TwentyFour Years in the Life of Dr Faustus
Christopher Marlowes play Doctor Faustus is the story of a selfish Renaissance-era man who sold his soul to the devil in order to further his knowledge of things beyond mans normal state of being. Faustus was a doctor with a degree in divinity who was highly respected among his fellow scholars. Seemingly bored with the way his life was going, Faustus yearned for more knowledge. He gained a new interest in magic, and decided that if he were a magician, he could somehow learn all of the things he wanted to know.
Lines, circles, letters, characters
Ay, these are those that Faustus most desires.
O, what a world of profit and delight,
Is promised to the studious artisan!
All things that move between the quiet poles
Shall be at my command: emperors and kings
Are but obeyed in their several provinces
But his dominion that exceeds in this
Stretcheth as far as doth the mind of man:
Faustus proceeds to make a pact with Lucifer in which he surrenders up to him his soul / So he will spare him four and twenty years. (I:III:89-90). Though Faustus had originally intended to use his newly acquired magic for good, he couldnt fight the urge to use his powers for jokes and trickery.
During the course of the play, Faustus wastes his magic skills by playing tricks on important figures. In the presence of the Pope, Faustus makes himself invisible and proceeds to make various objects fly through the air to the amazement and awe of the crowd. When visiting the Emperor, he calls forth the spirit of Alexander the Great. Faustus becomes more and more obsessed with the idea of becoming all-powerful as the play wears on. The power he holds causes him to believe that he can eventually become either a god or a devil himself.
Toward the end of the play, as his twenty-four years are drawing to a close, Faustus begins to realize that he has wasted all of the time basically playing around when he could have been learning. He comes close to repenting though he never actually asks for forgiveness. His soul is carried off to hell by the devils after they have torn his body limb-from-limb and left it for the scholars to find.
Christopher Marlowe uses the story of Doctor Faustus as a subtle way to criticize the religious beliefs of the general population of his time. Marlowe was at one time accused of being an atheist. If this is true, his play becomes a sort of satire of the scholarly Renaissance man. Marlowe chooses to send Faustus down the wrong path by having him make a pact with the devil. During a time when religion was still a topic that was not as open to public scrutiny as it is today, Marlowe is able to use the play as a format to get his message across. Having Faustus make fun of the Pope and conjure spirits is Marlowes type of criticism. Writing for an audience that wouldnt necessarily be able to understand all of the underlying themes of the play, Marlowe is able to plant a seed of fear into the minds of the population. The people in his audience might think that one day something as terrible as what happened to Faustus could actually happen to the scholars of their time.
Doctor Faustus is related to, but unlike the character of Job from the Bible. In the Book of Job, God and Satan, to see just how faithful he is put Job to the test. When all of Jobs earthly possessions as well as his family are taken away from him, he does not curse the name of God, he only asks what he has done to deserve such a punishment. Throughout the text, Job criticizes the majority of people in general for their disloyalty to God.
The stories of Faustus and Job are related only because they are each involved in a type of relationship with either God or Satan: Faustus belongs to the devil, and Job belongs to God. They both have criticism for the masses, but in different ways. Faustus is saying, in a way, that the people are taking their beliefs to literally, and that they do not have to believe everything that they are told to believe. Job is saying that the people are not believing as they should be.
Christopher Marlowes play Doctor Faustus is about what can happen to a person who becomes greedy. Faustus only wanted more knowledge, but he ended up eternally damned to hell. It is, in effect, a lesson used to scare those who are willing to believe it. Even if it wasnt written in jest, Marlowes play still stands today a lesson in morality for anyone who reads it.