befal’ne, And therefore we are determined (I, ii, 63-65). This scene offers Barabas several religious reasons to avenge his power and pride. The Christian-influenced Government follows the idea that one’s religion defines their character; therefore they justify their taxation of the Jews by their historical treatment of Christians, mainly the persecution of Jesus. The hateful action against the Jews shows their political usage of faith. They accuse Barabas of coveting wealth, yet they exhibit thievery. How ironically the Governor is making the theft, not just of Barabas’ goods but also of scriptural sanctions, the ground of his religion, and how powerfully Barabas can hurl the charge in these Christians’ faces for their unrighteous dealings (Cutts 154).In addition, these Christians are guilty of another religious abuse: threatening baptism to the Jews as punishment. This places an even greater negativity towards the value of Christian religion at this point in the play. Barabas uses the Christian treatment of Jews as an excuse for his destructive actions. He sinks to the motivations of the Governor as Barabas exhibits the same malice towards them that he uses earlier to describe Christians in general. This initial injustice he experiences “provides an understandable motivation for the Jew’s hate and his subsequent deeds of revenge. He is put in a position of having to fight back, so that his misanthropic behavior is made plausible” (Bevington 37). The first act of destructive deception Barabas participates in occurs with the encouragement towards Abigail to feign interest in the convent life. He does this for his own personal gain because he has hidden money in his seized home and wants Abigail to retrieve the wealth. “But stay, what starre shines yonder in the East? / The Loadstarre of my life, if Abigall” (II, I, 41-42). This quote comments about the confusion surrounding religious sincerity in the play. Here, Barabas compares Abigail to an eastern star. The star symbol represents the arrival of Christ, or a savior figure. Abigail’s reclamation of her father’s wealth acts as Barabas’ salvation. The idea that his own progeny saves his world gives Barabas a haunting association with a divine power. This is ironic considering that, as a Jew, he does not follow the New Testament idea of the bright star connected to the arrival of Christ the savior. “We Jewes can faune like Spaniels when we please / And when we grin we bite, yet our looks / as innocent and harmlesse as a lambes” (II, iii, 20-22). Barabas uses trickery and deception to destroy other’s lives. He reaffirms that his actions are cursed by his Jewish faith. His destruction of Lodowicke and Mathias hurts not only the Christian Governor, but Abigail as well, and further develops Barabas as a man who claims to attack Christianity but proves to act out of selfish motivations for power and control. First be though voyd of these affections, Compassion, love, vaine hope, and heartless feare, Be mov’d at nothing see thou pity none, But to thy selfe smile when the Christians moane (II, iii, 170-174). The heartlessness of Barabas shines through when he places two suitors of Abigail, Lodowicke and Mathias, against each other. He grants each of these men his blessing in their courting of Abigail, deceiving them with his innocent and lamb-like looks. His bite lies in his crafty involvement in the situational murder of the men. He reaffirms the necessity of their deaths as retaliation against the Christian Governor’s unfair policies. Lodowicke and Mathias embody the attitude of love despite religious convictions or wealth. “‘Tis not they wealth, but her esteeme, / Yet crave I thy consent” (II, iii, 299-300). This concept is foreign to Barabas who lives only for his self-gain. “But I have sworne to frustrate both their hopes, / And be reveng’d upon the-Governor” (II, iii, 144-145).The process (of evil) does not logically unfold, but elaborates and intensifies by repeated example…Each succeeding incident becomes more ludicrous and more widely improbable then the one before, as the reign of the pure vice becomes increasingly separated from its original motive (Bevington 41). At the end of the play, Barabas loses the foundation of his argument that associates Christians with his necessary violence. He succeeds in murdering Lodowicke, Mathias, Abigail, two friars, and countless nuns, all innocent victims, uninvolved in the taxation conflict. The separation from the motive that Bevington describes culminates in the artificial alliance with Calymath, a Turkish invader. Now as for Calymath and his consorts, Here have I made a dainty Gallry, the floor whereof, this Cable being cut, doth fall asundr; so that it doth sinke Into a deepe pit past recovery (V, v, 32-36). Barabas befriends Calymath in order to overthrow the Governor and usurp control over Malta. However, he turns against Calymath, and places a deadly trap in his path. The plan fails as the Governor warns Calymath and Barabas falls victim to his own trap, burying himself in a fiery cauldron. Marlowe incorporates a wide variety of characters in The Jew of Malta. Although he focuses on the abuse of religion in Barabas, other characters display hypocritical beliefs. For example, the Friar’s response to Abigail’s upcoming death is absurd in relation to importance in Nun’s chastity: “I, and a Virgin too, that grieves me most” (III, vi, 41). All the characters exhibit base natures, regardless of their occupations, faith, or amount of power. Marlowe believes that religion has little priority in defining a person. Each person is the same, base human being. He equates the low and the high in order to eliminate stereotypical judgments based on morality and religion. He finds problems in societal hierarchy in the world. This is also evident in Doctor Faustus. Faustus tries to deny his natural limitations in order to prove to himself that he is above human and divine. Marlowe extinguishes the two protagonists in flames to warn against the dangers of seeking power. These plays help Marlowe reconcile his own fallibility in life, as he struggles for religions’ role in academia as well as in political and social life. Works CitedBacon, Francis. “The First Book of Francis Bacon of the Proficience and Advancement of Learning Divine and Human.” Selected Philosophical Works. Ed. Rose-Mary Sargent. Hackett Publishing Company, Inc.: Indianapolis, Indiana, 1999.Bevington , David . “The Jew of Malta.” Modern Critical Views: ChristopherMarlowe. Ed. Harold Bloom. New York: Chelsea House, 1986. 31-44.Brooks, Cleanth. “The Unity of Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus.” Modern Critical Views: Christopher Marlowe. Ed. Harold Bloom. New York: Chelsea House, 1986. 97-108Cutts, John P. “The Jew of Malta.” The Left Hand of God: A Critical Interpretation of the Plays of Christopher Marlowe. Haddonfield House: Haddonfield, New Jersey, 1973. 149-160.Marlowe, Christopher. Doctor Faustus. Ed. Roma Gill. W.W. Norton and Company, Inc.: New York, 1989.Marlowe, Christopher. “The Jew of Malta.” The Complete Works of Christopher Marlowe. Ed. Roma Gill. Clarendon Press: Oxford, 1995.
The Struggle between Good and Evil in Doctor Faustus
In Doctor Faustus, good and evil are presented as two polarized ideas: God and Heaven on one side, and Lucifer and Hell on the other. Contrasting representations of this division also appear, such as the old man and the Good Angel opposed to Mephistopheles and the Bad Angel. Initially, this struggle between good and evil is Faustus’ major internal conflict as he is deciding whether to make the blood bond. However, by the time Faustus views the seven deadly sins, evil persists as the dominant force and is the path that Faustus follows to his final damnation. The struggle between good and evil begins with Faustus’ divided conscience. The Good and Bad Angels represent the conflict between his devotion to knowledge and his longing for power. They most blatantly exemplify the traits of good versus evil when the Good Angel tells Faustus to “think of heaven and heavenly things” (2.1.20) while the Bad Angel tells Faustus to “think of honor and wealth” (2.1.21). However, at the end of the play, the Good Angel and the Bad Angel no longer appear. This absence represents Faustus’ commitment towards evil, symbolized through the blood bond. No longer does he reminisce about turning to God, nor does he lament the path he has chosen until the end. Rather, he resorts to a wasteful use of his powers through playing pranks and satisfying royalty, such as his tricks on the Pope and the conjuring of Alexander the Great.The most important part of the good versus evil conflict occurs at Faustus’ turning point from good to evil. The dilemma between which paths to follow has settled towards evil by the time the seven deadly sins are paraded in front of him. Before this event, Faustus has good intentions. For example, he promises that he will “fill the public schools with silk, wherewith the students shall be bravely clad” (1.1.90-91). He is persistent in his search for knowledge even though he is naÃ¯ve about the eternal torment that awaits him in hell. Faustus is even repulsed enough by the physical manifestation of evil that he asks Mephistopheles to change his appearance. He commands the devil to, “Go, and return an old Franciscan friar; That holy shape becomes a devil best” (1.3.25-6). Faustus cannot bear to see the reality of hell; rather, he misinterprets it to be less evil that it actually is and even nonexistent at times. This blissful innocence can be seen in his succinct reply that hell is a myth immediately after Mephistopheles’ terrifying description of hell. However, after making a blood bond with Mephistopheles, Faustus delights in the seven deadly sins, even when seeing them firsthand. He describes his anticipation to Lucifer: “That sight will be as pleasant to me as Paradise was to Adam the first day of his creation” (2.3.103-4). In comparison to his disgusted reaction towards Mephistopheles’ devil figure, his acceptance of evil has become evident here and will later free him from his initial claims of benevolent aspirations, demonstrated with his later pranks and frivolous feats. Three main factors contribute to this change of nature from good to evil after the presentation of the sins. One of these is that the forbidden, ultimate knowledge which he so desires at the beginning of the play is revealed to him as being elementary and redundant. In reply to Mephistopheles’ answers on astronomy, Faustus says, “Tush, these slender trifles Wagner can decide. Hath Mephistopheles no greater skill? … Tush, these are freshmen’s suppositions” (2.3.49-50, 55). The strongest blow may occur when he is denied the knowledge of the world’s origin. At this point, Faustus cries out in distress for his soul to be saved but is denied salvation. As a result, he realizes that his contract with the devil is irreversible.This awareness of damnation becomes the second main contributor towards his acceptance of evil. In the middle of Faustus’ plea to Christ, Lucifer appears and destroys any hope for repentance by stating that “Christ cannot save thy soul for he is just. There’s none but I have interest in the same” (2.3.81-82). After this crucial moment, Faustus believes that no matter how hard he tries to repent, he has already sinned once and is thus permanently damned to eternal hell. Believing he cannot be saved, he tries to drown his pending damnation through pranks. For example, after having fooled the horse dealer, he laments that he is simply a man destined to die soon. His only consolation is in “confound[ing] these passions with a quiet sleep” (4.1.135). All of the practical jokes and feats that he performs serve merely as distractions to purge his mind from thoughts of repenting, as he knows he has chosen the path of evil.One event that clearly shows his conformance with evil is his insistence for Helen near the end of the play. Remarkably, he openly acknowledges that he is guilty of one of the deadly sins, the only time that he does so. By demanding Mephistopheles to “let [him] crave of thee, to glut the longing of [his] heart’s desire” (5.1.80), he is clearly aware of the path he is taking, yet proceeds to commit the evil deed. Irrelevant now is whether he can be saved as he has willingly submitted to evil. Faustus tells Helen to “make [him] immortal with a kiss” (5.1.92) and exclaims how “her lips suck forth [his] soul” (5.1.93). The immortality that he is asking for is rather the eternal torment of hell, and it is possible that he sees how evil his soul has become. Furthermore, his first thought after his evil act is to ask Helen to give him his “soul” again. Thus, this realization of his irreversible damnation liberates him from any responsibilities to do good and encourages him to commit sin repeatedly. The third influence that plays a part in Faustus’ turning towards evil is from the overwhelming presence of evil compared to good. Oddly enough, God does not appear throughout the play, while Lucifer and Mephistopheles consistently arrive at critical moments of Faustus’ doubts. The presence of the devils is important as it prevents Faustus, who initially regrets his decision, from renouncing their contract. For example, as Faustus contemplates repentance, Mephistopheles appears and threatens to tear Faustus to pieces. There is no reply from God nor is there any other counter to this evil. The closest influence we have to rival the powerful impact of evil is that of the Good Angel and the Old Man. Both are helpless at affecting Faustus’ conscience. The Good Angel asks Faustus to repent, to which he responds by immediately “cast[ing] no more doubts” (2.1.26) in favor of signing the contract. The Old Man is condemned to torment “with [the] greatest torments that our hell affords” (5.1.77). Thus, calls for evil drastically outweigh any appeals for good, primarily because God does not exert any direct influence.Faustus is torn between good and evil as he decides to exchange eternal life for power. This conflict quickly changes after he makes the blood bond and mocks the seven deadly sins. Even when given the choice for good, Faustus continually accepts evil as he is convinced of his immutable damnation. Perhaps it is not really a conflict of choice for Faustus, but rather an inevitable demise towards evil.
Id, Ego and Superego: The Tempest and Doctor Faustus
The most compelling characters in modern literature and plays are the ones whose motivations tend to be complex, thus demand a deeper analysis of which part of their conscious their decisions arise from – the impulsive Id, the balancing Ego, or the idealized Superego. The central characters of Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus and Shakespeare’s The Tempest when studied parallel to each other seem to share similar traits, yet both meet contrastingly differing ends. This outcome is solely decided by the choices they make in face of their respective struggles and whichever side of their conscious emerges victorious.
In Freudian theory, the Id is the part of human conscious which contains all the base desires and ambitions. It operates on a pleasure principle that if let free, completely assumes control of the mind and cause the characters to make choices that seek delight without any rationale. While Faustus’ motivations are clearly seen to be led by his Id for nearly the entirety of the play, The Tempest’s Prospero makes decisions that seem sensible, muddying the boundaries that lie between the Id and the Ego.
Faustus, who by profession begins as a doctor in Wittenberg, dismisses academic disciplines and eschews religion as means of achieving the satisfaction he seeks, drunk on his arrogance of knowing everything they offer. He turns to magic and occult to achieve his ambitious and rather grandiose goals. When Faustus obtains the authority over the devil Mephistopheles in exchange for his soul, he seems to have continuous doubts over his decision to forsake heaven, but his Id wipes out all reason that do not serve fulfillment of his desires. As seen from the lines, “The god thou serv’st is thine own apetite” (Marlowe, page 62) and “I am resolv’d Faustus shall not repent” (page 68), he is so empowered by his own lofty goals, he turns away divinity. In contrast, perhaps the most defining motive powered by Id Prospero carries is the ambition for retribution against his brother. He wrecks the ship of the King and his men to further his plot of revenge, to draw deepest apologies for their wrongdoings and restore his dukedom.
On the other side of the seesaw of human consciousness sits the Superego. Representing the moral conscience and the idealized self a person conjures of themselves, it is an oft unrealized part in reality. Just as John Faustus’ id becomes his instrument of personal destruction, Prospero’s superego blinds him to the fact that he can commit any wrong.
Faustus envisions illusions of grandeur due to his superego, using his powers to rearrange Europe and become the emperor of Germany (Marlowe, page 60, 106-113), acquire eternal knowledge and omnipotence. There are touches of superego in the instances when Lucifer and Mephistopheles dissuade him from the path of God, from repentance and marriage and appeal to his id instead (page 69-70) until it is too late to seek God’s grace anymore. Prospero carries such an idealized version of himself, it acquires him a godlike ego. He does not seem to realize that his pursuit of knowledge and occult causes him to grow irresponsible and give up the control of government to his brother. “The love people bore me” (Shakespeare, Scene I, Act ii) paints Prospero as one who thinks he was wronged without reason. Prospero raises his daughter, Miranda, with his own rigid morality and keeps her firmly under his own influence, barely allowing her to develop her own free will. In the end, it is his Superego that intervenes with guilt over his actions. He changes his mind about exacting revenge when confronted with a similar attempt on his life by Caliban, instead choosing to forsake his powers and return to society and live a life of comfort. He beseeches forgiveness for his sins, and ultimately achieves some semblance of redemption. Both Prospero and Faustus turn to occult and magic to achieve greatness and cause their downfall. But while Prospero gives up his magic at the chance for a peaceful life without regret, Faustus fails to do so despite repeated chances given to him during the play.
Rationale balances itself in the middle of impulsive desire and self-idealized pride and chooses to call itself Ego. The Ego weighs the desires of id and acts according to the side the scales tip on: in a way that best mitigates personal distress. While Prospero cultivates an Ego that is so empowering that he manipulates almost the entire circumstance for his benefit, Faustus’ ego breaks itself down almost completely and sways his decisions towards the temptations of id and sells his soul to Lucifer against better judgement.
Unlike Faustus, Prospero’s Ego alleviates him to a godlike position on the island he touches on, by virtue of being cultured and educated and thus possessing power. He controls all the elements in his play, having learnt from his folly of underestimating human nature for treachery, and thus leaves zero room for anyone to go against his wishes or plans. He orchestrates the love between Ferdinand and Miranda (Shakespeare, Scene 1 Act ii) to achieve an end that serves a higher overarching purpose. Caliban, an unfortunate individual who resided on the island before Prospero, is regarded by him as a brute, who he decides to bestow his knowledge on. To Caliban, Prospero is a cruel god who has wrestled away the control of the land that is rightfully his. It is important to realize that Prospero seems to not grasp the irony in the parallels drawn, between Antonio usurping him merely because he was more capable and Prospero doing the same to Caliban.
Authors like Marlowe and Shakespeare tend to weave in the surprising complexities of human nature into their primary characters. Be it delving into the ugly, visceral side of humanity like anger or covetousness or its beautiful capacity for repentance and love; all of it serves an underlying purpose. They leave enough space for the audience to either consider it as a simple entertainment if they wish it or analyze the deeper themes of morality, divinity or human character and draw their own conclusions. And undoubtedly, evidence suggests that the interplay between Id, Ego and Superego colours each and every choice Faustus and Prospero make. By forsaking ego and divinity in his pursuit for power, Faustus’ mental degradation and tragic end comes of his own doing. In contrast, as a result of forsaking the very thing that caused Prospero to be cast from his kingdom and repenting on his sins, he sets off for a life of luxury and acceptance with his daughter.