What would you pay for twenty-four years of complete knowledge and total power? Would you forsake God and turn your allegiance to the devil? In Christopher Marlowe’s classic epic tragedy the German Doctor Faustus does just that, selling his soul to the devil in exchange for knowledge, power, and the service of Mephistopheles to cater to his every whim. Faustus is consumed with the desire to know everything and to remain youthful and vibrant.
I loved the undertones of humor always present in this text. Although Faustus is granted unlimited knowledge and power, he squanders his newfound gains on silly pranks and opportunities to impress the rich and influential in society. Of course he travels and sees the world, but he never quite seems to get his money’s worth in the realm of true power. It seems to me that one night of perhaps drunken talk with his fellow magicians and scholars leads Faustus down the road to necromancy, where he falls victim to his own base desires and pays the price with his soul.
I read this play for a course in Renaissance Drama and found it highly enjoyable. As one of Shakespeare’s contemporaries, Marlowe’s play is written in the same style and early English language yet is much more serious with more moral and religious meanings. After watching two different stagings of the play I found the language easier to understand and the humor more apparent. Doctor Faustus is a timeless, thought-provoking story that brings about questions of morality. Although Faustus is not a highly developed character, the reader can identify with his thirst for knowledge and might even feel sympathies towards this man who realizes much too late that he has made a terrible mistake.