Dr. Faustus Notes

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Dr. Faustus Plot Summary

The Chorus introduces the story of Faustus, born to lowly parents in Rhodes, going off to study at Wittenberg while staying with a kinsman. Faustus is gifted in divinity, but his self-conceit leads him to consider necromancy.

Faustus sits in his study, analyzing different academic disciplines. He concludes that although divinity is the subject that is best, it does not satisfy him. He would rather pursue black magic so that he can be his own god. He orders his servant, Wagner, to get his friends Valdes and Cornelius, who are known to be practitioners of magic. Before they come, the Good Angel and the Evil Angel appear. Although Faustus is not aware of their presence, the Good Angel tries to discourage him, while the Evil Angel urges him to go forward. Valdes and Cornelius come and they offer to teach him the basics of magic.

Through magic, Faustus conjures up the devil, Mephistophilis. Because Faustus has blasphemed against God in his incantations, Mephistophilis has come to see if he can claim Faustus' soul. Faustus makes a deal with Mephistophilis, agreeing to give his soul in exchange for twenty-four years of the devil's service. Mephistophilis goes to get approval of the deal from Lucifer, the Prince of the devils. Lucifer demands that Faustus write the deed with his own blood. When Faustus is done writing the deed, an inscription on his arm reads, "Man, fly!" Faustus wonders if this is a sign from God. But Mephistophilis quickly distracts him with riches and entertainment.

Faustus' first request is to ask Mephistophilis about the nature of hell. Although Mephistophilis explains how he and the other devils are condemned to hell forever, Faustus refuses to believe that hell exists; at least, he thinks hell is not so bad. Faustus then asks for a wife, as well as books on magic, books on the motions of stars and planets and of plants and animals.

Faustus begins to waver in his decision and wishes to repent. When he calls on the name of Christ, Lucifer and Belzebub come with Mephistophilis to visit him. Lucifer diverts Faustus' mind by entertaining him with a display of the Seven Deadly Sins.

Wagner narrates how Faustus has traveled the world over. Faustus makes his way to Rome to visit the Pope's chambers. Faustus and Mephistophilis play a practical joke on the Pope. The Chorus then narrates how Faustus' fame spread, reaching even the ears of the German Emperor, Carolus the Fifth. Faustus visits the Emperor's court where he impresses the Emperor by making Alexander the Great and his Paramour appear. He also spites a skeptical knight by giving him horns on his head. Faustus' other exploits include leaving a Horse-Courser on the short end of a deal, producing grapes in winter in front of the Duke and Duchess of Vanholt, and making Helen of Troy appear before a group of wide-eyed scholar friends.

When the twenty-four years are almost up, an Old Man appears and tells Faustus to repent before God before it is too late. In despair, Faustus almost repents, but Mephistophilis reminds him of his vow. Faustus reaffirms his deal with Lucifer. His last request to Mephistophilis is to have Helen of Troy as his lover.

Before the group of his scholar friends, Faustus confesses to have made a deal with Lucifer. His friends urge him to repent before God, but Faustus finds his heart too hardened to repent. Midnight comes and the twenty-four year period comes to an end. Devils come to take Faustus away.

The Chorus ends the story by stating that Faustus went to hell because he desired more than what God permits for a man.

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