I do not agree with the frequently repeated comment that Doctor Faustus is an anti-intellectualist play that preaches that curiosity is dangerous. It is all too easy to see Faustus as the scholar, seeking knowledge, and his desire for knowledge that leads to his downfall. To confine the play to something so narrow is to ignore the deeper meaning behind the play. I believe that this deeper meaning is more important than the superficial idea that curiosity is wrong. I believe that the deeper meaning behind the play is the idea that in loosing sight of the spiritual level of existence, we loos sight of God. In doing so, we can no longer see God's mercy and love, and so ignore it. In ignoring it, we deny it, and for this are we damned.
It is fair to say that Faustus represents the quintessential renaissance man - it is his thirst for knowledge that drives him into his pact with Mephastophilis, indeed it is the Evil Angel that best summarises this:
Go forward, Faustus, in the famous art,
Wherein all nature's treasury is contained:
Be thou on earth as Jove is in the sky,
Lord and commander of these elements.
Scene I, lines 74-77
It is the restless spirit of the renaissance that drives Faustus to seek knowledge. He has already attained what he can through more conventional means, his "bills (are) hung up as monuments", and his "common talk found aphorisms". Faustus compares himself to the most famous figures of the classical period; to Hippocrates, to Aristotle and to Galen. He sees himself as having come to the end of what he can learn through his human tools; he needs something that will allow him to move outside the realm of nature, somet...
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...deed, proverb has it that the road to Hell is paved with good intentions. Had Faustus not become so preoccupied with the indulgent of his physical pleasures (which he did to so great an extent that his reasoning and judgement began to atrophy and cloud), that he was blinded to the infinite mercy of God, he could have been saved, even at the last moment. Faustus is damned because he was too concerned with the mortal material world, and this concern blinded him to the immortal and immaterial world. He chose to forgo the infinite happiness of Heaven, so that he could indulge in transient happiness here on earth. This concern for material beauty (Helen) damned him eternally.
Marlowe, Christopher. "The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus." The Norton Anthology of English Literature. 6th ed. Eds. M.H. Abrams et. al. New York: W.W. Norton and Co, 1993.
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