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That Which Man Was Not Meant To Know

A thought on Faust.
19th-century Faust image from Wikipedia

I believe that, after 500 years, the ending of Faust (Dr. Faustus made a pact with the Devil; he enjoyed the fruits of it; and eventually, the Devil carted him off to Hell)–is just not a spoiler anymore.

But as one of the most moving and iconic plays about Good and Evil in Western tradition (Wikipedia notes, “The powerful effect of early productions of the play is indicated by the legends that quickly accrued around them—that actual devils once appeared on the stage during a performance”) – it’s worth examining. We tend to keep our blog posts brief, so I’d like to just give you a thought:

From Faust, to Frankenstein, to Skynet, we have the persistent legend that one of the great sins of being human, part of its basic doom, is trying to know too much, to understand too much of the world around us.

We haven’t lost that idea. We still tend to credit villains with being creators, discoverers, makers of things never previously made, breakers of some kind of laws, defiers of, not just authority, but the limits of human knowledge.

We are, not surprisingly, with Team Villain on this one. Dare to question. Dare to learn. Dare to know. And do not be afraid of your knowledge.

Marlow wrote:

Cut is the branch that might have grown full straight,
     And burned is Apollo's laurel-bough,
     That sometime grew within this learned man.
     Faustus is gone:  regard his hellish fall,
     Whose fiendful fortune may exhort the wise,
     Only to wonder at unlawful things,
     Whose deepness doth entice such forward wits
     To practice more than heavenly power permits.

We prefer Browning:

“Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp,
Or what’s a heaven for?”

-Jeff Mach

What do you think?

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Clare Urbanski

Why Be The Villain?