DramaEnglish Literature

Write a note on the symbolic importance of the character of Mephistopheles

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Symbolic importance of the character of Mephistopheles

Mephistopheles appears in the play as Lucifer’s deputy. He’s a fallen angel, too. He aligned himself with the rebellion of Satan against God. In contrast to the Devils of Miracle and Morality, he is a villain and is equipped with some redemptive character. Indeed, he confesses to Faustus that he is keenly and truly aware of his pain in Hell and is constantly concerned about the loss of heaven and God’s blessings. He is, without any doubt, Faustus’s evil genius, but he was not seen to be the actual cause of his decline and failure. It is Faustus who first abjured himself of God and the Trinity. It is Faustus who called from the underworld the spirit of Mephistopheles.


We thus see that the bad resides in Doctor Faustus himself. We, therefore, infer that Mephistopheles is nothing but a symbolic image of evil in the soul of Faustus. In scene III, Act I, Mephistopheles warms Faustus about the imminent doom awaiting someone who turns from the right direction and denounces God and the Saviour. Even Lucifer, the dearest angel of the love of God, fell because of pride and insolence. But Faustus, the victim of his ego and excessive desire to acquire unrestricted information and influence, turns a deaf ear to his proper notice. 


Dramatic Significance of Mephistopheles

Mephistopheles plays a significant part as a character in Doctor Faustus. It is certain that it wasn’t Mephistopheles who pulled Faustus to the side of virtue, as it was the choice of Faustus himself. However, it was certainly Mephistopheles who opened the door to his tragic end and eternal punishment. Mephistopheles is the most important character in the story, and he has the most significant contribution to the growth of the character Faustus. This is why we see Mephistopheles be the consistent partner of Doctor Faustus.


Faustus has decided to give his life to Devil to acquire unlimited power and knowledge and live-in luxury for the next 24 years. Mephistopheles is in the area to ensure the deal is done properly and then inform him of the contract with sincerity. When the blood begins to congeal then there is Mephistopheles waiting with his chafer of coals to cause the blood to flow, and in turn, he smoothens the road to hell for Faustus. In reality, there are very close ties between Faustus and Mephistopheles.


Cunning and artful nature of Mephistopheles

Without a doubt, Mephistopheles is extremely cunning and astute. He is simultaneously playing two roles in his friendship with Faustus. When Faustus is reasonable and adheres to the terms of his devilish contract, Mephistopheles is his most obedient slave. Mephistopheles is the one who attempts to quench his hunger for knowledge by satisfactorily answering all of his questions. Again, when Faustus desires to marry the most beautiful maiden in Germany, he deftly dissuades him from marrying in the manner of a true Christian; however, to satiate his Carnel lust and thirst for youth and beauty, he conjures up Helen, whose celestial beauty transcends all compass. However, when Faustus’ soul is torn between heaven and Hell, and he considers praying and repenting in order to obtain God’s grace, Mephistopheles appears as a cruel lord to intimidate him.


I arrest thy soul, Faustus, for disobedience to my sovereign lord. Revolt or I will rip the flesh in pieces.


Strangely and ironically, Mephistopheles appears in the final scene alongside other demons to steal Faustus’s soul to Hell for eternal damnation, and the east word wringing out from the depths of his terror-stricken soul is Mephistopheles. Alternatively, we might infer that without Mephistopheles, there would have been no Faustus in Marlowe’s magnificent tragic drama. Although he may be cunning and astute, he serves the most important role as a minor character in development and bringing out all the essential characteristics of the mighty hero.

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