In Act I, scene ii of Marlowe's Doctor. Fautus, how does the language reveal the character or characterization of Faustus in the following quote?  FAUSTUS. This word "damnation" terrifies not him,...

In Act I, scene ii of Marlowe's Doctor. Fautus, how does the language reveal the character or characterization of Faustus in the following quote?

 

FAUSTUS. This word "damnation" terrifies not him,
For he confounds hell in Elysium:
His ghost be with the old philosophers!
But, leaving these vain trifles of men's souls,
Tell me what is that Lucifer thy lord?

MEPHIST. Arch-regent and commander of all spirits.

FAUSTUS. Was not that Lucifer an angel once?

MEPHIST. Yes, Faustus, and most dearly lov'd of God.

FAUSTUS. How comes it, then, that he is prince of devils?

MEPHIST. O, by aspiring pride and insolence;
For which God threw him from the face of heaven.

FAUSTUS. And what are you that live with Lucifer?

MEPHIST. Unhappy spirits that fell with Lucifer,
Conspir'd against our God with Lucifer,
And are for ever damn'd with Lucifer.

FAUSTUS. Where are you damn'd?

MEPHIST. In hell.

FAUSTUS. How comes it, then, that thou art out of hell?

MEPHIST. Why, this is hell, nor am I out of it:57
Think'st thou that I, who saw the face of God,
And tasted the eternal joys of heaven,
Am not tormented with ten thousand hells,
In being depriv'd of everlasting bliss?
O, Faustus, leave these frivolous demands,
Which strike a terror to my fainting soul!

Asked on by stevon69

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kplhardison's profile pic

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

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In the first line of the indicated passage of Marlowe's Doctor Faustus, Faustus shows his arrogance. This character trait can only be understood in reference to the overall context. Faustus has tried "the utmost magic can perform" and called on Belzebub (i.e., the foremost adversary of God, Satan; also spelled Beelzebub), "Orientis princeps / Belzebub," and has conjured the demon Mephistophilis, commanding him to appear.

Mephistophilis (sometimes called Mephisto), after having been sent away once to improve his appearance, asks Faustus what he wants after first giving Faustus the impression that he is "[f]ull of obedience and humility": "How pliant is this Mephistophilis, / ... / Such is the force of magic and my spells."

Mephisto then says, "Now, Faustus, what wouldst thou have me do?" Faustus replies that he wishes Mephisto to act according to Faustus's commands, regardless of what laws of divine natural order his commands might break:

I charge thee wait upon me whilst I live,
To do whatever Faustus shall command,
Be it to make the moon drop from her sphere,
Or the ocean to overwhelm the world.

Mephisto replies with what will later be critical to the unfolding of the play by saying he serves only Lucifer:

I am a servant to great Lucifer,
And may not follow thee without his leave:
No more than he commands must we perform.

This background leads into the quoted passage, the language of which reveals some important points about Faustus's character. Faustus's arrogance is revealed in the background and confirmed when he says, "This 'damnation' terrifies not him [Faustus]" while speaking of himself in the third person.

Faustus’s reason for not being terrified of damnation is that he treats hell as being identical with heaven: "For he confounds hell in Elysium." Some explanation of this line is needed. This meaning of "confound" is identified in the Collins Dictionary as being the act of mistakenly treating one thing as identical to another. In addition, "Elysium" is defined by American Heritage Dictionary as a place of ideal happiness, in other words, the heaven of Greek mythology, which was reserved for the "blessed ones who had died." So Faustus is saying to Mephisto that hell to him is heaven. It is interesting to note that Mephisto contradicts this later: "Why, this is hell, nor am I out of it: / ... / being depriv'd of everlasting bliss."

Another thing language reveals about Faustus is that he shares the same sins that led to Lucifer (i.e., Belzebub) being cast out of God's heaven. Lucifer was guilty of "aspiring pride and insolence; / For which God threw him from the face of heaven," which is exactly what Faustus's arrogance leads him to as is proven by the fact that he dared to conjure Mephisto. Another thing revealed is indirectly implied from Mephisto's comment about himself. He says:

Think'st thou that I, who saw the face of God,
And tasted the eternal joys of heaven,
Am not tormented with ten thousand hells,
In being depriv'd of everlasting bliss?

This language implies that Faustus, who is part of the hell that Mephistophilis suffers, is equally far removed from God, joy, bliss, and goodness.

booboosmoosh's profile pic

booboosmoosh | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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In Doctor Faustus, in the section you provided, Faustus appears to be not only a learned man, but one who is familiar with good and evil.

Faustus shares his perceptions of damnation. First he notes that Faustus, speaking of himself in the third person, is fearless; damnation does not frighten him, Faustus.

For he confounds hell in Elysium...

eNotes.com translates this to mean that Faustus thinks little of damnation and is therefore "indifferent" to being in hell or the Elysian field (where, in Greek mythology, the righteous and heroic would spend eternity).

Faustus believes the Devil and old philosophers are together in hell, where he, Faustus will also be: so it would seem Faustus believes that philosophers of an older time ended up in hell, perhaps because they turned their back on, or questioned, religious doctrine.

Faustus then goes on to question Mephistopheles about his "boss." Here Fautus and Mephistopheles recount the Biblical story of Lucifer's fall from heaven.

All of this further characterizes Faustus' clear knowledge of exactly who he is preparing to serve, in complete rejection of his faith in God; but he does so very analytically. He is not calling on the powers of darkness in some emotionally charged state, but he is very precise and studied about it.

Mephistopheles points out the sins of Lucifer:

O, by aspiring pride and insolence;

For which God threw him from the face of Heaven.

In this way, Faustus is being reminded of what can take the most righteous of beings (angel...or man?) and throw him into the fiery pits of hell.

Mephistopheles then goes on to say that he and those like him who supported Lucifer are in hell, which is everywhere God is not.

Why this is hell, nor am I out of it:(80)

Think'st thou that I who saw the face of God,

And tasted the eternal joys of Heaven,

Am not tormented with ten thousand hells,

In being deprived of everlasting bliss?

O, Faustus! leave these frivolous demands,(85)

Which strike a terror to my fainting soul.

Surprisingly enough, Mephistopheles seems to be lamenting his life in hell--perhaps hoping Faustus may change his mind. Faustus' "frivolous demands"--his questions to Mesphistopheles--are causing agony to Mephistopheles who suffers by having known Heaven and by now being evicted from it for eternity.

With all of this in mind, if I were writing about the characterization of Faustus, I would describe him as an intelligent man who is familiar with the doctrine of the Church. In a very logical way, he collects further information from Mephistopheles about Lucifer and hell, preparing to make a well-researched decision. Ironically, as with the old philosophers, it seems that he is preparing himself to join the ranks of those who serve the Devil.

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