Doctor Faustus – One of the most durable myths in Western culture, the story of Faust tells of a learned German doctor who sells his soul to the devil in exchange for knowledge and power. Early enactments of Faust’s damnation were often the raffish fare of clowns and low comedians. But the young Elizabethan playwright Christopher Marlowe (1564–1593) recognized in the story of Faust’s temptation and fall the elements of tragedy.
In his epic treatment of the Faust legend, Marlowe retains much of the rich phantasmagoria of its origins. There are florid visions of an enraged Lucifer, dueling angels, the Seven Deadly Sins, Faustus tormenting the Pope, and his summoning of the spirit of Alexander the Great. But the playwright created equally powerful scenes that invest the work with tragic dignity, among them the doomed man’s calling upon Christ to save him and his ultimate rejection of salvation for the embrace of Helen of Troy.
With immense poetic skill, and psychological insight that foreshadowed the later work of Shakespeare and the Jacobean playwrights, Marlowe created in Dr. Faustus one of the first true tragedies in English. Vividly dramatic, rich in poetic grandeur, this classic play remains a robust and lively exemplar of the glories of Elizabethan drama.
Book Review by John H.
Good, cheap copy of a classic.
Dr. Faustus is a great story of hubris, temptation, and regret. It has also been told in so many forms over the centuries that it has had a lasting artistic impact on Western culture, especially in literature and drama. That said, it is a story that everyone who loves books and theater should read.
You could find much thicker copies of this work with extensive interpretation, long forewords, and various other analytical and historical additions. Those may benefit you a great deal. Since college, I have often opted for the simplicity and low cost of Dover Thrift editions. They provide just enough additional notation to clarify issues with antiquated word usage and such, while not disttracting me with minutiae and preventing me from getting lost in the story. They may not be impressively bound in leather, but I buy books to read and learn, not to impress.