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Explain this quote from Doctor Faustus by Marlowe: "This the face that launch'd a...

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mujibustc | Student, Undergraduate | (Level 2) eNoter

Posted June 21, 2012 at 3:56 PM via web

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Explain this quote from Doctor Faustus by Marlowe: "This the face that launch'd a thousand ships,... sweet Helen, make me immortal with a kiss."

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stolperia | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted June 21, 2012 at 7:58 PM (Answer #1)

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Prior to the appearance of this quote, Doctor Faustus has brought forth a vision of Helen of Troy, who is acclaimed by Faustus and the wise men with him at her appearance as being the most beautiful woman to have ever lived.

In Greek mythology, Helen was the daughter of Zeus and the wife of Menelaus. Her abduction by Paris was the cause of the Trojan War - "the face that launched a thousand ships" refers to the Greek ships sent to rescue Helen from the Trojans.

By the time of the quote you cite, Faustus is nearing the end of his deal with Mephistopheles and recognizes that death is approaching. He calls out to the vision of Helen to save him, believing that a kiss from her will "make me immortal" and safe from the Devil's spell.

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