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Christopher Marlowe's Doctor Faustus

Study Questions

❶He realizes though that brutal force at the expense of everyone else is not how he can go about obtaining the things he wants.

Critical Evaluation

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Christopher Marlowe
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Mephistophilis comes to collect his soul, and we are told that he exits back to hell with him. However, his friends decide to give him a final party, a religious ceremony that hints at salvation.

Among the most complicated points of contention is whether the play supports or challenges the Calvinist doctrine of absolute predestination, which dominated the lectures and writings of many English scholars in the latter half of the sixteenth century. According to Calvin, predestination meant that God, acting of his own free will, elects some people to be saved and others to be damned — thus, the individual has no control over his own ultimate fate.

At the time Doctor Faustus was performed, this doctrine was on the rise in England, and under the direction of Puritan theologians at Cambridge and Oxford had come to be considered the orthodox position of the Church of England. His rejection of God and subsequent inability to repent are taken as evidence that he never really belonged to the elect, but rather had been predestined from the very beginning for reprobation.

In his Chiefe Points of Christian Religion, Theodore Beza, the successor to John Calvin, describes the category of sinner into which Faustus would most likely have been cast: To conclude, they which are most miserable of all, those climb a degree higher, that their fall might be more grievous: All these therefore because of necessity, and yet willingly, as they which are under the slavery of sin, return to their vomit, and fall away from faith are plucked up by the roots, to be cast into the fire.

His damnation is justified and deserved because he was never truly adopted among the elect. We see therefore that it is no absurdity, that one self act be ascribed to God, to Satan, and to man: He claimed, in fact, that Calvinism created a theodical dilemma: What shall we say then? That this question so long debated of the Philosophers, most wise men, and yet undetermined, cannot even of Divines, and men endued with heavenly wisdom, be discussed and decided?

And that God hath in this case laid a crosse upon learned men, wherein they might perpetually torment themselves? I cannot so think. For him, the Calvinists were overcomplicating the issues of faith and repentance, and thereby causing great and unnecessary confusion among struggling believers. Faustus himself confesses a similar sentiment regarding predestination: Ay, we must die an everlasting death.

What doctrine call you this? The following is from the Gutenberg project e-text of the quarto with footnotes removed. Sweet Helen, make me immortal with a kiss.

Here will I dwell, for heaven is in these lips, And all is dross that is not Helena. O, thou art fairer than the evening air Clad in the beauty of a thousand stars; Brighter art thou than flaming Jupiter. Another well-known quote comes after Faustus asks Mephistophilis how he is out of Hell, to which Mephistophilis replies: And tasted the eternal joys of heaven, Am not tormented with ten thousand hells In being deprived of everlasting bliss?

Throughout the play, Faustus is continuously making wrong choices. His first sin was greed. Faustus began his downfall by making a pact with the devil. Doctor Faustus is a German scholar who is well known for his accomplishments. He grows sick of the limitations on human knowledge, which leads him to his interest with magic.

For example, in the morality play, the main character, representing all, encounters characters such as Faith, Hope, and Charity as well as Pride, Lust, and Envy. Medieval culture had emphasized that believers should detach themselves as much as possible from things of this world. These dramatic encounters, as with those involving Faustus and Mephostophilis, and the varying comic ones, illustrate that acts of choice and their motivations have temporal and eternal consequences. In addition, Marlowe sets the morality-play framework of Doctor Faustus within the wider context of Renaissance Christian humanism, in which intellectual and cultural currents greatly differ from the medieval period.

He makes Doctor Faustus represent the new learning that highlights the importance of individual thought, expression, and worldly experience. Christian humanism seeks to extend boundaries of knowledge beyond the religious sphere, with a revival of classical learning.

It stresses all knowledge of human and physical nature, the arts, and sciences together. It values and appreciates the present life—the good things of the here and now and the almost unlimited potential of humans to be, have, or do what they would. For example, the discovery of the New World had greatly broadened physical, intellectual, and imaginative horizons.

Human beings, having wondrous capabilities and possibilities, should realize them through generalized curiosity about all things. Struggles to understand how the world works and to discover how its parts are connected makes humans more than they already are.

Initially, Faustus exemplifies the new humanistic learning and its open-ended possibilities; he is a person at the height of human knowledge and is the greatest theologian in Europe, despite humble origins.

Although typifying the high aspiration of the Renaissance, he grows discontent, unhappy with the constraints of his learning and his life, unable even to approximate his personal ambitions. He wants, for example, observable proof of answers to ultimate or cosmic questions and increasingly seeks fame or worldly renown and sensual gratification, epitomized in Helen of Troy. He turns to forbidden, occult things, acting against his better knowledge. He thinks the fact of death and the dread of it, as well as the existence of evil and its depth, renders orthodox forms of knowledge inadequate.

He might make the tragic quality of life more manageable or tolerable by means of magical or demoniac practices. Faustus, in return for his soul, receives use of supernatural knowledge or power for twenty-four years, the parallel with hours of the day indicating the brief time in comparison with eternity.

His supposed supernatural ability is a mystery operating outside the laws of God and nature. Indeed, famous scientists such as Isaac Newton dabbled in astrology and alchemy into the eighteenth century.

In this speech, Faustus puts the medieval world to bed and steps firmly into the new era. This admonition would seem to make Marlowe a defender of the established religious values, showing us the terrible fate that awaits a Renaissance man who rejects God. But by investing Faustus with such tragic grandeur, Marlowe may be suggesting a different lesson.

Perhaps the price of rejecting God is worth it, or perhaps Faustus pays the price for all of western culture, allowing it to enter a new, more secular era. Discuss the character of Mephastophilis. How does Marlowe complicate his character and inspire our sympathy? Yet there is an odd ambivalence in Mephastophilis. Before the pact is sealed, he actually warns Faustus against making the deal, telling him how awful the pains of hell are.

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Starting an essay on Christopher Marlowe's Doctor Faustus? Organize your thoughts and more at our handy-dandy Shmoop Writing Lab. Doctor Faustus Essays: Dr. Faustus and the Christian Moral - Dr. Faustus and the Christian Moral In the play Doctor Faustus the main character sells his soul to the devil and later dies and is sent to hell.

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Free Essay: The Tragic Downfall of Dr. Faustus Christopher Marlowe's play, its genre an English tragedy of the sixteenth century, presents the tragic. Suggested Essay Topics; How to Cite This SparkNote; Is D octor Faustus a Christian tragedy? Why or why not? Doctor Faustus has elements of both Christian morality and classical tragedy. On the one hand, it takes place in an explicitly Christian cosmos: God sits on high, as the judge of the world, and every soul goes either to hell or to.