The Historie of the damnable life, and deserved death of Doctor Iohn Faustus 1592
The Historie of the damnable life, and deserved death of Doctor Iohn Faustus is a transitional work that links the Historia von D. Johann Fausten with Christopher Marlowe's play Doctor Faustus and with later treatments of the Faust legend. The account of a scholar who sells his soul to the devil in exchange for knowledge and power was well established in popular legend before its first publication in Germany in 1587. It is reputed to be based on the life of a German man who may have been a physician, astrologer, and astronomer, claimed to be an alchemist, and was certainly an accomplished magician and charlatan. The Historie, often referred to as the English Faust book, is the first known published English version of the story.
Little is known about the author of the Historie. The book was published under the initials P. F., followed by the term "Gent," referring to the social position of gentleman. Scholars generally concur that the author was most likely male, British, university educated, and had probably traveled in Germany. Some speculate that the English Faust-Book author, as Christopher Marlowe did later, worked for Britain as a spy in Germany and elsewhere. His know-ledge of German was extensive. Scholars concur that Marlowe based his Faust play, first performed around 1593 and first published in 1604, on the Historie, and speculate that the two authors may have known one another.
The Historie has garnered the greatest scholarly interest for those aspects in which it varies from its source material. Critics disagree on the reason for the author's alteration of the German text. Some critics suggest that his understanding of German was faulty and he simply misunderstood the German-language text. Others point to the role of the censors who controlled publishing in England at the time. William Empson argues that the anonymous author altered the German story to conform with prevailing religious views. Such concepts as the nature of the Devil, the existence of lesser devils, the location of hell, and other religious issues which are central to the Faust story differed significantly between Germany and England and even within Protestant faiths. The text continues to be the focus of comparative studies, In addition, modern scholarship has explored the changes to the original story in order to better understand the ways that popular culture in sixteenth-century England was shaped by predominant religious, political, and social concepts.
Adolphus William Ward (essay date 1901)
SOURCE: Introduction to Marlowe: "Tragical History of Dr. Faustus"; Greene: "Honourable History of Friar Bacon and Friar Bungay," 4th ed., rev. and enlarged, Clarendon press, 1901, pp. xv-clxvi.
[In the following excerpt, Ward discusses The History of the Damnable Life and deserved Death of Doctor Johann Faustus as a source for Marlowe's play.]
There is no external evidence, then, to show that either before or in 1589 any literary materials were in existence of which Marlowe could have availed himself in the composition of his tragedy, except the editions which had already appeared of the German Faustbuch. At the same time no doubt can be said to remain that he made full use of an early edition of the English translation of the German book, which very speedily made its appearance. Now, the earliest extant edition of 'The History of the Damnable Life and deserved Death of Doctor Johann Faustus: Newly Printed and in convenient Places impertinent Matter amended, according to the true Copy, Printed at Frankfort; and translated into English, by P. F. Gent,' was printed at London, by T. Orwin for Edw. White, in 15922. As, however, the expressions 'newly printed' and 'amended' imply3, the book bearing this title is itself a reprint; there are, moreover, indications in a later edition4 that it was reprinted from an earlier text. But, most unfortunately, we are without satisfactory evidence as to the date when this original edition of the English translation was issued. No entry of it is to be found in the Stationers' Registers5. There is at the same time no prima facie probability in favour of the English translation having been considerably later in date than the German editio princeps of 1587; while there remains no reasonable doubt that it was, in any case, made before February 28, 1589, when the Ballad of Doctor Faustus was entered in the Registers. The supposition that the compiler of the English History of Doctor Faustus had the play before his eyes, or passages from it in his memory, seems a conjecture both a priori unlikely, and supported by no special arguments on which it would be worth while to dwell6. Furthermore, there seems no reason for concluding the English translation to have been based upon any later edition of the German original than the editio princeps, or the pirated edition of 1587, or the reprint of 1588. The arrangement of chapters, though they are slightly reduced in number (from sixty-eight to sixty-two), is substantially the same in the English version as in the German original7; and the English History does not include the six chapters (lii-lvii) which were added to the Faustbuch in the edition of 1590.
At the same time there are certain differences of detail between the German and the English books. These differences it would be impossible to exhibit here with completeness; yet nothing short of a minute comparison can justify the expression of a definite opinion on the question, as to whether the play with which we are specially concerned was based upon the German Faustbuch or upon its English version; or, for this third supposition is prima facie by no means unreasonable, upon both the one and the other. This question has been argued with great acuteness, and much energy, by several scholars8; and I think can no longer be regarded as open. The internal evidence in favour of the conclusion that Marlowe's play, in the form in which it was printed in 1604, was founded directly on the English History of Doctor Faustus appears to me finally established. To begin with, there is the verbal coincidence between one most salient passage in the play, occurring in the contract with Mephistophilis, and the text of the History, which I agree with Mr. Bullen9 in thinking too striking to be merely accidental. Indeed, the entire arrangement and sequence of the articles in the contract are those adopted in the English, but not in the German, story-book. Other minor points of agreement are noticeable between the History and the play, which are wanting in the Faustbuch; above all, the account given by Faustus of his Italian travels contains descriptive passages concerning Naples and Rome, of which the originals are to be found in the English, but not in the German, narrative10. Furthermore, resemblances of phraseology between corresponding passages in the play and in the History have been noted which it is difficult to attribute to chance; though as a matter of course no such close similitude could ordinarily have been expected in the corresponding German passages11. To this evidence the advocates of the theory which holds the play to have been based directly upon the German Faustbuch, have nothing to oppose, that will bear the test of close inquiry12.
On the whole, in the absence of any evidence as to the date of publication of the English History, beyond the fact that it was reprinted in 1592,13 it would perhaps be unsafe to set down as an absolutely certain fact that this particular edition of the English version of the Faustbuch was in Marlowe's hands when he was engaged upon Doctor Faustus. But the conclusion that the play, as we have it in its earliest known edition, was composed mainly with the aid of the English History, may be regarded as established. To summarize the matter with Logeman in a few words, Marlowe's use of the English History was occasional rather than continuous; and though in certain passages, as will be seen by a comparison of text and notes, he copied the narrative as closely as Shakespeare copied his English Plutarch, the identity of particular words or verbal forms is rare14. That Marlowe was acquainted with the German Faustbuch itself remains perfectly possible, and by no means unlikely. In the absence, however, of any direct proof of this supposition, it would be useless to recur to speculations based on the assumption that portions of the play were founded upon the Faustbuch, and others upon the English History.15
As to the German Faustbuch, it may well have been brought over to England in one of its early editions by some person or persons who had travelled in Germany16, and through them, in its original shape or in that of a manuscript English translation, have come into the hands of 'P. F.,' or whoever was the 'gentleman' who wrote the English History, or for that matter, into the hands of Marlowe himself. He can hardly have been abroad as late as 1587. Who, then, were the possible person or persons in question? It has been happily conjectured by van der Velde17—and the conjecture is adopted by Professor Wagner18—that they were English comedians who had performed in Germany before the year 1588. In a work19 of which the interest and importance for the study of the English as well as of the German drama have been generally recognized, Mr. A. Cohn has shown that on October 16, 1586, Duke Christian of Saxony appointed five Englishmen 'fiddlers and instrumentalists to play music and exhibit their art in "leaping and other graceful things that they have learnt"'; and that this company of comedians included the names, afterwards well known in the annals of the English stage, of Thomas Pope and George Bryan. They had belonged to the Earl of Leicester's company, and by him been recommended to the service of King Frederick II of Denmark, whence they were transferred into that of the Duke of Saxony20. Mr. Cohn considers that this Thomas Pope was beyond all reasonable doubt the only actor of that name known to us as belonging to this period—the same Thomas Pope who was afterwards the associate of Shakespeare, and who in 1594 took part in Tarleton's revived play of the Second Part of The Seven Deadly Sins, which has a special interest for us in connexion with Marlowe's tragedy21. 'The above-mentioned Englishmen,' he continues, 'are not met with again in the Dresden Archives after 1586, though other "Jumpers and Dancers" are named at a later period, as e.g. in 1588.' It therefore appears that these Englishmen quitted the Saxon service about 1587, and returned to England. Here we have a link suggested between Marlowe and Germany, and a way in which he might have conceivably become acquainted with the German Faustbuch in the very year of its first publication, or in that immediately succeeding it.
The Faustbuch, then—but so far as is actually demonstrable, entirely through the medium of a very early English version of it—must be regarded as the source of the tragedy of Doctor Faustus. For Marlowe's play cannot reasonably be supposed to have had a model in any German drama, since there is no sufficient reason for assuming that any such existed at so early a date. A weighty authority—Simrock22—has indeed held it probable that some such German play existed and was known to Marlowe, who elaborated his tragedy out of it with the help of the Faustbuch, and this hypothesis has since been revived23. The essential point which Marlowe's tragedy has in common with the puppet-plays, based on an early German drama or dramas, is to be found, as Simrock says, in the apparitions of the Good and the Evil Angel—allegorical figures familiar to German legend, but not appearing in the story-book. I cannot think this parallelism, striking as it is, sufficient to make us look for the original of Marlowe's tragedy in an unknown German drama, of which the very existence rests on pure conjecture24. To the Faustbuch his debt is in any case undeniable. Before making the extracts necessary for rendering patent this fact, it will however be convenient to complete the data as to the history of the legend of Doctor Faustus in our Elizabethan literature, by stating that in 1594 was published in London, where it had been entered on the Stationers' Registers, November 16, 1593, 'The Second Report of Dr. John Faustus, containing his appearances and the deeds of Wagner. Written by an English Gentleman student in Wittenberg an Vniuersity of Germany in Saxony. Published for the delight of all those who desire Nouelties by a frend of the same Gentleman25.' This English version of the Wagnerbuch is preceded by a preface 'unto them which would know the Trueth,' in which they are apprised of some remarkable instances in support of the fact that Faustus was a real man. 'First, there is yet remaining the ruins of his house not farre from Melanchthon's at Wittenberg. Secondly, there is his tree, a great hollow Tree wherein he vsed to read Nigromancy to his schollers, not farre from the towne in a very remote place.… Next, his tomb at Mars Temple a three miles beyond the cittie, upon which is written on a Marble stone by his owne hand this Epitaph, which is somewhat old by reason of his small skill in graving:—
'Hic iaceo lohannes Faustus, Doctor diuini iuris indignissimus, qui pro amore magiae Diabolicae scientiae vanissimè cecidi ab amore Dei: O Lector pro me miserrimo damnato nomine ne preceris, nam preces non iuvant quem Deus condemnavit: O pie Christiane memento mei, et saltem vnam pro infiducia mea lachrymulam exprime, et cui non potes mederi, eius miserere, et ipse caue.
The Stone was found in his Study, and his wil was fulfilled, and he lieth betwixt a heap of three and thirty fir trees in the foot of the Hill in a great hole where this is erected.'
For further testimony to convince the incredulous, he repeats (including their manifest errors) the statements of Wierus; and with this circumstantial evidence conscientiously tendered by an Englishman, scorning, like others of his countrymen, to see with any eyes but his own, I must close my imperfect sketch of the early history of the Faust-legend. Later English translations of German magical works attributed to Faustus have no more significance for the present purpose than their German originals.
The following are the passages in the 1592 edition of the Historie of the damnable life and deserved death of Doctor John Faustus (here reprinted from the text of Professor Logeman's recent edition26), the parallels to which in the play of Doctor Faustus will be immediately recognized. As it would be tedious to print both the original and the translation side by side or in sequence at length; and as the English History was demonstrably the direct source of Marlowe's play, I have contented myself with occasional references to the arrangement or phraseology of the German Faustbuch.
It may be noticed that the Faustbuch mentions 'Rod,' the English History 'Rhode,' and the play 'Rhodes' as the birthplace of the magician. This is Roda in the Duchy of Saxe-Altenburg, situate between the towns of Jena and Gera, and correctly described by the English History as 'lying in the Province of Weimer,' inasmuch as it was not till 1573 that a partition took place between the Altenburg and Weimar lands, which were alike included in those secured to the Ernestine line by the new Elector Maurice in 1547. Widmann gives Anhalt as the country of Faustus' birth, and the mark Sondwedel, i.e. Salzwedel, as the place of his parents' abode. But we have seen that the older and contemporary authorities stated him to have been born at Knüttlingen, i.e. Knittlingen—or, as several of them, following Manlius' report of Melanchthon's discourse, misspelt the name, 'Kundling'—in Württemberg27. The connexion of Faustus with Wittenberg led to a confusion between the names of the South-German duchy and of the Saxon university town by Marlowe or the transcribers of his play, in the first extant edition of which Wittenberg is called 'Wertenberg' or 'Wertenberge28.' I have seen no reason for retaining this error in the text of the play, as it could only lead to confusion. Again, in both the German Faustbuch and its English version, as well as in Marlowe, the student-life of Faustus is passed at Wittenberg only; Widmann makes him study at Ingolstadt, a South-German university of transient celebrity, where Reuchlin was professor. In the German Faustbuch, the summoning of the Devil (who is not here called Mephistophiles till his second colloquy with Faustus in chapter iv) takes place in a thick wood near Wittenberg, called 'der Spesser Wald'; and the conjuring of Mephistophiles in the English History is likewise localized in 'a thick wood, called in the German tongue Spisser Waldt, that is in English the Spissers Wood29.' This wood, the 'solitary grove' of the play, has been held to be identifiable with a kind of bosquet near Wittenberg called the 'Specke,' a locality where Luther is known to have taken his exercise30. Lastly, in the German as well as in the English Faust-book, 'the village called Rimlich, half a mile from Wittenberg,' and in Marlowe Wittenberg itself, is the scene of Faustus' death; according to Melanchthon it occurred in a village of Faustus' native country (Württemberg). Other places contended for the notoriety of having seen the last of the famous sorcerer—among them another village near Wittenberg called Praten, the castle of Wardenberg, and the towns Maulbronn and Cologne. The rest of the geography of the Faustbuch, the English History, and the play, may be left to incidental comment, or must account for themselves31.…
2 A copy of this is in the British Museum. The translator's initials are given as 'P. R.' and 'P. K.' in some later editions. It is 'P. R.? in that printed by R. C. Brown, and used by Thoms for the reprint in vol. iii of his Early Prose Romances, 1828. Cf. Logeman, The English Faust-Book of 1592, Introduction, p. ix; see also Marlowe's Works, edited by A. H. Bullen, vol. i, Introduction, p. xxv, and the second edition of Thoms' Early English Prose Romances, iii. 159. Of the three copies in the Bodleian, as I am obligingly informed, one printed by Edward All-de for Edward White, 1618, gives the translator's initials as P. F.; the two others, both printed by C. Brown for M. Hotham, s.d., as P. R. Thoms, in his first edition, mentions an edition of the English History of 1626; Dyce's quotations are from that of 1648. Logeman's conjectures as to the identity of the translator are avowedly futile.
3pace Düntzer in Anglia, i. 47, who thinks it means 'recently.'
4 viz. that used by Thoms. Cf. Logeman, u.s., pp. xvi, 148 et al.
5 In a note to his edition of Henslowe's Diary, p. 42, Collier states the book to have been entered on the Stationers' Registers in 1588; and Mr. Fleay suggests the possibility of a leaf having been abstracted from these.
6 Wagner, who inclined to this view, thought that certain passages in the English History pointed to the translator having made use of the tragedy. The passages on which he relied are those describing Vergil's tomb and the grotto of Posilippo (vii. 13-5), and the Castle of St. Angelo at Rome (ibid., 37-43), which have their proper parallels in the History, but to which there is nothing to correspond in the Faustbuch. But Th. Delius, Marlowe's Faustus und seine Quelle (Bielefeld, 1881), pp. 7-9, has conclusively shown that the chapters (xxii and xxiii) in the English History which describe the journeys of Faustus through the world are an expanded and elaborated version of the German original, and contain additional touches which do not occur in the play, e.g. 'the windmill that stood in the water' at Naples; whereas the play contains none that are wanting in the History (unless it be vii. 8, which can hardly be considered farfetched). Whence the English translator derived the body of his additions, has not been discovered. But, as Logeman points out, they can hardly have been the fruit of his own continental travels. They include misstatements, such as that of Carolus Magnus having built the Campo Santo at Rome, and stories of a cock and a bull, like that of the Brazen Virgin acting as public executioner of naughty children on the bridge at Breslau.
7 The statements of Delius to this effect, u.s., pp. 5-6, appear on verification to be essentially correct.
8 Notably by Erich Schmidt, "Marlowe's Faust und sein Verhältniss zu den deutschen und englischen Faustbüchern" in Lemcke's Jahrbuch für romanische und englische Sprache und Literatur, Neue Folge, ii. 42-62 (1875); by Düntzer, "Zu Marlowe's Faust," in Anglia, i. 44-54 (1878); by the late Professor Wagner, Zu Marlowe's Faustus, ibid., ii. 308-13 (1879); and, more recently, by Th. Delius in the very able doctor's disputation already cited (1881), by Mr. E. W. Pantin, and by Professor H. Logeman, in Faustus-Notes, Ghent, 1898; which last publication seems to me to exhaust all the issues of the controversy. I have freely used the researches of these writers for my statements. I have not seen Münch's essay on the internal relation of Marlowe's Doctor Faustus to the Faustbuch (Bonn, 1879), which is praised by M. Koch, "Zerstreute Bemerkungen zu M.'s Faust," in Shakespeare-Jahrbuch, xxi. (1886).
9Marlowe's Works, vol. i, Introduction, p. xxxvi. The passage in question is the third article of the contract (v. 99-100), where the History, in the edition of 1592, reads: 'That Mephistophiles should bring him anything, and doo for him whatsoever.' Only a much later edition, as Dyce pointed out, adds 'he desireth.'
10 It is due to Mr. W. E. Pantin (see his letter in The Academy, June 25, 1887), to acknowledge that he first fully set forth the points of agreement between Marlowe and the English History, as distinct from the German. I had previously noticed that the epithet 'sumptuous' in the History (chapter xxii) is applied to St. Mark's at Venice, and in the play (vii. 16) to a 'temple' in 'Venice, Padua,' or 'the rest'; in the Faustbuch there is no such epithet. In the play (ibid., 5) the town of Trier is described as—
'Not to be won by any conquering prince;'
the History declares it 'impossible for any prince's power to win it'; in the Faustbuch it is said that 'they have to fear no foe.' In the play (ibid., 7) the river Maine 'falls' into the Rhine as in the History, instead of 'flowing' into it as in the Faustbuch; and the description of the streets of Naples (ibid., 11) likewise comes 'straight forth' from the History, without there being any equivalent in the Faustbuch. See also note 1 to p. lxviii ante. In the History (chapter xix) Lucifer says that he and his companions have come from hell to show Faustus some pastime; cf. the line in the play (vi. 104), to which there is nothing to correspond in the Faustbuch. Mr. Pantin further observes in the English History, as in the play (xiii. 18), but not in the German book, Faustus addresses as his friends the students before whom he is about to produce the apparition of Helen; and, again, that in the scene with the Pope the latter in the German book is without a guest; in the English History, as in the play, he entertains a cardinal. Mr. Pantin, by the way, has overlooked the circumstance, that the line
'Roof'd aloft with curious work in gold'
first occurs in the quarto of 1616.
11 Compare, for instance, the Emperor's speech (x. 1 seqq.) with the History (ch. xxix) and the Faustbuch (ch. xxxiii). Thus, in the play (v. 104) as in the English History, Faustus gives 'body and soul' to the Evil One. Again in the play (vii. 84), as in the History, the Pope's curse has the idiomatic accompaniment of 'with bell, book, and candle.' (Pantin.)
12 In the play (vii. 2) Faustus speaks of himself as having
'Pass'd with delight the stately town of Trier,'
just as in the Faustbuch (ch. xxvi) he visits 'the neighbourhood of Trier.' In the corresponding passage of a later edition or editions of the English History, used by Thoms for his reprint of 1827 in vol. iii of the Collection of Early Prose Romances, the town is called not even Treves, but Trent; the discrepancy however loses its significance, since Logeman pointed out that the reading in the 1592 edition is Treir. So again, the magnificent lines of xiv. 83-7, expanding, or rather recasting, a passage in the Faustbuch, are without an analogon in the later edition of the History from which the same reprint was made; but the words 'Would God that I knew where to hide me, or into what place to creep or fly,' occur in a chapter (lx) to be found in the 1592 edition. The incident of Faustus eating the load of hay, which occurs in the German Faustbuch (ch. xl), has been erroneously supposed not to occur in the English History, of which however it forms a chapter (xxxv in Thoms' version). Moreover, the scene in which this incident is introduced occurs neither in the quarto edition of the play of 1604, nor in that of 1609, while it appears in that of 1616, and was therefore manifestly a later addition to the drama. I find that Bodin in his Opinionum Joannis Wieri Confutatio tells the story of Simon Magus, who, in the presence of the Emperor Nero, 'currum onustum foeno cum equis et agitatore coram toto populo absorbebat' (p. 463 in the Basel edition, 1583). Logeman has noted one or two trifling correspondences between the Faustbuch and the play, of which he magnanimously makes a present to the opponents of his view; but they are not worth repeating.
13 I cannot see how a certainty that the English History was not published before 1592 can be deduced, as Wagner and Th. Delius seem to think it must, from Thoms (2nd edition), iii. 159. In fact, Thoms says the direct contrary.
14 One of these is the form 'Rhodes' (for 'Roda,' represented in the Faustbuch by 'Rod,' which illustrates a favourite perversity of English popular spelling (cf. 'rhodomontade'). See also notes to iii. 19 and vi. 104.
15 Of course such speculations would have a very great interest, could they be made to subserve a demonstration such as that attempted by Mr. Fleay in the Appendix (A) with which he has favoured me, that parts of the 1604 Doctor Faustus were all Marlowe's, and parts are written by another hand (as he thinks, Dekker's). Th. Delius has made such an attempt, and his results are on the whole not dissimilar from Fleay's, though Delius makes havoc of the last, and most powerful, scene of the play.
16 On reflexion, I think it best to abstain from complicating an already sufficiently difficult question by the suggestion, advanced by me in my first edition, that the corruption of the name of the Duke of Anhalt (correctly spelled thus in the Faustbuch, and 'Anholt' in the English History) into 'Vanholt' points to some Dutch manipulation of the story before it was dramatized in England. No doubt the English actors on their way back from Germany might have passed through the Netherlands, where the Faust-legend was sooner or later well known; but, as Mr. Bullen says, it is unsafe to build on foundations so slender. There is no real difficulty in explaining the corruption 'Vanholt' in a less ambitious way. Mr. Fleay thinks it may have been the result of a mere piece of sound-catching (Duke of Vanholt); a correspondent, whose letter I have unfortunately mislaid, thinks it may have arisen from the common German abbreviation 'v.' (= von) 'Anhalt,' or 'Anholt.'
17 Marlowe's Faust (German translation), Introduction, 23.
18 Introduction, xxxi.
19Shakespeare in Germany in the XVIth and XVIIth Centuries, xxv-xxvii.
20 Cf. Fleay's Life of Shakespeare, p. 93.
21 See sc. vi; and compare The Seven Deadly Sins in notes on Dramatis Personae of Doctor Faustus.
22u. s., 224-7.
23 Quite recently by Dr. Bruinier, in the Zeitschrift für Deutsche Philologie, vols. xxix and xxx. See Logeman, u. s., pp. 144 seqq.
24 Herman Grimm, who has constructed the scheme of such a drama, discreetly declines to give an opinion on the question, whether a play of the kind was actually in existence before the Faustbuch, u. s., p. 462.—The 'Tragedy of Doctor Faustus seen in the Air,' described in chapter viii of the Second Report, is of course a purely imaginary production.
25 This publication, of which there is a copy in the Bodleian Library, is reprinted by Thoms, u. s., vol. iii.
26The English Faust-Book of 1592, edited with an Introduction and Notes by H. Logeman, &c. (Ghent and Amsterdam, 1900). In his Introduction, Professor Logeman 'states emphatically, that if his text proves faultless, it is owing to the great pains taken over it by Miss H. A. Andrews and her friend, Miss L. Taylor,' who generously placed at his disposal a type-written copy of their type-written transcript of the text, and furthermore carefully collated with the latter his proofs. Under these circumstances I have contented myself with a careful personal comparison of his printed text with that of the quarto in the British Museum.
27 According to the Second Report, in Silesia.
28 Cf. Wagner, Introduction, p. xi, as corrected by Proescholdt. Oddly enough, the converse blunder occurs in R. Scot's Discovery of Witchcraft, bk. vi, ch. iv (edition of 1654): 'Wierus telleth a notable story.… There was (saith he) in the dukedom of Wittneberge, not far from Tubing, a butcher, &c.
29 In Thoms: 'Called in the German tongue, Spisser Holt, that is in English, the Spisser's Wood,' probably the correct reading.
30 See Kühne's quotation from Luther's Table Talk in his edition of the Faustbuch, 156. The Spesser Wald had been thought to be a synonym for the Spesshart mountains (Spesshart = Spechtshart, woodpeckers' wood).
31 The spelling of the following Extracts has, as a rule, been modernized; nor have I thought it necessary to adhere to the interpunctuation, or the use of capital letters, adopted in the English History.…
François Laroque (essay date 1983)
SOURCE: "An Analogue and Possible Second Source to the Pound-of-Flesh Story in the Merchant of Venice," in Notes and Queries, Vol. 30, No. 2, 1983, pp. 117-8.
[In the following essay, Laroque suggests the Jewish usurer in the English Faust book as a secondary source for Shylock in The Merchant of Venice.]
An interesting prose version of Shylock's 'merry bond', which is not acknowledged by Geoffrey Bullough, John Russell Brown or Kenneth Muir in their studies of the sources of The Merchant of Venice,1 is found in chapter xxxiii of The History of the Damnable Life and Deserved Death of Dr. John Faustus, translated from German into English in 1592.2
The title of the episode reads 'How Dr. Faustus borrowed Money of a Jew, and laid his own Leg in Pawn for it' and it tells of one of Faustus's magical tricks to get money at the expense of a Jewish usurer. First, Dr. Faustus cuts off his leg with a saw as a pawn against a loan of sixty dollars which the Jew accepts with a merry heart. Then, Faustus, knowing that the Jew has thrown away the 'pawn of flesh' into a ditch after realizing that it could bring infection into his house, goes and sees the Jew to repay him and to claim his leg. Unable to give it back, the usurer is obliged to cancel Faustus's debt and to pay out another sixty dollars to get rid of him.
Of course, this story reverses the roles between Antonio and Shylock just as it changes the moment when the pound of flesh is to be cut off in order to gratify the Jew. On the other hand, the expression 'merry jest', a verbal parallel for Shylock's 'merry sport' (I. iii. 141) so far traced back to an undated English ballad called 'Gernutus',3 is found in the Faust Book whose first edition (1592) was circulated six years before The Merchant of Venice entered the Stationers' Register.4 Moreover, one finds a striking analogy between the way Shylock minimizes the importance of his bond, once Antonio has accepted his conditions, and the words which the Jew pronounces as he goes away with Faustus's leg:
The Jew was with this matter very well pleased, took his leg and departed; and having to go far home, he was somewhat weary, and by the way he thus bethought him; what helpeth me a knave's leg? If I should carry it home, it would stink and infect my house … for my part, quoth the Jew to himself, this will never profit me any thing; and with these words he cast the leg away from him into a ditch.5
If we leave aside the question of his sincerity, what Shylock says to Antonio after the latter has agreed to his bond has a very similar ring to it:
Pray you tell me this,—
If he should break his day what should I gain
By the exaction of the forfeiture?
A pound of man's flesh taken from a man,
Is not so estimable, profitable neither
As flesh of muttons, beefs, or goats …
(I. iii. 158-63)
In the Faust-Book the story verges on caricature and the grotesque and the tone is that of the popular jest-books with their antisemitic tales of Jews accepting to trade money loans against human flesh, whereas in the more sophisticated world of The Merchant of Venice, where such jokes were probably going around in both Christian and Jewish communities, the tone is fully ambiguous and pseudo-naïve on both parts.
There is a last and important link between this Faust-Book episode and The Merchant of Venice. In Shakespeare's play, the masquerade, which serves to prepare Jessica's elopement from her father's house (II. v), is probably to be situated in the larger context of the Venitian Carnival; in the Faust-Book, the episode of Faustus's trick against the Jew is almost immediately followed by a group of three chapters (xii-xiv) which explicitly refer to the atmosphere and festive traditions of Shrovetide. This connection is quite significant as the Carnival season was a time when these antisemitic jokes were likely to crop up.6 The Jews were then turned into the scapegoats of a feast which was particularly obsessed with the flesh (Shrove Tuesday being the last of the 'flesh-days') and the cardboard ogres which paraded the streets may have been popularly interpreted as the grotesque caricatures of the Jews. This was probably encouraged by the phonetic proximity between the words Carnival and cannibal which may have been a standard pun at the time. But the ultimate logic of the connection between the jest against Jews and the Carnival season may well be a satirical interpretation of the idea of the 'farewell to the flesh' (from the Italian 'Carne Vale') which underlies both the etymological and Christian meanings of the word. The Christian prepares himself to the penitential season of Lent by saying farewell to a pound of flesh, but the symbolic penance happens to be transferred on to the Jew, who has to pay a double price and say farewell both to his bond and to his money.
1Narrative and Dramatic Sources of Shakespeare, I. 446-54; The Merchant of Venice, ed. J. Russell Brown (Arden, 1979), introduction, pp. xxvii-xxxi; The Sources of Shakespeare's Plays (1977), 86-8.
2 See Doctor Faustus, ad. John J. Jump (1962), p. xxii; Early Prose Romances, ed. William J. Thoms (1889) for the text of the Faust-Book (pp. 786-884).
3 See J. Russell Brown, op. cit., 30-1 and Appendix II, 153-6.
4 John J. Jump, op. cit., xxii, notes that the 1592 edition is in fact a reprint of an earlier edition of which no copy has survived; as to The Merchant of Venice, the dates for the original drafting oscillate between 1594 and 1597 (J. Russell Brown, ibid., xxii-xxvii).
5Early Prose Romances, 853.
6 In this connection, see my article 'Cannibalism in Shakespeare's Imagery', Cahiers élisabéthains, No. 19 (April, 1981), 33.
William Empson (essay date 1987)
SOURCE: "The Censor," and "The Spirits," in his Faustus and the Censor: The English Faust-book and Marlowe's "Dr. Faustus," Basil Blackwell, 1987, pp. 81-97 and 98-120.
[In the following excerpt, Empson discusses the demands censors placed on the English translations of the German text and the metaphysical nature of Mephostopheles as well as other spirits.]
There are two topics on which the translation fudges, so far as possible, every time they crop up. One of them has not much doctrinal interest, but had better be taken first; it allows of being carried out very firmly, and is particularly unlikely to be the work of P. F. When Faust demands a wife (GFB, chapter 10; EFB, chapter 9), the spirits punish him for his presumption, but Meph offers afterwards, with an appearance of secrecy, to bring him the 'likeness' of any woman he desires. The spirits were good at imitating, as is clear when they present Alexander and his consort. Faust is to look around the streets wondering which woman to pick, and he 'perseveres' in this procedure for many years, eventually settling for six permanent ones1 (their relations with Helen, who comes at the end, are left obscure). But in the EFB, an actual woman is always brought. The GFB has Meph saying: 'Just show me anyone you'd like to enjoy, from this town or any other; I shall produce her likeness for you and she shall live with you' [Sp. 34]. Faust is reported to have been very satisfied by this arrangement; 'he would fornicate with one devil today and have another in mind on the morrow'.2 In the EFB Meph is made to say: 'thou shalt have thy desire of any woman thou wilt, be she alive or dead, and as long as thou wilt thou shalt keep her by thee' (EFB, p. 11). The idea that he might choose a dead one, from a portrait maybe, does not appear in the German, and maybe P. F. put it in to cover the case of Helen of Troy. Here, at the end, the standard rule breaks down, and it is not denied that he went to bed regularly with the spirit, nor even (except very faintly, perhaps as a legal precaution) that he had a son by her. Neither text passes this off as hearsay; the German expresses no confidence in it,3 the English says: 'to his seeming, in time she was with child, and in the end brought him a man child … when Faustus lost his life, the mother and child vanished away both together' (EFB, p. 74). So it is not denied that she was a mother, whatever 'to his seeming' insinuates.4 Lutherans and Calvinists did not believe in ghosts, so a devil imitating Helen of Troy would be the best he could have. This seems a clumsy introduction for the censor's new plan, but P. F. could tell him that the story was well known, and that if he were forced to omit Helen of Troy his book would not be considered a translation at all.
It was not the policy of the censorship to appear a needless obstacle, suppressing a book very popular on the Continent which was after all a powerful religious tract. No attempt is made, any more in the English version than the German, to explain the status of Helen at the end; maybe the censor could regard her as merely a 'classical allusion'. Faust has summoned seven diabolical succubae, using the experience of beautiful women which he has gained on his travels, so says the GFB;5 but the same rude words might be used of actual human women, summoned when he remembers them, 'and with these sweet personages he continued long, yea even to his last end'6 (GFB, chapter 57; EFB, chapter 53). P. F. speaks of them with contempt, though they were brought by force, and apparently are left destitute in a remote place; it would be hard to find any moral superiority in the censor's change. Faust at the end loved Helen so much that he could not leave her for a quarter of an hour,7 so the seven beauties can have had little comfort. It is plain that the authors of the Faust-book are simply reporting all the permissible versions of the story, without feeling any duty to select from them a coherent version. P. F. feels no duty to arrive at one either; he need only obey his censor.
However, he might well feel that real women are the healthier plan. The use of imitation women, even if the powers of Faust are geared up by the Devil, suggests a habit of timid passive sexual fantasy; and P. F. is inclined to take a worldly or breezy tone, which the book needs. On this ground, it might be argued, he could make the change of his own accord. But the actual changes do not support such a theory; Faust has actually less companionship when his concubines are human. The first occasion seems to end the virginity of the scholar; at any rate Meph presents a large magic book to inaugurate the new regime. Faust 'indulged in vile shameful lechery with the Devil',8 and 'he and his devilish mistress' were amused by the book (GFB, chapter 11). But in the EFB (chapter 10) the book is given separately, and apparently the woman is not allowed to see it.
And then again, what some of these real women said would be alarming. Faust is rather keen on high life, and would see a duchess walking in procession to a state wedding or funeral; surely she would have made some comment, if he had had her fetched? And he could not keep her as long as he liked, a promise which P. F. merely copied from his original; there would be a house-to-house search. It would be easy for P. F. to explain, omitting this extra promise, that the ladies were given a temporary demonic possession, beginning with a trance, before being carried to Faust, and when they woke up at home merely assumed they had had a 'bad' dream. This would make a necrophiliac pleasure for Faust, as though the lady were already dead; surely, if you want his pleasures to be fairly normal, he had better romp with the devil who is occupying her. In short, the mind of P. F. is simply not applied to this annoying demand; he complies with it by a merely verbal change in his text, wherever it is needed. So this is a case of censorship.
This is not because P. F. is shy about women; consider his brief additions to the events in the Sultan's harem. He makes Meph say to Faust: 'Are not these ladies greatly to be pitied, that thus consume their youth at the pleasure of only one man?', thus encouraging Faust to give them what they needed. In both versions, after Faust has gone, the Sultan questions the ladies, wanting to know if he gave them normal copulation (if he did he is not a devil), and they assure him that he did. In the GFB they wish he would come every day,9 but P. F. invents a tactful wife, who tells the Sultan that he could not have done better himself, and that she hoped the spirit would pay further occasional visits, say two or three times a week.10 The women who are brought to Faust would at least open their mouths, if P. F. had been writing freely about them.
Some comment is particularly needed towards the end of Part I, where Faust is most especially likely to break away and repent. But, says the German text (end of chapter 16):
the Devil had taken too firm a hold on him, had hardened and deluded him and had made him captive. Besides, if ever he were alone and inclined to reflect on the word of God, the Devil would come to him in the form of a beautiful woman, embrace him and make love to him; this soon dispersed all thoughts of God. [Sp. 62]
In the previous chapter Meph boasted that he had 'possessed' Faust,11 and though usually called the spirit he can be called the Devil here because his behaviour is particularly wicked. Surely Satan himself, though usually meant by the term, would not do anything so undignified. Meph has a skilled piece of nursing to do, and would hardly leave it to other hands. The English says:
the devil had so blinded him, and taken such deep root in his heart, that he could never think to crave God's mercy, or if by chance he had any good motion, straightways the devil would thrust him a fair Lady into his chamber, which fell to kissing and dalliance with him, through which means he threw his godly motions in the wind. (EFB, p. 19)
Coming just after the appalling description of Hell, this only makes Faust seem an ass; the change could not have been intended to save his dignity.
[a.] The Second Requirement
The other main demand of the censor has the same basic intention; there must be no matiness with demidevils. Meph must be a real devil, from Hell, who inflicted tortures there; whereas the GFB had made him a flying spirit who lived in the storm clouds, and had probably never been to Hell at all. This assignment is more difficult than the sexual one, because when we encounter Meph he plainly isn't in Hell, and there is nothing in the text about how he gets in and out. In the GFB (chapter 11) Faust asks 'What kind of spirit are you?' and he replies 'I am a spirit, a flying spirit, and my realm is here beneath the heavens';12 this has to be changed (EFB, chapter 10) to 'I am a flying spirit; yea, so swift as thought can think, to do whatsoever'.13 P. F. invents the story that he is a prince in Hell, ruling the northern quarter (EFB, chapter 5), and this does at least suggest that he sometimes goes there. In the GFB (chapter 21), explaining how he can prophesy the weather for the almanacs, he says he lives in the storm clouds: 'Here in this gloomy air we spirits and devils14 live, cast out into the darkness';15 P. F. has to cut this altogether. But he is allowed to translate or echo a phrase used just before (GFB, chapter 19; EFB, chapter 18): 'We spirits who soar through the air under the heavens and who can perceive the divine plan, we can unravel the mystery',16 'we spirits that fly and fleet in all Elements, know such…'.17 However, the GFB sometimes makes him talk as the English censor would wish; in his first conversation with Faust (chapter 3) he talks about 'our Government' in Hell, staffed by 'many devils', and the secrets which 'we have never revealed'.18 But this may be swanking, or a calculated attempt to awe Faust, or again he may speak as a feudal servant would do, loyally identifying himself with his masters. Meph in the GFB is meant to be a puzzling character, who keeps Faust guessing, and the eager readers were kept guessing too. P. F. could not like having this line of interest removed, but he might agree that the change made the book more straightforward and hard hitting; at any rate, he was willing to work for it.
The grand description of Hell (GFB, chapter 16; EFB, chapter 15) requires a skilful bit of fudging. Meph insists that Faust must abandon all hope, saying in the GFB:
For all those whom God has cast into Hell must burn there eternally in God's anger and disgrace and remain there entirely without hope. For if the damned could share our hopes of salvation (we spirits expect it constantly) then they would rejoice and sigh longingly for the time to come. But they have as little hope of receiving grace as the devils in Hell, and what chance have they after their fall and repudiation? [Sp. 58f]
Obviously the spirits such as Meph, who may hope confidently, have some radical difference from the devils in Hell. Meph is extremely unforgiving towards the men in Hell—'Why shouldn't they tremble and howl? Why shouldn't they lament?'19 (not in EFB)—but when he thinks of the devils in Hell, words fail him. They seem to him so alien that he can work up to his main climax with '… the unbearable darkness and stench, the remorseless lash and the hideous faces of the devils' [Sp. 57]. This same passage was where P. F. introduced the tossing upon much-forks, as a substitute for the 'hideous faces', and one can see now that it was necessary, if Meph were to be presented as a devil from Hell. He must also be a prince; so he need not play the muck-fork game himself, and he can admit that his peasantry are brutes, feeling amused so long as they are sporting about it.
On the main point, against hope, P. F. gives: 'Even as much it availeth thee, Faustus, to hope for the favour of God again, as Lucifer himself, who indeed though he and we all have a hope, yet is it to small avail, and taketh none effect, for out of that place God will hear neither crying nor sighing' (EFB, p. 18). This is very adroit; it seemed impossible to fudge that very plain statement, but here, as so often, impudence was enough. 'There is no hope, but we all hope' is mere contradiction, and yet it strikes the reader as pathetically true to life. And indeed, it was orthodox to admit that God may forgive anyone at the final Judgement, so the residual hope feels pious as well as understandable. But surely it does not fit the character of the devils who have been presented to us, of either type, either the ecstatic sadists with whips or the merry brutes with muck-forks. And all those who are upper-class like Meph must surely be hoping to land a plum job, such as the one he is enjoying at the moment. This version of the story does not hang together, but P. F. has jumped his fence; he has supplied something adequate to the censor's demand.
But also he has humanized Meph as far as possible, and he added that lyrical passage about the intimacy with nature open to a magician. He felt it would be wonderful to become a spirit of the air, and Shakespeare seems to have remembered the passage for Ariel. When he works in the opposite direction, that is decisive evidence for censorship. And yet an opponent might question whether he would submit so readily; a translator who could break out of his frame to speak up for Copernicus was not servile. It seems likely that, as a business man of good standing in foreign trade, he would already have minor government contacts, and would find it sensible to subject the project of this translation to the relevant censor from the start. The question might rather be how the book could have got printed in Frankfurt than whether a London censor would need to have it regularized.
I need here, though feeling I am opposed by an unbreakable wall, to speak in favour of best sellers. An explosive triumph like the German Faust-book, translated into four languages in five years, will necessarily have gone through a special grooming, very unlike what the critics praise during their analysis of a masterpiece. The final editor, a rather sordid type, will have taken his blue pencil over the text saying 'That's out; it's good, but they won't stand it', or 'It's an odd thing, but they can just stand that. So long as it's isolated.' The book needs to be highly spiced, because it is on the edge of voicing the actual problems which face the mass reader, and yet it must have a ready defence against any accusation that it has said anything important. A very large popular mental activity has expressed itself in boiling up the Faust legend, and the text that sums it up must make sure that the fog never clears sufficiently to excite complaint. The editor is by no means a stupid man; he is exercising a habitual intuitive skill which will never again have so large an opportunity. But, in considering the possible influences of such a book, one needs to consider not only what it says but what it leaves lying about. One should not (I quite agree) ask 'What is the secret message of the Faust-book?', the figure in the carpet or what not. One should ask 'What dangerous subjects did the readers hope to find touched upon, though not taken too far?' Probably P. F. believed he understood the secret meaning of the author, and meant to help it forward after protecting himself in this way. He could feel sure he was improving the book, for the English reader.
[b.] The Noncombatants
Who can 'we spirits' be, who for the last 6,000 years or so have hoped 'hourly' for the news of salvation? Spies in Frankfurt did not have to get his publication licensed beforehand, but might find himself in serious trouble afterwards; he would need to be ready with an official reply. Both Luther and Calvin, reviving the view of Augustine, had decided that there were no 'spirits' except angels and devils, and this appears to leave only one reply available. Meph can be one of the pacifist angels mentioned by Dante, who had refused to fight either for God or Satan. They had been thrown out of Heaven with the rebels, but not deep into Hell. Dante puts them into a Limbo just inside the Gate of Hell, which implies that they had no hope, any more than the devils, though not in pain, and he makes Virgil despise them too much to speak about them ('non ragionam di lor, ma guarda e passa ').20 They are very numerous ('I had not thought death had undone so many')21 and may well be camping in the storm clouds, thinking they deserve forgiveness, though presumably they must wait till Judgement Day. However, there is no mention of this legend in the GFB, though there easily could have been; something of the kind is much needed during Meph's halting and embarrassed replies about his past experiences (for example, GFB, chapter 11, 14). To be sure, Meph only once lets drop that 'we spirits' can hope, but it comes at an important point, during his grand description of Hell. And he may be lying but if so why not follow up his lie, and make it plausible? The authors of the Faust-book, it seems fair to deduce, did not much like this explanation of Meph, but held it in reserve in case of a challenge from orthodoxy.
However, there was a recent account of devils not living in Hell, without reference to this legend, which had excited resistance. Aquinas had spoken calmly about devils living in the storm clouds, but he appears to assume that they have been sent on particular missions from Hell, and will return there; whereas these recent ones are afraid of being sent to Hell. The De Praestigiis Daemonum of Johann Wier (1563, expanded in later editions) is an enlightened work, opposed to the witch-burning, but it exposed to daylight the full texts of several invocations used by magicians to enslave a demon, as Faust is supposed to do. These tedious rituals had been circulating in secret manuscripts only known to initiates, but would come as a surprise to the public, because they were so determinedly pious and magisterial and unlike the legend. Reginald Scot translated them into English for his Discovery of Witchcraft (1584), a fiercer attack on the witch-burnings, which he could express with comparative safety in England as they had not yet come here. His very long book had a second edition under Elizabeth, though of course it was banned by James; but neither edition was registered,22 which implies that they did not go through the censorship. It shows a flexibility in the English system, and presumably an agreement was reached high up; the Archbishop would not want the witch-burning procedure in England, any more than certain other persons, but could not actually license a book which was probably heretical. (Scot recognizes politely the various spirits and witches mentioned in the Bible, but plainly wants to reduce them so far as he can.) The book came out when Marlowe had just got his BA and probably came under less supervision while working for his MA; he is pretty sure to have read some of it. Though long it is well indexed and contains many good jokes against priests. Marlowe's other writings have practically no reference to the occult, but when he took up the theme of Faust he would long have been familiar with parts of this rationalist attack upon it. So he would realize that modern magicians were not at all liable to sell their souls to devils. Their piety is probably hypocritical, but they expect the angels to give them power over their selected devil, and their chief threat against him is that if he disobeys they will send him to Hell. Scot is delighted by the absurdity of this, as his main aim is to make the whole business ridiculous; he writes in the margin 'how frightened he will be' and such like. Threatening to send a bad child home, he might reflect, is the ultimate recourse of the hostess at a children's teaparty. But in our age plenty of people have been afraid of being deported to their supposed place of origin. The documents take no interest in how these devils became available, or how they escaped from Hell; and Scot cannot have heard of the theory that they had been noncombatants, because he would have laughed at it. Still, the documents tell a good deal, and were in print for readers of English and German as well as Latin. They show that the Faust legend is unjust to magicians, if it implies that they all behave like Faust or like witches. Marlowe makes this point at the start, by bringing on his two older magicians, who treat Faust gingerly.
King James had certainly heard of these authors, since he denounces them both by name in his Demonology (1597),23 and banned the work of Scot when he came to England. Maybe he had learned from there of this popular belief in freelance devils, open to bargains with magicians, living in the storm clouds; but no doubt other sources were open to him. His opinions need not be thought original to him; he writes in a popular or jovial manner, somewhat marred by his implied threat to burn alive anyone who answers back. How can you know that there are devils living in the storm clouds, he asks, unless they have told you so?24 But you know that they are always liars, lying for some bad purpose. It would be rash to ask the King how he knows that they all come from Hell. But he is evidence for a general uneasiness, at any rate among leading Anglicans, at the idea that spirits are so easily available. Of course Scot and King James are slender evidence, but these books were well known, and they are of opposite tendency. They are enough to make the censoring of the English Faust-book intelligible.
Even so, the procedure was not a great success. Meph becomes much harder to envisage as a character if he comes from the Hell which he describes. It seems obvious that he has not been tortured without hope of escape for 6,000 years; he is rather brash. P. F. tries to deal with it by making him pathetic, but that will not really do either. One must recognize, however, that a careful reserve is maintained by both author and translator, because it was not officially agreed in what sense the devils suffered pain in Hell. Meph never actually says that he suffers the same pain as men; P. F. inserts, with apparent frankness, 'thou must be partaker of our torments',25 but this is delusive, because it might mean 'the torments which we devils arrange for you men'. Hell was built for the Devil, and merely turned out afterwards to be convenient for dealing with men; surely he must be intended to feel the fire. The difficulty is that a purely spiritual being cannot feel bodily pain, but surely the human victims in Hell are also disembodied. Undoubtedly, mental suffering can be very severe, and fit to rank with bodily suffering, as is found in lunatic asylums; but Meph is in no such condition. P. F. wants him to be mysterious and sympathetic, so he is made to hint at sufferings. The tug of war between censor and translator has made the story a bit incoherent, but perhaps that adds to the mystery.
The play gives an interesting bit of evidence here, which presumes that many people in the audience would know what the censor had been up to. There are only two scenes of intimate talk between Faust and Meph before they quarrel (I.iii and II.i, in most editions). Each time, Meph says that he has just come from Hell and is even now suffering its pains; each time, Faust ridicules the claim, reducing him to silence, so that Faust gains an advantage. Many critics have disliked Faust for his bumptious fatuity here, and 'Come, I think Hell's a fable'26 has been thought playing to the gallery (that is, writing an effective line without bothering whether it fits the character). But this is all right if the author is taking the audience into his confidence, and saying: 'Observe what nonsense the censor has made of the story.' Scoring off Meph in this way twice over would be excessive unless it had some topical point. Probably the Londoners talked about the censorship all the more because they dared not write about it.
[c.] Dating of the EFB
If the intervention of a censor is established, one can reject the argument of W. W. Greg (1950) for a late date to the play. It is argued that Marlowe needed the translation to work from, and Greg argues that the lost first edition of that must have come out in the same year as the second, 1592. (One might argue that Marlowe read it before it came out, but the many translations of the German Faust-book suggest that it would be in demand, and likely to be published soon after it was available.) The title page of the surviving edition says:
The history of the damnable life and deserved death of Doctor John Faustus, newly imprinted, and in convenient places imperfect matter amended: according to the true copy printed at Frankfort, and translated into English by P. F. Gent. Seen and allowed.
'We are entitled to suppose', says Greg rather oddly,27 that the earlier edition was then recent, because of a minute in the Court Book of the Stationers' Company for 18 December 1592: 'It is ordered: that if the book of Doctor Faustus shall not be found in the Hall Book entered to Richard Oliff before Abel Jeffes claimed the same which was about May last, that the copy shall remain to the said Abel as his proper copy.' Greg comments: 'The ground of Jeffe's claim is not stated, but, no entrance being alleged, it is difficult to see what it can have been if not an edition previous to Orwin's';28 which must therefore have been printed in May. It is curious that this argument has been accepted for thirty years. To print an edition is not in itself a claim; it may imply a claim, but the claim may be false. If I find your door open and walk in, that does not give me possession of the house. Obviously Jeffes might have real grounds for his claim, such as a contract with the author, or at least a letter from him presuming a contract, and might have shown it to a member of the Company without making a formal 'entry'. To publish a rival edition within half a year, with only a moderate claim to have improved the text, could hardly be good business as the London public was quite small; and it would be an atrocity in the trade, not to be spoken of so coolly. One might suspect that the tone is cool because the claim of Jeffe was thought absurd; but he was allowed a share in the later editions, which went on selling for most of the next century. And then, why had neither of these publishers registered the book with the Stationers' Company? The next edition is registered (April 1596); that is how we know that Jeffes got his share.29 'Seen and allowed' means that the censorship has passed the book though it has not been registered, a process that usually included a pass from the censors.
All this is explained if the censorship had behaved in an arbitrary way. Its habitual demand for secrecy is enough reason why the Stationers' Court Book does not mention it. The translation of the Faust-book had been recognized as needing special attention, but the readiness of P. F. made agreement easy, and the first edition came out in good time, probably combining forces with the ballad about Faust registered on 28 February 1589.30 Marlowe wrote his play that year, and production was hurried forward; but in 1590 the censors found that it was being interpreted heretically; so they banned both the play and the translation, together with all discussion of them. The play required thorough revision, but sale of the translation was stopped merely to let public excitement about the topic die down. After two years, the censor in charge of the affair casually gave the right of republication to another publisher, wishing to reward him for some connivance perhaps. The original publisher told his wrongs to the Stationers' Company, who were indignant but had to be reticent; however, they saw to it that neither publisher was victimized. The impudent confident tone of an official liar is very plain on the surviving title page.
Maybe, however, the demand that Faust enjoy human women, not devils, was made during this ban for two years after the suppression of the play. The belief that devils could tempt both men and women into an imitation act of sex was old and accepted, and had become prominent in the witch-trials. All sex outside marriage was sinful, and this kind does not seem to have been more sinful or not much more; it is cited as evidence of a pact with the devils. So far there was no need to alter the translation; but the popular mind had gone further. Theologians said that devils had no sex and were incapable of sexual pleasure, though they took a malignant pleasure in seduction. But the plain man was sure that they were lustful, and deduced that they were homosexuals, which is especially funny on the stage.
The clerical censors had an enlightened policy about sodomy. They wished to have it spoken of as something almost incredibly bad, monstrously unnatural, in fact as something that hardly ever occurred; and indeed very few cases were brought forward, so that the death penalty though in force was practically never imposed. Probably this method succeeded in preserving the innocence of many citizens. But meanwhile jokes about the topic went on as usual, and the sexual lives of devils were found particularly absurd, perhaps reassuringly so. This was rather unreasonable, as no sodomy was involved; a devil could turn himself into a midge, so of course he could turn himself completely into a woman; and he had not been a man before. Hence (felt the clergy) this low jeering from the public was ignorant and stupid, as well as disrespectful; they ought to be afraid of the Devil, as on the Continent they were forced to be. Greg and his disciples evidently felt much the same; they could not believe that Marlowe had written or even countenanced stuff like this—he was an educated man, after all. But his family had led a rough-and-tumble life and he might expect this particular line of fun to be wiser than the policy of the bishops. In print, total secrecy was observed about the activities of the censorship, but people talked pretty freely; they would think it very funny to have the Government labouring to protect the reputation of Satan from any suspicion of sodomy. Presumably he was another friendly power, like the Sultan.
The chief structural use that Marlowe finds for this joke is to lead off a sequence of three raisings of spirits, by which he heightens the status of the last comer, Helen of Troy. First an absurd devil-wife is offered to Faust, then the Emperor is shown exact copies of Alexander the Great and his consort, correct even to the mole on the back of her neck but hardly more than waxworks (surely these cannot be the same kind of spirit?), and finally the students are shown Helen, who is a goddess, in person. The more severe experts, at the time, said that a man could never claim he had enjoyed a devil by mistake, thinking it was a real woman; devils were so slovenly that they never completed their disguise, always leaving just the stump of a vigorous tail or what not; (or perhaps they were so vain that they expected the man to be more excited by that procedure). (They were very unlike the meticulous spirits who copy Alexander.) Assuming this to be well known, it would allow of a very knockdown joke not in the words at all, invisible to the censor reading beforehand. The leering female-impersonator, eager to win the love of Faust, raises the side of the farthingale just enough to allow a peep at a great hairy cloven hoof. Probably, as soon as the censors were alerted, a self-sacrificing curate was induced to sit through the whole play, in disguise, and reported that its obscenity was the most offensive thing about it, though perhaps not literally heretical. The devil-wife ogling and yearning at Faust, and Beelzebub preening his monstrous bulk as the favourite of Lucifer, let alone the uproarious scene in the Sultan's harem, were all painful, and the laughter at them took up a lot of the time. But the accusation was true, he would report; the audience did seem to believe at the end that Faust had escaped Hell. The joke that the devils are sodomites might actually come as a surprise to the censors as it was so firmly kept from print; but they would anyhow discourage matiness with devils, who must be kept in their proper place. This further demand, when his book was silenced, would be exasperating for P. F., and fully explains the bleakness of his response (though this is not a necessary hypothesis). No wonder he was not inclined to do any further translation for the printers. The whole affair had been tiresome.
P. F.'s Mistranslations
Finally, it is as well to consider here a theory often put forward or taken for granted, that many of the variants in the translation are simply due to P. F.'s ignorance of German.31 Supporters of this theory have had remarkable success in showing that ingenious misreading can often explain them. The Devil alone knoweth the heart of man, but we can observe that these changes are always such as either he himself or his censor wants to justify. One example of each may at least recommend this line of rebuttal. Meph tells Faust at their first discussion (GFB, chapter 3) that we devils will not tell about our government, and nobody (other than the damned in Hell) knows what happens after the death of the damned. Faust becomes 'alarmed' and says 'I won't be damned',32 seeming to assume he can laugh it off, and Meph says or presumably sings a riddling poem. The EFB has:
neither have we given any man any gift, or learned him anything, except he promise to be ours.
Dr Faustus upon this arose from where he sat, and said, I will have my request, and yet I will not be damned. (EFB, p. 3)
The whole sequence in the translation is more hard hitting, cruder one might say, because P. F. wants Faust to be decisive and to be searching for a plan. To mistake 'became alarmed' for 'stand up' was what he wanted,33 and if challenged he could pretend he had thought it correct.
The other case is more surprising. Faust in his final lamentations says (GFB, chapter 66): 'I could do without Heaven well enough, if only I could escape eternal punishment' [Sp. 215]. At some stage, the censor felt that the more tender lambs in the flock might be unsettled if they read this obvious remark; they must not hear that any man is not always yearning to be in Heaven. The demand would come as a surprise to P. F., as Faust has been allowed to make bold enough remarks earlier on. He put (EFB, chapter 61): 'Ah that I could carry the heavens on my shoulders, so that there were time at last to quit me of this everlasting damnation' (EFB, p. 77) This too, it has been confidently argued, can be understood as a simple misreading of the German words.34 If so, it was clever of P. F. to discover the possibility. He has a sense of reality and a feeling for style; however ignorant of the words, he would know what to look for. But he would rather be thought ignorant of German than be thought capable of originating such stuff as was demanded of him. He is pretty sure to have made mistakes; translating must have been much harder without dictionaries. But a decisive example of one seems to be rare.
If then we suppose that these two types of cut were imposed on P. F. by the censor, what can the censor's purpose have been? Both the beliefs that were cut out had been accepted by Aquinas, at least as fair topics for speculation; we need some local and recent objection. Scot's Discovery of Witchcraft gives a powerful case against the witch-trials, and was presumably meant to resist the introduction of the full procedure into England; it certainly received attention, as the title page of King James's Demonology says it is written to refute the opinions of Scot, and those of the German Johann Wier. The whole of Scot's Book IV is a detailed report, very coarse and funny, of the stories about the activity of devils, and he ends by solemnly apologizing to his readers for subjecting them to such nastiness. A deliberate working up of hysteria on the subject has been thought to date from the Malleus Maleficorum by Sprenger and Kramer (1486),1 and that book certainly contains a good deal of it. The devils, in the official belief, were incapable of sexual pleasure themselves, only deluding men and women out of malice; but the public reasonably interpreted this as meaning that their pleasures were perverse ones. An Anglican censor, even if in favour of burning witches after a proper trial had proved them guilty, would not care for ribald jeering at their obscene practices—practically a sacred topic; whereas the public, of course, would like it.
This explains the first set of changes, but the second, insisting that Meph comes from Hell and not from the storm clouds, is more of a puzzle. There is a Renaissance development to consider. From late in the fifteenth century till nearly halfway through the sixteenth, there was a strong intellectual movement recommending belief in Middle Spirits, neither from Heaven nor Hell; they could be called spirits of nature, or elementals, or the longaevi—they lived longer than we do, but then died completely, like the beasts. They were a very wide group, including both the pagan gods known to the learned and the fairies known to the villagers, and probably also the germs that cause plague. Of course, people had always believed in things like that, and it does not appear that Christian clergy ever made the belief heretical; but of course it would be very wrong to worship them, and the less attention paid to them the better.
The basis of the theory was a philosophical one. It is the Principle of Plenitude, which caused the Great Chain of Being;2 God wants life everywhere, to every degree, in all the niches that could contain it, right up to the sphere of the moon—beyond which all is unvarying and incorruptible. Considering what goes on at the bottom of the sea, a modern scientist can hardly object to this principle, nor yet deny that the gap between men and angels (as they are usually described) is too big not to contain some intervening form of life, playing the role of the duck-billed platypus. And yet maybe this was where the theory broke down.
Probably the chief attraction of the theory for a Renaissance scholar, devoted to the classics, was that it gave a tolerable picture of the pagan gods. It was disagreeable to believe that they were all devils, solely concerned to do evil, and it would seem atheistical to call them mere delusions (oracles and all); but if they were Middle Spirits, with practically all the powers they claimed, one could read contentedly—also, it does seem plain that they are long dead. If you were a thousand years old, and could expect one or two thousand more, and were accustomed to deal with creatures who are no good after eighty, it would seem natural to call them 'mortals'; and the myth of the ancestors of Jupiter does in effect practically admit that their immortality has its limits—he cannot be holding an infinite number of grandfathers in jail. The death of Pan was also well known. So there would be no obstacle here; and on the other hand the creatures acquired no marks of age until they flicked out like an electric bulb, so Helen of Troy, who seems particularly hard to kill, might really give Faust an heir soon before his end.
So Apollo had been a Middle Spirit, and well intentioned on the whole, though of uncertain temper as one could hardly deny; he would have lasted for two thousand years or so, but of course was dead by now. This won solid acceptance, but the releasing trigger was the discovery, and translation from Greek into Latin by Ficino in 1464, of the Corpus Hermetica (a part of it had long been available in Latin, but was considered wicked).3 These fragments were probably written by a pious group between 100 and 300 AD, but their supposed author Hermes was widely believed to have been the tutor of Moses in Egypt, teaching how to defeat the magicians of Pharoah, proving that some kinds of magic are permitted. The writers of the Hermetica hold very diverse opinions, some being pantheist and finding illumination in sexual love, others ascetic and otherworldly, but they all take the same tone; this would help to make the supposed one author seem mysteriously wise. There is a lot about spirits, and their effects are considered usually bad; a man should rise above them; but some can be enlightened by priests, and then they can be very helpful (Asclepius III). The whole collection was written before, but not very long before, Augustine laid down that all spirits are either angels or devils,4 wearing the uniform either of God or Satan and fighting each other all the time. Surely that was a very Manichean idea; it is surprising that Aquinas put up with it.5 Augustine's arguments must have seemed as flimsy then as they do now, but it seemed more pious to have all spirits earnest in one way or the other. On the other hand, for any study of Nature, at the start of the sciences, it was essential to be allowed a belief in spirits who were neutral; though no one seems to offer a case where belief in them led to an actual discovery. But the Hermetica drops a few hints of the belief, which became important to Paracelsus, that certain spirits have to be at work in us all the time to make our bodies tick over normally. The early development of science is a mysterious thing, but it seems likely that the development allowed one to think about nature with more confidence.
[a.] Effect of the Reformation
The Reformation closed this period of freedom, at least on paper; to toe the line became a duty of loyalty. Luther and Calvin positively rejected the belief in spirits of nature, as Augustine had done before them; and at both dates it is hard to see any point of principle behind the confident rhetoric. Probably they just wanted more discipline, and so far their opponents readily agreed; hence there were few places where philosophizing about spirits could still be printed, though fantasies about them, in verse or for plays, were often allowed.
The De Occulta Philosophia of Cornelius Agrippa (1533, but available earlier),6 when it considers these spirits in its third and final book,7 is a grand compilation of what other people have said about the subject, with an emphasis upon little-known authors in eleventh-century Constantinople. But he has no rule against giving his own opinion; he sometimes names authors who believe that all spirits die, and one can deduce that he agrees with them, but he does not find it of much importance. He does commit himself to the assertion that it is easy to raise nymphs from water meadows by following his instructions, and here one may suspect that (though usually a very adroit man) he overplayed his hand. Of course there is no smell of brimstone about it; he is always very pious and high minded, and he takes for granted that any man would like to raise a nymph from a water meadow. It is natural to suppose that a lot of men tried, and the answer that he had thought best to withhold just a bit of the easy formula would not stand against heavy pressure.8 Be this as it may, the reason for mentioning him here is that Marlowe had pretty certainly read him. The book was in Corpus College Library when he was up there; indeed, it was in the libraries often of the Cambridge colleges. The dons were not hiding the forbidden doctrine from the children. It was in the same position as the forbidden doctrine of Copernicus; no new books giving serious support to either of them could get a licence, but old books which had already been in print could be reprinted, as they did not require one. When James came to the throne he made reprints require a licence (R. F. Johnston and Christopher Hill establish the main facts in this area, but their evidence can be taken a bit further). The method is sufficiently effective where there is no general pressure against it, and yet allows the public an illusion of freedom. The young Marlowe would read it (he read Latin freely though a bit roughly), because after Ovid and suchlike there was not much else in the library amusing to read. He could not afford to go home for the vacations. Of course he would know the folklore on the subject, but this would make him realize early that there had been recent learned support for it. One must realize: he shows no interest in spirits elsewhere, but he has mastered the subject rapidly for this one play. He must have had an advisor, and the most likely person is the translator P. F. It may be objected that the First Part of Tamburlane is also well informed about its subject, and yet no shadowy advisor is thought necessary; but the information about Tamburlane was in an available history book, whereas someone would need to tell Marlowe about the De Nymphis of Paracelsus.
[b.] The De Nymphis
This essay or squib had been printed while Marlowe was still a boy, first in German as usual, then in Latin one year later, in Switzerland.9 Paracelsus had quarrelled with the medical organizations and appeared discredited, and his writings were intolerably hard to read, but a suspicion always remained that they contained the secret of his undoubted cures. A grand edition of all available writings by Paracelsus, in fourteen volumes, appeared in Basel in 1589-91. This situation always means, for a few years before, a susurrus of interest among informed people, with ignorance elsewhere. Marlowe as an international spy would be likely to meet German-speakers, but German-speakers with literary interests were not yet common in London; and Marlowe would be likely to meet P. F., by various routes, but most likely in a pub. It seems clear that neither of them was 'in society', whereas Donne, for example, was. But P. F. would have read the De Nymphis.10 It is only about 5,000 words long, and is the source of several anecdotes which are prominent in later German literature, and applies a powerful analytic mind to the status of such beings. Many dons have argued that Paracelsus here is only reporting, with kindly humour, the superstitions of the miners he worked among (while inventing the subject of industrial disease); but Paracelsus often explained that he despised the opinions of the dons who had rejected him, and thought the miners much more likely to be right. In his technical writings he believes in spirits working for good inside our bodies, with a hierarchical but no harsh political structure; the 'archeus ' of the belly is the chief one, but far from a dictator. Of course, none of this would prevent him from believing in spirits outside of us.
The De Nymphis begins by saying that the Middle Spirits are not spirits at all, as they have bodies; but of a subtle kind of matter, and a creature who can pass through a stone wall is a spirit for common language. They are of earth, air, fire and water, and perhaps more kinds; and some say that each kind must withdraw into its own element at cockcrow. Presumably the spirits of the air go high up; it is agreed that they can travel very fast. Angels and devils, being pure spirit, do not live in space and can appear immediately anywhere, even inside a prison; whereas Middle Spirits can turn themselves into any animal they like, so they can get through a keyhole, if it is big enough for a midge (the magician's boy is called Midge in John a Kent and John a Cumber (1590), and he can enter the castle). Middle Spirits can hear what you say at any distance, but cannot read your thoughts, which probably angels and devils can (I am afraid Ariel can: Tempest, IV.i.164). Paracelsus agrees with Agrippa that Middle Spirits are not immortal, though they live a very long time (so that a mage may call up classical gods), and indeed, another name for them is longaevi; hence they must have children, though seldom, whereas angels and devils cannot breed, otherwise they would cause a glut. However they die like the beasts; they will not appear at the Judgement. As Robert Kirk said, 'they are far from Heaven, and safe from Hell'.11 (Paracelsus admits that this is strange, but recalls that many of the acts of God seem strange.) They are so close to us that they can interbreed with mankind, or at least nymphs can, the female spirits of water, and if a nymph is properly married to a man she acquires an immortal soul, as a woman who marries an American gets an American passport. Paracelsus gives an earnest warning to young men that they must not jilt a nymph; there have been several cases where it has led to murder. And really one cannot blame the nymphs, he goes on; human women have no business to do it—what have they got to lose?—but a nymph is fighting for eternity. Marlowe could not read this without feeling that an exalted love between two males, though equally liable to turn disastrous, ought to have the same adhesive power; or at least, ought to entail the power to make a self-sacrificing gift.
[c.] The Decline in Belief in Middle Spirits
By the time of Scot's Discovery there had been a change in the public mind which helped the Reformation suppression of these beliefs; at least, Scot mentions it, and he was likely to know. He says in his preface that, in the recent past, many people were afraid of Robin Goodfellow, but now they laugh at him and only fear witches;12 soon they will laugh at witches too (by the way, the edition by Montague Summers omits both the preface and the final 'Discourse of Devils and Spirits', so that Scot appears only interested in the nastiness that interests Summers).13 Maybe witches were merely found more exciting than fairies, as bad money drives out good. In any case the collapse of the belief in nature-spirits left a gap, particularly felt by magicians, which was partly filled by the fallen angels of the storm clouds. Maybe the ones whose fall was stayed in the upper air were different and more deserving, but anyhow they were a convenience.14
The influence of Pomponazzi (1462-1524) was probably important for this change. He was an Italian professor of philosophy who argued that, so far as our knowledge extends, a creature can only learn through its senses; if purely spiritual, it could have no means of acquiring information or even of communicating with its fellows. He died in his bed, at a reasonable age, as he would not have done if he had been born a bit later, and even so, he probably survived because 'the resurrection of the body' comes in the Creed, and that took care of the worst implications; but he seems never to have claimed this escape route, merely saying that the truths of philosophy and theology were independent. Reginald Scot is a plain minded man, though a well-read one, and it comes as a surprise to find him quoting Pomponazzi and giving his name; of course he proves that the devils cannot do what the witch-burners said they did, but Scot does not seem to realize that he proves a lot more.
The Mortalist Heresy, that the soul is in abeyance after death till the resurrection of the body, which was held by Milton in secret, was clearly a way of coming to terms with Pomponazzi, and would not have been considered so shocking otherwise. When Donne in The Ecstasy praises the senses to his mistress, saying:
We owe them thankes, because they thus
Did us, to us, at first convay15
the platitude is spicy because it recalls Pomponazzi. Henry More's Philosophical Works (1662) make an attempt to use light as the matter of which spirits are made, but he does not explain how their senses could work;16 and Milton more soberly in his epic accepts that angels are material, though their matter is more subtle than ours and is mainly in the form of gas. One might think that this problem, about angels having no sense, must always have been obvious; and so it was to Aquinas, but he performed one of his masterpieces of obfuscation. 'The Knowledge of the Angels' is treated at great length, but perhaps Q.57, Art.2 is all one need master. This was what gave Leibnitz his theory of the pre-established harmony, though in Aquinas it applies only to angels. A part of God's knowledge is extended to each angel, so that he can appear to see and hear what he needs if he is to be thought sensible, though really he is just a puppet (of course Aquinas does not say so). It seems plain that this theory had long remained mercifully obscure, but by 1500 it was putting an intolerable strain upon common sense; otherwise the puncturing of it by Pomponazzi could not have raised such a great echo. One can be confident at least that the objections to the position of Aquinas had become much more obvious during the sixteenth century, so that all spirits were allowed a subtle kind of matter. It was thus possible for a character in a play to become uneasy about whether he had been turned into a devil or a pagan demigod. And surely Marlowe would want to dramatize this situation if the possibility occurred to him.
[d.] The Status of Meph in the Faust-book
If Marlowe made an important change in his treatment of the legend, he would need to claim that he was returning to the original, which had been obscured by some form of censorship. In this way he could avoid any reference to the English censorship, which indeed he contrived to obey. He would claim (especially in talking to officials) that Meph in the German text already sounds very like a nature-spirit, whether or not he does it in order to deceive. This would not annoy the officials, because the point had already occurred to them; that was why they had insisted that Meph in the EFB must come from Hell. It is time to survey the reasons for suspecting him.
Faust summons the Devil, and after much difficulty 'a diabolical spirit' appears,17 approaching Faust at last in the shape of a grey friar. Faust does not ask its name till chapter 5, when he has struck the bargain with it—he signs away his soul in the next chapter. We are told that Faust himself formulated the deed and drew up the letter of contract, but he receives no corresponding document signed by the other party, and asks for no evidence that he is dealing with a qualified agent. (In the play he calls for Meph by name when he conjures, and surely one of the lost fragments must have explained how he knew the name.) In the early chapters, he does ask some questions, and Meph is very evasive. He never once says he has himself actually been in Hell, or even in Heaven. Faust tells him to describe Lucifer before his fall, and he demands three days' grace to study the subject (GFB, chapter 14); when he returns he gives only the standard propaganda against Lucifer, available from any pulpit. Even if he were a pacifist angel, who refused to fight on either side, he would surely have heard Lucifer trying to win the pacifists over. Of course, one can invent explanations; perhaps Meph has been pleading with Lucifer, without success, for permission to release a more favourable account, or perhaps he thought the demand of Faust a good excuse for a holiday (it is hard to believe that he needed a special permission for so clear a case, and he needed none to accept the only startling demand of Faust, who asks after the return of Meph to be changed at once into a spirit). But surely this process of explaining must be what the author of the Faust-book wanted us to engage upon; the quaint stiffness of these early replies of Meph is pointedly unlike the offensive familiarity of his talk later on. One might argue that very different documents had been fitted together into a long consecutive account, and probably they were; but the final editors were evidently prepared to alter the text where they thought good. And we are often told that Meph is working very subtly to confuse the judgement of Faust, so that everything he says may be discounted, but this is not the way anybody considers the report of an untrustworthy but unique witness in a novel. If he is not worth attention, one had better stop reading the book. He plainly gives Faust a good deal of frank warning. Even a strict Lutheran had probably heard about Middle Spirits at his mother's knee, and to watch whether the book ever slipped over into letting Meph admit that he was one of them would be one of the points of curiosity.
At the start, when Faust has decided what demand to make in his pact with the Devil, he puts first the demand to become a 'spirit' ('geist')18. Why does he want this?19 Meph says he will immediately perceive that he has become a spirit, as soon as he has signed and sworn (GFB, EFB, chapter 4); but we hear no more about it. It should at least mean becoming able to fly, as Meph does, and Faust could test this quickly;20 but in all his journeys he is merely carried about, either by Meph or by a dragon. Is he afraid to mention that he has been flagrantly and immediately cheated? But he speaks up about other things quite readily. And why is the word used at all, if there are no spirits other than angels and devils, not even ghosts? Meph is regularly called 'the spirit' in the narrative, and not the 'familiar' of Faust;21 this is pointless unless it implies a mystery about his status. Unless the author was a highly sophisticated novelist, there have been cuts.
Faust presents two sets of demands (chapters 3 and 4); after the first, Meph says he will have to refer them to the god of Hell. He returns later in the same day, and Faust is ready with the new set, which are accepted without any need for further reference, though they are very different. He had first made three demands, which are hardly distinguishable, as they are almost solely concerned with his thirst for knowledge; however, the first says Meph must be his servant, 'obedient in all things bidden, asked and expected of him',22 and he may of course ask for power and pleasure, when they occur to him. But the next two demand that Meph shall answer any question and answer it truthfully, so his mind is at present on knowledge only. Meph answers at length, with an indirect warning against damnation: 'we have never revealed the true foundation'23 of Hell to a man, but the damned will learn about it by experience. Faust became alarmed, and said fatuously 'I won't be damned for that, nor for your sake'.24 Meph answers with a jeering riddling poem, which ends 'Your heart's despair has brought you there'.25 Faust was 'irresolute from that time on',26 but told Meph to come back at evening, when he would have proposals. He then said, 'albeit with some misgivings',27 that he wished to cease being human and 'to become a devil incarnate, a member of the Devil himself'.28 This explanation is added by the GFB editor and is not found in manuscript W; however, in both 'to be a Spirit' is put first among the formal demands.
Meph knows all the standard doctrine about Hell, without claiming to have been there; but he is actually short of information about Heaven (chapter 3). There is also an odd detail in the first account by Meph of his relations with Lucifer. Meph tells that he [Lucifer] was thrown out of Heaven for his arrogance and presumption, but he established a government here.
Now because the fallen angel Lucifer has his dominion and princedom beneath the heavens [that is beneath the sphere of the moon], and because of the change in him, we are obliged to transform ourselves, negotiate with human beings and become subservient to them. Otherwise, no human being, no matter how skilful and powerful, could ever bring Lucifer into subjection. And so our Master sends a Spirit, and such am I. [Sp. 13]
Spies omits 'because of the change in him' (from manuscript W), perhaps feeling it too elaborate for an initial speech; but the change adds its mite to the pervasive suggestion that Meph has never seen Lucifer before his change, and never been in Heaven at all. How could he say 'the fallen angel'29 if he fell himself at the same time? The effect is now: 'we Middle Spirits never bothered with men until these devils came down and forced us to be go-betweens'. And the next sentence is so odd that it might be a slip of the pen, if the whole text had not been scrutinized at least twice. P. F. cuts it out, however. Meph seems to be hoping that some man will eventually bring Lucifer into subjection; but how can he hope that if he is 'a limb of Satan', lacking distinction from him, as if merely one of his appearances? The sentence might pass as meaning: 'No man could use the powers of the Devil for his own purposes without a Middle Spirit to act as go-between'; but even in this mild form it assumes that Meph is not a real devil, although he speaks here of 'our kingdom' and 'our habitation'. He may be boasting, but he may speak of 'the family' as a feudal servant would do—this is where he says he is a servant.30 We need not assume that Meph knows a great deal about the First Things, and only gets them wrong to deceive; if he only lives for two or three thousand years, it was his grandfather or greatgrandfather who saw the arrival of the devils, and the attempt at happy lives of the earlier Middle Spirits, before they were dispossessed, will be a family tradition among Middle Spirits, which they dare not tell to the Devil. Meph can afford to let it out in a grumbling way to Faust, because he could always explain to his masters, if exposed, that he was only trying to bemuse Faust, and thus damn him with greater certainty.
Thus the informed reader, in 1587, when the book was new, would be interested in the status of Meph, and how much he really knows. There has been a regular type of best seller ever since, one might say, which appears to bring news about some topic of great current interest but evades committing itself. Here the reader is tantalized; the next chapters seem deliberately badly written, with Meph letting drop his standard answers like an unwilling schoolboy. When asked to describe Lucifer before his fall he demands three days off to mug the subject up, and then reports only what could be heard in any human sermon (GFB, chapter 14; EFB, chapter 13). The book suggests very strongly that Meph did not know, and of course a Middle Spirit would be likely not to. Puck and Ariel would also be found, if one could set them a paper, much below par at general knowledge. As to Hell, he says very firmly that no one can get out of it, and never says he has himself been there (though he once, early on, calls it 'our habitation').31
Such are the points which a suspicious reader might have noticed before he arrives at the fierce sermon on Hell (GFB, chapter 16; EFB, chapter 15), where Meph says that the devils in Hell, as well as the human sufferers, have no hope of salvation but that 'we spirits expect it constantly'.32 This brief aside is the only firm bit of evidence for the pacifist angel theory, because Middle Spirits died like the beasts; if salvation means going to Heaven, they had no hope at all. So at least Paracelsus reports from a very widespread popular opinion; but female nymphs could get there by a human marriage, and one can well believe that male ones resented the distinction. Negotiations at a high level would be in progress. It becomes clear at the end of Part I, a firmly marked stage because Faust now recognizes that he is doomed, that Meph wants earnestly to get to Heaven (GFB, chapter 17; EFB, chapter 16). Faust asks him: 'Suppose you were in my position, a human being created by God, what would you do to please God and mankind?' [Sp. 63]. (This at least carries a hint that God did not create Meph.) Meph says, with no mention of the rest of mankind, that he would do anything whatever to please God, so as to gain 'eternal happiness, glory, and splendour'.33 Faust agrees that he has been foolish:
'But tell me, Mephostophiles, do you wish you were a human being in my position?'
'Oh, yes' sighed the Spirit, 'and small question of it. For even if I had sinned against God I would bring myself back into His grace.' [Sp. 65]
Faust says, then surely he can repent too, even now, but Meph says it is too late now that he has committed his heinous sin. It is an insolent contradiction, presumably telling Faust that he has not enough staying power; and it feels intimate and poignant, far more so than the casual remark let drop in the previous chapter, the Hell sermon, that 'we spirits expect constantly'34 to win salvation. So it is good evidence that Meph is a Middle Spirit, born without the capacity for eternal life, either in Heaven or Hell. If Meph is a pacifist angel, he is in the same position as Faust, hoping to win back the favour of God; and surely he is not trying so hard as he says he would, if he were in that position? Bullying Faust till he feels too weak to attempt repentance does not seem the best way to please God. But theology is always in a cleft stick here; God is not to be blamed for what the devils do, and yet nothing can happen which he does not want to happen. Some might argue that even here Meph is doing the work of God; but it would be a desperate position. Maybe Spies realized that this chapter presumes Meph to be a Middle Spirit, but thought it too good to lose and expected that if challenged it could be explained away. P. F. is all in favour here, and expands the passage enthusiastically.
Faust has next to become an almanac-maker, needing to earn his living apparently; P. F. says (EFB, chapter 17) he 'forgot all good works, and fell to be a calendar-maker',35 no longer speculating about scientific discovery perhaps, whereas the GFB (chapter 18) had never accused him of such thoughts. To live where he does, says Meph, makes one good at astronomy; he is too high up to get any earthshine (GFB, chapter 21; not in EFB): 'Here in this gloomy air we spirits and devils live, cast out into the darkness. Here we dwell amidst violent storms, thunder, hail, snow and the like, so that we may tell the seasons of the year and know what the weather should be' [Sp. 73].36 It is not quite such nonsense as the summary in the GFB; but P. F. was right to make large cuts here and insert his splendid description of the powers of a magus. But what are 'spirits and devils'? The phrase need not mean two different groups, and might be a rough way of describing the pacifist angels, who are demi-devils. They have been 'cast out' from Heaven. But the muddled passage just before, about their not getting the earthshine, implies that they have been cast out from earth; they used to be spirits of nature, but the aggressive devils drove them into hiding—the devils were still an army, and it would be irritated by defeat. They of course had been cast out of Heaven, and no one denied that they sometimes camped in the storm clouds while on business. It seems a neat case of intentional double talk, implying that Meph is a Middle Spirit but keeping an escape in reserve. Even so, Spies need not have realized it.
The brief period of intimacy between Meph and Faust here is part of the story; after recognizing that he is damned, he must be sufficiently comforted not to break out and repent, and then must be flattered by being allowed his great voyages, where he treats Meph curtly as a servant. The high point of the intimacy comes when Meph explains, after being coaxed to tell, that God did not create the world (GFB, chapter 22; not in EFB). In the previous chapter, while lecturing on astronomy, he has said as part of the routine that God made the world; he is not in the least offended, as in Marlowe, when Faust also assumes it. Indeed, he seems to regard the true story as only fit for the men's locker-room, so that he tells several milder versions before he blurts it out.37 As a plan to delude Faust it is totally ineffective; Faust disbelieves it at once, and never thinks of it again. There was a tradition that proud Satan had denied his creation by God,38 and had offered the same freedom to all other angels, perhaps to win their support, and had thus caused the War in Heaven; but Meph has an entirely different story, calculated as what a Middle Spirit would tell. The earth and sea have always been there, but
The Earth had to nourish itself and the Sea separated itself from the Earth; they made an amicable settlement with each other as if they could talk … But the creation of man and of the heavens they conceded to God so that ultimately they were made subservient to Him. [Sp. 76]
This has been ascribed to Greek philosophers, but it is a bit like central Africa too. It has the wisdom of the primitive. Of course, when God made Heaven, he did not make empty halls; it would not be Heaven without all those angels singing and dancing in his praise. And when some of the angels revolted he made men, a strictly selected few of whom will fill the vacant places. But, when all this fuss is over, the spirits of nature may hope to get back their rights. It is a very clear picture, but the last sentence quoted suggests that Earth and Sea merely allowed God to pretend he had created men and the heavens; if so, the future is still dark. Surely, it is absurd to say that Meph invents this myth merely to unsettle Faust, because it doesn't. It is a secret which the dispossessed Middle Spirits tell to one another, and the devils would be much angered to hear it; Meph yields to pressure from Faust when he tells it, and may have a dim hope of winning a disciple; but he is snubbed, and then passes long years as a servant to the exacting Faust. It is not surprising that he taunts Faust spitefully at the end (GFB, chapter 65; not in EFB); he does not claim to have plotted against Faust, as in the corrupted version of the play. P. F. was right to cut this whole chapter from his translation if he wanted to present Meph as grand and mysterious.
Spies appears to have been in favour of the jeering, perhaps on some theological ground; this final chapter he merely reproduces [from the MS], but he inserts a whole paragraph in chapter 2, when Faust tries to summon the devil, saying 'the Devil must have laughed to himself … Faust was fooled to an astonishing degree',39 and there are some bits of the same coarse fun. He might feel that this tied the story together; the appalling practical joke of the Devil must always be felt behind the jolly pranks of homely Faust in the middle. P. F. was quite right to leave out this insertion too, though so far as we can tell he had no means of knowing it to be an insertion.40 The merit of the book is to present the two views of Faust, and it is useless to try to unify them; though of course different methods of smoothing over may be needed for publication.
[e.] Other Spirits in the Faust-book
A detail from the magical performances should be added. [When Faust was asked to present Alexander the Great and his consort before the German] Emperor (GFB, chapter 33; EFB, chapter 29), he explained to the Emperor that their mortal bodies cannot literally be revived, but that 'very ancient spirits [die uhralte Geister] who have seen the living Alexander and his queen are able to assume their shapes' [Sp. 135]. The word 'ur ' literally means primeval but is often used to mean merely antique; however, this makes little difference. If all the spirits are immortal, and all were created about 6,000 years ago, it is ridiculous to say that a few of them are so old as to have seen Alexander (say 2,000 years ago). The devils are military aristocrats, and would be ashamed to do copying work; the slaves who do it, like the ones who copy the women Faust desires, are drawn from the conquered Middle Spirits. A coherent picture of the relations between devils and Middle Spirits gleams out from these successive hints.
Or rather, this tactful arrangement seems the natural one to presume, but it is thrown into doubt by a brief sentence near the end of the book. Helen of Troy, during the last year of Faust, gives birth to a son, and Faust is his father (GFB, chapter 59; EFB, chapter 55). So she cannot be a devil; even the witch-burners, though very credulous, agreed that devils cannot produce children. The boy told prophecies to his father, who was dead within the year, so he is definitely said to be a magical child. Helen cannot be simply ordered up (GFB, chapter 49; EFB, chapter 45); she must be coaxed, whereas the spirits imitating Alexander and his consort could be called up and behaved like slaves. The contrast is made very plain, and yet nobody says, either in W or in Spies, either in the English text or in the play, even that Helen is royal, let alone that she was the daughter of Jupiter and had been hatched from an egg, thus proving herself to be a demigoddess;41 though they had all been taught it at school, with whatever degree of disapproval. Poor Alexander had failed to become a god, though he was arranging it when he happened to die in his wild courses, but Helen was born with that status, and Pausanias mentions seeing a shrine to her in her native town of Sparta, around 150 AD. Though never quite unworshipped, she had had to pass some rather lonely centuries, and need not be blamed for making an arrangement with the devils. In fact she is Helen of Troy, one of the kinds of Middle Spirit. Presumably the censors felt that one bit of classical fantasy, just before the horrific end, could not really delude anyone. Manuscript W hedges, saying: 'while she was with Doctor Faustus in his twenty-second to twenty-third year, she puffed herself out as if she were pregnant' (W, chapter 60), and P. F., whether on orders from his censor or anticipating them, puts 'and to his seeming in time she was with child, and in the end brought him a man child' (EFB, p. 74). This is pretty flimsy; where did she get one that prophesied? But Spies does not blench: 'During the final year she became pregnant by him and bore him a son … This child revealed many future events to Doctor Faustus' [Sp. 199].42 It seems possible that Spies considered this a genuine part of the legend, in the sense that the historical Faust had said it himself. We have a glimpse of him in Wier, building up his legend by a dangerous joke (calling the Devil his brother-in-law).43 Anyhow, he or another probably derived it from the legend of Simon Magus (p. 12 of the invaluable Palmer and More); but Simon had said that his Helen, before her many reincarnations, was the Wisdom of God, so this detail needed picking out as the suitable one. It was an important step.
Helen is not romanticized in the Faust-book, any more than in Euripides; she was tops for beauty, so she did a lot of harm. She is a suitable companion for Faust because she is above the law. But she is not viewed with any reverence, even as a human queen; she might be a barmaid. After dinner in his house, the students ask Faust to raise her,44 and he says he will do for them what he did for the Emperor, perhaps not realizing that this will turn out entirely unlike raising the puppets who imitated Alexander and his consort. Or perhaps he has an inkling, as he uses a different phrase: 'I will present her to you so that you may see her spirit [geist] in person exactly as she was in her lifetime' [Sp. 172]. They must not speak or leave their seats. It is Spies who adds the rather bold phrase 'I will present her to you.'45 When he comes back from his study he leads in Helen, who behaves extremely unlike the previous zombies: 'She looked all around the room with such a shameless and mischievous expression that the students were inflamed with love for her, but since they took her to be a spirit it was not hard for them to forego their passion' [Sp. 173f]. All that prevented a mass rape, apparently, was that the students judged her not solid enough for the purpose. The author titters discreetly here; the ignorant students thought her a spirit, but Faust, leading her back to his study; realized that a pagan goddess is adequately solid. The idea that she might be a devil, an absolute spirit, does not occur to either of them. P. F. as usual feels that the treatment lacks social tone; she is royalty. Her dress becomes 'sumptuous', and
she looked round about her with a rolling Hawk's eye, a smiling and wanton countenance, which near had46 inflamed the hearts of the students, but that they persuaded themselves she was a Spirit, wherefore such phantasies passed away lightly with them; and thus fair Helena and Doctor Faustus went out again one with another. (EFB, p. 65)
But at first 'the students were all amazed to see her, esteeming her rather to be a heavenly than an earthly creature'.47 This is the first suggestion that she is a goddess in person, but it is easily absorbed into admiration for her royal finery and posturing. The last sentence of the chapter in the GFB says that the Devil often blinds a man with love, and it is hard to break oneself of a bad habit;48 P. F. endorses this with added splendour: 'the Devil blindeth and inflameth the heart with lust oftentimes, that men fall in love with Harlots, nay even with Furies, which afterwards cannot lightly be removed' (EFB, p. 65).49 But he has made her more splendid too.
[f.] Marlowe's Audience; Changelings
One thing does emerge from this confusion: the pretence that all men who raise spirits deserve Hell, as Faust is presumed to do, cannot be sensible. It is probably propaganda for witch-burning. Such is what most of the audience would think, not only the author, whose opinions they would probably reject, if they had been told. An attempt to gauge the opinion of the first audience, though necessarily flimsy, must therefore be made.
In the main, the first audiences of Marlowe could regard Middle Spirits as suited only to light fantasy, for which they were often employed; in a preface to Greene's Menaphon (1589), the supercilious young Nashe mentions trailing a play about Oberon round the provinces as the most hopelessly old-hat thing an actor could get reduced to. But there was an aspect of them which most hearers would have to take seriously, because someone else in the family did. The doctrine that fairies are always trying to steal human babies, leaving something very inferior in their place, was still prominent among midwives and nurses, and made babysitting a more responsible job than now, hardly to be allowed to a man; nurses would insist upon the unhealthy practice of keeping the tiny windows shut, because the fairies came in that way. It frequently gets mentioned in the plays. Probably it was retained as a means of soothing a mother who is gradually discovering that her baby is an imbecile; the story that her real son has been taken by the fairies, because they thought him so promising, and that he will be having a long life and a fine career, is at least a tempting pacifier. A man who denied the belief might incur guilt. Only a cad would remind the mother that her son might have escaped Hell: These intimate commitments would allow the first audiences to feel a salty kind of satisfaction in the absurd plan of Faust: 'Well, there's many of them might do worse than settle for that', and 'he'd be a fool not to stick to it'. This kind of sympathy is all that the play requires, and probably no one responsible for putting it on expected the audience support to be so disastrously warm.
There is a point which seems out of line here but should not be ignored. M. W. Latham, in The Elizabethan Fairies (1930)50, reported that there is no evidence for the full superstition, an imbecile considered as something left in the place of the kidnapped child, before 1560.51 If so, it appeared just about the time when the other beliefs about Middle Spirits fell into ridicule. The idea that an adolescent may be seduced by the fairies, and that he (or sometimes she) will be lucky ever to escape, and then cannot tell what happened, is very widespread in legend; but why should it become prominent, for babies only, just then? One feels it must have something to do with the witch-burning, because it arose when that storm of terror was boiling up on the Continent and in Scotland, and yet they seem far apart. At any rate, no one can say that it was merely a survival of out-worn superstition, attractive to literary men because so quaint. The Elizabethans were active thinkers even when foolish ones, and the crosscurrents between the various opinions were probably complex.
[g.] The Censor's Anxieties
It is now possible to appreciate the statesmanlike anxiety of King James and the censor of the EFB, granting that such anxiety usually looks absurd when it has turned out to be needless. The effect of admitting that the devils were made of subtle matter, so that they were practically indistinguishable from the Middle Spirits, or for example the pagan gods, and of allowing certain types of devil to live permanently in the storm-clouds, was to encourage a very undesirable degree of intimacy between mages and devils. The offers of love, in the play, between Faust and Meph, made in either direction at different times but never fully accepted, were meant to be very poignant, and would strike a theological listener at an early performance as fully justified satire (of course, he would be sure that all apparent Middle Spirits were devils, with no sex). Quite apart from this dark suspicion, mages had no business to romp with devils, as Faust is plainly doing in GFB, chapter 23. The play has a corresponding attempt at a romp, but it arranges that Faust has just before been thrown into terror, suddenly realizing that his associates are devils. Probably the Queen's censor Tilney, whether aware of Marlowe's trick or not, took the precaution of asking the advice of the censors of print, under the Archbishop, and this text would go to the man who had handled the translation. He would think the play calculated to meet the points he had raised; otherwise rather free, of course, but there could be no theological objection. The reaction of the audiences to the production was what produced the scandal.
EFB The English Faust-book, i.e. The Historie of the damnable life, and deserved death of Doctor Iohn Faustus … translated into English by P. F. Gent … London (earliest extant edition) 1592; see The German and English Faust-books: Parallel Texts, tr. and intro. John Henry Jones (forthcoming)
GFB The German Faust-book, i.e. Historia von D. Johañ Fausten … (edn princeps), Frankfurt a. M. (Johann Spies) 1587; the translations used in the essay are from Jones, The German and English Faust-books
Greg Marlowe's 'Doctor Faustus' 1604-1616: Parallel Texts, ed. W. W. Greg, Oxford (Clarendon Press) 1950
Palmer and More The Sources of the Faust Tradition, P. M. Palmer and R. P. More, New York (Oxford University Press) 1936
Sp. Pagination reference to the GFB Spies first edition, used to indicate sources of material translated
1GFB, chapter 57.
2 Sp. 35.
3 Sp. 199. W has: 'While she was with Doctor Faustus in his twenty-second to twenty-third year, she puffed herself out as if she were pregnant.'
4 The orthodox opinion, on the whole, and certainly the Lutheran opinion, was that devils could not have children, and indeed could not have sexual pleasure, though they could deceive men and women into supposing they did. It had been a requirement of faith, though the belief was never made a duty, that sexual pleasure with a devil was the unforgivable sin, and Marlowe seems to accept the ruling of P. F. that Faust has not enjoyed it before. We do not know whether this idea would leap to the minds of a mass audience around 1590, as was assumed by W. W. Greg and his followers. But in the German version he has been enjoying it for a quarter of a century, and this of course (for anyone who knew it) would remove much of the horror from the single kiss on the stage.
5 Sp. 196.
6EFB, p. 73.
7 Sp. 199; EFB, p. 74.
8 Sp. 35.
9 Sp. 119.
10EFB, p. 44.
11 Sp. 46.
12 Sp. 36.
13EFB, p. 11.
14 I am assured that, in the style of the author, this does not have to mean that the terms are separable, that there are other spirits who are not devils; but, if you were thinking so already, it would encourage you.
15 Sp. 73.
16 Sp. 68.
17EFB, p. 23 (sic, for 21).
18 Sp. 13.
19 Sp. 56.
20Inferno, Canto III, 1. 51: 'Let us not speak of these, but look and pass' (tr. Dorothy L. Sayers, Harmondsworth (Penguin) 1949).
21 Ibid, ls. 56f.
22 See the edition by Brinsley Nicholson, London (Elliot Stock) 1886, p. xxxvii.
23 King James: Daemonologie, in Forme of a Dialogue, divided into three Bookes, Edinburgh (Walde-grave) 1597; see pp. xif for the attacks on Scot and Wier.
24 Empson is interpreting his source very liberally here, although the underlying thought is retained. See Daemonologie, p. 10 (sic, misprint for 19): 'all Devils must be lyars; but so they abuse the simplicitie of these [witches] … that they make them believe, that at the fall of Lucifer, some Spirites fell in the aire, some in the fire, some in the water, some in the land … But the principall part of their fall, … the falling from the grace of God … they continued still thereafter, and shal do while the latter daie, in wandring through the worlde as God's hangmen to execute such turnes as he employs them in. And when anie of them are not occupyed in that, returne they must to their prison in hel.' There is no specific mention of storm clouds.
25EFB, p. 18.
26 A: 573; B: 519.
27 Greg, p. 3.
29 See Greg, p. 4, where the Register entry (5 April 1596) is quoted.
30 See Greg, p. 6.
31 For a discussion of the mistranslations, see postscript, pp. 205-7.
32 Sp. 13.
33 Text: 'D.Faustus entsetzt sich darob…'P. F. interprets sich entsetzen as 'desit', i.e. to arise, and this is usually regarded as one of his howlers.
34 Text: 'ich wolte geme deß Himmels entberen, wann ich nur des ewigen straffe köndt entfliehen.' P. F.'s translation is based, wittingly or not, on the similarity of entberen to the English 'bear', though he must have known tragen. This is the sole occurrence of entberen in the GFB, so it might have posed a problem but there are other indications in the 'lamentations' that P. F. was tired here. What is strange is that he has to invent a nonsensical rationalization for his variant, and Empson's suggestion that the mistranslation was deliberate is quite plausible.
Notes for "The Spirits"
1 The date of the earliest edition of the Malleus is uncertain, but it appeared within a few years of the Bull Summis Desiderantes Affectibus (9 December 1484) of Pope Innocent VIII.
2 For a succinct account see E. M. W. Tillyard: The Elizabethan World Picture, London (Chatto & Windus) 1943, chs. 4, 5, drawing on Arthur O. Lovejoy's The Great Chain of Being, Cambridge, Mass. (Harvard University Press) 1936.
3 For an introduction to Renaissance Hermeticism, see Frances A. Yates: Giordano Bruno and the Hermetic Tradition, London (RKP) 1964, and The Occult Philosophy in the Elizabethan Age, London (RKP) 1979.
4The City of God, Book VIII, chapter 22.
5 He does go firmly on record, in Summa Q.63 Art.7, saying that the belief of the Platonists in daemons, some of them good, 'living below the lunar sphere … yet higher than men in the order of nature', is not 'to be rejected as contrary to faith'. 'There is nothing to prevent us from saying', he goes on with his curious detachment, that the lower angels were divinely set aside for service in this region. [The Summa Theologica …, English translation revised Daniel J. Sullivan, Chicago (Encyclopedia Britannica) 1952.].
6 Written c. 1508-9, the MS circulated and pirated. A manuscript of 1510 is reproduced in full in the facsimile edition (ed. K. Novotny), Graz (Akademische Druck- u. Verlagsanstalt) 1967.
7 Book III, chapters xvi-xix.
8 C. S. Lewis, at the start of his survey of sixteenth-century literature [English Literature in the Sixteenth Century, Oxford (Clarendon) 1954: ed.], writing very well about these matters, remarks that medieval writers treat magic as romantic and remote, whereas writers in his period feel it may be going on in the next street. This tone can still be felt in poetry till the end of the century, but there is a sharp fall in the credibility of white magic about halfway through the century, chiefly of course because of the Reformation, but probably a lot of people had tried out the instructions given by Agrippa and similar authors; they were aggressively sceptical about the fairies. In England, the change seems to have happened to villagers as well as learned scholars, at least in the home counties; it can hardly be the result of Luther.
9 In the Philosophia Magnae, … Tractatus Aliquot Basel (Flöher) 1567, Liber 7, 'De nymphis, sylphis, pygmaeis et salamandris et de caeteris spiritibus'. For the German original (Nissae Silesiorum, 1566), see Karl Sudhoff (ed.): Paracelsus: Sämtliche Werke München and Berlin (Otto Wilh. Barth u. R. Oldenbourg) 1922-9, vol. 14, pp. 115-52.
10 The town house of an Elizabethan grandee usually had a library open to respectably sponsored callers, and surely this book would be recognized as an entertaining curiosity. One would like Marlowe to have read it, because it would alert him to the Gilbertian possibilities of these changes. [Dr Dee would probably have had it but there is no direct evidence that Marlowe was acquainted with Dee: ed.]
11 Robert Kirk: The Secret Commonwealth of Elves, Fauns and Fairies Comment. Andrew Lang, Intro. R. B. Cunninghame Graham, Stirling (Eneas McKay) 1933.
12Discovery of Witchcraft, ed. Brinsley Nicholson, London (Elliot Stock) 1886, p. xx.
13 London (John Rodker) 1930.
14 It had long been a problem for magicians that devils, though they came willingly to a call, demanded terrible payment, whereas nature-spirits though harmless could not be set to work. (It was only by luck that Prospero won a claim over Ariel.)
15The Poems of John Donne, ed. H. J. C. Grierson, London (OUP) 1929, p. 47, ls 53f.
16Henry More's Philosophical Writings, ed. Flora Isabel Mackinnon, New York (OUP) 1925.
17 Sp. 10.
18 Sp. 16.
19 For completeness I shall add my own explanation, though I realize I have no standing here. The mystery of the demand to be made a spirit did no harm to the Faust-book, which fed on mystery, but it had fallen into its place from some actual story. This would be a play, performed in Latin in a college, and the wicked magician thought he would be safe if he were turned into a devil, because then he could enjoy Hell; instead of being tortured, he would do the torturing. It is the invention of Belsen. But he is gradually induced, by a series of harangues, to recognize that the devils in Hell are tortured even more than their victims. Collapse of smart Alec, and what more could be required? But the mysterious activities of history were even then deciding that Faust was a splendid character because he had eaten a cartload of hay for three farthings, and it would be a blasphemy to say that he had ever really meant any harm. This bit of the story could be left in all right, so long as nothing was made of it. But of course something would be made of it, and I do not pretend to know what went on in the mass mind as the best seller swept across Europe. [For the possibility of a Latin play of Faust, see John A. Walz, 'A German Faust Play of the Sixteenth Century', Germanic Review, III, 1928, pp. 1-22: ed.].
20 On the scheme of Paracelsus, Faust could also have found out at once whether he had been turned into a Middle Spirit or a devil: a spirit of the air can fly at immense speed, but an angel, not really living in space, can appear anywhere as if at infinite speed.
1 Widman, in his Warhafftige Historie Hamburg (Hermann Moller) 1599, Part I, chapter 10, makes Meph's status explicit. Meph tells Faustus: 'You should not fear me, for I am no devil but a Spiritus familiaris, happy to dwell amongst men.' Widman avoids any discussion of this distinction in his otherwise exhaustive commentary.
22 Sp. 11.
23 Sp. 13.
25 Sp. 14.
27 Sp. 15.
29 Sp. 13.
30 Probably Oberon would consider him a traitorous quisling, but their relations are not considered; perhaps Oberon is a leader of an Underground, hiding from the devils, and that is why he has to live permanently in the dawn.
31 Sp. 13.
32 Sp. 59.
33 Sp. 64.
34 Sp. 59.
35EFB, p. 22 (sic, for 20).
36 The source of this is Hartmann Schedel: Weltchronik ('Nuremburg Chronicle'), tr. George Alt, Nürnberg 1493, folios 6af.
37 Sp. 45, 71.
38 The heresy, that God did not create any of the spirits, is important to the Satan of Milton and had been propounded by the Satan of St Avitus, Bishop of Vienne, in a Latin poem of about 500 AD.
39 Sp. 7.
40 Unless he met Spies in Frankfurt. See John Henry Jones: The German and English Faust-books: Parallel Texts (forthcoming) introduction.
41 In the play, the speech of adoration by Faust to Helen is almost all about Jupiter, but the connection is not pointed out.
42 There is a Latin margin note at this point in the GFB, probably the astonished query of a manuscript reader which Spies neglected to delete: 'Quaestio, an Baptizatus fuerit?', i.e. 'Was it baptized?'
43 See Palmer & More, p. 107.
44GFB, chapter 49: EFB, chapter 45.
45 That is, it is not present in W.
46 Text: 'neere hand'.
47EFB, p. 65.
48 Sp. 175.
49 The ambiguity of the final statement suggests that P. F. may be writing from bitter personal experience.
50 Columbia University Studies in English and Comparative Literature, New York 1930.
51 She also reports that in Scotland the fairies were believed to pay a fixed tribute of souls to Hell, and to kidnap human babies for that purpose.
Jones, John Henry, ed. The English Faust Book: A Critical Edition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994.
Glossed and annotated edition of the 1592 text. The volume includes an introduction and an extensive bibliography of secondary scholarship.
Baron, Frank. Doctor Faustus: From History to Legend. Munich: Wilhelm Fink, 1978.
Provides a detailed analysis of the process whereby first- and second-generation accounts of the various Faust and Faust-like figures were made into popular legend.
——. "The Faust Book's Indebtedness to Augustin Lercheimer and the Wittenberg Sources." German Quarterly 59.4 (Fall 1986): 582-94.
Traces connections between published English and German versions of the Faust legend.
Boerner, Peter, and Sidney Johnson, eds. Faust through Four Centuries: Retrospect and Analysis. Tubingen: Niemeyer, 1989.
A collection of essays inspired by a 1987 interdisciplinary symposium on the Faust legend.
Haile, Harry G. "Reconstruction of the Faust Book: The Disputations." PMLA 78 (1963): 175-89.
Examines the issues surrounding textual criticism of early sources of the Faust legend.
Hammill, Graham. "Faustus's Fortunes: Commodification, Exchange, and the Form of Literary Subjectivity." ELH, Vol. 63, No. 2 (Summer 1996): 309-36.
Studies the literary language of the English Faust book.
"P. F. The English Faust Book" and "What Can an Electronic Doctor Faustus Offer?"
Scholarly and accessible website offering extensively linked texts of the English Faust Book and both published texts of Christopher Marlowe's play Doctor Faustus. Notes, glosses, and variants are offered for the English Faust Book text.