Doctor Faustus

by: Christopher Marlowe

Chorus

Only this, gentles—We must now perform The form of Faustus’ fortunes, good or bad: And now to patient judgements we appeal And speak for Faustus in his infancy . . . So much he profits in divinity That shortly he was graced with doctor’s name, Excelling all, and sweetly can dispute In th’ heavenly matters of theology; Till swoll’n with cunning, of a self-conceit, His waxen wings did mount above his reach And melting, heavens conspired his overthrow!

The Chorus acts as a character in this play, giving the audience important details surrounding the events and main characters. In the Prologue, the Chorus introduces the purpose of Marlowe’s play: to tell the story of Faustus’s struggle between good and evil. In addition, the Chorus provides important background information about Faustus’s character, specifically his strong connection with divinity. Finally, the Chorus foreshadows Faustus’s fall from heaven by comparing him to the Greek figure, Icarus.

Learnèd Faustus, To find the secrets of astronomy . . . He views the clouds, the planets, and the stars, The tropics, zones, and quarters of the sky . . . 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 hold Peter’s feast, The which this day is highly solemnized.

Here, the Chorus identifies what Faustus has been doing since he accepted the bargain he made with Lucifer. In these lines, the Chorus explains that Faustus has focused on learning, connecting him to the Renaissance movement as he moves away from the Medieval focus on God. Next, the Chorus introduces Faustus’s plans to join the Pope in Rome, continuing the Chorus’s role as an important narrator.

When Faustus had with pleasure ta’en the view Of rarest things and royal courts of kings, He stayed his course and so returned home . . . Which Faustus answered with such learnèd skill As they admired and wondered at his wit. Now is his fame spread forth in every land. Amongst the rest the Emperor is one, Carolus the Fifth, at whose palace now Faustus is feasted ’mongst his noblemen.

Continuing the role of narrator, the Chorus explains that Faustus has been impressing friends and strangers and is currently visiting the Emperor in order to entertain him as well. Through these lines, the Chorus clarifies that Faustus has been getting the admiration that he always wanted and for which he traded his soul to the devil. For the time being, Faustus appears to be reaping the benefits of his wicked and tragic trade.

Cut is the branch that might have grown full straight And burnèd is Apollo’s laurel bough That sometime grew within this learnèd 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.

Just as the Chorus opens the play, the Chorus concludes Faustus’s story by remarking on his wayward path. The Chorus warns the audience to “regard his hellish fall,” reminding them what happens to those who “practice more than heavenly power permits.” In other words, the Chorus provides the moral lesson that comes from Faustus’s story: One should always choose redemption over sin.