Doctor Faustus

by: Christopher Marlowe

Free Will versus Fate

Quotes Free Will versus Fate
To practice magic and concealèd arts. Philosophy is odious and obscure, Both law and physic are for petty wits, Divinity is basest of the three— Unpleasant, harsh, contemptible, and vile. ’Tis magic, magic, that hath ravished me!

The theme of free will versus fate presents itself as Faustus contemplates on what area of study he will focus his attention. Here, Faustus discusses his reasoning for gravitating toward magic over other subjects, such as physics and divinity. Ultimately, Faustus makes clear that he feels empowered to choose his next step in life. Therefore, in this beginning section of the play, Faustus exercises his free will as he chooses his next steps. Sadly, the choices Faustus makes will ultimately lead him to lose his free will; thus, his example serves as a cautionary tale for readers for certain.

I, John Faustus of Wittenberg, Doctor, by these presents, do give body and soul to Lucifer, prince of the east, and his minister Mephostophilis, and furthermore grant unto them that, four and twenty years being expired, and these articles above written being inviolate, full power to fetch or carry the said John Faustus, body and soul, flesh, blood, or goods, into their habitation wheresoever.

Despite much scrutiny, Faustus officially signs his soul over to Lucifer. Through this decision, Faustus essentially gives up his free will and places his fate in the hands of Lucifer and Mephostophilis. In this moment, Faustus goes from a character who gets to decide what he wants to do to a character who is completely dependent on Mephostophilis’ and Lucifer’s power. With these lines, the theme of free will versus fate switches sides as Faustus literally signs in blood that he gives “body and soul to Lucifer.”

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 of blood will save me. O my Christ!— Rend not my heart for naming of my Christ! Yet will I call on him! O spare me, Lucifer!

With these lines, Faustus fully realizes his fate. While he wishes he could stop time and avoid damnation, he passionately declares his acceptance of this fate. In this moment, free will is fully replaced by fate as Faustus describes how no matter what he does, time will continue, the stars will exist, and his soul will go with Lucifer. Even when Faustus yells out to Christ, he gives up his free will and succumbs to the fact that his fate rests solely in the hands of Lucifer.