Dr. Faustus Essay

950 words - 4 pages

Because it focuses on Faustus' aspiration for divinity, Marlowe's Dr. Faustus illustrates the Elizabethan philosophy of the Great Chain of Being. Faustus sells his soul to the devil in exchange for unlimited knowledge, making him like a divinity. This, along with the demons' desire to become as powerful as God, portrays the idea of the Great Chain of Being.One dark, stormy night, Faustus stands in a magical circle marked with various signs and words and chants in Latin, "Sint mihi dii Acherontis propitii! Valeat numen triplex Jehovoe! Ignei, aerii, aquatani spiritus, salvete! (Marlowe) Suddenly, a dark figure appears in the room. Here, at this very moment, Dr. Faustus sells his soul to the ...view middle of the document...

Animals come next on the chain, experiencing existence, growth, and passion, but not reason like man. Plants are fifth in line, boasting only existence and growth. And finally, minerals come last on the chain, showing only existence. Dr. Faustus is an ambitious character and is not satisfied with being third on the totem pole. In lines 20-23, Wagner compares Faustus to Icarus: "Till, swollen with cunning of self conceit,/ His waxen wings did mount above his reach/ And melting heavens conspired his overthrow" (Marlowe). "Elizabethans held in mind a picture of a world in which there was a definite moral order" (Tillyard). A person seeking revenge would be upsetting that order by attempting to do what is consigned to God alone. Because of this disruption of the natural order, tragic consequences can be expected to occur. Like Adam and Eve, however, "what he hungers for is a forbidden fruit ─ necromantic knowledge ─ and as such, his story symbolizes just as certainly as does theirs the Fall of Man" (Tillyard).By selling his soul to the devil, Faustus becomes more than a man. He becomes a divinity and moves one place up on the Great Chain of Being. And so, by selling his soul to the devil and becoming a divinity, Dr. Faustus epitomizes the Elizabethan belief in a hierarchy of life.Although Faustus illustrates this Great Chain of Being, he is not the only one. Lucifer and all his fallen angels once had the same ambitions Faustus has. After selling his soul to the devil, Faustus quizzes Mephistophilis about hell and all the matters...

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