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The word used to describe the character of Faustus is "weak", which
can also mean "feeble", "fragile" and "pathetic". I disagree that
Faustus is any of these things, as there is evidence that Faustus is
quite a strong person; he confident and determined even though it
appears to the reader he is not always mentally stable.
"Dr. Faustus" could be seen as a morality play teaching that heaven
and hell do exsist, and Christopher Marlowe introduces the good and
bad angel to put across this point. However there is evidence to
suggest that the character of Faustus epitomises the dangers of
knowledge without morality.
From the very beginning of Marlowe's play "Dr. Faustus," it is
apparent to the reader that Faustus is a man who is unwilling to
accept the limitations of human knowledge and is not prepared to be
just a man, but wants more "Yet art thou still but Faustus, and a
man". In seeking to become more than a man, with no regard for the
spiritual consequences, he becomes an example to the religious
audience of Marlowe's time of what happens when a man pursues
knowledge undeterred by moral boundaries.
Faustus appears to be driven by his thirst for knowledge. The chorus
introduces him as 'gluttedâ€¦with learning's golden gifts,' and led by
his desire to further expand his knowledge he 'surfeits upon cursed
necromancy.' This imagery connected with food and overindulgence is
used to illustrate the scholastic gluttony that seems to control
Faustus' actions, as though by learning he were feeding a hunger for
In Act 1, scene 1, Faustus is looking for something to challenge
himself with, and therefore looks at himself in the third person.
Faustus believes himself to be extremely knowledgeable already so he
rejects his studies. There may be evidence to suggest that Faustus is
a weak character viewing dispassionatly, although I do not believe
this. I think it shows that although Faustus wants to appear more
intellectual than Christopher Marlowe leads the audience to believe,
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statement with a reason of why he rejected that particular study.
Faustus rejects philosophy because he considers that he is able to
argue well enough already which is what he believes philosophy to be;
"is to dispute well logic's end?â€¦ thou hast attained the end".
Although this may not seem a valid reason to reject philosophy, at
least he has a reason to do so.
He also rejects medicine claiming that he is already a doctor which
Marlowe confirms in the chrous by saying "shortly he was graced with
doctors name". Faustus therefore feels it pointless to learn more
about medicine "The end of physic is our body's health. Why faustus,
hast thou not attained that end?"
Faustus thirdly rejects Law believing it to be 'boring' and dismisses
it as "external trash" by saying "who aims at nothing but external
trash" To servile and illiteral for me". The reader sees this as
ironic because this is what Faustus is aiming for - he sells his soul
for eternal life - is this not "external trash"?
Finally we read that Faustus dismisses theology (the study of God). He
does so because he beieves God will only punish him for his sins. This
refers to the Victorian's viewpoint on a 'punishing God' rather than
the modern day 'forgiving God' in which Christians believe. Faustus
says "if we say we have no sin, we decieve ourselves, and the truth is
not in us". This shows the reader that he does have some knowledge of
theology because this is a quote from John in the bible. However, he
is very selective in his knowledge as the bible verse continues "if we
confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive our sins, and to
clense us from all unrighteousness" which shows how the reader cannot
fully trust this character as his statements have flaw.
Showing the thirst Faustus has for knowledge, his first request of
Mephastophilis is for knowledge relating to the whereabouts of hell,
and he later continues to question the demon on astrology and
philosophical issues. He also receives a number of books from both
Mephastophilis and Lucifer, which he vows to "keep as chary as my
life," and uses his twenty four years before damnation to continue his
studies, seeking to "prove cosmography" and becoming renowned for his
"learned skill" as "his fame spread forth in every land." From this,
it appears that Faustus could be seen as a Renaissance hero were it
not for the misdirection of his knowledge towards evil.
As the reader continues the play, we can see that Faustus overlooks a
critical danger; the threat of eternal damnation, because blinded by
pride and the belief that he cannot be wrong, he rejects even the
evidence in front of his own eyes. An example of this is that when
confronted with the demon Mephastophilis' depiction of hell, Faustus
responds with disbelief, replying, "Come, I think hell's a fable," and
diminishing religious issues by describing them as "trifles and mere
old wives' tales." Despite appearing to believe in "God, that made the
world," I think that he distances himself from Him and seems to think
that he will somehow receive special treatment due to his mental
By responding to Mephastophilis in this sceptial mannor, it shows some
weakness in Faustus' character, although I disagree that he could be
described as truly "weak", and "with no redeeming qualities" as it is
possible Christopher Marlowe could be using the good and bad angels in
the as his conscience.
In conclusion, analysing what I have read so far (act 1, scene 6) it
appears that Faustus' intentions are that of good, showing he is a
strong character. Near the end of scene 5, the good angel has the last
word, "repent, and they shall never rase thy skin". This shows the
reader that Faustus is knowledgeable of morals backing up he is not a
feeble character of weakness, but one of strength and knowledge.