Christopher Marlowe’s Tragical History of Doctor Faustus is about a man who seeks
power that comes from knowledge beyond the human realm. Throughout the story, the
seven deadly sins are shown and have an impact on Dr. Faustus during his search for
ultimate power. However, it is one of these vices of the seven deadly sins that plays a
particular and key role in his demise. Pride, creates Dr. Faustus’ inability to repent,
therefore ultimately resulting in his death. “His fall is caused by the same pride and
ambition that caused the fall of angels in heaven, and of humanity in the Garden of Eden”
(Abrams 768). Faustus’ fall is foreshadowed during his first encounter with a devil,
inquiring of the reason for Lucifer’s exile in hell.
FAUSTUS. How comes it then that he is prince of devils?
MEPHASTOPHILIS. O, by aspiring pride and insolence
For which God threw him from the face of Heaven. (scene 3, 66-68)
An eternity in hell becomes Dr. Faustus’ fate, a fate determined by his own
irrational decisions. Although he is a well-educated scholar, traits of arrogance,
selfishness, and pride hinder his judgment. Dr. Faustus’ troubles begin when he craves
power and knowledge beyond human capacity. Bored with his great knowledge, he wishes
to find another subject to study to pacify himself and achieve happiness.
FAUSTUS. Then read no more, thou hast attained the end;
A greater subject fitteth Faustus’ wit. (scene , 10-11)
By making a deal with the devil, Faustus trades his soul for satisfaction, and a greater field
of study. He is selfish--wanting knowledge, power, and fun without having to work or
take responsibility for it. As r...
... middle of paper ...
... of the play as Dr. Faustus is sent to hell, there are many ironic details
evident. The main one is that despite his great knowledge and power, Faustus makes the
most unwise decision. Repenting to Mephastophilis instead of God, he gives up everything
for nothing in return. In all his years with his new knowledge and power. He did nothing
of significance, he merely played tricks and showed off his new talents. Marlowe’s play is
full of irony depicting the downfall of man riddled with sin. The underlying theme however
is that, like Icarus and Lucifer, Dr. Faustus allows his pride, a key to most tragedies, to
become excessive and ultimately it is his downfall.
Marlowe, Christopher. “The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus.” The Norton Anthology
of English Literature. Ed. M.H. Abrams. New York: W.W. Norton & Company,
Inc., 1993. 768-801.
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