Marlowe’s Presentation of Mephastophilis in Dr. Faustus Essay

Marlowe’s Presentation of Mephastophilis in Dr. Faustus Essay

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Marlowe’s Presentation of Mephastophilis in Dr. Faustus

Literary works in sixteenth- century England were rarely if ever
created in isolation from other currents in the social and cultural
world and Marlowe’s Dr Faustus is no exception. It is significant that
Marlowe’s great play was written at a time in which the possibility of
sorcery was not merely a theatrical fantasy but a widely shared fear.
Dr Faustus was also performed at time in which many artists such as
Bosch and Jacques Callot were depicting horrific images of hell in
their paintings making the play all the more disturbing to the
medieval audience. Marlowe’s tragedy emerges not only from a culture
in which bargains with the devil are imaginable as real events but
also from a world in which many of the most fundamental assumptions
about spiritual life were being called into question by the movement
known as the reformation.

The character of Mephastophilis plays a pivotal role in Dr Faustus as
it is through him that Marlowe expresses his views on sin, redemption
and damnation. Mephastophilis presents a particularly intriguing
portrayal of hell and encapsulates the audience from his very first
appearance on stage. The audience first encounter Mephastophilis when
he is summoned by Faustus’ chants. This is significant as one of the
central questions in the play is weather Faustus damns himself or if
he is somehow entrapped. Mephastophilis insists that he came to
Faustus of his own accord when he heard Faustus curse God and forswear
heaven, hoping that Faustus soul was available for the taking. This
suggests that while demons may be active agents eagerly seeking to
seize F...


... middle of paper ...


...ial in Dr Faustus as it is
through this character that Marlowe portrays how hell was perceived in
the 16th Century. Marlowe’s presentation of hell is horrific exploring
the grotesque like much of Rabeles work. It is evident that it was
widely believed that those who sinned and swore allegiance to the
devil would be damned to hell, the thought of which instilled horrific
fear within the medieval audience. The presentation of Mephastophilis
before he departs and returns dressed as a Franciscan Friar conveys
how horrendous people perceived hell to be in the 16th century. Within
this play there is a prominent moral warning advising against any pact
with the devil as Marlowe suggests that when one detaches themselves
from God they are denying themselves access to higher things thus
leaving themselves nowhere to go but down.

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