full title · Published initially as The Tragicall History of D. Faustus, then as The Tragicall History of the Life and Death of Doctor Faustus
author · Christopher Marlowe
type of work · Play
genre · Tragedy
language · English
time and place written · Early 1590s; England
date of first publication · The A text was first published in 1604, the B text in 1616.
publisher · Uncertain; possibly Philip Henslowe, a theatrical entrepreneur
narrator · None for the most part, but the Chorus, which appears intermittently between scenes, provides background information and comments on the action
point of view · While he sometimes cedes the stage to the Chorus or the lesser, comic characters, Faustus is central figure in the play, and he has several long soliloquies that let us see things from his point of view.
tone · Grandiose and tragic, with occasional moments of low comedy
tense · The Chorus, who provides the only narration, alternates between the present and past tenses.
setting (time) · The 1580s
setting (place) · Europe, specifically Germany and Italy
protagonist · Doctor Faustus
major conflict · Faustus sells his soul to Lucifer in exchange for twenty-four years of immense power, but the desire to repent begins to plague him as the fear of hell grows in him.
rising action · Faustus’s study of dark magic and his initial conversations with Mephastophilis
climax · Faustus’s sealing of the pact that promises his soul to Lucifer
falling action · Faustus’s traveling of the world and performing of magic for various rulers
themes · Sin, redemption, and damnation; the conflict between medieval and Renaissance values; absolute power and corruption; the dividedness of human nature
motifs · Magic and the supernatural; practical jokes
symbols · Blood; Faustus’s rejection of the ancient authorities; the good angel and the evil angel
foreshadowing · The play constantly hints at Faustus’s ultimate damnation. His blood congeals when he tries to sign away his soul; the words Homo fuge, meaning “Fly, man!”, appear on his arm after he makes the pact; and he is constantly tormented by misgivings and fears of hell.
Readers' Notes allow users to add their own analysis and insights to our SparkNotes—and to discuss those ideas with one another. Have a novel take or think we left something out? Add a Readers' Note!