Doctor Faustus

by: Christopher Marlowe

Important Quotations Explained

5
Ah Faustus,
Now hast thou but one bare hour to live,
And then thou must be damned perpetually.
. . .
The stars move still, time runs, the clock will strike,
The devil will come, and Faustus must be damned.
O I’ll leap up to my God! Who pulls me down?
See, see where Christ’s blood streams in the firmament!
One drop would save my soul, half a drop: ah my Christ—
Ah, rend not my heart for naming of my Christ;
Yet will I call on him—O spare me, Lucifer!
. . .
Earth, gape! O no, it will not harbor me.
You stars that reigned at my nativity,
Whose influence hath allotted death and hell,
Now draw up Faustus like a foggy mist
Into the entrails of yon laboring cloud,
That when you vomit forth into the air
My limbs may issue from your smoky mouths,
So that my soul may but ascend to heaven.
. . .
O God, if thou wilt not have mercy on my soul,
. . .
Let Faustus live in hell a thousand years,
A hundred thousand, and at last be saved.
. . .
Cursed be the parents that engendered me:
No, Faustus, curse thy self, curse Lucifer,
That hath deprived thee of the joys of heaven.
. . .
My God, my God, look not so fierce on me!
. . .
Ugly hell gape not! Come not, Lucifer!
I’ll burn my books—ah, Mephastophilis!
         (13.57113)

These lines come from Faustus’s final speech, just before the devils take him down to hell. It is easily the most dramatic moment in the play, and Marlowe uses some of his finest rhetoric to create an unforgettable portrait of the mind of a man about to carried off to a horrific doom. Faustus goes from one idea to another, desperately seeking a way out. But no escape is available, and he ends by reaching an understanding of his own guilt: “No, Faustus, curse thy self, curse Lucifer, / That hath deprived thee of the joys of heaven.” This final speech raises the question of why Faustus does not repent earlier and, more importantly, why his desperate cries to Christ for mercy are not heard. In a truly Christian framework, Faustus would be allowed a chance at redemption even at the very end. But Marlowe’s play ultimately proves more tragic than Christian, and so there comes a point beyond which Faustus can no longer be saved. He is damned, in other words, while he is still alive.

Faustus’s last line aptly expresses the play’s representation of a clash between Renaissance and medieval values. “I’ll burn my books,” Faustus cries as the devils come for him, suggesting, for the first time since scene 2, when his slide into mediocrity begins, that his pact with Lucifer is about gaining limitless knowledge, an ambition that the Renaissance spirit celebrated but that medieval Christianity denounced as an expression of sinful human pride. As he is carried off to hell, Faustus seems to give in to the Christian worldview, denouncing, in a desperate attempt to save himself, the quest for knowledge that has defined most of his life.