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Arguably, a sin framed within Orthodox religion, is an act which defies the will of God.

There are
many instances where Faustus commits such an act in the play during his exploration of “cursed
necromancy”, inciting “elevating terror” (Radcliffe) in contemporary audiences. The supernatural is a
central trope of the Gothic, referring to something unexplained by science or logic. Marlowe’s use of
supernatural powers enabling the conjuring of spirits and devils is transgressive, particularly for
sixteenth century audiences. Yet Faustus’ misuse of the powers given to him is arguably, more
blasphemous due to its contradiction of his initial aspirations.

Faustus’ opening soliloquy characterises him as “the epitome of Renaissance aspiration” (Gill).
Having already excelled at Divinity, Logic, Medicine and the Law, Faustus is looking for something
more challenging, which will bring him “a world of profit and delight/ Of power, of honour, of
omnipotence”. The climax of the monosyllabic words ending with the polysyllabic noun represents
Faustus’s carried away thoughts. This is mirrored by the line’s enjambment where these five abstract
nouns have built in intensity to emphasise the Gothic trope of Faustus’ desire to transgress to an all
seeing, all knowing God. This is structurally significant, as by being established at the opening, the
paradox with his later power misuse is made more amusing for the audience. Faustus comes to use
his powers for trivial acts which provide only personal entertainment.

Faustus’ triviality is evidenced in his tricking of the horse-courser in Act IV Scene I. Faustus entering
into a contract with the horse-course, “I have brought you forty dollars for your horse” structurally
mirrors the blasphemous pact made in Act II Scene I made with Mephistopheles. The Gothic
grotesque imagery of Faustus “cutting his arm”, referencing Christ spilling blood in the propitiation
for the sin of mankind and his blood subsequently congealing, draws on fear and anxiety in
contemporary and modern day audiences. Faustus’ insistent questioning after signing the pact is
evidence of his doubt in the structural pattern of doubt, persuasion, resolve and gain Marlow uses.
Faustus’ inquiring of “Whither should I fly” structurally echoes the myth of Icaurus whose “waxen
wings” represent Faustus’ downfall. This iterative imagery of flight also links to the Old Man whose
faith allows him to “fly unto my God” contrasting with Faustus’ present dismissal of faith.

In presenting the paradoxical contract with the horse courser, Marlow starts to write in prose and
Faustus is thus perceived to be losing his clarity and intellect and the audience may laugh at his
foolish behaviour. However, through conjuring the horse into “a bottle of hay” and thus determining
the horse courser’s gate, Faustus is arguably usurping the role of God. Transgression is a key theme
in the Gothic and despite the humour injected in this scene, the blasphemy of what his trivial act
actually means incites terror.

However, the misuse of Faustus’ powers is not the only sin Faustus commits. Faustus is dominated
by over ambition, wishing to excel all boundaries, natural and elemental, “or being dead raise them
to life again”. Arguably, Faustus is a Morality play ‘everyman’ figure yet he tries to transcend his
status, a central trope of the Gothic He may have the “waxen wings” of Icaurus but these “melt
above his overthrow” with ambition to be greater than human becoming his downfall.

Furthermore, Faustus’ pride can be considered the root of all sin. Marlowe accepts medieval
thinking in seeing Pride at the centre of sinning, which is visually represented by Pride coming
onstage first in the presentation of the Seven Deadly Sins in Act II Scene III. As a scholar, Faustus is
extremely proud of his intellect, “A greater subject fitteth Faustus’ wit. The placing of the alliterative
“F” is audibly satisfying, fitting to Faustus’ self important and the ego centric third person pronoun of
Faustus highlights his self conceit. Arguably, Faustus’ inability to repent can be seen as him being
too proud, “The reward of sin is death. That’s hard”. The oxymoron of “reward” paralleled with
“death” reinforces Faustus’ egocentricity hindering his understand of the nature of repentance and
that it can subsequently lead to forgiveness.
Arguably, one of the utmost sins Faustus commits is his initial willingness to sell his soul to the Devil
so that Lucifer can “enlarge his Kingdom” inciting terror in contemporaneous audiences. Faustus
conjures Mephistopheles in a classic Gothic setting where the “gloomy” shadows and “drizzling look”
provides a ripe climate for conjuring the diabolical. Faustus’ speech is dominated by imperatives, “I
charge thee to return and change thy shape/Thou art too ugly to attend on me”. Faustus’ arrogance
and self conceit is emphasised through the use of commands as does Marlowe’s use of iterative
imagery which draws on classical antiquity, “To do whatever Faustus may command/Be it to make
the moon drop from her sphere/Or the oceans to overwhelm the world”. This structurally mirrors
Act V Scene II in which Faustus places himself resolutely in the position of romantic hero for Helen of
Troy, “I will be Faustus”. Debatably, Faustus here commits the upmost sin as when “they kiss”
Faustus is eternally damning himself, securing his inevitable fate.

However, it can be argued that Faustus never had any actual powers to misuse, as he is always
under the control of Mephistopheles who even initially claims he “came hither of mine own accord”.
In Act IV Scene II Faustus appears to be not in control of his body, “the horse-courser pulls him by
the leg and pulls it away”. Here laughter and terror are infused in the audiences’ response; the
sketch is comic yet the idea of dismemberment serves as a shock. This foreshadows the physical
torment of Faustus in hell whilst providing the grotesque Gothic iterative imagery which mirrors
Mephistopheles’ later line, “I’ll piecemeal tear thy flesh”. The earlier use of aporia in this scene with
the end stopped lines, “draw to final end./Unto my thoughts./with a quiet sleep.”, creating a shorter
rhythm, illustrate Faustus’ life coming to an end. Faustus has no control over his physical life and any
power his body possesses is ultimately at the hands of Mephistopheles.

In conclusion, particularly for contemporaneous audiences, Faustus’ greatest sin is arguably that of
his initial rejection of Christian values and beliefs. Furthermore, it is debateable as to whether
Faustus has any supernatural powers to begin with and he remains under Mephistopheles control
for the play’s duration. Therefore, Faustus’ greatest sin is not the misuse of the supernatural powers
as arguably he is never granted these powers as thus is not at liberty to misuse them.