Doctor Faustus by Christopher Marlowe is a surprisingly easy-to-read Elizabethan play. The protagonist (or perhaps he is an antagonist) is Doctor Faustus himself. He is an incredibly vain and arrogant man in search of knowledge. However, his desire to be knowledgeable is insatiable and quickly he wishes to be equal to God. This is beautifully expressed in the prologue when he is compared to Ikarus: „His waxen wings did mount above his reach, / And melting heavens conspired his overthrow.“ Faustus then starts dabbling in magic and conjuring, but his goal is still something much more. He decides to sell his soul to the Devil. As he speaks an utterly and unnecessarily melodramatic incantation, Mephistopheles appears. This is the moment in which I lost my shit. Why? You may ask.
Well, when the epitome of all evil walked into the room Faustus, our favourite melodramatic queen, was upset. He wasn’t upset because the Devil himself was standing before him. No, he was upset because he thought Mephistopheles was ugly. He then literally asked him to go away and return later, when he would be „prettier“. That’s outrageous…
I knew Marlowe was slinky, but now I know he is outright slutty because of this!
It, however, doesn’t stop there. Faustus constantly speaks about himself in the third person. You can oversee that since he sometimes starts comparing himself to Apollo and God, so it seems quite minuscule in comparison.
You may have noticed Faustus is actually not such an intellectual and is actually a dumbass. A great example is in Scene 3: „How pliant is this Mephistopheles / Full of obedience and humility!“ Faustus, my boy, he is like that because he wants your soul! Ugh…
When the time comes for Faustus to sign the contract there is this whole ordeal with his blood congealing which unables him to use it as ink. This can be explained as divine intervention. It is God’s last try to pull Faustus away from evil. It is unsuccessful because Mephistopheles reacts quickly and melts the blood. And so it is signed. The contract itself is of course very melodramatic. It’s interesting to see how Faustus is ignorant or perhaps simply chooses to ignore the consequences of his actions. This is visible in Scene 5 when after having signed the contract he says: „Think’st thou that Faustus is so fond / To Imagine that after this life there is any pain? / Tush, these are trifles and mere old wives’ tales.“ To which Mephistopheles answers: „But, Faustus, I am an instance to prove the contrary, / For I am damned and am now in hell.“ Faustus gives has no reaction to this and simply continues his rant on what else he’ll do now that he has all the power.
To provide a bit of a moment to chill out, between some of the scenes with Faustus and Mephistopheles, there are scenes with Robin the Clown and Rafe who have adventures of their own. Since Robin is Faustus’ servant, he has stolen one of his magic books. And, just as his master does, he also wishes to use magic in his favour. Robin can’t read well nor does he know Latin, but this doesn’t stop him in demonstrating his „great power“ to Rafe. They fuck around speaking bad Latin, being very emo spooky boys and talking about sex. Name a more iconic couple, I dare you…
In the meantime, Faustus travels Europe with his bad-boy boyfriend. They go sightseeing in many of the most beautiful cities and visit courts. And while Faustus uses every opportunity to enhance his fame and knowledge, even more, he also doesn’t waste opportunities to prank everyone including his holiness the Pope. In this particular occurrence, he asked Mephistopheles to make him invisible so he could steal food from the pope’s hand. Such rascals!
In scene 13, Faustus asks to meet Helen of Troy. He is utterly smitten with her, and again has a melodramatic speech which I’ve decided to feature here because I find it immensely beautiful:
I will be Paris, and for love of thee
Instead of Troy shall Wittenberg be sacked,
And I will combat with meak Menelaus,
And wear thy colours on my plumed crest.
Yea, I will wound Achilles in the heel
And then return to Helen for a kiss.
O, thou art fairer than the evening air,
Clad in the beauty of a thousand stars.
Brighter art thou than flaming Jupiter
When he appeared to hapless Semele,
More lovely than the monarch of the sky
In wanton Arethusa’s azured arms;
And none but thou shalt be my paramour.
I think this translates Faustus’ fate beautifully. Just as Paris’ love for Helen destroyed Troy, so would Faustus’ love for knowledge destroy him. So, in intertwining these two stories, Marlowe has created a marvelous metaphor and at the same time showcased the beauty of his writing.
Faustus proves himself to be a judgy little bitch one more time when Lucifer himself comes to visit him. While Lucifer tries to introduce himself and the Seven Deadly Sins, Faustus strikes again (Scene 7): „O, who art thou that look’st so terrible?“ Oh come on Faustus, the guy only wanted to introduce you to his friends and that’s how you act? Rude.
Even though our power couple, Faustus and Mephistopheles, are having a grand time, everything comes to an end. In the contract, it said that after 24 years of service, Mephistopheles is to bring Faustus’ soul to hell. As time passed Faustus became more and more scared and nervous. Which is a pretty normal reaction… I mean, the guy is being dragged to hell in a few days…
So, in hope to evade his terrible fate, Faustus decided to confide in his friends/colleagues from the university. They were all pretty shocked and tried to make him pray for salvation. However, he was unable to pray since he signed the contract with the devil. And so, midnight struck. And Faustus was dragged to hell. In the epilogue, it says: „Faustus is gone. Regard his hellish fall“.
Terminat hora diem; terminat author opus.