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The Tragical History of the Life and Death of Doctor Faustus by Christopher Marlowe.

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Title: The Tragical History of the Life and Death of Doctor Faustus.
Author: Christopher Marlowe.
Genre: Fiction, literature, plays, fantasy, philosophical fiction, occult, religion.
Country: U.K.
Language: English.
Publication Date: ~1592.
Summary: Faustus, a brilliant scholar, sells his soul to the devil in exchange for limitless knowledge and powerful black magic, yet remains unfulfilled. He considers repenting, but remains too proud to ask God for forgiveness, and in his indecision seals his fate.

My rating: 8/10
My review: Of the many adaptations of the Faust legend, this is probably both the most eloquent and the most basic one, which is an interesting contrast, because I do feel like the poetry and the piece's aesthetic presentation was the point of the play, more so than telling the story of Faustus (probably a fairly familiar myth at the time). There is not much plot to speak of aside from the bare minimum - Faustus sells his soul to the Devil, Faustus wreaks mischief and gains knowledge, Faustus begins to be afraid for his soul, Faustus gets taken to hell. But it's the poetry that really makes the play - Marlowe's poetry is truly beautiful. I love its epic and evocative style, and I love the Latin interspersed through it. The legend of Faustus has always rung true to me, because though I cannot relate to it from a religious stance (from an occultist's perspective, it's even a little silly), I feel like any person in pursuit of knowledge (or inspiration), academics and artists specifically, is often tempted with vices that turn out to be worse than they're worth (e.g. an artist's temptation to take drugs to tap into different aspects of the subconscious). What I particularly like about this, though, is that in an inexplicable way, Faustus may be one of the least likable characters of the play, while Mephistopheles comes off much more multi-dimensional and much less obnoxious. The entire play you get a feeling of a much wiser and older spirit toying with a spoiled, obstinate man, and though the last repentance, fear, and struggles of Faustus are pretty chilling, you get an odd sense of satisfaction of just deserts when he finally ends his career (the author makes sure this happens by showing Faustus doing cruel and mean things to ordinary, innocent people, whereas any of the Devil's convoys only tempt those who show interest themselves).


Faustus. ...Stipendium peccati mors est. Ha! Stipendium et cetera. The reward of sin is death? That's hard: Si peccasse negamus, fallimur, et nulla est in nobis veritas. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and there is no truth in us. Why, then belike, we must sin, and so consequently die.
Ay, we must die an everlasting death.
What doctrine call you this? Che serà, serà:
What will be, shall be! Divinity, adieu!

Faustus. ...Know that your words have won me at the last
To practice magic and concealéd arts.
Philosophy is odious and obscure,
Both law and physic are for petty wits,
Divinity is basest of the three -
Unpleasant, harsh, contemptible, and vile.
'Tis magic, magic, that hath ravished me!

Cornelius. The miracles that magic will perform
Will make thee vow to study nothing else.
He that is grounded in astrology,
Enriched with tongues, well seen in minerals,
Hath all the principles magic doth require.
Then doubt not Faustus but to be renowned
And more frequented for this mystery
Than heretofore the Dephian oracle.
The spirits tell me they can dry the sea
And fetch the treasure of all foreign wracks,
Yea, all the wealth that our forefathers hid
Within the massy entrails of the earth.

Faustus. ...For ere I sleep I'll try what I can do:
This night I'll conjure through I die therefor!

Mephostophilis. ...For when we hear one rack the name of God,
Abjure the Scriptures and his savior Christ,
We fly in hope to get his glorious soul.
Nor will we come unless he use such means
Whereby he is in danger to be damned.
Therefore the shortest cut for conjuring
Is stoutly to abjure the Trinity
And pray devoutly to the prince of hell.

Faustus. Where are you damned?
Mephostophilis. In hell.
Faustus. How come it then that thou art out of hell?
Mephostophilis. Why this is hell, nor am I out of it.

Faustus. Stay Mephostophilis and tell me
What good will my soul do thy lord?
Mephostophilis. Enlarge his kingdom.
Faustus. Is that the reason why he tempts us thus?
Mephostophilis. Solamen miseris socios habuisse doloris.

Mephostophilis. ...Hell hath no limits nor is circumscribed
In one self place, but where we are is hell,
And where hell is there must we ever be.

Faustus. ...No, I'll no wife.
Mephostophilis. Marriage is but a ceremonial toy.

Faustus. ...Yea, God will pity me if I repent.
Bad Angel. Ay, but Faustus never shall repent.

Faustus. O Christ, my savior, my savior!
Help to save destresséd Faustus' soul.

Enter Lucifer, Belzebub, and Mephostophilis.


Lucifer. Christ cannot save thy soul, for He is just.
There's none but I have interest in the same.

Enter the Chorus.


Learnéd Faustus,
to find the secrets of astronomy
Graven in the book of Jove's high firmament,
Did mount him up to scale Olympus' top:
Where, sitting in a chariot burning bright
Drawn by the strength of yokéd dragons' necks,
He views the clouds, the planets, and the stars,
The tropics, zones, and quarters of the sky,
From the bright circle of the hornéd moon
Even to the height of primum mobile:
And whirling round with his circumference
Within the concave compass of the pole,
From east to west his dragons swiftly glide
And in eight days did bring him home again.
Not long he stayed within his quiet house
To rest his bones after his weary toil
But new exploits do hale him out again.
And mounted then upon a dragon's back,
That with his wings did part the subtle air,
He now is gone to prove cosmography,
That measures coasts and kingdoms of the earth,
And as I guess will first arrive at Rome
To see the Pope and manner of his court
And take some part of holy Peter's feast,
The which this day is highly solemnized.

Mephostophilis. ...But now my Faustus, that thou may'st perceive
What Rome contains for to delight thine eyes,
Know that this city stands upon seven hills
That underprop the groundwork of the same:
Just through the midst runs flowing Tiber's stream
With winding banks that cut it in two parts,
Over the which four stately bridges lean
That make safe passage to each part of Rome.
Upon the bridge called Ponte Angelo
Erected is a castle passing strong
Where thou shalt see such store of ordinance
As that the double cannons forged of brass
Do match the number of the days contained
Within the compass of one complete year,
Beside the gates and high pyramides
That Julius Caesar brought from Africa.

Faustus. Nay stay, my gentle Mephostophilis,
And grant me my request, and then I go.
Thou know'st, within the compass of eight days
We viewed the face of heaven, of earth, and hell.
So high our dragons soared into the air
That looking down the earth appeared to me
No bigger than my hand in quantity -
There did we view the kingdoms of the world,
And what might please mine eye I there beheld.
Then in this show let me an actor be
That this proud Pope may Faustus' cunning see!
Mephostophilis. Let it be so, my Faustus, but first stay
And view their triumphs as they pass this way.
And then devise what best contents thy mind
By cunning in thine art to cross the Pope
Or dash the pride of this solemnity -
To make his monks and abbots stand like apes
And point like antics at his triple crown,
To beat the bead about the friars' pates,
Or clap huge horns upon the cardinals' heads,
Or any villainy thou canst devise -
And I'll perform it, Faustus. Hark, they come!
This day shall make thee be admired in Rome!

Mephostophilis. ...The planets seven, the gloomy air,
Hell, and the Furies forkéd hair,
Pluto's blue fire, and Hecat's tree
With magic spells so compass thee
That no eye may thy body see.

Faustus. Bell, book, and candle. Candle, book, and bell.
Forward and backward, to cure Faustus to hell!

Dick. Ay, I pray you heartily, sir. For we called you but in jest, I promise you.
Mephostophilis. To purge the rashness of this curséd deed,
First be thou turnéd to thus ugly shape,
For apish deeds transforméd to an ape.

Faustus. ...For proof whereof, if so your Grace be pleased,
The doctor stands prepared by power of art
To cast his magic charms that shall pierce through
The ebon gates of ever-burning hell,
And hale the stubborn furies from their caves
To compass whatsoe'er your Grace commands.

Martino. See see, he comes.
Benvolio No words. This blow ends all! [Strikes Faustus.] Hell take his soul, his body thus must fall.

Benvolio. ...Sith black disgrace hath thus eclipsed our fame,
We'll rather die with grief than live with shame.

Faustus. What art thou, Faustus, but a man condemned to die?
Thy fatal time draws to a final end;
Despair doth drive distrust into my thoughts.
Confound these passions with a quiet sleep.
Tush, Christ did call the thief upon the cross!
Then rest thee Faustus, quiet in conceit.

Old Man. O gentle Faustus, leave this damnéd art,
This magic that will charm thy soul to hell
And quite bereave thee of salvation.
Though thou hast now offended like a man,
Do not persever in it like a devil.
Yet, yet, thou hast an amiable soul
If sin by custom grow not into nature.

Faustus. ...I do repent, and yet I do despair:
Hell strives with grace for conquest in my breast!
What shall I do to shun the snares of death?

Faustus. Was this the face that launched a thousand ships
And burnt the topless towers of Ilium?
Sweet Helen, make me immortal with a kiss.
Her lips suck forth my soul. See where it flies!
Come Helen, come, give me my soul again.
Here will I dwell, for heaven is in these lips
And all is dross that is not Helena.
I will be Paris, and doe love of thee
Instead of Troy shall Wittenberg be sacked;
And I will combat with weak Menelaus
And wear thy colors of my pluméd crest.
Yea, I will wound Achilles in the heel
And then return to Helen for a kiss.
O, thou art fairer than the evening's air
Clad in the beauty of a thousand stars,
Brighter art thou than flaming Jupiter
When he appeared to hapless Semele,
More lovely than the monarch of the sky
In wanton Arethusa's azure arms,
And none but thou shalt by my paramour.

Mephostophilis. How should he but in desperate lunacy?
Fond wordling, now his heart blood dries with grief,
His conscience kills it, and his laboring brain
Begets a world of idle fantasies
To overreach the devil; but all in vain:
His store of pleasures must be sauced with pain!

Mephostophilis. What, weep'st thou! 'Tis too late, despair, farewell!
Fools that will laugh on earth, most weep in hell.

Good Angel. O Faustus, if thou hadst given ear to me
Innumerable joys had followéd thee.
But thou did'st love the world.

Faustus. O, I have seen enough to torture me.
Bad Angel. Nay, thou must feel them, taste the smart of all:
He that loves pleasure must for pleasure fall.

Faustus. ...No?
Then will I headlong run into the earth.
Gape earth! O no, it will not harbor me.
You stars that reigned at my nativity,
Whose influence hath allotted death and hell,
Now draw up Faustus like a foggy mist
Into the entrails of yon laboring cloud
That when you vomit forth into the air,
My limbs may issue from your smoky mouths -
But let my soul mount and ascend to heaven!

Faustus. ...No end is limited to damnéd souls!

Enter Chorus


Cut is the branch that might have grown full straight
And burned is Apollo's laurel bough
That sometime grew within this learned man.
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.
Tags: 1590s, 16th century - fiction, 16th century - plays, 16th century - poetry, british - fiction, british - plays, british - poetry, fantasy, fiction, german in fiction, italian in fiction, literature, my favourite books, mythology (fiction - myths retold), occult (fiction), philosophical fiction, plays, religion (fiction), religion - christianity, tragedy
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