The personification of the Seven Deadly Sins in Scene 5 is a vivid moment in the play. After Lucifer convinces Faustus to never speak of Christ or think of God again, he summons the Seven Deadly Sins in a bid to amuse and distract Faustus from his desire to repent and seek redemption. Commanding Faustus to “talk not of paradise nor creation,” but instead to enjoy the pageant and speak only of the devil, Lucifer brings forth corporeal representations of each of the seven sins: Pride, Greed, Wrath, Envy, Gluttony, Sloth, and Lust. The spectacle of each sin’s parade is comedic, affirming qualities audiences would have been familiar with from their representation in other morality plays of the time, such as Richard Tarlton’s popular two-part play The Seven Deadly Sins (written circa 1585; although the text has since been lost, scholars have been able to ascertain the general plot, which brings each of the seven sins to life on stage).
Marlowe imbues life into the Seven Deadly Sins not only by giving them physical form but also by writing their dialogue in a lower, more common style: they speak in prose rather than verse. Some of the Sins even use dialect to emphasize their base status. For example, Gluttony’s speech is vulgar and teasing, rife with common phrases rather than lush grammar, as in the quote below:
Who, I, sir? I am Gluttony. My parents are all dead, and the devil a penny they have left me but a bare pension, and that is thirty meals a day, and ten bevers – a small trifle to suffice nature. O, I come of a royal parentage. My grandfather was a gammon of bacon, my grandmother a hogshead of claret wine.
Not only do Gluttony and the other Seven Deadly Sins speak to Faustus, he speaks back to them (also foregoing verse in favor of prose):
Gluttony: Now, Faustus, thou hast heard all my progeny, wilt thou bid me to supper?
Faustus: No, I’ll see thee hanged. Thou wilt eat up all my victuals.
Gluttony: Then the devil choke thee!
Faustus: Choke thyself, glutton!
The fact that Faustus can interact and converse with the Seven Deadly Sins enhances the strength of their personification. By lowering Faustus’s speech pattern to match the Sins, the play reveals how low Faustus himself has already fallen. Faustus’s easy enjoyment of Mephastophilis’s display, and his subconscious mirroring of the Sins’ attitudes, demonstrates the extent of his reinforced allegiance to hell.