Arrogance and Pride as Dr. Faustus’ Two Deadly Sins

The passage within this play that struck me the most was Scene 13, in particular lines 57-69. In this particular passage, Faustus speaks of how he wishes he could repent, and how he wishes he could return to God. At line 69 he says “O I’ll leap up to my God! Who pulls me down?”. Through out various scenes in the play, the “good angel” reminds Faustus that he can repent this sin to God, and he will be forgiven yet Faustus refuses. He claims that Mephastophilis and Lucifer keep him from repenting and returning to the love of God, even though he can seek forgiveness at anytime.
In class we have been speaking about the seven deadly sins quite often and how they relate to our readings. In Dr. Faustus, I believe that the sin of pride is Faustus’ ultimate downfall. Had he asked for God’s forgiveness, his soul would have been saved from Lucifer and the depths of Hell. In seeking the knowledge of black magic, he is being prideful because he is trying to elevate himself to the same status of God by being all knowing. Also, his arrogance in believing that his soul will be spared from Hell without repenting causes his fall.
At the time that Christopher Marlowe wrote this play, this scene would have been the most poignant for the audience due to the heavy influence of religion. The audience would have believed that by not repenting, Faustus was committing the greatest sin of all, turning his back on God and his divine love. This would have served as a lesson to each audience member, teaching them not to be prideful and seek the same knowledge as God, but also it would have reminded them that God’s love is never ending and that repenting for their sins was best for them if they did not want their souls to be stolen by the devil. The audience would have believed that the end of Faustus’ life was deserved.

Marlowe, Christopher. “The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus”. The Norton Anthology of English Literature. Ed. Stephen Greenblatt. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2012.  1128-1163. Print

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4 Responses to Arrogance and Pride as Dr. Faustus’ Two Deadly Sins

  1. amsovak says:

    It is almost as if Faustus believes that by mastering black magic he can gain authority, or at least equality, with God. Maybe that is why he resists repenting until the very end – the last lines of Scene 13 see Faustus begging for mercy and cursing both himself and Lucifer for his wretched fate. His desperation goes unnoticed by God, this much is evident as he is carried away by the devils. It is almost as if he has a certain sort of “addiction” to his relationship with Mephastophilis and Lucifer.

    Yes, the final scene is a good moral and “warning” for the viewers, and it definitely supports proper religious ethics and behaviour.

  2. jenniferbist says:

    Hello,
    I liked how you looked into the question of the seven deadly sins, how it relates to Faustus in his self-pride and arrogance. It’s true that he never seems to take the ideas of Hell seriously, though it was right in front of him (literally), and that arrogance that he could get away from Hell without asking forgiveness determined his demise. The ironic thing too about these traits are that, by the end of the story, Faustus himself becomes a thing to be pitied in his attempts to escape the hour. That he cannot face his eternity, only then does he scramble to be saved by God.

    Faustus claims that the devils kept him from the love of God, and like you said, determined his soul to be lost in Hell. But I was also thinking, what if Faustus was right, in relation to Mephastophilis? We didn’t really talk much about him in class, but he is a rather peculiar character. He appears so “innocent” in leading Faustus on, entrapping him slowly, doesn’t “order” him around but instead feeds him ideas to damn him even more. He’s almost wanting Faustus to use his power, because every time he does Faustus goes further down into the hole. In nearly every scene with Faustus, alone or otherwise, sometimes you forget, but Mephastophilis is standing somewhere in the background. He does not enter and exit all the time… it sort of seems creepy if you think about it (lol). What is he doing back there? Laughing at Faustus, waiting for the due time when their roles are reversed? Even in Scene 13, Mephastophilis must be quietly listening to every word before dragging him off–though this time, he doesn’t interfere with Faustus’s speech of God, perhaps because he knew it was already too late. His quietness, I felt at least, sort of proved his “purpose” in the story: to get Faustus’s soul, and that was it. He was like an invisible force slowly beating Faustus down, letting Faustus run his course and in silence he wins; making sure there was no room for escape, and every time Faustus thought of God Mephastophilis threatens him back to “reality”. In truth, Faustus could have turned the devils away and looked to God at any time, but Faustus seemed powerless against their will from the very start. In the beginning, Mephastophilis spoke of how devils only comes to souls that are in high-chances of winning; so does this mean Faustus was already “in-the-bag”, before even the contract was formed? Did Mephastophilis have any part in Faustus’s fall, or was it his own fault for his pursuits of magic and inability to repent…? I think you are right in that most audience members would see his death as “deserved”, for having those two deadly sins and following a devil’s power, but maybe there was more to his fall than what it first seemed…?

    • jenniferbist says:

      Sorry, I made a mistake in my comment that I wanted to fix. Mephastophilis’s entrances and exits are confusing, and I didn’t have my book when I wrote this lol. Anyways, it seems most likely that Mephastophilis enters at the end of Scene 13 with the ‘devils’, not like I assumed he was with Faustus the entire time. The stage directions are sort of confusing, sometimes he is in the background (like scene 9), and we didn’t know he is there until it says ‘exit Mephastophilis’, and other times it clearly says he enters with Faustus. Either way though, we can see he travels with Faustus all the time, sometimes speaking, other times following orders silently towards the end.

  3. OliviaH says:

    I agree with you that pride led to Faustus’ demise. If he had repented, God would have saved him from his fall, but Faustus wanted to be on the same level of knowledge as God, so he did not repent. I thought that at the end, Faustus comes to finally admitting that the devil is going to take his soul and he wants to be saved and he sort of loses his devotion to a single power. In line 69-72, he claims he wants God, but God doesn’t want him, he switches his devotion right after to Lucifer in line 73 when he begs Lucifer to spare him. He later curses himself and Lucifer in line 104, and turns to God in line 110. He is not sure who to turn to anymore; he just gives up his pride and pleads to God saying that maybe he should have repented when he had the chance and now it is too late. It’s just interesting to see how Faustus was full of pride that led him to this situation and then the audience sees him in a tragic state begging with his pride gone.

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