A Summary of Christopher Marlowe's Doctor Faustus. The legend of Faust became a frequently related myth from the times of medieval period itself in Europe. Doctor Faustus is an Elizabethan tragedy by Christopher Marlowe that was first Read a Plot Overview of the entire play or a chapter by chapter Summary and. Conversions: Doctor Faustus / I usually work from the . of a coherent plot, which a show based on skits, such as SNL, doesn't need.
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Get all the key plot points of Christopher Marlowe's Doctor Faustus on one page. From the creators Get the entire Doctor Faustus LitChart as a printable PDF. Complete summary of Christopher Marlowe's Doctor Faustus. eNotes plot Doctor Faustus summary key points: The Good Angel print Print; document PDF. Summary & Questions on Doctor Faustus. SCENE 1: Faustus is revealed in his study. He has reached the top of all the studies a renaissance university can train .
The Norton Anthology of English Literature 6th edition uses the text, and, more generally, you may find the text easier and cheaper to get hold of. If exact quotations will be necessary, bring the chart with you to class discussions of Dr. Prolog longer version Chorus 2 shorter 3. Prolog Chorus 3 4. Faustus at Emperor's Court Omitted 4.
Omitted 5. Lately, this has become a serious issue in film; it has long been one in early literature. Still, each text gives a comedy sandwich, with the Pact and Damnation as high-brow Beginning and End bracketing low-brow silliness.
There is just more silliness in the text, and more horror in the damnation. This is very similar to Sylvan Barnet's Signet edn. I indicate on a separate sheet and below where it differs from the Norton 6th edn. I'll also try to make the textual issues pretty much irrelevant in Intro. That tension between Dr. Faustus as comedy and tragedy sets a precedent I find very important for Shakespeare. Faustus: Text and Major Criticism, ed. Irving Ribner New York: Odyssey, I'll try to read these essays: besides the obvious macho b.
Anyway, you're on your own with recent criticism at least until I see a very tempting anthology. Let's reserve it for "pride" in a positive sense—a sense not often used in the Jewish tradition and pretty well forbidden in traditional, orthodox Christianity. Additionally, Superbia: Sinful pride, as in "Pride is the root of all evils.
Chuzpah variously spelled : Comic pride, the pride that goes before a pratfall; arrogance; the sort of gall where "You kill off your parents and throw yourself on the mercy of the court because you're an orphan. What, if anything, should we make of the title of Dr. Faustus as a "Tragicall History" instead of straight tragedy? Note that among the London Elizabethans there seems to have been relatively little biting of the critical toenails over "What Is Tragedy?
Faustus 3 Edward II was just a "lamentable death," while the fall from Fortune's favor of "proud Mortimer" was a "tragicall fall" my alliteration. The addition of Bruno makes the farcical action in Rome a bit more serious, but also longer see below, 3. As a thought experiment, imagine yourself a scholar some years from now doing a study on the mysterious Saturday Night Live of the late 20th c.
Little has survived the destruction of New York in , but you do have a set of Dramatis Personae for a number of prime-time comedies for one week in the year The one for SNL is far longer than the cast lists for other shows.
That's odd since the number of actors for SNL was only slightly larger than that of the other shows. How'd they do that? In the real world, you have the same problem with Dr. As David Bevington points out in From Mankind to Marlowe , the acting companies had come a long way from the days of travelling troupes of "Four Men and a Boy"; still, there were only eight to ten regular players in the troupes of Marlowe's and Shakespeare's day— plus hired irregulars.
For so few men and boys to play over 40 characters, there had to be a lot of doubling: actors playing more than one or two or three roles. To allow time for costume changes and all, the easiest thing to do was to use a set of characters in one scene and then suppress them, so they're seen no more.
Playwrights would also need to restrict the number of women characters played by the limited number of boys and young men. If the play is structured around one central character, that character can move from scene to scene, with different surrounding characters: which gets you back to the strategy of Saturday Night Live with a strong guest host, just with the additional obligation of a coherent plot, which a show based on skits, such as SNL, doesn't need.
For recent writing for groups like a repertory company, note TV shows with regular casts taking a series of similar, but different, roles, e. For reincarnations of "Four Men and a Boy" in the late 20th c. Less effectively, the "top banana" senior actor of an all-male company at the New Globe played Cleopatra, even though the company had female impersonators who could've pulled off the role with a lot more plausibility.
Anyway: From their beginnings until , acting companies were all male, but there us no reason to believe all the female roles were played by boys. Senior actors might claim a good role, and some of the "boys" were past puberty—one performance for King James, I believe, was late because the player Queen wasn't finished shaving—and the young men taking the roles were what we'd call female impersonators.
These "boy actors" seem to have been very good, but, still, plays in the late 16th and early 17th centuries couldn't have many female roles for theatrical reasons nowadays we have less excuse for their lack.
Prolog: One actor enters, comes forward a bit and utters these lines.
At the end he probably "discovers" i. Picture the Chorus pulling a curtain back to reveal Faustus in a shallow area, with Faustus then stepping forward. Faustus 4 had from Cambridge University, and Marlowe may admire those who rise to greatness for more than was conventional in his society—and maybe even as much as we, who for the most part no longer see pride and ambition as sins.
Lucifer: "The Bright One," an angel beloved of God. Building on the Biblical line, "Oh, how you have fallen, Lucifer son of the morning," a great legend was created of Lucifer as an archangel leading a revolt in heaven. Lucifer is The First Rebel, the archetype for superbia or hybris: sinful or tragic Pride, depending on your ideology. Icarus: To escape from Crete, Icarus's father made them both wings of feathers and wax; aspiring, smart-ass Icarus flew too close to the sun.
His wings melted, and he fell into the sea and drowned. He became a symbol for foolish aspiration: chuzpah, comic over-reaching. Aesop tells the fable of the bull frog who wanted to impress his son by swelling up as big as anything the little tad had seen. My memory is that the son saw an ox. No matter: the bull frog got so swollen he burst. If you read the phrase "melting heavens" and see fire in the sky along with conspiracy against Faustus—that will work.
Luciferian aspiration! Overeating has less dignity. Then again, maybe that's what nice people like the Chorus and Old Man want; maybe that's what God wants for us.
But is it what a real man should want? The Chorus, Old Man et al. If we see him objectively, that's how we should see him. But aspiration is the sin of Eve and Adam, and we come by it naturally, if the Christians tell the story right. Ought not at least part of us identify with Faustus—and question the limits put upon human striving and attainment? Ought not some traditional American parts sympathize with a man who wants to better himself and be all he can be?
That may say something about Marlowe's idea of his audience. Does his goal speak well for his compassion? Under what conditions is "this profession. Note Faustus's rejection of being a "mercenary drudge"; do you think better of him for rejecting "external trash"?
Does he reject it? Faustus 5 Unforgiveable Sin: partial quotation. The "grace" part gets complicated, but in Faustus, Faustus has the free will to repent, if he chooses to. See below for a very brief intro. What do you make of the idea of "dominion" that stetches "as far as doth the mind of man"? A hyperbolic but otherwise admirable humanistic statement?
Chuzpah—for any human trying the God game? Medieval plays are ideologically Christian and tend to take a Godlike view, where human arrogance and evil in general is comic. God holds the evil "in derision. In theory, we should turn away from evil toward the God who loves us, in Christian doctrine loved us enough to become human and sacrifice himself to redeem us from the Adversary [Satan]. Does this nasty spirit properly understand human psychology? What's the Serpent's key line to Eve in the Garden in Genesis?
Start with what you actually respect or would just like for yourself, not what your official ideologies tell you are respectable. If we followed our official beliefs, few would respect rock stars or big-time athletes. Recall this "conceit" when you see what Faustus gets. Gluttony is a much more minor sin than Pride; still ….
On the other hand, the Spanish had done what a truly imperial power must do— conquer an empire—and the English tried sporadically to get their cut of the New World and Russian trade and the East Indies throughout Marlowe's lifetime.
Note also Valdes's fantasy of having the devils look like sexy women. This foreshadows an important point in Faustus's damnation. Leech's Marlowe anthology. A human male practitioner ironically in "the missionary position" would literally turn his back on God and direct his "love" or libido toward the Devil. When challenged to cite the greatest of the Mosaic teachings, Jesus of Nazareth referred to the opening of the Sh'ma Deuteronomy 6.
But Faustus may be the measure of the traditional standards. Faustus 6. Faustus—and undercut them. Faustus chops logic in 1. Here we're to laugh a bit; how about with Faustus? Faustus may not now love his neighbors, but they care for him.
That cuts at least two ways.
Enter [above] Lucifer and four Devils. What would it do to this scene to have Lucifer et al. I for one would certainly stage the scene this way. Come on, devils! Note the antiCatholic dig. Again, Marlowe may not have been a Christian, but he was a solid Protestant politically. See below for Mephistophilis's version. Note: If he made the "moon drop from her sphere," the Earth would be destroyed and every living thing on it killed.
Mephistophilis makes clear immediately just whom he serves—great Lucifer—and what he'll do, and won't do, for Faustus. Again, Mephistophilis is amazingly truthful in his initial dealings with Faustus: "O Faustus, leave these frivolous demands. Wagner says Robin would "give his soul to the devil for a shoulder of mutton, though it were blood-raw" and Robin says, no, he'd "need to have it well roasted. Jesus asked where the profit might lie in selling one's soul for the world—literally.
If the soul is of infinite value, or all we really have, Jesus was correct, and the only difference between Robin and Faustus is that Faustus has bigger fantasies but Robin is smart enough not to sell his soul for trifles.
Wagner summons devils: Like, any fool can do it. Faustus 7 Faustus still talks of Faustus and to Faustus. Faustus despairs before the Pact. Note "The God thou serv'st is thine own appetite.
The Bible has it that Pride is the root of all evils and that Greed is the root of all evils, but the usual order favors Pride as the deadliest sin. Anyway, consider the possibility that Faustus works his way down the ladder of Deadly Sins.
Flow started again with fire: Hell "Subtlety is not a virtue" in drama. That's a good liberal ideal, but not one accepted much before the invention of liberalism in its classic formulation, Marlowe inherited the Beginning of Dr. Faustus: the Pact; and the end of Dr. Faustus: the Damnation; the problem is the Middle. If the point is the futility, the emptiness, the Vanity!
Note the ironies. Hell is where Faustus is headed; Lucifer is the Father of Lies.
After this, Mephistophilis may be less fastidious with the Truth. Mephistophilis is right on Hell hath no limits—and Faustus doesn't believe him. How much would you want to just sell your soul?!? If there was a devil that wanted my soul, I just might have a soul, and there might be a God who'd be very pissed off if I sold it. That's common sense. Faustus is academically clever, but also very, very stupid.
Be sure you know why he will never get one. Consider: Where do most Christians go to get married? What are the Sacraments of most churches? Where did Jesus work his first miracle? The tradition is that Lucifer—now just Satan—isn't beautiful anymore.
Is Marlowe a humanist? Does he much like humans? Heaven made for man: Therefore made for Faustus. Is the question moot, since devils can't repent? Is Faustus now a devil—or does he despair? One form of that sin is presumption, presuming one will be saved at least among Catholics, Anglicans, et al.
The flip side of presumption is despair, thinking that nothing can save you. Note the arrogance of both beliefs. Note the Ptolemaic, Earth-centered, universe. Nicolaus Copernicus had presented his theory of a sun-centered system, but Galileo was a year younger than Marlowe, and his major work to prove Copernicus, wasn't until Sidereus Nuncius in and a bit thereafter. Faustus' first request is to ask Mephistophilis about the nature of hell.
Although Mephistophilis explains how he and the other devils are condemned to hell forever, Faustus refuses to believe that hell exists; at least, he thinks hell is not so bad. Faustus then asks for a wife, as well as books on magic, books on the motions of stars and planets and of plants and animals. Faustus begins to waver in his decision and wishes to repent. When he calls on the name of Christ, Lucifer and Belzebub come with Mephistophilis to visit him.
Lucifer diverts Faustus' mind by entertaining him with a display of the Seven Deadly Sins. Wagner narrates how Faustus has traveled the world over.
Faustus makes his way to Rome to visit the Pope's chambers. Faustus and Mephistophilis play a practical joke on the Pope. Faustus visits the Emperor's court where he impresses the Emperor by making Alexander the Great and his Paramour appear. He also spites a skeptical knight by giving him horns on his head.
Faustus' other exploits include leaving a Horse-Courser on the short end of a deal, producing grapes in winter in front of the Duke and Duchess of Vanholt, and making Helen of Troy appear before a group of wide-eyed scholar friends.
When the twenty-four years are almost up, an Old Man appears and tells Faustus to repent before God before it is too late. In despair, Faustus almost repents, but Mephistophilis reminds him of his vow. Faustus reaffirms his deal with Lucifer. His last request to Mephistophilis is to have Helen of Troy as his lover. Before the group of his scholar friends, Faustus confesses to have made a deal with Lucifer. His friends urge him to repent before God, but Faustus finds his heart too hardened to repent.
Midnight comes and the twenty-four year period comes to an end.