“Almost Persuaded: Doctor Faustus’ Tragic End. Part Two of Two."
Editor's Note: Here's an essay I wrote for a British Literature class. The essay is two years old so the MLA formatting is a different version than the current.
“Then Agrippa said unto Paul, Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian.” Acts 26:28
Once again it seems that Faustus’ carnal nature overwhelms his thoughts of spiritual redemption. Lucifer knows Faustus’ weakness and exploits it. “For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit” (Romans 8:5). Faustus is clearly enthralled by the pleasures of the flesh and sees Hell as a pleasant place as long as he can continue to indulge in sin.
Faustus is approached by an old man who tells him it is not too late to repent. Faustus this time seems to repent but when Mephastophilis shows up and threatens Faustus with bodily harm, Faustus swears allegiance to Lucifer. Faustus then descends further into sin when Helen of Troy is conjured up and he goes off with her. Once again, Faustus cannot fight his sinful nature and this denies him the opportunity to repent.
With Faustus life near its end, he contemplates repentance. He seems to realize that repentance is still available. He says “See, see where Christ’s blood streams in the firmament!/One drop would save my soul, half a drop; ah my Christ” (1162). Faustus begins to plead with God, saying that he is willing to endure a hundred thousand years in hell if he would eventually be saved. Despite all this, Faustus does not repent.
Looking at the text, it is clear that Faustus has multiple moments when he can repent, both before and after he enters into his pact with Lucifer. While it might seem that Faustus reaches a “point of no return” by signing his soul away to Lucifer, the good angel tells him he can still repent. There does not seem to be any doubt that repentance is available. Time after time, Faustus gives in to the flesh ignoring the words in Hebrews 11:25 “Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season;”
Unfortunately, Marlowe leaves Faustus’ ultimate fate in limbo somewhat and we do not see him suffer the punishment of hell. Faustus’ failure to repent would have been more tragic had he done so as we would have seen that hell was not the pleasant place that Faustus believed it would be where he could continue to indulge in sin.
Li, Li. “The Inevitable Fall: Christopher Marlowe's Doctor Faustus and the Icarus Myth”. Studiesi n Literature and Language. 5.3 2012: 24.. Google Scholar. Web. 28 Apr 2015.
Streete, Adrian. “Calvinist Conceptions of Hell in Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus”. Notes and Queries. 47.4 2000: 430-432. Oxford University Press. Web. 28 Apr 2015.