What is the deal with the devil in Doctor Faustus by Christopher Marlowe?

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The deal that Faustus makes with Mephistophilis—twenty-four years of earthly power in exchange for his soul—might seem, on the face of it, like a good one. Faustus is itching to exert more power over the forces of nature and over other people. He wants the whole world to be amazed by his extraordinary knowledge, erudition, and magic skills.

But he's reached an impasse in his studies; he's dissatisfied with life and is in desperate need of a boost, the kind of boost that can only be provided by divine or diabolical intervention. As Almighty God hasn't condescended to intervene, this has created an opportunity for Satan to snatch Faustus's soul, and so he sends his dark angel Mephistophilis to Faustus to seal the deal.

The number twenty-four is significant here. In old European folktales, a day would often equal a year. Marlowe seems to have turned this convention back to front. The twenty-four years of power that Faustus has been granted will just fly by. You can see, then, just how bad a deal Faustus has made.

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The deal made by Doctor John Faustus with the devil in Doctor Faustus by Christopher Marlowe is that Dr. Faustus would attain twenty-four years of power in exchange for his soul. The deals begins when Faustus starts to learn and practice magic (forbidden by the Christian culture of that time) and believes that he has conjured four devils and Lucifer, when in fact, they came of their own volition. In his pride, arrogance, and lust for power, he ignores warnings about the nature of hell and the consequences of his choice to make the deal.

While it appears that there are many opportunities out of this deal for Dr. Faustus, he does not take them. Mephistophilis, the devil with whom Dr. Faustus makes the deal, resorts to different tricks, imagery and even threats to keep Dr. Faustus to the deal whenever he begins to doubt that it was the right course of action or repent in any form. Dr. Faustus also causes the torture of an old man who desires to save his soul. In the end, he does not repent, but wishes to be free of the consequences of his deal with the devil.

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