Having never read Doctor Faustus, I attempted to look for parts of the text that didnâ€™t quite seem straightforward. A particular passage that made me ponder was in Scene 3, lines 76-81 (pg 1136). Faustus questions Mephastophilis on his fall from heaven and how he is out of hell if he is damned there? He tells Faustus that he has never left hell. Having once been an angel, he has seen the face of God and â€œtasted the eternal joys of heavenâ€ (78). He continues stating that being deprived of the everlasting bliss that is heaven is in itself the hell that torments him. Lastly, he implores Faustus to â€œleave these frivolous demandsâ€ (82) and advises him to not pursue black magic any further. What really intrigued me was Mephastophilisâ€™ attempt to convince Faustus to no longer follow through with his plans. Thereâ€™s a slight paradox here in the sense that a demonic entity is advising a potential victim, for lack of a better word, to not sell his soul and join the dark side. What are Mephastophilisâ€™ motives behind this advice? From what Iâ€™ve gathered from scary TV documentaries and movies is it is certainly not characteristic of demonic entities to be helpful and to look out for ones best interests!
Digging deeper into this curious advice from Mephastophilis and to answer the question, I started thinking about why he would even bother to give Faustus this advice. Perhaps if someone or something had been there to stop Mephastophilis from selling his soul, he wouldnâ€™t have done it. His warning seems to predict or foreshadow what is to come for Faustus. Itâ€™s almost as if he offers him a â€˜get out of jail freeâ€™ warning. He knows all too well what will await Faustus when his 24 years are up. It is here where you can see thereâ€™s a similarity between the two characters. Both thought they could handle hell and both thought they would never regret their decisions. However, by the end of the story, Faustus is absolutely petrified with what awaits him in hell when his contract expires. I think that perhaps Mephastophilis sees history repeating itself and tries to spare Faustus from the horror that he knows is hell.
On a side note, Mephastophilis is just the first of three warnings Faustus encounters before signing the contract to Lucifer. The second being Faustusâ€™ blood clotting when he tries to write the contract and the third being the transcription appearing on his arm advising him to flee and get away from the deal. I found this particularly interesting because in the Christian faith, the number 3 is very symbolic, representing the presence of the Holy Trinity.
I wonder, did Marlowe intentionally have three warnings for Faustus or was this just a coincidence? Is this supposed to signify God attempting to intervene and save Faustus? What would this communicate to the audience watching the play during this time period?
Marlowe, Christopher. â€œThe Tragical History of Dr. Faustusâ€. Norton Anthology of English Literature. Ed. Stephen Greenblatt. New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 2012. Print