My latest “Masterpiece” column in the Wall Street Journal is on “Doctor Faustus,” by Christopher Marlowe:
The central event of “Doctor Faustus” is well known: a deal with the devil. In this first “Faustian bargain,” the title character sells his soul in exchange for living his next 24 years “in all voluptuousness.” This is the opposite of deferred gratification. It’s deferred damnation, and Marlowe’s play about power, knowledge and fate fueled a narrative tradition that runs through Milton’s Satan and Goethe’s “Faust” to “The Screwtape Letters” by C.S. Lewis and “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” by the Charlie Daniels Band.