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Dr. Faustus Essay: Free Will and Personal Responsibility

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Free Will and Personal Responsibility in Faustus  


It can be argued that Doctor Faustus is damned from the moment of conception. His innate desire for knowledge inevitably leads to his downfall. He represents the common human dissatisfaction with being human and the struggle of accepting our lack of omnipotence and omniscience. Marlowe manipulates this struggle between the aspirations of one character of his time and the implications to Christianity in relation to its doctrine of heaven and hell. Indeed, Doctor Faustus asks for more than what was intentionally made available to him through God's plan, yet it was God's gift to him of his intellect, that tempted him to search beyond his appointed realm of knowledge. Faustus, through his own free will, decides to trade his soul with Lucifer in order to gain the answers to the questions of the universe. According to the divine plan ideology of Catholic doctrine, his decision worked into the cosmic outline. The divine application of his decision implies that there are benefits or rather some other importance, outside of the connection to Faustus, of his selling his soul. This lessens the impetus behind his decision because of the emphasis on universal application as opposed to the immediate ramifications to Faustus, the human being. Therefore, one can argue as to where the responsibility or fault lies concerning Faustus' fate because of the presence of other forces who may have influenced his decision. However the responsibility for his choice remains his and his alone.

Faustus sells his soul for what he believes to be limitless power, with the full logical, as opposed to emotional, knowledge as to consequences of such a transaction. He knows the stakes of his gamble with the ...


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...oth lead to eventual and eternal damnation. On the contrary, one could argue that Marlowe was illustrating the cruelty of the notion that faith alone was not enough to secure one's salvation, merely by Faustus' tragic end in itself. However, by taking into consideration Marlowe's possible sympathizing with Catholic dogma, it can be inferred that much of the ideology of the character of Doctor Faustus, indeed was the direct product of Marlowe's own religious beliefs.


Works Cited and Consulted

Marlowe, Christopher Dr Faustus in ed. WB Worthen (1996) The Harcourt Brace Anthology of Drama, 2nd edn., Texas: Harcourt Brace

Steane, J.B (1965) Marlowe Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

Wilson, F.P (1953) Marlowe and the Early Shakespeare Oxford: Clarendon Press

The Oxford English Dictionary (1989), Second edition, Volume xviii. Oxford: Clarendon Press 


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