Doctor Faustus

by: Christopher Marlowe

Dark Magic

1

Now that the gloomy shadow of the night, Longing to view Orion’s drizzling look, Leaps from th’ antarctic world unto the sky And dims the welkin with her pitchy breath, Faustus, begin thine incantations And try if devils will obey thy hest, Seeing thou hast prayed and sacrificed to them. Within this circle is Jehovah’s name Forward and backward anagrammatized, Th’ abbreviated names of holy saints, Figures of every adjunct to the heavens, And characters of signs and erring stars, By which the spirits are enforced to rise: Then fear not, Faustus, to be resolute And try the utmost magic can perform.

Faustus summons the powers of black magic when he calls Lucifer and the devils for the first time. While he has been contemplating trying magic, in this quote, Faustus finally takes the leap and begins to conjure evil spirits. The language in these lines identifies a change in Faustus from a man connected to divinity to an individual moving to a dark, supernatural world. This experiment with dark magic begins Faustus’s journey into the underworld, leading him directly to Mephostophilis and Lucifer.

2

Faustus, thou shalt. Then kneel down presently, Whilst on thy head I lay my hand And charm thee with this magic wand. First wear this girdle, then appear Invisible to all are here: The planets seven, the gloomy air, Hell, and the Furies’ forkèd hair, Pluto’s blue fire, and Hecat’s tree With magic spells so compass thee That no eye may thy body see. So Faustus, now for all their holiness, Do what thou wilt, thou shalt not be discerned.

As Faustus plots his trickery with the Pope and cardinals, he asks Mephostophilis to make him invisible so he can fool them more easily. Here, Mephostophilis performs a magic spell to make Faustus invisible. Once again, the rhythmic, descriptive language in these lines clearly reveals the spell’s connection to magic and darkness. This scene shows how Faustus relies on Mephostophilis’ magic to achieve his mischievous and ambitious desires, which ultimately forever binds Faustus to his darkness.

3

Emperor. Then Faustus, as thou late didst promise us, We would behold that famous conqueror Great Alexander and his paramour In their true shapes and state majestical, That we may wonder at their excellence. Faustus. Your Majesty shall see them presently.— Mephostophilis away . . . My gracious lord, you do forget yourself. These are but shadows, not substantial.

Faustus promises the Emperor that he will conjure the spirits of Great Alexander and his paramour and then orders Mephostophilis to make these events happen. While Mephostophilis’ dark magic produces the spirits, Faustus warns and reminds the Emperor that while the spirits appear real, they are only “shadows, not substantial.” The theme of dark magic intertwines through this scene as the limits of Mephostophilis’ dark powers are revealed. Even though dark magic can conjure spirits and give Faustus notoriety, such magic produces effects that lack substance and cannot be embraced. Readers might infer that such a detail implies that all dark magic promises is shallow and meaningless in the greater scheme of life.