Guenther, Genevieve. "Why Devils Came When Faustus Called Them." Modern Philology 109.1 (2011): 46-70. Academic Search Premier. EBSCOhost. Web. 15 Nov. 2012.
This article discusses the beliefs that Christopher Marlowe's famous play, Doctor Faustus, had the power to conjure actual devils upon the stage during its performances. It cites two separate theories about such unholy powers and explains their contextual logic, detailing why one might be lead to believe such an idea. The article explains that within the context of the society in which the play was performed, the current theological doctrine proclaimed the beliefs that otherworldly conjurations of devils and uses of magic, even if performed upon the stage in the context of a play, had the power to unleash evil into the world. Theologians of the day preached a belief that audience members were in danger of damning themselves and endangering their chances of salvation if they allowed themselves to enjoy the play or if they even were present during the performances. Salvation was the ultimate goal for Protestants, as their daily lives were spent working toward it and praying that they would achieve it in years to come. Life on earth was fr the purpose of serving God and doing His will, and participating in any activity that was against Church doctrine, such as magic and rendezvous with devils, were deadly damning sins. Arguably, due to Christopher Marlowe's Cambridge education and theological experience, he knew that such conjurations and displays of magic were controversial and would cause protestant anxiety; therefore, he was quite the rebel of his day, whether he was an atheist or a man of faith.
Smith, Warren D. "The Nature of Evil in "Doctor Faustus"" Modern Humanities Research Association 60.2 (1965): 171-75. JSTOR. Web.
This article looks mainly at the frivolity of Faust's actions in his 24-years. It posits that Faust's actions suggest that sin is trivial, that Faust's illusions of grandeur about all the things he'll be able to do with this power reveal that the act of sinning is never as weighty, or important, or fun as we think it might be.
The author responds to suggestions of others that the middle part of Faust, especially parts that involve the silly pranks he plays on people, weren't actually written by Marlowe. That they so starkly contrast the beautiful rhetoric and poetry and the weight of the ideas in the beginning and end of the play, that they must be written by a different author. Smith, however, posits that Marlowe's point is that sin is petty in nature. That the act of sinning should be in stark contrast to the heavy theological questions implied at the beginning and end.
The author also suggests that the smallness of scope of the 7 deadly sins is central to the play. That the parade of the sins reveals their small desires, and then Faust manifests this smallness throughout the play, expressing each of the sins in 24-year journey. And it is through this journey as well that Faust learns the smallness strength that the power provided by a pact with the devil allows, and that it is perhaps at this realization that Faust chooses to repent. All this, Smith argues, serves to suggest that the middle part of Faust is an important and purposeful representation of Marlowe's ideas about sin.