Places: Doctor Faustus

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

First published: 1604

First produced: c. 1588

Type of work: Drama

Type of plot: Tragedy

Time of work: Sixteenth century

Asterisk denotes entries on real places.

Places DiscussedFaustus’s study

Faustus’s Doctor Faustusstudy (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.

Sources for Further StudyBrooke, Nicholas. “The Moral Tragedy of Dr. Faustus.” Cambridge Journal 5 (1952): 663-687. Focuses on the moral choices presented to Faustus. Attempts to incorporate the comic subplots in a unified reading of Renaissance dualism, which would render the play an aesthetic whole and a dramatic success.Frye, Roland M. “Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus: The Repudiation of Humanity.” South Atlantic Quarterly 55 (1956): 322-328. Frye is one of the few critics to identify Faustus’s lust for power–not sensuality or curiosity–as his most central and defining sin.Greg, W. W. “The Damnation of Faustus.” Modern Language Review 41 (1946): 97-107. An early assertion that Helen of Troy and the other spirits evoked by Faustus are actually devils; Faustus’s damnation, therefore, is finally sealed by his outright demon worship. Greg also defends the play’s comic episodes, arguing that their triviality underscores the absurdity of evil.Kirschbaum, Leo. “Marlowe’s Faustus: A Reconsideration.” The Review of English Studies 19 (1943): 225-241. Kirschbaum focuses on Faustus’s sensuality, his habitual substitution of lower values for higher ones. Nonetheless, this critic insists that the possibility of repentance is open to Faustus from first to last.Kocher, Paul. Christopher Marlowe: A Study of His Thought, Learning, and Character. Reprint. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1974. Sees curiosity as Faustus’s primary drive–a curiosity that does not recognize or honor the limitations placed by God on human inquiry. Kocher denies (against the philosopher George Santayana) that Faustus ever truly repents. In addition, he denies (against many critics) that Faustus is in any sense predestined to fall.Levin, Harry. The Overreacher: A Study of Christopher Marlowe. 1952. Boston: Beacon Press, 1964. Examines the sources of the Faust legend and places them in the context of the fall of Lucifer from heaven. Examines the comic scenes to find in them a burlesque of the main plot.Lucking, David. “Carrying Tempest in His Hand and Voice: The Figure of the Magician in Jonson and Shakespeare.” English Studies 85 (August, 2004): 297-310. Explicates the influence of the theme of magic in Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus on such subsequent plays as Ben Jonson’s The Alchemist and William Shakespeare’s The Tempest.Mizener, Arthur. “The Tragedy of Marlowe’s Dr. Faustus.” College English 5 (1943): 70-75. Treats the ambivalence toward knowledge in the Renaissance evidenced in Faustus’ tragic progress in the play. Examines reason versus faith and allies necromancy with the dark side of the latter.Pettigrew, Todd H. J. “’Faustus . . . for Ever’: Marlowe, Bruno, and Infinity.” Comparative Critical Studies 2 (2005): 257-269. Argues that Faustus falls and persists in his damnation largely because, for all his learning, he fails to comprehend fully a punishment that will persist without temporal limits. In this way, he betrays a willed ignorance of the ideas of the Italian thinker Giordano Bruno, a contemporary of Marlowe.
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