Knowledge is a key theme in Christopher Marlowe’s play Doctor Faustus. The titular protagonist craves knowledge so obsessively that he strikes a bargain with the devil to obtain it. Marlowe draws a sharp distinction between knowledge as factual information and as personal integrity. The doctor’s quest for information completely dominates his ability to behave in a moral and ethical way. Faustus indulges in the sins of pride and greed as he advances his obsessive quest. His reasons for desiring command of the magical arts are based in lust for power, not in positive motivations such as helping others or spiritual self-development.
Because Faustus knows that the kind of knowledge he craves is forbidden to humans, his actions are not merely unwise but are even damnable. The only way he could obtain this arcane knowledge would be through making a deal with Lucifer. Because he was already aware of this, when he entered into his contract he recklessly abandoned his chances of salvation. He deliberately took the steps of learning enough dark magic to summon and enlist the aid of Mephistophilis. At every crucial intersection, rather than learn from his mistakes, Faustus compounds his predicament. Marlowe shows the lack of self-knowledge and prudent foresight as inherently dangerous. In the Christian worldview of his time, eternal perdition was the inevitable price for dealing with the devil.