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MonkeyNotes-Doctor Faustus by Christopher Marlowe
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Act I, Scene 3

Summary

The setting is a grove, and Faustus enters to conjure spirits. He tries his magic arts, and then Mephistophilis appears. Startled by his appearance, Faustus tells him to return dressed like a Franciscan friar. He is excited by his power over Mephistophilis, who tells him, however, that he (Mephistophilis) is only Lucifer’s servant. Mephistophilis says that he came in the hope of gaining Faustus’ soul. It is Faustus’ impious speech (his disavowal of the Trinity), rather than his conjuring, that has brought this devil to him.

Faustus boasts of his courage and does not bother about his soul and its salvation. Hell, the devil explains to him, is separation from the presence of God and the everlasting joys of heaven. Faustus sells his soul to Lucifer in return for twenty-four years of sensual pleasure, the services of Mephistophilis, the granting of all his (Faustus’) demands, the answering of all his questions, the death of his enemies, the helping of his friends and the unceasing obedience of Mephistophilis. Faustus sees in Mephistophilis the attainment of all worldly power. He eagerly awaits his return.


Notes

Ironically, Faustus is unaware of being watched throughout this scene by Lucifer himself, who, together with four devils, stands on the balcony of the stage. Throughout this first meeting with Mephistophilis, Faustus displays enormous arrogance. Imagining himself to be in control, he issues orders. He treats his contact as a mere messenger between himself and Lucifer. Significantly, Mephistophilis’ arrival is not due to Faustus’ conjuring, but to the profane state of his soul.

Secondly, Mephistophilis says that Lucifer fell from heaven because of his excessive pride and insolence. Faustus should have realized that he, too, is guilty of excessive pride and insolence because of his desire to rise above his human status and become a “deity.” Thirdly, Mephistophilis describes hell as a mental condition, and not as a particular place or region where the damned are doomed to live. However, Faustus, ignores this remark and refuses to believe in the existence of hell.

In Faustus’ impatience to conclude a bargain with the Devil, he thinks little of the good of his soul. Most of his pleasure in dealing with evil is connected to the acquisition of power. Instead of profiting by Mephistophilis’ warnings, Faustus scolds Mephistophilis for feeling sorrowful at the loss of heavenly joys. He sets himself up as an example of “manly fortitude.” He is ready to offer his soul to Lucifer in return for twenty-four years of voluptuousness and power. He does not seem to notice the most significant similarity between himself and Lucifer: they both have fallen from grace. Faustus is, at this time, so carried away by his visions of his future that he fervently declares: “Had I as many soul as there be stars,/ I’d give them all for Mephistophilis.”

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