Before you begin reading my paper, let me say that this has been the most interesting topic that Prof. North has talked about all of this year and all of last year. I’m in 7th heaven over the fact that this lecture was fascinating!
Why has this theme (Deals with the Devil) remained popular since 1587?
Plays and books have been written about the Devil ever since 1587 when The Tragic History of the Life and Death of Doctor Faustus—commonly referred to as “Doctor Faustus”—was first exposed to the world. Doctor Faustus is a story loosely based on the real Doctor Faustus, which walks the reader through how a good Christian family’s son summoned the devil for his own desires and ends up ripped to pieces. We know little of the real Doctor Faustus (originally Doctor Johann Georg Faust), but from what historians have been able to gather, he was an alchemist, scientist, and philosopher who lived around the late 1400s in Germany. Nowadays, knowing that science is not in fact magic, we can safely assume that Dr. Faustus never summoned a demon, but the idea is still fascinating. But why? I think we would all like to know what would happen if we summoned the Devil, but we are not willing to chance it and must read someone else’s story instead.
In every person, there is a part that always want more than he have, even if he is the most privileged being in the world. Why are lust, sloth, avarice, envy, vanity, gluttony, or wrath tantalizing to indulge in? Because the 7 deadly sins fulfill desires for more. Since the Devil is the one who temps us to commit these sins, ringing him up in Hell sounds like a brilliant idea for those on an ungodly track. A certain narrow fringe of people desire to glimpse the horrors of Hell for themselves. Haven’t we all wondered at some point if Hell is nearly as ghastly as it has been described? I know I have. Reading a story that describes hell—fictional though it may be—seems to be fodder for my imagination. The Devil has been sewn into different skins in every culture throughout history and is one of the few things that will never be physically proven. Summoning him seems a great way to find out what the face of Evil really looks like! (Not.) Perhaps the thrill of finding out the unknown bypasses the horror of knowing in the end. Humanity’s interest in the Devil ultimately comes down to base desire; Doctor Faustus certainly did not summon Beelzebub to help him his serve his fellow citizens.
Doctor Faustus’s end of being blown to bits was surprisingly accurate. As an alchemist, he engaged in many dangerous hocusy-pocusy experiments–one of which was recorded as having gone wrong and mutilating his body severely. How perfect for the image of a soul damned, who meets his end when the devil comes to collect him. Church officials throughout the past were not fans of Faust’s magic tricks and almost single-handedly built the bridge between him and the Devil. However, their disdain turned around and bit them in the butt because it was actually a wonderful opportunity for plays, operas, ballets, musicals, and books to be written on the subject. People don’t want to be bad because they are afraid of Hell but what if they could experience it vicariously?