- Books, Literature, and Writing
Dr. Faustus : Absolute Power Corrupts
Mephistopheles and his deal
Introduction to Dr. Faustus
Doctor Faustus is arguably one of the best plays of the Elizabethan era and probably Christopher Marlowe's greatest achievement. The work features some of his best poetry. It was first published in 1604 and has been rewritten for every generation. It raises pertinent questions about religion and the notions of good and evil. Should we consider Dr. Faustus an exemplary figure, a brilliant man who refuses to be chained by limitations of a human being or is the play a cautionary tale about the loneliness of man, his greed and consequences of cutting man off from God?
The plot of Dr. Faustus
Absolute power corrupts. This is an age old adage proved by Dr. Faustus. In the beginning we see Dr. Faustus as a brilliant man striving to master several disciplines and seeking challenges in his quest for knowledge but later he turns to necromancy or black magic and summons the devil. Thus arrives Mephistopheles, the messenger of Lucifer! He offers Dr. Faustus unimaginable powers in return for his soul after twenty four years. Here comes the temptation and the moral dilemma! The devil cautions him and tells him of the horrors of hell and the tragic existence of no longer being in God's grace but Dr. Faustus ignores the caution and takes the deal. Here begins the fall of Faustus! This power got through a deal, corrupts him to the core and turns him into an empty shell of a man who he once was!
Is Dr. Faustus relevant today?
We as readers can easily empathize with Faustus as a man who faces temptation and tough choices. These temptations may be miniscule such as breaking a fast, telling a white lie to get favors or extreme like cheating on your spouse, laundering money or accepting bribes. There is no one who can resist temptation altogether. The play was written in the 16th century but is very relevant today. The idiom that absolute power corrupts is even truer today in the times of corrupt politicians, countries waging wars, and the gross misuse of power against innocent men , women and children. When Faustus is taken away by the Devil, we are secretly pleased that he is being punished for his deeds and repenting at the last moment does him no good. We, as a society, wish to see the corrupt punished and justice served but at the same time the play also tells us that man is given many chances to save his soul. No matter how grave the crime, we are still eligible to seek repentance and salvage our souls. This is a very comforting thought in this world of temptations and power struggles. We are weak but all is not lost..!!