Christopher Marlowe’s play entitled, Doctor Faustus, tells the story of a curious and ambitious protagonist who has grown tired of focusing on all of the traditional areas of study, and wishes to learn a subject that is less known by others. Faustus is intrigued by magic and persistently pursues this area of study until he is able to achieve his goal, acquiring black magic but at a cost. He sells his soul to the devil, Lucifer, for god-like knowledge, 24 years of servitude from the devil, Mephastophilis, and power.
Faustus’s conscience, represented through the good and bad angels, appears ever since he touches his hands on the book of black magic, but his desire to continue to wield the devil’s power pushes him to align with the evil one. The two angels reappear throughout his journey whenever there are moments when Faustus is stuck in a dilemma- that is the dilemma of whether to repent or renounce his faith in God.
As humans, we are constantly torn between what is right and wrong and overcome by both good and evil, which makes Faustus a more human-like and relatable character who grapples with choosing the right path that can eventually dictate one’s future once turning back is too late.
Doctor Faustus seeks out knowledge because he considers himself to have reached the limit of all the knowledge of logic, medicine, law, and divinity. Faustus’s education and respect take a plunge because of his insatiable lust for knowledge that has been forbidden.
Faustus’s quest for knowledge was his strength but also his flaw to an extreme; it is the faulty characteristic that makes him truly human. But his quest is what fuels him. His thirst for knowledge is what sets him apart from classic villains who originally seek out greater power for evil deeds. That is one of the precautions that Marlowe took in building his play and his characters. He made realistic characters, who are neither wholly good or wholly evil, that people could relate to, and have sympathy for. The desire to gain more knowledge is not congenitally bad, but Faustus goes too far and seeks to know too much. He himself seems to recognize this, as his last line in the play contains a promise to burn his books (XIII, 113) and thus repudiate his ambition for learning. While Doctor Faustus may be knowledgeable but as the play suggests, he is not a wise man.