What are examples of foreshadowing in Dr. Faustus?

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gbeatty eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There are many elements of foreshadowing in Dr. Faustus.

The crudest and most obvious is the title, which tells you his history is tragic. That means things will end badly for him. If you know what a tragedy meant historically, in other plays, it specifically means he’ll overreach due to ego (the flaw of pride known as hubris), which Faustus definitely does.

However, there are definitely other more specific elements of foreshadowing. Look at the opening section of the play, where you’ll see these lines:

“Till swoln with cunning, of a self-conceit,    

His waxen wings did mount above his reach,    

And, melting, heavens conspir'd his overthrow;    

For, falling to a devilish exercise,    

And glutted now with learning's golden gifts,    

He surfeits upon cursed necromancy;    

Nothing so sweet as magic is to him...” 

Here the chorus compares him to Icarus from Greek mythology, who didn’t listen to wise council but instead flew too high, only to have his wings melt, leaving him to fall to his death. That comparison tells you that Faustus will soar high (metaphorically), and then crash (fatally).