Deeply immersed in Christianity, Marlowe's play explores the alluring temptation of sin, its consequences, and the possibility of redemption for a sinner like Doctor Faustus. Faustus's journey can be seen in relation to the possible trajectory from temptation to sin to redemption: Faustus' ambition is tempted by the prospect of limitless knowledge and power, he sins in order to achieve it, and then he rejects possible redemption. He is so caught up in his desire for power that he neglects the consequences of his deal with Lucifer. Giving into his temptations, he rejects God in favor of Lucifer and Mephastophilis, a sin if there ever was one.
In portraying Faustus' sinful behavior, Marlowe reveals the negative effects of sin on Faustus himself. Despite his originally lofty ambitions, Faustus ends up using his magic for practical jokes, parlor tricks, and the summoning of a beautiful woman (Helen of Troy). As the play's scholars lament, Faustus was once an esteemed scholar but after his deal with the devil he seems a mere shade of his former self.
While Faustus hurts himself and others through sin, he still has the possibility of redemption throughout the play. As the Good Angel tells him, it is never too late to repent and thereby gain God's mercy. But Faustus is persuaded by the Evil Angel not to repent, primarily by convincing Faustus that he's so damned already that he would never actually be able to return to God. These two angels can be seen as representing the opposing pulls of redemption and the temptation to sin even more. Faustus listens to the Evil Angel for the most of the play, but seems to repent in the final scene. Or does he? The question of whether Faustus really repents at the end of the tragedy is debatable and has important implications for whether the play suggests that at some moment it really is too late for a sinner like Faustus to repent and be redeemed. In any case, whether because he repented too late or didn't repent truly, Faustus rejects the possibility of redemption and is ultimately damned for his sins.
Temptation, Sin, and Redemption ThemeTracker
Temptation, Sin, and Redemption Quotes in Doctor Faustus
...Till, swollen with cunning, of a self-conceit,
His waxen wings did mount above his reach,
And melting heavens conspired his overthrow.
For falling to a devilish exercise,
And glutted more with learning's golden gifts,
He surfeits upon cursed necromancy. (20-25)
Why then belike we must sin,
And so consequently die.
Ay, we must die an everlasting death.
What doctrine call you this? Che sara, sara
What will be, shall be! Divinity, adieu!
These metaphysics of magicians,
And necromantic books are heavenly! (44-50)
O Faustus, lay that damned book aside,
And gaze not on it, lest it tempt thy soul,
And heap God's heavy wrath upon thy head. (70-72)
How am I glutted with conceit of this!
Shall I make spirits fetch me what I please,
Resolve me of all ambiguities,
Perform what desperate enterprise I will?
I'll have them fly to India for gold,
Ransack the ocean for orient pearl,
And search all corners of the new-found world
For pleasant fruits and princely delicates. (78-85)
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)
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)
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)
Now Faustus, must thou needs be damned,
And canst thou not be saved.
What boots it then to think of God or heaven? (1-3)
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)
When I behold the heavens, then I repent,
And curse thee, wicked Mephastophilis,
Because thou hast deprived me of those joys. (177-179)
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)
Never too late, if Faustus will repent. (254)
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)
Accursed Faustus, where is mercy now?
I do repent, and yet I do despair:
Hell strives with grace for conquest in my breast! (53-55)
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)
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)
Yet Faustus, look up to heaven; remember God's mercies are infinite. (13-14)
But Faustus' offense can ne'er be pardoned! The serpent that tempted Eve may be saved, but not Faustus. (15-16)
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)
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)
Ugly hell gape not! Come not, Lucifer!
I'll burn my books—ah, Mephastophilis! (112-113)
Regard his hellish fall,
Whose fiendful fortune may exhort the wise
Only to wonder at unlawful things:
Whose deepness doth entice such forward wits
To practice more than heavenly power permits. (4-8)