Clocks: Telling Time in Doctor Faustus Aaron Junkin
Time never stops, not even for a second. Hours, minutes, and seconds tick away with no end. Clocks are objects used to show time. Doctor Faustus is far too familiar with this concept, as it was his ultimate downfall. In Doctor Faustus, Doctor Faustus makes a deal with the devil to gain riches, power, fame, and supernatural abilities. In return, the devil would come after twenty-four years and take his soul. The clock is crucial to this play because it guides Faustus all the way to his doom.
The clock itself appears in the last scene, moments before Faustus is dragged into hell. Faustus almost appears to be having a conversation with the clock as he reflects on his time in the dark arts. Faustus’ only interaction with the clock itself comes in this final scene. Most of the middle portion of the play consists of Faustus causing mischief with Mephistopheles the demon right by his side, living only in the moment. Never once in the middle acts does he consider how much time he has left. Faustus probably did not want to think about the negative “side effects” that resulted in his deal and chose to focus on the positives. When the day finally comes twenty-four years after the deal, suddenly Faustus pays quite a bit of attention to the clock. His time on Earth is about to end. Faustus pleads for his life as he watches the seconds tick away, precious seconds he wishes he could take back. He complains out loud about his poor situation; he sounds like he’s asking for sympathy from the clock: "O Faustus, now hast thou but one bare hour to live/And then thou must be damned perpetually.” (120). Faustus is almost reasoning with the clock as he asks for one more chance: “My limbs may issue from your smoky mouths; But let my soul mount and ascend to heaven! [The clock strikes the half-hour.] O, half the hour is past! ‘Twill all be past anon.”(120). Faustus begs to go to heaven rather than hell and appears as if he’s asking the clock itself for salvation. He curses the devil to whom he made a deal with: “No, Faustus, curse thyself; curse Lucifer, That hath deprived thee of the joys of heaven. [The clock strikes twelve.] It strikes, it strikes! Now, body, turn to air, Or Lucifer will bear thee quick to hell” (121). Time is the essential driving force behind the play. As soon as Faustus makes the deal, the reader knows his supernatural abilities will spell out his doom. The rest of the play builds up to the ending when Lucifer comes out from hell to drag Faustus down. The clock serves as an outlet for timing, showing Faustus when he’ll die. Time is a concept, and that concept is presented in the form of a clock. Without the clock, Faustus would have no idea how long twenty-four years would take and his death would surprise him. As soon as Faustus pens his signature the rest of Doctor Faustus is one big build-up to his death, and the clock lays the foundation for his climactic death. The importance of the clock in Doctor Faustus rings loud and clear.