Context: Much mystery surrounds the source of this pageant. There was actually a Dr. John Faust, a medical quack who flourished about 1530. A Faustbuch about him was published in Germany in 1587, and either Marlowe knew German or an English translation quickly appeared, which is now lost. It is not fair to compare this hastily composed Doctor Faustus by a young man with little literary background to the Faust of the mature Goethe (1749–1832), who had two centuries of culture behind him. But the earlier version does reach wonderful heights of pure poetry and achieves a climax of thrilling intensity. It opens showing the learned Dr. Faustus in his study, thinking of his achievements and extensive knowledge, yet realizing the futility of such accomplishments. He decides to explore the field of magic. A good angel attempts to dissuade him and an evil angel to encourage him. He summons Mephistopheles to appear in the guise of a Franciscan Friar, and orders him to obey every wish. They discuss Lucifer, with whom Mephistopheles was exiled from Heaven and damned forever.
Where are you damned?
How comes it then that thou art out of hell?
Why this is hell, nor am I out of it:
Think'st thou that I, who saw the face of God
And tasted the eternal joys of Heaven,
Am not tormented with ten thousand hells
In being deprived of everlasting bliss?
Oh, Faustus! leave these frivolous demands,
Which strike a terror to my fainting soul.