Doctor Faustus by Christopher Marlowe is a tragic play – written in blank verse – of a man who sells his soul to the Devil in return for twenty-four years of fulfillment of this man’s fleshy desire. Marlowe tells of Faustus’s dissatisfaction with his current status and wealth, his pact with Lucifer, and his eventual demise into the abyss of Hell.
Even though Faustus was born into the lower class, he excelled in his studies and managed to earn a doctorate. However, he is dissatisfied with his acquired title and possessions. He muses on the immortality of man, quoting Romans 6:23a, “For the wages of sin is death;” But, he fails to understand the last half of the verse “…but the gift of God is eternal life.” Wanting to be made “immortal with a kiss:” (XII.91), Faustus learns black magic from two of his friends, Valdes and Cornelius, in hopes of summoning Mephastophilis, a servant of Lucifer. Before Faustus’s two friends arrive, the Good Angel (representing the conscience and Holy Spirit) appears and tries to dissuade him from going down this evil path; while the Bad Angel (representing man’s sinful nature) goads Faustus further into sin. Faustus ignores the Good Angel and proceeds on to summon Mephastophilis.
Faustus renounces his faith in God when he says “Despair in God, and trust in Belzebub.” (V.5), and signs a pact, promising “…both body and soul to Lucifer, Prince of the East…” (V.105). In return, Mephastophilis would serve Faustus for twenty-four years. During this period of time, Faustus uses this power to do almost anything he wanted – from visiting Europe, disrupting the Pope’s banquet, and conjuring Helen of Troy to make her his lover.
Finally, the twenty-four years are over, and Faustus’s soul is soon to be collected. In despair, Faustus delivers a soliloquy, expressing his sorrow in signing the pact. Oblivious to all his cries and yelling, the devils arrive to collect Faustus’s soul for Lucifer, damning him to an eternity in Hell.
Marlowe’s life is filled with speculation, due to the fact that he was probably a spy. But, one thing is evident in this play; he had a clear understanding of man’s sinful nature and its consequences. Throughout the story, Faustus showed regret in selling his soul to the Devil and had wanted to listen to the Good Angel. Yet, when given the chance to repent, he heeds the Bad Angel’s advice and clings on to his own selfish desires.
Whether saved or unsaved, are we not like Faustus too? For the saved, do we not often indulge the “old man” and starve the “new man?” For the unsaved, do we not put off the Holy Spirit’s calling to be saved – all because we want more time to live in our sin? However, we do not need to end up like Faustus! 1 John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, he [God] is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Thereby, saving us from eternal damnation in Hell, and giving us an eternal place in Heaven.