Christopher Marlowe's The Tragical History of the Life and Death of Doctor Faustus
For a play that has retained much of its scholarly value over the four hundred and ten years, there is surprisingly little known about Christopher Marlowe’s masterpiece, The Tragical History of the Life and Death of Doctor Faustus. The date of its first performance is unknown, and is highly obscured by the added facts that there are two texts of Doctor Faustus, one published in 1604; the other in 1616 (Ribner viii). Christopher Marlowe, even in these early times, set a standard for tragic plays, which would not be rivaled until Shakespeare unleashed his literary landmarks at around the same time Marlowe’s career ended. Despite the lack of specifics on …show more content…
In his ignorance of conjuring, he conjures up the demon Mephistophilis, expecting to be able to command the demon at his will. Mephistophilis, however, informs him that he is only a servant to Lucifer, “…and may not follow thee without his leave”(Ribner 11). To be served by Mephistophilis, Faustus is informed, he must give his soul for an eternity of damnation to Lucifer. Faustus questions this, stating the fact that Lucifer had once been an angel himself, and questioning how this came to be. Mephistophilis replies: “O, by aspiring pride and insolence/For which God threw him from the face of heaven” (Ribner 12). Faustus, however, does not heed this or any other of Mephistophilis’ warnings, and continues on his path, even after the protest of his own blood gives, freezing in Faustus’ very veins while he attempts to sign a contract giving his soul to Lucifer (Brockbank 116). Faustus is not deterred, and commits his soul to Lucifer for all eternity, in exchange for twenty-four years of service from Mephistophilis. He begins to have doubts shortly before signing the pact, however, and asks that Mephistophilis to tell him of hell.
“Why, this is hell, nor am I out of it…/O, Faustus, leave these frivolous demands.” (Ribner 12). After the contract is in place, however,