Early Life of Faustus
Faustus had been born of base stock in
. In his maturity, while living with some relatives in Rhodes, Germany , he studied theology and was called a doctor. However, Faustus was so swollen with conceit that, Daedalus-like, he strove too far, became glutted with learning, conspired with the devil, and finally fell, accursed. Wittenberg
Merits and Demerits of Different Subjects of Study
At the outset of his downward path Doctor Faustus found himself complete master of the fields of knowledge which men at that time studied. As a medical doctor he had already achieved huge success and great renown. But after obtaining good health for men no challenge remained in medicine except immortality. Law, Faustus concluded, was nothing but an elaborate money-making scheme. Only divinity remained, but theology led to a blind alley. Since the reward of sin was death and since no man could say he was without sin, then all men must sin and consequently die.
Necromancy greatly attracted Faustus. Universal power would be within his reach, the whole world at his command, and emperors at his feet, were he to become a magician. Summoning his servant Wagner, Faustus ordered him to summon Valdes and Cornelius, who could teach him their arts.
Lure of Necromancy
The Good Angel and the Evil Angel each tried to persuade Faustus, but Faustus was in no mood to listen to the Good Angel. He exulted over the prospects of his forthcoming adventures. He would get gold from India, pearls from the oceans, tasty delicacies from far away places; he would read strange philosophies, cull from foreign kings their secrets, control Germany with his power, reform the public schools, and perform many other fabulous deeds. Eager to acquire knowledge of the black arts, he went away to study with Valdes and Cornelius.
Before long the scholars of
began to notice the doctor’s prolonged absence. Learning from Wagner of his master’s unhallowed pursuits, the scholars lamented the fate of the famous doctor. Wittenberg
Faustus’s first act of magic was to summon Mephistophilis to assume the shape of a Franciscan friar. The docile obedience of Mephistophilis elated the magician, but Mephistophilis explained that magic had limits in the devil’s kingdom. Mephistophilis claimed that he had not actually appeared at Faustus’s behest but had come, as he would have to any other person, because Faustus had cursed Christ and adjured the Scriptures. Whenever a man is on the verge of being doomed, the devil will appear.
Interested in the nature of Lucifer, Faustus questioned Mephistophilis about his master, the fallen angel, and about hell, Lucifer’s domain. Mephistophilis was wary. He claimed that the fallen spirits, having been deprived of the glories of heaven, found the whole-world hell. Mephistophilis urged Faustus to give up his scheme, but Faustus scorned the warning, saying that he would surrender his soul to Lucifer if the fallen angel would give to Faustus twenty-four years of voluptuous ease, with Mephistophilis to attend him.
Good Angel and Evil Angel
While Faustus indulged in a mental argument concerning the relative merits of God and the Devil, the Good Angel and the Evil Angel, symbolic of his inner conflict, appeared once again, each attempting to persuade him. The result was that Faustus was more determined than ever to continue his course.
Lucifer Accepts his Terms: Contract Signed
Mephistophilis returned to assure Faustus that Lucifer was agreeable to the bargain, which must be sealed in Faustus’s blood. When Faustus tried to write, however, his blood congealed and Mephistophilis had to warm the liquid with fire. Significantly the words, “Fly, man,” appeared in Latin on Faustus’s arm. When Faustus questioned Mephistophilis about the nature of hell, the devil claimed that hell had no limits for the damned. Intoxicated by his new estate, Faustus disclaimed any belief in an after-life. Thus he assured himself that his contract with Lucifer would never be fulfilled, in spite of the devil’s warning that he, Mephistophilis was living proof of hell’s existence.
Faustus Wavers: Lucifer Consoles
Faustus, eager to consume the fruits of the devil’s offering, demanded books that would contain varied information about the devil’s regime. When the Good Angel and the Evil Angel came to him again, he realized that he was beyond repentance. Again, the opposing Angels insinuated themselves into his mind, until he called Christ to save him. As he spoke, wrathful Lucifer descended upon his prospective victim to admonish him never to call to God. As an appeasing gesture Lucifer conjured up a vision of the Seven Deadly Sins.
and the Emperor Palace of Pope
Faustus travelled extensively throughout the world, and Wagner marvelled at his master’s rapid progress. In
, at the palace of the Pope, Faustus, made invisible by his magic arts, astounded the Pope by snatching things from the holy man’s hands. Like a gleeful child Faustus asked Mephistophilis to create more mischief. When Faustus returned home the scholars questioned him eagerly about many things unknown to them. As his fame spread, the emperor invited him to the palace and asked him to conjure up the spirit of Alexander the Great. Because a doubtful knight scoffed at such a preposterous idea, Faustus, after fulfilling the emperor’s request, spitefully placed horns on the head of the sceptical nobleman. Rome
Foreseeing that his time of merriment was drawing to a close, Faustus returned to
. Wagner sensed that his master was about to die when Faustus gave his faithful servant all his worldly goods. Wittenberg
The Old Man and Faustus: Vision of Helen
As death drew near, Faustus spoke with his conscience, which, assuming the form of an Old Man begged him to repent before he died. When Faustus declared that he would repent, Mephistophilis cautioned him not to offend Lucifer. Faustus asked Mephistophilis to bring him Helen of Troy as a lover to amuse him during the final days of his life.
In his declining hours Faustus conversed with scholars who had loved him, and the fallen theologian revealed to them his bargain with Lucifer. Alone, he uttered a final despairing plea that he be saved from impending misery, but in the end he was borne off by a company of devils to hell for eternal damnation.