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Sin in Faustus

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Marlowe's "Doctor Faustus" and "Sin against the Holy Ghost" Author(s): Gerard H. Cox, III Source: Huntington Library Quarterly, Vol. 36, No. 2 (Feb., 1973), pp. 119-137 Published by: University of California Press Stable URL: Accessed: 07/11/2010 15:38
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Marlowe's Doctor Faustus "Sinagainst and the Holy Ghost"
MARLOWE'S FAUSTUS polarizes his audience, and response to his fate has largely reflected critical preconceptions. To those who believe Marlowe was himself a skeptic, Faustus'aspiring will saves him; to those who believe that Marlowe was an orthodox Christian, Faustus' perverse will damns him. This failure of agreement has been aptly formulated by Max Bluestone: "Just as there seem to be two plays dramatizing different doctrines, there seem to be two Faustuses, the form of his critical fortunes, like his dramatic fortunes, 'good or bad.' "1 One solution to this polarity has been to emphasize the play's ambiguity. To quote Bluestone's own position: "We are left with an equivocal spectacle. And that may be all we know on earth and all we need to know " (p. 82). But at the risk of seeming reductive, I dissent from the notion that Doctor Faustus presents us with an equivocal spectacle. Christian doctrine is the very stuff of Doctor Faustus, and Marlowe's own attitude toward that doctrine is much less important than the dramatic use he makes of it. As spectators, we are called upon to respond to a "tragicall Historie" (A text), a "Tragedie" (B text). What is important, then, is not credence in Christian doctrine but its coherence within this particular dramatic structure. The questions we must ask, therefore, are: what principles order Doctor Faustus? is its dramatic structure as ambiguous as some would have it? if not, how successfully does the form of Faustus'fortunes evoke an emotional response appropriate to tragedy? Like many of the incidents, the structure of Doctor Faustus follows Marlowe's chief source, The Historie of the Damnable Life, and Deserved Death of Doctor John Faustus (1592). The three-part division of the Damnable Life corresponds exactly to the sequence of temptations learned by every child in his catechism: the devil and all his works; the pomps and vanities of the wicked world; the sinful lusts of the flesh.2 The beginning of the play focuses on Faustus' temptation and his giving way to the devil; the middle illustrates in an appropriately comic mode Faustus' indulgence in the pomps and vanities of the world; and the end shows him absorbed by belly-cheer and the arms of Helen. "'Libido Speculandi: Doctrine and Dramaturgy in Contemporary Interpretations of Marlowe's Doctor Faustus," in Reinterpretations of Elizabethan Drama: Selected Papers from the English Institute, ed. Norman Rabkin (New York, 1969), p. 41. An excellent survey, Bluestone's article also has a convenient appendix of some 8o studies of the play. 2See the First and Second Prayerbooks of Edward VI; Thomas Becon, A New Catechism; the Elizabethan Prayerbooks of 1559 and 1604; Alexander Nowell, Catechismus (and Thomas Norton's trans.); Luther's Small Catechism.

?31973 by The Henry E. Huntington Library and Art Gallery.

HUNTINGTON LIBRARYQUJAR-T ERLY Underlying this three-part sequence of temptation is a secondary sequence that is crucial to an understanding of the nature and magnitude of Faustus' fall. Critics have proposed a variety of reasons for it: he presumes; he signs a pact with the devil; he is a prey to despair; he commits the sin of demoniality;3 he refuses to repent. These explanations have the peculiar merit of being collectively true but individually misleading; all contribute something to our understanding of Faustus'downward career, but none suffices as a definitive statement about his fall. For Faustus falls not statically but progressively. Dame Helen Gardner aptly describes the stages of this fall: "From a proud philosopher, master of all human knowledge, to a trickster, to a slave of phantoms, to a cowering wretch: that is a brief sketch of the progress of Dr. Faustus."4 This is an accurate sketch, but it, too, is incomplete. Faustus is guilty not only of presumption and despair, sins which Dame Helen correctly identified as two of the sins against the Holy Ghost, but also of impenitence, obstinacy, resistance to the known truth, and envy of a brother's spiritual good. Faustus thus commits all six of the sins traditionally categorized as sins against the Holy Ghost. The concept of these sins was derived fromnMatthew xii.31-32: "WhereforeI say unto you, everie sinne and blasphemie shal be forgiven unto men: but the blasphemie against the holie Gost shal not be forgiven unto men. And whosoever shal speake a worde against the Sone of man, it shal be forgiven him: but whosoever shal speake against ye holie Gost, it shal not be forgiven him, neither in this world nor in ye worlde to come."5 Although Augustine admitted that no problem in the Bible was more difficult than the meaning of sin against the Holy Ghost, the Scholastic philosophers agreed that man sins against the Holy Ghost (whose work is remission of sins) by deliberately choosing evil over good. Aquinas says that such a choice results from the contemptuous rejection of those things which should prevent a man from choosing evil: consideration of God's judgment, consideration of the nature of sin, acknowledgment of God's gifts to withdraw man from sin. The Scholastic
3This word is used by W. W. Greg in his article, "The Damnation of Faustus," MLR, XLI (1946), 97-107. Greg notes that the definition of "demoniality" given in the OED is rather misleading: the analogy of "demoniality" is not with "spirituality" but with "bestiality"; see Lodovico Maria Sinistrari, Demoniality; or, Incubi and Succubi, the work whose title furnishes one of the quotations given by the OED, as well as his better known work, De Delictis et Poenis (Venice, 1700). Greg continues that according to Sinistrari the first to use the term daemonialitas and to distinguish it from bestialitas was Johannes Caramuelis in his Theologia Fundamentalis (Frankfort, 1651). 4"Milton's 'Satan' and the Theme of Damnation in Elizabethan Tragedy," Essays and Studies, I (1948), rpt. in Elizabethan Drama: Modern Essays in Criticism, ed. Ralph J. Kaufmann (New York, 1g61), p. 321. 5Here and elsewhere I quote from The Geneva Bible: A Facsimile of the I560 Edition (Madison, 1969). Faustus himself quotes the Vulgate, but as few readers have even small Latin, I have preferred to use the best known English trans. contemporary with the play. 120







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opinion held into the seventeenth century. Citing Augustine and Aguinas in a sermon on Matthew xii.-31, Donne explains that the Schoolmen rightly divide sin against the Holy Ghost into three corresponding branches or "couples": for The firstcouple is, presumptionand desperation; presumptiontakesaway the feare of God, and desperation the love of God. And then, they name Impenitence, and hardnesse of heart; for Impenitence removes all sorrow for sins past, and hardnesse of heart all tendernesse towards future tentations. And lastly, they name The resisting of a truth acknowledged before, and the envying of other men, who have made better use of Gods grace then we have done; for this resisting of a Truth, is a shutting up of our selves against it, and this envying of others, is a sorrow, that that Truth should prevaile upon them.

Following Matthew xii.3 i, moreover, these six sins were held to be irremissible.6

Faustus commits all of these sins, some of them not once but repeatedly. Each time he becomes less able to repent because his habitual sinfulness binds him ever tighter to the consequences of his previous acts. The result is a progressively renewed allegiance to sin. The shaping of the play in terms of a conventional understanding of the nature and kinds of sin against the Holy Ghost has thus two important consequences: it makes Faustus'damnation unambiguous, and it helps to clarify the sense in which Faustus' fall is tragic. We first see Faustus engaged in a deliberative inquiry. His intention to "levell at the end of every Art" indicates that, quite appropriately, he is making a rational judgment rather than a willful choice.7 Proceeding with his inquiry, Faustus systematically excludes logic, medicine, and law, concluding, "When all is done, Divinitie is best." Of course, Faustus cannot rest here. He has limited his range of choices, but he has yet to decide which art to choose. Such a decision was traditionally viewed as the conclusion of a practical syllogism. What appears to be ironic is the means Faustus employs to construct his syllogism. Faustus is apparently practicing the Sortes Virgilianae: opening a text (here, of course, the Bible rather than Virgil) and taking as a guide to decision or action the first verse the eyes light on. (The same technique is used for comic effect in Rabelais's Gar6For Augustine's varied opinions, see De Serm. Dom. in Monte 1.22; De Corrept. et 185.1149. Aquinas, Summa Theologica, Pt. II of 2nd Pt., Q. 14, Art. 1-4. Subsequent references to Aquinas are to the Summa. The Sermons of John Donne, ed. George R. Potter and Evelyn M. Simpson (Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1953-62), V, 93-94. 7Except when the A text is indicated, I quote the B text of s6i6 from Marlowe's Doctor Faustus 1604-I616: Parallel Texts, ed. W. W. Greg (Oxford, 1g5o). On the deliberation that should precede choice, see Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, III, 2, 3 ( 1112a 15, 113a I 1); Aquinas, II-I, Q. 14, Art. 1.
Gratia 12.35; Epist. 122


gantua and Pantagruel, Bk. III, Cu. x.) Obviously, the texts from Romans vi.23 and I John i.8-9 are too pertinent to result from random selection; but whether they are providential or whether Mephostophilis leads his eye, Faustus sees only the first half of each text and so concludes that sin cannot be forgiven: Why then belikewe mustsinne, And so consequently die, I, we must die, an everlastingdeath.

This conclusion completely ignores the chief article of Christian doctrine. The forgiveness of sins is the doctrine by which the Church traditionally has distinguished itself from false religions, by which glory is given to God alone, and by which enduring comfort is offered to sinful man. As Donne preached succinctly, "Whosoever acknowledges a God, acknowledges a Remission of sins, and whosoever acknowledges a Remission of sins, acknowledges a God."8 But by not acknowledging the forgiveness of sins, Faustus is all but committed to not acknowledging a God. Hence, the often remarked sense that the devil is more real to Faustus than God. Faustus' mistaken consideration of the role of mercy in God's judgment opens the door to his temptations by evil: he becomes contemptuous-"What doctrine call you this? Che sera, sera: / What will be, shall be"-and he abandons divinity to pursue magic. This contemptuous rejection of divinity leads to the first of his sins against the Holy Ghost. His lack of fear concerning God's justice encourages the unchecked aspirations summarized by the famous line, "Here tire my braines to get a Deity." As Dame Helen observes, the "sin of Faustus here is presumption, the aspiring above his order, or the rebellion against the law of his creation" (p. 323). The Good Angel warns Faustus against "Gods heavy wrath," but any such consideration is removed by the.enticements of the Bad Angel: "Be thou on earth as Jove is in the skye, / Lord and Commander of these elements." Led on by the two unholy persons of Valdes and Cornelius, Faustus soon commits his second sin against the Holy Ghost. First Valdes and then Cornelius describe the rewards Faustus can gain if he remains resolute. Their elaborate invocation of miracles, fame, and wealth so cheers his soul that he hardens his will in sin, exclaiming, "This night I'le conjure tho I die therefore." Far from following the advice of the Good Angel to turn away from magic and repent, Faustus has become confirmed in obstinacy. When Faustus begins to conjure, he again reminds the audience of his obstinacy: "Then feare not Faustus to be resolute / And try the utmost
8Sermons, IX, 258-259.


HUNTINGTON LIBRARYQUARTERLY Magicke can performe." His famous exchanges with Mephostophilis give further evidence that his will is hardened in sin. He readily admits to having abjured all godliness and to holding the principle that "There is no chiefe but onely Beelzebub." Once allegiance is given to false gods like Beelzebub, sinful man deprives himself of enduring comfort. Ironically, Faustus does not perceive that the answers to his questions about the fall of Lucifer apply equally well to him, so once again he is contemptuous: What is greatMephostophilis so passionate Forbeing deprivedof the Joyesof heaven? Learnethou of Faustus manlyfortitude, And scornethoseJoyesthou nevershalt possesse.

Because of his contempt, he offers to make the compact and still further hardens his will in sin: "Had I as many soules, as there be Starres,/ I'de give them all for Mephostophilis" (11.327-328). Faustus' next scene leads him to despair, the third of his sins against the Holy Ghost.9 As in the first scene, Faustus is engaged in deliberation, but whereas then he was concerned with the choice of vocation, now he is considering the possibility of mercy tempering God's judgment: "Now Faustus, must thou needs be damn'd?I Canst thou not be sav'd?"(11.390-391). These questions indicate the first motion of Faustus toward repentance. As Richard Hooker explains: "The root and beginning of penitency therefore is the consideration of our own sin, as a cause which hath procured the wrath, and a subject which doth need the mercy of God."'0 In this consideration of God's judgment Faustus once again constructs a syllogism, concluding, "Despaire in GOD,and trust in Belzebub." Yet even though he wants to be resolute, he wavers: "O something soundeth in mine eare. I Abjure this Magicke, turne to God againe." This portent dramatizes the orthodox belief that sinful man is unable to repent until God gives him the first motions. The soundings in Faustus' ear point to God's prevenient grace, and as such provide grounds for hope of salvation. But, just as in the first scene presumption removed the fear of God's justice, here despair removes the hope of God's mercy: To God?he loves thee not, The god thou servestis thine owne appetite, whereinis fixt the love of Belsabub. (A text, 11. 447-449)
9Dame Helen argues that despair is Faustus' final sin (P. 323). 10Of the Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity, Bk. VI, Gh. iii.3, in The Works of . . . Richard Hooker, ed. John Keble, rev. R. W. Church and F. Paget, 7th ed. (Oxford, 1888), III, 9. Subsequent references are to this ed. and will be included in the text. 124

MARLOWE'S DOC TOR FA USTUS And as before, contempt confirms his choice of evil: his decision to "build an Altar and a Church, / And offer luke-warme bloud, of new borne babes" indicates by its parody of the Mass the degree to which he despises God's saving grace. In spite of Faustus' presumption, obstinacy, and despair, one effort after another is made to induce his repentance and thus save his soul. The Good Angel again entreats him to turn away from magic, urging contrition, prayer, and repentance as the "meanes to bring thee unto heaven" (1. 406). But distracted by the Bad Angel's reminders of honor and wealth, Faustus once more casts his lot with evil:
When Mephostophilis shall stand by me, What power can hurt me? Faustus thou art safe. Cast no more doubts; Mepho: come And bring glad tydings from great Lucifer.

Before he can receive his tidings of great joy, however, he has to sign away his soul with his own blood. A second portent occurs: the blood congeals. Faustus ponders its possible significance, but can find none. He parodies the last words of Christ while he signs the deed, and a third portent occurs: the words Homofuge appear on his arm. But as before, Faustus remains resolute. Then, distracted by the dance of the devils and presumably swayed by their symbolic gifts of "Crownes and rich apparell," Faustus hands the "Deed of Gift" to Mephostophilis. The giving of the deed to Mephostophilis is largely a symbolic act, an expression of his firm commitment to evil more than an act quintessentially evil in itself. It is the sequence of events leading to this dramatic gesture that is important. These events consistently turn upon issues of Faustus' own good, and Faustus consistently responds to questions of what is best for him by some version of "Evil be thou my Good." The process by which Faustus comes to sign away his soul thus points up how his fall occurs through his own free will acting on deliberate, considered choice. We next see Faustus in his study, chopping logic with Mephostophilis. Faustus' conclusion to their disputation on the place of man in creation illustrates Robert Burton's observation that a man in the grip of the devil "doth resist, and hath some good motions intermixed now and then.""1 This time Faustus' conclusion-"If Heaven was made for man, 'twas made for me"-is sound, and he decides to act upon it: "I will renounce this Magicke and repent" (11.579-580). This drama builds even more as Faustus momentarily withstands the words of the Bad Angel and reI1The Anatomy of Melancholy ed. (London, 1932),111I,048.

Pt. 111, Sec. iv, Memb. 2, Subs. vi; Everyman 125



peats his conviction: "Yea, God will pitty me if I repent." But whatever hope we may entertain is lost when Faustus replies to the Bad Angel's "I, but Faustus never shall repent" with his despairing acknowledgment, "My heart is hardned, I cannot repent." As his speech continues, it becomes clear that Faustus is going beyond despair to impenitence, the settled purpose of not repenting: Scarce can I name salvation, faith, or heaven. Swords, poyson, halters, and invenomb'd steele, Are laid before me to dispatch my selfe: And long e're this, I should have done the deed, Had not sweete pleasure conquer'd deepe despaire. Why should I die then, or basely despaire? I am resolv'd, Faustus shall not repent. (11.590-594, 6oo-6oi) Even though despair may have removed any hope of God's mercy, Aquinas explains, man can still extricate himself from sin by considering the disorder and shamefulness of his actions. Faustus comes to precisely the opposite conclusion. He reveals that the pleasures for which he sold his soul are valuable to him only as distractions, as pastimes, to make him forget his deep despair. Yet he then declares that these pleasures are sweet, that they possess him with joy and therefore concludes,

"Why should I die then, or basely despaire?" This is circular reasoning, and it has the effect of removing him even further from repentance: "I am resolv'd, Faustus shall not repent." Not simply despairing, Faustus is now impenitent. As he continues disputing with Mephostophilis, however, another

good motion comes about when he feels contempt not for God but for his informer: These slender questions Wagner can decide: Hath Mephostophilis no greater skill? These are fresh mens questions. (11.618-619, 625) By asking a seemingly more difficult question-"who made the world"

-Faustus returns to the consideration of repentance. His question about the Creation is of a different order of knowledge from the previous ones: they dealt with "divine Astrology" and would be unknown by the answer he greater portion of the audience; this deals with faith-the seeks is given in the first article of the Apostles' Creed-and should have


been known by everyone in the audience. Once he is conscious of God the Creator, Faustus reacts against Mephostophilis and questions, not whether he should repent, but whether it is too late to repent. Moved by the promise of the Good Angel, "Repent and they [the devils] shall never raise thy skin," Faustus starts to repent: "O Christ my Saviour, my Saviour, / Helpe to save distressed Faustus soule." This is a good beginning, but contrary to what we might assume, only to begin is in effect not to repent. As Donne warned his congregation, "He that makes half12 repentances, makes none." When Lucifer, Beelzebub, and Mephostophilis enter, Faustus first abandons his repentance and then proceeds to an even more grievous sin of impenitence. Afraid that these terrible beings have come to fetch his soul, Faustus forgets the Good Angel's promise and is soon bullied into submission. What follows is a parody of penance. Down on his knees, Faustus repents his repentance: "Nor will Faustus henceforth [call on Christ]: pardon him for this, / And Faustus vowes never to looke to heaven" (11.665-666). The significance of this backsliding is apparent in Hooker's quotation of Tertullian on penitence: " 'He which by repentance for sins' (saith Tertullian, speaking of fickle-minded men) 'had a purpose to satisfy the Lord, will now by repentance make Satan satistaction; and be so much more hateful to God, as he is unto God's enemy more acceptable'" (VI.v.i). Lucifer's response is obviously one of smug satisfaction: "So shalt thou show thy selfe an obedient servant, / And we will highly gratify thee for it." Just as Faustus'falling into despair constituted a breach with the good, so his recanting his repentance constitutes a breach with repentance. In a speech found only in A, Faustus determines to be an active foe of God, vowing Never to name God, or to pray to him, To burne his Scriptures, slay his Ministers, And make my spirites pull his churches downe.13

These actions are precisely those we would expect to be hateful to God and acceptable to Satan. The following pageant of the Seven Deadly Sins also relates to his impenitence. Because he will have to guard against falling into the life of grace, these sins provide Faustus with examples of how he can pass his remaining time in the world. As the good is to be feared, so sin is to be enjoyed. Faustus exclaims about the show, "O how this sight doth delight my soule," and Lucifer not only tells him that in
12Sermons, IX, 267. For a perceptive discussion of Faustus' "incomplete repentances," see Douglas Cole, Suffering and Evil in the Plays of Christopher Marlowe (Princeton,
1962), pp. 209-225.

13Greg believes the editor's fear of profanity led him to cancel these lines in B (Notes: A 726-728).


HUNTINGTON LIBRARYQUARTERLY Hell is all manner of delight, but promises that he will give him a guided tour, coming for him (in what is surely an ironic foreshadowing) at midnight. In the comic episodes that dramatize his yielding to the temptations of worldly pomps and vanities, Faustus' activities remain perversely inverted from what they should be. For example, Burton advises that someone affected by religious melancholy should "by all honest recreations refresh and recreate his distressed soul" ( But Faustus' recreations do not refresh his soul, they only distract it. Far from lessening his despairing allegiance to Lucifer, they confirm it. What Pascal noted under the topic of Wretchedness is virtually a summary of Marlowe's treatment of Faustus: The only thing that consolesus for our miseriesis diversion.And yet it is the greatestof our miseries.For it is that above all which preventsus thinking about ourselvesand leads us imperceptiblyto destruction.But for that we should be bored,and boredomwould drive us to seek some moresolid means of escape, but diversion passesour time and brings us imperceptiblyto our death.14 Faustus' pastimes console him with worldly mirth and thus serve to conceal his despair from himself, but their very diversion makes him lose himself all the more irrevocably. From the point of view of the audience, the comic scenes show Faustus being perceptibly diverted from his true end, God, and so brought to an everlasting death. The soliloquy Faustus gives after his haggling with the horse trader represents still another means of passing the time. Faustus does recognize his condition:

What art thou Faustusbut a man condemn'dto die? Thy fatall time drawesto a finall end; Despairedoth drivedistrustinto my thoughts.

But by ignoring this perception of his approaching end, Faustus remains impenitent: Confoundthese passionswith a quiet sleepe: Tush Christdid call the Theefe upon the Crosse, Then rest thee Faustus quiet in conceit.
14Pensees, No. 171, trans. A. J. Krailsheimer, Penguin ed. (London, 1966), p. 148. The thematic relevance of his diversion has been well established by Robert Ornstein, "The Comic Synthesis in Doctor Faustus," ELH, XXII (1955), 165-172; Roland M. Frye, "Marlowe's Doctor Faustus: The Repudiation of Humanity," SAQ LV (1956), 322-328; John H. Crabtree, Jr., "The Comedy of Marlowe's Dr. Faustus," Furman Studies, IX (1961), 1-9; Warren D. Smith, "The Nature of Evil in Doctor Faustus," MLR, LX (1965), 17 1-175.



To postpone repentance was foolish, for it assumed that when the moment of death came near one would still retain all his faculties intact and be sufficiently undistracted to examine himself spiritually. Furthermore, as writers in the ars moriendi tradition never tired of warning, a late or deathbed repentance was by its very nature suspect-it might not be efficacious for salvation. Yet this speech presents Faustus as more than foolish. In one sense, he possesses knowledge all other men lack: he knows his "fatal time"; he knows the very hour and minute he will die. Like the other knowledge he has gained, this certainty leads not to liberation but to limitation; it is less a blessing than a misfortune. Far from meditating on that grim reminder, memento mori, Faustus escapes the present moment by losing himself in pastimes and distractions. Sleep, that death in little, will indeed confound his passions, but to seek refuge in oblivion is to place the soul in peril. Relevant here is a passage from a sermon by Bishop Latimer incorporating the text: "Unusquisque enim tempus certum habet praedefinitum a Domino; For every man hath a certain time appointed him of God, and God hideth that same time from us."15 Latimer's explanation of this text is precisely applicable to Faustus: "He hath not manifested to us the time, because he would have us at all times ready: else if I knew the time, I would presume upon it, and so should be worse." By reassuring himself that Christ called the thief upon the cross, Faustus can rationalize postponing his repentance and can thus rest "quiet in conceit." But of course there were two thieves, and only one of them was saved. Knowing his fatal time, Faustus does presume and so is the worse. The moral of these comic scenes is unknowingly voiced by the Duke when he comments that Faustus' "Artfull sport, drives all sad thoughts away" (1. 1773); but it does so in the same manner that Faustus con-

founds his passions with a quiet sleep: it distracts him from thinking about his own condition and so leads him perceptibly to his own destruction.

Having shown Faustus yielding successively to the temptations of the devil and the world, the play now turns to the temptations of the flesh. As Wagner tells us, Faustus is filling his remaining days with belly-cheer, and he will soon seek oblivion in the arms of Helen. With the entrance of the Old Man, the two remaining sins against the Holy Ghost, resistance to known or divine truth and envy of a brother's spiritual good, are given dramatic importance. The Old Man represents the two gifts from God that can withdraw man from sin: acknowledgment of truth, and the assistance of inward grace. Even though Faustus has spent his twenty15"The Sixth Sermon on the Lord's Prayer." Sermons by Hugh Latimer, ed. George Elwes Corrie, Parker Society (Cambridge, Eng., 1844), pp. 415-416. For similar Renaissance texts, see Cole, p. 218. 129



four years in sin, he still is offered these gifts by the Old Man. In his effort to save Faustus' soul, the Old Man first points out the consequences of practicing magic-it will charm his soul to Hell and totally bereave him of salvation-and then pleads that Faustus not continue impenitent: Though thou hast now offended like a man, Doe not persever in it like a Divell; Yet, yet, thou hast an amiable soule, If sin by custome grow not into nature: Then Faustus, will repentance come too late, Then thou art banisht from the sight of heaven; No mortall can expresse the paines of hell. (11.1816-22) These truthful words are motivated by love and pity and not, as Faustus' soon will be, by wrath and envy; yet their effect on Faustus leads not to acknowledgment but to resistance of truth. His reaction is not hope but rather despair of God's mercy: Where art thou Faustus? wretch, what hast thou done? Hell claimes his right, & with a roaring voice, Saies Faustus come, thine houre is almost come, And Faustus now will come to do thee right. This is precisely the opposite of being withdrawn from sin. The dagger he accepts from Mephostophilis of course symbolizes his intention to commit suicide, the ultimate act of despair. But, much as Una prevents the Red Cross Knight from killing himself in the Cave of Despair, so the Old Man checks Faustus: "O stay good Faustus, stay thy desperate steps." His next lines are far more emphatic than Una's, however, for while she argues that the knight has a share in heavenly mercies, the Old Man witnesses to an extraordinary circumstance: I see an Angell hover ore thy head, And with a vyoll full of pretious grace, Offers to poure the same into thy soule, Then call for mercy, and avoyd despaire.
(11. 1835-38)

This could be the Good Angel, but the drama is increased if it is taken to be not a guardian angel but a special emissary from God. These angels were believed to come to men only on rare occasions: to inspire prophets, to deliver warnings, or to act on behalf of the good in an emergency.16
16Robert Hunter West, The Invisible World: A Study of Pneumatology in Elizabethan
Drama (Athens, Ga., 1939), p.



Usually such an angel would remain invisible, so its manifestation to the Old Man (besides being necessary if he is to say the lines) demonstrates his spirituality. That the angel is ready to pour grace into his soul emphasizes that Faustus still can repent, for he has the assistance of inward grace to call for mercy. Dramatically, it is a masterful stroke to show Faustus poised in the balance. He has only two choices: to repent, or to persevere; but his indecision-"I do repent, and yet I doe despaire"-both heightens the suspense and suggests that sin by custom has nearly grown into nature. His internal conflict is resolved by his fear of Mephostophilis. Under the familiar physical threat of being torn to pieces, Faustus gives over his spiritual struggle. As he did before, Faustus repents his repentance: I do repent I ere offendedhim [Lucifer], SweetMephasto: intreatthy Lord To pardonmy unjustpresumption, And with my bloud againe I will confirme The formervow I madeto Lucifer.

This time his blood does not congeal, signifying that sin by custom has now grown into nature. Because such customary acts make him even more hateful unto God, the response of Mephostophilis is heavily ironic: "Do it then Faustus, with unfained heart, / Lest greater dangers do attend thy drift." Parallel to Faustus' impenitence, a sin against God, is his desire to torment the Old Man. His urging Mephostophilis to torture "that base and aged man" is motivated by envy of a brother's spiritual good. Mephostophilis' admission that he cannot touch the Old Man'ssoul once again places the grounds for Faustus' backsliding in a highly ironic light: His faith is great,I cannottouch his soule; But what I mayafflicthis body with, I will attempt,which is but little worth.

Mephostophilis' begrudging response seems almost a paraphraseof Matthew x.28: "And feare ye not them which kil the bodie, but are not able to kil the soule: but rather feare him, which is able to destroye bothe soule and bodie in hel." Typically, Faustus misses the point. He now is concerned only with escaping from any motions toward repentance; Helen's "sweet embraces"will "extinguish cleare" his thoughts of good arising from the assistance of inward grace and so will enable him to keep his vow to Lucifer.



For all intents and purposes, Faustus has shut himself off from salvation. The kiss of Helen's that sucks forth his soul is the outward and visible sign of an inward and devilish degeneration: Faustus has lost his soul to Lucifer. We need not accept Greg'sargument that Faustus is damned because he has intercourse with a succubus to recognize that his embrace of Helen is the dramatic manifestation of his downfall.17 The reentry of the Old Man (in the A text only) underlines the theological consequences of Faustus' devotion to Helen. In contrast to accepting the grace of the Holy Ghost, Faustus has deliberately rejected it: AccursedFaustus, miserableman, That fromthy soule excludstthe graceof heaven, And fliest the throneof his tribunallseate.
(A. 11.1377-79)

Truly resolute, the Old Man provides an example of holy dying: his faith is proven and not found wanting. Particularly interesting in this regard are his lines on laughter: Ambitiousfiends,see how the heavenssmiles At your repulse,and laughsyour state to scorne, Hencehel, for hence I flie unto my God.
(A, 11.1384-86)

The laughter provoked by Faustus' trial of his art was worldly mirth; now we are reminded of the higher order of spiritual mirth. The first is allied with the devil; the other with God. One of the more rigorous medieval notions was that a prolonged contemplation of the day of doom should still all laughter.18Those that persisted in levity would receive their due reward hereafter. As Mephostophilis taunts Faustus, "Fooles that will laugh on earth, most weepe in hell" (1. 1994). But alongside this severe sobriety existed the more genial attitude that laughter could have spiritual value. In The Rule and Exercises of Holy Living, for example, Jeremy Taylor quotes approvingly a saying from a medieval life of St. Anthony: "'There is one way of overcoming our ghostly enemies; spiritual mirth, and a perpetual bearing of God in our minds': this effectively resists the devil, and suffers us to receive no hurt from him."19 The Old Man's faith, or the perpetual bearing of God in his mind, and his spiritual mirth do enable him to fly unto his God despite the ambi17"The Damnation of Faustus," MLR, XLI (1946), 97-107. 18V.A. Kolve, The Play Called Corpus Christi (Stanford, 1966), pp. 125-126. 19Holy Living (1650), 1.3, in The Whole Works of... Jeremy Taylor, ed. Reginald Heber, rev. Charles Page Eden (London, i86 1), III, 28.

MARLOWE'S DOCTOR FA USTUS tion of the fiends to possess his soul. Not only is the earlier promise of the Good Angel vindicated-"Repent and they shall never raise thy skin"-but the contrast to Faustus' approaching end could not be more pointed. After this Christian comedy follows Faustus' tragedy. In a state of re'ligious melancholy, Faustus suffers the sudden pangs and convulsions that often afflict even the most forsaken of God; yet, as Hooker warns, this anguish can not substitute for contrition because it does not involve the deliberate aversion of the will from sin (VI.iii.5). When the second Scholar pleads with him to call on God, Faustus' inability to repent illustrates the Augustinian belief that the downfall of sin against the Holy Ghost is so great that the sinner cannot submit to the humiliation of asking forgiveness, even though his consciousness of guilt forces him to proclaim his sin:20
On God, whom Faustus hath abjur'd?on God, whom Faustus hath blasphem'd? 0 my God, I would weepe, but the Divell drawes in my teares. Gush forth bloud in stead of teares, yea life and soule: oh hee stayes my tongue: I would lift up my hands, but see they hold 'em, they hold 'em. (11.1950-54)

All that Faustus can do now is realize his own predicament. In one sense, of course, his realization is explicitly didactic, but insofar as his awarenessgrows quite literally out of a race against time, it is highly dramatic. Faustus now sees that the knowledge he sought proved in the attainment to be only cunning; that for the "vaine pleasure of foure and twenty yeares hath Faustus lost eternall joy and felicitie" (11. 19606i). Yet in contrast to the earlier scene (11. 1546-51) in which he postponed repenting because there was still time, time has now run out and he is the worse: "I writ them a bill with mine owne bloud, the date is expired: this is the time, and he will fetch mee." He weeps because he has lost eternal happiness, but we might remember that this grief is entirely self-centered; he has not progressed to the point where he feels grief at having offended God's love. Because Hell is a condition as well as a location-"Hell hath no limits, nor is circumscrib'd,/ In one selfe place: but where we are is hell" (11.513-514)-Marlowe is able to represent Faustus suffering the tortures of Hell while he is still alive. After the throne, a symbol of Heaven, descends to music, Faustus is shown the "bright shining Saints"in order
20Augustine, De Serm. Dom. in Monte 1.22. Abject though he is, Faustus is not humble; rather, he is guilty of that insidious form of pride which believes that one's sins are too great even for God to forgive: "But Faustus offence can nere be pardoned, / The serpent that tempted Eve may be saved, / But not Faustus" (11.1937-39).




to teach him that he has lost their state of "celestiall happinesse, / Pleasures unspeakeable, blisse without end." According to Aquinas, such a vision torments the damned before judgment day both because they will envy the saints' happiness, and because they have forfeited that glory (Supplement to III, Q. 98. Art. 9). As Mephostophilis told Faustus earlier: Think'st thou that I that saw the face of God, And tasted the eternall joyes of heaven, Am not tormented with ten thousand hels, In being depriv'd of everlasting blisse? (11.302-305)

Faustus' fury at the Old Man is now more explicable. Envy of others' spiritual good has become a state of being for Faustus, whose sin is ironically punished by sin even as he commits it. The discovery of Hell further emphasizes Faustus' privation, and the suffering of the damned he beholds fills him with horror: "0, I have seene enough to torture me." But, as the Bad Angel gleefully tells him, his torment has only begun and will soon extend to his other senses as well. His experiences have changed his mind, as Mephostophilis said they would, but the striking of the clock underlines that time has nearly run out. Increasingly frantic, Faustus wants time to stop so he can repent, yet his very distraction at its passing precludes even a deathbed repentance. For the last time, he calls out of the depths of despair, but, as before, his will is bound by habitual sin: O I'le leape up to heaven:who puls me downe? One dropof bloud will saveme; oh my Christ, Rend not my heart,for namingof my Christ. Yetwill I call on him: 0 spareme Lucifer.
(11. 2048-5 1)

At last we see the awful effects of Faustus' reiterated impenitence. Because he has habitually placed his hope in Lucifer, Faustus has made himself hateful to God. What follows dramatizes John iii.36: "He that he beleveth in the Sonne, hathe everlasting life, &c that obeieth not the Sonne, shal not se life, but the wrath of God abideth on him." Now that the time of mercy is past and the time of justice begins, the blood symbolizing Christ's sacrifice disappears and the "threatning Arme" and
"tangryBrow" of God's wrath appear. The contempt for God's judgment

he felt in the beginning of the play is now transmuted and expanded to the appropriate emotion of fear:

MARLOWE'S DOCTOR FA USTUS Mountaines and Hils, come, come, and fall on me, And hide me from the heavy wrath of heaven. No? Then will I headlong run into the earth: Gape earth; 0 no, it will not harbour me. As he futilely tries to escape from himself, Faustus gives emotional force to the Scholastic thesis that the damned would prefer not to exist.21 Rather than suffer, rather than "live still to be plagu'd in hell," Faustus, like the damned, would willingly forfeit his eternal soul. His outcry, "Curst be the parents that ingendred me," is also consistent with the interpretation that he is already suffering the torments of the damned, for such texts as Matthew

"wo be to that man, by whome


Sonne of man is betrayed: it had bene good for that man, if he had never bene borne" and Jeremiah xx. 14, "Cursed be the day wherein I was borne," were glossed as confirming that it is better not to be than to endure the privations of the damned. Faustus does momentarily confront his situation and realize that he damned himself by yielding to the temptations of Lucifer, but so frantic is he as his time runs out that he loses all dignity and reverts to his desire for annihilation. Thunder sounds, the devils enter, and after his poignant offer to burn his books, Faustus is dragged screaming into Hellmouth. Only after Faustus has died is the audience in a position to assess his "hellish fall." Although most authorities followed Matthew xii.31-32 in arguing that sin against the Holy Spirit was irremissible, the question remained open whether any given individual might be forgiven if he repented. Bishop Latimer, for example, emphasizes that no conclusion could be drawn until the individual had died unrepentant: I cannot deny but that there is a sin against the Holy Ghost, which is irremissible: but we cannot judge of it aforehand, we cannot tell which man hath committed that sin or not, as long as he is alive; but when he is gone, then I can judge whether he sinned against the Holy Ghost or not.... Therefore, as I said before, he that is blasphemous, and obstinately wicked, and abideth in his wickedness still to the very end, he sinneth against the Holy Ghost; as St. Augustine, and all other godly writers do affirm.22 Faustus is unquestionably "blasphemous, and obstinately wicked," so his only hope for salvation lies in a late or deathbed repentance. Toward this the Old Man attempts to move him, but Faustus knowingly and willingly "abideth in his wickedness still to the very end." Because he
21See Aquinas, Supp. to Pt. III, Q. 98, Art. 3. 22"On the Parable of a King That Married His Son," Sermons, pp. 462-463. See also Aquinas, II-II, Q. 14, A. 3.


HUNTINGTON LIBRARYQUARTERLY never repents, his sins against the Holy Spirit are irremissible, and hence we are justified in accepting the dramatic fact of Faustus'damnation. Doctor Faustus is a tragedy in which drama grows out of doctrine, and in accord with Renaissance theories of tragedy, the emotions of fear, woe, and wonder accompany the hero's fall. Faustus' end is indeed fearful: we do not need to be told that the macrocosmof nature was disturbed in order to grasp the magnitude of his peril because we, unlike the rather choric scholars, have realized his danger from the beginning. His fear of the catastrophe in turn creates ours, and it is one of the most impressive representations of fear in Elizabethan tragedy. His death is also woeful. As the second scholar remarks, Faustus' end is "such/ As every Christian heart laments to thinke on." His hellish fall is lamentable because it is placed within a catholic, Christian framework: Faustus is damned not because some are mysteriously elected and some equally mysteriously damned, but because he willfully persisted in a sinful condition until the end of his life. As he failed to understand the nature and consequences of God's love-"I, we must die, an everlasting death" -he deserves our pity, but his perverse obstinacy soon qualifies this pity: "Nay, and this be hell, I'le willingly be damn'd." Each of his sins against the Holy Spirit should alienate the audience, and the dramatic nadir of his sinful progress occurs when he begs Mephostophilis to torture the Old Man. We may sympathize when a character harms himself, but we react differently when he injures others.23That Faustus should wish harm to one who only wished him good is cause for wonder at his degeneration. The fall of the "Scholler, once admired / For wondrous knowledge" is accompanied by almost no insight; the magician who sought to be lord and commander of the elements finally seeks to lose his being in the earth, air, or sea. His end is piteous and unpitied.24 Faustus' tragedy is one of free will gone wrong, and consequently nearly every one of his decisions moves him further from repentance and also makes the need for repentance that much more crucial. Contributing to this dual perspective of ours is the feeling, at first gradual

23Doing harm to innocents is a conventional means of causing an audience to withdraw its sympathy from the leading character: we recoil from the Herod who orders his knights to slaughter the Innocents, from the Macbeth who orders his men to slaughter the wife and child of Macduff. These men, like Faustus, feel no remorse, and so we wish them to get what they deserve. With poetic justice, Faustus receives measure for measure-what he called for in the case of the Old Man is what he himself suffers. 24By way of J. V. Cunningham's illuminating discussion of wonder in Woe or Wonder, rpt. in Tradition and Poetic Structure (Denver, 196o), pp. 188-231, I noticed that Queen Margaret's speech about Richard III invokes attitudes similar to those in Faustus: "But at hand, at hand,/Ensues his piteous and unpitied end./Earth gapes, hell burns, fiends roar, saints pray, / To have him suddenly convey'd from hence" (IV.iv.73-76).


MARLOWE'S DOCTOR FA USTUS but then growing ever more insistent, that "this could be otherwise."25 Grace is made available again and again to Faustus, but each time he spurns it. That even at the end of his twenty-four years an angel with a vial of grace is hovering over this hollow man is cause for wonder at God's mercy; that Faustus rejects God's grace is cause for wonder at his "fiendfull fortune." Wonder, rather than sympathy, dominates the end of the play. From the fully Christian view, Doctor Faustus is a tragedy of needless loss. More than a few critics, however, have argued that Faustus' fall embodies an unresolved conflict between doctrinal orthodoxy and the real thrust of the play. But it is doubtful that such a distinction between the play's theological conception and its dramatic realization can be made except by ignoring the full implications of its theological conception. Faustus' character and his behavior are presented in theological terms; the play shows us the spectacle of a sinful man gradually transformed into a hardened sinner, and in working out Faustus' sins in terms of a progressive committing of the six sins against the Holy Ghost, Marlowe makes it clear that Faustus is a grievous sinner. Any one of the sins against the Holy Ghost was held sufficient for damnation, and Faustus commits not one but all six, and most of them not once but repeatedly. Because of the magnitude of Faustus' sin, unremitted as it is by repentance, the play can end with the unequivocal spectacle of Faustus suffering the tortures of the damned, the brilliantly dramatic outcome of his theologically perverse actions. Far from there being a conflict between doctrine and dramatic thrust in Doctor Faustus, doctrine underpins and directs dramatic thrust. Only the failure to define accurately the doctrine informing the dramatic action has made the two seem at odds.

25An extreme example of suspense gained by postponing repentance is Nathaniel Woodes's The Conflict of Conscience, rpt. in Vol. VI of Robert Dodsley's A Select Collection of Old English Plays, rev. W. C. Hazlett (London, 1874). Given the circumstances as he goes offstage for the last time, Philologus can either despair and hang himself or repent and live, and the suspense is only resolved by the entrance of Nuntius with his joyful news. For an excellent study in relation to Faustus, see Lily B. Campbell, "Doctor Faustus: A Case of Conscience," PMLA, LXVII (1952), 219-239.


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Explore the Ways in Which Shakespeare Presents Men in Power in the Tempest Showing How Your Understanding Is Illuminated by Your Study of the Presentation of Men in Dr Faustus

...The Tempest written during the 1600s by one of the most influential writers of his time, William Shakespeare, takes us deep in to the Renaissance, in which questions of religion and man’s place in the world were the cause of much conflict. There are many insinuations that the character of Prospero is a cover for Shakespeare himself and through the protagonist, Shakespeare voices some of his views about the world he was living in. Along with themes of power, men and control, colonization also seems to be a main focus of Shakespeare throughout The Tempest, as almost every character ponders upon how he would rule the island on which the play is set if he were its king. Dr Faustus was written during the reign of England’s Queen Elizabeth I by Christopher Marlowe. It focuses on the main character, Dr Faustus, selling his soul to the devil in exchange for all the luxuries the world has to offer “twenty-four years of all voluptuousness.” Both plays present men questing for power and have left their mark on the modern world of literature. Shakespeare highlights the dominant themes power and control through the characters of Prospero and Antonio. Throughout the play many of the characters are in constant battle for power and freedom sometimes resulting in them succumbing to malevolent deeds. Prospero personifies the imperialist omnipotent ruler as he enslaves Caliban son of Sycorax and rightful ruler of the island. He uses the informal pronoun and pejorative phrase “thou most lying...

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2 Representations of Knowledge

...History of Dr. Faustus and The Miller’s Tale took place. The authors Christopher Marlowe and Geoffrey Chaucer successfully demonstrate this representation of knowledge in their respected stories. Some of their stories’ characteristics are similar while some are extremely different. Each story contains one character that contributes significantly to the “knowledge is power” idea. Nicholas is the representative of knowledge from The Miller’s Tale, and Dr. Faustus plays the knowledgeable character in The Tragical History of Dr. Faustus. The similarities of the representations of knowledge in these two stories will be discussed first, and then the difference in those representations will be addressed next in order to compare them completely. First of all, similarities exist between the representations of knowledge in The Tragical History of Dr. Faustus and The Miller’s Tale. The first similarity in the way knowledge is symbolized takes place as each character strives for knowledge to start the stories. In The Miller’s Tale Nicholas is studying astrology, but he also is very successful when it comes to love. He went to school at Oxford to further his knowledge and ended up boarding with a carpenter by the name of John and his beautiful wife Alisoun. Nicholas was intending to further his knowledge of schooling, but he also planned to further his knowledge of how to acquire love by seeking the carpenter’s young wife. Similar to the actions of Nicholas, Dr. Faustus had ideas of......

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...given the title “antihero.” However, this moniker hasn’t stopped fans from viewing Tony and his successors as they would normal heroes, supporting their decisions and sympathizing rather than condemning. Although the idea of an antihero is relatively new to television, the protagonist of questionable morals and heroism has been on the stage for quite some time. In Christopher Marlowe’s play The Tragical History of the Life and Death of Doctor Faustus, the titular doctor is not presented as a particularly heroic man. The aspects we associate with heroism, chiefly voluntary service to others at the cost of personal sacrifice and potential harm, are not displayed by Faustus. Yet if we examine the history of dramatic tragedy as well as morality plays, we can get a better understanding of why Faustus indeed fits into the categorization of hero. While not necessarily a character that gains our initial support, Dr. Faustus is nonetheless the hero of the play. With a word like “tragical” in the title, it’s safe to say that Doctor Faustus isn’t a comedy. Yet comic elements are present throughout the play, so what makes this a tragedy? Aristotle attempted to set the boundaries for tragedy and the tragic hero in his Poetics. According to Aristotle, tragedy is dramatic imitation of man, as is comedy, but it imitates good...

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Literature Paper

...Deal with the Devil At the beginning of this story, the author shows how the main character, doctor Faustus considers the study of religion is a waste of time. But it is easy to guess that by the end of the story he might change his mind. Throughout all the variety of magic adventures and bizarre travels, Faustus seems to have problems avoiding the topic of religion. Several times he finds himself questioning the nature of redemption and hell. However religion shadows him through his slow trip to eternal suffering, and Faustus never realizes how important religion really is in his life, or the role it will sooner or later play in the destiny of his soul. Faustus is tired with the old fashioned types of knowledge existing to him. He desires more than reason, medicine, law, and religion. He needs mystic and magic. Faustus’ associates, Valdes and Cornelius, begin to introduce him into those dark powers, which he practices to call an evil spirit named Mephistopheles. Faustus tells Mephistopheles to return to his master, Lucifer, with an offer of his soul in exchange for twenty four years of having Mephistopheles, and all his knowledge of magic, at his beck and call. By doing this he condemns himself for something very insignificant, something that later will understand. Later in the story Mephistopheles goes back to Faustus with a contract for his soul, which Faustus signs with his own blood. This action is one of his several mistakes. As soon as he signs the......

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All Aqa Alevel Litb3 Questions

...Year | Doctor Faustus | Wuthering Heights | Frankenstein | Section B | June 2015 | | | | | June 2014 | “Faustus is a gothic victim, rather than a gothic villain.” To what extent do you agree with this view of Faustus’s role in the play? (40 marks) | “In Wuthering Heights love is presented as an emotion which provokes violence rather than tenderness.” To what extent do you agree with this view? [40 marks] | To what extent do you agree with the view that the novel is a total condemnation of transgression? [40 marks] | “Gothic writing is exciting because it allows us to think the unthinkable.” How far do you agree with this view? [40 marks] | | | | | To what extent do you think gothic writing is a disturbing exploration of the unknown? [40 marks | | | | | To what extent do you agree with the view that gothic writing shows that human beings are naturally inclined to be evil rather than good? [40 marks] | June 2013 | “Although Faustus is eventually punished, the play is essentially a celebration of sin rather than a morality tale.” How far do you agree with this view of the play? (40 marks) | How far do you agree with the view that, in Wuthering Heights, Emily Bronte shows that more suffering is caused by a diseased mind than by a diseased body? (40 marks) | Explore some of the ways in which Mary Shelley uses different settings to contribute to the gothic effects of the novel. (40 marks) | To what extent do you agree that, in gothic writing, fear and......

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