Role of the Seven Deadly Sins in Doctor Faustus Term Paper

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Faustus, as Christopher Marlowe's character, is a German scholar who wants to exceed the limits of traditional logic, medicine, law and religion by practicing black magic. Through this, he calls upon Mephistopheles, a demon, who arranges a deal between Faustus and Lucifer for 24 years of power and glory in exchange for his soul. Despite Mephistopheles' warnings about the horrors of hell and his own doubts about what the deal really means, Faustus persists in the decision to enter into the bargain, which he signs in his own blood. Rich gifts and displays of pleasure from Mephistopheles and Lucifer, though, distract his doubts and lull his senses and reason, in addition to Mephistopheles' impressive information about the nature of the universe. The parade of the seven deadly sins particularly wins Faustus' mind and will. In the fulfillment of their end of the bargain, Mephistopheles takes Faustus to Rome, the court of Charles V and the court of the Duke of Vanholt (Sparknotes 2004).

Dread and remorse fill him as the agreed 24 years come to an end. He is urged to repent but he refuses and, instead, conjures the spirit of Helen of Troy to dazzle him out of that dread. Towards the end, he pleads for mercy but time has run out when he begs for mercy because it is too late. At midnight, demons hail off with his soul (e-text 1997).

The seven deadly sins are pride, wrath or anger, envy, avarice or greed, gluttony, sloth, and impurity (Finnan 1998) and these are revealed by the Word of God, although not in a straight list as they are identified and named. These seven sins are called deadly in that they evoke God's justice and punishment more severely than other sins. Of these deadly ones, pride offends God the most. The Proverbs and the Psalms (NIV) say that the "proud of heart" will not be endured or go unpunished; proof is that destruction follows it as a fall follows a haughty spirit. It is the deadliest and most severely punished sin. It was pride that drove the brightest angel, Lucifer, or the "Morning Star," to rebel against God.

Pride is undue self-esteem or superiority (Finnan 1998). Webster's dictionary describes its manifestations as "lofty airs, distance, reserve and... In contempt of others, is insolent, rude and lashes out with oppressive treatment of others." Pride, arrogance or haughtiness shows itself from the fallen sinful and rebellious heart that bases its superiority on looks, race, religion, social life or status, intellectual capacity or achievements (Finnan). The Biblical Way of Life Encyclopedia says that pride in the selfish and sinful heart and it will be brought low (Prov 11:2, 16:18, 29:23); results in quarrels and contention (Prov 13:10), hardens the mind (Daniel 5:20) and leads one to be deceived (Obad. 3). Un-repented pride brings on heartache, destruction and death (Finnan) and, in any of its forms, pride hinders a person from entering the kingdom of God because it puts himself or herself in place of God.

Dr. Faustus already possesses much knowledge, but he desires not only excellence but also the ability to control other lives and nature itself. He resorts to the occult in seizing spiritual power over men and matter. In doing so, he needs to ally with the powers of darkness who made the original attempt to dislodge the Almighty as the Ruler of the universe. Faustus, like the first rebellious spirits, will not obey or bow down to God. He wants his own way about things and, in pursuit of this, he trades off his only soul to Lucifer in exchange for 24 years of unbridled power, pleasure, and other carnal satisfactions (Marlowe etext #811-1997).

Like most mortals, Faustus experiences moral uneasiness when his wish is granted by Lucifer through Mephistopheles and at other times that his conscience accuses him. But unlike most mortals, he persists in his self-indulgence and self-worship as a replacement for the worship of the one, true God.

Pride is quite often, as in the case of Faustus and Lucifer himself, the consequence of another deadly sin, envy (Finnan 1997). Envy or jealousy is grief or fretting over the real or imagined superiority, success, happiness or prosperity of another. It destroys relationships, homes, reputations and lives quite effectively. The Bible expressly denounces it as rotting the bones (Prov 14:30 NIV) and causing disorder and every evil practice (James 3:16 NIV). The first murder was the consequence of envy when Cain slew his brother, Abel. Earlier than this, Lucifer envied the infinite goodness and excellence of God and led him to try to usurp His heavenly throne. That desire to equal with God which motivated Lucifer now motivates Faustus. When he proposes an exchange deal with Lucifer for 24 years of wantonness, power and mediocrity, Lucifer is entirely familiar with the motive, because he owns the patent to envy and sin itself. It is, therefore, to his "credit" for a man to duplicate and share his infinite failure and punishment. Mephistopheles has the curious "conscience" to warn Faustus about the danger of his pride and envy and curiously tells the truth about the horrors of hell as punishment. Mephistopheles' ironic warning does not prevent Faustus from making that deliberate choice to oust God as his ruler, however.

Faustus is also supremely guilty of another deadly sin, avarice or greed. Avarice or greed is the "strong, improper and un-proportionate desire for something, like wealth and possessions (Finnan 1998)." It is materialism or worldliness, which is inherent in the fallen human nature from the beginning of creation when Eve desired the promised pleasure and knowledge of the forbidden fruit at the Garden of Eden. Faustus now seeks after the promised glory and pleasure of infinite knowledge and power through the practice of black magic and as seduced by Mephistopheles (Marlowe). Avarice is quite often at the roots of human actions and behavior and the Bible warns against it as the root of every evil (1 Timothy 6:10 NIV). The desire for wealth, honor, control and knowledge is primary in Faustus when eliciting an agreement with Lucifer to enjoy these advantages for 24 years. His travels to Rome, the German emperor Charles V and at the court of the Duke of Vanholt are very contemporary illustrations of greed or avarice. It is a longing for the world and the vanity of man, instead of a longing for the love and honor of God, that brings Faustus to swap the only thing he has: his soul and 24 passing years in exchange for eternal punishment.

Gluttony or extreme self-indulgence in food, drink or other material things is another deadly sin committed by Faustus. Summoning all kinds of foods, drinks and possessions of every kind that Lucifer temporarily has power over is part of the pact between him and Faustus. Because Faustus' sense of fulfillment becomes limited to his bodily gratifications, he loses sight of deeper and more lasting gratifications that only union with the Almighty can bring. This is not part of the pact and, in fact, Mephistopheles tries everything sensual to distract and occupy Faustus' consciousness from apprehending those inner gratifications or desire. Although his conscience hurts at times, Faustus stubbornly gives in to the temptations of Mephistopheles until it is too late.

Gluttony is a contemporary sin, too, with people eating, drinking and carousing without control to daze the mind away from true questions posed before them. Gluttony is so deadly a sin that the Bible teaches that a knife be placed in the throat of a glutton (Prov 23:2 NIV).

Webster's dictionary defines sloth or laziness as "a disinclination to action or labor, sluggishness, indulgence and idleness." Faustus commits sloth by using his powers and time to perform useless tricks and advantage for mere entertainment.…

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