Doctor Faustus "The Face That Launched A Thousand Ships"
by Christopher Marlowe

Doctor Faustus book cover
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"The Face That Launched A Thousand Ships"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: Dr. Faustus, who seeks to master the world through knowledge, sells his soul to the Devil for power. As time draws near for him to fulfill his part of the bargain, he is begged by an old man to repent, but is unable to do so. Instead, he asks Mephostopilis if he may have Helen of Troy as his paramour. As Helen, who has passed over the stage before, reenters, Faustus thinks of the days when she was taken to Troy by Paris and of the resulting war between the Greeks and the Trojans:

Was this the face that launch'd a thousand ships,
And burnt the topless towers of Ilium?
. . .
O, thou art fairer than the evening air
Clad in the beauty of a thousand stars;
Brighter art thou than flaming Jupiter
When he appear'd to hapless Semele;
More lovely than the monarch of the sky
In wanton Arethusa's azur'd arms;
And none but thou shalt be my paramour.