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How does Marlowe's language use contribute to Doctor Faustus's characterization in scene 3?

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Faustus's language in this scene is characterized by resignation. He speaks as if he has been defeated, and has lost all hope. The dominant impression conveyed by Faustus's language, in this scene and elsewhere, is one of resignation, in my view. Though he is striving for something beyond the real world, he seems washed out, emptied of hope, as he alludes to the "gloomy shadow of the night."

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The dominant impression conveyed by Faustus's language, in this scene and elsewhere, is one of resignation, in my view. Though he is striving for something beyond the real world, he seems washed out, emptied of hope, as he alludes to the "gloomy shadow of the night." The appearance of a devil (prior to Mephistopheles's entrance) provokes not so much consternation by Faustus as a kind of unsurprised disgust:

Thou art too ugly to attend on me.

Go, and return an old Franciscan friar,

That holy shape becomes a devil best.

This last statement is perhaps the most revealing one in the scene. It conveys Faustus's rejection of "holiness," and therein lies the essence of his quest. Faustus, even in his resigned mindset, seeks an ultimate experience beyond the bounds of what has been permitted to man. This entails, to put it simply, a rejection of religion:

So Faustus hath already done,

And holds this principle,

There is no chief but only Beelzebub,

To whom Faustus doth dedicate himself.

Though this constitutes a denial of religion, his speech is couched in the language of religion. He pours out Latin sentences and evidences no surprise at the existence of a supernatural figure such as Mephistopheles. And, at this point at least, he states that he has no fear of "damnation." Later, Faustus does in fact become terrified at the prospect of going to hell. But here, the way he talks, in his seemingly indifferent way, shows that what he's primarily aiming for is unbounded earthly pleasure, not the existential rapture which Goethe, two hundred years later, would have his Faust seek. Marlowe's Faustus wishes to

. . . live in all voluptuousness

Having thee [Mephistopheles] ever to attend on me,

To give me whatsoever I shall ask,

. . . To slay mine enemies and aid my friends . . . .

In modern terms, we might judge Faustus, based on his language here, to be both a sociopath and a megalomaniac. He calmly lists the grandiose things he intends to do, including miraculous acts such as joining Spain to "the Afric shore," becoming a great potentate to whom other rulers will submit.

The power of Marlowe's poetry is such that the reader or spectator can view Faustus as a sympathetic figure, not as a villain. With his final downfall, rather than gloating over it, we, as outsiders, can only regret that his quest has failed so pathetically.

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Christopher Marlowe uses language in several ways to convey the character of Doctor Faustus as primarily arrogant but also both learned and frivolous. He often speaks to himself in the second person or third person, showing detachment. The scene opens with Faustus giving himself a pep talk as he gets ready to conjure up some spirits: "fear not, Faustus, but be resolute . . . ." He next speaks a long incantation in Latin, the language of scholars and doctors.

When Mephistophilis appears, Faustus seems to mock him and the whole situation, joking that the form of a friar best suits a devil. He congratulates himself when the spirit complies, and again switches into Latin.

His refusal to see the gravity of the situation is shown repeatedly, along with further proof of his arrogance. He tells Mephistophilis that he can command him to make the moon fall out of the sky. Faustus dismisses the most serious subjects: "The word 'damnation' terrifies not him." He refers to the "vain trifles of men's souls."

Mephistophilis tries to make him see the gravity, imploring him to "leave these frivolous demands." But he will not, and they affirm their bargain.

Once Mephistophilis leaves, the full extent of Faustus' delusions of grandeur are revealed. Marlowe gives him a glorious speech in which he refers to his powers over the "moving air," mountains, shores, and continents: "I'll be great emperor of the world." Sadly, he still does not get the enormity of what he has wantonly thrown away:

Had I as many souls as there be stars,

I'd give them all. . . .

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At first in Lines 14 and 15, language is used to characterize Faustus as fearful of his task, though confident in his skill and ability to fulfill all requirements, which Faustus has listed in Lines 1 through 13. Next, language is used show that Faustus, though previously fearful, is nonetheless arrogant and demanding: "I charge thee to return and change thy shape;" (24). Language further shows that Faustus has a serious misconception of the traits ans qualities and agenda of Mephistophilis: "Such is the force of magic and my spells:/ ... / That canst command great Mephistophilis" (32, 34).

Marlowe characterizes Faustus quite clearly as one who has great skill and expertise but is yet not above feeling fear in a new venture. Nonetheless, because of his great skill and expertise--which ironically prove to be his downfall--he is arrogant and demanding,. He goes so far in his arrogance to suppose that his first impulse--which is to tell Mephistophilis to "change into something more comfortable" to Faustus' perception--is an appropriate one to voice. His arrogance carries him even further into his fatal misconception that Mephistophilis' compliance indicates that well-wrought magic will render Mephistophilis tame and harmless: "Full of obedience and humility!" (31).

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