Does man have a choice about whether or not he will reach heaven? Or is the fate of his soul decided from the get-go, with him powerless to change it? At first, it seems like Doctor Faustus is clearly in the latter camp. Our good-turned-bad doctor thinks he's damned no matter what he does. But as the play goes on, Faustus wavers, wondering if he still has time to repent, and if his sin is forgivable. The play never comes down on one or the other side of the debate, sometimes portraying Faustus's fall as his own choice, at other times letting him off the hook. In the end though, it just might be a little bit of both. Faustus's fall has been caused by his choice to believe that he's damned. That causes him to refuse to repent, and refusing to repent is the one sin that's truly unforgiveable.
Questions About Philosophical Viewpoints: Predestination
- Which characters in the play seem to believe that Faustus is damned to hell no matter what he does? Which ones seem to think he can still be saved? What does Faustus believe?
- What do you make of Mephistopheles's admission at the end of the play that he "turned the leaves" and led Faustus's eye in the reading of Scripture? Is he to blame for Faustus's damnation? Or is Faustus still responsible?
- At what point in the play does Faustus reach the point of no return? Or does he reach it at all?
- What do the Scholars tell Faustus to do when he is damned to hell for his sins? What do you think of their advice?
Chew on This
Faustus has a choice about whether or not he goes to hell, but he doesn't seem to get that it's his responsibility. The fact that he always passes the buck is what really sends him to hell.
Faustus was predestined to hell. He never had a choice, and that's that.