Consider the treatment of one or more of the Seven Deadly Sins

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As knowledge seekers, many people will strive harder or try appropriate means to achieve their goal for further enlightenment to the extent that bridges onto excessiveness that reflects a deadly sin. Christopher Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus is this explorer of potency who desires to find out more than is suitable for him to know. Faustus mocks and ridicules but is one who has his comeuppance because of this. He commits mortal sin and goes to hell for it.

The story of Dr. Faustus deals with the ambition of the Renaissance era to cultivate an ‘aspiring mind’. Namely, the period being that for infinite consciousness is embodied in Faustus. However, he shows little discrimination in his pursuits. He delights, for example, in the seven deadly sins, ironically remarking, “O thus feeds my soul’.  Throughout his twenty-four years of power and pleasure, he seeks experience of all kinds in the true Renaissance manner, notwithstanding instead of freedom his power brings him to despair.

Foremost, as an ambitious Renaissance humanist, Faustus holds another quality in his desire to reach the highest peaks of life experience. He craves to enter the new world where distant shores could be talked about. This is wholly manifested in Faustus in his desire to be none other than a God: ‘A sound magician is a demi-god’.

‘How am I glutted with conceit’ shows how his excessive pride is overtaking him. His almost unconcerned use of the words ‘I’ and ‘will’ (‘I’ll’) embodies a man of cupidity. He is a fearless taker of everything for his own greed. In an age of reason, Faustus tries to stand on his own two feet and work out his salvation. He is motivated largely by his desire for pleasure. He is covetous in his thoughts of ‘flying to India for gold’ and ‘ransacking The Orient for Orient pear’. He hedonistically rides on the crest of sin. So blind is the lust of gain.

However, to quote the Bible’s book of Psalms, Faustus’ opposition to limits echoes readings of the ultimate judgement:  “For the wicked boasts of his heart’s desire, and bless the covetous, of whom the LORD abhorred. The wicked, through the pride of his countenance, will not seek after God: God is not in all his thoughts. His ways are always grievous; their judgments are far above out of his sight: as for all his enemies, he puffs at them. He had said in his heart, I shall not be moved: for I shall never be in adversity. His mouth is full of cursing and deceit and fraud: under his tongue is mischief and vanity”.

Moreover, Aristotle stated that the tragic hero is predominately a good man, whose undoing is brought about by some error of human frailty, ‘the stamp of one defect’. The audience sees three such defects in Faustus that lead to his ultimate domination of Mephistopheles: his pride, his relentless intellect, and his desire to be more than man (to possess the power and the insight of a god). Any one of these three defects would have been sufficient to ensure his downfall in terms of the theory of tragedy. In his pride, he is guilty of hubris, a quality that the Greek tragedy was certain to arouse the wrath of the gods. His desire to be equated with God is wholly a sin in Christian terms. His restless intellect and deep dissatisfaction with normal life inevitably lead to misfortune. Faustus falls to damnation.

Nevertheless, in some ways, Faustus’ aspirations are admirable. It was the glory and the ambition of the Renaissance man to have an ‘aspiring mind’. Faustus, on one level, represents the new man emerging from the womb of the Middle Ages. The authority of the Church, which had limited the thought of the Middle Ages, was lessening. There was a movement of power from the Church to the state, which meant to a limited extent, the transfer of power to the individual man. The classical spirit was certainly a source of influence for Marlowe. The Greek attitude to their gods was very different from that of the Medieval Church. The Greeks encouraged a spirit of inquiry in their thought that was quite foreign to the attitudes of the Medieval Church.

Above all, Marlowe’s story of Dr. Faustus is of a Renaissance figure, adventurously surveying a world whose horizons were widening every day as a consequence of voyages and explorations that result in a person aspiring to the greater. One could well be blind to the sins where one was on an ardent quest for knowledge as a Renaissance man, nonetheless, Faustus does pay the price for being one thus heading for a Medieval ending

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