Faustus Themes


Sin, Redemption and Damnation

Sin- immoral act against the 'Divine Law'

Redemption- action of saving or being saved from sin or evil

Damnation- eternal punishment in hell


  • Faustus commits ultimate sin in the play by making a deal with Lucifer; which shows his disobedience to God, therefore renounces God.

"To give me whatsover I shall ask""Despair in God, and trust in Belzebub"

  • In Scene 7, Lucifer conjures up personified sins; each represent Faustus' sins throughout the 24 years

"O, this feeds my soul" Ironic as he gave away his soul and disobeyed God

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Sin, Redemption and Damnation


  • Good Angel appears Faustus' lapses in faith to persuade him to turn back to God and renounce the dark arts.

"Sweet Faustus, think of heaven, and heavenly things"

  • Redemption is always offered to Faustus, but due to his hamartia, he rejects this opportunity until the last scene where he realises his fate

"my God, look not so fierce on me"

In scene 12, the Old Man represents Faustus' last chnace to repent; "That from thy soul exclud'st the grace of heaven". So in scene 13, redemption doesn't seem to be a viable option for Faustus. Here, Marlowe steps out of the Christian worldview in order to add drama.

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Sin, Redemption and Damnation


  • The arguement that Faustus doesn't have the ability/ free will to repent, and was born damned

"What will be, shall be! Divinity, adieu!"

  • The line "Faustus, thou art damned" is repeated constantly by Faustus and Mephastophilis throughout the play. Repetition foreshadows and secures Faustus' fate.
  • Faustus gives his body and soul to Lucifer, therefore is Lucifer in control of Faustus' immoral decisions? Can he not repent becuase he doesn not own himself?

"And are forever damned to Lucifer"


  • Religious, Elizabethan audience                                   Calvinism vs Orthodox
  • Protestant vs Catholism                                                 
  • Marlowe as an aethist or a catholic sympathiser
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Morality vs Tragedy Play

Morality Play- an allegorical play popular in the 15th and 16th century, in which the characters personify abstract qualities or concepts

Tragedy Play- a play in which the main character is brought to ruin as a consequence of a tragic flaw. Teaches the audience a moral lesson.

Feautures of a morality play:

  • religious, corruption of man, redemption, personified good and evil characters

Feautures of a tragedy play:

  • flawed protagonist, sorrow, death, consequences
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Morality vs Tragedy Play

Faustus as a morality play:

  • The central character is an ordinary person who can be related to the rest of mankind. Typically the mankind figure is tempted by morality characters (Meph, Lucifer, Evil Angel) and his morality falls consorting with low company, and performing low-comic scenes (you can see this particually in scene 8)

'****** it.' "How now, who's that which snatched the meat from me?"

  • Battle between good and evil- Faustus' morals fluctuate constantly. Characters such as the good angel, evil angel and the old man are morality characters which mirror Faustus' conflicting mind

Faustus: "I will renounce this magic and repent", Evil Angel: "Ay, but Faustus never shall repent"

  • Lesson taught: men shouldn't step out of human boundaries and try to become God-like otherwise you will be damned in hell
  • Structually, 'Faustus' contains morality play traditions, such as choruses which foreshadows events, and comic scenes which provide entertainment and belittles' Faustus' power.
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Morality vs Tragedy Play

Faustus as a Tragedy:

  • Faustus' tragic flaw/ hamartia is his pride, and his thirst for knowledge; which as a consequence leads him to eternal damnation. He can be seen as a tragic hero; a character who through his own hamartia is destined for downfall

"Now Faustus, thou art conjuror laureate" Speaks in 3rd person and prose- highlights his pride

  • In a morality play, good always triumphs over evil, but in a tragedy evil doesn't necessarily win, but leads to Faustus being dragged to hell in the final scene.  Moreover, Faustus plays his low-comic tricks on the pope, but in morality plays it's normally performed on the devil.  
  • Faustus falls from being someone who "profits in divinity" to a man who lusts over a ghost; "Sweet Helen, make me immortal with a kiss"
  • The title of the play is

"The Tragical History of D.Faustus"- suggesting that Marlowe himself saw his own play as being a tragedy rather than a morality

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Magic and the Supernatural


  • Faustus wants magical ability to become the most powerful man on earth. Faustus believes that obtaining magical powers will make him more powerful than God and considers that emperor’s and king’s power are restricted as they are just human and cannot “raise the wind, or rend the clouds”.
  • There's a power struggle between Faustus and the supernatural characters. “No, I come now hither of mine own accord” Faustus believes that he conjured Mephastophilis, when in fact Mephastophilis informs him that his own free will brought him to Faustus, which undermines Faustus’ power.
  • By the end of the play we see that Faustus needs Mephastophilis to perform his low-comic tricks.Faustus does not have the power that he had wished for at the beginning, further cementing the idea that Faustus never obtained God-like capabilities. Marlowe writes in prose to highlight Faustus' loss in power and divinity.
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Magic and the Supernatural


  • In scene 7, Faustus considers that the ‘evil’ side does not hold all the power and knowledge that Faustus desires and tries to turn back to God; “Villain, have I not bound thee to tell me anything?” Lucifer and Beelzebub then appear to secure Faustus’ decision. Lucifer conjures up the seven deadly sins to entertain and persuade Faustus; “Tut Faustus, in hell is all manner of delight”. Lucifer and devils “come from hell to show tee some pastime” Marlowe satirises the morality play as he makes sinning appear to be entertainment; “but mark this show”.
  • Furthermore, the comic scenes such as scene 4 is a parody of the scene before. Where Faustus can sell his soul to the devil to become omnipotent, Wagner says to the Clown that he would sell his soul “for a shoulder of mutton” which the clown modifies to it being “roasted and good sauce to it”.
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Magic and the Supernatural

Battle between Good and Evil:

  • Magic and the supernatural in ‘Doctor Faustus’ derive from mythology and religious beliefs, whether it be pagan, Catholicism, and Christianity; “And pray devoutly to the prince of hell” the ironic language here puts ‘good’ religion against the ‘evil’ in religion, Marlowe constantly contrasts good and evil elements to represent Faustus’ inner battle between repenting and using dark magic.
  • The ‘Good Angel and ‘Evil Angel’ appear in scene 5 when Faustus rejects God and his religious beliefs; “Despair in God, and trust in Beelzebub” however, the use of caesura adds an element of doubt, as though Faustus is not completely sure to keep his deal with Lucifer. The good and evil angel appear as Faustus’ conflicting thoughts “Sweet Faustus think of heaven” versus “No Faustus, think of honour and of wealth”. 
  • Moreover, when Faustus begins to think about repenting, devils and the angels would always appear to persuade Faustus; “Ah Christ my saviour seek to save distressed Faustus’ soul” as Faustus begins to repent, Lucifer appears and says, “Christ cannot save thy soul, for he just” This paradox tells Faustus why he can’t be saved for “he is just”, furthermore cementing that Faustus is doomed to be damned, and has no free will.
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Knowledge and Wisdom

Fautus was "graced with doctor's name" and most of the play takes place in a university, surrounded by scholars. The play itself surfaces issues of formal education;knowledge can not only make someone more intellectual, but can also make someone more superior than another, and can make a man turn towards the dark arts. In 'Faustus' knowledge means power, and Faustus goes to far and as a consequnce is damned to hell; "Regard his hellish fall"

Power and Status:

  • Faustus turns to magic, not only for his desire for power and wealth, but for also forbidden knowledge; "secrets of all foreign kings"
  • 'Enter Faustus in his study' A study is a place of books and knowledge . Marlowe characterises Faustus as a intellect by using his surroundings- connotes high class and respected man.
  • Faustus desires something more than the fame he has acquired through his learning, he wants something that will challenge the boundaries of man; "Yet art thou, still but Faustus, and a man" This could also be seen as blasphemous as the image of Christ (who can raise from the dead) in the Early modern period was as a physician. Therfore, Faustus implies that not only would he be a doctor, but also the same as Christ. 
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