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MonkeyNotes-Doctor Faustus by Christopher Marlowe
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HISTORICAL INFORMATION

The legend of Faust had its origin in Europe in the legends and chapbooks of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. It developed around a real person, one Doctor Johann Faust, who gained a reputation as a notorious magician and worker in black magic. He was said to have sold his soul to the devil in exchange for knowledge. It is the same legend, which was the basis for Marlowe’s The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus (1588) in England. This legend was brought to England by the translation of a German chapbook (a small book of poems, ballads and tales) on the subject. This translation appeared shortly before Marlowe’s play and appears to be its immediate source. Marlowe’s is the first of many dramatic treatments of the story. His version of the Faust tale was very popular in Europe. In 1587 the stories about Faust had been collected as a biographic story entitled Historia Von D. Johann Faustus. The book was published in the same year in English translation in England. Goethe’s Faust is a poetic drama in two parts (1808 & 1832). Goethe’s version of the legend is different from Marlowe’s version. In Goethe’s poem Faust is saved. God’s angels are sent to snatch his soul from the legion of devils, and he is borne off to heaven.

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