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ENGL 150

Spring term

Essay outline and completed essay

(Guidelines TBA)

Essay Topics: Christopher Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus

  • Discuss the presence and purpose of magic and the supernatural in the play. Consider how Faustus uses magic both to his benefit and to his detriment. Does magic/the supernatural ultimately aid him in achieving his desires?
  • What is Faustus’ understanding of salvation, and how does he perceive death? Do his views of either (or both) change throughout the course of the play?
  • Does Marlowe’s play present tension between Catholic and Protestant beliefs or ideals? Can the story be read as an argument for or against one of these branches of Christianity, or can itinstead be understood as a covert promotion of atheism? (Bear in mind that your discussion should not be addressing these belief systems in the modern time, but in Marlowe’s.)

How does Doctor Faustus reflect the emerging ideals of the English Renaissance? Can medieval attitudes be found in the play, and is tension present between medieval and Renaissance values? (Be careful not to make assumptions about medieval beliefs! Do your research first!)

Essay Outline Assignment

The outline will be written in point form, with the exception of the thesis statement, topic sentences, and any direct quotations you choose to include. Because this is essentially the plan for your essay, the outline must show how you will support and develop your argument. Use the model below. Submit the assignment through Turnitin.com as per the instructions on Canvas, and include your name in the filename.The file must be a Word doc / docx.

(Note: in your actual essay, you may have more than three body paragraphs.)


- introduce the topic (do not repeat the essay question word for word!)

- list the key or main points

- state your working thesis/argument (in a full sentence)

Body Paragraphs (THERE SHOULD BE THREE, so repeat this format for each):

-topic sentence(ie the point of this paragraph and opening statement)

-supporting evidence:

-examples including references to scenes, incidents, details, and so forth, in the text. (At least two.)

-minimum of twodirect quotations from the play (do not forget to include the act, scene and line numbers!).

-BONUS: direct quotation from a secondary source (Provide the citation information for this source as well, here, or at the end of the outline.)

Faustus’ Detriment from the Use of Magic


The story of Faustus was first published in the year 1604 and revolves around one character called Doctor Faustus written by Christopher Marlowe. The main character Doctor Faustus represents a scholar who is tired of encountering the traditional knowledge that majority of individuals desire to have. In the pursuit of more knowledge, he resolves to pursue magic because he believes with magic he will be able to fulfill his insatiable desires. He learns magic through his close friends Cornelius and Valdes. The story of Faustus represents of the presence of magic in the society whose application is used to amuse and amaze the magician. Faustus begins the practice of magic by consulting two German experts in magic after quitting studies in medicine (Karim, Fathema & Hakim 144-149). The desire to enter into magic leads Faustus to Rome where he happens to be in the private chambers of the Pope. Faustus gets to experience great joy and pleasure in visiting new places he has never been to for instance the private chambers of the Pope (Deats 26-29). Playing pranks on the pope including some unsuspecting friars give Faustus great pleasure. Besides visiting the Pope’s private chambers, Mephistopheles and Faustus next visit the German emperor’s courts where the two also play pranks to Alexander the Great.

The benefits to Faustus from the use of magic

Faustus makes deceitful gains from the application of magic. Valdes and Cornelius undertake to teach Faustus magic after he gives up pursuing traditional knowledge. When he finally learns magic and manages to summon Mephistopheles, a devil who helps him make a deal with Lucifer. In the process of securing a deal with Lucifer, Faustus becomes remorseful and convicted to repent but eventually he does not repent because the devil bestows gifts as well as giving him a book on spells. From the book he learns a lot about spells and magic by asking the devil so many questions which the devil answers deceitfully. Faustus sinks deep into magic such that the author says cannot be redeemed.

Gets exposed to all what the world has to offer in terms of ideas. The devil takes Faustus on a chariot ride through heaven and they land in Rome where Faustus plays pranks on the pope by slapping his ears for passing a ruling against a rival judge. This act gains fame for Faustus from the German Emperor who was a huge enemy of the pope Adrian. In his stunts to entertain the Emperor, one of the servants makes a mockery of Faustus’ magic skills. Faustus decides to punish him through making antlers sprout from his head. In fact, magical acts bring Faustus a lot of fame among the leaders of the world and the general public. Further, he benefits through deceit at the point he sells a horse to a horse dealer in England. The horse dealer was perplexed to see his horse turn into a bale of straw when it passes over water. From this act, the Duke and Duchess of Vanholt get to hear of Faustus’ innuendos and invite him to perform before them.

Highly gratified to position of power such as attaining a significant post in the Imperial Court. At the imperial court, Faustus is invited by the emperor after rumors of the magical acts that he has performed reached the authorities. The gratification bring to him among other things fame and money. He quickly gets rich by involving himself in acts of deceit and performing magic.

  • Renowned for his works for winning great victories.

Faustus’ detriment from the use of magic

Dragged to the horrors of hell when he approaches death. After all the fame that Faustus acquires from the use of magic, he moves to a point of no return according to the narrator. It is too late for Faustus to repent his deeds during his last days on earth. In fact, the night that Faustus dies, he was found torn limbs apart as the devils and the angels were fighting for his soul.

Becomes a slave of the devil doing what the devil wants him to do. Even though he is aware that fame through magic is not eternal, he still hesitant to repent. He is a clear demonstration of deceitful gains acquired by individuals do not last. The devil can promise you everything but the wealth ill-acquired does not last long. The fall can be so disheartening and embarrassing for the victims. In his final days, he is overcome by remorse and grief and decides to make a confession and a plea to be forgiven. It is however too late for Faustus make a turn from evil doing (McCarthy & Theile 25-42).

Becomes a serial liar deceiving and playing pranks on others. After successfully learning magic, Faustus is given the book of spells by the devil who later takes him on a tour to Rome. While in Rome, Faustus becomes invisible and plays pranks on the Pope by even slapping his ears. This act makes him famous and gain favor in the eyes of the German Emperor who invites him to the court to perform antics as a form of entertainment. Besides the emperor, Faustus gets a rare opportunity to perform before the Duke and Duchess of Vanholt after selling a magical horse to a horse dealer. Through deceit and lies, Faustus becomes rich very fast as compared to his counterparts. He acquires a new lifestyle and to be able to manage it he had to use deceit and lies to acquire money.

Sells his soul to the devil who takes control over his mind. “Say, he surrenders up to him his soul, So he will spare him four and twenty years, Letting him live in all voluptuousness;” pg. 9. Faustus is so desperate to have powers to perform virtually everything in the world. The desperation and craziness drive him to making a deal with the devil to have his soul as long as he lives a voluptuous life. His desire to revenge on his enemies pushes Faustus to making this trade with the devil. Faustus does not allow anybody come in between his ambitions and determinations. In one instance, an elderly person attempted to advise him to repent, but instead he sent the devil to him as a form of punishment (McCarthy & Theile 25-42).

Constant strive with no major attainment in life. Faustus wanted to lead a perfect life with the freedom and power to traverse the whole world. The desire to have this kind of life actually forced him to make a deal with the devil in exchange for his soul after receiving all these goodies. The devil takes him to the Pope’s chambers, later to the Emperor’s courts and to the Duke and Duchess to perform. In all these adventures, Faustus amassed a lot of wealth not to mention fame. All these earthly possessions do not manage to quench hi thirst for more power and fame. Eventually, when his time lapsed, he was found dead in his room with the limbs torn apart. He died a miserable life without achieving his ambitions and aspirations. “Go forward, Faustus, in that famous art” pg. 13.

Loss and despair after failing to achieve all his ambitions. The devil promised him everything but at the end of it, Faustus does not attain all these. Desperation sets in by the thought of losing, being used to accomplish the devil’s work. The reward for serving the devil is actually death. Faustus learns this the hard way through falling a victim of the devil’s lies and lures. Greed for money, power, and fame can drive a man into madness to even offer his soul in exchange for the mentioned aspects (McCarthy & Theile 25-42).


Magic and the use of supernatural powers does not effectively help Faustus achieve his ambitions and desires but make him a slave of the devil. Faustus does not get to live to his fullest besides losing his soul to the devil (Deats 25-26). Furthermore, he sinks into the depths of bad deeds and constant lamentation. At first, the devil lured Faustus to believing that he will get everything he wanted by admitting to fall into his trap and allures. But in the end, he gets dazzled and baffled by the intrigues of eternal damnation (Sharrett vol. 14).

The use and practice of magic does not only affect Faustus alone but also those around him for instance Wagner and the two scholars that had come to see him in the second scene. In fact, Wagner tries to use black magic to demonstrate to the two scholars of Faustus’ whereabouts. From the performing of magical stunts and intrigues, instead of receiving joy and pleasure, Faustus sinks in desperation; ‘the intensity of his later wish for having redemption and the destruction of his self makes him emerge as a theist’ (Karim, Fathema & Hakim 144-149). Despite the hope and belief that Faustus would get salvation and solace persistently dwindle beyond the point of salvation and redemption. Redemption is beyond reach for the magician because at the end of it all, he does not get to live eternally but dies a horrible death.


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