Doctor Faustus is the protagonist and tragic hero of Marlowe’s play. He is a contradictory character, capable of both profound intellectual thought and a glorious ambition, yet prone to blindness and a willingness to waste the powers he has gained. Doctor Faustus imagines piling up wealth from the four corners of the globe, reshaping Europe’s map, and gaining access to every scrap of knowledge about the universe. He represents the Renaissance’s spirit, with its rejection of the medieval, God-centered universe and it’s embracing of scientific inquiry and human possibility.
Doctor Faustus, a talented German scholar at Wittenburg, rails against the limits of human knowledge. He has learned everything he can remember, or so he thinks, from the conventional academic disciplines. All of these things have left him unsatisfied, so now he turns to magic. A Good Angle and an Evil Angel arrive, representing Faustus’ choice between Christian conscience and the path to damnation. The former advises him to leave off this pursuit of magic, and the latter tempts him. From two fellow scholars, Valdes and Cornelius, Faustus learns the fundamentals of the black arts. He thrills at the power he will have and the great feats he will perform. He summons the devil Mephostophilis. They flesh out the terms of their agreement, with Mephostophilis representing Lucifer. Faustus will sell his soul, in exchange for twenty-four years of power, with Mephostophilis as a servant to his every whim.
In a comic relief scene, we learn that Faustus’ servant Wagner has gleaned some magic learning. He uses it to convince Robin the Clown to be his servant.
Before the time comes to sign the contract, Faustus has misgivings, but he puts them aside. Mephostophilis returns, and Faustus signs away his soul, writing with his blood. The words “Homo fuge” (“Fly, man) appear on his arm, and Faustus is seized by fear. Mephostophilis distracts him with a dance of devils. Faustus requests a wife, a demand Mephostophilis denies, but he does give Faustus books full of knowledge.
Some time has passed. Faustus curses Mephostophilis for depriving him of heaven, although he has seen many wonders. He manages to torment Mephostophilis, he can’t stomach mention of God, and the devil flees. The good angels and evil angels arrive again. The Good Angel tells him to repent, and the Evil Angel tells him to stick to his wicked ways. Lucifer, Belzebub , and Mephostophilis return, to intimidate Faustus. He is cowed by them and agrees to speak and think no more of God. They delight him with a pageant of the Seven Deadly Sins, and then Lucifer promises to show Faustus hell. Meanwhile, Robin the Clown has gotten one of Faustus’ magic books.
Faustus has explored the heavens and the earth from a chariot drawn by dragons and is now flying to Rome, where the feast honoring St. Peter is about to be celebrated. Mephostophilis and Faustus wait for the Pope, depicted as an arrogant, decidedly unholy man. They play a series of tricks by using magic to disguise themselves and make themselves invisible before leaving.
The Chorus returns to tell us that Faustus returns home, where his vast knowledge of astronomy and his abilities earn him wide renown. Meanwhile, Robin the Clown has also learned magic and uses it to impress his friend rafe and summon Mephostophilis, who doesn’t seem too happy to be called.
At the court of Charles V, Faustus performs illusions that delight the Emperor. He also humiliates a knight named Benvolio. When Benvolio and his friends try to avenge the humiliation, Faustus has his devils hurt them and cruelly transform them so that horns grow on their heads.
Faustus swindles a Horse-courser, and when the Horse-courser returns, Faustus plays a frightening trick on him. Faustus then goes off to serve the Duke of vanholt . Robin the Clown, his friend dick, the Horse-courser, and a carter all meet. They all have been defrauded or hurt by Faustus’ magic. They go off to the court of the Duke to settle scores with Faustus. He entertains the Duke and Duchess with petty illusions before Robin the Clown and his ruffians’ band arrives. Faustus toys with them, besting them with magic, to the delight of the Duke and Duchess.
Faustus’s twenty-four years are running out. Wagner tells the audience that he thinks Faustus prepares for death. He has made his will, leaving all to Wagner. But even as the end approaches, Faustus spends his days feasting and drinking with the other students. For the delight of his fellow scholars, Faustus summons a spirit to take Helen of Troy’s shape. Later, an Old Man enters, warning Faustus to repent. Faustus opts for pleasure instead and asks Mephostophilis to bring Helen of Troy to him, to be his love and comfort during these last days. Mephostophilis readily agrees.
Later, Faustus tells his scholar friends that he is damned and that his power came at the price of his soul. Concerned, the Scholars exit, leaving Faustus to meet his fate. As the hour approaches, Mephostophilis taunts Faustus. Faustus blames Mephostophilis for his damnation, and the devil proudly takes credit for it. The Good and Evil Angel arrive, and the Good Angel abandons Faustus. The gates of Hell open. The Evil Angel taunts Faustus, naming the horrible tortures seen there. The Clock strikes eleven. Faustus gives a final, furious monologue, regretting his choices. At midnight the devils enter. As Faustus begs God and the devil for mercy, the devils drag him away. Later, the Scholar friends find Faustus’ body, torn to pieces.
At the very beginning of Faustus’s temptation the good angel urges Faustus to lay aside to damened book of magic and to read the scriptures. The good angel is the voice of good also the externalization of Faustus’s conscience. The evil angel, who is Lucifer’s emissary, encourages Faustus to continue his study of magic. And Faustus listens to the evil angels and is elated by the promising rewards of magic-power, profit, delight, omnipotence, and honor. Faustus has intellectual pride to a great degree, but he is also desirous of vainglory. He is completely selfish and relishes the inflated sense of his abilities. Faustus indulges in a delusion of self-importance. He thinks Mephistopheles has come
“For the vain pleasure of twenty-four years hath Faustus lost eternal joy and felicity.” Faustus gave up higher values for lower ones. And so Faustus must endure all the horrible tortures of hell. Though of suffering, that is everlasting punishment from God, causes much spiritual unrest to Faustus. Thus we find that Marlowe, in keeping with the traditions of moralities, depicts the destiny of a man who denies God and is finally doomed to eternal damnation. He thinks mephistophilis has come solely at his command, but mephistophilis disillusions him about this. In answering Faustus’s question about Lucifer, mephistophilis says that Lucifer fell because tu of faus aspiring pride and insolence and anticipates Faustus’s fall in Lucifer’s. Faustus is guilty of disrespect, and dignity reprimands mephistophilis and cowardliness.
The morality play is didactic- it is a dramatized guide to Christian living and Christian dying. Whoever discards the path of virtues and abjures faith in God and Christ is destined to despair and enteral damnation.