How Dr Faustus , ‘Inner Conflict’ Leads Him To Tragedy


How “Dr Faustus” play shows Marlowe as introducing a conflict in the mind of the hero for the first time. Though Elizabethan dramatists had been using this technique of conflict between two, forces of evil and goodness yet Marlowe introduced this thing in a very different way which made this drama a unique work of English literature of that time.

Conflict in drama is of two kinds – outer and inner. Outer conflict always deals with or occurs between the hero and his outer circumstances which may be sometimes unfavorable or hostile to him.

Inner conflict which occurs in the mind of the hero but in “Dr. Faustus” we all the time find the hero succumbed in a struggle which is rising in the heart and soul of the hero. This is the very thing which presents a psychological or spiritual conflict in Faustus rather than an external action.

Now the question arises when this struggle happens. Generally speaking, this inner conflict occurs when a man faces two alternatives in which he has to choose one but finds himself pulled in opposite directions. Faustus was rationally inspired by the spirit of Renaissance because he had been alured or fascinated by the dreams of gaining limitless knowledge & human power.

If someone wants to achieve these powers in a very short time then there is only one way of unholy necromancy and on the other side, he is to abjure Divinity or to denounce the doctrines of Christianity.

It is a fact that Faustus rejects all these intellectually but he is definitely attached to them emotionally. Hence, there starts a conflict in his soul. Actually a conflict is the tussle between will and conscience which is symbolized by the bad Angel and good Angel and the heart of Faustus is a platform where these two forces of good and evil are struggling to overwhelm. In the whole course of the drama, this conflict passes in different stages.


In the early scenes of the play, we see Faustus’ pride and mad pursuit of gaining limitless knowledge leading him in a situation where he has to bargain with the Devil. Here, because he has been disappointed with all branches of knowledge like Physic, Philosophy, Law and Divinity as they are absolutely insufficient for him to fulfill his aim; then he says:

 “Divinity, adieu

These metaphysics of magicians. 

And necromantic books are heavenly.”

Here, we find Faustus rejecting all these knowledgeable books and finding limitless delight & profit in the realm of magic, here Faustus utters:.

“O’ what a world of profit and delight. 

Of power, of honour, of omnipotence. 

Is promised to the studious Ortizan. 

All things that move between the quiet poles.”

Shall be at my command:

At another occasion in the play, he is so much involved in the black art that he considers it as a mighty god. After convincing himself, he further says:

“A sound magician is a mighty god”

After gaining the command over the arts of necromancy, he starts satisfying the demands of his nature as God has made him. He also starts thinking himself as a deity – that is forbidden but, which can be achieved only by a conscious rejection of God. When he has made his final decision in the favour of necromancy, his conscience starts pricking him and at the same time Good Angel & Evil Angel appear on the stage for the first time. Actually these two angels represent the two aspects of the human mind.

These two angels, in fact, externalize the inner conflict between vice and virtue, between will and conscience which is occurring in the mind of Doctor Faustus. When this conflict occurs, the entire action of the drama starts fluctuating between these two opposite forces. The Good Angel urges Faustus:

“Sweet Faustus, leave that exyrable art.”

As we know that Good Angel is the symbol of goodness in him and it utters:,

“Sweet Fuustus, think of heaven and heavenly things.”

There is an other side of the situation which is administered by Evil Angel and in the spirit of wavering conscience or Renaissance element of temporary voluptuousness and further beautiful Juxtaposition of the antithetical vices, Devil urges him:

“No Faustus, think of honour and of wealth”.

When Feaustus meets and talks to his true friends who also encourage and inspire to go for necromancy and success promises on one condition: – 

“If learned Faustus will be resoluted”

After meeting & exchanging the words with his friends, Faustus makes a final decision and gives preference to power, pelf of the world instead of Divinity. For this purpose, he sells his soul to Devil to gain voluptuousness for twenty four years. the skies and he utters:

“Had I as many souls as there be stars. 

I’d give them all for Mephistophilis. 

By him I,ll be great emperor of the world.” 

But in the beginning of the play in Act II, Scene 1, there are some clues of his repentance which are as the prick of conscience, a tussle between will and conscience, good and evil, heaven and hell.


All these make him conscious that he is going towards external damnation from where, he cannot be

Now, Faustus, must thou need be damned. 

And canst thou not be saved. 

What boots it, then, to think of God or heaven? 

Away with such vain fancies, and despair. 

Despair in God, and trust in Belzebub. 

Nay, go not backward, no Faustus be resolute: 

O, something soundeth in mine ears. 

“Abjure this magic, turn to God againt?”

Faustus is absolutely involved in the allurement and excitement of wealth and honour, and decides to write the band with his own blood for surrendering his soul to Lucifer. In the proceeding action of the drama, we find Faustus’ agonizing struggle to escape from his impending eternal damnation and his. deep sense of helplessness which ultimately vents out when he confesses to Mephistophilis:

“When I behold heaven’s then I repent. 

And curse thee wicked Mephistophilis.

Because thou hast deprived me of those joys.” 

Here, there is also reappearance of good and evil angels to externalize his inner conflict and Faustus starts uttering in the following words:

“My heart is so hardened, I cannot repént. 

Scarce can I name salvation, faith or heaven.”

But fearful echoes thunder in my ears. 

Faustus, thou art damned.

As the act V starts and where old man appears as a symbol of good and divine in him, bursts out before him and an acute mental tension is revealed:

“Where art thou Faustus, wretch what hast thou done. 

Damnd art thou, Faustus, damn’d; despair and die!”

Having the full command over black arts, Faustus eventually binds or seals his own soul by surrendering himself into the arms of sweet ‘Helen to make Dr. Faustus immortal and here he utters:

“Sweet Helen, make me immortal with a kiss. 

Her lips suck forth my soul: see where it flies! 

Come, Helen, come, give me my soul again: 

Here will I dwell, for heaven is in those lips. 

And all is dross that is not Helena.” 

In the last hour where Faustus is damned to eternal damnation of hell and where there is no hope of salvation for him. His soul starts shrieking in a very agonizing and torturous manner and in a pathetic mood, he appeals to God in his soliloquy.

“Stand still, you every moving spheres of heaven. 

That time may cease, and mid night never come. 

Fair nature’s eye, rise again. 

Mountains and hills, come, come and fall on me. 

Ugly hell, gape not; come not, Lucifer! 

I’ll burn my books! Ah, Mephistophilis!

To conclude this topic, it can be said that the inner conflict of Faustus actually is a tussle between two forces of evil and goodness which is externalized in the forms of two Good and Evil Angels. This is a conflict of Faustus which presents a clear picture of Renaissance of that age because the people of Marlowe’s age had been influenced by the spirit of Renaissance which was more supported by the teachings & preaching of Machiavellian approach or spirit. Machiavelle who had been a Italian writer, was of the view that every desire or ambition or wish which occurred in any body’s soul or nature, should be executed at any cost; means to say that by hook and crook. So wherever this situation is to happen, the forces of evil and good will be there and this is an inner conflict of every person who is succumbed by these two outer & inner forces.


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