Faustian Bargain : The Balance of Power

Faustian Bargain : The Balance of Power. In Christopher Marlowe’s playwright of Doctor Faustus, we are constantly reminded of God’s counter-image, Lucifer.

While the role of religion was never a focal point in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, the character development of Victor Frankenstein drew many similarities  to the character development of Doctor Faustus, and the initial interest and naivety of god-like  power eventually led to their demise.  

Faustus never intended to serve Lucifer, but his desire for otherworldly power and  curiosity eventually led him to sign his life away.

Although Faustus’s initial curiosity did not  seem too harmful in the moment, he later revealed his true intentions of learning about magic  when he said, “Of power, of honour, of omnipotence. Is promised to the studious artizan!”(12)  Showing that his desire to learn magic is not due to his desire to learn more about the world, but  is rather his greed and hunger for power.

The level of power that Faustus seeks with magic is further seen when he compares the power he wants to a god “Nor can they raise the wind, or rend  the clouds; But his dominion that exceeds in this, Stretcheth as far as doth the mind of man; A  sound magician is a mighty god: Here, Faustus, tire thy brains to gain a deity.”(12) The god-like 

power that Faustus seeks is similar to that of Victor in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, but the  intention and greed that Faustus desires so much is not.  

 Victor’s intentions to create the creature were more in line with the characteristics of a  devoted scholar that Victor was, dedicated to his studies; he had found several interests of his  own at university: alchemy, natural philosophy, and chemistry.

With these interests, Victor slowly  became obsessed with creating life out of innate objects and had dreamed of creating a new species altogether.

Victor’s intentions for this new species were first seen when he said. “A new species would bless me as its creator and source; many happy and excellent natures would owe  their being to me. No father could claim the gratitude of his child so completely as I should  deserve their’s. ”(Vol. I Chapter III) By mentioning this it shows Victor’s genuine reason for  creating a “new species” and unmasks Victor’s initial intentions, which was to create a friend. 

But, it also shows Victor’s desire to be revered like a God by his creation. Revealing Victor’s  intentions of creating a new species unveils his desire for godly powers similar to Faustus.  

Both Faustus and Victor had different intentions before experimenting with their  uncontrollable powers and creations, and they both had doubts about their decisions after they  had made them. Faustus, for instance, had struggled throughout the play whether to repent or not,  in part because he had never received everything Lucifer had promised him.

For instance, Faustus never received the true wife he had wanted.
Engraving of Faust’s pact with Mephisto, by Adolf Gnauth (circa 1840).

Furthermore, Lucifer denied him of knowing who had  created the Earth. We saw this when Faustus had said, “When I behold the heavens, then I repent,  And curse thee, wicked Mephistophilis, Because thou hast depriv’d me of those joys.”(37) 

Faustus, unsatisfactory with his powers, led him to attempt to repent multiple times. It was not until the very last moment that Faustus had truly considered repenting, and the reason why he did not, is that God would throw Faustus down into hell anyway “If unto God, he’ll throw me down  to hell”(33).

Faustus’s greed led to his demise.

Pope Sylvester II and the devil in an illustration of c. 1460.

And while he was aware of the trouble that he was  getting into he was not fully aware of the limitations of the power that he was promised.  

In stark contrast, as soon as Victor had created the creature, he had revered him. Even  comparing the creature to the devil and looking at the creature in complete disgust, ““Devil!” I  exclaimed, “do you dare approach me? and do not you fear the fierce vengeance of my arm  wreaked on your miserable head? Begone, vile insect! or rather stay, that I may trample you to  dust! and, oh, that I could, with the extinction of your miserable existence, restore those victims  whom you have so diabolically murdered!””(Vol II Chapter II)

Similar to Faustus, Victor’s creation was not what he had thought. The creature he had created he had built because he had  believed that the creature would be grateful to its creator, but that was not the case.

The creature Victor made ended up not being a god-like power. But with the creation, Victor had ended up  being “chained in an eternal hell.”

And goes on to talk about one of the main reasons he had  made the creature in the first place was to make a friend. “Must I then lose this admirable being? I have longed for a friend; I have sought one who would sympathize with and love me. Behold, on these desert seas I have found such a one; but, I fear, I have gained him only to know his  value, and lose him. I would reconcile him to life, but he repulses the idea.” (Vol III Chapter VII) 

What started out as intellectual curiosity and aspirations to become a god-like figure to the creature. Ultimately leads to the death of many of Victor’s closest relatives and friends and his  eventual death.  

 Both Faustus and Victor share many similarities. In addition differences in both intent to create the monster. And their actions after being granted or created the one thing they desired most. One 

common theme that did not explicitly show up in both is their relation to God and desire for god-like powers. In both pieces, Faustus and Victor interact with god-like abilities. That no human is supposed, nor can control, yet both actively seek to be treated as gods.

The pursuit of these powers leads to their ultimate demise and disappointment with the abilities they had received. 

Faustus, initially promised demi-god-like powers by Lucifer. Moreover, was disappointed with the limitations of his powers from Lucifer.

Victor was similarly outraged. He realized the result of his creation. Was not what he had thought! “I sickened as I read. ‘Hateful day when I  received life!’ I exclaimed in agony. ‘Cursed creator! Why did you form a monster so hideous that even you turned from me in disgust? God in pity made man beautiful and alluring, after his own image; but my form is a filthy type of your’s, more horrid from its very resemblance. Satan had his companions, fellow-devils, to admire and encourage him; but I am solitary and detested.’”(Vol. II Chapter VII)

While both Victor and Faustus felt outraged by the result. Victor could not simply repent and ask God for forgiveness.

He had to live with what he had created and experience the pain of seeing multiple family members and friends die at the  hand of his creation.

The outrage of both characters resulted in mortals playing with a power that  only with the help of the devil himself could dream of.

Ultimately Faustus’s greed and Victor’s intellectual curiosity were reminders that no mortal should seek otherworldly power. 

Written By: Matt McManus 

Faustian Bargain : The Balance of Power

Works Cited, Faustian Bargain : The Balance of Power:  

“Christopher Marlowe – The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus (Full Text).” Genius,  genius.com/Christopher-marlowe-the-tragical-history-of-doctor-faustus-full-text annotated.  Shelley. “Frankenstein; Or, The Modern Prometheus by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley.” Project  Gutenberg, 23 Nov. 2012, www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/41445.

Faustian Bargain : The Balance of Power

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Faustian Bargain : The Balance of Power