Faust, as the ur-example of this scenario really had no predecessors to look to, but this is so obvious to those of us who came after that it really must be said. Selling your eternal soul to the Devil? IT'S. A. DUMB. IDEA!
Isn't the point of the play showing how dumb it is?
Agreed. It is worth noting, however, that at least acxording to the Marlowe play, Devils don't actually have the power to sign binding contracts with mortals. In other words, if Faust had ever repented, he would have gotten into Heaven contract or no. In other words, the whole soul contract thing is basically an Evil Plan on Mephistopheles' part (one which failed, in the end).
Well, actually, there were precedents for Faust to look back to, such as Cyprian the magician of Carthage, who sold himself to the devil to obtain the love of St. Justina, and Theophilus the Archdeacon of Adana, who sold himself to the devil to gain a high position. In both cases they repented and were saved; and as Dorothy L. Sayers, I think, points out, there is probably always some reservation in the mind of the magician that he will somehow cheat the devil of his due when the time comes. In practical terms that scarcely works out, however, because, as Marlowe implies, the more one puts off repentance, the less capable of any real repentance one becomes. Faustus is terrified, yes, but not truly repentant; he goes on trying to placate Lucifer and Mephistopheles to the very end. As to the stupidity of giving up eternal happiness for a few years of earthly delights — well, yes, but isn't that what we ALL do to some extent?
The difference being that most of us don't have direct, irrefutable evidence for Judeo-Christian cosmology, and those that do claim to have such evidence generally don't bat for Team Red.
In many versions, there's an element of Rage Against the Heavens in Faust's motivation. In Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's version, Mephistopheles got Faust's soul only if Faust ever ceased to aspire; Faust probably figured he could win that bet (and in the end he did, sort of).
This Troper, who lives in Germany, has recently finished an in-depth analysis of Goethe's Faust at school. The school curriculum interpretation of him is this: He's despairing because after a lifetime of studying various sciences in search of the answer to Life, The Universe and Everything he feels he's accomplished nothing but discovering how useless the search for enlightenment is and wasting his life and youth on a fruitless pursuit. Now he just wants his youth back, complete with pursuit of cheap satisfaction in women, gambling, et cetera.
I´m not sure about that, seeing as he never seems to enjoy the cheap satisfaction Mephisto has to offer (most prominent in the scene "Auerbachs Keller"), our teacher thinks that in his desperation he believed that ONE moment of true happiness was worth the eternal damnation, but I am actually more in line with the troper above you.
The first legends of Faust who made a pact with a devil were actually made to show Christians why it's a bad idea. And to entertain with their shenanigans. Other versions like Marlowe or Goethe refer the legend but they don't exactly copy the morals anymore.
Why this version of the story was ever considered a good example of don't make a deal with the Devil. If anyone's willing to sell their eternal soul, they're probably pretty desperate; boredom isn't generally matched with desperate. It's like the Viewers Are Morons edition. After all in Real Life poor people are the ones more likely to be victims of loan sharks.