Doctor Faustus

by: Christopher Marlowe

Important Quotations Explained

1
The reward of sin is death? That’s hard.
Si peccasse negamus, fallimur, et nulla est in nobis veritas.
If we say that we have no sin,
We deceive ourselves, and there’s no truth in us.
Why then belike we must sin,
And so consequently die.
Ay, we must die an everlasting death.
What doctrine call you this? Che sarà, sarà:
What will be, shall be! Divinity, adieu!
These metaphysics of magicians,
And necromantic books are heavenly!
          (1.4050)

Faustus speaks these lines near the end of his opening soliloquy. In this speech, he considers various fields of study one by one, beginning with logic and proceeding through medicine and law. Seeking the highest form of knowledge, he arrives at theology and opens the Bible to the New Testament, where he quotes from Romans and the first book of John. He reads that “[t]he reward of sin is death,” and that “[i]f we say we that we have no sin, / We deceive ourselves, and there’s no truth in us.” The logic of these quotations—everyone sins, and sin leads to death—makes it seem as though Christianity can promise only death, which leads Faustus to give in to the fatalistic “What will be, shall be! Divinity, adieu!” However, Faustus neglects to read the very next line in John, which states, “If we confess our sins, [God] is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). By ignoring this passage, Faustus ignores the possibility of redemption, just as he ignores it throughout the play. Faustus has blind spots; he sees what he wants to see rather than what is really there. This blindness is apparent in the very next line of his speech: having turned his back on heaven, he pretends that “[t]hese metaphysics of magicians, / And necromantic books are heavenly.” He thus inverts the cosmos, making black magic “heavenly” and religion the source of “everlasting death.”


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