Doctor Faustus

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Mephastophilis Character Analysis

Mephastophilis is the devil Faustus summons when he first tries his hand at necromancy, and he remains at Faustus's side for much of the rest of the play, doing his bidding, answering his questions, distracting him when he has doubts about his decision to sell his soul, and even taking him on an eight-day tour of the known universe on a chariot drawn by dragons. It is Mephastophilis who encourages Faustus to take a blood oath that Lucifer should have his soul when his twenty-four years are up. His motivations for pushing so hard to keep Faustus may seem ambiguous, since he admits to being miserable in Hell and to regret having forsaken God, but he basically explains himself with the now-famous proverb: Solamen miseris socios habuisse doloris (loosely translated, misery loves company).

Mephastophilis Quotes in Doctor Faustus

The Doctor Faustus quotes below are all either spoken by Mephastophilis or refer to Mephastophilis. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Temptation, Sin, and Redemption Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the W.W. Norton & Company, Inc. edition of Doctor Faustus published in 2005.
Scene 3 Quotes

I am a servant to great Lucifer,
And may not follow thee without his leave;
No more than he commands must we perform. (40-42)

Related Characters: Mephastophilis (speaker), Doctor Faustus, Lucifer
Page Number: 1.3.40-42
Explanation and Analysis:

Doctor Faustus has conjured devils by profanely writing God's name backwards and by uttering incantations. Such a scene would have been extremely shocking to Renaissance audiences, who in general believed wholly in Christianity and would have perceived the performance itself as blasphemous and even dangerous. There are stories of audience members fainting during the play, and even of extra, unaccounted-for devils appearing on the stage. Mephistophilis first entered as a hideous devil, but Faustus instructed him to leave and return dressed ironically as a Franciscan friar. When Mephastophilis asks what is desired of him, Faustus gives the instruction to obey all commands.

In the quote, Mephastophilis responds that he is a servant to Lucifer, and that he cannot obey Faustus unless he is given permission. In this way, Mephastophilis introduces Lucifer and initiates the tempting conversation that will even lead to Faustus signing away his soul.

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For when we hear one rack the name of God,
Abjure the Scriptures, and his savior Christ,
We fly in hope to get his glorious soul. (47-49)

Related Characters: Mephastophilis (speaker), Doctor Faustus
Page Number: 1.3.47-49
Explanation and Analysis:

After learning that Mephastophilis must obey Lucifer, Faustus asks if Mephastophilis came out of obedience or his own accord. Mephastophilis responds that he came because of Faustus's conjuring, though not because the spells had any magical effect. Instead, as he says in the quote, devils fly up whenever they hear someone take God's name in vain, profane the scriptures, or deny Christ—in the hope that they will be able to obtain his soul. Note that even Mephastophilis describes the soul as "glorious." It is clearly a thing to be desired and kept sacred and safe. Yet Faustus, blinded by his pride and gluttonous desire, is immediately willing to trade away his soul. It is also significant that thus far Faustus's magic is powerless. Though magic has "ravished" him, it is most truly his sinfulness and denial of Christianity that affects his fate and summons Mephastophilis.

Go bear these tidings to great Lucifer,
Seeing Faustus hath incurred eternal death
By desperate thoughts against Jove's deity:
Say, he surrenders up to him his soul
So he will spare him four and twenty years,
Letting him live in all voluptuousness,
Having thee ever to attend on me,
To give me whatsoever I ask,
To tell me whatsoever I demand,
To slay mine enemies, and aid my friends,
And always be obedient to my will. (87-89)

Related Characters: Doctor Faustus (speaker), Mephastophilis, Lucifer
Page Number: 1.3.87-97
Explanation and Analysis:

Pressed by his thirst for knowledge, Faustus has learned about hell and Lucifer's fall from Mephistophilis. Now, he instructs the devil to bring a deal proposal to Lucifer. Here Faustus speaks as though his death and damnation are secured and fated, speaking of them as a matter of fact. The bargain he offers Lucifer is that he will give up his soul if Mephistophilis will be his servant for 24 years, doing whatever he demands, even killing for him, "ever obedient to [Faustus's] will." Faustus wants power over Mephistophilis, and through him, immense necromantic power and knowledge. He is so willing to part with his soul that he proposes the terms to Lucifer, believing that the 24 years of power will be well worth the price of his eternal soul. Striking evidence that Faustus believes this bargain is a good one can be found in the quote below.

Had I as many souls as there be stars,
I'd give them all for Mephastophilis.
By him I'll be great emperor of the world. (102-104)

Related Characters: Doctor Faustus (speaker), Mephastophilis
Page Number: 1.3.102-104
Explanation and Analysis:

After Mephastophilis leaves, planning to go to Lucifer with the bargain terms and to return at midnight, Faustus delivers another brief soliloquy, which begins with this quote. He claims that if he had "as many souls as there be stars," he would still trade all of them for Mephastophilis's service. The reason? Power: with Mephastophilis's help Faustus can become "great emperor of the world." These lines reveal the extent of Faustus's perversion and vast underestimation of the worth of his soul. Though devils flock to any opportunity to obtain a "glorious soul," Faustus devalues his soul. In conjunction with the shift he made above, switching necromantic books for heavenly ones, he now lives for this black magic instead of living for God.

Scene 5 Quotes

But Faustus, thou must bequeath it solemnly,
And write a deed of gift with thine own blood,
For that security craves great Lucifer. (34-36)

Related Characters: Mephastophilis (speaker), Doctor Faustus, Lucifer
Related Symbols: Blood
Page Number: 2.1.34-36
Explanation and Analysis:

Though the Good Angel has tried to convince him to turn back towards heaven, faustus has resolved to continue with his deal, excitedly imagining all the wealth and power he will gain. He summons Mephistophils, and asks whether Lucifer has accepted the deal. Mephistophilis tells Faustus that Lucifer has in fact accepted, and in the quote he describes the gruesome detail that will make the bargain official. Faustus must "write a deed of gift" with his "own blood." Only this step will make the deal secure enough for Lucifer to accept it. Faustus stabs his arm and begins writing, though there are a few opportunities for him to stop. His blood congeals, and he receives a divine warning, "Homo Fuge"—"flee, man"—in his very flesh. But ultimately, he still signs away his soul.

This bargain brings up the question that Faustus himself asks: is your soul your own? Can a person even sign it away? Ultimately, it may be that the deal is meaningless, and it is Faustus's refusal to repent that brings about his damnation, not any signature or bargain. Also note the intense, ironic symbolism of blood: Faustus uses his own blood to sign away his soul and secure his own damnation, but even one drop of the most powerful blood of all, Christ's saving blood, would be enough to bring Faustus mercy and salvation.

Thanks, Mephastophilis, yet fain would I have a book wherein I might behold all spells and incantations, that I might raise up spirits when I please. [...] Nay, let me have one book more, and then I have done, wherein I might see all plants, herbs, and trees that grow upon the earth. (163-173)

Related Characters: Doctor Faustus (speaker), Mephastophilis
Page Number: 2.1.161-171
Explanation and Analysis:

Faustus has signed the contract and now officially has the service of Mephistophilis, who has provided a show of devils and fireworks and informed Faustus that he will have the powers of a spirit. When Faustus asks for a wife, Mephistophilis denies him, saying that marriage is a holy sacrament. Instead Mephistophilis provides a devil dressed as a woman, but when this does not please Faustus, Mephistophilis instead provides magic books. This quote shows Faustus asking for more and more texts, unsatisfied and always wanting more. Though he appears unsatisfied, is is interesting to note the way that his desire has been diverted: his desire for a woman and sexuality has been replaced with the desire for books and intellectualism. Recall that magic "ravished" Faustus; books and dark knowledge are what he desires most, and are intimately connected to lust and sexuality for him.

When I behold the heavens, then I repent,
And curse thee, wicked Mephastophilis,
Because thou hast deprived me of those joys. (177-179)

Related Characters: Doctor Faustus (speaker), Mephastophilis
Page Number: 2.3.1-3
Explanation and Analysis:

After mentioning his desire for books that contain information about the heavens, Faustus considers repentance. Here he says that when he thinks about heaven, he repents and curses Mephastophilis, saying that it's his fault that Faustus will be deprived of the joys of heaven. Mephastophilis tries to argue that Faustus is greater than heaven, since heaven was made for men, but Faustus concludes that since he is a man, he will repent and go to heaven. Now that he desires to repent, the Good and Evil Angels re-enter. Faustus says that he will repent, and even acknowledges that if he does repent, God will forgive him. But, as the Evil Angel predicts, Faustus does not. This moment is exemplary of the numerous opportunities Faustus misses to save himself. Even when he makes the right conclusions about what he needs to do, and seems to correctly understand the limitless power of God's love and forgiveness, Faustus continuously makes the wrong choice and sins again.

Why should I die then, or basely despair?
I am resolved! Faustus shall ne'er repent.
Come, Mephastophilis, let us dispute again,
And argue of divine astrology. (207-210)

Related Characters: Doctor Faustus (speaker), Mephastophilis
Page Number: 2.3.31-34
Explanation and Analysis:

Though he has just decided to repent and seek heaven, and the Good Angel has convinced him that repentance will bring God's pity and forgiveness, Faustus almost immediately decides that he "shall ne'er repent." He believes his heart too hardened to be capable of repentance, and then decides that his power is so great that he has no reason to die or despair. The same insistence on fate as opposed to free will and the implied limitation on God's forgiving love leave Faustus stuck: he won't repent because he thinks it's too late and he is predestined to go to hell. But it is only too late because he thinks it is, and he only goes to hell because of his refusal to repent. Resolved in this faulty logic, he goes back to his obsession with knowledge and begins asking Mephastophilis questions about the universe.

Scene 12 Quotes

Sweet Mephastophilis, entreat thy lord
To pardon my unjust presumption;
And with my blood again I will confirm
My former vow I made to Lucifer. (60-63)

Related Characters: Doctor Faustus (speaker), Mephastophilis, Lucifer
Related Symbols: Blood
Page Number: 5.1.70-73
Explanation and Analysis:

As mentioned above, Faustus has uttered the words "I do repent," causing Mephastophilis to rage against him and threaten to tear him to pieces. Seeing how angry Mephastophilis is, Faustus speaks the lines in this quote, saying he will reaffirm his vow to Lucifer. Sacred and profane are inverted for Faustus, so repentance is "unjust," and he asks the devil to "pardon him." The extremity of this quote demonstrates the power that his above "I do repent" carried. To cancel out the repentance, Faustus must confirm the vow he made to Lucifer with "blood again." All of his sins are washed away by the simple utterance of repentance, and he must be made to make more deadly sins if Lucifer hopes to retain his soul.

One thing, good servant, let me crave of thee,
To glut the longing of my heart's desire:
That I might have unto my paramour
That heavenly Helen which I saw of late,
Whose sweet embracings may extinguish clean
These thoughts that do dissuade me from my vow:
And keep mine oath I made to Lucifer. (72-78)

Related Characters: Doctor Faustus (speaker), Mephastophilis, Lucifer
Page Number: 5.1.81-87
Explanation and Analysis:

Having reaffirmed his vow to Lucifer, once again in blood, Faustus now requests that Mephastophilis fulfill his usually gluttonous desire with an unusual object. Instead of asking for more books, Faustus asks Mephastophilis to produce again the Helen of Troy that he recently conjured to impress the Scholars. He reasons that Helen's "sweet embracings" will distract him from his thoughts of repentance and allow him to keep the oath he made to Lucifer. When Mephastophilis brings forth Helen, Faustus utters the play's most famous line (and possibly the best-known line that Marlowe ever wrote): "Was this the face that launched a thousand ships?" Faustus then delivers a famous, seemingly romantic monologue about Helen.

This famous scene, however, should not be taken at face value. Recall that this is not Helen of Troy, but is instead a devil in her shape. This fact would be easy to remember during a contemporary performance of the play, as theatrical productions had all male casts during the English Renaissance. Thus a male actor would have played a male devil dressed as Helen of Troy. And Faustus have been as aware of this strange, demonic cross-dressing as the audience. Recall that when Faustus asks for a wife, Mephastophilis produces a devil dressed as a woman, which Faustus immediately rejects with disgust. His response to Helen here can then be seen as indicative of his dramatic change from the start of the play. He is now so steeped in necromancy and sin that he no longer cares what or who the false Helen really is.

Scene 13 Quotes

Ugly hell gape not! Come not, Lucifer!
I'll burn my books—ah, Mephastophilis! (112-113)

Related Characters: Doctor Faustus (speaker), Mephastophilis, Lucifer
Page Number: 5.2.115-116
Explanation and Analysis:

These are Faustus's final lines in the play, after which he is carried off to hell. He has cried to Lucifer, to the earth, and to God himself, but he has not repented, and thus he is damned. He now cries out to hell, begging it not to open, and asks Lucifer not to come, offering even to burn his books, the treasures for which he offered his soul in the first place. Filled with regret and fear, he seems to recognize what a terrible mistake he has made, and how foolish he was to sell his soul for any price. We also have seen some evidence that he understands that such a sale was preposterous, and that God's mercy and power could overwrite any deed, written in blood or no. But for a final time, Faustus does not take the final step. If his last lines were, "I repent!" his fate might have been different, but instead he is carried to hell to be tortured as the sinner that he is.

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Mephastophilis Character Timeline in Doctor Faustus

The timeline below shows where the character Mephastophilis appears in Doctor Faustus. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Scene 3
Education, Knowledge, and Power Theme Icon
...hear this.) He begins his Latin incantation, calling a number of devils by name, including Mephastophilis. (full context)
The Renaissance Individual Theme Icon
One devil, Mephastophilis, appears before Faustus, who immediately commands him to leave and come back in a different... (full context)
Temptation, Sin, and Redemption Theme Icon
Education, Knowledge, and Power Theme Icon
Mephastophilis re-enters and asks Faustus what he wants him to do. Faustus commands him to wait... (full context)
Temptation, Sin, and Redemption Theme Icon
Education, Knowledge, and Power Theme Icon
Faustus asks Mephastophilis about Lucifer and the fallen angels: why they fell, where they are damned, and how... (full context)
The Bargain Theme Icon
Fate vs. Free Will Theme Icon
Faustus tells Mephastophilis to propose a deal to Lucifer: Faustus will give Lucifer his soul in return for... (full context)
Scene 5
The Bargain Theme Icon
Fate vs. Free Will Theme Icon
...go with his deal, thinking of all the wealth he will amass. He summons up Mephastophilis and asks if there is news from Lucifer. Mephastophilis announces that Lucifer has accepted the... (full context)
Temptation, Sin, and Redemption Theme Icon
Fate vs. Free Will Theme Icon
Faustus asks what Lucifer wants with his soul. Mephastophilis informs him that Lucifer seeks to enlarge his kingdom and make others suffer as he... (full context)
Temptation, Sin, and Redemption Theme Icon
The Bargain Theme Icon
Fate vs. Free Will Theme Icon
Mephastophilis leaves and re-enters with more devils, bringing Faustus crowns and expensive clothing. Mephastophilis promises Faustus... (full context)
Temptation, Sin, and Redemption Theme Icon
Education, Knowledge, and Power Theme Icon
With his newfound power, Faustus first seeks to increase his knowledge. He asks Mephastophilis exactly where hell is. Mephastophilis answers that hell “hath no limits” (5, 120) and is... (full context)
Temptation, Sin, and Redemption Theme Icon
Education, Knowledge, and Power Theme Icon
Faustus orders Mephastophilis to get him a wife and he returns with a devil in women's clothing, which... (full context)
Temptation, Sin, and Redemption Theme Icon
Education, Knowledge, and Power Theme Icon
After resolving not to repent, Faustus continues asking Mephastophilis questions. He asks him about astronomy, the planets, and the universe. He asks who made... (full context)
Temptation, Sin, and Redemption Theme Icon
At Faustus' invocation of Christ, Mephastophilis appears with Lucifer and Belzebub (another devil). Lucifer tells Faustus that Christ cannot save him... (full context)
Scene 7
Temptation, Sin, and Redemption Theme Icon
Education, Knowledge, and Power Theme Icon
Faustus enters with Mephastophilis. Faustus recounts how they have traveled throughout Europe and asks Mephastophilis if they are now... (full context)
The Renaissance Individual Theme Icon
...was supported by the German emperor. The pope humiliates and ridicules Bruno for opposing him. Mephastophilis and Faustus disguise themselves as two cardinals and the pope gives Bruno to them to... (full context)
Temptation, Sin, and Redemption Theme Icon
...enters with a cardinal and some friars, ready to eat at a banquet. Faustus and Mephastophilis, invisible, curse loudly and snatch dishes from the table. The pope and the friars think... (full context)
Scene 8
Temptation, Sin, and Redemption Theme Icon
Education, Knowledge, and Power Theme Icon
...They deny that they have the goblet, and Robin casts a spell to conjure up Mephastophilis, who scares the vintner away. Mephastophilis is angry at being summoned by the lowly Robin... (full context)
Scene 9
Temptation, Sin, and Redemption Theme Icon
Education, Knowledge, and Power Theme Icon
...bring Alexander forth, and leaves, not wanting to be present for the conjuring. Faustus has Mephastophilis leave and return with the spirits of Alexander and Alexander's paramour. The emperor examines the... (full context)
Scene 11
Temptation, Sin, and Redemption Theme Icon
Education, Knowledge, and Power Theme Icon
The Duke and Duchess of Vanholt entertain Faustus (and Mephastophilis) at court. Faustus asks the Duchess what he can conjure that would please her, and... (full context)
Scene 12
Education, Knowledge, and Power Theme Icon
Faustus and Mephastophilis are with several scholars. One of them asks Faustus to conjure up Helen, the mythical... (full context)
Temptation, Sin, and Redemption Theme Icon
...to repent. Faustus is enraged and shouts that he is damned and ought to die. Mephastophilis gives Faustus a dagger. The old man says he sees an angel over Faustus' head,... (full context)
Temptation, Sin, and Redemption Theme Icon
The Bargain Theme Icon
Fate vs. Free Will Theme Icon
Faustus says he wants to repent. In response, Mephastophilis calls him a traitor and threaten to “in piecemeal tear thy flesh,” (12, 59). Faustus... (full context)
Scene 13
Temptation, Sin, and Redemption Theme Icon
The Renaissance Individual Theme Icon
Fate vs. Free Will Theme Icon
Education, Knowledge, and Power Theme Icon
Faustus explains that he wanted to go back on his deal, but Mephastophilis threatened to tear him to pieces. The scholars leave to go pray for Faustus. The... (full context)