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A Complete Analysis Of Doctor Faustus


Below is a complete analysis of Doctor Faustus which is one of the Gothic texts being studied at English A2. I will be going through the book in chronological order looking at the most important quotes and their meanings (with page numbers. If the quote has no page number, take the page number of the previous quote(s) and it will be on the same page as that). Feel free to skip to the parts most relevant to you.

To sum up, this article has the following:
  • A complete chronological analysis of Doctor Faustus with quotes, page numbers, and analytical explanations.
  • My review of the Gothic play.
  • Is Faustus the sole architect of his own demise?
  • Comparing Faustus to the traditional morality play.
  • The top 5 magic/supernatural moments in Doctor Faustus.
  • The historical context to Doctor Faustus.
  • Who is the victim in the play (potentially seven victims).
  • Is Faustus a victim or a martyr?
  • Is Mephistopheles a villain or victim?
  • Faustus as a tragic and romantic hero.
  • Why this play is a Gothic text.
  • The interpretations of Doctor Faustus from the production by Greenwich Theatre Production 2010.

Before we start the play's analysis, it is a good idea to quickly state what Doctor Faustus is about. Basically, Dr Faustus transgresses (oversteps the boundary) and is punished (where immortals punish mortals). Transgression is a key theme in Doctor Faustus.

Prologue

This a introduction to the play. It has the Chorus speaking giving the audience a bit of background about Dr Faustus (P3). The Chorus is a convention of Greek tragedy which doesn't get involved in the action of the story. Instead, the Chorus is a spectator that simply provides moral judgement for the audience.
  • 'Not marching now in fields of Trasimene' makes clear this is not a story about war.
  • 'Nor sporting in the dalliance of love' makes clear this is not a story about love.
  • 'Nor in the pomp of proud audacious deeds' makes clear it is not about bravery too.
  • The Chorus tells the audience to have, 'patient judgements'. The audience needs to watch this play and judge Faustus. This makes the audience an active audience because the Chorus is trying to evoke an action from them.
  • Dr Faustus' background is of being common and poor with a low status as his parents are of 'base of stock'.
  • Faustus was 'shortly he was graced with doctor's name'. Faustus excels in his field as he is a doctor.
  • 'swoll'n with cunning of self-conceit'. Faustus is full of himself (arrogant).
  • There is a reference to Icarus, 'His waxen wings did mount above his reach'. From this, it is clear Faustus is a Icarus-type character who tried to push boundaries and fell like the devil due to his transgression.
  • The Chorus makes clear that his downfall was planned from the start by Lucifer, 'And melting heavens conspired his overthrow'.
  • 'necromancy' are dark arts which consists of conjuring the dead.
  • Good Quote 'Nothing so sweet as magic is to him'. 

Act 1

Scene 1 (P5)

Faustus starts the play off with a soliloquy. This is so that he can let the audience know of his thoughts. 
  • P5 'Settle thy studies, Faustus'. Here, Faustus is talking to himself which makes clear he is arrogant. However, there is also a possibility of a split personality here to.
  • Latin is used throughout the play. 'On kai me on' translates as 'to be or not to be' which is a important quote from Shakespeare's Hamlet. 
  • Good Quote 'Yet art thou still but Faustus, and a man'. Faustus wants to be more than a man. 
  • P7 'The reward of sin is death...Why then belike we must sin, And so consequently die'. If we have all sinned, we will all die. Therefore, this is Faustus' argument for transgression (because he is going to die in hell anyway as everyone sins throughout their life).
  • 'These metaphysics of magicians / And necromantic books are heavenly'. Necromantic books bring spirits back to life. This is a transgression of death. At the time this play was wrote, people believed in witchcraft and hell. 
  • Faustus goes through what he thinks he will gain from transgressing, 'power, of honour, of omnipotence'. Omnipotence (all knowing) is a work used to describe God. Therefore, he wants the same stature as God.
  • 'All things that move between the quiet poles / Shall be at my command'. Faustus wants to rule the world with his new power. However, as we find out, this is nothing to what he really gains from transgression.
  • P9 The Good Angel appears on P9 with, 'O Faustus, lay that damne'd book aside'. The split personality is supported by the fact there is a Good and Evil angel trying to stop/encourage transgression. The Good Angel puts an accent on the 'e' of 'damned' to make an extra syllable so that the line is 10 syllables long. 
  • The Good Angel basically states that temptation leads to damnation (hell). Faustus is risking damnation. 
  • However, the Evil Angel then states after the Good Angel, 'Be thou earth as Jove is in the sky'. From this, she is wanting Faustus to transgress.
  • Faustus wants the spirits to 'Resolve me of all ambiguities'. He wants the spirits to answer all his questions which cannot be answered such as the meaning of life.
On P9, Faustus goes through all the things he wants to gain from transgressing. All in all, it is a very long list which contrasts greatly to what he actually achieves (not much). Faustus wants:
  • Gold and treasures - 'fly to India for Gold'.
  • Pearls - 'Ransack the ocean for orient pearl'.
  • Exploration (first to discover things) - 'search all corners of the new-found world'.
  • 'pleasant fruits and princely delicates'.
  • To become a teacher - 'read me strange philosophy'.
  • Fortify Germany - 'I'll have them wall all Germany with brass'.
  • 'make swift Rhine circle fair Wittenberg'.
  • Fill schools with silk - 'fill the public schools with silk'.
  • Enlist soldiers using the money he will gain - 'I'll levy soldiers'.
  • Rule the world.
  • Chase away Princes.
  • Become a King.
  • Gain forbidden knowledge.
This then begs the question if all of the above is worth eternal damnation? From the play of Doctor Faustus and from learning from it, never.
  • P11 Good Quote 'Tis magic, magic that hath ravished me'. Faustus is seduced by the dark arts which is a deadly sin by itself (lust).
  • 'Will be as cunning as Agrippa was'. Agrippa summoned the dead.
Valdes then states what will happen from gaining forbidden knowledge on P11:
  • They will become idolised and obeyed.
  • They will have power over the elements: wind, fire, earth and rain.
Valdes goes on like Faustus about all the amazing things that will happen. There is a link to the ram's fleece Greek mythology, 'And from America the golden fleece'. The golden fleece is seen as the ultimate prize to obtain.
  • 'If learne'd Faustus will be resolute'. Again, there is an accent on the 'e' of learned to make the line 10 syllables long.
  • P13 'Then tell me, Faustus, what shall we three want?'. This has reference to the start of Macbeth where there were three witches. There is a echo of evil here. As well as this, it is also a rhetorical question. There is evidence of desire. What will they want after having everything>
  • Good Quote 'O, this cheers my soul!' Faustus is in a state of mind about the dark arts where he is ready to sell his soul to the devil.
  • 'This night I'll conjure, though I die therefore'. Faustus knows exactly what he is doing and the consequences of his potential actions. Therefore, this can be seen that it is no-one  but Faustus' own fault.

Scene 2 (P13)

Scene 2 starts with a conversation between two scholars.
  • The first point is to make clear that we have gone from 10 syllables per line to now prose. This is possibly due to Wagner being involved in the scene (who is of low class).
  • P13 'I wonder what's become of Faustus, that was / wont to make our schools ring with 'sic probo'. Faustus' absence has been noticed at the place he studies: Wittenberg.
  • P17 'O, but I fear me nothing can reclaim him'. The scholar is scared that Faustus is already lost to the dark arts.

Scene 3 (P17)

This Scene is the start of Faustus' transgression where he succeeds in conjuring Mephistopheles up from hell.
  • P17 'gloomy shadow of earth'. Gothic pathetic fallacy is used to create a Gothic setting - evil deeds are about to happen.
  • 'Orion's drizzling look'. Orion's belt is a set of stars in the sky. Stars are associated with heaven. Therefore, if they have gone out, the heavens have gone and are not present during these evil deeds. This creates an extremely dark and Gothic setting.
  • 'Faustus, begin thine incantations'. An incantation is a magical chant.
  • Faustus is basically praying to the devil which is blasphemous to heaven and God, 'And try if devils will obey they hest'.
  • 'Within this circle is Jehovah's name'. Faustus is being very blasphemous here as he is writing God's name for the use of dark arts, 'Forward and backward anagrammatised'.
  • Faustus believes his incantations will make the, 'spirits enforced to rise'. However, this is not true. Mephistopheles comes at his own accord: not because Faustus made him come.
  • When Faustus starts his incantation, he does it in Latin which is the language of the church. This makes clear that he is being blasphemous - he has misused holy symbols and has used devilish imagery.
For this reason, a Gothic setting has been created at the moment Faustus tried to summon up Mephistopheles because:
  • There is an element of supernatural with the symbols on the floor.
  • Faustus' actions are one of evil and blasphemous.
  • The setting is dark with the lack of any stars (heaven) being present.
  • He enchants to bring up the devil to obey him.
To the audience's amazement, a devil (Mephistopheles) enters:
  • P19 'Go, and return an old Franciscan friar'. This is a Catholic monk. To make the devil return as a Catholic monk was accepted as OK at the time of this play because of the reformation. It also suggests that there is evil at work in the Catholic church.
  • P21 'The word 'damnation' terrifies not him / For he confounds hell in Elysium'. Faustus thinks he is higher than God. Elysium is a Greek heaven pagan.
  • 'vain trifles of men's souls'. Faustus believe in hell and is therefore not scared.
  • 'O, by aspiring pride and insolence, / For which God threw him from the face of heaven'. Mephistopheles states that God punished Lucifer for his pride (which is one of the seven deadly sins).
  • 'Why, this is hell, nor am I out of it'. Mephistopheles makes clear that hell is a state of mind and not a physical place. Since Mephistopheles was a fallen angel too, he has experienced the 'everlasting bliss' of heaven. Therefore, the abundance of heaven is hell. However, he could be luring Faustus into transgressing too since that the description is very vague and doesn't sound too bad at all.
  • Good Quote 'O Faustus, leave these frivolous demands'. Instead of luring Faustus into transgressing  Mephistopheles is now telling Faustus that his demands are not worth eternal damnation  If this is the case, what type of 'demands' are worth eternal damnation from the perspective of Mephistopheles? it could also be seen that the reason these 'frivolous demands' 'strike a terror into my fainting soul' is because Faustus has a chance to go to heaven unlike Mephistopheles and he is throwing it away. He can see Faustus' fate and wants him to go to heaven as Mephistopheles knows what hell is like and doesn't want him to go there (he's being quite nice!).
  • P23 Faustus wants Mephistopheles to spare him 'four-and-twenty years'. The reason it is this many years could represent the play being acted out in one day where each hour represents one year.
  • 'Letting him live in all voluptuousness'. Voluptuousness is the lust for necromancy.
  • Faustus wants Mephistopheles to be his servant 'To give me..To tell me..To slay mine...'
  • There could be a pause because Mephistopheles says 'I will, Faustus'. If there is a pause, it means Mephistopheles is reluctant to become Faustus' servant.
Faustus should have learned to not transgress. He appears arrogant as it is evident he feels he is greater than hell. He thinks his is an exception and special making clear he is also ignorant. Scene 3 has a Gothic atmosphere due to the first scene which has the devil in it. 

Scene 4 (P23)

Scene 4 holds a sub plot. This is a plot which mirrors the main themes of the main plot. It involves some of the lower class characters such as Robin and Wagner.
  • P25 Robin uses blasphemous words, 'Swounds'. The language, in general, is also very colloquial.
  • 'a shoulder of mutton' is a parody of Faustus's demands making his demands seem trivial.
  • In the on-screen modern version of the play, Wagner has a cockney accent with Robin having a south-welsh accent. These are regional colloquial languages. 
  • P27 'No, no, here, take your gridirons again. (He attempts to return the money). Even Robin is an idiot, he does try to repent in his sub plot  something Faustus tries to do numerous times but never ends up doing.
  • 'devils has horns'. The 'horns' is a phallic symbol.
  • The sub plot mocks the main plot making it comical.
  • The sub plot emphasises the 'frivolous demands' of Faustus.
  • The lack of intelligence could mirror and emphasise Faustus' foolishness to sell his soul to become cleverer.
  • The sub plot also is illustrating how Faustus' transgression is spreading through the play like a disease.

Act 2 

Scene 1 (P33)

  • P33 Faustus is contemplating what to do. This creates opposites such as 'damned' and 'saved' and 'heaven?' and 'despair'. Faustus is talking like he has a dual personality: like he has an evil and good angel talking to him in his head.
  • 'To God? He loves thee not'. This is a shorter line than the previous lines which disrupts the verse.
  • P35 There is the use blood imagery (macabre) when Faustus cuts his own so that he can write the contract with his own blood, 'Then stab thine arm courageously'.
  • There is the repetition of 'Great Lucifer' by Mephistopheles and Faustus to signify who Faustus now sees as great. 
  • P37 Faustus' blood congeals in a last ditch attempt to stop himself from transgressing. Mephistopheles 'fetch thee fire to dissolve it straight'. 
  • There is the use of supernatural behaviour when Faustus discovers  the inscription of 'Homo, fuge!' on his arm. This is Latin for 'Fly, O man!' which comes from the Bible: 1 Timothy 6:11. This is another attempt to stop Faustus transgressing as it is telling him to fly away from this evil.
The best description of hell from Mephistopheles appears on P41:

Within the bowels of these elements,
Where we are tortured and remain for ever.
Hell hath no limits, nor is circumscribed
In one self place, for where we are is hell, 
And where hell is must we ever be.
And, to conclude, when all the world dissolves, 
And every creature shall be purified,
All places shall be hell that is not heaven.

It's interesting that the best description of hell comes after Faustus has signed the contract with Lucifer for his soul. If Mephistopheles mentioned this description of hell before the signing of the contract, he could have risked scaring Faustus away from damnation. However, there is nothing Faustus can do now after hearing what hell is like in more detail - he has signed the contract already.

There are some similarities between Act 2 Scene 1 and Act 1 Scene 1: There is thoughts on repentance.
  • Faustus is thinking about God and heaven.
  • There are evil distractions.
  • There are temptations (such as the Good and Evil Angels).
  • There is the importance for Faustus' soul. Lucifer wants Faustus' soul.
  • There is the punishment for focusing on Christianity (the wife which is a symbol of marriage).

Scene 2 (P45)

Scene 2 features the sub plot again with Robin and Rafe.
  • P45 'Here I ha' stol'n one of Doctor Faustus' conjuring books'. There is lechery amongst the lower class characters (which is one of the deadly sins).
  • P47 'Nan Spit'. Here, Robin is being rude and continuing the lechery. The transgression is filtering down to the lower characters making clear that the sins are spreading.

Scene 3 (P47)

Scene 3 starts with 'Enter FAUSTUS in his study and MEPHISTOPHELES.'

  • P47 Faustus starts by looking up at the stars, 'When I behold the heavens, then I repent / And curse thee'. Faustus wants to be close to the person that made stars being God as the stars are a metaphor for heaven in Doctor Faustus.
There are lots of quotes about repenting in Scene 3 which are listed below:
  • P49 Faustus - 'I will renounce this magic and repent'.
  • Good Angel - 'Faustus, repent yet, God will pity thee'.
  • Faustus - 'Be I a devil, yet God may pity me / Ay, God will pity me if I repent'.
  • Evil Angel - 'Ay, but Faustus never shall repent'.
  • Faustus - 'Scare can I name salvation, faith or heaven'.
  • Faustus - 'Faustus, thou art dammed!'.
  • Faustus - 'Had not sweet pleasure conquered deep despair'.
  • Faustus - 'I am resolved Faustus shall ne'er repent'.
It could be seen that Faustus has an affectionate relationship with Mephistopheles. During his soliloquy on P49, he describes Mephistopheles as 'my Mephistopheles' as if he is Faustus' possession. 
  • P49 Faustus is a clever man which is why he wants to have an intellectual dispute because he loves disputing, 'let us dispute again / And argue of divine astrology'.
  • P51 Faustus shows off his intellectual knowledge from lines 50-58.
  • When Mephistopheles is asked, 'who made the world', by Faustus, he responds with, 'I will not'. This blunt answer could suggest Mephistopheles is angered by such a question being asked to him (wrath). However, the contract Faustus signed would dismiss all acknowledgements of heaven and God. Now that Faustus has signed the contract, he should be completely devoted to Mephistopheles and hell.
  • P53 After angering Mephistopheles, Faustus thinks about repenting again whether, 'Is't not too late?'.
  • Faustus is extremely close to repenting when he says, 'Ah, Christ, my Saviour, / Seek to save distresse'd Faustus' soul!' At this moment, we get a first glimpse at Lucifer who has come to try and stop Faustus repenting.
  • P55 Lucifer introduces Faustus to the 'Seven Deadly Sins' where he states Faustus should 'mark this show'. This makes clear that the appearance of the Seven Deadly Sins are meant to seem pleasurable and entertaining to Faustus so that it encourages him not to repent.
Here are the Seven Deadly Sins with quotes:
  • P55 Pride - 'I am like Ovid's flea'. It could be seen that Pride was first in this performance because 1) it is what caused Lucifer to damnation and 2) it is Faustus' greatest sin.
  • Covetousness - 'O my sweet gold!'.
  • Wrath - 'I leaped out of a lion's mouth'.
  • P56 Envy - 'I cannot read, and therefore wish all books burnt'.
  • Gluttony - 'My parents are all dead' - He has taken everything from them. 'thirty meals a day' - He eats a lot. 'thou hast heard all my progeny, wilt thou bid me to supper?'. Since Gluttony has told Faustus his story, he now wants food as a payment.
  • Sloth - 'I'll not speak another word for a king's ransom'.
  • Lechery - 'I am one that loves an inch of raw mutton'. Faustus calls lechery, 'Minstress Minx'. This makes clear that women are the depiction of lechery.
Lucifer then sends the Seven Deadly Sins back to hell.
  • P59 Good Quote 'O, this feeds my soul!'. This show has been pleasurable enough for Faustus to not repent. This makes clear that the show was entertaining to him. As well as this, there is an echo from Act 1 Scene 1 of, 'O, this cheers my soul!'.
  • Act 2 Scene 3 makes clear that Faustus is a passion-drive wilful protagonist.
Below are the five most important aspects to Act 2 Scene 5:
  1. Faustus is close to repentance.
  2. Faustus speaks a lot of God and heaven (which Lucifer sees as a big mistake).
  3. Lucifer's appearance. This illustrates that Faustus was, in fact, very close to repentance. 
  4. Seven Deadly Sins which showed Faustus how much fun you can have in hell (temptation).
  5. Lucifer's distraction to Faustus.
  6. It's a 'rubbish' deal that Faustus has signed.
  7. Lucifer reaffirms Faustus' religious aspect.
Remember that this is also a very Gothic scene too. It has the basis of good vs evil and the presence of all sins is very Gothic in general too.

Act 3

Chorus (P63)

Act 3 Scene 1 starts with the Chorus (which only turns up at key turning points) giving the audience a bit of information about what Faustus has done over the years with his newly gained power. This does mean that time has gone by. The Chorus, in this case, has been used as Wagner which makes clear that the chorus, in this case, might be unreliable and biased.
  • P63 The Chorus describes that Faustus has, 'mount himself to scale Olympus' top'. This is a mountain in Greece where God lived. Therefore, this makes clear that Faustus is heading for a fall like Prometheus.
  • 'Peter's feast' is based by the Catholic church.

Scene 1 (P63)

Faustus starts Scene 1 off, like chorus, describing all the things he has done over the years. Faustus has been:
  • On 'airy mountain-tops'.
  • To 'Paris next, coasting the realm of France'.
  • On the 'river Maine fall into Rhine'.
  • To 'Naples, rich Campania'.
  • To 'learne'd Maro's golden tomb'.
  • 'thence to Venic, Padua, and the rest'.
  • 'Conducted me within the walls of Rome'.
Therefore, we gain that, after travelling the world, Faustus and Mephistopheles have ended up at Rome.
  • P65 Lines 27-43 has Mephistopheles giving a grand introduction to Rome making the city sound opulent.
  • Faustus talks about hell, 'of infernal rule / Of Styx, Acheron, and the fiery lake / Of ever-burning Phlegethon'.
  • Mephistopheles gives a stereotypical view of friars of being bald and fat and full of gluttony, 'Where thou shalt see a troupe of bald-pate friars / Who summum bonum (greatest good) in in belly cheer'.
  • 'And by their folly makes us merriment'. Faustus thinks the friars are being foolish.
  • P67 Faustus is invisible but present at Peter's Feast which has the Pope talking. This part of the play has comedy and visual humour (especially from the fact the reformation of the audience would have meant they would have enjoyed the disruption of the Catholic church too).
  • 'Fall to, and the devil choke you an you spare'. Faustus is being blasphemous and thinks the Pope is sinning  and wants the Pope to have damnation. Faustus feels that there is corruption in the Catholic church as the the Pope and priests have loads of food while the poor don't.
  • Visual humour is created 'I thank you sir. (Snatch it)'...'(Snatching the dish) You say true, I'll ha't'...'(Snatching the cup) I'll pledge your Grace'.
  • Faustus continues to sin because he hits the Pope, 'The POPE crosses himself again and FAUSTUS hits him a box of the ear, and they all run away'.
  • P69 The sins Faustus commits are not too bad from what the Friar says on lines 89-100.
  • Mephistopheles uses fireworks to scare the friars away. Fireworks are the representation of hell.
A summary of Act 3 Scene 1:
  • Any doubt before of repent has gone: Faustus is with the devil.
  • It is trivial. Faustus is not using his powers to their full potential - he is just having fun.
  • The audience is told of the places he has visited and the powers he has used.
  • The audience gains an idea of the sins of the Catholic church such as gluttony and greed.
  • Faustus was invisible during Peter's Feast. These are powers only God should have.
  • There are lots of anti-catholic messages because the reformation was 'on trend' at the time this play was performed. It was OK to go against the Catholic church at this time because the audience was Protestant based.

Scene 2

The sub plot continues between Robin and Rafe. Here is a summary of Act 3 Scene 2:
  • Mephistopheles turns Robin and Rafe into animals as a punishment for requesting his presence.
  • Mephistopheles has to enter every time he is called which is comical.
  • Robin and Rafe are gullible, naive, and given strong accents.
  • There are lots of stage directions (such as when they give the goblet to each other).
  • Vinter is a girl in the play and will be subject to jokes.
  • Triviality - the curses are every trivial with there being lust and lechery from the characters.

Act 4

Chorus (P77)

The Chorus is a dramatic device for setting time and place (production point).
  • P77 The Chorus makes clear that Faustus is well liked, 'Faustus had with pleasure ta'en the view'. This creates a positive mood.
  • 'Which Faustus answered with such learne'd skill'. Faustus is passing his transgressed knowledge onwards to others.
  • 'As they admired and wondered at his wit'. Faustus now has a famous and well-know background.
  • 'Now is his fame spread forth in every land'. Faustus is also famous everywhere now too.
  • 'I leave untold, your eyes shall see performed'. The audience will see Faustus' story acted out as the chorus cannot explain it.

Scene 1 (P77)

This scene starts with , 'Enter EMPEROR, FAUSTUS, MEPHISTOPHELES and a KNIGHT, with ATTENDANTS'.
  • Faustus is now speaking in prose in this scene unlike before. This suggests that he is a lower class character compared to the likes of the Emperor.
  • P79 'If, therefore, thou by cunning of thine art / Canst raise this man from hollow vaults below'. The Emperor wants one of this ancestors, Alexander the Great, to be summoned from the dead (necromancy) so the Emperor can learn from him. This makes clear that Faustus has not become great, he is summoning the great. This is not what Faustus initially wanted.
  • There is nothing harmful in Faustus' magic - he is still having fun.
  • P83 'gives thee horns'. The horns could be a reference to the devil. However, it could also suggest the knight, from having horns on his head, is cuckhold. He is unable to control his wife.
  • The Knight describes Faustus as a 'damne'd wretch'. Faustus is going to hell anyway, so this insult is not too bad.
  • There could be a deeper meaning when the Knight says, 'Villain, I say, undo what thou hast done'. The Knight, in a deeper meaning, might be telling Faustus to repent. It makes the point that Faustus could be seen as a villain in the play.
  • 'That time doth run with calm and silent foot'. Time is personified here which makes it out that time is always there by Faustus.
  • P85 'Short'ning my days and thread of vital life'. Faustus is in a hurry because time is running out. The thread is a metaphor for life where, for Faustus, the thread is running out.
  • 'Calls for payment for latest years' Faustus' payment is his soul.
  • Faustus is not accepting that time is running out. The mood has changed to sombre (it's sad but necessary).
  • 'To Wittenberg'. The play starts an finishes in Wittenberg providing a cyclical form to the play.
  • When the Horse-Courser enters, the audience wants Faustus to cheat him as usually it is the other way around.
  • P87 Good Quote 'What art thou, Faustus, but a man condemned to die?' This is Faustus' punishment.
  • 'Christ did call the thief upon the cross'. Faustus wants there to be hope for forgiveness and redemption.
  • 'had some rare quality'. The Horse-Courser thinks that the horse Faustus sold him was special. Therefore, he was driven by greed.
  • P89 Faustus uses trickery on the Horse-Courser, 'O my leg, my leg! Help, Mephistopheles!'.

Scene 2 (P91) 

Act 4 Scene 2 starts by having Faustus, Mephistopheles, the Duke of Vanholt and the pregnant Duchess enter.
  • P91 'Alas madam, that's nothing (Aside to Mephistopheles) Mephistopheles, begone! It is clear Mephistopheles is doing the magic still as he is the one that goes away and returns with the grapes the pregnant Duchess requested.
  • The magic Faustus is doing is nothing compared to what he initially wanted. He is now pleasing others where originally, he just wanted to please himself.
  • All in all, the Emperor, Horse-Courser trickery and Duke rewards Faustus for his magic.

Act 5

Scene 1 (P97)

  • Again, the character of Wagner is used as the Chorus. This makes it possible for him to set the scene for the start of Act 5 Scene 1.
  • P97 'he hath given to me all his goods'. The audience will be preparing for Faustus' death as Faustus has already giving his possession to Wagner.
  • 'if that death were near / He would not banquet and carouse and swill'. Faustus is drinking lots and trying to have a good time while it lasts.
  • 'Who are at supper with such belly-cheer'. As well as drinking lots, Faustus is eating lots (gluttony). A point to make about this is that 'belly-cheer' was used to describe the stereotypical friar from Mephistopheles. Therefore, can there be comparisons between the friar and Faustus?
  • 'the feast is ended'. As well as making clear Faustus is still sinning with gluttony, the feast can be a metaphor for Faustus. The feast has ended and so will Faustus' life too soon.
  • Act 5 Scene 1 is allegorical: every character represents something. An allegorical life is a journey (Christian journey).
  • P99 The Old Man represents wisdom and possibly death as he does die, 'Ah, Doctor Faustus, that I might prevail / To guide thy steps unto the way of life'.
  • 'thy Saviour sweet, Whose blood alone must wash away thy guilt'. The blood of Christ represents salvation.
  • P101 There is lots of blood imagery from lines 67-78. Faustus tries to repent but is then threatened by Mephistopheles, 'I'll in piecemeal tear thy flesh'. This makes Faustus reconfirm his contract by signing the contract again with his own blood.
  • The Old Man's faith is strong which means Mephistopheles can only hurt him physically, 'I cannot touch his soul / But what I may afflict to his body with / I will attempt'.
  • P103 'Here will I swell, for heaven be in these lips'. Faustus knows exactly what he is doing when he goes to kiss Helen. He isn't thinking about the consequences at all of kissing Helen. Instead, he is focusing on the moment and not eternal damnation. Faustus knows that Helen is the devil so he is consequently damming himself.
  • P105 'Hence, hell! For hence I fly unto my God'. The Old Man goes to heaven after being tortured by Mephistopheles because he always keeps his faith with God. 

Scene 2 (P105)

This scene is when Faustus, for the first time, tells other people about the contract he has signed with the devil (being the scholars from his university).
  • P105 'Comes he not?' Faustus is worried now when that the devil is going to come and take him to hell. The devil is coming near.
  • 'God's mercies are infinite'. This provides the view point whether Faustus can still repent or not. If this is the case, he can still save himself.
  • Faustus, during this scene to the end, is not talking in structured iambic pentameter like he has been throughout the whole play. This could suggest that, because he is now talking in prose, he is losing his composure as he is about to die and go to hell. He is scared, terrified and panicking.
  • P107 'I would lift up my hands, but see, they hold them, they hold them'. Faustus is now being physically tormented by the devil. He is trying to lift his hands up to repent to God but his arms are kept physically down my Lucifer and Mephistopheles.
  • 'Lucifer and Mephistopheles. Ah, gentlemen! I gave them my soul for my cunning'. Faustus has finally admitted to someone what he has done.
  • 'vain pleasure'. Faustus sold his soul for empty pleasure. This makes clear that how 'frivolous' his demands were that after living 24 years with extra power, he has gained nothing but 'vain pleasure'.
  • 'The date is expired, the time will come, and he will fetch me'. Parallel construction is created from Faustus using a rule-of-three list.
  • 'the devil threatened to tear me in pieces if I named God'. It is difficult for Faustus to repent as he knows he would be tortured to death by Lucifer if he tries. However, maybe this is what needs to happen for him to become fully forgiven by God. For example, the Old Man was tortured to death by Mephistopheles and he went to heaven. Would the same happen to Faustus?
  • Act 5 Scene 2 is full of apocryphal stories. These are stories that are not in the bible but are taken as true.
  • Faustus is still close to the scholars after telling them what he has done. This makes clear that Faustus is still a likeable person.
The play ends with a long soliloquy by Faustus where he is extremely scared and panicking for his life. 
  • P109 'Ah, Faustus'. The fact that Faustus starts by saying his name echoes the first line of the play, 'Settle thy studies, Faustus'. This potentially brings the point forward that Faustus still has a bit of pride and, in fact, hasn't changed.
  • The soliloquy is not in prose/verse any more but back to iambic pentameter (ten syllables per line). This could suggest Faustus has regained some composure.
  • 'thou must be damned perpetually' and 'Perpetual day'. This is an oxymoron because Faustus' day is not going to be perpetual (never ending/changing). 
  • 'you ever-moving spheres of heaven / That time may cease and midnight never come!'. Faustus is looking up to the stars here and sees that the movement of the stars is a metaphor for time. He wants them to stop moving so that time can stand still so he has longer to live. The exclamation marks shows his confusion and despair.
  • Faustus speaks about a resurrection, 'rise, rise again'.
  • 'O lente, lente currite noctis equi'. The rhythm of this line is fast pace which contrasts against the slowness of the soliloquy in general (as he wants to prolong time). The Latin comes from 'Amores' by Ovid. He wants night to pass slowly with a lover providing a sexual/sensual desire from Faustus.
  • 'I'll leap up to God! Who pulls me down?'. Faustus is still having a physical battle with Lucifer. It also makes clear that Faustus still feels some connection to God.
  • 'Christ's blood streams in the firmament'. Christ's blood is the emblematic symbol for eternal life.
  • 'One drop would save my soul, half a op. Ah, my Christ!'. Throughout the play, Faustus has called Mephistopheles 'my Mephistopheles . He is now making it seem like Christ is his obsession too because that is now who he desires most.
  • 'Ah, rend not my heart for naming of my Christ'. Here, Faustus is talking to the devil asking him not to torture or hurt him for speaking about Christ.
  • 'Stretcheth out his arm and bends is ireful brows! / Mountains and hills, come, come and fall on me / And hide me from the heavy wrath of God!'. Faustus is using apocalyptic language where he has reference to an Earthquake during the resurrection. He is also stating God has wrath which cannot be true as wrath is a sin. Faustus is not thinking straight.
  • P111 'You stars that reigned at my nativity'. Faustus is talking about the stars that were over Christ when he was born and how he wants them to 'draw up Faustus like a foggy mist' so that he can go to heaven'. He has a lot of negative language now.
  • When, 'The watch strikes', Faustus is panicked by the lack of time he has left. This causes him to go back into prose losing his composure.
  • 'Yet for Christ's sake, whose blood hath ransomed me'. Here, there is reference to the crucifiction (where to save souls, there is a sacrifice) as well as the last supper where the blood is Jesus' wine and the bread is Jesus' body.
  • 'Let Faustus live in hell a thousand years, / A hundred thousand, and at last be saved'. Faustus is more scared that once he is in hell, he will be there for eternity.
  • 'This soul should fly from me and I be changed / Unto some brutish beast'. Pythagoras had the idea that when humans die, they reincarnate into animals. Faustus wants to be a beast where there are no debates and merely just instinctual behaviour. 
  • 'mine must live still to be plagued in hell. / Curst be the parents that engendered me!'. Faustus is not cursing at the fact that he has a soul.
  • Good Quote 'No, Faustus, curse thyself. Curse Lucifer'. Is this a realisation that it was Faustus' fault for damnation? It could suggest that Faustus has learnt from his mistakes (even if it is too late).
  • 'Thunder and lightning'. This could link in with Frankenstein were lightning is used to create life. However, now, lightning is the symbol in Doctor Faustus for destroying life. 
  • 'My God, my God, look not so fierce on me!'. This makes it sound like God is vengeful and therefore sinning with wrath. Of course, that is only interpretation whether God would actually sin or not.
  • P113 'Adders and serpetnts, let me breathe a while!'. From the bible, it was a snake which lured Eve to eat from the tree of knowledge. Therefore, adders and serpents are looked upon as evil animals. 
  • Good Quote 'Ugly hell, gape not'. This is one of the best descriptions of hell because it has come from a character who hasn't been to hell yet. Faustus makes hell sound extremely physical and horrible. 
  • 'Ah Mephistopheles!'. Faustus' last cry for hope sees him shouting out Mephistopheles  name. This makes clear that Faustus and Mephistopheles, from spending 24 years together, have become quite close if that is who Faustus thinks can save him from hell.

Epilogue

The play finishes with the Chorus talking.
  • P115 'Cut is the branch that might have grown full straight'. This is violent language. Faustus could have grown to become a great intellectual Doctor. However, his intelligent nature cut him short.
  • 'grew within this learne'd man'. Faustus was a mature man and should have understood his potential.
  • 'Regard his hellish fall'. This quote invites the audience to learn from Faustus' example: the dangers of transgression.
  • 'To practice more than heavenly powers permits'. This last line of the play makes clear that transgression for 'heavenly powers' will have consequences as Faustus has found out. It is a warning to the audience.

My Review Of Doctor Faustus

Doctor Faustus, out of three texts I am studying (The Bloody Chamber and Frankenstein) gripped me the most with what the dangers of transgression are. Faustus was an intelligent but stupid man. It burns me to think that the idea of transgression should occur to those less fortunate than Faustus. Faustus is intellectually clever enough to achieve or what he wanted (on P9) without having to transgress. 

The ending of the play is utterly shocking to the audience. An audience of the modern day would be shocked by the ending. An audience at the time of the play being written (who would have been far more religious  would have been scared witless by the events of Faustus. The ending makes clear that there is nothing that is worth eternal damnation. Nothing. However, I do believe there were many key moments when Faustus could repent. It seems at the end that even if he wanted to repent, he physically wasn't allowed to by Lucifer. However, the moments when he wants to repent but is distracted (such as the Seven Deadly Sins and the kissing of Helen), he was thinking more about the moment than anything. That is one of Faustus' greatest weakness. He thinks a moment in time is more important than the future. 

What I think will make the audience so upset after seeing Faustus becoming damned to hell is the fact that we still liked him at the end. Faustus entertained us at the holy Peter's Feast. He did tricks to people such as the Horse-Courser who no-one really likes. He was also nice to people with the powers such as the Emperor and the pregnant Duchess. He did not do any significant evil deeds with his power. At the same time, he did not do anything amazing with his powers which is what he originally wanted to do with them.
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I think it is also important to make clear that I believe Faustus never really had power at any moment in the play. He relied on Mephistopheles' power to get him and do him the things he wants. Faustus thought he had power when in actual fact, he was simply using Mephistopheles for his power. For example, when Faustus wanted to conjure up some grapes for the pregnant Duchess, Mephistopheles goes off-stage  retrieves the grapes, and then hands them over to Faustus.

Ultimately, Doctor Faustus is a great play. Not many Gothic texts can create such a vivid message at the end to not transgress as Doctor Faustus does.


Is Faustus the Sole Architect of his Own Demise?

Yes

  • Faustus illustrates a strong passion for the dark arts without being provoked by anyone, 'O, this cheers my soul'. 
  • It can be seen that Mephistopheles tries to warn Faustus to 'leave these frivolous demands'. He is saying that the demands Faustus wants are not worth eternal damnation. Faustus ignores this making him the sole architect of his own demise.
  • 'God's mercies are infinite'. Faustus had several good opportunities to repent but choose not to even if he could have been forgiven by God.
  • Faustus, in his last soliloquy, makes clear that it is his own fault for his damnation, 'curse thyself'.

No

  • Mephistopheles gives a very vague description of hell which, to Faustus, makes it sound not too bad, 'Why, this is hell, nor am I out of it. When Faustus sees hell for the first time he makes clear how horrible it actually is, 'Ugly hell, gape not'. Therefore, Mephistopheles lured Faustus into signing the contract as he made the consequences of the contract sound not too bad.
  • The Evil Angel continuously affects Faustus' decision-making, 'Faustus shall ne'er repent'. 
  • Lucifer physically threatens Faustus if he repents, 'the devil threatened to tear me in pieces if I named God'. 
With this question, you need to look at two important factors: before and after signing the contract. Who's fault was it that Faustus signed the contract and who's fault is it for preventing Faustus from repenting? 


Comparing Faustus to the Traditional Morality Play

Faustus can be compared to a traditional morality play. Therefore, I will take the traditional elements from a morality play, apply it to Doctor Faustus and back it up with quotes.

Traditional Morality Play / Faustus / Quote
  • Mankind figure 'tempted' / Tempted by knowledge (transgression) / P7 'necromantic books are heavenly' and 'those that Faustus most desires'.
  • Mankind degenerates and lives a debauched (full of sin) life / Sin is not seriously bad but Faustus is blasphemous to the Pope and God / P37 'Faustus hath bequeathed his soul to Lucifer'.
  • Mankind is reminded of duties by a virtuous character / Good Angel and Old Man are the virtuous characters that want Faustus to repent / P33 'Sweet Faustus, leave that exercrable art' and P53 'Never too late, if Faustus can repent'.
  • Falls back into his old ways lead by vice (immoral and wicked behaviour) / Tempted again by Helen and the Seven Deadly Sins / P103 'Come Helen, come, give me my soul again' and P53 'O, this feeds my soul!'
  • Despair and offered suicide / Faustus offered dagger to stab himself / P99 'MEPHISTOPHELES gives him a dagger...FAUSTUS prepares to stab himself'.
  • Nick of time, mercy / Only tries to fully repents in last soliloquy / 'P113 'I'll burn my books' and P101 'call for mercy and avoid despair'.
  • Mankind returns to God / This never happens to Faustus as he goes to hell. Mephistopheles drip feeds Faustus with what hell is like making it sound okay. After signing the pack, the description of hell worsens.

Top 5 Magical/Supernatural Moments From Doctor Faustus 

  1. Mephistopheles appearing in Act 1 Scene 3 for the first time.
  2. The show of the Seven Deadly Sins during Act 2 Scene 3.
  3. Lucifer's appearance in Act 2 Scene 3.
  4. Summoning of Alexander The Great for the Emperor during Act 4 Scene 1.
  5. The ending where Faustus is getting dragged into eternal damnation in Act 5 Scene 2.

Historical Context to Doctor Faustus

  • Some of the Elizabethan audience would have been sceptical towards the supernatural powers in Doctor Faustus.
  • The magic in the play would have been viewed by the Elizabethan audience as evil (with attempts of magic also being evil). This made clear that Faustus is turning to the dark side and transgressing.
  • The Elizabethan's beliefs towards magic and the supernatural would have believe it to be completely true. Therefore, this play would have been much more terrifying to an Elizabethan audience than to the modern day audience.
  • Lots of people were accused of witchcraft during the Elizabethan time period. Therefore, the audience would have been cautious of Faustus.
  • The play Doctor Faustus was written at the time of a reformation: Catholicism was dying out with the majority of the audience being Protestant.
  • Faustus uses Latin, which is the language of the Catholic Church, to conjure up Mephistopheles.
  • The scene where Faustus mocks the Pope is Marlowe criticizing the Catholic Church which the audience (being Protestant) will enjoy watching.
  • The setting of where Faustus lives in the town of Wittenberg  This is the same place and university Martin Luther, the monk who led the reformation, was studied and taught.
  • Catholicism was banned so it was okay to laugh at it.

Who is the Victim in Doctor Faustus?

Faustus

  • He is a victim to Lucifer an Mephistopheles.
  • He was tricked by Mephistopheles to how horrible hell actually is.
  • He is a victim of himself from the last soliloquy, 'curse thyself'.

Mephistopheles

  • He is a victim to Lucifer.
  • Act 1 Scene 3 P21 has the quote that Mephistopheles is, 'deprived of everlasting bliss'. The audience will, therefore, feel sorry for him.

Pope

  • He is tricked by Faustus.
  • The Elizabethan audience would have not seen him as a victim due to the reformation.

Old Man

  • He is killed by Mephistopheles for trying to make Faustus repent.
  • He suffers harm/death for the good of mankind and God.

Robin and Rafe

  • Robin and Rafe are transformed into animals in Act 3 Scene 2, 'transform thee into an ape and thee into a dog'.

Knight

  • Knight becomes a comical victim for Faustus making horns grow onto his head.

Horse-Courser

  • Victim because his horse turns to hay and he loses money to Faustus.
  • Audience will not see him as a victim as enjoy seeing the Horse-Courser getting tricked.

Is Faustus a Victim or a Martyr?

Victim

  • Victim to Lucifer and Mephistopheles - damnation is his fate.
  • Suffers at the very end, 'Ah, Mephistopheles!'.

Martyr

  • Faustus dies in what he originally believed in. He believes in the quest for further knowledge and dies requiring it.
  • He tells the scholars, at the end, to save themselves, P109 'come not unto me, for nothing can rescue me'.
Ultimately, Faustus is not a martyr because he tries to repent at the very end.

Is Mephistopheles a Villain or Victim?

Villain

  • Works as an agent to dam Faustus.
  • Intent on getting Faustus' soul.
  • Provides distractions when Faustus wants to repent (such as Helen and the Seven Deadly Sins).
  • Offers a dagger to Faustus (P99) - suicide will send him straight to hell as it is a sin. 
  • Servant to Lucifer.
  • Writes the contract with Faustus and brings him the candle to melt Faustus' blood.

Victim

  • Dammed by Lucifer already.
  • Will never experience heaven.
  • Tries to warn Faustus P21 'leave these frivolous demands'.
  • Honest (but vague) about hell.
  • 'Ah, Mephistopheles!'. He is a follower to Lucifer. But, there is more to the relationship between Faustus and Mephistopheles: Faustus calls him 'Sweet Mephistopheles'. They had been together for 24 years. 
  • Mephistopheles and Faustus are actually quite similar characters. They are both dammed, both proud spirits, both intellectually intelligent and are both victims to Lucifer.

Faustus as a Tragic Hero

  • Has a fatal flaw: a desire for power and knowledge that leads him to damnation.
  • He experiences a reversal of fortunes which the audience can see will happen except Faustus who forgets that he will be dammed until the very end.
  • The audience will feel pity for him at the end because, ultimately, Faustus is good deep down.

Faustus as a Romantic Hero

  • He is on a quest for knowledge (Romantic heroes are often on some sort of quest).
  • Intuitive (Romantic heroes are often intuitive).
  • Becomes alienated from society (Romantic heroes are somehow rejected by society or are non-conventional in their ideas and way of life).
Faustus can be seen as a tragic and romantic her but more romantic. He has a tragic flaw (being his transgression) which ultimately means that after realising what he has done, the audience will feel pity and fear for him.

Doctor Faustus is a Gothic Text

I would recommend reading The Key Gothic Themes & Elements From Frankenstein, Doctor Faustus and The Bloody Chamber to understand better what makes a text Gothic,
  • The study is the dark setting used throughout Doctor Faustus as is dimly lit by candles.
  • Source of light fails such as when the stars disappear.
  • There are omens and ancestral curses such as when Faustus sells his soul to the devil and kisses Helen, cursing himself to hell.
  • There is magic and supernatural behaviour.
  • There is death, decay and darkness which is represented as the devil.
  • There are evil deeds which lead to the downfall of the character (Faustus signs the contract).
  • There are horrifying events such as when Faustus' leg comes off or the ending when being dragged into hell.

Doctor Faustus Interpretations

  • In the play, the deadly sin 'Lechery' is seen a a women, in the Greenwich Theatre Production 2010 (directed by Elizabeth Freestone), Lechery is a man in women clothing. This could provide the point that both men and women are capable of lechery.
  • In the play, the devils (on P37) should have given Faustus, 'crowns and rich apparel) when they didn't in the production.
  • The production has much more humour with Mephistopheles making the audience like him more.
Thanks for reading and be sure to check out my articles on English Literature AS and the rest of A2.

About Will Green

A student in England studying Automotive Engineering with Motorsport, Will created Ask Will Online back in 2010 to help students revise and bloggers make money. You can follow AskWillOnline via @AskWillOnline.

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