Both Dr Faustus and the pardoner share an obsessive greed. For Faustus we are fascinated by his greed to rival God in terms of power and knowledge, but repelled by his methods in which to pursue this, which leads him to sell his soul to the devil. Why would one go to such lengths to have his “most desires[… ]of power, of honour, of omnipotence”, it is this fact that repels us from Faustus as his methods are immoral.
But we are fascinated by the disastrous effects it has upon Faustus, inevitably leading him to Hell, moreover, within the 24 years that he had to fulfil his desires, he doesn’t do the extravagant things he claimed he was going to do such as to “fill the public schools with silk” or “ransack the ocean for orient pearl”, highlighting that pursuing greed inevitably leads to a person’s demise.
The same can be said in the Pardoner’s tale, in which three peasants find an old man who they mistake for death in which he leads them to a true where they find gold.
There obsession can be easily connected to human nature which undermines our fascination to their situation, because it could happen to anyone. It’s common to want to be superior in wealth to others, competition drives advancements, so in that respect, we are not fascinated by the Pardoner’s tale. Another viewpoint would be that we are fascinated by the Pardoner’s tale because we can easily connect to it, the same being for Faustus.
Furthermore, the Pardoner himself is a fascinating character because of his blatant contradiction.
He openly tells the pilgrims that he sells “relikes” made of “cloutes and of bones”, rags and bones in which he deceives people to buy them. But the message of the tale is that the obsession of money leads to death, however the pardoner openly admits his obsession of money. Faustus is obsessed with knowledge. He would stop at nothing to gain all the knowledge in the world which is why he becomes depressed when Mephastophilis only presents him with one book which has the answers to his questions, “O thou art deceived”. Because Faustus is so fixated on acquiring all the knowledge there is to know, he doesn’t expect it to be all in one book.
This repels us from Faustus because to acquire this knowledge he goes to extreme lengths, in this instance, selling his soul to the devil for 24 years. When the story was first published in 1604, the audience would of definiately been repelled by this because selling ones soul to the devil would be of been a serious sin. Modern interpretations would be more liberal to the fact that Faustus sells his soul, but in a country where around 80% are Christian, a modern day audience would still be repelled and deem it immoral to go to such extreme lengths.
What fascinates us about Faustus is his greed to rival that of God, not the methods he does to acquire this, but the fact that he has this desire. He openly challenges God, yet openly praises God and heaven, “when I behold the heavens, then I repent[.. ]thou hast deprived me of those joys”. There is a constant battle with Faustus between his obsession with power and his religious beliefs. He wants to “go forward” in terms of knowledge but to an extent where he becomes isolated from God because he is so driven by his obsession.
Christopher Marlowe highlights that following greed will inevitably lead to downfall and Faustus’s downfall was being too obsessed with power and knowledge which lead him to sell his soul in desperation for this. Also, for the 24 years that he had before his soul would be taken he could have fulfilled his desires, instead performing petty illusions for the emperor calling him “my gracious lord”, highlighting that even with immense power he still follows the social rules of life.
Which in effect show the limits of man, as with so much power, Faustus is still limited to the restrictions of his mind. Also, being obsessed with greed will lead ultimately lead to failure, Faustus is blinded by short term gains, not taking into account long term implications, “do give both body and soul to Lucifer”, he sells his soul to the devil which is for eternity, not realising this, only to please himself for 24 years. The same can be said in the Pardoner’s tale, in which the peasants become obsessed with money when “they founde of florins fine of gold”.
Earlier in the Pardoner’s tale, the Pardoner states that “Radix malorum est Cupiditas” – Love of money is the root of all evil. Foreshadowing grave consequences for the peasants who find the gold, in which their obsession for the gold leads them to kill eachother off, even forgetting their oath of becoming brother, “and ech of us bicomen others brother”. When blinded by greed, the three peasants only think about themselves, which highlights the damaging effects of an obsession for wealth.
It’s our basic instinct to want to be better than others and the peasants are exhibiting this behaviour. Because it’s common for people to want to be wealthier than others, the message is not unique which undermines our fascination with the story. However the person telling the story is fascinating because he openly contradicts himself, he proudly tells of his schemes to exploit poor people’s fears for money which evidently works as he makes “an hundred mark”.
Why he tells of his exploitative ways is fascinating, because he openly tells the other pilgrims without fear, but as seen, the bartender finds his methods bitter, “thou woldest make me kisse thyn olde breech, and swere it were a relik of a seint”, the host points out that the Pardoner would sell his old underpants and claim it to be a relic which is why we’re repelled by the Pardoner because his methods of acquiring such wealth is deemed wrong, even as a modern interpretation.