Critically comment on the inner conflict experienced by Doctor Faustus.  


Christopher Marlowe‘s (1564-93) “Doctor Faustus” is a dark play that draws attention to the conflict of the main character. Many great works of literature involve a restless protagonist who encounters some kind of conflict, internal or external. In works such as Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Tale-Tale Heart and Shakespeare’s “Hamlet”, the main characters are tormented by their own internal conflicts. Dr. Faustus finds himself struggling with his own conscience, as well as with the external forces of society. Despite his own skepticism of promising his soul to Lucifer and the warnings of the Good Angel, Dr. Faustus ignores his internal conflict and suffers at the hands of the devil.

Seed of inner conflict:

In the early scenes of the play, we see Faustus’ pride and the mad pursuit of gaining limitless knowledge. This tendency leads him to a situation where he has to bargain with the Devil. Here, because he has been disappointed with all branches of knowledge like Physic, Philosophy, Law, and Divinity as they are absolutely insufficient for him to fulfill his aim; then he says:

“Divinity, adieu

This metaphysics of magicians. And necromantic books are heavenly.”

Here, we find that Faustus rejects all these knowledgeable books and finds limitless delight and profit in the realm of magic. On another occasion in the play, he is so much involved in black art that he considers it as a mighty god. After convincing himself, he further says:

“A sound magician is a mighty god”

More Notes: Doctor Faustus

The beginning of the conflict:

Dr. Faustus, feeling bored with the world and looking for a new challenge, takes black art and pushes himself into a difficult situation. He enslaves a monster, Mephistopheles, with his new power and abandons God and Catholicism. In exchange for the services of Mephistopheles for 24 years, Dr. Faustus promises his soul to Lucifer. This is where the conflict begins.

The beginning of mental hesitation:

After gaining mastery over the art of necromancy, he begins to meet the needs of his nature as God has made him. He begins to think of himself as a god-it is forbidden but, which can only be achieved by conscious rejection of God. When he makes his final decision in favor of necromancy, his conscience begins to pull him, and at the same time, the Good Angel and the Evil Angel appear on stage for the first time. In fact, these two angels represent two aspects of the human mind. In fact, they externalize the internal conflict between vice and virtue. When this conflict occurs, the whole action of the play begins to fluctuate between these two opposite forces. Good Angel requests Faustus:

“Sweet Faustus, leave that exorable art.”

“Sweet Faustus, think of heaven and heavenly things.”

There is another side of the situation which is administered by Evil Angel and in the spirit of wavering conscience or Renaissance element of temporary voluptuousness and further beautiful Juxtaposition of the antithetical vices, Devil urges him:

“No Faustus, think of honour and of wealth”.

Intense stress:

When act five begins and where the old man appears in it as a symbol of the good and divine voice, it explodes in front of him and reveals intense emotional excitement:

“Where art thou Faustus, wretch what hast thou done.

Damnd art thou, Faustus, damn’d; despair and die!”

After having complete control over black art, Faustus finally surrenders himself to the arms of the sweet Helen to immortalize himself, sealing his soul, and here he pronounces:

“Sweet Helen, kiss me and make me immortal.

His lips suck my soul: See where it flies! Come, Helen, come, give me my soul again”


The conflict that arises in the play is a strong story and a sense of anticipation. Dr. Faustus selfishly does what he thinks is the right thing to do. But at one stage everything fell apart and ultimately paid the price of his evil deed with his soul.

Rashedul Islam
Rashedul Islam

Hi, This is Rashedul. Researcher and lecturer of English literature and Linguistics.

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