This is the full title
to the play
by Christopher Marlowe
d Kit Marlowe
. This play exists in two very different forms. They are distinguished
as the A text (1604
) and the longer B text (1616
The A text has a prologue, 13 scenes, and an epilogue.
The Chorus introduces the play. The prologue lets the audience know that this is not the normal heroic, romantic, or political play. Instead, it is about the character and decisions of Faustus. Then, the chorus tell the audience that Faustus is born of normal parents in the Rhodes, Germany. He is educated at Wittenberg and studies medicine and divinity. He is so conceited that he reaches too high, as did Icarus, and falls when he takes up necromancy. Then the curtain opens to Faustus sitting in his study.
Faustus is sitting in his study, and talking to himself about his studies. He first considers his studies in logic. He decides that logic offers little except the ability to "dispute well," and since he has achieved that he will no longer study logic anymore. Next he considers medicine, but even though he is a doctor, Faustus feels that curing disease is not enough. Because he is unable to raise the dead or procure immortality, medicine is not a good profession. Next he considers law and finds it boring and boorish. He moves quickly on to divinity. However, he does not like how the Bible says that man must sin and therefore die. He decides to give up divinity. He does find a study that brings him joy: magic and necromancy. He loves the idea of omnipotence. He calls Wagner, his servant, to invite Valdes and Cornelius, magicians, to his home. After Wagner is dispatched on his mission, a good angel and a bad angel appear to Faustus. The good angel implores Faustus to give up this blasphemous idea and go back to the Scripture. The bad angel tells Faustus to continue in this endeavor. The angels leave. Faustus is caught up in his reverie of the power that will be in his grasp. Valdes and Cornelius come and discuss Faustus's commitment to necromancy. Faustus swears that this is what he wants, and Valdes and Cornelius agree to teach him.
Two scholars wondering about Faustus run across Wagner. They inquire about Faustus, and Wagner responds incryptic, pseudo-scholarly answers. The scholars find out that Faustus is going into magic and fear for him. This short scene shows that Faustus does have people who care for him. His decision to relinquish his normal studies does have outside ramifications.
Faustus is trying to conjure up Mephastophilis. The devil appears, and Faustus tells him to leave and come back in the form of a Franciscan friar. The devil leaves and returns as asked, and Faustus gloats in his power. Faustus tells Mephastophilis to become his servant, but Mephastophilis says that he is unable to because he is bound to Lucifer. Faustus learns that although he conjured Mephastophilis, it was not because of his conjuring. Mephastophilis appeared on his own accord because he heard Faustus swear against God and Christ. Faustus verbally dedicates himself to Lucifer, and asks about him. Lucifer was once the most dearly loved angel, but by aspiring to be as great as God, he fell from heaven. Mephastophilis had sided with Lucifer, and thusly, he fell with Lucifer. Faustus asks where they are damned, and Mephastophilis answers hell. Faustus is confounded becauses Mephastophilis is damned in hell, yet is in his study. Mephastophilis replies that hell is anywhere heaven is not, and laments his loss. Faustus upbraids him about his lament and tells the devil to look upon his "manly fortitude." He tells Mephastophilis to tell Lucifer that he will exchange his soul for 24 years of service from Mephastophilis. Mephastophilis leaves on the errand, and Faustus dreams of his greatness.
This is a comic scene with Wagner and a clown. Wagner forces the clown to become his servant. He sets two devils on the clown to enforce his desire. The clown agrees to serve Wagner.
analysis to continue at a later time
Goethe also wrote about Faustus but the treatment is quite different. The immediate source of the play is a German narrative. Its English title is The History of the Damnable Life and Deserved Death of Doctor John Faustus.