protagonist. Faustus is a brilliant sixteenth-century scholar from
Wittenberg, Germany, whose ambition for knowledge, wealth, and worldly
might makes him willing to pay the ultimate price—his soul—to Lucifer
in exchange for supernatural powers. Faustus’s initial tragic grandeur
is diminished by the fact that he never seems completely sure of
the decision to forfeit his soul and constantly wavers about whether or
not to repent. His ambition is admirable and initially awesome,
yet he ultimately lacks a certain inner strength. He is unable to
embrace his dark path wholeheartedly but is also unwilling to admit
in-depth analysis of Faustus.
A devil whom Faustus summons with his initial magical
experiments. Mephastophilis’s motivations are ambiguous: on the
one hand, his oft-expressed goal is to catch Faustus’s soul and
carry it off to hell; on the other hand, he actively attempts to
dissuade Faustus from making a deal with Lucifer by warning him
about the horrors of hell. Mephastophilis is ultimately as tragic
a figure as Faustus, with his moving, regretful accounts of what
the devils have lost in their eternal separation from God and his
repeated reflections on the pain that comes with damnation.
in-depth analysis of Mephastophilis.
character who stands outside the story, providing narration and
commentary. The Chorus was customary in Greek tragedy.
enigmatic figure who appears in the final scene.
The old man urges Faustus to repent and to ask God
for mercy. He seems to replace the good and evil
angels, who, in the first scene, try to influence
spirit that urges Faustus to repent for his pact with Lucifer and
return to God. Along with the old man and the bad angel, the good
angel represents, in many ways, Faustus’s conscience and divided
will between good and evil.
spirit that serves as the counterpart to the good angel and provides
Faustus with reasons not to repent for sins against God. The evil
angel represents the evil half of Faustus’s conscience.
prince of devils, the ruler of hell, and Mephastophilis’s master.
servant. Wagner uses his master’s books to learn how to summon devils
and work magic.
clown who becomes Wagner’s servant. The clown’s antics provide comic
relief; he is a ridiculous character, and his absurd behavior initially
contrasts with Faustus’s grandeur. As the play goes on, though, Faustus’s
behavior comes to resemble that of the clown.
ostler, or innkeeper, who, like the clown, provides a comic contrast
to Faustus. Robin and his friend Rafe learn some basic conjuring,
demonstrating that even the least scholarly can possess skill in
magic. Marlowe includes Robin and Rafe to illustrate Faustus’s degradation
as he submits to simple trickery such as theirs.
ostler, and a friend of Robin. Rafe appears as Dick (Robin’s friend
and a clown) in B-text editions of Doctor Faustus
Valdes and Cornelius
Two friends of Faustus, both magicians, who teach
him the art of black magic.
horse-trader who buys a horse from Faustus, which vanishes after
the horse-courser rides it into the water, leading him to seek revenge.
colleagues at the University of Wittenberg. Loyal to Faustus, the
scholars appear at the beginning and end of the play to express
dismay at the turn Faustus’s studies have taken, to marvel at his achievements,
and then to hear his agonized confession of his pact with Lucifer.
head of the Roman Catholic Church and a powerful political figure
in the Europe of Faustus’s day. The pope serves as both a source
of amusement for the play’s Protestant audience and a symbol of
the religious faith that Faustus has rejected.
Emperor Charles V
The most powerful monarch in Europe, whose court
German nobleman at the emperor’s court. The knight is skeptical
of Faustus’s power, and Faustus makes antlers sprout from his head
to teach him a lesson. The knight is further developed and known
as Benvolio in B-text versions of Doctor Faustus
seeks revenge on Faustus and plans to murder him.
candidate for the papacy, supported by the
emperor. Bruno is captured by the pope and freed by Faustus. Bruno
appears only in B-text versions of Doctor Faustus
Duke of Vanholt
A German nobleman whom Faustus visits.
Martino and Frederick
Friends of Benvolio who reluctantly join his attempt
to kill Faustus. Martino and Frederick appear only in B-text versions
of Doctor Faustus