Compare and Contrast the Characters of Faustus and Frankenstein
Christopher Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein are stories that delve deep into the quest of an individual in acquiring transcendental knowledge. While Faustus decides to get on with the pact with Lucifer to fulfill his thirst for attaining paramount abilities beyond the realm of conventional knowledge, Victor aims to stretch the boundaries of his scientific discovery beyond the scope of credulity. Both succeed in their ambitions, but are left with remorse and misfortune. They fail to reverse the rule of the world and fall victims in the brutal hands of inevitability and fate. The literary pieces bear testimony to the downfall of almost superhuman characters due to their thoughtless pursuit of knowledge and power.
Christopher Marlowe’s play finds its inception through the words of the chorus which praises Doctor Faustus’ intellectual pursuits in the prologue. He is portrayed by the playwright as an individual exuding quintessence. He is a renaissance man, a lover of power and knowledge. His knowledge extends beyond the constrictions of a subject. He is well-versed in Aristotle’s philosophy, Galen’s medicine, the Bible, Justinian law and so on. Still he finds himself dissatisfied and is desirous to acquire the form of knowledge that is not directly accessible in the mortal world. In his sheer desperation, the man starts his pursuit in the field of magic and in the due course sells his soul to Lucifer in exchange of the unparalleled power for a span of twenty-four years. He transcends to the position of a ‘demi-god’ and starts exercising his powers.
He summons up Mephastophilis, a devil, and asks him to visit Lucifer with Faustus’ offer of his soul in exchange of Mephastophilis’ service. Lucifer accepts his proposal and Faustus is allured by rich gifts when he starts giving a second thought to the pact with the devil. He falls prey to his lust for power. He embarks upon his journey across lands and gains popularity owing to his magical skills and power. He goes on to lead a carefree life negligent of any thought about the eventual consequences of his pact with the devil. He basks in the glory that kissed his feet. The play documents several magical acts of Faustus which express his mischievous self. He uses the insurmountable magical power during feats in front of the authoritative figures across lands. He summons Helen of Troy and expresses his awe at her heavenly charm. He thus lives a life of excess and gets deviated from his rigorous pursuit of knowledge.
The eventual gaining of the knowledge that extends beyond the mortal world seemed to be a cup of tea to Faustus. But, this power only leads to his tragic downfall in the curse of the play. His knowledge of the esoteric arts loses its significance as the termination day of the pact advances. He suffers painful consequences for defying the rule of nature and going against God. He is left with remorse and he deeply laments his outcome. His attempt of mockery of the transcendental power of the Creator of the world falls flat only to bring in his ultimate doom in the clutches of the very pact with Lucifer which had rendered him immense power and knowledge. His corpse is all that is left of him and the scholars plan to hold a solemn funeral in his remembrance.
Victor, the protagonist of Frankenstein, was greatly interested in philosophy from a tender age. In his childhood, he came across a volume of books by the author, Cornelius Agrippa, and was greatly influenced by it. He got deeply immersed in his study of ancient philosophy and with time his thirst for knowledge grew even more. He lost his beloved mother right before he left for his school. The story of Victor Frankenstein documents his persistence to create something transcendental. He is fuelled by his superhuman desire to thwart the occurrence of inevitable death. Deeply pained by the demise of his mother, Victor embarks upon the journey to impede death. He nurtures a vision for the entire mankind. His thirst for knowledge and his grit take him forth in his pursuit.
Victor craves to accomplish the unthinkable and with persistence he succeeds in his ambition. In school, he started to know more about modern science and was greatly intrigued by the secret behind life. Later, having known the secret behind life, he remains determined to create life and persistently toils to do so. He remains engrossed in his experiment for nine months and finally creates by accident the creature that challenges the laws of nature and life. Seeing the being coming to life is a shock for Victor and he realizes that it is a mistake. He fears the potential of his creation to inflict harm upon humans. Ashamed and flabbergasted by the mysteries of science himself, Victor Frankenstein abandons the creature.
The discovery places Victor at the helm and he is attributed heavenly power. He is enthralled by his role as God and does not give much thought to the consequences of the invention. He fails to gauge the moral consequences until he is faced with the brutal clutches of the creature. But, when he realizes his mistake in judgment, it is far too late to mend the course of events. Victor abandons the monster who thus fails to get nurtured. The creature is left all alone in the world to fend for itself. The mental development of the creature is harmed due to the vacuum created. With time the creature understands how negligent Victor has been toward him and nurtures resentment toward him. No parental guidance and care is given to the creature and it succumbs to thoughts of vengeance on the cruel society and the insensitivity that is meted out to it by its own creator and the society.
Victor’s journey to quench his thirst for knowledge and triumphing over the laws of nature and life finally bring his doom. His challenge to the supreme Creator of the world is answered with his tragic fall.
Both the characters of Victor Frankenstein and Doctor Faustus ascend positions of power in the human world which put to question the omnipotence and even the existence of God. But, all they are left with is regret and tragic end at the brutal clutches of life. He are no exception to the rule that looms over the entire mankind—the inevitability of death. Their attempt at quenching their thirst for knowledge and finally gaining transcendence brings their doom. Their hapless consequences reestablish at the end that human beings are mere playthings in the hands of the almighty, the Creator of the world. The Creator shatters the pride and false sense of accomplishment of the two characters establishing his triumph and omnipotence. The human endeavor of mocking the stupendous mechanism of God fails yet again. No man escapes the domain of God. Those who defy his path and dare challenge the Creator fail time and again, only to accentuate the power of his supremacy over human nature and life.
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