"All Places Shall Be Hell That Are Not Heaven"

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Last Updated on June 19, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 259

Context: The death of the greatest of Elizabethan dramatists, next to Shakespeare, "Stab'd with a dagger" by a drinking companion, Ingram Frizer, at the age of twenty-nine, has been ascribed to a plot by the Puritans because of the playwright's atheistic and heretical religious principles. Yet how could any heretic write such a Puritanical sermon as the struggle of Dr. Faustus with his conscience, his final awful soliloquy, and the terrifying climax of this play, where amid thunder and lightning the devils carry him off to hell? The German scholar brings his punishment on himself. Reviewing the vast knowledge he possesses, Dr. John Faustus pronounces it futile. He decides to take up magic and with a spell conjures up Mephostopilis with whom he signs a pact: his soul in return for twenty-four years of service from Lucifer's chief minister. Receiving the signed document, the Minister of Hell speaks:

Now, Faustus, ask me what thou wilt.
First will I question with thee about hell.
Tell me, where is the place that men call hell?
Under the Heavens.
Aye, so are all things else, but whereabout?
Within the bowels of these elements,
Where we are tortured and remain forever.
Hell hath no limits, nor is circumscribed
In one self place, for where we are is hell,
And where hell is, there must we ever be:
And, to be short, when all the world dissolves
And every creature shall be purified,
All places shall be hell that are not heaven.
I think hell's a fable.
Ay, think so still, till experience change thy mind.

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