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What specifically motivates Faustus to make a satanic compact in Doctor Faustus by...

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scobill2000 | Student, Undergraduate | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted December 3, 2011 at 11:20 PM via web

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What specifically motivates Faustus to make a satanic compact in Doctor Faustus by Christopher Marlowe?

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

Posted December 16, 2011 at 12:42 PM (Answer #1)

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CHORUS
Excelling all whose sweet delight disputes
In heavenly matters of theology;
Till swoln with cunning, of a self-conceit,
His waxen wings did mount above his reach,
And, melting, heavens conspir'd his overthrow;
For, falling to a devilish exercise,
And glutted now with learning's golden gifts,
He surfeits upon cursed necromancy;  [surfeit: overindulge]
Nothing so sweet as magic is to him,
Which he prefers before his chiefest bliss:
[...]
FAUSTUS
and begin
To sound the depth of that thou wilt profess:
Having commenc'd, be a divine in shew,
Yet level at the end of every art,
And live and die in Aristotle's works.
[...]
If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and
there's no truth in us.  Why, then, belike we must sin, and so
consequently die:
Ay, we must die an everlasting death.
What doctrine call you this, Che sera, sera
What will be, shall be?  Divinity, adieu!
These metaphysics of magicians,
And necromantic books are heavenly;
Lines, circles, scenes, letters, and characters;
Ay, these are those that Faustus most desires.
O, what a world of profit and delight,
Of power, of honour, of omnipotence,
Is promis'd to the studious artizan!
All things that move between the quiet poles
Shall be at my command:
[...]
A sound magician is a mighty god:
Here, Faustus, tire thy brains to gain a deity.

The Chorus's Introduction and Doctor Faustus's opening monologue make it quite clear what drives and motivates Faustus to make a satanic compact (an agreement) with the Devil. The Chorus says that his great scholarly accomplishments have made him (1) proud, "swoln with cunning, of a self-conceit." They compare him to Icarus in a Classical allusion to the myth of the son of Daedalus who, while escaping across the cosmos on wings of wax, is overwhelmed by his (2) sense of power and might and flies so close to the Sun that the wings melt causing him to fall to his doom. The Chorus also says that now Faustus is (3) gorging his learning upon magic, "He surfeits upon cursed necromancy" (surfeits: overindulges). The Chorus also says that magic has even (4) replaced "his chiefest bliss," which is an allusion to his Protestant Christian faith ("Of riper years, to Wertenberg he went").

Faustus himself reveals his reasons for his compact with the Devil. He first declares it is time for him to stop his studies, since he has conquered all, and choose what he will "profess," or teach as a Professor. Divinity (religion) was his first study and doctoral degree but (5) the study of divinity is as undesirable now as are analytics, logic, economics and the rest. He casts them off as easily as he casts divinity off: "Che sera, sera / What will be, shall be?  Divinity, adieu!" He declares that in their place, he (6) prefers magic: "necromantic books are heavenly." What Faustus most desires is (7) power and omnipotence: (8) he wants honor and might and profit. These things are what specifically motivates Faustus to make his satanic compact. As he says:

Faustus most desires.
O, what a world of profit and delight,
Of power, of honour, of omnipotence,

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