British Lit Legends Tales About Term Paper

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In total contrast with these heroes lies the modern hero or better said the modern man defined by his struggle for power. The idea of an individual selling his or her soul to the devil for knowledge is an old motif in Christian folklore, one that is centered upon in Cristopher Marlowe's "Doctor Faustus."

Doctor Faustus, a well-respected German scholar unsatisfied with the traditional forms of knowledge decides he wants to learn to practice magic. He begins his career as a magician summoning Mephastophilis, a devil while Valdes and Cornelius instruct him in the black arts. Despite the devil's warnings about hell Faustus tells the devil to return to his master Lucifer with an offer of Faustus's soul in exchange for twenty-five years of service from Mephistopheles. As the twenty-five years have passed, Faustus begins to dread his impending death and on the final night he is overcome by fear and remorse. He begs for mercy, but it's too late as at midnight a host of devils appear and carries his soul off to hell.

As Dr. Faustus is constantly searching for more knowledge, he is practically stuck in the struggle between science and supernatural. It's important to be noted that, unlike most scientists, Faustus is not searching for knowledge to better himself, but because it produces more power which is his main goal. He realizes that by practicing the dark arts he will have supreme power and this will be the turning point in his transition from scholar to sorcerer.

A sound magician is a demi-god / here, tire my brains to get deity." The struggle between faith and science represents his inner struggle as he was never satisfied with whom he really was. He relied on power instead of relying on himself for personal gratification. There is little to say in terms of social and cultural values because the only thing that drives him ahead is the constant greed and ambition for more power. In his undying quest for power he lost his soul and never truly believed in anything that was good in him. Dr. Faustus rejects the human knowledge in favor of magic symbolizing the break with the medieval world which respected authority above all in favor of a more modern spirit of inquiry in which experimentation and innovation replaced the bible.

Although the climax is represented by the pact in which he sells his soul, he faces his moment of truth in the end when he realizes his impending death, repents but worthless.

Although society is accustomed to believing that God will always prevail evil gains the upper hand in Marlowe's play. Marlowe attempted to express to his audience that while prayer and repentance are the paths to heaven, sin and mortal pleasure are very hard to ignore by people.

In one of Faustus's most beautiful soliloquies he compares the phantasma of Helen of Troy to all things heavenly: " Oh thou art fairer than the evening's air/clad in the beauty of a thousand stars "(Act 5, scene2, lines110-111).

Most people use both their intellect and their faith in some sort of higher power to get them through life comfortably but the difference between Faustus and the rest is the abuse of the only two elements that we have a choice to abuse or not. Many students of traditional academia turned to scientific research during Marlowe's time as a student at Cambridge; Sir Walter Raleigh typified the "new man "whose pursuit for knowledge included both the rational and the occult.

In conclusion we can point out the fact that, if Beowulf was bravely fighting for his people and Sir Gawain was struggling for his own ideals to become a perfect knight, unfortunately, Dr. Faustus's main goal was not by far a moral one but a selfish one, meaning to be like God, even if the price for this was his own soul.


1. The Norton Anthology of English, Norton Topics Outline. 2003-2006. W.W. Norton and Company. On the Internet at retrieved on November 24, 2006

2. The Sixteenth century topics: The Magician, the Heretic and the Playwright: Overview. The Norton Anthology of English Literature. 2003-2006. W.W. Norton and Company. On the Internet at http://www.wwnortoncom/nto/16century/topic_1/welcome.htm

3. Jokinen, Aniina. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Luminarium: Anthology of English Literature. November 2006. On the Internet at retrieved on November 24, 2006

4. Sera, Joseph. A character analysis of Sir Gawain. Pace University Student Projects on Gawain. November 2006. On the Internet at retrieved on November 24, 2006

5. Renaissance Attitudes towards Faustus as a Magician. On the Internet at retrieved on November 24, 2006

6. Volume 1-" From the beginnings to the Cycles of Romance" Edited by A.W.Ward & A.R.Waller

The Cambridge history of English and American Literature in 18 volumes 2006[continue]

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