Chorus 4, Scenes 12–14 Epilogue Summaries
Last Updated on September 23, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 898
The Chorus suggests that Doctor Faustus may be dying, since he has given Wagner his possessions. However, Wagner thinks that Faustus does not appear to be dying, since he drinks and feasts with his students so happily and frequently. Scene 12 begins as Wagner notes the end of such a feast, as well as Faustus’s approach.
Referring to a conversation held during supper, one of the Scholars Faustus is hosting asks him to conjure Helen of Troy. The group of Scholars believe she is likely the most beautiful woman who ever lived. Faustus obliges them, saying that he would never deny the requests of his friends, and he causes her to appear. The Scholars are delighted, praising and blessing Faustus.
As the Scholars leave, an Old Man enters and speaks to Faustus. He is concerned for Faustus’s soul and uses strong language, imploring him to rescind his affiliation with Lucifer and seek God’s forgiveness for his atrocious ways. This seems to have a great effect on Faustus, who admits to being loathsome and damned. Faustus considers committing suicide, and Mephistophilis hands him a dagger with which to do the deed, but the Old Man stops him, telling Faustus to repent instead and trust in Christ. This seems to comfort Faustus somewhat, but Mephistophilis interjects scornfully as soon as the Old Man is gone, demanding that Faustus recommit his soul to Lucifer by swearing another blood oath. Otherwise, he will personally and slowly rip Faustus’s body to shreds. Faustus does so and asks Mephistophilis to send devils after the Old Man who brought him so close to repentance. Mephistophilis replies that he cannot touch the soul of the Old Man, as he is clearly a man of true faith, but he will send devils to torment and kill him.
Faustus asks Mephistophilis to conjure Helen of Troy once again, this time to be Faustus’s own paramour. He hopes that a beautiful woman will provide him with some comfort, especially now as he feels his twenty-four years coming steadily to a close. Mephistophilis does as Faustus asks, and Faustus becomes enamored of Helen, speaking extensively of her beauty. He compares himself to Paris, the Trojan prince who kidnapped Helen in Homer’s Iliad.
The Old Man, watching Faustus, expresses pity for Faustus’s soul, which he believes to be beyond hope of restoration. Seeing devils approaching him, the Old Man realizes that he is about to feel their wrath, and he courageously reaffirms his faith in God. He is firm in the knowledge that these devils can only destroy his flesh, the outcome of which will be, for him, eternal heaven.
Time passes, and scene 13 takes place on Faustus’s last day before his twenty-four years are up. We see Faustus once again with his Scholars, who note that Faustus appears terribly ill, having spent too much time in solitude. They consider seeking medical help for him. Faustus appears to be seeing things (presumably Mephistophilis), and he repeats that he is damned when the Scholars tell him to seek God’s mercy. Faustus then admits to the Scholars that he sold his soul to Lucifer in exchange for his powers and that the time has come for Lucifer to collect his soul. Horrified, the Scholars ask why Faustus never told them of this, but Faustus explains that he is under Mephistophilis’s influence and cannot repent to God for fear of the punishment he will receive from the devils. Although the Scholars offer to stay with Faustus, he sends them to the next room to pray for him, telling them he will be taken to hell before morning.
As the Scholars leave, the clock strikes eleven. Faustus wishes ardently for more time and for the strength to repent, but he realizes now that he can neither appeal to Christ nor to Lucifer. He then wishes to be turned into some formless mist, so that not even Lucifer can take him.
The clock then strikes eleven-thirty, and Faustus’s anguish becomes more urgent. He attempts to bargain with God so that he can stay in hell only for a thousand—or a hundred thousand—years and then be saved. He expresses envy towards animals, whose souls he believes dissolve into the basic elements after death. He curses his parents and his own birth, curses himself, and curses Lucifer.
Finally, the clock strikes midnight. Thunder claps, and Faustus cries out to be turned to vapor or mere droplets in the ocean, where Lucifer cannot get him. He asks for God’s mercy.
As devils approach Faustus, about to drag him into hell, he utters his final pleas. He cries for more time, for hell not to take him. He offers to burn his books—the knowledge for which he sold his soul in the first place—and then Faustus speaks his final words: “Ah, Mephistophilis!”
In the Epilogue, the Chorus compares Faustus’s end to that of a stick cut away before it can grow straight or that of a crown of laurels (a reward for great feats) burned. The Chorus then tells the audience to consider Faustus’s story as a lesson. It is good to wonder at knowledge beyond the reach of humans, but fates such as Fastus’s follow when the pursuit of knowledge and greatness go against the will of God.