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MonkeyNotes-Doctor Faustus by Christopher Marlowe
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Notes

The appearance of Lucifer, Beelzebub and Mephistophilis makes it clear that Faustus’ private tragedy is framed by cosmic powers. That does not mean that Faustus is a mere puppet moved and manipulated by external power. The more the audience is aware of the supernatural forces, the more striking is the voice of the individual caught up in those forces.

Faustus’ conversation with Wagner brings out the human element in his character. He has a genuine concern for his servant, as is evident from his will. He has bequeathed all his property to him. Wagner, too, expresses his love of and loyalty to his master.

In the meeting with the scholars, some light is shed on Faustus’ human feelings. His attitude towards the scholars is affectionate, and the scholars’ devotion towards him is emphasized. Faustus is full of self-pity, while the scholars are full of sympathy for him. Although Faustus’ conscience has always been nagging him, his agony has never been greater than it is at this time. He knows that he is guilty of a sin for which there can be no pardon: “The serpent that tempted Eve may be saved, but not Faustus.” He shudders with horror as he foresees the end, which is imminent.

The appearance of the Good Angel and Bad Angel reaffirms the cosmic character of Faustus’ tragedy. Previously, they had been in opposition to each other. In this scene they are presented in a different light. They seem to be in agreement, virtually in harmony. Both drive home the same point: Faustus loved the world, and hence he “must taste hell’s pains perpetually.” For the first time, the Good Angel makes his exit from the stage, leaving the Bad Angel alone with Faustus so that he can gloat over Faustus’ damnation and paint a horrific picture of the tortures awaiting him. “Hell is discovered,” as the stage direction tells the reader. The audience sees the fate that awaits Faustus.


Faustus’ last soliloquy is the most brilliant in the entire play. It superbly dramatizes the panic experienced by a troubled mind. The “one bare hour” which remains for Faustus’ life is compressed wonderfully into fifty-eight lines of text. Faustus helplessly invokes the universe to cease its motion: “Stand still, you ever- moving spheres of heaven/ That time may cease, and midnight never come.” There is something unreal about this invocation. As his end nears, he detaches himself from the natural processes which govern the universe. He asks the sun to rise again so that time will reverse itself into “perpetual day.” He feels time slip away: “A year, a month, a weak, a natural day.” The span diminishes even as he talks. Trying to call on Christ to save him, Faustus is here being tormented physically by Lucifer. “Rend not my heart for naming of my Christ,” he cries. Then he summons up all his strength and determination: “Yet will I call on him--,” but the line ironically turns into “O, spare me, Lucifer.” Trying to answer “Whether should I fly?,” he looks for places to hide from the wrath of God. The image of the martyred and compassionate Christ has been replaced by that of the wrathful Jehovah. When the half-hour strikes, he becomes aware of the terrible reality of eternity. He does not mind a hundred thousand years of existence in hell, as long as he is saved at the end. He wants his soul to be “dissolved in elements.” He even contemplates the burning of his books on necromancy, which may save him. Through this act, Faustus the Scholar symbolically rejects the pursuit of knowledge. Faustus’ last words as he is dragged to hell, “ah, Mephistophilis!,” signify little, but are full of pain.

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MonkeyNotes-Doctor Faustus by Christopher Marlowe
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