Dr Faustus is a short play written by Christopher Marlowe. The play is a masterful insight into the paradoxical soul of mankind and its ironically self inflicted corruption. The play could be classification as a theological allegory. It can be assumed that the play specifically speaks to the religious motivations of the time, but can be adapted to the present as well. Marlowe portrays Faustus’ ambition as dangerous; it was the cause of his demise.
Perhaps Marlowe used the theme of over-ambition as a warning to the audience, who would be likely to be wary of ambition – it was looked down on as a negative personality trait in Christian England Calvinism Munteanu, Class notes. An on going theme within the story is the corruption of a soul which is played out through the use of religious beliefs. Specifically, the use of the seven deadly sins is a precursor to man kinds self inflicted death. Marlowe uses sin, redemption and damnation to get his point across to the audience.
The sins that Marlowe specifically uses are those of: pride, covetousness, wrath, envy, gluttony, sloth and lechery. Theses sins are colourfully displayed through the character traits of Dr Faustus. In the process we view them and can adapt them to our own lives and how they are all parts to the corruption of our souls. Marlowe reflects ambition in the character of Faustus to deter the audience from being ambitious, and over-reaching their place in the laws of the church.
Marlowe uses symbols of religion to fill the play such as the use of the dark arts, angles, demons, God, the Devil, quotes from the bible, the symbol of blood, and the use of the seven sins. With the use of these icons he humours the reader he displays the gullibility of even the greatest leaders. In the prologue, Marlowe introduces us to Dr Faustus via the chorus. Here we are told of the life of an ordinary man, born to modest people. This piece tells us that in the new age of the Renaissance, a common-born scholar like Faustus, is as important as any king or warrior, and his story is worthy of being told.
Also state is that Dr Faustus’s swelling pride will lead to his downfall. Here we are addressed with a precursor of what is about to happen and how it is to be facilitated, again by one mans desire to destroy himself in respect to Godliness. In act one, Marlowe portrays Faustus as being over-ambitious by his turning to magic, which is a much more sinister and much less conventional pursuit than others that he had been discussing previously. Faustus hopes that magic will make him omnipotent and god-like.
Through out the next few acts we see Dr Faustus disregard the teachings against the seven deadly sins with his trickery and debauchery. The great doctor Faustus has the seven deadly sins entrenched in his life and they are displayed by his various actions during the play. The first deadly sin was that of pride. Dr Faustus saw himself as in comparison to others in a competitive nature. Pride and vanity are competitive. This was done in Act One when he sits there and tells the audience of his accomplishments and wishes for more glory.
The second is covetousness, it is manifested in the play through various actions. Faustus demonstrates this in various scenes, when he evokes the devils magic, the want of a wife, and the overall actions of his character portray his pursuit of knowledge and glory. Usually this sin is manifested through sex, power, or image which demises the self control and can suffocate the soul. It is the self-destructive drive for pleasure which is out of control. Faustus does this when he performs his silly tricks for self indulgence. Wrath is the third sin.
Often this is our first reaction to the faults of others. Faustus demonstrates his impatience with the way he treats the people around him, his servants demonic and human, as well as other characters with in the play. Wrath is what Faustus feels when he conjures up horns to place on the head of a knight of Emperor Charles V, court Marlowe, 41-42. Since the knight shows scepticism in Faustus’s powers, Faustus must rebuke his insolence by placing horns on the knight’s head. The fourth is envy. Dr Faustus wanted more in his life and envied the powers of others.
Therefore he wanted to command the demons to control the world to his accord. Envy is almost impossible to differentiate from pride at times. Dr Faustus was envious of the accomplishment of others and wanted to exceed their glory Act One. In one of the comic scenes, scene 6, we learn that Robin and Rafe have stolen one of Faustus’ books and plan to use it to seduce a woman. They must have been jealous of Faustus’ power and his magical aptitude. The fifth sin is gluttony; temperance in accepting the natural limits of pleasures, and preserves of the natural balance.
This does not pertain only to food, but to entertainment and other legitimate goods, and even the company of others. Faustus demonstrates gluttony when he evokes the use of the dark arts. He is attempting to go beyond his earthly knowledge while disturbing the natural balance of Gods laws and expectations. Faustus wants to elevate himself as an equal to God. In Faustus’s eyes God is no longer the balance or medium in his life, the devil has become the greater power to Faustus. In some of the monologues, Faustus starts using the devils name in place of where one would use Gods name.
Sloth, in conjunction with the other sins, works to muffle the spiritual senses so we first become slow to respond to God and then drift completely into the slumber of complacency to the demonic ways. This is the sixth sin in the death of Faustus; he is given chances to repent throughout the play, and never does. Faustus has become numb to his own sub consciousness; he no longer abides by what he does. Even in the scene where he signs the contract with the devil, his blood congeals and he does not understand why. His own body is fighting the deadly deed he was attempting to do. Lechery, greed is the seventh sin.
Faustus also displays greed in act one when he states he has not accomplished greatness. Faustus wants to gain glory; he has expectations of others to get him his glory. Faustus uses Mephastophilis to gain glory, it is the perfect display of lechery, and he does not acknowledge that the demon is responsible for all the tasks he performs, but states it is his gift of the dark arts Marlowe, 12. During the play there are various characters that Faustus meets, the most ironic of them is the seven deadly sins. In the sixth act they are manifested into creatures that tell Faustus of what they consist.
Faustus has encompassed many of these same sins into his life, he does not take heed to their meanings. Marlowe’s display of the deadly sins is an ironic tryst because they are elements of our own personal demise. The seven are present to humour the reader and make them think, the humour of course in self reflection. Another humorous aspect is the reflection on Christian symbolism. The symbol of blood is displayed in different points of the play. When Faustus signs the contract with the deil his blood congeals, as if his own body is refusing to dam his soul.
Before Faustus dies he seems to think he sees the blood of Christ streak across the sky. To Christians the symbol of blood means life and communion of the Christian belief. Christian virtues are being inspected with the use of temptation, and sin. Prominent token head figures are also being scrutinized they are placed in the story for aid or to reveal their sins. With each of these symbols the author adds shock value to the play. Using the head of the Catholic Church for humour is another twist that Marlowe has woven into the play.
The pope and his courtiers are being made fun of; they do not see the stupid tricks that are being played on them show their earthy insolence. These people represent the cornerstones of the church; they are being played with, and rendered idiots of the unknown. The use of redemption is the various characters that speak to Faustus and bid him to leave the dark arts and pick up the scriptures or in other words return to Gods light. Even the demonic spirits tell Faustus of the impending horrors of death but he does not abide to the forewarnings.
This only shows that mankind has self direction he may chose what he wants to follow. Even if the out come is negative God’s light is usually eternal and all we need is to ask for help. The damnation with in the text is obvious as in the opening scene with the chorus, the death of mans body but worse the death of his soul. His corruption of earthly knowledge and possessions only grants the eternal demise. The main character Dr Faustus is a tragic hero; in the process of the play he destroys himself but in the same step he sarcastically displays the audiences own idiosyncrasies.
The on going theme within the story has been the use of religious icons and beliefs. We have seen the use of the seven deadly sins as well as the patriarchs of faith and politics corrupted by a jester in their court. During an in class discussion we were told that the play was written by Marlowe in response to the teachings of John Calvin. Munteanu, 2002. Therefore it can be said that Marlowe is attempting to alter the doctrines his fellow country men with whom are questioning their religions.
Marlowe uses the renaissance ideals with the medieval myths to master his point. This work is a forewarning of damnation by those who attempt to alter the doctrines or moral standards, and a beacon of caution to those in search of the unknown. Dr Faustus, the work of good and evil. When man becomes idle his mind wanders and he wants more. With the wealth of knowledge Dr Faustus wanted more, he was no longer content with his academia since they could no longer provide him with wealth and fame as well as fulfill his souls want, he turned to the mastering of the dark arts.