The Seven Deadly Sins in Doctor Faustus
In Christopher Marlowe’s play “Doctor Faustus,” the Seven Deadly Sins are personified and presented as characters that appear before Faustus in a grand parade at the behest of Lucifer. This display is meant to entertain Faustus and convince him further of the powers he has been granted through his pact with Lucifer. The Seven Deadly Sins in “Doctor Faustus” are:
- Pride: Considered the original and most serious of the seven deadly sins, it is the desire to be more important or attractive than others, failing to acknowledge the good work of others.
- Covetousness (Avarice or Greed): This sin is the desire for material wealth or gain, ignoring the realm of the spiritual. It is also associated with an inordinate love of money or possessions.
- Wrath (Anger): This sin is manifested in the individual who spurns love and opts instead for fury. It is also known for the desire to seek vengeance outside of the work of the justice system.
- Envy: Envy is the desire for others’ traits, status, abilities, or situations. It is the sadness at the sight of another’s goods and the immoderate desire to acquire them for oneself, even unjustly.
- Gluttony: Gluttony is an inordinate desire to consume more than that which one requires. It is often associated with overindulgence in food and drink.
- Lust: Lust is an inordinate craving for the pleasures of the body. It is the intense desire for sexual pleasures.
- Sloth: Sloth is the avoidance of physical or spiritual work. It is the sin of laziness or failure to act and utilize one’s talents.
The Analysis of The Seven Deadly Sins in Doctor Faustus
Pride as a Deadly Sin in Doctor Faustus:
In Doctor Faustus, Pride is depicted as a significant deadly sin that plays a crucial role in Doctor Faustus’s downfall. Faustus himself is a brilliant scholar but becomes dissatisfied with the limits of traditional forms of knowledge and power. His pride leads him to believe he can control and surpass these limits through the use of magic and a pact with Lucifer.
Faustus’s Pride makes him think he is better than everyone else and can even trick the devil. He does not listen to people who try to warn him. He believes he can do anything and not pay for his mistakes. This is wrong, and he finds out too late.
Pride in the story shows us that thinking too highly of ourselves can lead us to make bad choices. Faustus wanted to be powerful and know everything, but this wish led him to a sad ending. The story tells us it’s important not to be too proud or think we can do everything alone without help or consequences.
Greed as a Deadly Sin in Doctor Faustus:
Greed in the context of this play is not just the desire for wealth, but also an insatiable hunger for power, knowledge, and control beyond human limits. Faustus’s greed becomes evident when he makes a pact with Lucifer, selling his soul in exchange for magical powers and 24 years of service from Mephistophilis, a demon. This act is driven by his desire to gain unlimited knowledge and worldly pleasures, showcasing his greed for more than what is naturally attainable or allowed for humans.
The play uses Faustus’s greed to illustrate the destructive nature of wanting more than one needs or deserves. His relentless pursuit of power and knowledge leads him to disregard moral boundaries and the value of his own soul. Despite several opportunities to repent and turn away from his path of destruction, Faustus’s greed blinds him to the eternal consequences of his actions.
Wrath as a Deadly Sin in Doctor Faustus:
In “Doctor Faustus” by Christopher Marlowe, Wrath, or Anger, is depicted as a deadly sin that influences the story, although it’s more subtly woven into the narrative compared to sins like Pride and Greed. Wrath in Faustus can be seen in his impatience, frustration, and ultimately in his despairing refusal to repent, which is a form of anger against God’s mercy.
Faustus’s wrath is not as directly showcased as his pride or greed. Instead, it manifests through his interactions with the divine and the demonic, and his internal struggle between repentance and damnation. When Faustus contemplates repentance, he often becomes frustrated and angry at his situation, cursing his fate and the decisions that led him there. This wrath is directed both inwardly, at himself, and outwardly, at the divine order he feels has betrayed him.
This anger against the divine can be seen as a refusal to accept divine authority and mercy, pushing him further away from the possibility of redemption. His wrath traps him in a cycle of despair and defiance, making it impossible for him to seek forgiveness sincerely.
Moreover, Faustus’s use of his powers to trick, deceive, and harm others can also be seen as an expression of wrath, showcasing how his anger and frustration lead to harmful actions towards others and himself.
Envy as a Deadly Sin in Doctor Faustus:
The theme of Envy in this context, can be interpreted through Faustus’s dissatisfaction with his human condition and his desire to possess the knowledge and power that he believes are held by divine or supernatural beings.
Faustus envies the power and status of the divine and seeks to obtain this through his pact with Lucifer. His longing for god-like power, to perform miracles, and to command the spirits reflects his envy of the capabilities beyond human reach. This envy drives him to make reckless decisions, disregarding the moral and spiritual consequences of his actions.
Furthermore, Faustus’s envy can be seen in his interactions with other characters and the world. He uses his powers to show off and to best others, not just for the sake of personal gain but to demonstrate his superiority. His desire to be envied by others for his knowledge and abilities reveals his own envy of those he perceives as more powerful or respected than himself.
Gluttony as a Deadly Sin in Doctor Faustus:
In Christopher Marlowe’s “Doctor Faustus,” Gluttony is subtly represented among the deadly sins that contribute to Faustus’s downfall. Gluttony, traditionally associated with overindulgence to the point of waste and excess, can be seen in Faustus’s relentless pursuit of magical powers and his misuse of these powers for trivial pursuits.
After gaining the ability to command demonic forces and access to vast knowledge, Faustus uses these gifts not for enlightenment or the betterment of humanity but for personal entertainment and to satiate his curiosity and desires. This misuse of his powers includes summoning spirits to bring him delicacies, using magic for personal gain and spectacle, and engaging in pranks that serve no purpose other than his own amusement.
This behavior reflects a gluttonous attitude towards the metaphysical ‘food’ of knowledge and power, consuming more than he needs and using his abilities for superficial reasons. Faustus’s gluttony for experiences leads him away from the possibility of repentance and salvation, as he is too consumed by his desires to recognize the spiritual starvation he is inflicting upon himself.
Lust as a Deadly Sin in Doctor Faustus:
In “Doctor Faustus”, Lust is portrayed as one of the deadly sins that influence Faustus and contribute to his downfall. Lust, usually associated with excessive or disordered sexual desires, is represented in Faustus’s case by his desire for pleasure and sensual experiences that go beyond the bounds of moral and ethical behavior.
Faustus uses his magical powers to fulfill his lustful desires, including summoning spirits to bring him a woman he desires. One of the most notable instances of lust in the play is when Faustus conjures the image of Helen of Troy, proclaiming her to be the epitome of beauty with the famous line, “Was this the face that launch’d a thousand ships, / And burnt the topless towers of Ilium?” This act of summoning Helen symbolizes Faustus’s surrender to his desires, choosing fleeting pleasures over eternal salvation.
The inclusion of Lust as a theme in the play serves to illustrate the dangers of allowing one’s desires to override reason and morality. Faustus’s indulgence in lustful pleasures represents a broader critique of the human tendency to seek immediate gratification, often at the cost of one’s soul and moral integrity. It warns of the consequences of giving in to base desires and losing sight of what is truly valuable and meaningful in life.
Sloth as a Deadly Sin in Doctor Faustus:
Faustus trying to find an easy path to success. He is a smart man who could achieve a lot through study and hard work. But, he chooses to use magic to get what he wants quickly, without putting in the effort that true learning and wisdom require. This choice to avoid hard work and seek shortcuts to gain knowledge and power is a form of Sloth because it shows Faustus’s unwillingness to engage deeply and meaningfully with his studies and the world around him.
Faustus, highly educated and with great potential, becomes dissatisfied with the limits of human knowledge and the slow progress of conventional learning. Instead of applying himself to his studies and seeking understanding within the natural order, he turns to necromancy and makes a pact with the devil. This shortcut to knowledge and power can be seen as an act of Sloth because Faustus seeks to bypass the effort and discipline required for true wisdom.