Good and Evil

Posted on March 31, 2011


Whenever I read the parts of The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus, that involved “Good Angel” and “Evil Angel” I had images of scenes from Family Guy and Bugs Bunny fly through my head.  The Evil Angel sitting on the one shoulder advising the individual, with the Good Angel on the other counter-acting. More than often, the Evil Angel tempted the characters into some kind of self-fulfilling failed prophecy which taught the children watching that it’s probably better to go with the moral side.

In a similar way, Marlowe simplifies decision making to either good, or evil. It’s possible even, for the very same purpose as the cartoons. If you reduce complicated matters like morality and ethics, to just two choices, it seems a little easier to understand and manage. As explained in class, this form of thinking came out of a lot of Christian doctrines, along with Psychomachia. Psychomachia is a structuring device, or inner conflict, within oneself. It becomes a battle for a spiritual outcome for your soul.  Christianity mimics this simplified version of morality in many ways: God vs. Devil, Good vs. Evil, Virtue vs. Vice.

Faustus is unable to see through the confusion of the good and evil dialogue and ultimately reaches a state of Acedia. This idea is often connected with Sartre’s existentialism,  and it is basically a state that Sartre would call, forlornness. It is, in a sense, a surrender to the power of the world and the anxiety it makes you feel as a free agent. This forlornness can often act as an inhibitor to progress, which is exactly what Faustus falls victim to.

Ironically, Faustus falls victim to in-action even with the divine authority to act in whichever way he chooses. That seems to be a fundamental lesson learnt in this play. It seems as though, authority and knowledge, do not necessarily free all people. It clearly has the darker side of being able to constrain, restrict, and ultimately destroy. I think what Faustus is missing, is wisdom. It is one thing to have access to knowledge, it is entirely another to know what to do with it.

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