The Devil In Dr Faustus Essay

723 words - 3 pages

The Devil in Dr Faustus  

In Scene 3 Mephastophilis appears to Faustus in his real form. Faustus reacts with disgust and asks the devil to come back in a shape more pleasant to the eye - as a Fransiscan friar. Faustus’s reaction is typically renaissance - he objects to ugliness and craves aestheticism. It also shows his sense of humour (or rather sense of irony) - as he says “That holy shape becomes a devil best” (l 26). What is striking is that when Mephastophilis appears first, Marlowe does not bother to describe him. True - he does not talk of the physical appearance of any of the characters as well, but a devil is a creature that, in our twentieth century opinion, is clearly in need of some footnote specifying what he looks like. But there is no such footnote.

The early seventeenth century audience did not need a description of the devil like the twentieth century audience does. The Middle Ages had accustomed people to viewing the devil as a hideous, disgustingly ugly and frightening creature. The renaissance was a revolution in terms of imagery. The devil became more human like, sometimes even beautiful and definitely a creature not as much frightening as arousing compassion -a true fallen angel. The renaissance allowed the devil to have a mind of his own, to have doubts and to suffer. Mephastophilis is surely renaissance in spirit. He is not happy to be what he is. When talking to Faustus he bursts out with despair - living in hell is horrible for him, especially since he has been in heaven and seen “everlasting bliss”. He does not seem to be completely evil. Of course, he is a professional soul hunter but he goes about his work in an honest way. He does not trick Faustus into signing the pact with Lucifer - Faustus does it of his own free will. Mephastophilis actually explains to him what torments await him in hell. But it must not be forgotten that his real appearance is repulsive. The physical change which he undergoes is purely cosmetic. Mephastophilis is thus a blend of the renaissance spirit...

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