The struggle between good and evil is a recurring motif in literature. This topic may be found in a wide range of works, from picture books for children to great works of literature. There are certain works of literature that don't feature characters on either side of the conflict, but most have. Dr. Faustus by Christopher Marlowe and Hamlet, Prince of Denmark by William Shakespeare are two examples of works in which the conflict is fought inside. Both plays feature central individuals who are torn between supporting one side or the other in the never-ending conflict. It's interesting to note that while both characters start off virtuous, the events of their stories lead them down a path toward evil. An interpretation of the author's goal might be that evil can influence anybody, and that virtue isn't always triumphant.
As seen in Dr. Faustus, a well-respected and well-educated man, we see him divided between God and the Devil. Dr. Faustus's soul is being fought for by two ghosts, each representing one side in the conflict. Dr. Faustus makes a deal with the devil in his never-ending quest for knowledge. Faustus got 24 years of power in exchange for his soul. But even though good appears to be working in his favour, he does not perceive it. Still, the good spirit urges him to turn from his sin and break his covenant with Lucifer. In spite of his belief that he may be forgiven, Faustus has struggled with his decision for 24 years without repentance. It's too late for him when he finally comes to terms with his misdeeds and begs for God's forgiveness; he is sent to hell.
One of the most striking parallels between the two works of literature is the power of one character's poor judgement to send the plot in the direction of doom. Throughout the story of Dr. Faustus, a respected, incredibly clever, and educated man, he is forced to make a decision that will shape the rest of his life: whether or not to continue his quest of knowledge. Faustus seeks the assistance of the demon Mephistopheles once he gets entangled in magic and learns that the devil can provide him both power and wisdom. One caveat: He's been told that the price of such gifts is their owner's soul. In the following passage, Mephistopheles warns Faustus of the consequences of his decision, which may be witnessed. And I'm not even close to being done with it yet." Think’st thou that I seeing the face of God and tasted the eternal delights of heaven, am not tormented with ten thousand hells in being robbed of everlasting bliss” (Marlowe, 1905, Act 1, Scene 5)? Though Faustus is cautioned that the splendour of heaven forever is worth more than fleeting knowledge or power, he decides to sell his eternal soul to the devil in return for those things. On his downward trip Faustus makes numerous bad decisions, each one taking him more down a road of immorality and evilness culminating in his death and decline into hell.
Because of his grief over his father's passing, Hamlet begins the play as a young kid. Hamlet is confronted with a difficult dilemma after witnessing the spirit of his father, who urges him to murder Claudius in order to avenge his father's death. Hamlet begins to go mad as a result of the spirit of his father's request and his scepticism about the deed. When Hamlet finally succumbs to evil, he goes on a killing spree, murdering numerous people in the process. This phrase portrays Hamlet wondering whether to murder his self or others. "To sleep: to die; No more; and by a slumber to declare we're done. I've been through so much pain and so many shocks in the natural world. To have flesh as an heir would be a happily-ever-after. Therein is the rub: for in that slumber of death, who knows what nightmares could occur. It must give us pause once we have left this earthly coil: that is respect. That's what makes tragedy so long-lasting" (Shakespeare, 1909, Act 3, Scene 1).
The nefarious influences that both of the major protagonists confronted are another point of comparison. Events, people, and most importantly, spiritual beings all had an impact on both. Both the good and the evil spirits try to persuade him to join their cause in Dr.Faustus Following is a quotation from Faustus in which he argues which spirit to follow. "How conceited am I of this? Shall I command the spirits to bring me everything I desire, to clear up whatever doubts I may have, to carry out whatever dreadful task I set for them?" (Marlowe, 1905, Scene 1, Act 1). The wicked spirit, on the other hand, is victorious, seducing Faustus with promises of wealth, fame, and pleasure.
When a ghost, purporting to be Hamlet's father, urges him to murder for vengeance in Hamlet, Hamlet agrees. This ghost, professing to be in favour of justice, is encouraging Hamlet to murder Claudius. The next phrase shows Hamlet's desire to commune with the spirit, which he lets to affect him. "Speak to me if thou hast any sound, or if thou usest thy voice" (Shakespeare, 1909, Act 1, Scene 1). More many often, Hamlet's father's ghost approaches, pleading, "So art thou to revenge" (Shakespeare, 1909 Act 1, Scene 1). As Hamlet's father, the spirit had a strong emotional hold on him, making it simple for him to follow in its footsteps.
The sad end of each character is the ultimate point of comparison. After 24 years on Earth, Dr. Faustus makes a bargain with the devil, trading his immortal soul in exchange for his life. Faustus was well aware of his doom from the minute he struck the pact. "Ah Faustus, now hast thou just one bare hour to live, and thereafter thou shall be doomed eternally" was the message he was given (Marlowe, 2001, 5.2 140-143). However, he was aware of the time and manner in which he would die, and he decided to accept it. Finally realising his mistake, Faust is sentenced to hell despite his pleadings for forgiveness. It's too late for him to be saved. "My God, My God!" he screams. Please, don't look so ferocious on me! Please, adders and serpents, give me a break! Gape not at the ugliness of Hell! Lucifer, I beg of you, come not! Burn my books! — Oh, Mephostophilis!" Marlowe, 5.3 194-197
Following his murderous deed, Hamlet suffers from remorse and sees himself as deserving of death. "Not a whit, we defy augury," Hamlet declares as he gets ready to battle Laertes. When a sparrow falls to the ground, there is a specific kind of providence. If it's not here today, it won't be here any time soon. Regardless of when it happens, all that matters is that you're ready. What's the point of leaving bedtimes if no one knows what they're doing? Say "Let it be" (Shakespeare, 1998, 5.2 220-225). Hamlet dies after fulfilling his mission and murdering Claudius.
We have seen how Marlowe and Shakespeare employed the concept of good vs. evil, and how it helps us make moral judgments, and how those decisions might lead to our own personal downfall, in this article. The point of view of Dr. Faustus may be seen when he reveals to us his interpretation of several biblical verses. "Death is the penalty for sin?" he asks. In order for us to be honest, we must admit to ourselves that we have sinned and that we are deceiving ourselves. Therefore, we must sin and die as a result, just as they did (Marlowe, 2001, 1.1 38-43). Because everyone will eventually die, Marlowe may have been implying that it doesn't matter whether you choose good or evil in any given scenario. Faustus was given the choice between good and evil spirits, but he picked the latter. When Hamlets father's ghost challenged him to a duel, he had a legitimate reason to seek vengeance. To be sure, Hamlet could not feel good about wanting vengeance, even if it seemed like an honourable goal. The moral issues he encountered as a result of this led to his collapse. A less prevalent topic in the battle between good and evil is illustrated in these two masterpieces of literature: good doesn't always win.
Marlowe, C. (2001). Doctor Faustus (REV ed.). New York: Signet Classic
Shakespeare, W. (1998). Hamlet (REV ed.). New York: Signet Classic
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