Faustus, a brilliant scholar, sells his soul to the devil in exchange for limitless knowledge and powerful black magic, yet remains unfulfilled. He considers repenting, but remains too proud to ask God for forgiveness. His indecision untimately seals his fate.
Faustus’ story serves as a warning to those who would sacrifice righteous living for earthly gain. But Marlowe’s play is also a deeply symbolic analysis of the shift from the last medieval view that the highest wisdom lay in the theologian’s contemplation of God was yielding to the Renaissance view that the highest wisdom lay in the scientist’s and statesman’s rational analysis of the world around them. Caught between these ideals, Faustus is both a tragic fool destroyed by his own ambition and a hero at the forefront of a changing society. In “Doctor Faustus,” Marlowe thoughtfully examines faith and enlightenment, nature and science–and the terrible cost of the objects of our desire.
This new edition of Marlow’s classic includes a revised Introduction, a history of the play on stage, and an updated bibliography by the editor, Sylvan Barnet of Tufts University. Also included are generous selections from the historic source of “Doctor Faustus” and illuminating commentaries by Richard B. Sewall, G.K. Hunter, David Bevington and Eric Rasmussen, and John Russell Brown.