Doctor Faustus

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Blood Symbol Icon
Mephastophilis is very clear that Lucifer will only make a deal with Faustus if he signs a formal deed of gift signed with his own blood. Faustus' blood thus symbolizes some true essence of himself, which Lucifer desires as a sign of his commitment. When Faustus tries to sign the agreement, the blood congeals, and Faustus interprets this as a sign that his own body is reluctant to make the bargain with Lucifer. As Faustus' death draws near and he considers repenting, he says that a single drop of Christ's blood would save him. Christ's blood also serves as a symbolic guarantee of a bargain, though a holy one in contrast to that between Lucifer and Faustus. Christ's blood is shed through his crucifixion, the sacrifice by which Jesus redeemed mankind's sins. While the imagery of blood is thus an important symbol throughout the play, there is also a tension between blood as a physical part of Faustus' body, of which he is aware (he fears devils tearing his flesh and causing him pain), and blood as a symbol of someone's inner essence or soul, which Faustus entirely neglects.

Blood Quotes in Doctor Faustus

The Doctor Faustus quotes below all refer to the symbol of Blood. 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 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.


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Scene 12 Quotes

Ah stay, good Faustus, stay thy desperate steps!
I see an angel hovers o'er thy head
And with a vial full of precious grace
Offers to pour the same into thy soul!
Then call for mercy, and avoid despair. (42-47)

Related Characters: Old Man (speaker), Doctor Faustus
Related Symbols: The Good and Evil Angels, Blood
Page Number: 5.1.52-56
Explanation and Analysis:

It has been years now, and Faustus and Mephistophilis have done lots of magic and mischief, including terrifying the Pope and prompting an exorcism attempt. Faustus recently showed off for several scholars by conjuring Helen of Troy. Now an Old Man has entered and is attempting to convince Faustus to repent, telling him that only Christ's mercy can save him. Faustus becomes enraged and grabs a dagger from Mephastophilis, when the Old Man speaks the quote above.

The Old Man tells Faustus to stop, and that he sees an angel hovering above (most likely, the Good Angel which Faustus can no longer see). The Old Man describes a "vial full of precious grace" held by the angel, which could be poured into Faustus's soul to save him. This grace fluid undoubtably refers to Christ's saving blood, for which Faustus will eventually cry out in his final soliloquies. 

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.

Scene 13 Quotes

On God, whom Faustus hath blasphemed? Ah my God—I would weep, but the devil draws in my tears! gush forth blood, instead of tears—yea, life and soul! O, he stays my tongue! I would lift up my hands, but see, they hold them, they hold them! (27-31)

Related Characters: Doctor Faustus (speaker)
Related Symbols: Blood
Page Number: 5.2.28-33
Explanation and Analysis:

Continuing to try and help Faustus, the Scholars tell him to call on God. This quote is in Faustus's response. He believes that since he has blasphemed God, he will not be saved. His sins are so great to him that he believes he cannot repent, and that the devils are literally holding him back from doing so. He can't weep, since the devil draws back his tears. He cries out about blood, presumably Christ's, along with regret for using his own blood to sign the bargain, but here he does not formally repent, since the devil "stays his tongue." Similarly, he cannot lift his hands to the heavens, since the devils (his sins and fears) hold them down.

Faustus continues to believe that his agency and free will are meaningless, or simply less powerful than the forces of fate and of the devil. He expresses the desire to repent, but his fear and his constant misunderstanding of God prevents him from doing so. In the end, Faustus is willing to do everything but the thing needed to save himself.

O I'll leap up to my God! Who pulls me down?
See, see where Christ's blood streams in the firmament!
One drop would save my soul, half a drop: ah my Christ. (69-71)

Related Characters: Doctor Faustus (speaker)
Related Symbols: Blood
Page Number: 5.2.73-75
Explanation and Analysis:

The Scholars have left the stage, and Faustus is alone soliloquizing; there is one hour left before the deal expires. After feeling his hands pulled down (in the quote above), here Faustus wants to leap up to God, but cries out "Who pulls me down?" He then sees visions of Christ's blood in the sky. The image overwhelms him, and he recognizes that "One drop" would save his soul, even "half a drop." Faustus recognizes God's saving power and what he needs to do to be saved, but he still does not do it. His cry to Christ is an acknowledgement of power, not of wrongdoing; he has not repented and begged for mercy. Recall also how much of Faustus's own blood was required to damn himself, while even half a drop of merciful Christ's blood will save him.

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Blood Symbol Timeline in Doctor Faustus

The timeline below shows where the symbol Blood appears in Doctor Faustus. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Scene 5
The Bargain Theme Icon
Fate vs. Free Will Theme Icon
...Lucifer has accepted the deal, and that Faustus must sign an agreement with his own blood to finalize the deal. (full context)