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The major theme of Doctor Faustus is the pride which goes before a fall. Faustus’ sin is not his practice of necromancy, but his denial of God’s power and majesty. His pride is the source of his damnation. All the other sins committed by him are various aspects of the sin of pride. Even his despair in the last scene of the play is another aspect of his pride because it prevents him from asking for God’s forgiveness. Faustus’ despair denies God’s mercy.
One of the play’s minor Themes is Faustus’ quest for knowledge. He examines all the orthodox branches of knowledge and finds them wanting. He chooses magic, for it promises “a world of profit and delight, /Of power, of honor, of omnipotence.” For twenty- four years, he seeks experience of all kinds. However, finally, his knowledge brings him despair instead of freedom.
Another minor theme of the play is the quest for power. Faustus’ power exists more in his imagination than in fact. When he performs magic, the audience gets the impression that he is a practical joker or a court entertainer. It is true that he plays pranks on the Pope, produces the spirits of Alexander, his paramour, Darius and Helen of Troy. It is also true that he produces grapes out of season for a pregnant duchess. All these performances are far removed from his first confident assertion that “a sound magician is a demi-god.” Faustus’ power is illusory, since at each stage he depends upon Mephistophilis.
The predominant mood of the whole play is somber tragedy, in which the protagonist chooses to be on the side of the devil and to embrace the evil generated by the devil. Faustus’ practice of black magic is “more than heavenly power permits” and brings about his “hellish fall.” Throughout the play there are comic interludes that provide a temporary mood of levity.