Article Title

Doctor Faustus and Hamlet: Contrasting Kinds of Christian Tragedy


In lieu of an abstract, the first paragraph of the essay follows:

In the last hour of his life Doctor Faustus suffers his great psychomachia. He gives terrified expression to it as he awaits the ultimate fulfilment of his contract and deed of gift with Mephistophilis and Lucifer in one among the richest speeches in English dramatic literature. The speech is designed especially to create the inevitability of the conclusion, to make the hearer experience the inexorable, relentless movement of the reluctant, frantic, despairing soul to satisfy the merciless and implacable powers to whom it has wilfully sold itself: "The stars move still; time runs; the clock will strike;/ The devil will come, and Faustus must be damned." Yet in spite of his terrible conviction, he snatches momentarily in his despair at other possibilities. By his Good Angel he is denied a resplendent throne and the company of "those bright shining saints" in heaven, or any triumph over hell; he cries out to God for mitigation of the only alternative: eternal suffering in hell, as shown by his Bad Angel. He calls upon the mountains and hills to fall on him or the earth to harbor him. Then

You stars that reigned at my nativity.

Whose influence hath allotted death and hell,

Now draw up Faustus like a foggy mist

Into the entrails of yon laboring cloud,

That when you vomit forth into the air,

My limbs may issue from your smoky mouths

So that my soul may but ascend to heaven. (V.ii.154-60)1

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