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In Dr. Faustus, Christopher Marlowe uses the resolution of the conflict between Dr. Faustus and the beliefs of his time to explore the idea of man’s place in the universe. In Faustus’ time, it was believed that man had a place in the universe, and man must stay within his boundaries. It can be shown that Dr. Faustus stepped out of his place, failed in his attempt repent his actions, and ultimately caused his own end.
The conflict between Dr. Faustus and the belief system of the age of discovery is established when Faustus makes a pact with the devil to sell his soul. Faustus, a top scholar and doctor in many fields, feels as though he has reached the pinnacle of human achievement. Yet, he desires further knowledge and power, knowledge and power that are not humanly attainable. However, through his pact with the devil, Faustus gains the power necessary to perform black magic, cast spells, and perform other godly deeds. Although Faustus is repeatedly warned by Mephostophelis, he continues greedily and foolishly in his actions. Despite his high aspirations, Faustus still has desires of the flesh, as he requests a wife from Mephostophelis: “…I am wanton and lascivious and cannot live without a wife.” (p. 43) Here Faustus is shown to have internal conflict between godly aspirations and human aspirations. Nevertheless, it is shown that Dr. Faustus is intent on becoming more powerful than any human, and he has gone to great lengths to do so.
After selling his soul for twenty-four years of power and knowledge, Dr. Faustus soon realizes what he has done. He tries to repent his bond with the devil, yet the devil will not have it and binds him to his contract. Following this, Faustus continues to have doubts about his actions. At the same time, Faustus wins fame and fortune for his magic skills, yet his doubts remain as strong as ever. Although Faustus bargained away his soul for super-human power, it is apparent that he uses it to play tricks and silly pranks on people, the opposite of his initial intent. Dr. Faustus continues to use his power meaninglessly for tricks and the like. He is later approached by the old man, who begs Faustus to consider the mercy of God, for Faustus has retained his human soul and can be forgiven by God.
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