See See Where Christ's Blood Streams In The Firmament

In Doctor Faustus, what is the meaning of the following quote?

O, I'll leap up to my God! Who pulls me down?
See, see where Christ's blood streams in the firmament!


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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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This quote comes from the final speech of Faustus in the play, just before he is dragged off to face an eternity in hell. He desperately tries to do anything he can to reverse his inevitable fate, making his end incredibly tragic. He says in the last few moments of his life that he will try turning to Christianity, "leaping up" to God and shunning his arcane knowledge that has given him such power and knowledge. However, even as he makes this desperate last bid for escape, he recognises that there is something that is pulling him down into the depths of hell. In response, he points towards Christ's blood, which should be powerful enough to save anybody, even a sinner such as himself. If you read the next line of his speech we can see why he so eagerly looks towards Christ's blood:

One drop would save my soul, half a drop...

Yet Faustus has to finally admit that he is damned and that nothing can save him, even Christ himself. There is no easy escape for him: he has pledged his soul to the devil and must make good on that bargain.

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Karen P.L. Hardison | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

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When Faustus is struggling to avoid the fatal hour of his encounter with Mephistophilis, one impulse that crosses his mind as a means of escaping his fate is to "leap up to" God. When he tries leaping, he finds that some force pulls him earthward so that he cannot leap to God. We learn that he can even see an image of Christ, the Savior, whose blood--which washes away all sin--he sees "streaming" through the vaulting arches of the heavens (the firmament). Yet, because he is pulled down, he cannot leap to God nor to Christ's saving blood.

Faustus is desperately looking for a way out of his deal with the devil. One of his ideas is that he'll leap heavenward to God's saving arms. We've learn that Faustus is looking at the heavens and, while he does so, addresses the "spheres of heaven," or the stars and planets: "Stand still, you ever-moving spheres of heaven." This context gives perspective to Faustus's idea of leaping up to God: "I'll leap up to my God!" Since he is already watching and talking to the "spheres of heaven," begging them to hold still so time will cease to pass (therefore preventing the hour from coming when Faustus must face Mephistophilis), "leaping up" to God is an impulse in keeping with what is occurring in Faustus's experience.

Stand still, you ever-moving spheres of heaven,
That time may cease, and midnight never come;
...let this hour be but
A year, a month, a week, a natural day,
That Faustus may repent and save his soul!

When he does indeed leap, he finds something "pulls" him "down," keeping him firmly on earth. During his conversation with the Scholars, Faustus was finding ways to claim salvation and to escape damnation for signing a contract with Lucifer (through Mephistophilis): "I writ them a bill with mine own blood: the date is expired; the time will come, and he will fetch me." But with each thing Faustus tries, he is hindered and prevented from succeeding. One of the things he tries while with the Scholars is to lift his hands to God to plead for salvation, but something holds them down: "I would lift up my hands; but see, they hold them, they hold them!" Now he tries leaping up to God for salvation, but some force again holds him down.

This failure to claim salvation is part of the tragic pattern of Faustus's tragic end, e.g., he tries to call on God, but his "tongue" is prevented: "O, he stays my tongue!" His failures are founded in the threat given to Faustus that if he "named God," the devil would "tear him to pieces," and that if he listened to words of "divinity," his "body and soul," both, would be "fetched" immediately. Leaping to God and being pulled down is one more try in this tragic pattern of failed attempts at last-minute salvation.

One drop would save my soul, half a drop: ah, my Christ!—
Ah, rend not my heart for naming of my Christ!

It seems God and Christ are willing to be reached based on their appearances--"Christ's blood streams in the firmament"--but Lucifer's threats and actions prevent the connection: "O, spare me, Lucifer!— / ... [he] bends his ireful brows!"


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