Thursday, 7 October 2010

How does Marlowe present the ideas of hell in Dr Faustus?

In doctor Faustus the representation of hell is shown to the audience through the contrasting opinions of Faustus and Mephistopheles. Mephistopheles presents hell from the perspective of someone who has been there himself. Faustus asks ‘Where are you damned?’ to which Mephistopheles replies ‘In hell’, suggesting his first hand experience so his opinion could be valid, however the audience is aware that he is a devil, and devils hold untrustworthy traits and usually resort to trickery. Mephistopheles introduces hell to Faustus in a very negative way. He makes it seem frightening and evil when he remarks, “Where we are tortured and remain forever”. Mephistopheles is a devil, so we assume that he is fearless and invincible, as a devil is seen as a supernatural being, yet the fact that he appears to fear hell creates an overwhelming sense of fear and a more intimidating outlook on hell for the audience. Mephistopheles explains that he is ‘damned’, suggesting eternal torture and pain. However he remains elusive as to the location of hell. He remarks, ‘now in hell’ and ‘Why, this is hell, nor am I out of it...In being deprived of everlasting bliss”. This suggests that Mephistopheles is always in hell, because he is always deprived of eternal bliss. Yet the location of hell still remains quite unclear, as his answer resides around his own situation and isn’t very specific. Mephistopheles also remarks “Hell hath no limits... for where we are is hell”. Here he suggests that Hell is not a physical setting, but more of one that engulfs all that are damned. He says “and where hell is, we must ever be”, suggesting he is damned for eternity in hell, connoting a sense of entrapment and representing impending pain and suffering. This makes hell seem immoral and fearful.

However he contradicts himself later on when he remarks that hell is, “anywhere under the heavens”, insinuating that hell does have a limit, and suggesting that limit is anywhere but heaven, implying that it is Earth that he resides in hell. It seems as if the conditions of being damned involve a big element of the deprivation of eternal bliss. Mephistopheles portrays hell as everything but heaven, with remarks such as “deprived of everlasting bliss”.


  1. This is not finished I still have to add Faustus' side but I can't post it for some reason