Doctor Faustus Characters
by Christopher Marlowe

Doctor Faustus book cover
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Doctor Faustus Characters

The main characters in Doctor Faustus are Doctor Faustus, Mephistophilis, Wagner, the Good and Evil Angels, and the Old Man.

  • Doctor Faustus sells his soul to the devil in return for twenty-four years of power. He represents the overachieving Renaissance individualist.

  • Mephistophilis is the demon who lures Faustus into a contract for his soul and who carries out his wishes for twenty-four years.
  • Wagner is Faustus's prideful, ambitious servant.

  • The Good and Evil Angels appear periodically to sway Faustus towards their respective moral aims.

  • The Old Man tries to compel Faustus to repent shortly before his twenty-four years are over.

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Characters

Doctor Faustus

The titular character and tragic hero of the play, Faustus is a brilliant and well-respected German scholar. Faustus decides to learn magic in order to gain wealth, fame, and power. He summons the demon Mephistophilis and sells his eternal soul to Lucifer in exchange for twenty-four years of service from Mephistophilis, who is to grant him whatever he wishes. 

Faustus is ambitious to a fault and egotistical enough to believe himself above hell’s torments. He sets himself high-minded and impressive goals, such as to reorganize Europe’s geographical boundaries. In practice, however, Faustus quickly finds that his true motivations are not as lofty as his ambitions. At first, he pursues grand knowledge, but he quickly stops doing so in favor of personal delights, such as mocking the Pope. He uses Mephistophilis’s power to pursue wealth and fame throughout Europe and perform for royalty. At times he reconsiders his commitment to Lucifer. He is, however, easily manipulated into complacency by the dark forces.

Faustus is not a particularly prudent man, and time easily gets away from him. He finds the twenty-four years drawing to a close faster than he could have imagined, and his ambitions turn into anxieties. As his remaining years dwindle, Faustus becomes increasingly petty and even vindictive. He uses Mephistophilis’s powers less extensively and often for mere low-brow entertainments. At the end of the twenty-four years, Faustus has abandoned nearly all ambitions, and he retires to his hometown and resumes his life as a scholar. As his inevitable damnation approaches, Faustus comes to regret his decision to sell his soul, but he is too late.

Mephistophilis

A demon monarch of hell and servant of Lucifer, Mephistophilis is summoned when Doctor Faustus begins his foray into magic. He comes to Faustus because he believes that there is a good chance of harvesting the scholar’s soul for Lucifer.

Surprisingly forthcoming and honest, Mephistophilis answers Faustus’s questions about Lucifer, hell, and damnation candidly. He admits that hell is everywhere and that he is tormented at all times by the absence of God’s presence and grace. He tells Faustus precisely which torments await the man should he sign away his soul. 

Nonetheless, Mephistophilis is a demon and is intent on bringing Faustus’s soul to Lucifer. As such, he is both incredibly patient and very manipulative. Serving as Faustus’s servant for twenty-four years, Mephistophilis is the one who accomplishes every one of the deeds for which Faustus takes credit.

When Faustus wavers in his commitment to Lucifer, Mephistophilis can become wrathful and manipulative. He often tries to sway Faustus from seeking God’s grace, whether by distraction or coercion. Ultimately, Mephistophilis is merciless. The final words that Faustus utters are an appeal to Mephistophilis—an appeal that surely goes unmet. 

Wagner

The servant of Faustus, Wagner is of a lower class but is ambitious and prideful. He does the bidding of his master faithfully, but when left to his own devices, he can be mean-spirited and petty, seeming to take pleasure in bullying a local Clown for being in poverty. Wagner steals a book of magic spells from Faustus, and uses them with a sort of petty malice, forcing the Clown to become his servant and demanding to...

(The entire section is 1,184 words.)