Is Doctor Faustus a Christian Tragedy?
The play Doctor Faustus was written by a well-known English dramatist Christopher Marlowe. It tells a tragic story of the life and death of a person born in a lower class family who decides to sell one’s soul to the devil in exchange for knowledge, power, and higher position in life. The play has features of classical tragedy and Christian morality, and it seems to be offering a mere representation of basic Christian values, yet there is more to its interpretation than a simple allusion to the principles of orthodox Christianity (Westlund, 1963).
The action takes place in the explicitly Christian dimension where God is performing typical functions from the Christian understanding, such as judging the world and making decisions as to the final destination of every soul, that is, heaven or hell. In the play, there can be found both devils and angels in their typical representation. While the devils are tempting people into the sin, angels are aiding them to stick to the virtue of God.
Thus, the story of Faustus can be regarded as a Christian tragedy since the protagonist goes through the negative Christian pattern. Faust cannot resist the temptation, and eventually, one is damned to hell. In addition to that, the principal sin of Faust is his vast ambition and pride, which presents a sharp contrast to humility, one of the main Christian virtues. The protagonist allows these traits control his life, hence, it seems fair for his soul to be captured by Lucifer.
In conclusion, the play Doctor Faustus is indeed a Christian tragedy. It demonstrates a lack of moral fortitude in the face of temptation, as well as the overly emphasized desire for knowledge that contradicts faith to God. If analyzed from the Orthodox point of view, the play describes the basis of both sin and virtue.
Marlowe, C. (1994). Doctor Faustus. New York: Dover.
Mizener, A. (1943). The Tragedy of Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus. College English, 5(2), 70. http://dx.doi.org/10.2307/370963
Westlund, J. (1963). The Orthodox Christian Framework of Marlowe’s Faustus. Studies In English Literature, 1500-1900, 3(2), 191. http://dx.doi.org/10.2307/449293
Faust Essay II
Which role do Dr. Faust’s monologues play in understanding his character? What does the reader find out about his character due to his speeches?
Faust is a philosophical tragedy written by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe about the eponymous Dr. Faust. The main problem of this work is the search for the meaning of being and its purpose. The protagonist, Dr. Faust, embodies the dreams of a man of the medieval era about a comprehensive knowledge of the world. In the work of Goethe, Faust is a symbolic figure that embodies the qualities of all humanity but is greatly extolled above the level of ordinary man. Faust’s monologues constitute a significant part of the tragedy and thanks to them the reader reveals the character traits of the protagonist, his views on the world and being, and his attitude to different things and concepts.
The first part of the tragedy begins with the monologue of Faust, where the reader gets acquainted with the main character, as well as his reasoning about the meaning of his life. Faust’s first monologues speak of his deep disappointment in the lived life, which was given to science, since he is “no wiser than before.” Neither the academic science of the Middle Ages nor magic gives him satisfactory answers about the meaning of life. His fate is tragic since the answers he finds seem incomplete to him, and the truth is partial. The tragedy of Faust lies in the drama of the spirit, which decided to comprehend the absolute and understood the futility of its impulses. In Faust’s speech sounds criticism of educational optimism about the possibilities of scientific knowledge and technological progress.
Then Faust meets with the Spirit of the Earth, who tells him that man is not omnipotent, but insignificantly small in comparison with the world around him. It is the first step of Faust in the way of knowing one’s self and own self-limitation, which is the plot of the tragedy. After a conversation with Wagner, Faust realizes the limitations of the human mind, its inability to know everything in this world and scolds himself for imagining the god-like, being at the same time an ordinary person. Understanding that life has passed in the dust of empty occupations, among bookshelves, bottles and retorts, leads Faust to a terrible decision – he is preparing to drink poison to finish the earth’s share. But when he brings a poisoned glass to his lips, he hears the bell ringing and choral singing that saves him from suicide. Thus, the first scene of the first part begins with Faust’s monologue, where the reader sees him as a person who seeks to understand the global problems of being.
The last monologue of Faust shows the transformation of the character, his life views, and values. After all the trials arranged by Mephistopheles, Faust is old, weak, and blind. But despite this, he is trying to realize his dream: to build a dam for people. The author shows that Faust did not yield to the enticements and temptations of Mephistopheles and found his place in life. By the ideals of the Enlightenment, the protagonist becomes the creator of the future. Hearing the sound of the shovels of the builders, Faust imagines a picture of a rich, fruitful and prosperous country where a free people lives on a free land. In this last scene, Faust demonstrates such a positive quality as the desire to be free and happy, and also to help achieve it for other people. Before that, Faust lived in a carefree manner and satisfied his desires in every possible way, but when he had the opportunity to build a dam, he realized that he was born for this cause, and this is his real mission and meaning of life. He says the innermost words that he would like to stop the moment since he gained integrity and a sense of self-sufficiency.
At the end of the tragedy Faust dies, but Mephistopheles loses the argument, as the Angels save the soul of Faust. After all, in fact, the person wins: he did not stop, despite all the hardships, and kept looking for answers. In heaven, Faust meets Margarita, who becomes for him a symbol of love, faithfulness, and mercy. In Faust exists and argues among themselves the opposites – God and the devil, the immortal spirit, and mortal body. Two worlds, two souls – this mortal flesh and immortal creative spirit, constitute the human essence. Faust gave his flesh to science, and he wants to put his spirit to life, during which he will often neglect the treacherous temptations of Mephistopheles and will not be an obedient tool in his hands. Even when Faust then conceded, it was a concession to the second part of the soul, which, in fact, contained the principle of Mephistopheles. The finale is the apotheosis of the Man, in which nothing can destroy humanity, love, and the free searching mind. Having put Man through trials and temptations, through hell, paradise and purgatory, Goethe confidently affirms his greatness in the face of nature, history, the Universe, and states the prospects for the free development of man and humanity.
In conclusion, the tragedy of Faust, written by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, tells about the knowledge and search for truth in the person of the protagonist Faust. Throughout the work, the protagonist passes many tests and transformations. Faust’s monologues occupy a sufficiently large place in this tragedy and give information about the character and personal qualities of the protagonist. Perhaps the most important monologues are Faust’s first and last monologues. In the first monologue, it is a person who is disappointed in life and exhausted, and who longs to know the truth of being. At the end of the tragedy, Faust acquires integrity and realizes its purpose, which saves his soul. Thus, monologues play an important role in identifying the protagonist and transforming his character throughout the whole work.
Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von. Faust. Chicago, Ency. Britannica, 1952.
Hamlin, C. “Faust In Performance: Peter Stein’s Production of Goethe’s Faust, Parts 1 and 2.” Theater, vol 32, no. 1, 2002, pp. 117-136. Duke University Press, doi:10.1215/01610775-32-1-117.
Taylor, Steven M., and Kurt Weinberg. “The Figure of Faust in Valery and Goethe: An Exegesis of ‘Mon Faust’.” The German Quarterly, vol 50, no. 2, 1977, p. 181. JSTOR, doi:10.2307/405511.