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MonkeyNotes-Doctor Faustus by Christopher Marlowe
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Act III, Scene 2

Summary

The banquet is brought in, and Faustus and Mephistophilis follow, as themselves. Mephistophilis is invisible, and he uses his powers to make Faustus invisible also. The Pope and his Lords and Cardinals enter. When one of the Cardinals mentions the decision concerning Bruno, the Pope reminds him that he has already received the verdict and acted upon it: Bruno has been given into their hands. Bewildered, they deny this. The Pope threatens them with death unless they can find Bruno, and they go off looking for him.

Then follows a farcical interlude in which Faustus, invisible, insults the Pope and makes a fool of him by playing tricks on him. Finally, Faustus boxes the Pope on the ear, whereupon the Pope runs away, crying in a most undignified manner. The friars recite a curse over the evil spirit who has disrupted this solemn occasion, but they are driven away by Faustus and his companion.


Notes

Faustus’ ridicule of the religious ceremony attached to his own excommunication is a bit disconcerting. In spite of the boisterous comedy of the situation, there is also deep irony.

The second Vatican scene shows Marlowe varying his use of the stage. Here, there is more action, and it descends to the level of farce. The farce depends upon the audience’s suspending disbelief: they can see the “invisible” Faustus playing pranks, while the majority of the characters on the stage cannot. Faustus’ tricks are intended to reflect the pettiness of the papal court. The rituals of heaven and hell degenerate into squabbles over indignities suffered. Moreover, the clergy here is represented as powerless. Faustus cannot be cursed to hell by the Pope or his friars. He is already aware of the fact that he inhabits hell.

Faustus and Mephistophilis watch the consequences of the actions of the previous scene, in which they whisked Bruno away. The audience sees how the different parties involved respond to the events. The Cardinals cannot possibly explain their position to the Pope. The invisible Faustus disturbs the Vatican’s entire routine through his tricks. The Pope is represented as a gluttonous, pompous and proud person, and he is duly humiliated. The rituals are interrupted by Faustus and Mephistophilis. They “beat the Friars, fling fireworks among them” and run away.

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