English 201: English Literature to 1700
Prof. Boyer

Reading Questions for Christopher Marlowe's Doctor Faustus (pp. 990-1023)
The best beginning procedure is always to read the assignment all the way through, keeping track of characters, so that you know what's happening. If possible, read the whole work first. Try to get the big picture of the book or play (or scene) before getting bogged down in details. Read through, then go back and clear up details. Then you're ready to read the work closely with these questions in mind. (In the discussion below, page and line numbers in parentheses refer to The Norton Anthology of English Literature, 7th ed., vol. 1 or vol. 1B [2000] unless otherwise indicated.)

Additional Doctor Faustus material is on the Norton Topics Online website. Enter the site at www.wwnorton.com/nael and select the Sixteenth Century from the text on that page. Then select the Doctor Faustus section.

A note on line numbering in Doctor Faustus: It is traditional to refer to plays by act, scene, and line numbers or, when there are only scene divisions but no act divisions, as in our edition of Doctor Faustus, by scene and line numbers (thus Faustus first speaks at 1.1; the Chorus first speaks at Prol.1). Because you might encounter secondary sources that refer to other editions using act and scene divisions, they appear in parentheses after the scene numbers. They refer to the Revels Plays edition edited by David Bevington and Eric Rasmussen, which relocates some of the comic scenes.

Through scene 6
Remainder of play

THROUGH SCENE 6 (pp. 990-1009)

Prologue

1.

What kinds of plays will this not be (Prol.1-6)? What will the play be (Prol. 7-8)?

2.

What does the Chorus tell us about Faustus's life so far (Prol.10-19)? But what has happened to him (Prol. 20-28)? What is the Chorus's attitude toward this change in Faustus's life?

Scene 1 (Act 1, scene 1)

1.

What is Faustus doing (1.1-2)? How does he go about selecting his "major" (1.3-63)? Is he being fair to each profession? To check this out, you might want to look up the two Bible passages he quotes? Does he quote the entire passage? What follows each passage? Compare Faustus's image of a physician (1.14) to Chaucer's (lines 445-446 of the General Prologue, vol. 1A, page 226). What is the similarity?

2.

How successful has Faustus been in each profession he has followed? Is he happy with his successes? (See 1.23.)

3.

What happens after he sends for Valdes and Cornelius at line 67? What are the two arguments presented in lines 70-77? Does Faustus respond directly to them?

4.

What does Faustus plan to do with his new powers (1.78-97)? Keep these plans in mind as you read the play.

5.

What does he tell Valdes and Cornelius? What do they tell him? Will the three of them be partners in some way?

Scene 2 (Act 1, scene 2)

1.

What happens when the two scholars meet Wagner? How do the scholars react to what Wagner tells them?

2.

How does the tone of scene 2 compare with the tone of scene 1? What is the difference?

Scene 3 (Act 1, scene 3)

1.

What happens when Faustus begins his incantations (3.1-22)? What happens when the devil appears (3.23-34)? Does Mephistophilis follow Faustus's command? What does he look like when he returns at line 35?

2.

What does Faustus learn from Mephistophilis about how good his conjuring was (3.36-61)? Are you surprised?

3.

What does Faustus learn from Mephistophilis about Lucifer and Hell (3.62-82)? What is surprising about Mephistophilis's response to Faustus's questions?

4.

What unexpected advice does Faustus have for Mephistophilis (3.83-86)? What is Faustus's offer (3.87-97)? What expectations does Faustus have (3.102-114)?

Scene 4 (Act 1, scene 4)

1.

See footnote 2 for the nature of the Clown. What are Wagner and the Clown joking about? How does this scene echo Scene 3?

Scene 5, first part (Act 2, scene 1)

1.

What happens when Faustus tries to repent (5.1-21)? What word causes Faustus to change his mind (5.22-29)?

2.

What must Faustus do (5.30-48)? What happens when he tries to sign the contract (5.49-81)? How does Mephistophilis take Faustus's mind off the message of his blood (5.82-87)?

3.

What are the conditions of the contract (5.95-110)? What does Faustus learn about Hell (5.113-140).

4.

What is Faustus's first request (5.140-141)? Does he get it (5.142-156)? What does Mephistophilis then give him (5.157-177)? Does Faustus seem happy?

5.

How smooth is the transition between 5.177 and 5.178-180? Textual Note: The original printed version of the text has some obviously misplaced material, and it is not completely clear what was originally intended. The Revels Plays edition puts our scene 6 after line 177, and then has line 178 begin a new scene.

Scene 5, continued (Act 2, scene 3)

6.

What happens when Mephistophilis starts talking about heaven and man (5.181-187)? What does this cause Faustus to do, and what then happens (5.188-195). Which angel wins? What is Faustus's response in 5.196-210?

7.

What does Faustus ask Mephistophilis next, and what answer does he get (5.211-242)? Is he satisfied? What happens when he asks who made the world (5.242-248)? Is Mephistophilis fulfilling his side of the contract?

8.

What reaction does this create in Faustus, again (5.249-257)?

9.

What happens when Faustus calls on Christ in 5.258-259? Does Christ answer? Who does (5.260-261)? Is this a theologically correct answer? What does Faustus end up saying (5.262-273)?

10.

What show does Lucifer bring for Faustus? (See 5.274-342.) You might compare this portrayal of the Seven Deadly Sins with the portion of the portrayal in Langland's Piers Plowman given in vol. 1A pages 222-224. We have also seen another interesting pageant of the Seven Deadly Sins in The Faerie Queene, Book 1, canto 4, stanzas 18-36 (pages 666-671).

11.

Is Faustus satisfied by the show?

Scene 6 (Act 2, scene 2)

1.

How does this scene reflect what we have seen in scene 5? Does the scene seem to belong where it is in the antholgy, or would it fit better after 5.177?

top

REMAINDER OF PLAY (pp. 1009-1023)

Chorus 2 (Act 3 Chorus)

1.

What is Faustus doing now? Where do you expect we will meet him next?

Scene 7 (Act 3, scene 1)

1.

Where have Faustus and Mephistophilis been, and where are they now (7.1-58)?

2.

What happens when the Pope tries to have dinner (7.59-99)? Is this the sort of thing Faustus planned on before he met Mephistophilis?

Scene 8 (Act 3, scene 2)

1.

How does this scene echo the main plot? What significant difference is there? (See 8.32-39.)

Chorus 3 (Act 4 Chorus)

1.

What has happened to Faustus since scene 7? Where is he now?

Scene 9 (Act 4, scene 1)

1.

How happy with Faustus is the Emperor (9.1-9)? What does the Emperor request (9.16-35)? Is it granted? How much can Faustus do (9.39-48)? Is the Emperor satisfied (9.58-62)?

2.

What happens to the knight who has been skeptical of Faustus's powers?

3.

What will Faustus do next (9. 86-90)? How many of his original plans does he seem to have fulfilled?

Scene 10 (Act 4, scene 1 continues)

1.

What does the Horse-Courser do and what warning does Faustus give him (10.1-22)? What do you expect the Horse-Courser will do? (As the footnote says, this is a horse trader. With the advance of technology, the horse trader's reputation has now been transferred to the used car salesman. William Faulkner has a wonderful story about a horse trader; it's both a separate story and a segment of The Hamlet and is highly recommended.)

2.

What is Faustus's response in 10.24-29? What has happened to the Horse-Courser, and what does he do to Faustus when he returns (10.30-70)?

Scene 11 (Act 4, scene 2)

1.

Where is Faustus now? What great feat of magic does he perform this time? For whom does he perform it, and why?

Chorus 4 (Act 5, scene 1)

1.

What does Wagner tell us about Faustus? By implication, how many years have passed?

Scene 12 (Act 5, scene 1 continues)

1.

What request do the scholars have, and how does Faustus respond (12.1-15)?

2.

How do the scholars respond to Helen (12.16-25)?

3.

What does the Old Man tell Faustus, and how does Faustus respond (12.26-52)?

4.

What is Faustus's mood after the Old Man leaves and how does Mephistophilis respond to it (12.53-59)? Whose pardon does Faustus ask (12.60-65)? What does Faustus ask Mephistophilis to do to the Old Man, and what does Mephistophilis respond (12.66-71).

5.

What does Faustus then ask of Mephistophilis (12.72-80)? Compare this to Faustus's request for a wife in Scene 5.

6.

Read Faustus's famous reaction to Helen carefully (12.81-100). What is happening to Faustus?

7.

How does the Old Man respond (12.101-103)? What happens to him and how does he respond (12.104-109)?

Scene 13 (Act 5, scene 2)

1.

What does Faustus tell the scholars and what do they tell him (13.1-56)?

2.

Read Faustus's last speech carefully (13.57-113). What does Faustus seem to be trying to do, and why can't he do it? Notice the irony of line 66, which is quoted from one of Ovid's famous love poems, in which a lover urges the night to last longer. Does Faustus go happily to his death?

Epilogue (Epilogue)

1.

According to the Chorus, what is the message of the play we have just seen? Do you agree that the Chorus has correctly identified the message? What other messages could the play have?

top

Return to English 201 list of reading questions