‘Doctor Faustus’ – Christopher Marlowe

The Scrapbook

Christopher Marlowe, Doctor Faustus

Marlowe’s play, Doctor Faustus, was nominated by Nicola Brooks,
a sixth form student attnding the Sutton Trust Summer School in Cambridge,
who likes its plot, and its many hidden meanings.

It was written
in 1592, and depicts a bargain between Faustus, a philosopher and
scientist, and the devil: Faustus sells his soul (Mephistopheles),
in return for which the devil has to serve him for 24 years.

This speech
is taken from the end of the play, when the 24 years are up, and the
devil comes to collect Faustus.


‘Twill all be past anon.

Oh God, if thou wilt not have mercy on my soul,

Yet for Christ’s sake, whose blood hath ransomed me,

Impose some end to my incessant pain;

Let Faustus live in hell a thousand years,

A hundred thousand, and at last be saved.

O, no end is limited to damned souls.

Why wert thou not a creature wanting soul?

Or, why is this immortal that thou hast?

Ah, Pythagoras’ metempsychosis, were that true,

This soul should fly from me, and I be changed

Unto some brutish beast. All beasts are happy, for when they die,

Their souls are soon dissolved in elements,

But mine must live still to be plagued in hell.

Curst be the parents that engendered me.

No, Faustus, curse thyself, curse Lucifer,

That hath deprived thee of the joys of heaven.
The clock striketh twelve.
O, it strikes, it strikes! Now, body, turn to air,

Or Lucifer will bear thee quick to hell.
Thunder and lightning.
O soul, be changed into little water drops,

And fall into the ocean, ne’er be found.

My God, my God, look not so fierce on me;
Enter Devils.
Adders, and serpents, let me breathe a while;

Ugly hell gape not, come not Lucifer;

I’ll burn my books! Ah, Mephistophilis.
Exeunt Devils with Faustus.

Further Reading

Christopher Marlowe was murdered in 1593, at the age of only 29, having written only a very few plays and poems. He was a contemporary of William Shakespeare.

Marlowe’s plays often depict cruel, larger-than-life men, and are famous for their grand rhetoric and shocking actions. Tamburlaine the Great is about the life and death of Tamburlaine, the conqueror of Asia; The Jew of Malta depicts the scheming Barabas; Edward II portrays the violent murder of King Edward at the hands of the English nobles.

Marlowe also wrote a number of poems, including ‘The Passionate Shepherd to his Love’, one of the best-known lyric poems of the day, and Hero and Leander, a long poem of tragic love.

If you’re interested in other depictions of magic and witchcraft from the period, you could also read William Shakespeare’s play, Macbeth.

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