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Doctor Faustus

Main Ideas

Key Facts

Main Ideas Key Facts

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.