What subjects does Doctor Faustus explore before turning to magic?

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Before turning to magic, Doctor Faustus considers studying other fields of learning, such as philosophy, medicine, and law.

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In the opening scene of the play, Doctor Faustus delivers a soliloquy in which he considers which subjects he might like to study. First of all, he considers philosophy, which he calls "Sweet Analytics." However, Faustus then asks himself, "Is, to dispute well, logic's chiefest end?" In other words he reasons that to excel in philosophy has no greater end, or amounts to no greater achievement, than simply being good at philosophizing. Faustus has greater ambitions and seems to want to achieve something that might leave more of a measurable impact upon the world.

After rejecting philosophy as a possibility, Faustus considers medicine. He seems to like the idea of being "eterniz'd" for discovering "some wondrous cure." However, he then reasons that he has already conquered the field of medicine. He has, he says, already achieved great fame as a doctor. Indeed because of him, "whole cities have escap'd the plague." This, however, is not enough to satisfy him. He says to himself that despite these achievements in the field of medicine, he is "still but Faustus and a man." The implication here is that Faustus wants to be more than a mortal man. He wants to be like a god.

Next, Faustus considers law. He soon concludes, however, that the study of law is fit only for "a mercenary drudge, / Who aims at nothing but external trash." His meaning here is that people who study the law do so only for the financial rewards and achieve for their efforts only the accumulation of material possessions, or "external trash."

Eventually Faustus turns to the temptation of his "necromantic books," which seem to promise him "power ... honour ... [and] omnipotence." He clearly intends to use the dark magic in these books to transcend the limitations of man and achieve his ambition of becoming like a god.

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