Intertextuality of Religion into Literature: A Study on the Character of Dr. Faustus in Christopher Marlowe’s Dr Faustus

Article Posted in: Research Articles

Paper by Mullangi Nagaraju
Published in January 2018, Volume IV, Issue XXXVI


Religion resurrects and ransoms the humanity from the tragedies and turmoil of the mysterious and material life. There is a crystal clear contradiction, contrast and conflict between the self within and satisfaction of the life lived out. It is here the essence of human life i.e, happiness and satisfaction, is contradicted with Dr Faustus who was apparently disappointed with immense knowledge and limits of orthodox studies logic, law, medicine, and religion. What makes Dr Faustus a devil and Lord Buddha a Deity is the revelation of life’s essence and an end to the sky-end desires. Satisfaction is the only remedy of desire. Dr Faustus is full of knowledge but pathetically possessed with the unrealized potentialities of his utmost traditional knowledge but he failed to seek satisfaction in his will and wisdom.

Dr Faustus was well aware of the ecclesial and celestial concepts of sin, evil, purgatory, hell, and heave which the Catholicism and Christianity taught. Dr Faustus knew how disobedience and over possessiveness caused the fall of Lucifer. Human fall occurs not by innocence rather by the self-ignorance of the truth known and it was what made Dr Faustus led him to ruin. Being convinced by the characters Valdes and Cornelius, Dr Faustus with the assistance of Mephistophilis compelled himself into his tomb-construction of scholarly life which he should not have indulged in. Dr Faustus surrendered his will and wisdom to evil practices which are antireligious which gave scope to the literature in exploring the Intertextuality of religion into literature.


The ecclesiastical approach on the study of Dr Faustus is inclusive of the diverse personalities Wagner, Good Angel and Evil Angel, Knight, Ralph, Vintner, Helen of Troy and many other characters exhibit the religious and human errors leading Dr Faustus to destruction and devil like life. The writings and cults of over-religiosity especially in the Christianity are in way guiding principles to the characters of Dr Faustus drama in letting Dr Faustus to a twenty-four-year long life in evil practices. The reconciliation and repentance which was not sought for twenty-four years were denied at death moment. The Intertextuality of religion into literature conveys ecclesiastical truth that the death doesn’t justify the unjust and perilous practices done in ignorance of will and wisdom as opposed and against the law of life designed by God in fulfillment of God’s will to know, serve and love HIM and not to turn against the Nature of Mortal Life out of possessiveness for power and position.

  1. The Episode of the Eden Garden in Dr Faustus Life

In the narrative creation episode from the Holy Scriptures, what Eve the first mother intended and acted was exactly reoccurred in the life of Dr Faustus. The Eden garden was endowed with the best and choicest ecological and animate species for Adam and Eve for their utility. Unfortunately, nothing of them satisfied their inner urge and greediness of mischievous Eve who provoked Adam to commit sin and thus lost the grace and blessing. A perilous tiny and trivial temptation by the devil in the form of a snake brought them an eternal condemnation and curse onto the innocent human race of the generations followed by. As a consequence of violating the act forbidden by God, they were deprived of the beauty and boon and the predilection and privileges of the Creator for lifelong. A similar sympathetic situation occurred in the life of Dr Faustus’ life who was blessed with utmost wisdom, knowledge, and excellence of the studies in law, medicine, and divinity. He detained and failed himself in seeking satisfaction in his scholarliness and successful career.

 Dr Faustus utterly failed in realizing the worth and wisdom. It is in a realization of the ones’ own worth and content an ordinary mortal transforms himself into a mighty power through an opposite and appropriate channelization of his worth, intelligence and inborn potentials akin Albert Einstein, Newton, Thomas Edison and many other scientists of science and technology who were like Dr Faustus. Dr Faustus would have become mightier and more reverential than the aforementioned if he realized his intellectual worth and found satisfaction in his practice of science law, and medicine. Alike, Adam and Eve, Dr Faustus ditched and dipped his life in misery and mercilessness by not owing to the immense potentiality. Instead, he ruined himself in letting disappointment, dissatisfaction, and depression and destroyed his human knowledge. He became another Adam-Eve being thrown out of the Eden garden of his excellence in scholarliness and called upon a perpetual condemnation and curse.

  1. An Angel transforms as Evil

The biblical version of Lucifer explores the factual notion of an angel turning into an evil. Lucifer was an archangel who in his past life in the presence of God the Creation lived and led a holy and happy life. In his intentional inclination for power and position equally with the Creator, the good angel turned up as Lucifer and damned to be a demon. The Satan disguised in the form of snake tempted Eve with a false assumption of gaining power and equal position with God on the condition of eating an apple from the forbidden tree. With an unworthy and ambitious desire for becoming one like God Lucifer and Eve ended up their grace-filled life in sorrow and suffering. Finding power and equality with God in an apple and searching for satisfaction in necromancy and magic is exactly the parallels which turned an angel into an evil. Dr Faustus wanted to have a godlike quality, supernatural powers and unstoppable magical strengths to conquer the world and thus be regarded as God.

  1. The Screenplay of Soul-selling

            The screenplay of Dr Faustus mortgaging and letting his soul for a sale to the devil calls for an intra and inter-religious absurdity and ambiguity of the two human elements of body and soul. All the doctrines and dogmas of every religion teach and preach that the mortal man is neither the creator of the physical body nor the owner of it. Man is given life with flesh and blood in a biological form. God is the life-giver and life-taker. If even the biological flesh and blood are not owned by a mere mortal man, on what authoritative ground the soul can be sold or mortgaged is the question to be debated upon. It is very vivid that mortals receive life on a temporary period and point of time and leave the earthly life abruptly. No human being has the right or commands over the soul. For the soul is a permanent and perpetual celestial entity created and controlled by the Mighty Supreme Power above. The human body is a sheer shelter to the soul for its existence and through the mortal body, the soul acts for its human and divine perfection. The imprudence and vicissitude of Dr Faustus selling his soul for a long twenty-four-year service to Lucifer the devil need to give an account of his authority to sell the soul as he was neither the creator nor owner of his own soul. Dr Faustus committed a grave sin by selling his soul on which he has no authority and it shows his anti-god attitude and arrogance.

  1. Dr Faustus’ Indifference to the Cautions of the Conscience

            It is the conscience and inner voice which judges what and how truly a person is. Even if the whole empirical world affirms and acknowledges him/her as a righteous and virtuous person, the inward conscience will constantly and consistently contradict of what the empirical world compliments and considers of him/her and reveals to the heart what they really and originally are. The conscience reflects the attitudes, intentions, and expressions of every human emotion. The Catholicism and even the Christianity teaches that there is a guardian angel to counsel the intentions piled up in mind and guide the actions to be executed. And the Holy Scriptures in the second book of Exodus of the Pentateuch chapter 23 verses 20 to 23 reminds to pay a keen heed to the guardian angel and listen to his voice and act accordingly to avoid sin and shame and to be delivered from all trials and temptations. There is also the concept of examination of consciousness to have an eye on every human act and intention. Dr Faustus was cautioned several times by the conscience and the good angels not let himself into temptations of Lucifer and sell his soul by the irrational magical powers and pleasures. Dr Faustus knowingly, willingly and freely paid heed to the treacherous tricks of Lucifer and neglected the conscience. Mistakes happen out of innocence and ignorance whereas sins are committed with intentions and intelligence. As he was all known and all wise Dr Faustus committed a cordial sin from which he couldn’t escape. Dr Faustus considered conscience as a sheer silly issue and was indifferent to the guidance and counselling of the conscience. If he listened to his inner voice and followed accordingly Dr Faustus ought to have ransomed his life destructive life from the clutches of Satan and be saved.

  1. Fruitless Contrition of Dr Faustus

            The Compendium of the Catholic Church in its rudiments of the orthodox and contemporary teachings ensures and assures the fallen humanity of the significance of repentance and reconciliation and moreover returning to the almighty from past devious and dangerous destructive life. Not only the Christianity rather every religion accepts and embraces and never despises a repented and returned prodigal person away from it. Instead, it honours and crowns him with forgiveness and eternal redemption. Despite being aware of the contrition Dr Faustus whiled away time in evil practices and perilous pleasure of necromancy and magic. He rejected to make any effort to repent and return until the eleventh hour. And his repentance before breathing the last at the deathbed sought a fruitless effort. The burden of his evil practices in magic and necromancy against the divine will is weighed more than his contrite heart to be saved from the suffering of his own soul serving the Lucifer for twenty-four long years in slavery.


            Christopher Marlowe cleverly interlinked the aspects of religion with real life outside of his literary masterpiece The Tragical History of the Life and Death of Dr Faustus. Dr Faustus stands as an indicator and a reminder to the contemporary cosmopolitan world which runs after seeking better and bright life in future than the existed. Like Dr Faustus, the human world life is blessed with utmost intelligence, wisdom and knowledge of sciences and technologies available at present. But still, the ambitious world is not content with the existing growth and development rather a craving for success and satisfaction in the utopian world to come. Dr Faustus is an exemplary catalogue to all those refer the library of life seeking satisfaction and success. Dr Faustus failure has become stepping stone and a guiding principle to the modern technical world which is almost in the same status like Dr Faustus not finding satisfaction and leading towards an irreparable life.

            The Intertextuality of religion into literature through the character of Dr Faustus exhibits a newer venture of interpretation of the literature and religion as well as the religion is on the brim of dangerous fanaticism. It won’t be a hyperbole if stated that the religious writings of every religion are misinterpreted and misled the broken humanity to the extent of insane religious rites and rituals. In consideration of the misinterpretations and mismatched beliefs, misconceptions, false perceptions and all sorts of misguiding teachers and preachers of faith, the intertextuality of religion alerts the blind followers of the faith. Thus the intertextuality of religion urges that a right approach to religion and religious practices ought to enable the humans to seek satisfaction and solace in their life which Dr Faustus couldn’t. Alas! Dr Faustus! Alas!

Introduction to the Author: 

Mullangi Nagaraju is an assistant professor, English, at K L University.



Marlowe, Christopher, The Tragical History of Dr Faustus, SMK Book Publications, 1604

Sen, S, Dr Faustus Christopher Marlowe, Unique Publications 1st edition, 2015

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