To adequately describe the role that Helen plays in Doctor Faustus, it is necessary not only to look at the scene in which she features, but also all the instances that Faustus takes some form of pleasure from physical and sensual things. We need to do this because this is what Helen is symbolic of; she represents the attractive nature of evil in addition to the depths of depravity that Faustus has fallen to.
It is fair to say that Faustus represents the quintessential renaissance man - it is his thirst for knowledge that drives him into his pact with Mephastophilis, indeed it is the Evil Angel that best summarises this:
Go forward, Faustus, in the famous art,
Wherein all nature's treasury is contained:
Be thou on earth as Jove is in the sky,
Lord and commander of these elements.
Scene I, lines 74-77
It is the restless spirit of the renaissance that drives Faustus to seek knowledge. He has already attained what he can through more conventional means, his "bills (are) hung up as monuments", and his "common talk found aphorisms". Faustus compares himself to the most famous figures of the classical period; to Hippocrates, to Aristotle and to Galen. He sees himself as having come to the end of what he can learn through his human tools; he needs something that will allow him to move outside the realm of nature, something supernatural. This is the reason why he came into contact with Mephastophilis, as he sought to use the new power that would come to him to further his own knowledge. It has been said that power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely - this is what has happened to Faustus. He ceases to become the seeker of knowledge, but become...
... middle of paper ...
...ed in the use of capital punishment as the result of trying to break his end of the bargain. Faustus' rebellion against his deal (a repetition of his body's rebellion against his signing of the contract) is only short lived, and his downfall is assured when Helen arrives.
Helen, then, represents the dangerous beauty of evil, the seduction of the past, and the desire for things pleasurable. Faustus' desire for her, for the most beautiful woman who has ever lived, seems understandable (though not reasonable) to us, because we all have a little bit of Faustus in us. It is, however, unlikely that any of us have a sufficiently Faustian nature to sell our soul to the Devil.
Marlowe, Christopher. "The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus." The Norton Anthology of English Literature. 6th ed. Eds. M.H. Abrams et. al. New York: W.W. Norton and Co, 1993.
Need Writing Help?
Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.Check your paper »
- Helen of Troy is the beauteous woman who stole the hearts of men and carried herself as Royalty should. She was a powerful icon in ancient times, so much so that a great war waged because of her. It is thanks to the kidnapping of Helen that the Trojan War occurred at all and took its place in history. Her influence and persona still reverberate in these contemporary times and never cease to cause a stir in the minds of men. In “To Helen,” Poe’s speaker has a very worshipful, personal view of her while in “Helen,” Doolittle’s speaker tells of the deep hatred Greece has for Helen.... [tags: Greek mythology, homer]
892 words (2.5 pages)
- Helen Of Troy Helen was the most beautiful woman in the entire Greek known world. She was the daughter of the god Zeus and of Leda, and wife of the King of Sparta. The hero Theseus, who hoped in time to marry her, abducted her in childhood but her brothers rescued her. Because Helen was courted by so many prominent heroes, Menelaus made all of them swear to abide by Helen's choice of a husband, and to defend that husband's rights should anyone attempt to take Helen away by force. Helen's beauty was the direct cause of the Trojan War.... [tags: Ancient Greece Greek History]
526 words (1.5 pages)
- The Iliad by Homer and the Women of Troy by Euripides are both Greek works of literature that look at the Trojan War from different perspectives. Book 6 of the Iliad illustrates that the ultimate glory is to fight for the city with no regard to the impact on the family. The Women of Troy focuses on the negatives that war causes, especially towards the soldier’s wives and children. Whereas the Iliad focuses on the battle itself and centers on the warriors, the Women of Troy focuses on the wrath the war brings upon the families left behind.... [tags: Iliad, Women of Troy, Homer, Euripides, Trojan War]
915 words (2.6 pages)
- Rafe and Robin in Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus Rafe and Robin waltz into Christopher Marlowe’s The Tragical History of D. Faustus in scene four and vanish three scenes later. Although they may appear trivial and even intrusive, Rafe and Robin bring much-needed comic relief to this tragic play. Imitating Doctor Faustus’ actions unwittingly, this pair of ostlers illuminates Faustus’ misuse of power. They also reflect Faustus’ character by acting as his parallel self. Behind their clownish antics, Rafe and Robin highlight Faustus’ downfall and evil’s power through comic relief, parody, and parallel.... [tags: Doctor Faustus]
1235 words (3.5 pages)
- Marlowe's Doctor Faustus In Faustus' first speech in Act 1, my main feeling towards Faustus was not sympathy but irritation. I became aware of Faustus' arrogance and his impatience with ordinary learning, particularly with his referral to law as 'a petty case of paltry legacies.' He also constantly refers to himself as 'Faustus', reminding himself of his own importance. Other aspects of Faustus' character are revealed in the descriptive language he uses. He is 'ravish'd' by magic, and is 'glutted' with learning.... [tags: Marlowe Doctor Faustus Essays]
889 words (2.5 pages)
- Disenchantment with the Modern Age in Yeats' "No Second Troy" "No Second Troy" expresses Yeats' most direct vision of Maud Gonne, the headstrong Irish nationalist he loved unrequitedly throughout his life. The poem deals with Yeats’ disenchantment with the modern age: blind to true beauty, unheroic, and unworthy of Maud Gonne's ancient nobility and heroism. The "ignorant men," without "courage equal to desire," personify Yeats’ assignment of blame for his failed attempts at obtaining Maud Gonne's love.... [tags: Yeats No Second Troy Essays]
1155 words (3.3 pages)
- The Appeal of Evil in Dr. Faustus Christopher Marlowe had a thorough idea of what his audience wanted. The audience of that time wanted to be wild and evil but due to the strong influence of the church this was not possible. Most people want to see violence, sin, and give in to temptation but could not because of the label that society and the church would place on them. Marlowe gave them a play where they could see and experience all of the things that people wanted to do but could not or would not because they were dangerous and sinful.... [tags: Doctor Faustus Essays]
1424 words (4.1 pages)
- The Deeper Meaning of Christopher Marlowe's Doctor Faustus I do not agree with the frequently repeated comment that Doctor Faustus is an anti-intellectualist play that preaches that curiosity is dangerous. It is all too easy to see Faustus as the scholar, seeking knowledge, and his desire for knowledge that leads to his downfall. To confine the play to something so narrow is to ignore the deeper meaning behind the play. I believe that this deeper meaning is more important than the superficial idea that curiosity is wrong.... [tags: Christopher Marlowe Dr. Doctor Faustus]
1172 words (3.3 pages)
- Ganymede and Helen “Ganymede and Helen,” a propagandistic text circa the 12th or 13th century puts two wonderfully beautiful specimens of the sexes in debate over love; love between a man and a woman, defended by Helen, and love between two men, fought for by Ganymede. Helen represents the orthodoxy while Ganymede provides the dissenting opinion; however, by the end, Helen is declared the winner and Ganymede asks for her hand in marriage. This turn is surprising, for moments before Ganymede is pro-man love and seems to act thus only because it is how society deems he should.... [tags: Ganymede Helen Love Homosexual Essays]
1826 words (5.2 pages)
- “Out of ancient myth of the magician who sells his soul to the Devil for occult powers, Marlowe has fashioned a veritable fable of Renaissance man” (Source 5 113). The goal of any true renaissance man is to improve himself. This goal may border on heresy, as it leads to a man trying to occupy the same position as God. Lucifer commits this same basic sin to cause his own fall. To Doctor Faustus, this idea of sin is of no concern at the beginning of Christopher Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus. Faustus’ goal is to become god-like himself.... [tags: essays research papers]
2508 words (7.2 pages)