Doctor Faustus, with The English Faust Book

Doctor Faustus, with The English Faust Book

Doctor Faustus, with The English Faust Book

Doctor Faustus, with The English Faust Book

Synopsis

This edition of Doctor Faustus features annotated versions, with modernized spelling and punctuation, of the 1604 A-text and the 1592 text of Marlowe's source, the English Faust Book --a translation of the best-selling Historia von Johann Fausten published in Frankfurt in 1587, which recounts the strange story of Doctor John Faustus and his pact with the spirit Mephistopheles.

David Wootton's Introduction charts Marlowe's brief, meteoric career; the delicate social and political climate in which Doctor Faustus was staged and the vexed question of the religious sensibilities to which it may have catered; the interpretive significance of variations between the A and B texts; and the shrewd and subversive uses to which Marlowe put the English Faust Book in crafting, according to Wootton, a drama in which orthodox Christian teaching triumphed, but in which Faustus has all the best lines.

Excerpt

Christopher Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus is one of the greatest plays in the English language. When we look back at the reign of Queen Elizabeth I (1558–1603), the plays of Marlowe and Shakespeare seem to us the most important literary works produced during the golden age of English literature, but this was not how things appeared at the time. the only plays of Marlowe’s published during his lifetime (Tamburlaine I and ii) were anonymous. We know nothing about the early performances of Doctor Faustus. Marlowe lived his life in obscurity. the result is that we know much less than we would like about the history of Doctor Faustus, and there are elementary questions to which we have no satisfactory answers at all. First of all, Marlowe (it is generally agreed) wrote Doctor Faustus with one or more collaborators, but we do not know the identity of Marlowe’s co-author(s).

Christopher Marlowe was born in Canterbury in 1564, the eldest son of a poor shoemaker. Unlike most sons of the poor, he received a proper education and attended the King’s School in Canterbury, where he finally won a scholarship shortly before his fifteenth birthday; this was followed by a scholarship to Corpus Christi College, Cambridge University, where he arrived in December 1580 and completed his ba in 1584 and ma in 1587. It was probably at Cambridge that he translated Ovid’s Amores and wrote the first two acts of Dido, Queen of Carthage (the rest of the play being written by Thomas Nashe).

Education to ma level was normally the prelude to ordination as a clergyman in the Church of England; instead Marlowe became a playwright. Tamburlaine the Great followed by The Second Part of the Bloody

I would like to thank Susan Brigden and William Sherman for reading the Introduction in draft form.

By far the best biography of Marlowe is by David Riggs: The World of Christopher Marlowe (London: Faber, 2004); a briefer account, also by Riggs, is in The Cambridge Companion to Christopher Marlowe, ed. P. Cheney (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004), 24–40.

But note Riggs (Marlowe, 3), who points out that the reputation of Doctor Faustus was really only established by the 1880s, and was in part based on a reading of the play as Christian.

Thomas Merriam, “Marlowe and Nashe in Dido, Queen of Carthage,” Notes and Queries (Dec. 2000), 425–28.

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