Both plays present negative attitudes towards hell and purgatory. When Hamlet meets the ghost, he is shocked by the tales that the ghost tells him about the "most horrible" "prison house" that is hell. Hamlet pities the "poor ghost" who has to experience "sulph'rous and tormenting flames". In Doctor Faustus, hell is viewed negatively: it is described as "ugly hell" with "adders and serpents" coming to plague Faustus and the devil is horrifying, threatening "to tear [him] in pieces". Both protagonists personify hell, suggesting its threatening nature: Hamlet refers to it directly as "rebellious hell" and Faustus describes its "roaring voice". Mephistopheles tells Faustus that hell is a mental state because when we sin we reject god and are "deprived of everlasting bliss". Hamlet similarly tells Gertrude that hell is within her as it "canst mutine in a matron's bones", suggesting that it runs riot in her body. When Faustus starts to sign the deed of gift to Mephistopheles his "blood congeals" , his body reacting physically as a warning against giving up his soul and suffering eternal punishment.
Both plays show that people's actions determine whether they go to heaven or hell. Hamlet uses the metaphor of an "audit" to suggest that we have an account which will prove to God whether we deserve a place in heaven. Hamlet believes that at any time one can repent and therefore ensure salvation. He tells his mother that she can "either [lodge] or throw the devil out". and he states that "the readiness is all", explaining that being prepared for death makes it bearable unlike his father who was "full of bread" illustrating that he did not have time to repent his sins. Hamlet knows that if he does carry out the revenge killing of Claudius that he could be damned. From the beginning of the play, Faustus believes that he is damned and will be punished in hell whatever he does. Faustus misinterprets scriptures so that he can prove himself right about the injustice of God. He says that "the wages of death is sin" but leaves out the rest of the passage which says that "the gift of God is eternal life, though Jesus Christ our Lord". By doing this Faustus is deliberately tricking himself into believing he is in a situation which he is not actually in. He tries to make it seem as if his pact with the devil is logical because he is already damned, when in fact it is simply the lust for sensual pleasures and divine knowledge. The idea that Faustus is already damned relates to a controversial doctrine by John Calvin, circulating at the time, which suggested that we are damned or saved from birth and nothing we do can change this. The same doctrine also comments that if anybody pries into the secrets of God, as Faustus does, then he will neither find his answer nor find salvation. Faustus is told to by the good angel and the Old Man that he can repent but his "heart's so harden'd" and so he cannot bring himself to seek forgiveness. One of the most shocking and disheartening things for Faustus is that God does not appear during the whole of the play; in contrast Lucifer actively meets Faustus and convinces him not to repent. This neglect from God, perhaps explaining Faustus' choice to turn against him, a decision which could reflect Marlowe's supposed atheism.
Suicide is seen as possible alternative to the pains of life. Hamlet considers suicide as an option to end the suffering that he is experiencing. He contemplates whether it is "nobler in the mind to suffer" or "end them" by "tak[ing] arms against a sea of troubles", the metaphor suggesting that life's problems are vast and that trying to fight them during life is futile, Hamlet likens death as it provides a welcome rest from "weary" life. Faustus also considers whether he should kill himself, he describes how "poison, guns, halters and envenomed steel" could end his inner torment. However Hamlet fears death and the consequences in the afterlife too much to kill himself. He wishes that "the Everlasting had not fix'd his canon 'gainst self slaughter" acknowledge that suicide is a sin and one that you cannot repent for. Hamlet is worried what will happen in the afterlife, "an undiscovered country" which we know nothing about, he comments " to sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there's the rub" addressing his dismay at the potential horrors of the afterlife and so he decides to "bear those ills we have" . Faustus also chooses not to commit suicide because "sweet pleasure conquered deep despair": he loves the sensual pleasures so much that he can't kill himself.
Hamlet begins to accept the inevitability of his death and the role of the revenge hero. He knows that "all that lives must die", the imperative illustrating the certainty that he will have to die at some point; he proclaims "let it be" as he now accepts death. Hamlet realises that death is the great leveller as " Your fat king and you lean beggar is but variable service- two dishes, but to one table" highlighting that death equals us and happens to us all, forcing Hamlet to confront his own mortality. He has the view that "if it be now, 'tis not to come; if it be not to come, it will be now; if it be not now, yet it will come" the balanced sentence highlighting Hamlet's measured and understanding view of death. Laertes tells Hamlet that "the devil [will] take [his] soul", but Hamlet keeps faith and believes that "there's a divinity that shapes our ends".
However in contrast Faustus finally acknowledges his hellish future and so becomes terrified of dying. A part of Faustus' contract allows him to choose the date of his death and the inevitability causes him even greater despair . Faustus refuses to go easily to his death, he instead will have to be "fetched" by the devil. He is in deep despair, frantically worrying about the consequences of his deal and his fragmented speech indicates his distressed mental state. Faustus tries to delay his death in his final soliloquy, yet the pace and rhythm created by his monosyllabic words and repetition ironically hurry his death along.
The chiming of the clock heightens the drama and is a stark reminder of that time cannot be stopped and the unstoppable nature of death. Similarly, when Hamlet is dying, he refers to death as a "sergeant" who is "strict in his arrest". The metaphor highlighting that death holds authority and it cannot be stopped.
Both protagonists' attitudes towards death and the afterlife remarkably change during the plays. Hamlet starts off with a fear of the unknown afterlife but becomes far more accepting of death and the role that he will have to partake in order to exact revenge which could lead to his damnation. Faustus initially does not care about the terrors of hell and so makes a pact with the devil. However due to the surrender of his soul, Faustus later begins to greatly fear the horrors that await him after his death. The two plays are centred around deaths and the two characters obsession with it.