Doctor Faustus is a scholar who questions all knowledge and finds it lacking. Because none of his learning will allow him to transcend his mortal condition, he rejects God and forms a pact with Lucifer all the while pursuing the arts of black magic. Of course, this is one more propaganda piece of Western Christianity attempting to argue that knowledge is dangerous and confining instead of rewarding and liberating. It also suggests a Protestant parallel in its representation that one who believes in everything ends up believing in nothing. However, if we cast aside its use as a socio-economic, ideological tool of manipulation, we can explore its character, action and themes without suffering too much offense as open-minded scholars.
In a play of five acts, twenty scenes and more than 70 pages of typed text, Gluttony, one of the seven deadly sins, consumes a mere 13 lines. While such economy of space and expression is atypical of Gluttony, it is not typical of Marlowe who surfeits our senses with images of gluttonous, swollen, and surfeited allusions. In fact, Faustus appears to be a fathead because his head has become swollen in self-conceit due to his attempt to understand more than it is within the power of humans to know. According to Marlowe (23-24), "Till swoll'n with cunning, of a self-conceit,/His waxen wings did mount above his reach/And melting, heavens conspired his overthrow!/For falling to a devlish exercise/And glutted now with learning's golden gifts/He surfeits upon cursed necromancy/Nothing so sweet as magic is to him/Which he prefers before his chiefest bliss-/And this the man that in his study sits."
Gluttony, personified, only has two dialogue exchanges with Faus...
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Fitzhenry, R. I. Barnes & Noble Book of Quotations. New York, Barnes & Noble Books, 1986.
Marlowe, C. Doctor Faustus. Barnet, S. (ed.) New York, Signet Classics, 1969.
The student may wish to begin the essay with several of the following quotes:
Puritanism - the haunting fear that someone, somewhere may be happy. H. L. Mencken
Christianity might be a good thing if anyone ever tried it. George Bernard Shaw
Men prefer to believe that they are degenerated angels, rather than elevated apes. W. Winwood Roade
As for a future life, every man must judge for himself between conflicting vague interests. Charles Darwin
God is dead. F. Neitzsche
When a man is freed of religion, he has a better chance to live a normal and wholesome life. Sigmund Freud (Barnes & Noble Book of Quotations, 310-312)
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