Please give a summary of Doctor Faustus by Marlowe.

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larrygates | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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The Tragical History of Dr. Faustus, by Christopher Marlowe, is an English play based on Faust by Johan Goethe. It is well worth reading, and I highly recommend that you do so. In summary, Faustus is a professor of sorts who believes that he has reached the end of all available knowledge and determines to study magic. This leads him to make a deal with Mephistophilis, the servant of Lucifer, that he is to have all power for twenty four years; however at the end of the twenty four years his soul is damned forever. This arrangment is the origin of the term "Faustian deal" when one makes a very poor decision for short term gain, thus figuratively selling one's soul to the devil.

During his twenty four years, Faust is given frequent opportunities to repent, but refuses. Instead he uses--and abuses-- his power by summoning the spirit of Alexander the Great and even Helen of Troy. When he sees Helen, Faust utters some of the more famous lines from the play:

Was this the face that launch'd a thousand ships,
And burnt the topless towers of Ilium--
Sweet Helen, make me immortal with a kiss.--
Her lips suck forth my soul: see, where it flies!--
Come, Helen, come, give me my soul again.
Here will I dwell, for heaven is in these lips,
And all is dross that is not Helena.
I will be Paris, and for love of thee,
Instead of Troy, shall Wertenberg be sack'd;

There is much more detail than can be related here; and again, you are strongly urged to read the entire play. However, at the end, when his time is up, Faust at last repents, but it is too late. Faustus is carried away by devils to hell. The play ends with a solemn admonition by the chorus, an admonition that many students, seeking to make a "Faustian deal" might do well to heed:

Cut is the branch that might have grown full straight,
And burned is Apollo's laurel-bough,
That sometime grew within this learned man.
Faustus is gone: regard his hellish fall,
Whose fiendful fortune may exhort the wise,
Only to wonder at unlawful things,
Whose deepness doth entice such forward wits
To practice more than heavenly power permits.



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