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MonkeyNotes-Doctor Faustus by Christopher Marlowe
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Act II, Scene 1

Summary

Faustus, in his study, ponders his damnation. The Good and Bad Angels emphasize that the choice is still open. Faustus, however, is still anxious for the promised glories and the power he associates with Mephistophilis. When he returns, he demands from Faustus a formal compact with Lucifer, couched in legal terms and sealed with Faustus’ blood. The blood congeals and requires fire to dissolve it. Instead of “Faustus gives to thee his soul,” the inscription on his arm reads: “Homo Fuge!” (Fly, O man!). Faustus is depressed, but Mephistophilis produces a pageant of devils to entertain him. The deed is then exchanged in which Faustus will give his soul to Lucifer for twenty-four years and have Mephistophilis to do his bidding.

Faustus begins to question Mephistophilis about hell. He again learns that, apart from heaven, hell is everywhere, it exists, and is no fable, as Faustus would like to believe. Damnation too, is real, and the existence of Mephistophilis proves that. Faustus desires a wife, and for this he is reproved by Mephistophilis, who will not hear of marriage. Mephistophilis gives him a book containing lines, the use of which will grant him astonishing powers.


Notes

At the crucial moment when Faustus must sign his contract, his resolution characteristically wavers. This lack of resolution is expressed in the particularly jerky rhythm of the verse. Faustus’ wavering is the occasion for the reappearance of the Good and Bad Angels. On their previous appearance, Faustus was totally oblivious to them. In this scene, however, he seems to be partially aware of them: “O something soundeth in my ears.” He tells himself: “Abjure this magic, turn to God again.” He cannot locate precisely where or what this something is. If he can partially hear the Good Angel, he can also partially hear the Bad Angel. The Bad Angel’s last word, “wealth,” keeps ringing in his ears. He reaches a temporary resolution as he thinks of God, but this is overcome once more by doubt. Finally, his allegiance is confirmed.

When he writes the deed, Faustus receives two bad omens (his congealing blood and the inscription), which startle him, but his selfishness drives him on to ignore them against his better judgment. When realization dawns, Mephistophilis is quick to send a diversion to take his mind off harsh reality.

Another significant feature in this scene is Mephistophilis’ account of hell. Hell, says Mephistophilis, means a state of everlasting torture. “Hell hath no limits, nor is circumscribed/ In one self place...” When all the world dissolves, all places that are not heaven shall become hell. Thus Mephistophilis does not speak of hell as a localized place or region. It is one of the notable ironies of the play that Mephistophilis refers to his own example to prove that hell is a state of ever-lasting torture. Faustus proudly dismisses this information as an old wives’ tale and goes to the extent of declaring that “hell is a fable.”

Faustus’ demands on Mephistophilis show a marked lack of imagination. It meets with a disappointing response. He cannot have a wife because marriage is a sacrament. Mephistophilis, therefore, offers Faustus an alternative for a wife, namely, a mistress.

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