the Annotated Popular Edition of




by Christopher Marlowe

c. 1589-1592


Featuring complete and easy-to-read annotations.



Annotations and notes © Copyright ElizabethanDrama.org, 2018
This annotated play may be freely copied and distributed.






Doctor Faustus is Christopher Marlowe's crowning

     Wagner, Servant to Faustus.

achievement, and remains today the most popular and

Valdes, Friend to Faustus.

well-known play of the Elizabethan era outside of the

Cornelius, Friend to Faustus.

Shakespearean canon. The tale is of a theologian who sold

his soul to the devil in return for the ability to perform

The Pope.

sorcery and gain knowledge of the workings of the universe;

Cardinal Of Lorrain.

but God's mercy is infinite, and Faustus, who repeatedly

regrets his decision, could have returned to the fold of God

The Emperor Of Germany.

at anytime, but was too blinded by his own pride to realize

Duke Of Vanholt.


Duchess Of Vanholt.


Other Human Characters:


     The text of the play is adapted primarily from the 1876


edition of Marlowe's plays edited by Alexander Dyce, but


in some cases I reinstated the language of the original 1604


folio which Dyce, generally a very careful editor, changed.


A Knight.


An Old Man.

Scholars, Friars, and Attendants.

     Mentions made in the annotations of Dyce, Gollancz,

Schelling, Cunningham, Ward, Bullen, Waltrous and Boas


refer to the commentary of these scholars in their editions


of our play. Mention of Sugden refers to the entries in his


valuable Topographical Dictionary.


     The most commonly cited sources are listed in the

Good Angel.

footnotes immediately below. The complete list of footnotes

Evil Angel.

appears at the end of this play.

The Seven Deadly Sins.

     Footnotes in the text correspond as follows:


     1. Oxford English Dictionary (OED) online.

Spirits in the shapes of Alexander the Great,

     2. Crystal, David and Ben. Shakespeare's Words.

of his Paramour and of Helen.

London; New York: Penguin, 2002.

     3. Dyce, Alexander. The Works of Christopher Marlowe.


London: George Routledge and Sons, 1876.

     4. Gollancz, Israel, ed. The Tragical History of Doctor

Faustus. London: J.M. Dent and Co., 1897.

     5. Schelling, Felix E. ed. Christopher Marlowe. New

York: American Book Company, 1912.

     6. Cunningham, Lt. Col. Francis. The Works of Chris-

topher Marlowe. London: Chatto and Windus, 1879.

     7. Ward, Adolphus William, ed. Old English Dramas,

Select Plays. Oxford: The Clarendon Press, 1892.

     8. Bullen, A.H. The Works of Christopher Marlowe,

Vol. I. London: John C. Nimmo, 1885.

     9. Waltrous, George Ansel. Elizabethan Dramatists.

New York: Thomas Y. Crowell and Co., 1903.

     10. Sugden, Edward. A Topographical Dictionary to 

the Works of Shakespeare and His Fellow Dramatists.

Manchester: The University Press, 1925.

     12. Boas, Frederick S. The Tragical History of Doctor

Faustus. London: Methuen & Co. Ltd., 1949.


The Two Versions of Faustus: 'A' and 'B' Texts.

     The earliest surviving copy of Doctor Faustus was printed in 1604 (the 'A' text); a distinctly longer edition was published 1616 (the 'B' text). Other editions which appeared in these years are basically reissues of these versions.

     The question of which of the two texts is the more "authentic" one, which is to say more closely aligned with what Marlowe himself wrote, has been debated for two centuries. While earlier editors leaned towards the belief that the first edition, the 'A' text, was the more authentic one, and the later one contained additions by other writers to the first, recent scholarship demonstrates that the opposite view might be the correct one, that the 'B' text is more authentic, and the 'A' edition represents an abbreviation of a longer original script, which comes down to us as the one published in 1616.

    A very nice summary of the arguments and scholarship can be found in the Introduction of The Revels Plays edition of Doctor Faustus, edited by John D. Jump (Manchester University Press, 1982).

     All recent editors further agree that much of Doctor Faustus as it appears in both editions was written by authors other than Marlowe; this is most certainly true of the bawdier lines and comic scenes, as Marlowe certainly showed no inclination to write this kind of material in any of his other dramas.

Marlowe's Source for Doctor Faustus.

     In 1587, the story of Doctor John Faustus was published in Frankfurt-on-Main, in German of course. Sometime soon after - a 1592 edition is the earliest one extant - an anonymous English translation, containing numerous modifications and additions, was published in England, under the title The Historie of the damnable life of Doctor John Faustus (which we will refer to as the History). It is clear from the numerous similarities in plot, episodes and even language between the History and our play that the History was Marlowe's primary source.

     Readers wishing to read the History can find it online in a 19th century book titled Mediaeval Tales, which can be accessed at the following web address:


Was There a Real Faust?

     There is sufficient evidence to state unequivocally that there existed in the early 16th century a real John Faust, or Faustus. Unlike the skilled sorcerer of the legend and play, however, the real Faust seems to have been a notorious fraud, as contemporary references to him are almost universally critical; the author and reputed magician Trithemius, for example, called him "a vain babble, vagabond and mountebank"; other 16th century notables such as the jurist Konrad Mudt and Philipp Begardi called him simply a "charlatan" (the former), and "wicked, cheating, useless and unlearned" (the latter).

     A Protestant pastor named Johann Gast (d.1572) was the first known writer to credit Faust with the authentic skills of a sorcerer, and he declared that Faust was in league with the devil. But later, Johann Weiher - a student of one of the play's characters, the physician Cornelius Agrippa - wrote that Faust practiced "this beautiful art shamelessly up and down Germany with unspeakable deceit, many lies and great effect."

     Anecdotes about Faust are consistently unflattering. Once, for example, a petty Faustus gave a priest a depilatory which "removed not only the beard but the skin", in revenge for the unfortunate prelate's unwillingness to furnish Faustus with alcohol.

     These were the seeds from which grew the legend of a man who sold his soul to the devil in return for gaining that knowledge and those magical skills that were otherwise forbidden to be learned and practiced by Christian men.

     The information for this note was abstracted from an article on Faustus appearing in the Encyclopedia Britannica of 1911.



Enter Chorus.

The Chorus: usually a single character who recites the prologue and epilogue; Shakespeare employed such a speaker in several of his plays, including Henry V and Romeo and Juliet. Marlowe's Chorus further functions as an ancient Greek chorus, appearing during the play to comment on the action.


Chorus.  Not marching now in fields of Thrasimene,

1-2: Lake Trasimene is located in Umbria in Italy, about 80


Where Mars did mate the Carthaginians,

miles north-north-west of Rome. Here the Carthaginians under Hannibal destroyed a Roman army in an ambush in 217 B.C., killing perhaps as many as 15,000 Romans.15
     Mars is the Roman god of war, but the meaning of mate in line 2 has elicited a confusion of interpretations: assuming Mars is a symbol for Rome, editors have suggested "match", as in "checkmate", or "defeat", but the problem is the Romans were not victors, but were rather the vanquished, in the battle at this site; Schelling, Ward and others take the position that Marlowe simply blew it, mistakenly assigning victory over Hannibal to the Romans.
     The interpretation of the OED and Cunningham is more intriguing and seems more likely, however: they suggest that mate means "marry", ie. ally with, so that Mars, acting as an independent agent, can be said to have "espoused the cause" of the Carthaginians, abandoning the Romans in this battle.
     The Chorus begins the speech by describing the things it will not speak about (lines 1-6).

Nor sporting in the dalliance of love,

3: "not entertaining ourselves in amorous discourse or
     flirtation (dalliance)".


In courts of kings where state is overturned;

= read as "nor in".  = ie. power (ie. great men) or govern-
     ment is overthrown.1,7

Nor in the pomp of proud audacious deeds,

= greatness.


Intends our Muse to vaunt his heavenly verse:

6: line 6 is actually the opening sentence's independent
     clause: "(does) our poet (Muse)1 intend to display
     (vaunt)2 his sublime (heavenly)1 verse."
         Cunningham and Sugden assume the play's opening
     lines refer to the plots of other lost and unidentified
     plays. Boas cites an earlier source for the suggestion
     that lines 3-5 refer to Marlowe's own Tamburlaine plays.

Only this, gentlemen, − we must perform

= the Chorus ignores the women in the audience.  = present.


The form of Faustus' fortunes, good or bad:

8: substance or representation; note the strong wordplay 
     of perform and form, and even  fortune; as well as the
     alliteration of these words along with Faustus.

To patient judgments we appeal our plaud,

9: To = read as "to your", meaning the audience members.
         appeal our plaud = appeal for applause; Elizabethan
     plays frequently begged explicitly to the audience for


And speak for Faustus in his infancy.

= ie. describe.

Now is he born, his parents base of stock,

= of low lineage.


In Germany, within a town called Rhodes:

12: Germany at the time was, as it had been throughout the early modern period, a collection of numerous small sovereign polities. Rhodes, or Roda (modern Stadtroda), in the modern German state of Thuringia, was in the 16th century a part of the Duchy of Saxe-Altenburg. It is the traditional birthplace of Faust.10

Of riper years, to Wertenberg he went,

= "when a little older".  = actually Wittenberg, a city on
     the Elbe River in Saxony, about 55 miles south-west of
     Berlin. The town was famous throughout Europe for its


Whereas his kinsmen chiefly brought him up.

14: "where (whereas) he was raised by a relative." The
     History explains that Faust's father was too poor to
     support him, so he was sent to be raised by his rich but
     childless uncle, a resident of Wittenberg.

So soon he profits in divinity,

15: at Wittenberg, he successfully studied divinity, or
     theology; profits = makes progress in.4


The fruitful plot of scholarism graced,

16: Faustus' studies adorned (graced)4 the fertile piece of
     land or garden (fruitful plot) which represent scholarship
     or learning.

That shortly he was graced with doctor's name,

17: "so that he soon received his doctorate degree."
     graced = actually a technical term, referring to Cambridge University's official sanction for a student to receive his degree; Boas notes Marlowe's own name appears in the school's Grace Book in 1584 and 1587 for his Bachelor's and Master's degrees respectively.
     Note also the wordplay of graced and graced in lines 16 and 17.


Excelling all whose sweet delight disputes

18-19: Faustus was preeminent in his ability to discuss and
     debate theology.

In heavenly matters of theology;


Till swoln with cunning of a self-conceit

20: Faustus soon began to think unduly highly of his own
         cunning = generally meaning "knowledge" or
     "learning" throughout the play.3 
         of a = out of.4

His waxen wings did mount above his reach,

21-22: generally, Faustus' hubris drove Providence to seek 


And, melting, heavens conspired his overthrow;

     his downfall.
         The specific reference is to the myth of Daedalus, the
     famous Athenian craftsman, and his son Icarus, who
     were held in prison by King Minos of Crete. Daedalus
     fashioned wings for himself and his son out of feathers
     held together with wax, and the pair used the wings to
     fly away and escape Crete. Icarus, unfortunately, did not
     heed his father's advice not to fly too high, and the sun
     melted the young man's wings, causing him to plunge to
     his death in the sea.
         waxen (line 21) = covered with wax.
         above his reach (line 21) = (1) "beyond his abilities",
     referring to Icarus, and (2) "beyond what was best for
     him", referring to Faustus, as a metaphor for his pride.
         overthrow (line 22) = ruin.

For, falling to a devilish exercise,

23: "for, engaging in the arts of the devil, etc." Note how
     falling punningly alludes to the literal falling of Icarus
     in the previous two lines.


And glutted now with learning's golden gifts,

24-25: having filled his mind with beneficial knowledge, Faustus now pursues, to his own ultimate detriment, the study of witchcraft; the metaphoric image is of a diner stuffing himself pleasantly with good fare, but, unable to resist overeating, sickens himself with unseemly and excessive consumption.

He surfeits upon cursèd necromancy;

= the art of raising spirits, especially of the dead; Marlowe
     actually wrote negromancy, an alternative spelling used
     in those days, which was subsequently translated to
     mean "black arts".7


Nothing so sweet as magic is to him,

= "there is nothing as".

Which he prefers before his chiefest bliss:

= the phrase chiefest bliss was frequently used to mean
     "greatest happiness"; but here the sense is "attaining
     Heaven" or "his salvation". As Samuel Johnson's
     dictionary put it, bliss is the joy of "blessed souls",
     which is contrasted with any felicity Faustus' blasphe-
     mous activities night bring him.


And this the man that in his study sits.

= ie. "here is the man", meaning Faustus.





Faustus’ Study.

Faustus discovered.

= revealed; a curtain is likely pulled back, perhaps by the Chorus,3 to uncover the scene. Faustus sits with a pile of books in front of him, some of which he will pick up and peruse briefly before setting down again.7


Faust.  Settle thy studies, Faustus, and begin

= "decide which field of studies you want to follow";7
     Faustus addresses himself.


To sound the depth of that thou wilt profess:

2: "to explore to its fullest level that field of study you
     profess to undertake or be an expert in;" though Gollancz
     suggests that thou wilt profess means "that which you
     will teach (ie. be a professor of)." Faustus is speaking
     of divinity, or theology.
         sound the depth = measure the depth of a body of
     water, a metaphor.

Having commenced, be a divine in show,

3: "having graduated with a doctorate, publically act as if
     you are a practicing theologian".


Yet level at the end of every art,

4: perhaps "yet (privately) work to accomplish the goal
     (end) of other fields of study"; Faustus will consider
     the value of immersing himself in other subjects.
         level = aim, like a weapon.

And live and die in Aristotle's works.

= Aristotle (384-322 B.C.), the great Greek philosopher, was much concerned with how things worked, and knowledge in general, and his studies encompassed everything that could be considered science in his time, including biology, geology, mathematics and physics; Faustus' interest in Aristotle thus makes perfect sense. Earlier editors have noted the domination of Aristotle from the 13th through the 16th centuries in the academic study of logic.


Sweet Analytics, 'tis thou hast ravished me!

6: Analytics = Aristotle's word for logic. His Prior Analytics
     dealt with formal deductive reasoning and syllogism.7
         ravished me = ie. "filled me with ecstacy."1

Bene disserere est finis logices.

7: Latin: "to argue well is the goal of logic."4 Though
     Faustus attributes the line to Aristotle, the sentiment
     was likely derived from another source, perhaps from the
     works of the 16th century French logician Petrus Ramus.7
         Unless otherwise indicated, all Latin translations are
     from Gollancz.


Is to dispute well logic's chiefest end?

= goal, point.

Affords this art no greater miracle?

9: basically, "is that all there is to the study of logic?"


Then read no more; thou hast attained that end:

10: as Faustus has achieved the goal of becoming an expert
     in disputation, he can quit his studies in that area.

A greater subject fitteth Faustus' wit:

= cleverness, intelligence.


Bid Oncaymaeon farewell, and Galen come,

12: Oncoymaeon = seeming allusion to a work disputably attributed to Aristotle, Oeconomica, usually translated in English as Economics; Faustus is simply bidding farewell to his studies of philosophy, and rededicates himself to the study of medicine, a field in which he has already proven himself to be highly talented.
     An intriguing alternate interpretation comes from Bullen, who suggests Oncaymaeon is a corruption, ie. an error, for on cai me on, which is Greek for "being and not being"; the phrase would still function as a stand-in for philosophy.
     and Galen come = "and bring on Galen"; Galen was the famous 2nd century A.D. Roman physician, whose writings on medicine were still considered definitive well into the Middle Ages.7

Seeing, Ubi desinit philosophus, ibi incipit medicus:

13: Latin: "where the philosopher leaves off, there the
     physician begins." The line is from Aristotle.


Be a physician, Faustus, heap up gold,

And be etérnized for some wondrous cure:

= immortalized.


Summum bonum medicinae sanitas,

16: "the supreme good of medicine is health"; from
     Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics.

The end of physic is our body's health.

= aim.


Why, Faustus, hast thou not attained that end?

18-26: Faustus bemoans the fact that his great success 
     in curing many illnesses has not brought complete
     satisfaction to his restless soul.

Is not thy common talk sound aphorisms?

19: "have not your words become trustworthily medical


Are not thy bills hung up as monuments,

20: "are not your advertisements or posters (bills) still hanging as memorials (of cures he has effected)". Ward notes that travelling physicians commonly used advertising posters to solicit business. Bullen prefers "prescriptions by which cures were effected" for bills.

Whereby whole cities have escaped the plague,


And thousand desperate maladies been eased?

Yet art thou still but Faustus, and a man.

23: "yet (despite your successes) you are still only Faustus,
     a mere mortal."


Couldst thou make men to live eternally,

= "if only you could".

Or, being dead, raise them to life again,


Then this profession were to be esteemed.

Physic, farewell!  Where is Justinian?

27: realizing that the study of medicine (physic) is not as


fulfilling as he would like it to be, Faustus abandons that road, and reconsiders investigating law.
     Justinian = great Byzantine emperor (born c.482 A.D., ruled 527-565), who among other accomplishments famously reorganized and codified the empire's entire legal corpus. Faustus takes up and reads from one of the Byzantine law books.



Si una eademque res legatur duobus, alter rem,

30-31: "If any one thing is left by will to two persons, one

alter valorem rei, etc.

shall (take) the thing, and the other (shall take) the value of the thing." Ward notes this is not exactly what Justinian's code says on the subject; rather, it directs the parties to divide the bequest.


A pretty case of paltry legacies!

33: "a nice pair (case) of worthless bequests (legacies)!"




Exhaereditare filium non potest pater, nisi, etc.

36: "a father cannot disinherit his son, except, etc." Another
     misquote of the Byzantine Code.7


Such is the subject of the institute,

= Faustus has been reading from the Institutiones Justiniani, or the Institutes, a treatise which was employed by students as an introduction to Roman law.15

And universal body of the law:


His study fits a mercenary drudge,

40: ie. "one who wastes time investigating the mind-
     numbing intricacies of the law is no better than a paid
         his = its.

Who aims at nothing but external trash;

41: trash was used as a contemptuous word for money and
     the superficial trappings money can buy; the sense of
     line 41 is then "whose goal is no higher than to make a
     bit of money to make themselves appear prosperous."


Too servile and illiberal for me.

42: servile = work fitting only for a slave.
         illiberal = unrefined or not fit for gentlemen.

When all is done, divinity is best:

43-44: Faustus accepts that the his initially-chosen field is
     the most intellectually satisfying after all.


Jerome's Bible, Faustus; view it well.

= St. Jerome (c.340-420 A.D.), who had studied Hebrew,
     was ordered by the pope to translate the Bible into Latin;
     this version, known as the Vulgate, became the church's
     authorized text, a copy of which Faustus picks up.



Stipendium peccati mors est.

47: this is the exact Vulgate wording of the first part of


     Romans 6:23: "the wages of sin is death."



Stipendium, etc.


The reward of sin is death: that's hard.

= ie. "this is an unforgiving precept!"



Si peccasse negamus, fallimur, et nulla est in nobis veritas;

55: a not-exact rendering of 1 John 1:8 in the Vulgate, which actually states, Si dixerimus quoniam peccatum non habemus, ipsi nos seducimus, et veritas in nobis non est: "If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us."
     More importantly, Faustus ignores the follow-up ideas expressed in both this verse and the one following Romans 6:23, in which the Bible explicitly states that despite the existence of sin, God still can grant eternal life.


If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves,

57-62: Faustus is unhappy to accept a theology in which
      eternal death is inevitable, since to sin is unavoidable.


and there's no truth in us.  Why, then, belike we must

= it seems.

sin, and so consequently die:


Ay, we must die an everlasting death.

What doctrine call you this, Che sera, sera,

= this still-popular Italian phrase, suggesting complacent acceptance regarding events or outcomes over which one has no control, is introduced here to English literature by Marlowe. Che sera sera had also been adopted as the motto of the Russell family in the 16th century.


What will be, shall be?  Divinity, adieu!

These metaphysics of magiciäns,

63: the doctor decides that the study of the black arts, which consist in part of raising the dead, is the best course to pursue after all.
     metaphysics = the study of supernatural things, such as God, angels and other spirits.13
     magicians = those who engage in sorcery or conjuring.1


And necromantic books are heavenly;

= books relating to the raising of spirits; Faustus' use of the
      adjective heavenly is deliciously subversive.

Lines, circles, scenes, letters, and characters;

65: Faustus lists some of the tools of necromantic rituals:
     Lines = drawn lines were a tool in the art of geomancy, or divination.1
     circles = a necromancer normally stood within a drawn circle in order to summon spirits; the circle would protect the magician from those spirits which are evil.7
     scenes = Gollancz suggests the meaning "diagrams". The original word in the 1604 edition, sceanes, has been changed to scenes by most editors, but some omit it altogether.
     letters = "the magical combination of letters taken from the several forms of the divine name" (Ward, p. 135).
     characters = magical symbols or signs "appropriated to good spirits of various kinds", which were used to protect one against "evil influence" (Ward, p. 135).


Ay, these are those that Faustus most desires.

O, what a world of profit and delight,


Of power, of honour, of omnipotence,

Is promised to the studious artizan!

= skilled artist.2


All things that move between the quiet poles

= ie. the north and south poles are peaceful in comparison
     to all the turbulence that goes on between them.

Shall be at my command: emperors and kings


Are but obeyèd in their several provinces,

= only.  = individual.

Nor can they raise the wind, or rend the clouds;


But his dominion that exceeds in this,

74: ie. "but he whose power or influence (dominion)
     transcends those of emperors and kings, etc.";
     dominion also refers to the lands ruled by sovereigns.

Stretcheth as far as doth the mind of man;


A sound magician is a mighty god:

= skilled.1

Here, Faustus, tire thy brains to gain a deity!

= ie. tire out.  = become deified, ie. "attain the god-like
     powers of a sorcerer."4


Enter Wagner.

Entering character: Wagner is Faustus' student assistant.


Wagner, commend me to my dearest friends,


The German Valdes and Cornelius;

82: the two named characters are magicians and followers

Request them earnestly to visit me.

     of the dark arts; why Valdes is redundantly referred


     to as German, when all the characters are German, is

Wag.  I will, sir.




Faust.  Their conference will be a greater help to me

89-90: "a discussion (conference) with them will help me


Than all my labours, plod I ne'er so fast.

     move much more speedily with this project than my
     working on it alone, no matter how quickly I toil (plod).


Enter Good Angel and Evil Angel.

92: the image of competing supernatural advisors, representing "conscience" and "temptation" respectively, has remained popular to the modern day; it is a convenient and entertaining short-hand manner in which to illustrate the internal debate that occurs when one is trying to decide on a course of action - one moral, one not so much. The angels appear whenever Faustus is at a spiritual crossroads, wavering between whether to follow or reject God.


Good Ang.  O, Faustus, lay that damnèd book aside,

= ie. Faustus' book of magic.

And gaze not on it, lest it tempt thy soul,


And heap God's heavy wrath upon thy head!

Read, read the Scriptures: − that is blasphemy.

= "this here", ie. the book of magic.


Evil Ang.  Go forward, Faustus, in that famous art


Wherein all Nature's treasure is contained:

Be thou on earth as Jove is in the sky,

= the name of Jove (king of the Roman gods) was
     sometimes used, as here, to refer to the Christian God.3


Lord and commander of these elements.

= ie. on earth; Marlovian characters frequently refer to the

     four elements that were believed to comprise the entire
     material world - air, earth, fire and water;


[Exeunt Angels.]


Faust.  How am I glutted with conceit of this!

106: "how I am satiated (glutted) with desires at the
     thought of this!" Faustus is leaning strongly to
     following the advice of the Evil Angel.

Shall I make spirits fetch me what I please,


Resolve me of all ambiguities,

108: "help me to decide what to do when I am in doubt", or
     "answer all questions that I pose".1

Perform what desperate enterprise I will?

= command.


I'll have them fly to India for gold,

110: the wealth of India's gold mines were proverbial, and
     frequently referred to by Marlowe in particular.
         Note that them in lines 110, 114, 116 and 118, and they
     in line 120, all refer to the spirits of line 107.

Ransack the oceän for orient pearl,

= lustrous pearls.


And search all corners of the new-found world

= reference to the western hemisphere, which had still only
     been "discovered" for Europeans within the last century.

For pleasant fruits and princely delicates;

= delicacies.


I'll have them read me strange philosophy,

= "teach me" or "lecture me on".

And tell the secrets of all foreign kings;

= read as "tell me"; Boas observes the connection between
     this line and Marlowe's own work as a spy for Queen
     Elizabeth's secret service; is it possibly an inside joke
     from our normally staid playwright?


I'll have them wall all Germany with brass,

116: Faustus imagines the construction of a strong
     protective wall built around the entire German nation,
     as opposed to only individual cities, as was historically

And make swift Rhine circle fair Wittenberg;

117: Germany's mighty Rhine River flows 200 miles away
     from Wittenberg.
         circle = encircle.


I'll have them fill the public schools with silk,

= ie. the class-rooms at Wittenberg's university.4,5

Wherewith the students shall be bravely clad;

= with which.  = finely dressed; universities of the time
     usually proscribed dressing up for students.12


I'll levy soldiers with the coin they bring,

120: "I'll raise an army with the riches my spirits will bring

And chase the Prince of Parma from our land,

121: the Prince of Parma was the greatest general of the late 16th century, Alexander Farnese (born 1545, Duke of Parma 1586-1592). Farnese, who had been raised in Spain, served as head of the Spanish forces fighting to maintain control of the Netherlands for Spain's King Philip II from 1578 on. Having conquered all of the southern Dutch lands by 1586, his advance north was halted by Philip after he appealed to the king for permission to try to take Holland and Zeeland, both of which were assailable only by water, and protected in part by the English.15
    In referring to the Netherlands as our land, Faustus means "our Empire", referring to the Holy Roman Empire, part of which the Netherlands remained until the Peace of Westphalia (1648), when it finally received its independence.4


And reign sole king of all our provinces;

= ie. the whole of the Netherlands, which included modern
     Holland, Luxembourg and Belgium, and which was
     known as the Seventeen Provinces.10

Yea, stranger engines for the brunt of war,

123-5: an inverted sentence: Faustus will cause his spirits
     to invent new machines of war (engines), which shall
     be even more terrible than those fire-ships used in the
     siege of Antwerp (see the next note at line 124 below).
         brunt = heat, shock or violence of war;7 but the OED
     cites this line for its definition of brunt as "attack".


Than was the fiery keel at Antwerp's bridge,

124: during the Spanish siege of Antwerp through 1584-5, Alexander Farnese built a bridge of boats on the Scheldt River to cut the port-city off from supply by sea; the besieged citizens famously sent against this bridge a ship filled with heavy stones and explosive material (called a "fire-ship"), which, having blown-up when it smashed into the bridge, temporarily destroyed it, but the bridge was quickly rebuilt, and the starving Antwerpians finally surrendered on 17 August 1585.10,15

I'll make my servile spirits to invent.

= ie. servant spirits, those working for Faustus.


Enter Valdes and Cornelius.

Entering Characters: as stated above, Valdes and


Cornelius are sorcerers. While Valdes' real-life counterpart is unknown, Cornelius is tentatively agreed by most editors to be the German-born Henry Cornelius Agrippa Von Nettesheim (1486-1535), famous European polymath and polyglot. Knowledgeable in eight languages, Agrippa served as a soldier and worked as a physician, theologian, historiographer and lecturer for various courts and universities throughout Europe. His heretical opinions brought him into repeated trouble with the church. He may be most well remembered today for his published works, which included De occulta philosophia (written 1510, publication delayed by antagonistic forces until 1531), a defense of the use of magic as a way to achieve a greater understanding of God and nature.15

Come, German Valdes, and Cornelius,


And make me blest with your sage conference.

= wise conversation.

Valdes, sweet Valdes, and Cornelius,


Know that your words have won me at the last

132-3: it appears that Faustus' guests have for some time
     been trying to convince the doctor to try his hand at

To practice magic and concealèd arts:


Yet not your words only, but mine own fantasy,

= imagination.

That will receive no object; for my head

= "will entertain no objections", though this interpretation
     is not universally accepted.


But ruminates on necromantic skill.

Philosophy is odious and obscure;

= repugnant.  = the sense is "too ambiguous or vague for


Both law and physic are for petty wits;

= medicine.  = small minds.

Divinity is basest of the three,

139: "Divinity is lower or worse than the other three".


Unpleasant, harsh, contemptible, and vild:

= vile.

'Tis magic, magic, that hath ravished me.


Then, gentle friends, aid me in this attempt,

And I, that have with concise syllogisms

142: that = who.
         concise = precise, ie. in few words. 
         syllogisms = syllogism is a term of logic, referring 
     to a conclusion drawn necessarily from two premises
     containing a common middle term: for example: (1) all
     men are animals; (2) all animals are alive; (3) therefore,
     all men are alive.


Gravelled the pastors of the German church,

= stumped.2  = by the middle of the 16th century, most of
     the northern German states had embraced Lutherism.10

And made the flowering pride of Wertenberg

= referring either to the best citizens of Wittenberg or the
     students of the university;7 flowering could mean
     "distinguished"1 or "blossoming".24


Swarm to my problems, as the infernal spirits

146: problems = a term of art referring to questions
     proposed for debate.1
         as the infernal spirits = "just as did the spirits of
     the departed now residing in Hades (did swarm on
     Musaeus, etc.)".

On sweet Musaeus when he came to hell,

147: Musaeus was a famous singer of Ancient Greece; the reference here is to Book Six of the Aeneid, in which Aeneas, having descended into Hades to seek the soul of his father Anchises, approached a crowd of spirits and addressed the musician, who is described as "(holding) the center of that huge throng" (Fagle, p. 204).16


Will be as cunning as Agrippa was,

148: the grammatical subject of this verb predicate is I, way      back in line 143: And I...(lots of dependent clauses)...Will be as cunning..."
     cunning = knowledgeable or skillful.
     Agrippa = if we accept the proposition that Faustus' guest is the famous magician Cornelius Agrippa, then the reference to him in the past-tense in this line is certainly puzzling; it is possible that Faustus is referring to his guest in the third person; but some editors have suggested the alternative is more likely, that Faustus' guest Cornelius is not the famous Agrippa, but someone as fictitious as Valdes is. In the end, it does not matter greatly, as both Valdes and Cornelius disappear from the play after this scene.

Whose shadows made all Europe honour him.

= ie. the spirits raised by Agrippa, who gave instructions
     for "divination by means of the shades of the dead"
     (Waltrous, p. 14). As a historical matter, Faustus'
     description of Agrippa's influence in Europe is greatly


Val.  Faustus, these books, thy wit, and our experience,

= innate intelligence.


Shall make all nations to canónize us.

= glorify, treat as saints.1

As Indian Moors obey their Spanish lords,

153: though the term Moors was normally applied to those
     North Africans who invaded and conquered Spain in
     the 8th century, the reference here is to the Indians of
     North America, who were generally known to have
     been subjugated by the Spanish; the word Moor was
     sometimes used, as here, by dramatists to refer to
     darker races in general.


So shall the subjects of every element

= the bodily forms assumed by spirits.7

Be always serviceable to us three;

= ie. "be always ready to serve"; a skilled necromancer has
     complete control over the activities of his or her spirits.


Like lions shall they guard us when we please;

156-164: Valdes imagines the many ways the three of
     them can profit from their necromancy, and includes 
     in his musings some of the forms their spirits can be
     commanded to take.
         Like lions = "in the shapes of lions"; spirits were
     known to appear at times in the guise of wild animals.7

Like Almain rutters with their horsemen's staves,

157: Almain rutters = German cavalry; Marlowe had used
     this exact phrase in Tamburlaine, Part II.
= plural for "staff", meaning "lances" or "long


Or Lapland giants, trotting by our sides;

158: Or Lapland giants = ie. "or they shall appear to us taking the forms of the giants of Lapland"; Sugden notes the curious belief that there were giants in Lapland, when in fact the natives of that land were known for their diminutive size, averaging about 5 feet in height (in Tamburlaine, Part I, Marlowe had written of the giants in Grantland, ie. Greenland). The mention of Lapland is particularly apropos here, as the Lapps possessed a reputation for skill in magic, particularly their ability to raise winds.10
     trotting by our sides = Faustus imagines his spirits acting as footmen, those servants who ran alongside the moving carriages of the great and wealthy.

Sometimes like women, or unwedded maids,

159-161: Faustus might require his spirits to appear to him


Shadowing more beauty in their airy brows

as women so beautiful that they harbour (shadow)12 more

Than have the white breasts of the queen of love:

beauty in their lofty or celestial foreheads (airy brows) than the goddess of love, Venus, has in her breasts; though Ward suggests shadowing in line 160 might mean "imaging forth".


From Venice shall they drag huge argosies,

= the heavy trading ships of Venice.

And from America the golden fleece

163-4: allusion to the great wealth the Spanish and their king Philip II were amassing from the new world, and specifically to the annual convoy of ships (called the "plate-fleet")1 that transported silver from the Americas to Spain.
     Possession of the golden fleece was of course the goal of Jason and his Argonauts in their trip to Colchis, on the eastern shore of the Black Sea.


That yearly stuffs old Philip's treasury;

= old does not refer to the king's age, but instead simply
     signifies England's familiarity with the sovereign, as in
     "good old Philip".7

If learnèd Faustus will be resolute.

= determined, steadfast (in his pursuit or efforts).


Faust.  Valdes, as resolute am I in this


As thou to live: therefore object it not.

= ie. "you are".  = ie. "do not suggest that I may not be



Corn.  The miracles that magic will perform

Will make thee vow to study nothing else.

= "persuade you to swear".


He that is grounded in astrology,

Enriched with tongues, well seen in minerals,

173: Enriched with tongues = specifically Latin, the
     language spoken by spirits.12
         seen = versed, ie. educated.1,7  
         minerals = mineralogy.1


Hath all the principles magic doth require:

= rudiments, fundamental precepts.4,7

Then doubt not, Faustus, but to be renowned,


And more frequented for this mystery

176: frequented = consulted; frequented is stressed on its
     second syllable: fre-QUEN-ted.
         mystery = ie. secret skill (in the black arts).1

Than heretofore the Delphian oracle.

177: "than the Delphic oracle was ever consulted;" this most
     famous oracle of ancient Greece was located in the town
     of Delphi; for a fee, one could ask a question of the
     priestess, who would transmit an answer from Apollo.


The spirits tell me they can dry the sea,

And fetch the treasure of all foreign wrecks,


Ay, all the wealth that our forefathers hid

Within the massy entrails of the earth:

= heavy with precious metals.4


Then tell me, Faustus, what shall we three want?

= lack.


Faust.  Nothing, Cornelius.  O, this cheers my soul!

Come, shew me some demonstrations magical,

= show.


That I may conjure in some lusty grove,

= pleasant.

And have these joys in full possessiön.


Val.  Then haste thee to some solitary grove,


And bear wise Bacon's and Albanus' works,

190: Bacon's works = the works of Roger Bacon (1214?-1294), English philosopher. A great student of science and knowledge, Bacon became legendary for his studies of alchemy as well as perhaps the black arts, and wrote prodigiously about his work. Bacon was frequently portrayed in English literature as a necromancer and possessor of a talking brass head, such as in Robert Greene's 1590 play, Friar Bacon and Friar Bungay.17
     Albanus' works = the works of Pietro D'Abano (1250-1316), Italian physician and philosopher. D'Abano dabbled in astrology, and developed a reputation for skill in magic. Said to be in possession of the philosopher's stone, D'Abano was charged and acquitted of practicing witchcraft by the Inquisition. A second trial ended when D'Abano died of natural causes before it was completed.15
     Later editions of the play have substituted Albertus for Albanus; the reference would be to Saint Albertus Magnus, ie. Albert the Great (c.1206-1280), also a contemporary of Bacon's. Albert was, like Bacon, an indefatigable student of nature. Though he had joined the Dominican order as a teenager, Albert too was ascribed the power of sorcery,18 and legends have passed down that he was the possessor of the philosopher's stone, and had invented the first "android", or robot.19
     Cunningham notes the burdensomeness of Valdes' assignment: Bacon's works were said to number 121, and Albertus filled 21 "thick folios" with his efforts.

The Hebrew Psalter, and New Testament;

191: Ward notes that the use of the Book of Psalms (Hebrew Psalter) and the first verses of the Gospel of St. John were mentioned frequently in books of witchcraft.7 Indeed, Cornelius Agrippa himself, in his occult philosophy of geomancy (published in English in 1655) writes that after reading "any Prayers, Psalms or Gospels...let him invocate the Spirit which he desireth, etc."
     Hebrew Psalter refers specifically to St. Jerome's translation of the Book of Psalms as it appears in the Vulgate.


And whatsoever else is requisite

We will inform thee ere our conference cease.

= before.


Corn.  Valdes, first let him know the words of art;

= verbal formulas for conjuring.


And then, all other ceremonies learned,

Faustus may try his cunning by himself.

= "test his skill".


Val.  First I'll instruct thee in the rudiments,

= basic principles.


And then wilt thou be perfecter than I.

= more perfect, a word used regularly until the mid-17th


Faust.  Then come and dine with me, and, after meat,

= food, ie. eating.

We'll canvass every quiddity thereof;

203: "we'll thoroughly explore the characteristics of magic;"
     quiddity is a term from philosophy, meaning "essence"
     or "quality".20


For, ere I sleep, I'll try what I can do:

= ie. "test out my skills."

This night I'll conjure, though I die therefore.

= "for it."4




Before Faustus’ House.

Enter two Scholars.


1st Schol.  I wonder what's become of Faustus, that

= who.


was wont to make our schools ring with sic probo.

= accustomed.  =  "thus I prove", the sense being "the

      sounds of his logic."


2nd Schol.  That shall we know, for see, here comes

his boy.

= servant.


Enter Wagner.


1st Schol.  How now, sirrah! where's thy master?

= common form of address for a servant.


Wag.  God in Heaven knows.


2nd Schol.  Why, dost not thou know?


Wag.  Yes, I know; but that follows not.

15: "yes, I know where he is; just because I said 'God knows where he is' doesn't necessarily mean that I don't know." As a servant to Europe's foremost logician, Wagner assumes to practice the sophistry - the use of deliberately hyper-technical, and sometimes deceptive, reasoning - which he has learned from his master.
     follows = can be inferred, a term from logic.


1st Schol.  Go to, sirrah! leave your jesting, and tell

= common phrase meaning "get out of here!"


us where he is.


Wag.  That follows not necessary by force of

20-22: That follows…upon = "your response is not one

argument, that you, being licentiates, should stand

that logically follows, and so you, who are on your way


upon: therefore acknowledge your error, and be

to getting your doctorates, should not insist on or rest on


(stand upon) it".


     licentiates (line 21) = those possessing a degree between a Bachelor's on the one hand and the higher degrees of Doctorate or Master's on the other.1,4

2nd Schol.  Why, didst thou not say thou knewest?


Wag.  Have you any witness on't?


1st Schol.  Yes, sirrah, I heard you.


Wag.  Ask my fellow if I be a thief.

31: a common retort to one who presumes to rely on the


word of an interested or prejudiced individual;1 Wagner's point is that just as a thief who swears his partner is not a thief is not credible, so the 2nd Scholar cannot depend on the 1st Scholar's attestation that Wagner said he knew where Faustus was as a reliable argument; or, to quote Ward, "His evidence is worthless, for he is no better than I."
     Wagner is extra-cheeky in indirectly comparing the Scholars to thieves.
     fellow = companion.

2nd Schol.  Well, you will not tell us?


Wag.  Yes, sir, I will tell you: yet, if you were not


dunces, you would never ask me such a question; for

= dunce has a dual meaning here: (1) a follower of the
     great medieval theologian and philosopher, Duns Scot
c.1265-1308), and hence meaning "one skilled in
     logic",1,25 and (2) a dullard, the common modern

is not he corpus naturale? and is not that mobile?

37: corpus naturale = literally a "natural body".
         is not that mobile = "as such is he not one that can
     move around?"
         The line is a Latin-based joke, as corpus natural 
     sens mobile
, according to Ward, was a phrase used to
     describe the subject of physics generally.


then wherefore should you ask me such a question? 

= why.

But that I am by nature phlegmatic, slow to wrath,

= in medieval physiology, there existed four fundamental
     temperaments, one of which was phlegmatic.


and prone to lechery (to love, I would say), it were

40: to love, I would say =  "Ahem! I mean, of course, to
     love, not lechery!" (humorous).
         it were not for you = "it would not be wise for you".

not for you to come within forty foot of the place of

41-42: the place of execution = ie. Faustus' dining room, but
     Wagner humorously refers to execution in its normal
     sense with hanged in line 43.


execution, although I do not doubt to see you both

hanged the next sessions.  Thus having triumphed

= court term.


over you, I will set my countenance like a precisian,

= "I will now impersonate a Puritan (precisian)". Puritans,
     in part because of their antagonism to the stage, were
     the target of frequent mockery by dramatists of the era.
         countenance = face.

and begin to speak thus: − Truly, my dear brethren, 


my master is within at dinner, with Valdes and

Cornelius, as this wine, if it could speak, it would

= Ward supposes Wagner is carrying a vessel of wine.


inform your worships: and so, the Lord bless you,

preserve you, and keep you, my dear brethren, my


dear brethren!




1st Schol.  Nay, then, I fear he is fallen into that

54-56: 1st Scholar fears Faustus is studying the black arts

damned art for which they two are infamous through

     with the notorious Valdes and Cornelius.


the world.


2nd Schol.  Were he a stranger, and not allied to me,

= "even if he were a foreigner".  = connected by friendship.4

yet should I grieve for him. But, come, let us go and


inform the Rector, and see if he by his grave counsel

= the head of the university.1

can reclaim him.

= "save him", ie. bring Faustus back from the dark side.


1st Schol.  O, but I fear me nothing can reclaim him!

= very common phrase for "I fear".


2nd Schol.  Yet let us try what we can do.




A grove.

Enter Faustus to conjure.


Faust.  Now that the gloomy shadow of the earth,

1-4: Faustus describes the approach of evening.
         gloomy shadow = ie. darkness.
         Bullen points out that these first four lines appear
     verbatim in the first scene of a 1594 published edition
     of The Taming of a Shrew, an alternative version to
     Shakespeare's treatment.


Longing to view Orion's drizzling look,

= the well-known constellation is usually attended by
     stormy weather when it appears in late fall.

Leaps from th' antartic world unto the sky,

3: antartic was a common variant spelling for antarctic,
     and could be used, as here, to refer to the southern half
     of the earth generally.


And dims the welkin with her pitchy breath,

= sky.  = black.

Faustus, begin thine incantatiöns,


And try if devils will obey thy hest,

= test.  = commands.

Seeing thou hast prayed and sacrificed to them.


Within this circle is Jehovah's name,

8-9: Ward notes that medieval Christian scholars accepted

Forward and backward anagrammatized,

the principles of the Hebrew Caballah, the mystical interpretation of the Old Testament. As part of the code, various letters of the many names of God were extracted and arranged to form a single mystic name.
     anagrammatized = rearranged; the 1604 text has agramathist here, which has been rejected by all editors


Th' abbreviated names of holy saints,

Figures of every adjunct to the heavens,

11: diagrams of the arrangement of the stars;7 figures
     usually refers to horoscopes,1 while adjuncts to the
means "all the stars of the sky".4


And characters of signs and erring stars,

12: characters of signs = magical symbols of the Zodiac.4
         erring stars = ie. the planets, which seem to be
     wandering (erring) randomly throughout the sky,
     compared to the fixed and predicable movement of the

By which the spirits are enforced to rise:

= compelled.


Then fear not, Faustus, but be resolute,

= Faustus refers back to Valdes' encouragement in line 165

And try the uttermost magic can perform. −

     of the opening scene.


Sint mihi dei Acherontis propitii!  Valeat numen

17-25: "May the gods of Acheron be propitious to me!


triplex Jehovoe! Ignei, aerii, aquatani spiritus,

May the three-fold deity of Jehovah prevail! Spirits of 

salvete!  Orientis princeps Belzebub, inferni

fire, air, and water, hail! Belzebub, prince of the East,


ardentis monarcha, et Demogorgon, propitiamus

monarch of burning hell, and Demogorgon, we propitiate

vos, ut appareat et surgat Mephistophilis...Quid

you, that Mephistophilis may appear and arise…Why


tu moraris? per Jehovam, Gehennam, et

dost thou tarry? By Jehovah, Gehenna, and the conse-

consecratam aquam quam nunc spargo, signumque

crated water which I now pour, and by the sign of the


crucis quod nunc facio, et per vota nostra, ipse

cross which I now make, and by our prayers, may

nunc surgat nobis dicatus Mephistophilis!

Mephistophilis whom we have summoned now arise!"


     Acheron = the underworld in general, though originally Acheron was the name of a river on earth which flowed into Hades, then later identified by writers such as Homer as a river in Hades;29 the History, meanwhile, lists Acheron as one of the ten kingdoms of hell.
     Belzebub = or Beelzebub, appearing with either one or two e's; a translation of "Lord of the flies", Beelzebub is identified as "the prince of the devils" in old bibles such as the Geneva and King James. In the History, as in Faustus' invocation here, the doctor summons Mephistophilis "in the name of Belzebub". Mephistophilis later explains that Belzebub is the ruler of the northern kingdoms of hell.
     Prince of the East = in the History, Mephistophilis explains that all the devils of hell that serve Lucifer are called Oriental Princes.
     Demogorgon = one of the primary and powerful demons or evil spirits.1,4
     Quid tu moraris? = originally appears in the 1604 text as quod tumeraris, without a question mark; much ink has been spilled on attempting to make sense of this corrupted and unintelligible part of the invocation, but the emendation to quid tu moraris - "why do you linger?" - in which Faustus expresses impatience that the demon has failed to respond to his conjuring, is as good a solution as any.8
     Gehenna = a valley near Jerusalem used initially for idolatrous rites involving the sacrifice of children, then later for the burning of the bodies of outcasts, Gehenna came to be used as a synonym for hell.22 Gehenna is listed as one of the ten kingdoms of hell in the History.

Enter Mephistophilis.

27: an entire page of the History is dedicated to describing the mayhem, the thunder and lightning, and the strange spectral shapes that attend Mephistophilis' first appearance before Faustus.


I charge thee to return, and change thy shape;

29-30: Mephistophilis originally appears to Faustus in the form of a fiery man, according to the History.
     charge = order, command.


Thou art too ugly to attend on me:

Go, and return an old Franciscan friar;

= ie. in the guise of.


That holy shape becomes a devil best.

32: Faustus is grimly humorous.


[Exit Mephistophilis.]


I see there's virtue in my heavenly words:

=  power.  = sublime, celestial: the word choice is ironic;
     but Boas suggests heavenly words refers to words of
     scripture Faustus has used in his invocation.

Who would not be proficient in this art?

= ie. "would choose not to be".  = this is the earliest known
     appearance of proficient as an adjective, as we use it
     today, in English literature.1


How pliant is this Mephistophilis,

= ie. compliant.

Full of obedience and humility!


Such is the force of magic and my spells:

No, Faustus, thou art conjuror laureat,

= ie. a conjuror deserving of wearing the laurel crown, as if he had graduated with distinction in that field;4 the phrase is a parody of the expression poet laureate, which has been in use since the 15th century.1 The term derived from the ancient tradition of giving a wreath of laurel leaves to university graduates in rhetoric and poetry.10


That canst command great Mephistophilis:

Quin redis, Mephistophilis fratris imagine!

43: Boas has changed the original regis to redis, so that


the line becomes a Latin translation of line 31, instructing the demon to appear in the shape of a friar. This fits better as well with line 42's self-congratulatory spirit.

Re-enter Mephistophilis like a Franciscan friar.


Meph.  Now, Faustus, what wouldst thou have me do?


Faust.  I charge thee wait upon me whilst I live,


To do whatever Faustus shall command,

Be it to make the moon drop from her sphere,

51: Bullen notes this was a common feat of sorcerers.


Or the oceän to overwhelm the world.


Meph.  I am a servant to great Lucifer,

= Lucifer is identified as the chief devil here; from the early
     days of Christianity he was treated as having been the
     leader of the Heaven's rebellious angels, and the name
     was used synonymously with Satan.22

And may not follow thee without his leave:

= permission.


No more than he commands must we perform.


Faust.  Did not he charge thee to appear to me?

= order.


Meph.  No, I came hither of mine own accord.

= to here.


Faust.  Did not my conjuring speeches raise thee? speak.


Meph.  That was the cause, but yet per accidens;

64-69: Mephistophilis points out that Faustus' conjuring did not actually force the demon to appear before him; but rather, the doctor's rejection of God alerted the devils to the fact that Faustus was a good candidate for recruitment to the dark side, and his summoning gave them a good opportunity to follow up.
     The phrases the cause and per accidens were common in the academic language of logic.
     per accidens = ie. (only) incidentally.9

For, when we hear one rack the name of God,

= torment or distort;4 the sense is "blaspheming".


Abjure the Scriptures and his Saviour Christ,

= reject.2

We fly, in hope to get his glorious soul;

= ie. hurry to reach that person.


Nor will we come, unless he use such means

Whereby he is in danger to be damned.


Therefore the shortest cut for conjuring

= "the quickest path, ie. easiest way, to succeed in
     summoning spirits, etc."; the still-common phrase
     short-cut, which originally referred to a short journey
     or written passage, has existed in the English language
     at least as far back as 1568.1

Is stoutly to abjure the Trinity,

= firmly.2


And pray devoutly to the prince of hell.


Faust.  So Faustus hath

74-80: Faustus discusses his own beliefs in the third person.

Already done; and holds this principle,

= ie. to this.


There is no chief but only Belzebub;

To whom Faustus doth dedicate himself.


This word "damnation" terrifies not him,

For he confounds hell in Elysium:

79: "for he does not distinguish between hell and Elysium."7
         confounds = confuses.
         Elysium = that section of Hades reserved for the
     blessed souls.


His ghost be with the old philosophers!

80: the line has met with various interpretations, but Ward's
     seems most likely: Faustus' own soul (ghost = spirit)4
     shall exist alongside the pagan philosophers of the
     ancient world, who also did not believe in Heaven and

But, leaving these vain trifles of men's souls,

81: "but, putting aside these foolish and minor concerns
     regarding what happens to our souls".


Tell me what is that Lucifer thy lord?

= who.


Meph.  Arch-regent and commander of all spirits.

= top ruler, ie. head-devil, Satan.


Faust.  Was not that Lucifer an angel once?


Meph.  Yes, Faustus, and most dearly loved of God.

= by.


Faust.  How comes it, then, that he is prince of devils?


Meph.  O, by aspiring pride and insolence;

For which God threw him from the face of Heaven.


Faust.  And what are you that live with Lucifer?

= who.


Meph.  Unhappy spirits that fell with Lucifer,

= though usually pronounced as two syllables, spirits was frequently considered a one-syllable word for purposes of meter, as here: spir'ts.


Conspired against our God with Lucifer,

And are for ever damned with Lucifer.

97-99: note how Mephistophilis repeats the words with


Lucifer at the end of his lines three times, in response to Faustus' use of the phrase at the end of line 95.

Faust.  Where are you damned?


Meph.  In hell.


Faust.  How comes it, then, that thou art out of hell?


Meph.  Why, this is hell, nor am I out of it:


Think'st thou that I, who saw the face of God,

And tasted the eternal joys of Heaven,


Am not tormented with ten thousand hells,

In being deprived of everlasting bliss?

= being is a one-syllable word here.


O, Faustus, leave these frivolous demands,

Which strike a terror to my fainting soul!

107-113: Mephistophilis interestingly admits to the personal
     torment of being banned from God's presence.


Faust.  What, is great Mephistophilis so passionate

= emotional, agitated; Faustus' arrogance, and his confidence that he has made the correct decision to reject God, are at their zenith in this scene, as evidenced by his taunting Mephistophilis in this speech.


For being deprivèd of the joys of Heaven?

Learn thou of Faustus manly fortitude,

= from.


And scorn those joys thou never shalt possess.

Go bear these tidings to great Lucifer:


Seeing Faustus hath incurred eternal death

= read as "seeing that".

By desperate thoughts against Jove's deity,

= bold or dangerous.2  = ie. God's; Jove was sometime's
     used as a substitute for God.


Say, he surrenders up to him his soul,

So he will spare him four and twenty years,

= on the condition that.


Letting him live in all voluptuousness;

= ie. a life of luxurious indulgence of sensual pleasures.1

Having thee ever to attend on me,

= always.


To give me whatsoever I shall ask,

To tell me whatsoever I demand,

127: there will be a continuous tension between Faustus' desire to have Mephistophilis answer every one of his questions, and the demon's unwillingness to do so; the doctor's power over the Mephistophilis is never absolute.


To slay mine enemies, and aid my friends,

And always be obedient to my will.


Go and return to mighty Lucifer,

And meet me in my study at midnight,


And then resolve me of thy master's mind.

= inform.


Meph.  I will, Faustus.




Faust.  Had I as many souls as there be stars,

I’d give them all for Mephistophilis.


By him I'll be great emperor of the world,

= emperor here and in line 146 is disyllabic.

And make a bridge thorough the moving air,

= commonly used for "through".


To pass the ocean with a band of men;

= cross.

I'll join the hills that bind the Afric shore,

= connect.  = enclose.4


And make that country continent to Spain,

= continuous, ie. contiguous.1

And both contributory to my crown:

145: ie. both territories will be required to pay Faustus


The Emperor shall not live but by my leave,

= except.

Nor any potentate of Germany.


Now that I have obtained what I desired,

I'll live in speculation of this art,

= studious contemplation (Gollancz).


Till Mephistophilis return again.




A Street.

Enter Wagner and Clown.

Entering Characters: we have met Faustus' cheeky servant Wagner; the title of Clown was used to designate any of a number of buffoonish character-types, including jesters and rustics; here, the Clown may be considered a low-status individual who will prove to be even more of a jokester than Wagner. The scene involves the aspiring magician Wagner's attempts to hire the Clown as his own underling.


Wag.  Sirrah boy, come hither.

1: Sirrah = common form of address used for one's inferiors. 
     hither = to here.


Clown.  How, boy! swowns, boy!  I hope you have

3: How, boy! = "what, are you calling me boy?"
         swowns = variation on the common Elizabethan oath
     zounds, meaning "God's wounds".
         hope = expect.


seen many boys with such pickadevaunts as I have:

= beards trimmed to a point (from the French pic à-devant),
     much in fashion in late 16th century England;4 the Clown
     takes offense, as he is too old to be called a boy.

"boy", quotha!

= ie. "he says."


Wag.  Tell me, sirrah, hast thou any comings in?

= income, ie. money.


Clown.  Ay, and goings out too; you may see else.

= expenses.  = "you may see more of me in a moment"; the Clown is dressed in such ragged clothing that parts of his body are showing through, or poking through - hence there is a pun with goings out.


Wag.  Alas, poor slave! see how poverty jesteth in

11-15: Wagner speaks of the Clown in the third person.
         poverty jesteth = Wagner describes personified
     Poverty as a prankster.


his nakedness! the villain is bare and out of service,

= ie. the Clown's.  = naked.1  = unemployed, without work.

and so hungry, that I know he would give his soul to


the devil for a shoulder of mutton, though it were

= even if.



Clown.  How! my soul to the devil for a shoulder of


mutton, though 'twere blood-raw! not so, good

friend: by'r lady, I had need have it well roasted, and

19: "by our lady", an oath.2


good sauce to it, if I pay so dear.

= "if I have to pay so much for it," referring to his soul.


Wag.  Well, wilt thou serve me, and I'll make thee

go like Qui mihi discipulus?

23: the Latin phrase means roughly "one who is my pupil"; these are the opening words of a work attributed to the English grammarian William Lily (c.1468-1522).7


Clown.  How, in verse?

25: the Clown of course has no education in Latin, but he may perceive Qui mihi discipulus as a nonsense rhyme, with its repeating i and u vowel sounds.


Wag.  No, sirrah; in beaten silk and staves-acre.

27: beaten silk = silk inlaid with gold or other precious metal,28 but Wagner, punning, is hinting at the Clown's deserving a beating.4
     staves acre = a corruption of the Greek name (staphys agria) of a species of plant known commonly as larkspur, whose seeds were used for destroying vermin.26 The natural question arises as to how this makes any sense in the context of the line; Ward cites a previous editor, Osborne Tancock, who, assuming that staves-acres must refer, as does beaten silk, to some fine fabric, cleverly suggests staves acres is a corruption of stauracin, a silk fabric woven in with crosses.
     Descriptions of both beaten silk and stauracin are provided in Daniel Rock's 1876 Textile Fabrics.28


Clown.  How, how, knaves-acre! ay, I thought that

= there was street in London by the name of Knave's Acre: Peter Cunningham's 1850 Handbook of London Past and Present identifies Knave's Acre as a narrow thoroughfare lined with dealers in "old goods and glass bottles."


was all the land his father left him.  Do you hear? I

30: Clown means Wagner with his and him.

would be sorry to rob you of your living.


Wag.  Sirrah, I say in staves-acre.


Clown.  Oho, oho, staves-acre! why, then, belike, if I

35: Oho = exclamation expressing sarcasm or mockery.1 
         35-36: belike…your man = "it is likely that if I were to
     work for you, etc."


were your man, I should be full of vermin.

= the vermin were supposed to be destroyed by the
     previously-mentioned stave's acre.3 The subtext of
     the line may be "I will remain impoverished."


Wag.  So thou shalt, whether thou beest with me or

no. But, sirrah, leave your jesting, and bind yourself

= "stop kidding around".
     39-40: bind yourself…years = Wagner tries to hire the Clown on as an apprentice, whose term of service was typically seven years.


presently unto me for seven years, or I'll turn all the

lice about thee into familiars, and they shall tear thee

= attendant spirits or demons.


in pieces.


Clown.  Do you hear, sir? you may save that labour;

they are too familiar with me already: swowns, they


are as bold with my flesh as if they had paid for their

meat and drink.


Wag.  Well, do you hear, sirrah? hold, take these

= "here".



= Dutch florins,4 or gold coins used in Germany.1 As Ward

     says, Wagner is offering the Clown "hiring money".


[Gives money.]


Clown.  Gridirons! what be they?

= the word gridiron was applied to both (1) a cooking pan made up of parallel iron bars, and (2) an instrument of torture of similar construction.1


Wag.  Why, French crowns.

= gold coins used in France at the time, worth four English shillings; but the phrase French crown was also commonly used to describe the baldness associated with syphilis.1


Clown.  Mass, but for the name of French crowns, 

= "by the mass", an oath. 

a man were as good have as many English counters. 

59: "a man would be just as well-off if he had the same


And what should I do with these?

     number of English counters": counters were imitation
     coins made of inferior metal such as brass, and were
     used, as here, in "rhetorical contrast" (to quote the OED),
     or comparison to, real coins. Clown's point is that he is
     not sure that whatever Wagner offers him will be genuine
     or have any actual value.


Wag.  Why, now, sirrah, thou art at an hour's

62-64: "you are now no more than an hour away from

warning, whensoever or wheresoever the devil shall

     having the devil come take you away."


fetch thee.


Clown.  No, no; here, take your gridirons again.


Wag.  Truly, I'll none of them.

68: "I want nothing to do with them."


Clown.  Truly, but you shall.


Wag.  Bear witness I gave them him.

= ie. "to him".


Clown.  Bear witness I give them you again.


Wag.  Well, I will cause two devils presently to fetch

thee away. − Baliol and Belcher!

= male and female devils respectively. Baliol, or Beliol, is


"the wicked one", whom St. Paul equates him with Satan: "Or what concorde hath Christe with belyall?" (2 Corinthians 6:15, 1568 Bishop's Bible).22 In the History, Beliol is identified by Mephistophilis as the ruler of hell's southern kingdoms.
     Belcher is not mentioned in the History.

Clown.  Let your Baliol and your Belcher come


here, and I'll knock them, they were never so

= strike or beat.  = "have never been so".

knocked since they were devils: say I should kill one