Doctor Faustus (Marlowe)

Ambiguity in Doctor Faustus College

Throughout Marlowe’s play Doctor Faustus, the themes of sin, damnation and redemption are presented somewhat ambiguously. The key focus of this ambiguity, is the identification of Faustus’ point of no return with regards to the damnation of his soul. It can be argued that the play, in the spirit of the Protestant reformation, shows Faustus’ soul to be damned right from the start. Either his existence is tainted by original sin, or his fate is already predetermined by higher powers. However, it can also be argued that Faustus is actually a free agent and walks his own path to damnation, without the influence of predestination or original sin.

It is tempting to argue that Faustus is not driven by freewill, but rather he is helplessly swept along by his predetermined fate. From this viewpoint, the play takes on a heavy sense of Calvinist influence, reflecting the religious unrest of the Protestant Reformation. Indeed, the conclusion drawn by Faustus himself as he reads from the Bible has much in common with the Calvinist doctrine of predestination. Faustus exclaims “What will be, shall be? Divinity Adieu!”[1], expressing his belief that no matter how much the Bible is studied or followed, nothing we do can change the predetermined...

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