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Faustus’s study

Faustus’s study (FOWS-tuhs). Lodgings at Germany’s University of Wittenberg of Dr. Faustus, a learned scholar and theologian who seeks boundless knowledge. Most of the play takes place here. Characters enter and exit the study frequently, and on many occasions, other characters converse in Faustus’s rooms while he is away. The study is faintly described—it contains books of various sorts, and presumably the paraphernalia of scholarly and clerical work. It is a large area, sufficient to entertain as many as nine characters at a time. The fact that the specific university is Wittenberg may be correlated to the fact that it was in this city that Martin Luther posted his ninety-five theses, heralding the Protestant separation from the Roman Catholic Church and the beginning of the Reformation.

Fantastic travels

Fantastic travels. At the outset of the third act, the chorus informs the audience that Faustus has traveled above the clouds, on dragons, to see the world from a higher perspective. Faustus notes that he has traveled from Wittenberg through Naples and Campania. Later, he chooses to walk rather than rely on demoniac magic.

*Papal palace

*Papal palace. Court of the pope in Rome, the seat of the spiritual power of the Roman Catholic Church. Mephistophilis, the agent of the devil that Faustus calls forth, magically transports Faustus to the privy chamber of the pope. In addition to holding audience with malefactors, the pope has dinner brought into the room. Faustus and Mephistophilis hide and wear the clothes of cardinals, and later Faustus becomes invisible and plays tricks on the pope.

Court of German emperor

Court of German emperor. Seat of political power where Faustus is feasted and treated well by Germany’s Emperor Charles. In making sport of some of the retainers, Faustus angers them and they try to waylay him in a suggested outdoor setting. Other scenes also suggest the use of the stage area to imply outdoor or rural settings. Faustus’s high aspirations take him to select and rarefied locales, but he returns from these to the byways and rooms of the commons.

Literary Style

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Christopher Marlowe's Doctor Faustus, a tragedy in five acts, tells the story of the title character's agreement to sell his soul to the devil in exchange for twenty-four years of absolute power.


In drama, a chorus is one or more actors who comment on and interpret the action unfolding on stage. In Marlowe's Doctor Faustus, the chorus appears four times. First, it introduces the play's theme. Later, it provides the where and when in the narrative action. Finally, it relates the moral and helps the audience understand the significance of the closing scene.


In an allegory, characters represent abstract ideas and are used to teach moral, ethical, or religious lessons. Marlowe's play contains a Morality Play, in which Mephistopheles orders a parade of the seven deadly sins to entertain Faustus. Sins like Pride, Envy, and Lechery are deadly, according to Christian religions, because committing one of them damns a person to hell.


The antithesis of something is its direct opposite. One example is the Good and Bad Angels who appear to save and tempt Faustus, though other figures which appear to be antithetical are God and Lucifer, Helen and the Old Man, and Faustus and Mephistopheles.

Elizabethan Drama

Elizabethan Drama are English comic and tragic plays produced during the Renaissance, or written during the reign of Queen Elizabeth of England, who ruled from the late-sixteenth to early-seventeenth century. Christopher Marlowe's Doctor Faustus was first produced in 1594.

Comic Relief

The use of humor to lighten the mood of a serious story. In this work, while Faustus has sold his soul to the devil in order to accomplish great things, the comic relief involves Wagner, Robin, and Dick, who use magic mostly for tricks and practical jokes. While not strictly comic, it is a wry irony that Faustus also wastes his powers performing tricks, rather than accomplishing anything worthwhile.


Elizabethan Drama is defined by an adherence to a specific structure—in the case of Doctor Faustus, a tragedy. Some critics see the structure of Marlowe's Doctor Faustus as flawed and not conforming to that of a pure tragedy. They believe that, while the play has a tragical beginning and an ending, it fails to have a true middle in which the protagonist grows, changes, or learns something. According to Aristotle's famous treatise on drama, Poetics, a tragedy must have a beginning, middle, and end. Some scholars attribute Doctor Faustus's lack of a significant middle to the work of co-authors, who, it is speculated, filled in the space between Marlowe's beginning and ending.

By definition, a tragedy is a drama about an elevated hero who, because of some fatal character flaw or misdeed (also known as a hamartia), brings ruin on himself. Marlowe's Doctor Faustus tells the story of a famous scholar who due to hubris (pride) sells his soul to the devil and ends up damned to hell.


In a tragedy, the event or act that causes the hero's or heroine's downfall. In Marlowe's Doctor Faustus, that act is the contract he makes with the devil, exchanging his soul for worldly power.


At the end of a tragedy, the audience is supposed to experience a release of energy, because they have felt pity and fear; pity for the person suffering the tragic fate, then fear that a similar fate might happen to them. In many instances, playwrights will attempt to evoke catharsis in their audiences as a way of cautioning them, a means of instructing them to avoid the unfortunate fate of their protagonists.


Marlowe maintains the audience's attention by making them wonder when, if ever, Faustus will repent and what consequences his actions will have. Until the last act, there is still a possibility that Faustus will appeal to God for forgiveness. This "will he or won't he" scenario—combined with the question of whether God would actually accept the Doctor's penance were it offered—keeps the viewer guessing.

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