doctor faustus

Title: doctor faustus
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^^^^^^^^^^ CHRISTOPHER MARLOWE: THE AUTHOR AND HIS TIMES If you met Christopher Marlowe, you might not like him. But you would probably be fascinated by him. Marlowe was a fiery genius whose brief career resembled the trail of a meteor across the night sky. Marlowe was not just a writer. A hot-headed swordsman, he was arrested twice for street fighting and spent some weeks in prison for his role in a fatal duel. He was also a spy, involved in a dangerous, though not fully understood, ring of secret agents. At one extreme, Marlowe was a social climber who hobnobbed with the rich and powerful of his day. He was friend to Sir Francis Walsingham, head of the government's secret service. And he knew Sir Walter Raleigh, Queen Elizabeth's favorite at court. At the other extreme, Marlowe had a taste for London low life. He haunted the taverns till dawn in the company of thieves and confidence men. Marlowe combined a thirst for adventure with wildly speculative opinions. In Elizabethan times, when church attendance was strictly enforced by law, Marlowe was an atheist. Like Faustus, he scoffed openly at established beliefs. He called the biblical Moses "a juggler," or second-rate magician, and referred to Christ as a not-so-pious fraud. Not surprisingly, when Marlowe died at 29--stabbed through the eye in a tavern brawl--many people saw in his fate the hand of an angry God. But let's start at the beginning. Marlowe was born in 1564, two months before William Shakespeare, in the cathedral town of Canterbury. He was a shoemaker's son and, in the normal course of events, would have taken up his father's trade. Destiny intervened, however, in the form of a college scholarship. In the sixteenth century, even more than in the present day, college was a way out of a laborer's life. It opened up the path of advancement, presumably within the church. Today, we think of education as a universal right. But in those days, it was a privilege. The ability to read--which meant the ability to read Latin--was still a rare accomplishment. In fact, under English common law, any man who could read was considered a priest and could claim, if arrested, a right called "benefit of clergy." That meant, if you killed a man and could read, you might go free with a warning. But if you killed a man and couldn't read, you were sure to swing from the gallows. In the sixteenth century, as you will see in Doctor Faustus, there was still something magical about books and people who could read them. That's why, when Marlowe was offered a scholarship by the Archbishop of Canterbury, he probably jumped at the chance. In 1581 the promising youth left home to attend Cambridge University. Cambridge fed Marlowe's hungry mind, even while it vexed his spirit. The university library was one of the world's finest. Good books were still scarce and expensive. The shoemaker's household would have had its Bible and some collections of sermons. But the Cambridge library shelves were lined with leather-bound classics, those works of ancient Greece and Rome that the Renaissance found so illuminating. Aristotle's studies of Nature, Homer's magnificent epics, the Roman poet Ovid's frank celebrations of love--they were all there, and Marlowe read them avidly along with maps that showed him the exotic places of the world. The books and the library were part of the luxury offered by Cambridge. But there was an oppressive side, too, to university life. Cambridge in those years was a training ground for the ministry, its graduates destined to be clergymen or schoolmasters. Piety and sobriety were the virtues promoted in its cold stone halls. Cambridge scholars slept in communal dormitories, took their bread at the buttery (a sort of feudal cafeteria), and wore, by regulation, simple wool caps and gowns. Innocent pastimes like swimming were forbidden and subject to severe punishment. In short, despite occasional high-jinks, the lives of the students were not so different from those of medieval monks. There was a basic contradiction in all this, a contradiction that lies at the heart of Doctor Faustus. The classics which these young men were reading beckoned them toward the world and the pleasures of the senses. But to stay at Cambridge and to study these books, the young men had to appear to be devout ministers-in-training. As Faustus puts it, they were "divines in show." A whole generation broke under the strain. They fled the Cambridge cloister and descended on London to earn a precarious living by writing. These were the so-called University Wits. And Marlowe would soon join them, for he, too, was in rebellion against the religious demands of Cambridge. While studying for his master's degree, Marlowe wrote plays in secret (plays were viewed as the devil's work by the church), and he became involved in some colorful espionage activities. In a flagrant breach of the rules, Marlowe stayed absent for months at a time, traveling on the Continent on some deep business of the Privy Council's. (The Privy Council was a body of advisors to the queen, a sort of unofficial Cabinet.) The Cambridge authorities moved to expel Marlowe, but a grateful government intervened. The university dons, their arms gently twisted by the Privy Council, awarded Marlowe the highly respected Master of Arts degree in 1587. With two university degrees (a bachelor's and a master's) under his belt, the shoemaker's son was entitled to style himself Christopher Marlowe, gentleman. No small matter in class-conscious England, then or now. His studies behind him, Marlowe left for London, where he joined the circle of bright and ambitious university renegades: Thomas Nashe, John Lyly, Robert Greene. Marlowe and the rest headed for the theater with a sense of exhilaration. In London of the 1580s, the drama was just springing to life. The first theaters were being built--the Curtain, the Rose--legitimate places for plays that had previously been performed in innyards. The first acting companies were being formed--the Lord Admiral's Men, the Lord Chamberlain's Men--as the players, frowned upon by the church, sought the service and protection of the great lords. Marlowe, an innovator, thrived in this stimulating environment. He threw himself into the new theater with enthusiasm. He took lodgings in Shoreditch, the theatrical district on the outskirts of town, and roomed for a while with Thomas Kyd, the author of the popular Spanish Tragedy. Marlowe worked for the hard-headed theater owner, Philip Henslowe, and wrote plays for the Lord Admiral's Men and their great star, Edward Alleyn. In the process, Marlowe's fertile brain and fiery spirit helped give shape and form to what we now call Elizabethan drama. The main gift Marlowe gave to the theater was its language. As you probably know from your study of Shakespeare, Elizabethan playwrights wrote in blank verse or iambic pentameter. (Iambic pentameter meant that the verse line had five feet, each composed of a weak and a strong syllable.) Marlowe didn't invent blank verse, but he took a form that had been stilted and dull and he breathed fresh life and energy into it. It was Marlowe who made blank verse a supple and expressive dramatic instrument. When Marlowe arrived in London, he took the theatrical world by storm. He was new to the stage, but within months, he was its master. He was admired, imitated, and envied, as only the wildly successful can be. His first play was Tamburlaine (1587), the tale of a Scythian shepherd who took to the sword and carved out a vast empire. Audiences held their breath as Tamburlaine rolled across stage in a chariot drawn by kings he had beaten in battle. Tamburlaine cracked his whip and cried, "Hola, ye pampered jades of Asia!" (Jades meant both worn-out horses and luxury-satiated monarchs.) This was electrifying stuff which packed the theaters and made ruthless conquerors the rage of London. Marlowe had a terrific box-office sense, and he kept on writing hits as fast as his company could stage them. In 1588 came Tamburlaine II and then, probably in 1591, The Jew of Malta, the story of a merchant as greedy for riches as Tamburlaine was for crowns. Gold wasn't good enough for the Jew of Malta. That merchant longed for priceless gems and unimaginable wealth. No warrior, the Jew of Malta's weapons in his battle with life were policy and guile. He set a new style in dramatic characters, the Machiavellian villain. (These villains were named for Nicholas Machiavelli, the Italian author of a cynical guide for princes.) Faustus was either Marlowe's second or last tragic hero. Some scholars believe Doctor Faustus was written in 1590, before The Jew of Malta. Others date the play from 1592, the last year of Marlowe's life. In either case, Faustus completed the circle of heroes with superhuman aspirations. Where Tamburlaine sought endless rule, and the Jew of Malta fabulous wealth, Faustus pursued limitless knowledge. Like Tamburlaine, Faustus had a powerful impact on Elizabethan theatergoers. For audiences who flocked to see him, Marlowe's black magician combined the incredible powers of Merlin with the spine-chilling evil of Dracula. We know the thrill of horror that swept through spectators of Doctor Faustus since there are records of performances called to a halt, when the startled citizens of London thought they saw a real devil on stage. Marlowe's tragic heroes share a sense of high destiny, an exuberant optimism, and a fierce unscrupulousness in gaining their ends. They've been called "overreachers" because of their refusal to accept human limitations. Humbly born, all of Marlowe's tragic heroes climb to lofty heights before they die or are humbled by the Wheel of Fortune. Did Marlowe share the vaulting ambitions of his characters, their lust for power, riches, and knowledge? In dealing with a dramatist who wears a mask, it's always dangerous to make assumptions. But the slim facts and plentiful rumors that survive about Marlowe suggest a fire-eating rebel who was not about to let tradition stand in his way. All his life, Marlowe thumbed his nose at convention. Expected to be first a cobbler, then a clergyman, he defied expectations and chose instead the glamorous world of the theater. Lacking wealth and a title--the passports to high society--he nevertheless moved in brilliant, aristocratic circles. In the shedding of humble origins, in the upward thrust of his life, Marlowe was very much a Renaissance man. Free of the restraints of Cambridge, Marlowe emerged in London as a religious subversive. There are hints of forbidden pleasures ("All that love not tobacco and boys were fools," he quipped) and more than hints of iconoclasm. Marlowe is said to have joined a circle of free-thinkers known as the School of Night. This group, which revolved around Sir Walter Raleigh, indulged in indiscreet philosophic discussion and allegedly in blasphemies concerning the name of God. Marlowe was blasted from the pulpit, and eventually his unorthodoxy landed him in trouble with the secular authorities. In 1593 he was summoned before the Privy Council, presumably on charges of atheism. (In Elizabethan times, atheism was a state offense with treasonous overtones.) Though Marlowe's death forestalled the inquiry, the furor was just beginning. Two days after Marlowe was killed, an informer named Richard Baines submitted to the authorities a document concerning Marlowe's "damnable judgment of religion." Baines attributed eighteen statements to Marlowe, some attacking Jesus, others the Bible and the church. A sample comment of Marlowe's was that "if the Jews, among whom Christ was born, crucified him, they knew him best." By implication, they knew what he deserved. The document ends with Baines' charge that Marlowe failed to keep his outrageous opinions to himself, touting them all over London. In addition, Marlowe's sometime roommate, Thomas Kyd, who was also arrested and tortured, accused Marlowe of having written atheistic tracts that were found in Kyd's possession, when his house was searched. The evidence against Marlowe is suspect or hearsay. But with so much smoke, there may have been fire. Some scholars think that Marlowe leapt at the Faustus story because it gave him a chance to vent his godless beliefs under cover of a play with a safe moral ending. Yet other scholars point to the damnation of Faustus as evidence that Marlowe was moving away from atheism--indeed, that he was moving toward Christianity, even though he never quite arrived there. Was Marlowe beginning to be frightened by his audacity? Was he mellowing with the approach of middle age? Or was God-defiance and a youthful faith in glorious human possibility simply his life-long credo? These questions have no answers, for Marlowe's life and writing career were cut short in May 1593. After spending a day closeted with secret agents in a Deptford tavern, Marlowe quarreled with one of them--Ingram Friser--over the bill. Marlowe pulled out a dagger and hit Friser over the head with its flat end. In the ensuing scuffle, Friser got hold of the dagger and thrust its point deep into Marlowe's eye. The playwright died of brain injuries three days later, "died swearing" according to the gratified London preachers. We can only speculate as to what heights Marlowe might have climbed as a dramatist, had he lived. He spent six astonishingly productive years in London. Had Shakespeare, his contemporary, died at the same age, he would have written very few of the plays for which he is loved today. ^^^^^^^^^^ DOCTOR FAUSTUS: THE PLOT If you are interested in the world of the occult, you'll like this play. Doctor Faustus is a drama about a famous scholar who sells his soul to the devil in exchange for magical powers. It is a play which has come down to us over the centuries in two different versions (see the beginning of the section on The Story). Events found in the 1616 text, but missing from the 1604, are marked here with an asterisk (*). In Doctor Faustus, as in many Elizabethan plays, the main plot centers on the tragic hero, while a subplot offers comic relief. Dr. John Faustus, the renowned scholar of Wittenberg, has closeted himself in his study to decide his future career. Law, medicine, theology--he has mastered them all. And he finds them all dissatisfying. Faustus wants a career to match the scope of his ambition, a subject to challenge his enormous intellect. So he turns to necromancy, or black magic, which seems to offer him godlike powers. He knows, however, that it involves forbidden traffic with demons. Faustus summons Valdes and Cornelius, two accomplished magicians, to instruct him in the art of conjuring. That night, in the midst of a crashing thunderstorm, Faustus raises up the demon spirit, Mephistophilis. Faustus proposes a bargain. He will give his immortal soul to the devil in exchange for twenty-four years of magic and merry-making. Mephistophilis procrastinates. Reconsider, he advises Faustus. You really don't know what you are getting into. Besides, Mephistophilis does not have the power to conclude such an agreement. He is only a servant to Lucifer, the prince of hell. Faustus orders him to speak with Lucifer, so Mephistophilis quickly flies off to the nether regions. While waiting for the spirit to return, Faustus has second thoughts. Is it too late to pull back from the abyss? Never too late, counsels the Good Angel, who suddenly appears before Faustus' eyes. Too late, whispers the Evil Angel, who advises Faustus to think of fame and wealth. Wealth! The very word makes Faustus catch fire. Hesitation flies out the window as Mephistophilis flies in with Lucifer's reply. The prince of hell will grant Faustus' wish, provided that Faustus sign over his soul in a deed of gift. Lucifer wants a contract to make sure he isn't cheated. The contract must be written in Faustus' own blood. In compliance with Lucifer's demand, Faustus stabs his arm, only to find that his blood has mysteriously frozen in his veins. Mephistophilis comes running with hot coals to warm Faustus' blood, and it starts flowing again. The contract is completed, and the moment of crisis past. Mephistophilis provides a show to divert Faustus' thoughts. He calls for devils who enter with a crown and royal robes. They dance around Faustus, delighting him with the thought that he can summon such spirits at any time. Now that the bargain is sealed, Faustus is eager to satisfy his passionate curiosity and appetites. He wants answers to questions that surge in his brain about the stars and the heavenly spheres. He also wants a wife to share his bed. Faustus' demands are met in typically hellish fashion. Mephistophilis' revelations about the stars turn out to be no more than elementary assumptions of medieval astronomy. And the wife provided Faustus by the spirit is a female demon who bursts onto the stage in a hot spray of fireworks. Faustus becomes wary. He suspects he has sold his soul for a cheap bag of tricks. The disillusioned scholar falls into bitterness and despair. He curses Mephistophilis and ponders suicide. Faustus makes a futile stab at repentance. He prays desperately to God, only to have Lucifer appear before him. As a confirmation of Faustus' bondage to hell, they watch a parade of the Seven Deadly Sins. Pride leads Avarice, Gluttony, and the rest, as each brandishes his own special weakness of the soul or flesh. Casting aside all further thoughts of repentance, Faustus gives himself up to the distractions that Mephistophilis puts in his way. Through travel and visits to foreign courts, Faustus seeks to enjoy himself in the time he has left on earth. Mephistophilis takes Faustus to Rome and to the private chambers of the Pope. The two become invisible and play practical jokes until a planned papal banquet breaks up in disarray. Then it's on to the German Emperor's court, where they entertain his majesty by raising the ghost of Alexander the Great. * At the Emperor's court, a skeptical knight voices his doubts about Faustus' magic powers. The magician takes revenge by making a pair of stag horns grow on the knight's head. Faustus follows this prank with another. He sells a crafty horse-dealer a demon horse which vanishes when it is ridden into water. In the meantime, Faustus' experiments with magic are being imitated by his household staff. Faustus' servant, Wagner, tries his own hand at conjuring by summoning two comic devils who force the clown, Robin, into Wagner's service. Not to be outdone, Robin steals one of Faustus' conjuring books. In his dimwitted way, he tries to puzzle out the spells. The real magic is that Robin's spell works! A weary Mephistophilis, summoned from Constantinople, rises up before the startled clown. In anger, the spirit turns Robin into an ape and his sidekick, Dick, into a dog. * The transformed clowns and the horse-dealer meet in a nearby tavern, where they swap stories about the injuries they have suffered at Faustus' hand. Tipsy with ale, they descend on the castle of Vanholt, where Faustus is busy entertaining the Duke and Duchess with his fabulous magic tricks. The magician produces for the pregnant Duchess an out-of-season delicacy she craves--wintertime grapes. * Faustus wins an easy victory over the rowdy crew from the tavern, striking each of them dumb in turn. He then returns to Wittenberg, in a more sober frame of mind, to keep his rendezvous with fate. Faustus' mind has turned toward death. He has made a will, leaving his estate to Wagner. Yet he still holds feverishly onto life. He drinks and feasts far into the night with the dissolute scholars of Wittenberg. And, in a last magnificent conjuring trick, he raises the shade (spirit) of the most beautiful woman in history, Helen of Troy. At the end of his career, poised between life and death, Faustus undergoes a last crisis of conscience. An Old Man appears to plead with Faustus to give up his magic art. God is merciful, the Old Man promises. He will yet pardon Faustus and fill his heart with grace. The magician hesitates, visibly moved by the Old Man's chastening words. But Mephistophilis is too quick for him. The spirit threatens Faustus with torture, if he reneges on his contract with Lucifer. At the same time, Mephistophilis promises to reward Faustus with Helen of Troy, if he keeps faith with hell. Faustus collapses under the pressure. He orders Mephistophilis to torture the Old Man. (Anyone, anyone but himself.) And he takes the insubstantial shade of Helen for his lover. In doing so, he is lost. The final hour approaches. As the minutes tick away, Faustus tries frantically to stop the clock. Give him one more month, one more week, one more day to repent, he cries. But the hours chime away. Midnight strikes. The devil arrives through billowing smoke and fire, and Faustus is led away to hell. * In the morning, the scholars of Wittenberg find Faustus' body. They deplore his evil fate, but honor him for his learning. For the black magician who might have been a light unto the world, they plan a stately funeral. ^^^^^^^^^^ DOCTOR FAUSTUS: FAUSTUS It is no accident that Faustus compares himself to a colossus (IV, VII). Marlowe's hero looms out of the play like some huge, jagged statue. There is far too much of him to take in at a glance. Make any simple statement about Faustus, and you'll find you are only talking about part of the man. Faustus lends himself less than most characters to easy generalization. Say, for instance, that Faustus is a scholar. Books are his trade, philosophy his strength. Yet what an unscholarly scholar he is! At times during the play, he kicks up his heels and romps about the stage just like a comedian who has never heard of philosophy in his life. Or say that Faustus is an atheist. He scoffs at religion and denies the existence of God. But, at one of the play's most dramatic moments, you see Faustus fall to his knees in a fervent prayer of contrition to Christ. Perhaps we should take our cue from such contradictory behavior and seek the key to Faustus in contradiction. Clearly he's a man of many inner conflicts. Here are three for you to think about: 1. Some people sense an age-old conflict in Faustus between his body and his mind. To these readers, Faustus is a noble intellect, destroyed by his grosser appetites. In this interpretation, Faustus' tragedy is that he exchanges the worthwhile pursuit of knowledge for wine, women, and song. Faustus not only burns in hell for his carnal ways, he pays a stiffer price: loss of his tragic dignity. 2. Other readers see Faustus' conflict in historical terms. Faustus lives in a time of the Middle Ages and the start of the Renaissance. These were two very different historical eras with quite different values, and Faustus is caught in the grip of changing times. On the one hand, he is very aware of the admonitions of the medieval church--don't seek to know too much, learn contempt for this world, and put your energy into saving your soul. On the other hand, Faustus hears Renaissance voices which tell him just the opposite. Extend the boundaries of human knowledge. Seek wealth and power. Live this life to the full because tomorrow you'll be dead. (This theme of "eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we die" is known as carpe diem or seize the day. It was a popular theme in the Renaissance.) 3. Still other readers see Faustus torn between superhuman aspirations and very human limitations. Faustus dreams that magic will make him a god. In his early dealing with Mephistophilis, he talks about himself as if he were a king. He gives commands, dictates terms, and fancies himself on a par with Lucifer, the dreaded regent of hell. Faustus is willing to sign a contract which will free him from human restraints for twenty-four years. During that time, he will have a spirit's body that can soar free of the earth, a body immune from the ravages of old age and time. Yet, even as he signs the contract, Faustus somehow knows that he is only human. His body warns him to flee and addresses him, in no uncertain terms, as "man." The contrast between Faustus' hopes and his realities is very great indeed. The man who was to have been a king grovels like a slave before Lucifer. The "god" who was to have escaped from time watches powerless as the last hour of his life ticks away. Because of the great distance between Faustus' dreams and achievements, he strikes some readers as a wretch, an immature egotist who cries like a child when the universe won't let him have his way. Indeed, all three interpretations of Faustus present you with a challenge and a question. Which emerges most strongly from the play: Faustus' noble mind, his soaring Renaissance aspirations, his superhuman dreams? Or Faustus' gross appetites, his sins against God, his very human terrors? Somewhere between the super-hero and the lowly wretch, you will find your own truth about Faustus. ^^^^^^^^^^ DOCTOR FAUSTUS: MEPHISTOPHILIS There are two sides to Mephistophilis. One of these spirits is an evil, malevolent tempter. He wants Faustus' soul and stops at nothing to get it. This Mephistophilis lies to Faustus, manipulates him with threats of torture, and jeers at him when his final hour has come: What, weepst thou? 'tis too late: despair. Farewell. Fools that will laugh on earth must weep in hell. The second spirit has a sweeter nature. He's a reluctant demon who would spare Faustus if he could. This Mephistophilis offers no enticements. He watches, in quiet distress, while Faustus damns himself. When summoned during the night by Faustus' blasphemous conjurings, the spirit does not seize the soul that is offered to him. Instead, he urges Faustus away from his contemplated deal with hell: O Faustus, leave these frivolous demands Which strike a terror to my fainting soul. Which is the real Mephistophilis? It isn't easy to say. You can put your trust in Mephistophilis' better nature and see him as a kind of guardian spirit. You'll find evidence in the play that Mephistophilis cares for Faustus and feels a strong attraction to the man. He calls his charge "My Faustus," and flies to his side with eagerness. He is a companion in Faustus' adventures and is also Faustus' comforter. The spirit sympathizes when Faustus is sick with longing for heaven. And he goes out of his way to console the scholar with the thought that heaven isn't such a great loss after all. Mephistophilis understands Faustus in ways that suggest they are two of a kind. He's been called Faustus' alter ego. And you get the feeling that he sees himself in Faustus as he was eons before--a proud young angel who marched with Lucifer against God, only to see his hopes of glory dashed when Lucifer's rebellion failed. It's possible that, when Mephistophilis threatens Faustus, he is merely doing his job. The spirit isn't free to do what he likes. He is Lucifer's man. Mephistophilis has counseled Faustus against making a deal with hell. But once that deal is made, the spirit has no choice but to hold Faustus to it. On the other hand, you may feel that Mephistophilis shows more enthusiasm than the job requires. In that case, you can see the spirit as Faustus' evil genius. And Mephistophilis' understanding of Faustus becomes a potent weapon in his hands. The spirit, for instance, knows just what cleverly worded promises to make to get Faustus' signature on the dotted line. He tells Faustus, "I will... wait on thee, and give thee more than thou has wit to ask." That promise turns out to be true, but not in the way that Faustus has reason to expect. What Mephistophilis gives Faustus is an eternity of torment, not the limitless power that Faustus imagines. Mephistophilis is a trickster. When Faustus asks for a wife, the spirit provides one--a demon too hot to touch. When Faustus asks for information about the stars, Mephistophilis gives him facts which the scholar already knows. In his own hellish fashion, Mephistophilis abides by the letter, not the spirit, of the contract. He obeys Faustus' commands without fulfilling his wishes. The spirit makes sure that Faustus pays full price for relatively shoddy goods. Is Mephistophilis a brilliant schemer who plots the damning of Faustus? Or is he a reluctant actor in the tragedy? It's up to you to decide. ^^^^^^^^^^ DOCTOR FAUSTUS: WAGNER Wagner is not happy in his role as a servant. He's sufficiently educated to regard himself as a scholar, and he's eager to prove his prowess in logical dispute. If you read between the lines, you begin to suspect that Wagner has a secret yen to wear a professor's robes and sit as king of the roost in Faustus' study. Yet there is a more faithful side to Wagner. He serves his master loyally. He shields his master from the prying eyes of tattle-tale clerics. And he takes the trouble to track Faustus down on the road with an invitation to the castle of Vanholt. (Wagner knows very well that his master likes to preen in front of the nobility.) What's more, Wagner is Faustus' heir. Faustus probably wouldn't leave his money to Wagner except as a "thank you" for years of good service. Some readers think Wagner is foolish. But there's every indication he's really rather clever. He dabbles in magic and conjures demons without going to hell. Wagner watches carefully as his master gets snared by the devil. He manages to skirt by the same trap without getting caught. ^^^^^^^^^^ DOCTOR FAUSTUS: VALDES AND CORNELIUS Valdes and Cornelius usher in the era of wizardry at Wittenberg. By introducing magic to the university, they, play a minor role in tempting Faustus. Valdes seems the bolder of the pair. He dreams of a glorious association with Faustus and has himself overcome the scruples of conscience that await the would-be magician. Cornelius is more timid, content to dabble in magic rather than practice it in earnest. "The spirits tell me they can dry the sea," Cornelius says, never having ventured to try the experiment. ^^^^^^^^^^ DOCTOR FAUSTUS: ROBIN With his stirrings of ambition and his hapless attempts at conjuring, Robin, the clown, is a sort of minor Wagner. He's yet another servant who follows his master into devilry. Like most of the characters in the play, Robin is an upstart. He regards himself as destined for higher things than service in an innyard. In particular, magic turns his head. Intoxicated with the thought of commanding demons, Robin turns impudent. He gets drunk on the job and boasts of seducing his master's wife. ^^^^^^^^^^ DOCTOR FAUSTUS: THE OLD MAN The Old Man is a true believer in God and is the one human being in the play with a profound religious faith. He walks across the stage with his eyes fixed on heaven, which is why he sees angels visible to no one else. With his singleness of purpose, the Old Man is an abstraction, rather than a flesh-and-blood character. (Appropriately, he has no name.) His role is to serve as a foil for Faustus. His saintly path is the road not taken by Marlowe's hero. ^^^^^^^^^^ DOCTOR FAUSTUS: LUCIFER There's something compelling about the prince of hell, a fallen angel who once dared to revolt against God. Formerly bright as sunlight, Lucifer's now a dark lord who holds sway over a mighty kingdom. Yet there's something coarse about him, too. Lucifer's regal image is tarnished by association with creatures like the Seven Deadly Sins and that jokester, Belzebub. The grandeur of ambition, the grossness of sin--these two aspects of Lucifer are reflected in his servants. ^^^^^^^^^^ DOCTOR FAUSTUS: BENVOLIO A courtier, Benvolio takes the world with a blase yawn and a skeptical sneer. You can't fool him, but he can outwit himself. He does so by rashly challenging the powers of hell on two occasions. ^^^^^^^^^^ DOCTOR FAUSTUS: THE HORSE COURSER Horse coursers or traders were the Elizabethan equivalents of our used-car salesmen. That is, they were known for being cheats. Marlowe's horse courser is no exception. A sharp bargainer, he beats down the price of Faustus' horse. And when the horse proves to be a spirit, he demands his money back. This hardy peasant is a survivor. ^^^^^^^^^^ DOCTOR FAUSTUS: THE POPE The Pope is the most worldly of priests, luxury-loving and power-hungry. The character seems tailored to the Elizabethan image of the churchmen of Rome, and his defeat at Faustus' hands was undoubtedly the occasion for roars of approval from a Catholic-hating crowd. ^^^^^^^^^^ DOCTOR FAUSTUS: SETTING Doctor Faustus stands on the threshold of two eras--the Renaissance and the Middle Ages. Some aspects of the setting are distinctly medieval. The world of Doctor Faustus, for example, includes heaven and hell, as did the religious dramas of the medieval period. The play is lined with supernatural beings, angels and demons, who might have stepped onstage right out of a cathedral. Some of the background characters in Doctor Faustus are in fervent pursuit of salvation, to which the Middle Ages gave top priority. But the setting of Doctor Faustus is also a Renaissance setting. The time of the play is the Age of Discovery, when word has just reached Europe of the existence of exotic places in the New World. The atmosphere of Doctor Faustus is speculative. People are asking questions never dreamed of in the Middle Ages, questions like, "Is there a hell?" Faustus himself is seized by worldly, rather than otherworldly ambitions. He's far more concerned with luxurious silk gowns and powerful war-machines than with saving his soul. It's easy for us to talk as if there were a neat dividing line between the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. But of course there isn't. People lived through a long period of transition in which old and new ways of thinking existed side by side. Transition is a key to the setting in Doctor Faustus. Specifically, the scene is Wittenberg, a German university town in the grip of change. For almost a century before Faustus' time, Wittenberg was a bastion of the Protestant faith. But now, religious certainties are being challenged by new ideas. The students are more interested in Homer than in the Bible. The younger men press forward toward forbidden knowledge, while the old men shake their heads in dismay. The tensions of the university are reflected in Faustus' study, where much of the play takes place. The study is an uneasy room. At its center, on a great stand, lies the Bible. It is there to remind Faustus of God. But the bookshelves contain works of ancient Greek writers which suggest a more practical approach to life (Galen's guide to medicine, for example). The study also contains maps which show Faustus exotic lands with their promise of new sensations. And the scholar has recently added occult books, with their short cut to Nature's secrets. The room gives off conflicting signals about a man on the verge of a great decision. Theology? Science? A life of unabashed pleasure? Which shall it be? In this uncertain atmosphere, Faustus struggles and fails to find his way. Even as he entertains bright Renaissance dreams, he gets caught in the door that history is closing on the medieval age of faith. ^^^^^^^^^^ DOCTOR FAUSTUS: THEMES The following are major themes of Doctor Faustus. 1. AMBITION Doctor Faustus is a study in ambition. Its hero is an "overreacher," a man who strives against human limitations. Faustus tries to do more than is humanly possible. He seeks to know, possess, and experience everything under the sun. There are two ways to read Doctor Faustus: (1) The play glorifies ambition. Though Faustus is finally undone, his dreams emerge larger than the forces that defeat him. (2) The play criticizes ambition. Faustus falls to great depths from lofty heights. What's more, his larger-than-life dreams are cut down to size by the pointed ironies of Mephistophilis. 2. CONCEPTS OF HELL There are three different concepts of hell in this play. Faustus claims there is no hell. Mephistophilis defines hell as the absence of God. The church says that hell is a pit of fire, and that's where Faustus goes in the end. Why are there three hells instead of just one? Perhaps Marlowe is exploring his own uncertain ideas. Or perhaps everyone finds a hell of his own. 3. CHRISTIANS vs. CLASSIC IDEALS Despite its pantheon of gods, the classical world believed in humanity. The ancient Greeks extolled the perfection of the human body and the clarity of human thought. The medieval church held almost the opposite view. In the eyes of the church, reason was suspect and flesh was the devil's snare. Christian and classical beliefs clash in Doctor Faustus. The classical ideals focus on beauty, which is exemplified in the play by Helen of Troy. The Christian ideals are more severe and are personified by the Old Man. Helen's beauty is not to be trusted, but the Old Man's counsel is sound, even if grim. 4. FREE WILL vs. DETERMINISM A sense of doom hangs over Doctor Faustus, a sense that Faustus' damnation is inevitable and has been decided in advance. Faustus struggles to repent, but he is browbeaten by devils and barred from salvation by all the forces of hell. Nonetheless, it is of his own volition that Faustus takes the first step toward evil. He makes a pact with the devil to satisfy his lust for power. And in that sense, Faustus chooses his fate. 5. AN ATHEIST OR A CHRISTIAN PLAY? On the surface, Doctor Faustus has a Christian moral. Faustus commits a mortal sin and goes to hell for it. He denies God and is therefore denied God's mercy. Faustus is a scoffer who gets a scoffer's comeuppance. No fire-and-brimstone preacher could have put it better than Marlowe. If the surface moral is the true moral of the play.... There are reasons to be suspicious. Marlowe was known to be an atheist. Moreover, he included a lot of blasphemy in the play. He seems to have taken an unholy glee in anti-religious ceremony. There is some powerful sacrilege in Doctor Faustus, half buried in the Latin. Was Marlowe trying to slip a subversive message past the censors? Or was he honestly coming to grips with doubts about his own atheistic beliefs? If Marlowe knew the truth, it died with him. 6. DIVERSIONS Hell has a lot of interesting gimmicks to keep Faustus from thinking about death and damnation. Devils provide distracting shows, fireworks, and pageants for his entertainment. Soon Faustus catches on to the idea. He learns to preoccupy his own mind by feasting, drinking, and playing pranks. All these diversions keep Faustus from turning his attention to God and to the salvation of his soul. But is Faustus so different from the rest of us? Perhaps Marlowe is saying that diversions are not only the pastimes of hell. They are also the everyday business of life itself. ^^^^^^^^^^ DOCTOR FAUSTUS: STYLE Whenever you read a critical work on Marlowe, you are almost certain to find the writer referring to "Marlowe's mighty line." That much-quoted phrase was coined by Ben Jonson, an Elizabethan playwright, in a poetic tribute he wrote, not to Marlowe, but to Shakespeare. The poem was a send-off to the first complete edition of Shakespeare's plays, published in 1623. Here is what Ben Jonson had to say: How far thou [Shakespeare] didst our Lyly outshine, Or sporting Kyd, or Marlowe's mighty line. And there Marlowe has stood through the ages, his name unflatteringly bracketed with Shakespeare's. Marlowe the loud-voiced trumpet to Shakespeare's mellow violin. Ben Jonson's left-handed compliment was fair enough in its way. Marlowe earned his reputation as a loud-mouth. His heroes are boasters, not only in their aspirations, but also through their language, which defies all limits. You can see the mighty line at work in Doctor Faustus. When Faustus speaks of power, for instance, he boasts of command over "all things that move between the quiet poles," dominion that stretcheth as far as doth the mind of man." The literary term for extravagant, exaggerated language like this is "hyperbole." And Marlowe exaggerates in many interesting ways. For example, he likes exotic adjectives. "Pearl" alone won't do. He wants to convey the soft luster of a rarer gem. So he reaches for a phrase that has an air of Eastern mystery to it. He writes of the "orient pearl." Marlowe's giants are not merely large, they are "Lapland giants," huge, furclad creatures from the frozen North who come running, with smoke on their breath, to obey a magician's commands. Marlowe has a fondness for dazzling heights and far-off vistas. In Doctor Faustus, he speaks of the "topless towers" of Troy, towers so dizzyingly high they can't be climbed or assaulted. He imagines spirits who will "ransack the ocean" floor and "search all corners of the new-found world" for delicacies and treasure. This outward thrust of the language suggests space without limits, space that gives his restless, searching heroes worlds to conquer and room to maneuver in. Marlowe likes the sound of large, round numbers. In Doctor Faustus, the figures tend to be moderate: "A thousand ships," "a thousand stars." But elsewhere, the playwright deals cavalierly in half-millions. In addition, Marlowe makes impossible comparisons. Faustus is promised spirit-lovers more beautiful than Venus, the queen of love. In fact, he is given Helen, who is brighter and more luminous than a starlit sky. The very use of Helen as a character suggests another of Marlowe's stylistic devices. He raids the pantheon of classic gods and heroes for comparisons that reflect favorably on his own protagonists. Helen steps out of the pages of the world's most famous epic straight into Faustus' arms. And Alexander the Great appears at the snap of the magician's fingertips. Marlowe's heroes don't seek to emulate famous figures. The ancient gods and warriors come to them. Marlowe's use of hyperbole has a profound effect on your perception of Faustus, though you may not be aware of it. Without the real magic of the language, Faustus would be a second-rate magician. But with the poetry spinning its silken web, Faustus becomes a dreamer of real magnitude. The language makes him a force to be reckoned with and gives him heroic stature. ^^^^^^^^^^ DOCTOR FAUSTUS: ELIZABETHAN ENGLISH The term "Elizabethan English" is often applied to the English of the period 1560-1620. It was a time when English began to be used with vigor and growing confidence. Before Elizabeth I's reign (1558-1603), Latin was the language of the Church, of education, of law, science, scholarship, and international debate. English was regarded by many as an inferior language. It had no fixed spelling, no officially sanctioned grammar, and no dictionaries. In the words of one scholar, writing in 1561, "Our learned men hold opinion that to have the sciences in the mother-tongue hurteth memory and hindereth learning." During Elizabeth's reign, poetry, drama, and criticism in English flourished. Writers like Edmund Spenser, Christopher Marlowe, and William Shakespeare helped to forge English into a flexible medium capable of being used not only for the expression of local culture but also for a translation of the Bible. Language differences can occur even today between parents and their children. It is only to be expected, therefore, that the English used some four hundred years ago will diverge markedly from the English used today. The following information on Marlowe's language will help you to understand Doctor Faustus. ^^^^^^^^^^ DOCTOR FAUSTUS: MOBILITY OF WORD CLASSES Adjectives, nouns and verbs were less rigidly confined to particular classes in Marlowe's day. For example, nouns could be used as verbs. In the first lines of the Prologue, the Chorus says: Not marching in the fields of Trasimene Where Mars did mate the warlike Carthagens using "mate" to mean "befriend." Nouns could also be used as adjectives as in Act I, Scene I, when "orient" is used to mean "shining": Ransack the ocean for orient pearl. Adjectives could be used as adverbs. In Act II, Scene II, Faustus says to Lucifer, "This will I keep as chary as my life," using "chary" where a modern speaker would require "charily" or "carefully." ^^^^^^^^^^ DOCTOR FAUSTUS: CHANGES IN WORD MEANING The meaning of words undergoes changes, a process that can be illustrated by the fact that "silly" used to mean "holy" and "villain" referred to a "peasant." Many of the words in Doctor Faustus are still an active part of our language today but their meanings have changed. The change may be small as in the case of "dispute," which meant "debate, discuss," as in: Is to dispute well logic's chiefest end? and "wit," which meant "understanding": A greater subject fitteth Faustus' wit The change could be more fundamental, so that "artisan" implied "student"; "cunning" was the equivalent of "knowledgeable"; and "boots" meant "is worth" in: What boots it then to think of God or heaven? (Act II, Scene I) ^^^^^^^^^^ DOCTOR FAUSTUS: VOCABULARY LOSS Words not only change their meanings but sometimes disappear from common usage. In the past, "earm" meant "wretched" and "leod" meant "people." The following words found in Doctor Faustus are no longer current in English, but their meaning can usually be gauged from the context in which they occur. AMAIN at top speed AND if ANON immediately, soon BELIKE it would appear, probably BESEEMS suits, fits BOTTLE bundle BREVIATED cut short, abbreviated BRIGHT-SPLENDENT magnificent CAITIFF miserable person, wretch COIL turmoil, noisy row COSMOGRAPHY geography COZENING cheating ELL 45 inches (103 centimeters) ETERNIZED made famous forever FAIN willingly, gladly FAMILIARS spirits. Old women's cats were often thought to be "familiars," devils in disguise. FOOTMANSHIP skill in running GET create, beget GLUT satisfy GRAMERCIES great thanks GRATULATE express pleasure at GRAVELLED confounded HEST command LIST wish, please LOLLARDS heretics LUBBERS clumsy men MALMSEY sweet wine MUSCADINE muscatel wine PICKEDEVANTS pointed beards PROPER own PRITHEE pray thee PROPER own QUICK alive QUITTANCE payment for RAZE cut, scratch ROUSE carousal, drinking bout 'SBLOOD by God's blood SIGNORY lord, lordship SITH since 'SNAILS by God's nails STAVESACRE insecticide TERMINE end, terminate TESTER small coin THEREFOR for this THOROUGH through VARLETS rascals WELKIN sky, heavens WHATSO whatever, whatsoever WHIPPINCRUST hippocras, cordial wine 'ZOUNDS by God's wounds In addition, Marlowe could have assumed much of his audience was familiar with Latin and the Bible. This is why he could make use of such Latin tags as "Stipendium peccati mors est," meaning "The wages of sin are death." ^^^^^^^^^^ DOCTOR FAUSTUS: VERBS Elizabethan verb forms differ from modern usage in three main ways: 1. Questions and negatives could be formed without using "do/did," as when Faustus asks: Why waverest thou? (II, I) where today we would say: "Why do you hesitate?" Marlowe had the option of using forms a and b whereas contemporary usage permits only the a forms: a b What do you see? What see you? What did you see? What saw you? You do not look well. You look not well. You did not look well. You looked not well. 2. A number of past participles and past tense forms are used that would be ungrammatical today. Among these are: "writ" for "written":'s nothing writ. (II, I) "beholding" for "beholden": ...I am beholding To the Bishop of Milan. (III, II) "cursen" for "accursed" and "eat" for "eaten": I am a cursen man, he never left eating till he had eat up all my load of hay. (IV, VI) 3. Archaic verb forms sometimes occur: No Faustus, they be but fables. (II, II) Thou art damned (II, II) Thou needest not do that, for my mistress hath done it. (II, III) ^^^^^^^^^^ DOCTOR FAUSTUS: PRONOUNS Marlowe and his contemporaries had the extra pronoun "thou," which could be used in addressing equals or social inferiors. "You" was obligatory if more than one person was addressed: Come, German Valdes, and Cornelius And make me blest with your sage conference. (I, I) It could also be used to indicate respect, as when Faustus tells the Emperor: My gracious Lord, you do forget yourself. (IV, I) Frequently, a person in power used "thou" to a subordinate but was addressed "you" in return, as when the Clown agrees to serve Wagner at the end of Act I, Scene IV. Clown: I will, sir. But hark you, master, will you teach me this conjuring occupation? Wagner: Ay, sirrah, I'll teach thee to turn thyself to a dog. Relative pronouns such as "which" or "that" could be omitted: ...'twas thy temptation Hath robbed me of eternal happiness. (V, II) The royal plural "we" is used by the Pope, the Emperor, and Lucifer when they wish to stress their power: We will despise the Emperor for that deed. (III, I) Thrice-learned Faustus, welcome to our court. (IV, II) Thus from infernal Dis do we ascend. (V, II) ^^^^^^^^^^ DOCTOR FAUSTUS: PREPOSITIONS Prepositions were less standardized in Elizabethan English than they are today and so we find several uses in Doctor Faustus that would have to be modified in contemporary speech. Among these are: "of" for "by" in: Till, swollen with cunning of a self-conceit (Prologue) "of" for "from" in: Resolve me of all ambiguities (I, I) "on" for "of" in: Ay, take it, and the devil give thee good on't. (II, I) "of" for "on" in: They put forth questions of astrology. (IV, The Chorus) "unto" for "into" in: ...and I be changed Unto some brutish beast. (V, II) ^^^^^^^^^^ DOCTOR FAUSTUS: MULTIPLE NEGATION Contemporary English requires only one negative per statement and regards such utterances as "I haven't none" as nonstandard. Marlowe often used two or more negatives for emphasis. For instance, in Why, thou canst not tell ne'er a word on it. (II, III) ^^^^^^^^^^ DOCTOR FAUSTUS: THE FAUST LEGEND AND MARLOWE There really was a Faust, casting his magic spells about fifty years before Christopher Marlowe wrote his play. Johannes Faustus, a German scholar of dubious reputation, flourished between 1480 and 1540. Some of his contemporaries spoke of him as a faker who lived by his wits, a medieval swindler. Others, more impressed, thought him a sorcerer in league with evil spirits. Whatever else he may have been, he was certainly notorious. A drunken vagabond, he was reported to have studied magic in the Polish city of Cracow. While some regarded him as a fool and a mountebank, others claimed that he traveled about with a dog and a performing horse--both of which were really devils. Soon after his death the "real" Dr. Faustus disappeared into the realm of legend, and every story popularly told about wicked magicians was told about him. Faustus became the scholar who sold his soul to the devil in exchange for universal knowledge and magical power, and so was damned forever. Stories like these weren't new--they had been popular for centuries. There was a legend about Simon Magus, a wizard of early Christian times, who was said to have found death and damnation, when he attempted to fly. Pope Sylvester II (314-335) was also suspect. He knew so much that his contemporaries thought he must have sold his soul to the devil to gain such knowledge. During the Renaissance, the Faustus tales had a powerful impact. They dramatized the tug-of-war between the admonitions of the church and the exciting possibilities of knowledge suggested by the advance of science and the revival of classical learning. All over Europe, inquisitive spirits found themselves in trouble with the conservative clergy. In Italy, for instance, Galileo was accused of heresy for challenging the Roman Catholic view of the heavens. In England, the free-thinking Sir Walter Raleigh was investigated for atheism. And in Germany, adventurous scholars found themselves at odds with the zealous spirit of the Protestant Reformation. Protestant theologians thought that mankind's energies should be focused on God, the Bible, and salvation by faith. By 1587, the German Faustbuch (Faustbook) had appeared, a collection of tales about the wicked magician. The Protestant author makes it clear that Faustus got exactly what he deserved for preferring human to "divine" knowledge. But theological considerations aside, these were marvelous stories. The book was enormously popular and was rapidly translated into other languages, including English. However, the English Faustbook wasn't published until 1592, a fact that creates some mystery for scholars who believe that Doctor Faustus was written in 1590. Christopher Marlowe saw the dramatic potential of the story. He promptly used it as the plot of his play, the first Faust drama, and possibly the best. Every incident in the play seems taken from the Faustbuch, even the slapstick comedy scenes. The attacks on the Roman Catholic church had also become part of the Protestant orthodoxy of the tale. The poetry, however, is Marlowe's. Since then, the story has been used many times, both comically and seriously. The German poet Goethe turned Faust into a hero whose thirst for knowledge leads to salvation. In the nineteenth century, Charles Gounod and Hector Berlioz wrote operas about Faust. Shortly after World War II, the novelist Thomas Mann used the Faust story as the basis of an allegory about the German people. More recently, the story was transformed into the musical comedy Damn Yankees, in which the hero sells his soul to help his hometown baseball team win the pennant. ^^^^^^^^^^ DOCTOR FAUSTUS: FORM AND STRUCTURE Allowances must be made for the shattered form in which Doctor Faustus survives. Originally, the play may have had the loose five-act structure suggested by the 1616 text. Or it may simply have been a collection of scenes or movements, as in the shorter version of 1604. In fact, the act divisions in Doctor Faustus are the additions of later editors. Scholars have made their own decisions about the play's probable cut-off points. That's why no two editions of Doctor Faustus have identical act and scene numbers. The genre of Doctor Faustus is the subject of critical debate. Some readers view the play as an heroic tragedy where the hero is destroyed by a flaw in his character but retains his tragic grandeur. Others believe Doctor Faustus is more of a morality play in which the central character forfeits his claim to greatness through a deliberate choice of evil. Doctor Faustus most closely resembles the type of drama known in the Renaissance as an atheist's tragedy. The atheist's tragedy had for its hero a hardened sinner, a scoffer who boldly denied the existence of God. In such a play, the hero's cynical disbelief brought about his downfall. His tragedy wasn't just death. It was also damnation. For the edification of the audience, the hero died unrepentant, often with a curse on his last breath, and one had the distinct impression that repentance would have saved him. It is technically possible to diagram Doctor Faustus in a manner similar to Shakespearean tragedy: ACT I: EXPOSITION. Faustus' ambitions are explored. He turns to magic to fulfill them. ACT II: RISING ACTION. Faustus summons Mephistophilis and signs a contract with hell. He begins to regret his bargain. ACT III: CLIMAX. Faustus repents, but Lucifer holds him to his agreement. Faustus reaffirms his bondage to hell. ACT IV: FALLING ACTION. Faustus wins fame and fortune through magical evocations. His inner doubts remain. ACT V. CATASTROPHE. Faustus damns himself irrevocably by choosing Helen over heaven. His final hour comes, and he is carried off by devils. ^^^^^^^^^^ DOCTOR FAUSTUS: THE STORY There is no standard edition of Doctor Faustus. The play survives in two widely read versions, one dating from 1604, the other from 1616. The 1616 text is longer by about 600 lines and contains incidents and characters missing from the 1604 text. There is great critical debate as to which is the "real" Doctor Faustus. Some scholars attribute the additional material in the 1616 text not to Marlowe, but to a collaborator named Samuel Rowley. Check the introduction to your copy of Doctor Faustus. It will tell you which version of the play you are reading. This guide is based on the version of Doctor Faustus printed in The Norton Anthology of English Literature (New York: Norton, 1979), edited by M. H. Abrams and others. The version in that anthology is based on W. W. Gregg's composite of the 1604 and 1616 texts of Marlowe's play. ^^^^^^^^^^ DOCTOR FAUSTUS: THE CHORUS The play opens with a speech by the Chorus, a voice outside the action that prepares you for the story of Doctor Faustus. The Chorus was used in Greek and Roman plays as a way of commenting on the dramatic action. Here, the Chorus might also be called the "Commentator" since it consists of only one actor. He tells us that Faustus grew up in the German town of Rhodes, had lower-class parents, and went on to study theology in Wittenberg. After earning his doctorate, Faustus soon realized that he preferred magic to religion. The Chorus calls this magic "cursed necromancy." Does he disapprove of Faustus? Or does he privately admire him? Your answer is important because the Chorus' feelings influence the audience's reaction to Faustus, even before Faustus himself appears on stage. NOTE: THE CHORUS The first business of the Chorus is to speak the prologue. The Elizabethan prologue usually contains a brief introduction to the story and is delivered before the play begins. If the plot is complicated, the prologue gives the audience a thread to hold on to. And just as important, when there is little scenery on the stage, the prologue often tells an audience when and where the play will take place. The Chorus informs you that this isn't a play about warlike conquests or love. The hero of this play is a scholar, a university man, a peasant's son, who has pulled himself up by his bootstraps to become a Doctor of Divinity. What the Chorus is announcing in these opening lines is a departure from the usual subject matter of tragedy. Traditionally, tragedy was the province of noblemen and kings. But Faustus occupies a lower rung of the social ladder, hailing from a poor and humble family. Brains, energy, and talent have lifted him from obscurity to a position of honor in Wittenberg. Despite his achievements, Faustus is not a nobleman. He is a self-made man, with a strong skepticism toward much of the establishment around him. The Chorus' speech contains an abbreviated biography of Faustus, but it also parallels events in Marlowe's life. It is the story of a town laborer's son, sent by generous relatives to college so that he might get ahead in life. For a while, Faustus, like Marlowe, flourished at the university. He followed the usual clerical path of study and excelled in disputes (the academic exercises of the time, similar to our exams) concerning "heavenly matters of theology." Then something happened to Faustus. Theology lost its attraction. From heavenly matters, he fell to the "devilish exercise" of necromancy (black magic). To mark this shift in the man, the Chorus uses the image of appetites gone awry. At one point in his life, Faustus relished the healthful fruits of learning. Now he craves unwholesome delicacies. Magic comes to Faustus like a rich dessert at the end of a heavy meal, sweet to his taste, yet destructive of his well-being. With such an introduction, the Chorus sweeps aside the curtain to reveal the inner stage. Faustus is seated in his study, a small monkish cell that is both a library and a laboratory. NOTE: THE IMAGE OF ICARUS In the Chorus' reference to Faustus' "waxen wings," you have an implied comparison of Faustus to Icarus. Icarus was a figure of Greek mythology who flew too near the sun on wings of wax and feathers, made for him by his father, Daedalus. When the wax melted, Icarus fell into the sea and drowned. There is something heroic about this foolish boy, consumed by the oldest dream of man, who challenged the heavens in his desire for flight. The image of Icarus qualifies the negative feelings toward Faustus, aroused in you by all the Chorus' words ("swollen, glutted, surfeits") that suggest a monstrous appetite. As Marlowe will remind you throughout the play, there are two faces to scholarly ambition. One is of greed and ruthlessness, but the other is of courage and ambition. If Doctor Faustus is an ambiguous play--that is, a play capable of more than one interpretation--then the ambiguity begins here in the opening speech. ^^^^^^^^^^ DOCTOR FAUSTUS: ACT I, SCENE I You come upon Faustus at a critical moment in his life. He is obsessed with the course of his future, and speaks in a formidable, scholarly fashion, sprinkling his sentences with quotations in Latin and Greek. Try reading it first for the English sense. Then read it again for insights into the man. Who is this Faustus? What kind of choice is he about to make? The first thing that may strike you about Faustus is the sheer breadth of his knowledge. He has mastered every advanced course of study offered by the university. Divinity, logic (we would say philosophy), medicine, and law are all at his finger-tips. Whatever the scholarly life can teach--the liberal arts, the professions, the sciences--Faustus has already learned. In our age of specialization, it is hard to grasp the scope of his achievement. What Faustus knows is just about everything there was to know in the world of his time. Unless such a man is content to rest on his laurels, he has a problem. Where does he go from here? Perhaps more deeply into one of the various disciplines. Watch Faustus as he grapples with his inner conflicts. Trained in philosophy, he asks the very basic question: "What is the end, or the purpose, of every art?" The end of law is to settle petty legacies, and this is a waste of such considerable gifts as his. Medicine strives to preserve the body's health. Faustus has done more than his share of this already. His prescriptions alone have saved whole cities from the plague. The aim of logic is to dispute well. Yet this won't do much good for the star debater of Wittenberg. Disputation is for boys in the schoolroom. Faustus has advanced far beyond that stage. In the reasons for Faustus' rejections, you gain insight into his dreams. The practice of law may serve society, but that doesn't mean one should become a lawyer. Medicine may prolong life, but it cannot make life eternal. Logic offers a tool and a method of thought, but it does not even begin to approach life's ultimate truths. None of these disciplines offers a supreme purpose. All leave him still "but Faustus and a man." Perhaps, after all, religion will best serve his ends. Having dismissed the secular disciplines one by one, Faustus returns for a moment to his first love, theology. Laying aside the books he's been leafing through, the works of Aristotle and Galen, he picks up the Bible and reads from St. Paul: "The reward of sin is death." Flipping a little further, he comes upon a text which seems to him an ominous contradiction. It says all men are sinners. Thus, all must die. But sinning is human. The two passages, taken together, bring Faustus up short. Mortality is what he came to the Bible to avoid. And here it is again, staring him in the face. Faustus takes refuge in fatalism--what will be, will be, he says with a shrug of the shoulders. Tossing the Bible aside, he turns with evident relish to the books (already in his library) on the forbidden art of necromancy. NOTE: THE BIBLE ACCORDING TO FAUSTUS Faustus, of course, is quoting the Bible out of context. The passage from St. Paul reads: "The reward of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life." Faustus notes only the first part of the text, the part that seems to doom him from the beginning. He ignores the message of hope at the end of the same chapter and verse. This seems an oversight for a learned Doctor of Divinity. The question is why does Faustus read the Bible in such a selective manner? Here are some possible answers: 1. Faustus finds in the Bible exactly what he is looking for--an excuse to plunge headlong into magic. Since he is eager to take up the "damned" art of necromancy, it is convenient for him to believe he is damned, no matter what he does. 2. Another hand than Faustus' is at work, turning the leaves of the Bible and directing his eyes. In Act V, you will see the suggestion that, for all his sense of power, Faustus may not be in charge of his own life. 3. Marlowe believes religion to be a closed door. Faustus finds no hope in the Bible because Marlowe finds no hope there. From the author's point of view, Faustus' reading of the Bible, however incomplete, may be essentially right. Do you see other possibilities? Try to figure out why Faustus quotes so selectively from the Bible. Faustus is instantly charmed by his books on black magic. For one thing, they still hold secrets for him. Here's the ideal subject for a man who wants to know everything. All those strange lines and circles are so wonderfully mysterious. Faustus dreams of power and imagines that magic will give him mastery over the elements, dominion over the winds and the clouds. What is a king, after all, compared to a mighty magician? With magic, Faustus thinks it possible to become a god. Faustus' ambition may seem less far fetched if you compare his hopes of magic with our own expectations of science. We look to science to carry us to the stars, to control disasters like famine and flood, to cure disease and to prolong human life. Faustus looks to magic for the power of flight and for freedom from death and old age. So our own dreams are pretty close to Faustus'. The real difference lies in our method. We try to make our dreams come true with the cool, factual discipline of science, whereas Renaissance scholars like Faustus turned, instead, to a curious blend of science and superstition. The sixteenth century made no clear distinction between astronomers (people who studied the stars through the newly-discovered telescopes) and astrologers (people who used the stars to predict human destiny). The word "astrologer" applied to both. In a similar manner, early Renaissance chemistry included alchemy, the pseudo-science of turning base metals into gold. Faustus, as you've seen, knows the experimental sciences. His room is, in part, a laboratory. But he does not find it unusual to have in his office both test tubes and necromantic books. For Faustus, magic and science merge into a deep, dark area which was feared and largely prohibited by the church. As Faustus reaches out for this forbidden knowledge, two angels suddenly appear before his eyes. The Good Angel urges him to "lay his damned book aside" and return to God and the scriptures. The Evil Angel tells Faustus to continue on the path he has chosen since this will enable him to rival God in power. NOTE: THE GOOD AND THE EVIL ANGELS The Good and Evil Angels are hold-overs from medieval morality plays. In this form of drama, popular during the Middle Ages, they did battle for the soul of a character known as Everyman. (The characters in medieval drama were abstractions. Everyman, as his name implies, stood for all humanity.) Marlowe has borrowed the device of the angels to dramatize Faustus' inner struggle. The Good Angel is the voice of his conscience; the Evil Angel, that of his appetites. Throughout the play, the angels will appear on stage whenever a moral crisis is at hand. And they will vanish as soon as Faustus has chosen his course. You'll notice that the Good Angel doesn't put up much of a fight. Magic has taken too deep a hold on Faustus. "How am I glutted with conceit of this!" indicates that he is wildly excited about magic. His thoughts take wing. They fly all over the place. To India for gold and to the New World for exotic fruits, then back again to the lecture halls of Germany, where he will clothe the scholars in silk. But wait. Faustus seeks knowledge and power, yet now he sets his goals on luxury and wealth. Are Faustus' desires sensual or intellectual? Does he want wisdom--or material comforts? You might keep this question in mind as you read the play. Faustus is first and foremost a scholar. But he's no professor in an ivory tower. As the Chorus has pointed out, Faustus is a man of appetite. He may love books as few men love them, but he also has a strong taste for good food, rare gems, and rich clothing. Some readers are disturbed by the sensual side of Faustus. While they admire his quest for knowledge, they're dismayed by his bent for luxury. If Faustus would stick to pure research into the workings of Nature, he might be a noble hero in their eyes. But his craving for lush fruits and silk garments make him seem undignified. Other readers regard Faustus' sensuality as an heroic quality. His hunger for beauty and lust for life are part of the great Renaissance adventure. The medieval church was unnatural in its efforts to suppress bodily desires. Such readers conclude that Faustus is right in giving full play to his senses. What do you think of Faustus' desires? Do they enhance or diminish him in your eyes? If offered unlimited power, in what direction would your thoughts travel? As Faustus embarks on his career in magic, he summons to his home Valdes and Cornelius, two practitioners of black magic from Wittenberg University. They have been in the neighborhood, if not in the lecture halls, distracting students' minds with their conjuring tricks. They also have called on Faustus before. Faustus' greeting to Valdes and Cornelius suggests that they are responsible for luring him into magic. Last time you came for dinner, you talked me into it, Faustus implies. But no, he quickly retracts his words. Magic is his own idea. He has reached the point where he simply cannot concentrate on anything else. Valdes is delighted with Faustus' news. He imagines a trio of magicians--Cornelius, Valdes, and Faustus--who will take the world by storm. With Faustus' brains and the experience of Cornelius and Valdes, they'll all be rich and famous. But that's not what happens. Valdes and Cornelius instruct Faustus in the basics of conjuring and then send him off to practice on his own. The student magician quickly becomes a master who has no need of partners for his act. This will isolate Faustus since he will now practice magic without a human tie. ^^^^^^^^^^ DOCTOR FAUSTUS: ACT I, SCENE II Faustus has been missing from the university. The disputations, which he was accustomed to win with his persuasive arguments (his "sic probos," Latin for "thus, I prove") just aren't the same any more. Two Wittenberg scholars, as they pass Faustus' house, wonder what has happened to him. The scholars make the mistake of stopping and questioning Wagner, Faustus' half-servant, half-disciple. (The Renaissance called such a person a "famulus.") Wagner considers himself superior to servants, but obviously the scholars see him as a servant. They address him contemptuously as "sirrah," a term appropriate for a menial worker, and they quickly irritate him. For the rest of this scene, Wagner takes his revenge by matching wits with the scholars and proving that he is just as sound a logician as either one of them. This is all part of a comic subplot, and to reinforce the difference in tone, Marlowe has Wagner speak in prose. NOTE: PROSE FOR THE LOWER CLASSES Elizabethan dramatists reserved poetry for their upperclass characters. Kings, nobles, and Doctors of Divinity like Faustus generally spoke a formal, dignified language appropriate to their station in life. Lowerclass characters didn't usually merit the verse line. Servants and clowns like Wagner and Robin could be expected to speak prose, the language of the London streets. Wagner is also speaking nonsense. When asked where his master is, he answers that "God in heaven knows." Don't you know? the scholars ask him. Ah, that doesn't necessarily follow, Wagner replies, wagging his finger in their faces and reminding them severely that, after all, he isn't God. No, Wagner isn't God. But he finds it necessary to say so. In Wagner's insolence, there are echoes of Faustus' aspiring pride. In fact, these scenes in the comic subplot are often called "echo scenes" since servants follow in their masters' footsteps. After Wagner answers insult for insult, he finally gives the scholars the information they want. Faustus is having dinner inside with Valdes and Cornelius. The scholars, shuddering at the mere names of these two demon-traffickers, wring their hands and fear the worst. ^^^^^^^^^^ DOCTOR FAUSTUS: ACT I, SCENE III In the pitch black of night, with an ominous thunderstorm brewing, Faustus goes off to a grove to conjure spirits. As the thunder roars and the lightning flashes, he draws a charmed circle on the ground. The circle marks the spot where the spirits will rise. Inside the circle, Faustus writes anagrams (or twisted versions) of the name of God, spelling Jehovah forward and backward, as one might change "God" to "dog." Faustus celebrates the blasphemous Black Mass and, by so doing, demonstrates his growing commitment to necromancy. NOTE: THE BLACK MASS The Black Mass was a travesty of the Roman Catholic service, and was conducted over the centuries by the worshippers of Satan. The Black Mass mimicked the language of the Catholic mass (Latin, in those days) and used some of the sacred gestures in a way that perverted their meaning. For example, Faustus sprinkles holy water and makes the sign of the cross. This mockery of a holy rite contained a message for Satan: I denounce God, and I serve only you. In the 1590s, it was an act of daring to perform this sacrilege on the stage. Though Henry VIII had pulled England away from the Roman Catholic Church in 1533, there were still English people alive who remembered attending mass every Sunday during the reign of the late Queen Mary. Even if Rome and all its works were detested in England now, Satan was quite another story. The climax of Faustus' ceremony is his farewell to God and his hail to the devils Lucifer, Demi-gorgon, and Belzebub. In the name of the three princes of hell, Faustus calls upon the demon spirits to rise. (Don't worry if you don't understand Faustus' speeches in this scene. The convoluted Latin sentences were no more intelligible to most of Marlowe's audience than they are to you. The playwright's intent is to mystify and appall you with these Latin incantations.) In response to Faustus' summons, Mephistophilis appears in the hideous shape of a dragon. Faustus takes one look at the fire-breathing monster, then tells it to go away and change its appearance. You're too ugly for me, he says. And, in a satiric thrust at a Roman Catholic monastic order, he orders the demon to come back as a Franciscan friar. After a short delay, the spirit returns, his dragon's scales exchanged for a friar's sedate hooded gown. Why does Mephistophilis first appear as a monster, only to vanish and reappear as a monk? Readers of Doctor Faustus disagree on the meaning of this bit of quick-change artistry. Some think that the devil is giving Faustus fair warning by portraying hell honestly. Mephistophilis arises in the horrifying form of a dragon because hell is a place of horror and damnation. It is Faustus, the self-deceiver, who wants evil prettied up. Other readers claim that it is all just good theater. The dragon zooms on stage to scare the audience, and the friar follows to relieve terror with laughter. It's open to interpretation and your opinion is as good as any. Faustus is delighted with his demon spirit's obedience and compliance. Faustus thinks, like Aladdin, that he has rubbed a genie out of a lamp. (The genie's business, you recall, was to fulfill Aladdin's every wish.) Faustus is ready with some pretty tall orders for his spirit. Now that you're here, Faustus says to Mephistophilis, of course, you'll do everything I say. If I command it, you'll make the moon drop out of the sky or cause the oceans to flood the Earth. Can't do it, says Mephistophilis. Sorry, Faustus, but I work for Lucifer, not you. My master has to approve every step I take. It turns out that Faustus has been flattering himself. Magic hasn't brought him half the power he thought. In fact, strictly speaking, he hasn't summoned Mephistophilis at all. The spirit has come of his own accord because he has heard Faustus "racking" (torturing with anagrams) the name of God. Mephistophilis explains in scholastic terms that Faustus' conjuring speech is only the incidental cause ("the cause per accidens") of his showing up. The real reason he has come is that spirits always fly to souls who are in imminent danger of being damned. I'm not afraid of damnation, Faustus replies with bravado. Heaven and hell, they are all the same to me. ("I confound hell with Elysium," is what he says, dangerously equating the Christian hell of flame with the blessed underworld of the dead in Greek mythology.) What does Faustus think about hell? He says hell holds no terrors for him. He implies (he'll later make it explicit) that he doesn't even believe in it. But if, in one breath, Faustus belittles the whole idea of hell, in the next breath, he is eager to hear more about it. Just who is this Lucifer you keep talking about? Faustus demands of Mephistophilis. Mephistophilis tells Faustus the story of Lucifer, the bright angel (his name in Latin means light-bearer) who rebelled against God and was thrown out of heaven. Lucifer's sins were "aspiring pride and insolence," sins Faustus has reason to be all too familiar with. You are moving in a world which believed profoundly in order, in knowing one's place and staying in it. The Renaissance inherited from the Middle Ages a belief in a great chain of being that descended from God all the way down to the sticks and stones. In this great chain, every link, from the lowliest pebble to the angels on high, had a divine purpose. If a link was broken because somebody reached above his station, then chaos ensued. In heaven, as on earth, order was strictly enforced. God reigned in glory there over nine different levels of angels. Angels, being without sin, were presumably without envy. They rejoiced in God's order and sought only to uphold it. Lucifer was the exception, being ambitious. Not content to serve God, he tried to rival Him. In the eyes of the medieval church, Lucifer's aspiring pride was the first--and worst--sin. Lucifer's rebellion and consequent fall created hell and brought evil into the world. Is Marlowe endorsing the church's view that ambition is a deadly sin? Does he imply that ambition is a great virtue? These are important questions in Doctor Faustus and are open to interpretation. So far, ambition has made Faustus jeopardize his soul through contact with demons and through his denial of God. But ambition has also made Faustus a first-class scholar. Without inner drive, he would have remained the illiterate peasant he was born. Ambition has given Faustus magnificent dreams--dreams like expanding the boundaries of human knowledge--on which all progress depends. NOTE: LUCIFER AND ICARUS The image of Lucifer falling from heaven, dark against a flaming sky, recalls the image of Icarus in the prologue. Both Lucifer and Icarus flew too high, sought the sources of light, and got burned in the process. Lucifer and Icarus are emblems for Faustus. They tell you about the precedents and penalties for soaring ambition. Their fate suggests that limitless aspiration is ill-advised. But is it also wrong? At what point do you know whether your ambition is too great? Faustus' next question to Mephistophilis concerns the nature of hell. If you're damned, you're in hell, right? he challenges the spirit. But if Mephistophilis is in hell, then why is he here? But I am in hell, the spirit replies. Hell isn't a spot Mephistophilis can point out on a cosmic map. It's a state of being that one carries around inside. "Why, this is hell, nor am I out of it." For Mephistophilis, hell is a real, if unlocalized place. It's where Mephistophilis dwells and is an immeasurable distance from God. Mephistophilis is a fallen angel. And for a moment, he acts like one. Perhaps he remembers the higher things and this gets the better of him, for he doesn't egg Faustus on. Instead, he tries to hold him back and issues a warning: O Faustus, leave these frivolous demands Which strike a terror to my fainting soul! The words are powerful. They show you a Mephistophilis afraid for Faustus. The spirit knows what is to come for this foolish, arrogant man. And he suffers for him in advance. Faustus, however, takes Mephistophilis' pain for weakness. Can't you be more manly about things? he asks contemptuously. Faustus sends him to Lucifer with the message that he would like to strike a bargain with the fallen angel: Faustus' soul in exchange for twenty-four years of luxury, with Mephistophilis as a servant who will cater to his every whim. Notice that Faustus refers to himself in the third person, like a king. Why do you think Marlowe does that? Mephistophilis agrees and returns to the nether regions with no further comment. ^^^^^^^^^^ DOCTOR FAUSTUS: ACT I, SCENE IV We return to the comic subplot and the high-handed doings of Wagner. Wagner's pride has been hurt by his encounter with the scholars in Scene II. As a result, he is looking for someone to humiliate in turn. Wagner hails the clown, Robin, with the same demeaning terms, "Sirrah, boy" that he himself objected to from the scholars. Robin doesn't care for this sort of treatment, either. Boy! he mutters indignantly. I'm sure you've seen many "boys" with beards on their faces like mine. Wagner tries another approach. He accuses the unemployed Robin of being so down-at-the-heels that he'll sell his soul to the devil for a piece of raw mutton. No dice, says the clown. Not unless the mutton is well roasted and sauced. Like Faustus, Robin is willing to sell his soul, but only if the price is right. This exchange between Wagner and Robin is a bawdy pun on the word "mutton." Mutton is sheep's flesh, but in Elizabethan English mutton also referred to the human sexual organs. Robin is thinking less about food than about the kitchen maid. Wagner, who is Faustus' servant and disciple, has a hankering for a servant-disciple of his own. And who better, he reasons, than this out-of-work clown. Wagner makes Robin an imperious offer: "Sirrah, wilt thou... wait on me?" Faced with resistance, Wagner tries to buy Robin into his service by offering the poor clown money. It's a trick which Robin fails to catch in time. By taking Wagner's money, Robin is accepting wages. He's offering himself as Wagner's man. Of course, there's a condition attached to that money. He is to present himself, at an hour's notice, at a place Wagner will name. And there he is to be carried off by a devil. When Robin hears what the condition is, he drops the coins like a hot potato. Oh no! cries the clown. Oh yes, says Wagner, who conjures up two devils to come to his aid. (Notice that Wagner is Faustus' disciple in more ways than one. He's been practicing to good effect his master's magic tricks.) The devils, Banio and Belcher, appear on stage in a spray of fireworks. They chase the poor clown until, frightened out of his wits, he agrees to Wagner's terms. Robin will serve Wagner, call him master, and walk after him in a manner that Wagner describes pedantically in Latin as Quasi vestigiis nostris insistere (a high-flown way of saying "follow in my footsteps"). ^^^^^^^^^^ DOCTOR FAUSTUS: ACT II, SCENE I With Mephistophilis gone, Faustus begins to have doubts about this deal with hell. Must he go through with it and be damned? Or can he still change his mind and be saved? Faustus is seized with a sudden impulse to give up the game and throw himself on God's mercy. It's an impulse that he fiercely subdues. How can he, a denier of God, go crawling to God now? Faustus tells himself to despair of God and trust in the devil. Yet still he wavers: "Now go not backward, no, be resolute!" You may be surprised by this hint of uncertainty in Faustus. What happened to all his proud boasts of manly resolution? That's what Faustus also wonders. He's disgusted by these signs of human weakness in himself. NOTE: MARLOWE'S POETRY OF HESITATION In this speech, Marlowe has altered the verse line to convey Faustus' feelings of uncertainty. The meter is wildly uneven. The number of stresses varies with almost every line. Within the lines themselves, there are many abrupt pauses to break the flow of the verse. This poetry reflects the nervous pacing of Faustus' thoughts. The speech starts off in one direction, turns back on itself, and comes crashing down on the one point of assurance: To God? He loves thee not. The God thou servest is thine own appetite, Wherein is fixed the love of Belzebub. In the midst of such candid self-assessment, Faustus sees the angels again. This time, he does more than passively listen to their advice. He actively questions them. "Contrition, prayer, repentance--what of them?" Faustus doubtfully ticks off this list of virtues like a man who has heard that such things work, but who's never had the leisure to try them. They're illusions, the "fruits of lunacy," according to the Evil Angel, who has heard something in Faustus' voice which prompts him to describe a praying man as an idiot, a pathetic figure calling in the void to a God who does not hear. Forget such fancies, the Evil Angel continues. Think of tangible things--such as wealth. Wealth! Faustus seizes the idea with a passion. He shall have the signiory of Emden--that is, he will control the wealthy German seaport of Emden, one of the richest trading centers in all of Germany. (Did the Evil Angel say this? Think for a minute. How many enticements have been offered to Faustus by other characters in the play? How many has he, in fact, invented for himself?) Faustus can already hear the clink of gold in his coffers. In a fever of greed, he calls to Mephistophilis to hurry back from hell with Lucifer's answer. And sure enough, on the wings of a wish, the spirit flies into the study. Here's what my master says, Mephistophilis informs Faustus. You may have me to serve you, as you desire. But first, you must promise him your soul. Faustus protests that he has already done that. Yes, in words, the spirit replies. But now, you must do it in writing. Faustus discovers that there are various stages of commitment when dealing with the devil. Faustus has already "hazarded" his soul (or set it at risk) by foreswearing God and praying to Lucifer. But he has not yet signed away his soul. Faustus can still back out of the deal. But if he proceeds with it, he may never be able to back out. Lucifer is leaving no loopholes. The devil wants a contract. And he wants that contract written in Faustus' blood because blood contracts are binding forever. Faustus winces at the thought. Left to himself, he might never write such a document. But Mephistophilis is there to give him "moral" support. Just put up with this nasty little cut, the spirit tells him, and "then be thou as great as Lucifer." Taken at face value, this remark constitutes a glowing promise. Sign this contract, Faustus, and you'll become as powerful as the monarch of hell. But the comment is ironic. Mephistophilis sounds as if he's deriding Faustus' ambitions. The spirit really seems to be saying, "you think you'll be as great as Lucifer, but just wait and see." Does Mephistophilis deliver his line sincerely? Or is there irony in his voice? If so, he may be giving Faustus one last warning to back off while he can. How does the offer sound to you? Faustus, however, is tone deaf to irony. He suspects no double meaning in the spirit's words. And so he prepares to comply with Lucifer's demands. But as Faustus stabs his arm to draw blood, he finds that no blood will run. It has mysteriously congealed, preventing him from writing the words that would give the devil his soul. We use the expression "My blood freezes over" to describe a feeling of great horror. That is what happens to Faustus. The blood in his veins--that which is human to him--freezes at the sight of this hideous contract with hell. Mephistophilis acts quickly. He comes running with a grate of hot coals to warm Faustus' blood and to set it flowing again, so that the contract can be completed. NOTE: BLOOD IMAGERY Hold onto this image of flowing blood. You will see it again in Act V, when Faustus has a vision of Christ's blood streaming in the night sky and knows that one precious drop of it would save his lost soul. As Mephistophilis snatches up the coals, he winks at the audience and whispers, "What will not I do to obtain his soul!" Clearly the spirit has changed his tune. Earlier in the play, Mephistophilis did his best to stop Faustus from damning himself. At this point, he seems eager for Faustus' ruin. How do you explain it? You can argue that Mephistophilis is simply doing his job. Since Faustus has insisted on this unholy bargain, the spirit has no choice but to hold him to it. Or you may feel that Mephistophilis is at last showing his true fiendish colors. The spirit is eager for Faustus' damnation because all demons want to add more notches to their score of souls garnered for hell. Mephistophilis is not the most consistent of characters. You will have to decide what motivates him at various points in the play. Faustus has finished writing his contract. "It is completed," he says wearily, as he lays down his pen. "Consummatum est." Another blasphemy! These are the words of Christ on the cross, rolling casually off the tongue of a man who has just put his bloody signature on a contract with the devil. Suddenly, Faustus has a hallucination. He sees writing on his arm. "Fly, man," the inscription reads. Run for your life. ("Man." Why "man"? Wasn't this contract supposed to make Faustus immortal?) Mephistophilis is prepared for this sort of emergency. Undoubtedly, he's played scenes like this before. He arranges a diversion, something to take Faustus' mind off the perils of the contract and focus attention instead on the delights it will bring. Mephistophilis summons devils who enter bearing a crown and ermine robes. The devils dance around Faustus, offering him these symbols of power. Then they depart. Faustus is delighted with the royal treatment and with the thought that he can summon such demons at any time. He starts to hand the contract over to Mephistophilis. (Notice it's still in Faustus' possession, one reason why Mephistophilis is treating Faustus like a king.) Then Faustus halts, claiming that he'd better read the contract to Mephistophilis since he has made some changes. Faustus, like Lucifer, is something of a legalist. He has added articles to the contract, amendments to make sure he gets full value for the price he is going to pay. Flattered by Mephistophilis, Faustus assumes he can dictate his own terms to hell. Most of Faustus' conditions are self-explanatory. They list the terms of an agreement already understood. Mephistophilis will be at Faustus' beck and call. He will appear in any shape that Faustus commands. (No more unpleasant surprises like that dragon.) But there is a new condition. Faustus shall be "a spirit in form and substance." In other words, he will take on the physical attributes of a demon. Like Mephistophilis, Faustus will be able to walk invisible or fly through the air. Does this mean that Faustus actually becomes a demon? If so, then he is lost from this point on in the play. If not, then he still has a chance, however remote, of being saved. It is difficult, looking back across the space of four hundred years, to be sure of the exact rules of Renaissance demonology. But most scholars think that under the terms of the contract, Faustus forfeits his human body but keeps his human soul. Faustus returns to the subject that fascinates him: the nature and whereabouts of hell. Notice that Faustus always asks about hell after he's made an irrevocable step toward hell. He leaps first, then looks to see where he has landed. Mephistophilis expands on what he's said before. Hell is a place without limits. It's wherever the damned happen to be. The spirit speaks matter-of-factly now. He's no longer worried about frightening Faustus. The contract is signed. What's done is done. But Faustus doesn't believe it. Come, come, he says. You're making this up. Hell's an "old wives' tale." There is no life after death. We die with our last breath. And that's the end of it. Mephistophilis is amused in an ironic sort of way. Why, Faustus, he asks, what do you think you have just signed? A contract with hell. Then his amusement dies, and his irony turns bitter. You think there's no hell, do you? "Aye, think so still, till experience change thy mind." As Mephistophilis points out, Faustus is being illogical. Faustus has asked for a contract with the devil in order to enjoy the powers that hell can give him. But if there is no hell, then there is no contract and no demon spirit in the room. Faustus, the great logician of Wittenberg, shouldn't need Mephistophilis to point out the flaws in his reasoning. He should see for himself that this argument is not sound. So why doesn't he? Perhaps Faustus is too fierce a skeptic to believe in a hell that he can't see or touch. Faustus prides himself on being a scientist. He prefers concrete facts to abstract ideas. And the hell described by Mephistophilis is an undefined place. In fact, it makes Faustus think of life itself: Nay, and this be hell, I'll willingly be damned. What, sleeping, eating, walking, and disputing? On the other hand, Faustus may be less a skeptic than an opportunist. That is, he may change his beliefs to suit his desires of the moment. Faustus seems willing enough to accept hell, provided that hell promises to make him a king like Lucifer. He only doubts hell's existence when it looms up before him as a place of punishment. NOTE: CONCEPTS OF HELL In this dialogue between Faustus and Mephistophilis, you can see the clash of old and new ideas that troubled Marlowe's generation. Coming out of the Middle Ages was the orthodox vision of hell, the pit of quenchless fire and pitchfork-carrying devils. Then there was the newer, more subtle definition of hell offered by Mephistophilis. Hell was a gray, twilight place from which God had withdrawn his presence. And finally, there was the atheistic view, espoused by Faustus in this scene. The only hell we could ever know was the hell of this world. Faustus, however, is not disposed to linger on the subject. Now that he has his contract signed, he is eager to test his powers and get some questions answered. He turns to Mephistophilis with his first demand. I'm a lusty man, he says. I need a woman to share my bed. Get me a wife. Mephistophilis is on the spot. He can't meet Faustus' first demand because marriage is a sacrament, a holy rite of the church, and sacraments lie outside his jurisdiction. When Faustus insists on having this wish, Mephistophilis summons a female demon, who arrives hissing and sparking like a firecracker. Faustus dismisses her as a "hot whore." He's beginning to see that hell keeps its promises in strangely unpleasant ways. Never mind a wife, Mephistophilis consoles him. I'll give you the mistress of your heart's desire. And better yet, I'll give you books that will reveal to you the hidden secrets of Nature. I'll show you everything you've always wanted to know about the trees and the stars. Faustus reaches greedily for the fabulous volumes handed to him by the spirit. But as he leafs through the printed pages, he finds that they contain only gibberish. This is worse than Wittenberg. "O, thou art deceived!" he cries. Remember we asked a little while back, "what does Faustus really want, knowledge or sensual pleasure?" In this scene, Faustus reaches for both, only to be disappointed on both counts. But while he's merely annoyed by Mephistophilis' failure to produce a wife, he is cut to the quick by the spirit's fraudulent volumes. It's this latter deception that wrings from Faustus a cry of anguish. NOTE: A MISSING SCENE? Between Act II, Scenes I and II, there is probably a lost scene in which Robin, the clown, steals one of Faustus' conjuring books and runs away from Wagner to find work at an inn. We will find him there in Act II, Scene III. ^^^^^^^^^^ DOCTOR FAUSTUS: ACT II, SCENE II Faustus is in his study, looking at the night sky. The sight of the heavens lit with stars reminds him of the glories he has sacrificed. Faustus' first instinct is to lash out at Mephistophilis. You did this to me, he tells the spirit angrily. Mephistophilis calmly denies the charge. No, Faustus. It was your own doing, not mine. Do you agree with the spirit? Is Faustus being unfair? Mephistophilis understands and tries to comfort Faustus with the thought that heaven isn't such a wonderful place after all. Prove your theory, demands Faustus the philosopher. And the spirit gives him logical proof in an unexpected burst of enthusiasm for man. After all, heaven was made for man. Therefore, man must be "more excellent." You might expect Faustus to agree with Mephistophilis. Faustus is just the type to put man at center stage. His whole rationale for denying God in the first place was his belief in human potential, human greatness--a typically Renaissance ideal. Now, if ever, is the time for a speech like Hamlet's "O, what a piece of work is man!" But you don't get such a speech from Faustus. What you get from this humanist-scholar is a purely Christian impulse to renounce magic and repent. Can God forgive him, hardened sinner that he is? As Faustus debates this vital question with himself, the angels come on stage for the third time. The Good Angel assures Faustus that God will still forgive him. But, as usual, the Evil Angel has the stronger argument. God can't pity you, Faustus. You're a spirit, a demon. (Remember the terms of the contract.) You're not even a human being any more. God would pity me, even if I were the devil himself, Faustus retorts, using strange language for an atheist. That is, God would pity me, if I'd repent. Ah, the Evil Angel throws out his parting shot. "But Faustus never shall repent." It turns out to be an accurate prophecy. Why doesn't Faustus repent? It's one of the great puzzles of the play. This is his second attempt at repentance and his second refusal. What is standing in his way? Maybe Faustus isn't very sincere about repentance, and all this talk is lip service only. Some readers feel this way. Certainly there are traits inherent in Faustus' character that make repentance difficult for him. Pride is a problem. Faustus is too arrogant to readily admit his errors. Appetite also trips him up. Faustus lusts after the gleam of silk and the whiteness of a woman's arms. But God, in this still half-medieval world, demands austerity. For Faustus, penitence would mean the hair-shirt under a monkish robe and sandals in the winter snow. Maybe the contract is the big stumbling block, as Lucifer intended. Faustus has told the Evil Angel that God can still pity him. But he doesn't really seem to believe it. Whenever Faustus thinks about salvation now, he is thrown into despair. He contemplates suicide, as if to rush to his inevitable fate. All the while, Mephistophilis spins his web, pulling Faustus toward hell with his sweet magic tricks. The spirit gives Faustus just enough pleasure to keep him wondering if there's more. As the angels depart, Faustus relishes the memory of beautiful, ghostly concerts in his study. By Mephistophilis' arrangement, the great bards of ancient Greece have strummed their lyres for Faustus alone. Perhaps, Faustus reasons, there's something to this diabolic life after all. Come, Mephistophilis, he says, throwing off his mood of depression, tell me about the stars. NOTE: MEPHISTOPHILIS' ASTRONOMY In the discussion that follows, Mephistophilis presents Faustus with the common medieval view of the universe. It is known as the Ptolemaic system, in contrast to the Copernican view that we still accept today. In the Ptolemaic system, the Earth stood at the center of the universe, with the sun, planets, and stars circling around it. The universe was thought to be made up of nine concentric spheres, ascending from the Earth right up to God's Heaven. The spheres were those of the moon, Mercury, Venus, the sun, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, the stars, and the primum mobile or first mover, the sphere which set all the other spheres in motion. Each sphere was supposed to have an angel presiding over it. In the text of the play, Faustus refers to the angel as a "dominion or intelligentia," a ruling power or intelligence. Beyond the spheres was God's empyrean, a heaven bathed in light. Some people believed (it is the meaning of Faustus' question, "Is there not coelum igneum, etc.?") that there were eleven spheres, adding a heaven of fire and one of crystal to the scheme. It was a nice, orderly universe, with the spheres nestled in each other's arms, making sweet music as they turned. What Mephistophilis can't help describing to Faustus is a majestic sweep of stars and spheres that could only have been imagined by the mind of God. Notice that Mephistophilis volunteers very little information about the heavens. Faustus must pry for information from the spirit. "Tush! These are freshmen's suppositions," the scholar protests. What Mephistophilis makes such a great show of disclosing, Faustus has learned years ago in a course called Introduction to Astronomy. Ask yourself why the spirit is being so evasive. Does he begrudge Faustus a share of his secret knowledge? Or does he sense that the stars may be a dangerous topic of conversation? Faced with this coy cosmic voyager, Faustus feels a tremendous sense of frustration. Imagine a modern scientist talking to a visitor from outer space who knows--but who won't say--what a black hole really looks like or what kinds of life exist among the stars. Faustus wants to know, for example, why such phenomena as eclipses occur at varying intervals, if the whole system of spheres turns on a single axle-tree. The sun and the moon, he reasons, should always be in the same relative positions, as they spin around the earth. Mephistophilis hedges. He retreats into Latin and reels off a pat academic formula, arguing that the spheres turn at different velocities. "Well, I am answered," mutters Faustus, meaning that he isn't answered at all. Here is hell again, dealing with him in half measures and half-kept promises. But Faustus grasps the real point of this lesson in astronomy. He's been wondering in silence how this whole great system of spheres came into being. And now he asks Mephistophilis, "Who made the world?" The spirit has seen this coming, and he absolutely refuses to answer the question. But Faustus hardly needs Mephistophilis to tell him. God made the world, the God he doubted, the God whose existence is proven by the spirit's grim silence. If there is no God, why should His name be banned in the kingdom of hell? Forget about Heaven, Mephistophilis warns. Think about hell, Faustus. That's where you're going. "Remember this!" he calls out while waving the blood-signed contract in Faustus' face. But Faustus has finally, inevitably, broken down. He falls to his knees calling to Christ, his Savior. Only it isn't Christ who answers Faustus' call. It is Lucifer who emerges from a trap door on stage, with Belzebub by his side. You're mine, Faustus, the monarch of hell proclaims. You gave your soul to me, and I have come to claim you. Lucifer's appearance comes at a highly sensitive moment. Just as Faustus cries out to God, the arch-fiend arrives. Some spectators might wish that Marlowe had sent the Good Angel flying to Faustus' side, but instead he sends Lucifer, restless with purpose. What's the message? Is Marlowe saying that people who play with matches get burned? Faustus has chosen to unleash the forces of hell. And now he falls victim to powers beyond his control. Or is Marlowe making a broader and more devastating statement about the presence of demons and the absence of God in this world? Men cry out in need. And God stays in his heaven silent, while the devil pays house calls. Faustus takes one look at his visitors and caves in. This man, with dreams of being a king, trembles like a slave before the regent of hell. Faustus starts to babble outrageous things about pulling down churches and murdering priests. Lucifer is pleased. Now that he is again sure of Faustus, he arranges some entertainment to take the unhappy scholar's mind off himself. This is the second diversion hell has created for Faustus. In this play, diversions are like tranquilizers. They are hell's handy remedy for sorrow and stress. Lucifer and Faustus witness a pageant of the Seven Deadly Sins. Pride, the sin which felled the angels, is the leader of the pack. The rest follow in a grimly comic review of human vice. NOTE: THE SEVEN DEADLY SINS The Seven Deadly Sins are Pride, Avarice, Envy, Wrath, Gluttony, Lust, and Sloth. These were called "the deadly sins" because, in church dogma, all other sins were supposed to stem from them. Marlowe borrowed the idea of the Seven Deadly Sins from the medieval morality plays. Often, in medieval drama, the sins provided a comic interlude, as they do here. At the very least, they were human traits which all spectators could identify in themselves. Faustus converses with all the sins, but especially with Gluttony. Can you imagine why Gluttony might be his favorite? After hearing their stories, he dismisses them with a wave of the hand, as if he saw in this parade of vices no particular application to himself. In spite of their crassness, the Seven Deadly Sins are a thorough delight to Faustus. "O this feeds my soul!" he exults, when the last of them goes from the stage. Why do some regard this pageant as a turning point for Faustus? One clue to help you phrase your answer is that we hear no more about God from Faustus until the very end of the play. ^^^^^^^^^^ DOCTOR FAUSTUS: ACT II, SCENE III Robin has stolen one of Faustus' conjuring books and is feeling very self-important. His job is to care for the horses at the inn, but he can't be bothered with such trifles. He orders Dick, another clown, to walk the horses for him. (In some editions of the play, Dick is called Rafe or Ralph.) The semi-literate Robin pores over his book, breaking into a sweat as he tries to figure it out. "A by itself," he drones, repeating a child's formula for learning the alphabet. Then he manages to recognize a word. "T... h... e." Robin is making progress, when Dick saunters over to see what the book is all about. A conjuring book, ha, says Dick. I bet you can't read a word of it. Can't I though? Robin retorts. I'll work such magic that I won't need a job. I'll live like a king, and I'll get you free wine in every tavern in Wittenberg. This is magic Dick can understand. He's won over by Robin's grand promises. The two clowns go off together to get roaring drunk, leaving the horses unexercised and the devil to pay the bill. Magic, you see, has a strange effect on people. In Act I, when Wagner learned how to conjure, it was no longer good enough to be Faustus' servant. Wagner wanted to have a servant of his own. Now Robin has similar ideas. He doesn't see why he should slave for an innkeeper when he can summon a demon to provide all his wants. ^^^^^^^^^^ DOCTOR FAUSTUS: THE CHORUS The Chorus returns to fill you in on Faustus' activities over the years. Go back for a moment to the Chorus' speech in Act I. Has his attitude toward Faustus changed? In the opening speech of the play, the Chorus seemed to disapprove of Faustus. Now you just may hear a note of admiration in his voice. Look at the exploits the Chorus has to relate. Faustus--who couldn't get a straight answer from Mephistophilis about the heavens--now flies among the stars himself in a dragon-powered chariot. Faustus soars higher than an astronaut, right up to the ninth sphere of the universe. And while he's up there, he gets a chance to correct the maps of Earth. These are high adventures, indeed. For once, hell has lived up to its promises. Marlowe now maneuvers Faustus' chariot into a landing pattern and brings the scholar-magician skimming down over the Alps into Rome. ^^^^^^^^^^ DOCTOR FAUSTUS: ACT III, SCENE I NOTE: ROME AND THE ELIZABETHAN ENGLISHMAN In Elizabethan England, Rome was the target of many criticisms. In those days, the Vatican wasn't just a religious institution. It was a political power and a hotbed of European Catholic plots against Protestant England. For years, Rome had incited English Catholics to rebel against Queen Elizabeth and to place the Roman Catholic, Mary, Queen of Scots, on the throne. Rome had also been involved in Philip of Spain's 1588 attempt to invade England by sea. Not surprisingly, Elizabethan audiences roared their approval whenever Catholic clergymen were portrayed as greedy monsters or as stuttering idiots. This scene, then, offers a sample of Catholic-baiting. But first, Marlowe provides an interesting exchange between Faustus and Mephistophilis in their airborne chariot. Faustus is calmer now than when you saw him last. He has come to terms with his situation. He intends to make the best of a bad bargain. He tells Mephistophilis that all he wants is to get the most pleasure possible out of his remaining time on Earth. The spirit approves. He praises Faustus' attitude. There's no use, he agrees, in crying over spilt milk. Mephistophilis has known for centuries that life means the graceful acceptance of limits. Now, Faustus seems to know it too. What kind of relationship do you sense between Faustus and Mephistophilis in this scene? Faustus calls the spirit, "Sweet Mephistophilis, gentle Mephistophilis" in a way that could mean affection--or fear. And the spirit seems happy, in an austere way, to be sightseeing at Faustus' side. Is there a real bond between the two? Or only a false camaraderie that dissolves the instant Faustus defies the spirit's authority? What evidence can you offer in support of your opinion? Faustus and Mephistophilis have come to Rome at a time of papal festivities. The Pope is celebrating his victory over a rival. (The collision between the Pope and Bruno, described in this scene, belongs only to the 1616 text.) A magnificent papal procession enters. The red-robed cardinals carry great jewelled crosses. The dark-robed monks and friars chant their prayers. The Pope follows, leading a prisoner in chains. The prisoner is Saxon Bruno, a German pretender to the papal throne. In a ruthless display of power, the Pope climbs to his throne on his conquered rival's back. NOTE: ON POPES AND KINGS During the Middle Ages, Roman Catholic pontiffs were often at war with secular monarchs and with each other. Sometimes there were two rival candidates for the papacy, and neither was willing to back down gracefully. So the question was settled by force of arms, with secular kings backing one candidate or the other. That's what happens in Doctor Faustus. King Raymond of Hungary has supported Pope Adrian, while the Holy Roman Emperor (a German king despite his fancy title) has backed the Antipope Bruno. When a ruler like the Holy Roman Emperor defied the Pope, the pontiff had a weapon to use. It was called the "interdict," a papal curse laid upon rulers and all the people in their domains. While the interdict lasted, all church sacraments were denied throughout the entire kingdom. That meant no one could be married by a priest, no one could receive holy communion, and none of the dying could receive last rites. After a few grim years of this treatment, kings sometimes bowed to the pressure of their people and submitted to the church. When Adrian arrogantly threatens to depose the Emperor "and curse all the people that submit to him," he is talking about using the interdict. Faustus decides, for sheer mischief's sake, to intervene in this clash of the pontiffs. He will prick a hole in proud Adrian's balloon. As the cardinals troop off in solemn conclave to decide Bruno's fate, Faustus sends Mephistophilis to put them all to sleep. While the cardinals snore away, Faustus and Mephistophilis tiptoe among them and steal two of their gowns. Disguised as cardinals in brilliant red silk, Faustus and the spirit appear before the Pope. Dolefully they declare Bruno to be a Lollard (a Protestant heretic) and recommend that he be burnt at the stake. The Pope agrees. To Mephistophilis' glee, he and Faustus receive the papal blessing. "Was never devil thus blessed before!" the spirit laughs. Faustus and Mephistophilis are given charge of the prisoner Bruno and are told to lock him up in a tower. But they have other plans for the papal pretender. They spirit him over the Alps to the safety of the Holy Roman Emperor's court. ^^^^^^^^^^ DOCTOR FAUSTUS: ACT III, SCENE II As part of his victory celebration, the Pope is holding a banquet. Servants enter to lay out sumptuous food. Faustus and Mephistophilis reappear on stage. They have shed their borrowed cardinals' robes and now make themselves invisible in order to wreak havoc at the feast. The Pope ushers in his guests of honor, King Raymond of Hungary and the Archbishop of Reims. (In the 1604 text, the Pope's guest is the Cardinal of Lorraine.) One of the Vatican cardinals timidly interrupts. Excuse me, your holiness, he asks. Don't you want to hear our decision about the heretic Bruno? I've already heard it, the Pope answers, dismissing the cardinal with a wave of his hand. When the poor cardinal persists, the Pope suspects treachery. What do you mean you didn't pass sentence on Bruno? And what do you mean you can't produce the prisoner? the Pope demands. The Pope has good reason to be upset, but being the perfect host, he has the cardinal hauled off in chains without interrupting the feast. Graciously, he offers a choice bit of meat to King Raymond, explaining that the beautiful roast had been sent to him by the Archbishop of Milan. As Raymond reaches out with his fork, the meat suddenly disappears. It is snatched away from the Pope's hand by the invisible Faustus. The startled pontiff looks around, but of course he sees nothing. He tries again with another "dainty dish," then a cup of wine. Both disappear in the same astonishing way. "Lollards!" screams the Pope. (Those wicked Protestants are capable of anything.) The Archbishop suspects a ghost, and the Pope agrees. To exorcise the evil spirit, the Pope frantically crosses himself. Faustus, annoyed by the holy sign sprinkled like salt all over his food, boxes the Pope on the ear. The Pope, wailing that he has been slain, is carried off by a group of distracted cardinals. The feast breaks up in disarray. The friars come on stage to curse the unseen spirit in their midst with bell, book, and candle. NOTE: THE FRIARS' DIRGE Bell, book, and candle were the symbolic elements of the rite of excommunication. They reflected the last words of the solemn ceremony: "Do the book, quench the candle, ring the bell." The friars' dirge that closes this scene is a grimly comic echo of the Black Mass performed by Faustus in Act II, Scene I. Faustus turns the phrase bell, book, and candle "forward and backward," just as he has done earlier with the letters that make up the name of God. The Vatican banquet is sheer slapstick comedy, and many readers are disturbed by its presence in the play. You have moved from the flickering hell fires of the early scenes into the world of Laurel and Hardy. After making you shudder at his black magician, Marlowe suddenly invites you to guffaw. What is Marlowe's purpose? Is he demeaning Faustus, deliberately making his hero trivial in your eyes? Look, Marlowe may be saying, here's a man who bargained away his soul for superhuman power. And what does he do with that power, once he gets it? He uses it to play silly tricks on the Pope. If this is Marlowe's message, then this scene has a Christian moral. Faustus takes up with the devil and is debased by the company he keeps. You can trace Faustus' decline, within the act itself, from the pursuits of star travel to his mindless clowning at the Vatican feast. Other readers see a different interpretation of Marlowe's sudden change from seriousness to farce. The real clown of the Vatican banquet, they note, isn't Faustus at all. It's the Pope. If anything, Marlowe is making an anti-Christian statement. He's saying that churchmen are pompous fools. He uses a Roman Catholic example because it was open season on Catholics in the England of the 1590s. But the truth is, he means all churchmen, Catholics and Protestants alike. ^^^^^^^^^^ DOCTOR FAUSTUS: ACT III, SCENE III At last sight, Robin was in search of a tavern where he promised his sidekick Dick to conjure up spirits, both the kind you work magic with and the kind you drink. Now you find the two clowns fleeing for their lives, with the vintner (or wine-seller) in hot pursuit. Robin has stolen a wine cup which he pawns off, in a bit of stage fooling, on Dick. When challenged by the vintner, Robin is outraged and plays innocent. Cup? Never saw your cup in my life. Frisk me, if you like. Like Faustus, Robin has acquired the art of making wine cups vanish into thin air. The vintner, sure of his man but cheated of his evidence, grows angrier by the minute. Feeling the situation get out of hand, Robin whips out his conjuring book. Abracadabra, he mutters (or the Latin equivalent). The spell works, and Mephistophilis appears. Robin feels a rush of elation, but Mephistophilis is thoroughly disgusted. Here he is, servant to the great prince of hell, whipped around the world at the whim of these ruffians. He will teach the clowns a lesson. With a wave of his wand, Mephistophilis turns Robin into an ape and Dick into a dog. The pair will make up a circus act, the ape riding on the dog's back and performing silly tricks. There are penalties for meddling with the powers of hell, though the clowns are too thoughtless to feel them. Robin and Dick scamper off stage, apparently delighted with their fate. ^^^^^^^^^^ DOCTOR FAUSTUS: THE CHORUS The Chorus gives you a glimpse of the human side of Faustus. His friends have missed him while he's been away--which may seem odd since Faustus has seemed like a loner. After his travels abroad, Faustus stops home for a rest. All this flying about the world has proved to be bone-wearying. Magic or no magic, Faustus is tired. Faustus' friends greet him with affection and awe. Here's a man who knows the heavens first-hand. Faustus walks the streets of Wittenberg with an aura of star dust about him. His fame as an astrologer (astronomer) spreads throughout the land. He is even invited to the Holy Roman Emperor's court. ^^^^^^^^^^ DOCTOR FAUSTUS: ACT IV, SCENE I The court is in a state of excitement. The Anti-pope Bruno has just materialized from nowhere. (Remember Faustus and Mephistophilis whisked him out of Rome.) And Faustus follows hard on Bruno's heels with the promise of some fabulous entertainment. Faustus has told the Emperor he will raise the shade (that is, ghost) of Alexander the Great. Faustus intends to summon from the underworld the ghost of the greatest conqueror the world has ever known. NOTE: ALEXANDER THE GREAT Alexander was king of Greece and Macedonia in the fourth century B.C. He was called Alexander the Great because, during his brief reign, he extended Greek rule all the way to Egypt and India. He was a young, handsome, and fearless ruler, considered by the ancient world to be almost a god. Darius of Persia was Alexander's enemy. The two kings clashed in battle when Darius' army blocked Alexander's path to conquest in the East. Alexander's paramour or lover is unnamed. But she is apparently the lovely Thais, whose beauty was celebrated in ancient Greek poetry and song. Martino and Frederick, two gentlemen-in-waiting, are bursting with expectation. Nothing like this has ever been seen in Germany before. But there are skeptics about the court. Benvolio, in a nightcap, recovering from a hangover, yawns at the whole business. Haven't they all had enough of magic lately, what with Bruno's whirlwind arrival from Rome? How can you bear to miss the show? Frederick asks Benvolio. Well, I suppose I'll watch it from my window here, Benvolio replies without enthusiasm. That is, if I don't go back to bed first. (The entire Benvolio episode is found only in the 1616 text of Doctor Faustus.) ^^^^^^^^^^ DOCTOR FAUSTUS: ACT IV, SCENE II The Emperor praises Faustus abundantly for his role in Bruno's rescue. "Wonder of men, renowned magician, / Thrice-learned Faustus, welcome." The Emperor speaks the flowery, extravagant language of the court, and Faustus responds in kind. The magician promises the Emperor that his magic charms will "pierce through / The ebon gates of ever-burning hell." Benvolio, at his window, sneers at Faustus' words. What a silly, transparent boast! Admittedly, Faustus' language is pompous. But is he really boasting? He does mean to raid the underworld for Alexander's ghost. (Faustus, you recall, makes no distinction between the classic underworld, Elysium, and the fiery Christian hell.) When the Emperor asks to behold Alexander the Great and the fabulous Thais, Benvolio yawns again. If Faustus can produce these two, he mutters to himself, let me be turned into a stag. Benvolio's remark is meant as an aside. But Faustus overhears it. He promises the skeptical knight that he shall get his wish. Faustus holds everyone in court but Benvolio in a state of breathless expectation. Trumpets sound. Alexander the Great and Darius enter with drawn swords. Alexander slays his enemy and places Darius' crown on Thais' lovely brow. The Emperor is ecstatic. He jumps up from his throne and rushes over to embrace Alexander. Before he can do so, he is stopped by Faustus' cautioning hand. The figures he has summoned, Faustus warns, are "but shadows, not substantial." They can be seen, but not touched, nor can they be spoken to. (Remember Faustus' warning when Helen's spirit appears in Act V.) The Emperor wants to prove the reality of these ghosts. Since he cannot touch them, he has another test in mind. He has heard that Thais had a single imperfection, a mole on her neck. May he look? Yes, the mole is there. Faustus has raised Thais as she was, warts and all, accurate to the last detail. Yet these shades seem only half real. Although they are Alexander and Thais to the life, they are airy things which cannot interact with flesh-and-blood human beings. They play their silent parts as if they were inside a thick glass cage. So perhaps they have entertainment value only, and Faustus is wasting his vast power on a fairly trivial trick. The Emperor is impressed. Are you? You will have to decide whether this feat of Faustus' is just a circus act or a display of power worthy of a great wizard. Faustus now turns his attention to Benvolio. Look, he points at the knight, snoring at his windowsill. Benvolio's head is weighed down by a heavy pair of stag's horns. NOTE: BENVOLIO'S HORNS In Elizabethan England, horns on a man's head were a sign that he was a cuckold. In other words, his wife had been unfaithful to him. The Elizabethans did not sympathize with cuckolds. They regarded wronged husbands as figures of ridicule. Benvolio's plight is terrible, indeed. Not only has he lost his normal appearance, he's become an object of raillery for the entire court. Those horns are Benvolio's punishment for skepticism. Faustus, a skeptic himself on certain subjects, does not take it kindly when people disbelieve his magic. As Benvolio awakes and feels his head with horror, Faustus addresses him with icy mirth. "O, say not so, sir. The Doctor has no skill, / No art, no cunning" to put a pair of stag horns on your head. Faustus is really rubbing it in, when the Emperor intervenes. He requests that Faustus (an Emperor's request is a command) restore Benvolio to his normal shape. ^^^^^^^^^^ DOCTOR FAUSTUS: ACT IV, SCENE III Benvolio promises to take revenge on Faustus. He convinces his friends, Martino and Frederick, to help him. They lay ambush for Faustus in a wood. Either Faustus guesses their plans or his demons tip him off, for he enters the wood wearing a false head on his shoulders. The ambushers attack and strike off what they assume to be Faustus' head. They admire their grisly trophy and plan to wreak all sorts of indignities on it. Faustus, of course, isn't dead at all. He's merely lying in wait for Benvolio, Frederick, and Martino to make complete fools of themselves. Then he picks himself off the ground, keeping his hood pulled down over his shoulders, and speaks to the terrified conspirators. Where, they wonder in panic, is his voice coming from? The "headless" magician informs the appalled knights that their efforts to kill him have been in vain. For twenty-four years, until his contract with the devil expires, he can't be killed or injured. He leads a charmed life. Faustus summons his spirits (notice there are three of them now) to drag the ambushers through the wood. Throw Martino into a lake, he orders. Drag Frederick through the briars. Hurl Benvolio off a cliff. As you've probably noticed, there's a lot of roughhouse and ghoulish stage business in this scene. What do you think is the point of it all? This second encounter with Benvolio doesn't advance the plot, and it doesn't tell you anything new about Faustus. You've seen him get the better of Benvolio before. If you can't think of a point, then you'll understand why some readers suspect this scene isn't Marlowe's. The mindless horror, plus those additional demons, may point to a collaborator's work. ^^^^^^^^^^ DOCTOR FAUSTUS: ACT IV, SCENE IV Benvolio, Martino, and Frederick have taken quite a beating at the hands of Faustus' spirits. They drag themselves out of the mud and briars to find that each of them now wears a pair of stag horns on his head. They steal away to Benvolio's castle, where they can hide their shame and live unobserved by the world. The horns are permanent now, since there is no merciful Emperor around to make Faustus take them off. NOTE: ON MAGICAL TRANSFORMATIONS If you have read Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, you may want to compare Benvolio's fate with that of Bottom the weaver. In Shakespeare's play, the mischievous fairies give Bottom an ass' head to wear through the long summer night. But in the morning, they restore Bottom to his original appearance. In contrast, Benvolio and his friends are left to wear their stag horns forever. Shakespeare, with his love of harmony and his tenderness even for fools, restores the world to normal. Marlowe, perhaps a crueler spirit, leaves undone his magician's devilish work. ^^^^^^^^^^ DOCTOR FAUSTUS: ACT IV, SCENE V A horse-courser, or horse-trader, approaches Faustus with an offer to buy his horse. In Elizabethan times, horse-traders were known for being cheats and sharp dealers. The trader offers Faustus forty dollars (German coins) for his horse but apparently the price is low. Faustus suggests fifty, but the horse-trader pleads poverty, so Faustus agrees to the deal. As the trader starts to lead the horse away, Faustus stops him with a warning. Ride the horse anywhere, but not into water. Why not? asks the suspicious trader. Faustus offers no explanation, but the reason is simple. The horse is a demon spirit which will vanish in water. The trader suspects some hidden power in the horse that Faustus didn't want to reveal. He rides the animal into a pond. Two seconds later, he's left sitting on top of a wet bundle of hay. So the sharp dealer is outsmarted. Was Faustus being honest with the man when he told him not to ride the horse into water? Or was he deliberately arousing the trader's curiosity, knowing full well the man would take the first opportunity to satisfy it? The question is of interest because it makes you wonder how much humanity is left in Faustus. As soon as the trader departs, Faustus has one of those moments of introspection which occur so rarely now. "What art thou, Faustus, but a man condemned to die?" Possibly, Faustus has remembered that we are all human beings condemned to die. Perhaps he has felt a fleeting sense of brotherhood with the poor trader. More likely, however, Faustus has intended all along to cheat the horse dealer. He's devised this elaborate trick to distract his thoughts from approaching death. The faster Faustus runs, the less time he has to think. Whenever he stops his feverish activity, as he does for a moment now, the terror comes upon him. Faustus escapes his fear this time by falling asleep. The wet horse-trader returns in a rage to demand his money back. He finds Faustus asleep on a chair, and he tugs at the magician's leg to wake him up. To the trader's horror, Faustus' leg comes off. (Remember, Faustus has a demon's body now, and he can play macabre tricks with it.) The trader flees in terror with Faustus yelling "Murder!" at the top of his lungs. Faustus roars with laughter at his joke. He has the trader's money, and the trader has no horse. Is this scene funny? Are you supposed to laugh with Faustus at the horse-trader's rout? Or are you supposed to be shocked and saddened at the level to which Faustus has sunk? ^^^^^^^^^^ DOCTOR FAUSTUS: ACT IV, SCENE VI The horse-trader meets the clowns, Robin and Dick, in a nearby tavern. (This episode is found only in the 1616 text.) The trader is still fuming about his vanished horse. He tells his story, but he changes a few details to make himself out a hero. Know what I did to pay Faustus back for his nasty trick? the horse-trader confides. I attacked him while he was sleeping, and I yanked off his leg. No kidding? says Dick. I'm glad to hear it. That damn demon of his made me look like an ape. A carter or cart driver joins the party. He has a weird tale of his own to tell. The carter has met Faustus on the road to Wittenberg, where the magician offered him a small sum of money for all the hay he could eat. The carter, realizing that men don't eat hay, accepted the sum, whereupon Faustus devoured his whole wagon-load. It's really a grotesque story. Faustus' runaway appetites seem to have turned him into a fairy-tale monster, like a troll. The carter, the horse-trader, and the clowns continue to drink ale. Full of false courage, they decide to find the magician and give him a rough time about his missing leg. ^^^^^^^^^^ DOCTOR FAUSTUS: ACT IV, SCENE VII Faustus has been summoned to the Duke of Vanholt's castle, where he's busy showing off his magic arts. He asks the Duchess, who is pregnant, if there is any special food she craves. The Duchess admits she has a yen for grapes. Only it's January, she sighs. Snow covers the ground, and the grapes have long since vanished from the vines. Faustus replies graciously that grapes are no trouble at all. He sends Mephistophilis whizzing around the globe to warmer climates. The spirit returns in a twinkling of an eye with a ripe cluster of grapes. This scene asks you to exercise some historical imagination. In the twentieth century, we have electric freezers for storing summer fruits and vegetables during the winter. But the Elizabethans didn't. In their eating habits, the Elizabethans were strictly subject to the seasons. With that point in mind, what do you think of Faustus' latest trick? Is it just some good-natured hocus-pocus that you shouldn't take too seriously? Or is Faustus doing something rather impressive by thumbing his nose at the calendar? The issue at stake, as you've probably guessed, is Faustus' dignity. Either he retains the heroic stature he had in the early scenes, or he deteriorates as he wades deeper and deeper into evil--and into the illusions of Lucifer's hell. You can make an argument for Faustus' steady decline that runs something like this. In Act II, Faustus wanted knowledge and questioned Mephistophilis about the stars. In Act III, Faustus opted for experience and enjoyed the delights of travel. But by Act IV, Faustus has become obsessed with food. All he can think about is something to eat--hay for himself, "dainties" for pregnant women, and so on. In other words, Faustus began with noble aims, but under the influence of demons, he's gone steadily downhill. This leads you back to the play's Christian moral. The rowdy crew from the tavern descends on the castle of Vanholt. They bang on the gates and loudly call for Faustus to show himself. The Duke is shocked and wants to call the police. But Faustus says no. Let the louts be admitted. We'll all have a good laugh at their expense. The noisy, snow-splattered group invades the quiet stone halls of the castle. They are drunk, and the horse-trader calls loudly for beer. Then he starts ribbing Faustus about his supposed wooden leg. (Remember, the trader boasted in the tavern about the way he injured Faustus by pulling off his leg. The horse-trader, the carter, and the clowns all believe Faustus is crippled.) The trader wants to humiliate Faustus by publicizing his deformity. Stop denying you have a wooden leg, he explodes. I know I pulled your leg off while you were asleep. Faustus lifts his robe to reveal two very healthy limbs. The tavern crew breaks into noisy protests. Faustus decides it's time to silence the fools. With a wave of his hand, he strikes each of them dumb in mid-sentence. ^^^^^^^^^^ DOCTOR FAUSTUS: ACT V, SCENE I A puzzled Wagner appears on stage. He suspects his master is dying. Faustus has made a will leaving Wagner all his property. What troubles Wagner is that Faustus doesn't behave as if he is dying. He doesn't lie in bed, for instance, and send for the priest. Instead, he drinks the night away with his cronies from Wittenberg. What's Faustus up to? The scholars who are Faustus' guests this night beg him for some after-dinner entertainment. They have heard of Faustus' reputation for raising the shades of the dead. They want to see the most beautiful woman who has ever lived--Helen of Troy. NOTE: HELEN OF TROY Paris, son of King Priam of Troy, fell in love with Helen, wife of the Greek king, Menelaus. With the help of the goddess of love, Paris stole Helen from her husband's side. The enraged Menelaus called upon the other Grecian kings to help him avenge his honor and win back his wife. The Greeks set sail for Troy, and for ten years, laid siege to the city (this was the Trojan War). Finally, unable to win a decisive battle, they entered Troy by treachery (hidden inside the Trojan Horse) and burned the city to the ground. The Trojan War was the subject of Homer's epic, The Iliad. The Renaissance admired Homer above all other poets. In this scene, Faustus acts like a truly great teacher by bringing the greatest epic of the classic world to life. As Helen walks across the stage, the scholars sing her praises. She is incomparably beautiful, "the pride of Nature's works." As the scholars' words suggest, Helen represents the glories of this world, set against the glories of the next. With her bright eyes and radiant hair, she is Nature's ultimate challenge to God. An Old Man comes on stage now to present God's side of the case. You must imagine what he looks like to understand what he means to Faustus. The Old Man is stooped over and walks with a cane. He has wrinkles, gray hair, and weary eyes. Though Faustus is twenty-four years older now than he was at the start of the play, he shows none of these signs of age. His contract with the devil has protected him. Faustus' demon body is untouched by the indignities of time. Yet the Old Man's eyes shine with a light of faith that captures Faustus' attention. When the Old Man speaks, Faustus listens respectfully. There is no scoffing from the magician now. The Old Man gently scolds Faustus for the magic which has lured him away from God. So far, he tells Faustus, you have sinned like a man. "Do not persevere in it like a devil." He means that Faustus still has a human soul and can be forgiven by God. The Old Man's words tear through the veil of illusion that magic has created in this Wittenberg house. They set off a final struggle in Faustus, though, as in Act II, Faustus at first despairs at the very idea of salvation. You might imagine how he feels after all those years of denying God and serving Lucifer--all the favors he has had from hell. How can he back out of his bargain now? "Hell claims its right," a right which Faustus acknowledges. And he will do hell right by killing himself. NOTE: ON SUICIDE Suicide is a mortal sin which will damn Faustus just as surely as the expiration of his contract with Lucifer. As Faustus is well aware, hell is not at all fussy about the manner in which it acquires his soul. Faustus reaches for the dagger which Mephistophilis--no friendly spirit now--puts in his hand. The Old Man intercedes. He tells Faustus not to despair and to remember God's mercy. He points to the sky overhead. Look, an angel hovers there, ready to fill your soul with grace. Faustus looks up. Does he see an angel too? Or is the air vacant to his eyes? Whatever he sees, Faustus calms down and thanks his advisor for his good counsel. The Old Man shuffles off, leaving Faustus to his conscience--and to Mephistophilis. The spirit is right there to threaten Faustus with torture if he so much as thinks of repentance. "Revolt," he orders Faustus (he means from these thoughts of God), "or I'll in piecemeal tear thy flesh." Courage has never been one of the scholar's strong points, and he pales at the threat. He urges Mephistophilis to turn on the Old Man. Torture him. Him! Not me! Faustus pleads. Mephistophilis shrugs his shoulders. I can hurt the Old Man's body, I suppose, but I can't touch his soul. However, anything to please. And may I have Helen? Faustus asks, his thoughts abandoning the grace he has been offered for the beautiful shade who has just crossed the stage. I'll be back with her, Mephistophilis promises, "in a twinkling of an eye." (That phrase again suggests a magician's sleight of hand, when the audience barely blinks.) The caresses of the most beautiful woman in history will be Faustus' last diversion and the final payment hell will make for his soul. As Helen returns, Faustus greets her with a speech that makes you wonder if she isn't worth the price: "Was this the face that launched a thousand ships And burnt the topless towers of Ilium [Troy]?" Did Helen cause the destruction of a city, the agonies of war, the death of ancient heroes? Who can doubt it? For such beauty as this, Troy was well lost. Helen dazzles Faustus. Her radiance seems to bring tears to his eyes, so that he describes not a woman but the shimmering effect of light. Helen outshines the evening stars. She is brighter than flaming Jove, the king of the gods, when he dallied in the arms of nymphs whose very names (Semele and Arethusa) sound like all the pleasures of love. "Sweet Helen," Faustus murmurs in ecstasy, "make me immortal with a kiss." He moves to embrace her. As Faustus kisses Helen, he cries, "Her lips suck forth my soul!" Possibly this is a lover's rhapsody, or a disturbing hint that Helen may be a succuba (demon). NOTE: A SUCCUBA A succuba was a demon spirit who assumed human form to have intercourse with men. Intercourse with demons was an unpardonable sin in the eyes of the church. If Helen is a succuba, then Faustus, by claiming her as his lover, is beyond redemption. When he says, "Her lips suck forth my soul!" he is being quite literal. That's just what her lips are doing. The Old Man, who has been watching this romantic interlude from the wings, hurls damnation at Faustus like an Old Testament prophet. He is set upon by devils. Torture is the test of his faith which he passes with flying colors. Heaven opens its gates to welcome him. Faustus sweeps Helen off stage in his arms. At best, he has chosen worldly beauty over other-worldly grace. At worst, he holds a creature whose fairness disguises an ugly moral reality. As the Old Man enters heaven by the straight and narrow gate, Faustus takes the primrose path to hell. Yet, you should ask yourself how deeply you quarrel with Faustus' choice. Suppose a religious advisor warned you against a passion for the loveliest woman or the handsomest man in the world. What would you do about it? Admittedly, Faustus doesn't love Helen in any meaningful sense. He is infatuated with physical looks. But is Faustus' response to Helen a sign of gross physical appetite--or of a moving sensitivity to beauty? That's an important question because whichever it is, it's what damns Faustus in the end. ^^^^^^^^^^ DOCTOR FAUSTUS: ACT V, SCENE II In the 1616 text, Lucifer and Belzebub enter to watch Faustus' final hours. They stand on a balcony above the stage, looking down at the scene to come. The two princes of hell make a suggestive picture. The devils are on top of the world, running the show. Faustus comes from his study, where he has completed a new will. The scholars of Wittenberg greet him with concern. They have come expecting the usual food and good cheer. Instead, they find a white-faced Faustus, the somber testament of a will in his hand. Are you sick? they ask Faustus. Maybe it's only a bit of indigestion, one scholar suggests. ("Surfeit," the word he uses, means overindulgence of the appetite. Not a bad diagnosis of Faustus' trouble.) Part of Faustus yearns toward these companions. "Ah, my sweet chamber-fellow," he turns to one of them who, years ago, shared his dormitory. "Had I lived with thee"--had I stayed with the common herd of scholars--"then had I lived still." But part of Faustus insists on isolation, exclusivity. He takes a certain pride in the enormity of his sin. The serpent who tempted Eve may be forgiven, he says, but not Faustus. The magician will be great to the last, if great only in his offense. The scholars give Faustus the usual advice. Pray, man. Turn to God. But these are really just platitudes. The scholars lack the wisdom to rise to the occasion. Finally, they withdraw into the next room, leaving Faustus alone to die. As in the morality plays, the friends of Everyman abandon him on the path to the grave. In the 1616 text, there is a last exchange between Faustus and Mephistophilis. Faustus accuses the spirit of having put temptation in his way. "Bewitching fiend," he cries. "You're the one who's robbed me of paradise." Faustus made this accusation once before (see II, iii), and Mephistophilis had denied it. But now the spirit freely admits the charge. Yes, it was all my doing, Faustus. And one of my most brilliant jobs. You almost slipped away from me while you were reading the Bible. But I made sure you found no hope there. (Remember those two Biblical passages which, when read together, seemed to prove to Faustus that he was doomed? Mephistophilis is saying he made sure Faustus read those passages back-to-back.) This is quite an admission on the spirit's part. And for some readers, it casts long shadows over the play. If Mephistophilis stood unseen (and as yet unsummoned) at Faustus' elbow, turning the leaves of the Bible, who knows what other nasty tricks he has played? Switched a succuba for the shade of Helen, no doubt. Perhaps even sent Valdes and Cornelius to call. Is Faustus responsible for any of his actions? Or has he been just a puppet all this time, with Mephistophilis pulling the strings? To what degree, after all, has Faustus been in control of his fate? It's not an easy question. You can cite plenty of evidence in the play for free will. The Old Man's warning, for instance, makes sense only if Faustus is free to accept the grace he is offered, free to choose the Old Man's way. But you can also argue that Faustus is right in his feeling that he's been doomed all along. Mephistophilis' speech points in this direction. So does Lucifer's unexpected arrival (II, ii), when Faustus desperately calls on Christ. Still in the 1616 text, Faustus is now shown the heaven he has forfeited and the hell he has earned. As sweet music plays, a heavenly throne descends toward the stage. The Good Angel appears and tells Faustus, Ah, if you had only listened to me, there you would be seated like the saints in glory. The throne hovers above Faustus' head, within his vision, but forever out of reach. And now, a trap door on stage opens, revealing hell. The Evil Angel makes Faustus look down into the burning pit, where grinning devils are torturing the damned. As Faustus turns away in horror, the clock strikes the eleventh hour of Faustus' last day on earth. Faustus' final soliloquy runs fifty-nine lines, one for every minute of the hour that remains. Time is the subject of the speech, as Faustus tries frantically to stop time or at least to slow it down. He calls to the stars to halt in the sky and to the sun to rise again in the west, bringing back the precious day. The poignant speech replays the heroic themes of Act I, only this time in a sad minor key. Faustus wanted to be a god, to command "all things that move between the quiet poles." But the stars wheel in the heavens now in response to far different commands than his. Faustus' cry of protest is grand, and grandly futile. Like every human being since Adam, Faustus finds he is trapped in time. NOTE: "RUN SLOWLY, SLOWLY..." A classicist to the last, Faustus recalls a line from Ovid, the Latin love poet. "O lente, lente currite noctis equi." Run slowly, slowly, horses of the night. The line falls ironically in the midst of Faustus' death scene, for the difference in Faustus' situation and the original speaker's is great. In Ovid's poem, the lover longs for night to last so that he may continue to he in the arms of his beloved. Faustus, of course, wants the night to endure because the sun will rise on the dawn of his torment. The Latin words sound like a last attempt to cast a spell. But it doesn't work. if anything, the pace of time speeds up. "The stars move still, time runs, the clock will strike." Faustus has a vision. Far off in the night sky, he sees the streaming blood of Christ. You remember when Faustus signed a contract with the devil, his own blood refused to flow. He asked Mephistophilis, "Why streams it not?" And the spirit brought coals to set it flowing afresh. Christ's blood streams in the heavens now as a sign of divine mercy, withheld from Faustus because of his own denial of God. The clock strikes eleven-thirty. The seconds are ticking away much too fast. And yet, time stretches away before Faustus in that dizzyingly endless expanse we call eternity. Faustus will burn in hell a billion years--only the beginning of his torment. Faustus wanted immortality, and he has found it in an unlooked-for way. The clock strikes midnight. The thunder roars. Leaping devils come on stage to carry Faustus away. Faustus makes his final, frantic plea. "I'll burn my books," cries this seeker of forbidden knowledge. Well, he will burn for them, at any rate. And then a shriek, "Mephistophilis!" A cry for help? An accusation? A shock of recognition? Then Faustus disappears through the trap door into the yawning mouth of hell. If you are reading the 1604 text, the play ends here. ^^^^^^^^^^ DOCTOR FAUSTUS: ACT V, SCENE III After a dreadful night, a quiet morning dawns. The scholars find Faustus' torn body, and though they deplore his fate, they honor his great learning. Wittenberg will hold a stately funeral. The Chorus returns for a final word. He speaks like a Christian moralist now. The Chorus has severe qualms about all this classic learning. One has only to look at its effect on Faustus. NOTE: ON THE IMAGE OF THE BURNT LAUREL BOUGH The laurel was the sacred tree of Apollo, the Greek god of intellect. When the Chorus says, "Burned is Apollo's laurel bough / That sometime grew within this learned man," he means that Faustus, the avid classicist, followed the classics too far. Spurred on by the freedom of ancient Greek thought, Faustus delved into knowledge forbidden by the church. As a result, he found the searing Christian hell, never imagined by the Greeks. Let Faustus' fall be a lesson to everyone, the Chorus continues, not to practice magic. There is nothing wrong with curiosity, but for God's sake, don't touch. The great disturbance at Wittenberg is over. The scholars return to their studies. The professors give their everyday lectures, unassisted by ghosts. And peace returns to the university. Or does it? Look again at the Chorus' last words: Faustus is gone: regard his hellish fall, Whose fiendful fortune may exhort the wise Only to wonder at unlawful things Whose deepness doth entice such forward wits To practice more than heavenly power permits. Faustus may be roasting in hell, but magic has lost none of its appeal. Its very deepness testifies to its enduring fascination. The old men of Wittenberg may have won the day for now. They have succeeded, for the time being, in clamping down on the questionable practice of wizardry. But the "forward wits," the young scholars, are still champing at the bit, waiting for their chance to rush into necromancy. As long as young men have adventurous spirits, the university hasn't heard the last of black magic. Not by a long shot. ^^^^^^^^^^ DOCTOR FAUSTUS: ON FAUSTUS Proud Faustus is the most uneasy of men, the frailest conqueror, the most sorrowful of atheists, uncertain of his uncertainties. Here indeed is the weak man, terror-stricken by his own audacity, irresolute at the very moment when he boasts of his inflexibility, hurling defiance at God and Devil, but immediately mad with terror, choosing now the soul, now matter; incapable of grasping the unity of the world, of making a synthesis between this soul which he cannot repudiate and this matter which imposes on him its laws. He hopes, then renounces; summons, then rejects; brags and trembles. -Henri Fluchere, Shakespeare and the Elizabethans, 1967 If pity mixed with condemnation were the only feeling that Marlowe's audience can have for Faustus, then he would still be a poor sort of figure, tragic perhaps but only in a rather weak, pathetic sort of way; an Edward II in fact. But again the experience of reading and seeing the play tells us quite plainly that he is not that. There are also a kind of strength and a kind of attractiveness. Both reside in the quality of his imagination. "Megalo-manical fantasy" is [the critic] Kirschbaum's phrase for this imagination, and it is a fair objective analysis of the "diseased ego," a "case" in the psychologist's notebook: but it is also remarkably deaf or blind to the beauty of the lines in which the "case" expresses himself. Let us take the most famous speech of all, Faustus' address to the spirit-Helen of Troy.... What is in the foreground is poetry of exceptional radiance and beauty: moreover, a fervour of spirit and responsiveness to the presence of beauty that are powerful and infectious. -J. B. Steane, "Introduction" to Christopher Marlowe: The Complete Plays, 1969 ^^^^^^^^^^ DOCTOR FAUSTUS: ON FAUSTUS AND MEPHISTOPHILIS After the scholars have left, the mockery of Mephistophilis administers a last turn of the screw: "'Twas I, that when thou wert i' the way to heaven, Damned up thy passage; when thou tookst the book To view the scriptures, then I turned the leaves And led thine eye." Faustus weeps. It is a terrifying speech, recoiling on our whole experience of the play. But without it the exploration of the mystery of evil would not be complete; it is the dramatic equivalent of the gospel's equally disturbing, "Then entered Satan into Judas." From one point of view the play's devils are only symbols of "aspiring pride and insolence," and it is simply Faustus's wilful pride that turned the leaves and led his eye. -J. P. Brockbank, Marlowe: Dr. Faustus, 1962 Faustus has in Mephistophilis an alter ego who is both a demon and a Damon. The man has an extraordinary affection for the spirit, the spirit a mysterious attraction to the man. Mephistophilis should not be confused with Goethe's sardonic nay-sayer; neither is he an operatic villain nor a Satanic tempter. He proffers no tempting speeches and dangles no enticements; Faustus tempts himself and succumbs to temptations which he alone has conjured up. What Mephistophilis really approximates, with his subtle insight and his profound sympathy, is the characterization of Porfiry, the examining magistrate in Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment. The dialogues between Faustus and Mephistophilis resemble those cat-and-mouse interrogations in which Porfiry teaches the would-be criminal, Raskolnikov, to accuse and convict himself. -Harry Levin, The Overreacher, 1964 ^^^^^^^^^^ DOCTOR FAUSTUS: ON THE MESSAGE OF THE PLAY If he had lived longer, perhaps Marlowe might have written a play of true Christian affirmation, but he did not do so in Doctor Faustus... though in that play, he seemed to be moving closer than ever to traditional Christianity. -Ronald Ribner, "Marlowe's 'Tragicke Glasse,'" 1961 No doubt, he (Marlowe) yearns all the more avidly with Faustus, but with Faustus he condemns himself; the Good Angel and the Old Man are at liberty, while Mephistophilis is in perpetual fetter. Yet, it is just at this point that Marlowe abandons his preoccupation with unfettered soaring, and seems to submit himself to ideas of durance, torment, and constraint. If he is imaginatively identified with any character, it is no longer Faustus; it is Mephistophilis, who suffers with Faustus like a second self yet also plays the cosmic ironist, wise in his guilty knowledge and powerful in his defeated rebellion. -Harry Levin, The Overreacher, 1964 THE END