In Dr. Faustus, Christopher Marlowe uses the resolution of the conflict between Dr. Faustus and the beliefs of his time to explore the idea of man’s place in the universe. In Faustus’ time, it was believed that man had a place in the universe, and man must stay within his boundaries. It can be shown that Dr. Faustus stepped out of his place, failed in his attempt repent his actions, and ultimately caused his own end.
The conflict between Dr. Faustus and the belief system of the age of discovery is established when Faustus makes a pact with the devil to sell his soul. Faustus, a top scholar and doctor in many fields, feels as though he has reached the pinnacle of human achievement. Yet, he desires further knowledge and power, knowledge and power that are not humanly attainable. However, through his pact with the devil, Faustus gains the power necessary to perform black magic, cast spells, and perform other godly deeds. Although Faustus is repeatedly warned by Mephostophelis, he continues greedily and foolishly in his actions. Despite his high aspirations, Faustus still has desires of the flesh, as he requests a wife from Mephostophelis: “…I am wanton and lascivious and cannot live without a wife.” (p. 43) Here Faustus is shown to have internal conflict between godly aspirations and human aspirations. Nevertheless, it is shown that Dr. Faustus is intent on becoming more powerful than any human, and he has gone to great lengths to do so.
After selling his soul for twenty-four years of power and knowledge, Dr. Faustus soon realizes what he has done. He tries to repent his bond with the devil, yet the devil will not have it and binds him to his contract. Following this, Faustus continues to have doubts about his actions. At the same time, Faustus wins fame and fortune for his magic skills, yet his doubts remain as strong as ever. Although Faustus bargained away his soul for super-human power, it is apparent that he uses it to play tricks and silly pranks on people, the opposite of his initial intent. Dr. Faustus continues to use his power meaninglessly for tricks and the like. He is later approached by the old man, who begs Faustus to consider the mercy of God, for Faustus has retained his human soul and can be forgiven by God. Here the conflict between Faustus and the belief system of his time escalates even further when he fails to repent his sins against God. The conflict is finally resolved, or ended, when Dr. Faustus’ twenty-four year pact ends, and he is carried away to hell by demons. Marlowe uses this action as a means to show that if man steps out his place in the universe, he will indeed fall as far as his aspirations were high. It is proved that Dr. Faustus did indeed cause his own end.
Christopher Marlowe’s Dr. Faustus attempts to prove that man must not step out of his place, or he will meet his demise. Through Faustus, Marlowe succeeds at this attempt on many levels. The clash between Faustus and the beliefs of the times is resolved when Faustus fails to repent his sins and meets his demise at the hand of Lucifer. Marlowe makes it clear here that he his against Faustus’ high ambitions and believes those with god-like ambitions will fall to their demise. Faustus here becomes representative of man’s desire for unattainable knowledge and power, albeit on an exaggerated level. Marlowe’s Dr. Faustus uses the conflicts of the main character and the resolution of these conflicts to establish and further his ideas throughout the novel.