Literary scholar R. M. Dawkins once called Faustus “a Renaissance man who had to pay the medieval price for being one.” Faustus was a character in the book commonly referred to as Doctor Faustus written by Christopher Marlowe. The book was written in the early sixteen hundreds and tells the story of Faustus who decided depressed with the life of being a physician decided to dabble at black magic. I do not agree with Dawkins assessment.
The play begins with Faustus in his study contemplating the futility of logic and physics; how he may have discovered several cures and healed thousands “Be a physician, Faustus; heap up gold, and be eternized for some wondrous cure”. However, all these achievements cannot afford him eternal life “Yet art thou still but Faustus, and a man. Couldst thou make men to live eternally, or, being dead, raise them to life again”. Faustus is tired of constant study of his doctrine as he sees it all amounts to nothing when one dies. This realization leads Faustus to try conjuring and controlling spirits. Both law and physic are for petty wits; Divinity is basest of the three.
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Faustus is just another human being who falls for the allure of eternal life. Mephistophilis is the devil’s clever disguise which he uses to get Faustus to sell his soul. Memce_markerphistophilis however tries to warn Faustus about the consequences of such an action. “Why, this is not hell, nor am I out of it. Think’st thou that I, who saw the face of God, and tasted the eternal joys of heaven, Am not tormented with ten thousand hells, in being deprived of everlasting bliss? 0, Faustus, leave these frivolous demands, which strike a terror to my fainting soul”. Faustus however drunk on the power of being able to control his very own spirit refuses to heed these warning. Even when the wound he makes to seal the contract is healed by divine forces, Mephistophilis helps re-open it with coal pieces.
All through time, human beings have tried to discover a way to defeat death and stay eternally young. There have been quests to seek the fountain of youth and elixirs of eternal life. Faustus is just another person who fearing what awaits us after physical death decides to try an easy way out of being an eternal being.
The tragically history of the life and death of doctor Faustus is however a book that was written way before its time and therefore may be considered a renaissance piece ensconced in medieval time. Doctor Faustus however was not a victim of medieval punishment but an enlightened philosopher willing to try things unheard of in his time.
Good and evil have existed since time immemorial. Every story has a villain and in most cases, good triumphs over evil. However, this is an ideal only achieved in stories and novels. The two stories ‘paradise lost’ and ‘doctor Faustus’ have the devil as the villain. There is a major debate as to which of the characters Dr. Faustus or Lucifer in Paradise Lost is the best bad guy. I believe that Lucifer is the best bad guy.
The first whole book of paradise lost is based on Satan and the evils he gets out. It also gives different names which he acquired in his conquests. Lucifer in paradise lost was a fallen angel. He had been God’s favorite but had began to resent taking orders “To set himself in Glory above his Peers, He trusted to have equal’d the most High “. “Satan in the Serpent; who revolting from God, and drawing to his side many Legions of Angels, was by the command of God driven out of Heaven with all his Crew into the great Deep”. Satan suffers the deadly sins of jealousy. He resents God’s power and wants to wield such power. He therefore revolts and he and his followers are cast out of heaven.
Satan uses his deception upon Eve who is the second human being to be created. “The’ infernal Serpent; he it was, whose guile Stird up with Envy and Revenge, deceived The Mother of Mankind (line 35 to 36 of the first book). He appeals on Eve’s vanity and induces enough curiosity and tempts her to sin. He further tells her that since she is now also guilty she should convince Adam to also partake of the same fruit.
Faustus is a philosopher who is well read. He gets depressed because he knows that all that reading and all the practice of physics and divinity and medicine will amount to nothing once his life comes to an end. He also wants to live a life of wealth and unbridled power thus desires to control Mephistophilis. “Go bear these tidings to great Lucifer: Seeing Faustus hath incurr’d eternal death By desperate thoughts against Jove’s deity, Say, he surrenders up to him his soul, So he will spare him four-and-twenty years, Letting him live in all voluptuousness; Having thee ever to attend on me, To give me whatsoever I shall ask, To tell me whatsoever I demand, To slay mine enemies, and aid my friends, And always be obedient to my will.” Faustus is not a villain but a victim of his own desire to become wealthy and invincible.
Eve is Adam’s wife
They live together in mutual understanding and respect, none greater than the other. However, Lucifer working as a serpent manages to deceive her and portray Adam as a dictator who is over protective.
Eve is a hopeful woman and she clearly anticipates getting children. “Our pleasant task enjoyn’d, but till more hands Aid us, the work under our labor grows,”. This is optimistic faith that she will be blessed with offspring.
Milton tries to portray Eve as Adam’s equal and his second in command. That they should work together, and enjoy their labors as a couple. “God hath assigned’d us, nor of me shalt pass Upraised: for nothing lovelier can be founding Woman, then to studied dishonor good, and good show in her Husband to promote.” Adam does not consider he is superior, but also does not take well to Eve’s suggestion that they split up and work in different parts of the garden.
Adam takes upon himself the duty to defend Eve from any danger. “The Wife, where danger or dishonor lurks. Safest and seemliest by her Husband stays, Who guards her, or with her the worst endures”. The woman here is shown as a fragile creature in need of protection with Adam appointing himself her guardian. “Daughter of God and Man, immortal Eve, For such thou art, from sin and blame entire: Not diffident of thee do I dissuade Thy absence from my sight, but to avoid the’ attempt itself, intended by our Foe.”
The serpent having spoken to them both went in search of them but hoped to find Eve by herself. The serpent knew it was easier to fool eve whose faith was weaker and who was out to prove that show did not need protecting. “But Eve, who thought Less attributed to her Faith sincere, Thus her reply.. If this be our condition, thus to dwell In narrow circuit strait’nd by a Foe, Suttle or violent, we not endu’d Single with like defense, wherever met, How are we happie, still in fear of harm?.
Milton has inadvertently portrayed the woman as the weaker one and more likely to fall for the serpents lies “He sought them both, but wish’d his hap might find Eve separate, he wish’d, but not with hope Of what so seldom chanc’d, when to his wish, Beyond his hope, Eve separate he spies,. He also makes it look like she needs Adam constant watchful eye on her since she is easily swayed.