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Mephistophilis in Marlowe’s Faustus

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Mephistophilis in Marlowe’s Faustus

Mephistophilis is a striking central character in the play ‘Doctor
Faustus’, written by Christopher Marlowe in the late sixteenth
century. His role in this flamboyant yet tragic play is ultimately to
aid Faustus’ downfall from renowned scholar to foolhardy prey of
Lucifer. However, Mephistophilis’ motives are perceptibly ambiguous
throughout ‘Doctor Faustus’; he seemingly alternates between a
typically gleeful medieval devil, and a romantically suffering fallen

Mephistophilis first appears in ‘Doctor Faustus’ in the third scene,
when he is summoned by Faustus’ experimental necromancy, as taught to
him by Valdes and Cornelius. Faustus becomes intrigued by the notion
of employing dark magic to supply him with what he most craves:
knowledge. Mephistophilis first appears to Faustus in his true,
terrifying form (suggested on the Elizabethan stage by a lowered
dragon). This wholly terrifying image is in keeping with the medieval
concept of the devil as a hellish supernatural being that encapsulated
horror. Mephistophilis’ ap...

... middle of paper ...

... absorbing. Perhaps Marlowe
realised that the most captivating characters could never remain
one-dimensional. Although many critics are unhappy with the apparent
inconsistencies, I think it is the combination of the gleeful and
tormented aspects of the character that make him the central
masterpiece of ‘Doctor Faustus’.


- ‘Doctor Faustus’ by Christopher Marlowe (edited by John D. Jump)


- ‘Marlowe: Doctor Faustus’ by Philip Brockbank

- ‘Marlowe The Overreacher’ by Harry Levin

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