Why This Is Hell, Nor Are We Out Of It


MEPHASTOPHILIS: Why this is hell, nor am I out of it.
Think’st thou that I, who saw the face of God,
And tasted the eternal joys of heaven,
Am not tormented with ten thousand hells
In being deprived of everlasting bliss?
O Faustus, leave these frivolous demands,
Which strike a terror to my fainting soul.
FAUSTUS: What, is great Mephastophilis so passionate
For being deprivèd of the joys of heaven?
Learn thou of Faustus manly fortitude,
And scorn those joys thou never shalt possess.


Doctor Faustus is a marvellous, lyrical, stunning play.  It is a modern play, in the sense that Faustus’ downfall comes as a result, not of Fate, God, the Furies, a curse or simple bad luck, but of his own deluded and hubristic choices.  Even the demon Mephastophilis seeks to dissuade Faustus from his folly but arrogance wins, as it must.

And so, might we think that Marlowe’s early death was in some way connected with his own character, his own stupidities. Wiki notes that he is variously described (without much evidence, if any) as: ‘a spy, a brawler, and a heretic, as well as a “magician”, “duellist”, “tobacco-user”, “counterfeiter”, and “rakehell”‘. What a splendid word ‘rakehell’ is; we don’t use it much now that raking hell has become transmuted to the more sordid  and depressing ‘antisocial behaviour’.

In Graham Greene’s Brighton Rock, one of the most damply chilling novels I have read, Mr Prewitt – the washed-up, compromised, bent solicitor – tells Pinkie “Why this is hell, nor are we out of it.”  The utter misery of damnation seeps into every page and every line of the book – dramatic flames are replaced by the long, slow, damp procession of corruption, doubt and sin. Only the cheerful atheist Ida and the simple and faithful Rose are salvaged, or salvageable.


Back to Mephastophilis, Mephistophilis and Mephistopheles:

Hell hath no limits, nor is circumscribed
In one self place; for where we are is hell,
And where hell is there must we ever be:
And, to conclude, when all the world dissolves,
And every creature shall be purified,
All places shall be hell that is not Heaven.

Why am I writing about this? I got to thinking about politics….


Rembrandt - Doctor Faustus
Rembrandt – Doctor Faustus
This entry was posted in Allegory, Art, Drama, Novels, Plays, Politics and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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