Significance of the Seven Deadly Sins in Doctor Faustus

 


Introduction

Dr. Faustus was written by Christopher Marlowe (a playwright in the Elizabethan era), who is known for his ‘blank verse’. Doctor Faustus is the protagonist of the play. He was knowledgeable, but he still wanted more knowledge and power. He began practicing black magic in order to achieve more power, and from that time on, the seven deadly sins came. According to Christianity, a person should avoid these sins: pride, covetousness, wrath, envy, gluttony, sloth, and lechery.

1. Pride: Pride refers to a feeling of having honor and self-respect. In Dr. Faustus, pride comes when Faustus feels that he has more power than others.

2. Covetousness (greed): It means the strong desire to have something more (e.g., materialistic wealth or money). Faustus is not happy with his knowledge, even though he has mastered various subjects. He wants more knowledge and power, which will eventually lead to his downfall. In the play, he tells Mephistopheles to bring money, property, etc. for his temporal pleasure.

3. Wrath: It is extreme anger or fury. Faustus becomes angry when he cannot use his knowledge in his life. After achieving the back magic, he overindulges in it. He becomes furious when the old man advises him to repent and seek forgiveness from God. He calls Mephistopheles and orders him to torture the old man.

Significance of the Seven Deadly Sins in Doctor Faustus

4. Envy: It means the desire to have others possessions—property, wealth, status, etc. In the play, Faustus envies the contemporary emperors, the Pop and the God.

5.Gluttony: It refers to excessive drinking or eating. It is a metaphor for the thirst of Faustus for knowledge and power. He has mastered various fields, but he is not satisfied with them. Then he starts studying the black art of necromancy, which brings him towards the horrible, deadly sins.

6. Sloth: It means laziness or indolent. Faustus has acquired knowledge in many subjects, but he feels these are useless:

"Philosophy is odious and obscure;

Both law and physics are petty wits."

Despite having mastered many subjects, he is still an ordinary man like others. So, he decides to practice black magic, which can provide everything without any effort. Day by day, he becomes lazy, as he does not need to work hard for that.

7. Lechery: It means the strong desire for the pleasure of the body (sexual desire). In the last moment of the play, Faustus tells Mephistopheles to summon Helen to satisfy his desire for lust instead of seeking forgiveness from God for what he has done. He says:

                                       "Sweet Helen, make me immortal with a kiss."

 

Conclusion

The most significant and moral lesson of these seven deadly sins is that one should stay out of them; otherwise, he or she will suffer like Faustus. In this play, Marlowe indicated that many people overindulge in search of their goals (mainly power) and do not notice whether they are going down the right path or the wrong path. Marlowe, therefore, wanted to wake them up from their reveries of power and knowledge. He wanted to say that one can have a thirst for knowledge and power, but within a limit.

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