Discuss elements of conflict in Marlowe's Doctor Faustus.

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

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One central conflict in this play is the battle for the soul of Faustus and the way that he throws himself willingly down the path towards total damnation rather than taking the opportunities he has to repent when he has those chances. This struggle is interestingly presented through the presence of the Good and Evil Angels, who both try to get Faustus to heed their warnings and blandishments. However, by the end of the play, in spite of the many opportunities Faustus has had to repent, his systematic ignoring of God and of repentance means that he has passed the point of no return. Note how he recognises this in his final speech from Act V:

The stars move still, time runs, the clock will strike,
The devil will come, and Faustus must be damned.
O I’ll leap up to my God! Who pulls me down?
See, see where Christ’s blood streams in the firmament!
One drop would save my soul, half a drop: ah my Christ—
Ah, rend not my heart for naming of my Christ;
Yet will I call on him—O spare me, Lucifer!

Here, Faustus recognises that "half a drop" of Christ's blood would be enough to save him through the self-sacrificial work of Christ's death on the cross. However, he realises that "Faustus must be damned" and there is no escape. Note the reference to stars moving and clocks ticking indicating the inevitability of this process. The conflict for his soul is one that has ended with victory for Lucifer. This is a very interesting concept, as the play presents Faustus as a man who is damned whilst still alive. Christianity argues that people have a chance to repent up until their death, but the play ultimately appears to be more tragic than the Christian world view, as it presents the audience with a man who has to face the fact that he is damned whilst still alive. The confict for his soul has ended, and he has to face unimaginable horrors lasting for all eternity.

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