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Doctor Faustus
Christopher Marlowe




_____ 1. Faustus sells his soul to the devil primarily for

    A. immortality
    B. limitless knowledge
    C. Helen of Troy
_____ 2. The Vatican banquet is an example of
    A. Faustus' great appetite
    B. Marlowe's atheism
    C. satire on the Catholic Church
_____ 3. One thing Faustus does not request of Mephistophilis is
    A. a golden crown
    B. a wife
    C. information about the stars
_____ 4. When Faustus dies, the scholars of Wittenberg
    A. deny him Christian burial
    B. foreswear (give up) the practice of magic
    C. plan a stately funeral
_____ 5. Robin the clown agrees to serve Wagner because he
    A. needs money
    B. is frightened into it by demons
    C. wants to learn about magic
_____ 6. Faustus' contract with the devil specifies that Faustus will
    I. visit the heavens
    II. have Mephistophilis to serve him
    III. take on the attributes of a demon
    A. I and II only
    B. I and III only
    C. II and III only
_____ 7. "Then be thou as great as Lucifer" is an example of
    I. blank verse
    II. poetic imagery
    III. irony
    A. I and II only
    B. I and III only
    C. II and III only
_____ 8. Lucifer calls for the parade of the Seven Deadly Sins in order to
    I. reward Faustus for his surrender
    II. divert Faustus' thoughts
    III. show Faustus his future in hell
    A. I and II only
    B. I and III only
    C. II and III only
_____ 9. "Was this the _____ that launched a thousand _____"
    A. woman... heroes
    B. face... ships
    C. angel... warriors
_____ 10. The proverb that best applies to Faustus is
    A. pride goeth before a fall
    B. a little learning is a dangerous thing
    C. eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die

11. Is Mephistophilis Faustus' friend or his deadly enemy?

12. Why doesn't Faustus repent?

13. What role do diversions play in Doctor Faustus?

14. How does magic affect the comic characters, Wagner and Robin?

15. What does the Chorus think of Faustus?


_____ 1. In Doctor Faustus, hell is not described as

    A. a burning pit
    B. psychological pain
    C. an old wives' tale
_____ 2. Faustus is tempted to take up magic mostly by
    A. Valdes and Cornelius
    B. the Evil Angel
    C. himself
_____ 3. During the final hours of his life Faustus tries to
    A. make his peace with God
    B. stop the clock from striking midnight
    C. hide from the devils who will come for him
_____ 4. The setting for Doctor Faustus can best be described as
    A. Germanic
    B. collegiate
    C. cosmic
_____ 5. Faustus' next-to-last words are
    A. "I confound hell with Elysium"
    B. "I'll burn my books"
    C. "Make me immortal with a kiss"
_____ 6. The episode with the horse-courser can be called
    I. a bad joke
    II. a diversion
    III. highway robbery
    A. I and II only
    B. II and III only
    C. I, II, and III
_____ 7. "What will be, shall be" is Faustus' argument for
    I. disregarding the Bible
    II. taking up magic
    III. becoming the lover of Helen of Troy
    A. I and II only
    B. II and III only
    C. I, II, and III
_____ 8. Faustus leaves Wagner his money because
    I. Faustus is a lonely man
    II. Wagner has been loyal
    III. the scholars have proved to be fair-weather friends
    A. I and II only
    B. II and III only
    C. I, II, and III
_____ 9. The emperor wants to see if Thais has a mole because
    A. he doesn't believe in perfect beauty
    B. the mole is hereditary, and Thais is his ancestor
    C. he wants to make sure Thais is real
_____ 10. One of Faustus' saving graces is
    A. responsiveness to beauty
    B. a sense of humor
    C. manly fortitude

11. What is the definition of hell in this play?

12. Faustus dreams that magic will bring him limitless power. To what extent do his dreams come true?

13. How do the Old Man and Helen function as dramatic opposites in Act V?

14. Is Faustus a Renaissance or medieval hero? Justify your response.

15. Find three examples of hyperbole (exaggeration), and discuss Marlowe's specific techniques.


  1. B
  2. C
  3. A
  4. C
  5. . B
  6. . C
  7. . B
  8. A
  9. B
  10. A

11. If you take the position that Mephistophilis is Faustus' friend, you'll want to prove that Mephistophilis cares for Faustus and would spare him hell's torments, if he could. You'll find your best ammunition in the third scene of the play. Point out that, here, Mephistophilis specifically warns Faustus against any involvement with hell. He is honest and moving in his description of the suffering that awaits Faustus. It is the arrogant Faustus who ignores the spirit's danger signal.

When you deal with Mephistophilis in the later scenes- the Mephistophilis who holds Faustus firmly to his agreement- be sure to mention that the spirit isn't free. He is Lucifer's servant and must obey his master's orders, however distasteful he finds them.

If you decide that Mephistophilis is Faustus' enemy, you will argue that the spirit is eager for Faustus' damnation and plans for it all along. In this interpretation, Mephistophilis' "friendly" warning in Scene III is just a trick to get Faustus to trust him. And once he has that trust, the spirit lies shamelessly to Faustus. Mephistophilis cons Faustus into signing the contract with hell under the totally false promise that Faustus will be "as great as Lucifer." After Faustus has signed the contract, the spirit holds him to it relentlessly. Mephistophilis bars Faustus' way to repentance with daggers and threats of torture. If you are reading the 1616 text, you can clinch your argument with the spirit's jeering speech in Act V, Scene II, where he rejoices in Faustus' fate and boasts that he has brought it about single-handedly.

12. There are two ways to attack this question. You can argue that Faustus doesn't really want to repent. His failure to do so stems from a lack of motivation. Or you can argue that Faustus wants repentance, but isn't permitted it. All the forces of hell stand between Faustus and God.

If you believe that Faustus is insincere in his talk of repentance, you can marshall the following evidence: (1) Faustus is a skeptic. He can't turn to God with any real feeling because he doesn't believe in God. (2) Faustus is too easily distracted from thoughts of repentance in order for his contrition to be genuine. Just mention wealth to Faustus (II, i) or show him a beautiful woman (V, i), and he forgets all about God. (3) Faustus is too proud and too sensual a man to repent. He's just not the type to lead a penitent's life of humility and self-denial.

If you believe that Faustus is sincere about repentance, then you'll have to prove that he's trapped in sin by forces beyond his control. You can mention (1) Lucifer's dramatic appearance (II, ii) when Faustus is on his knees, calling to Christ. It would take a martyr to stand up to the fury of the monarch of hell, and Faustus is no martyr. (2) The Evil Angel's all-too-cogent argument. Marlowe seems to have stacked the deck by giving the Evil Angel the persuasive words and the Good Angel the weaker arguments. (3) Mephistophilis' threats of torture, when the Old Man has all but converted Faustus. Poor Faustus doesn't have the courage to face being torn apart. But then, who does?

13. Diversions are hell's way of keeping Faustus' mind occupied, so that he doesn't think about death and damnation. You should choose at least three examples of diversion in the play and explain what purpose each one serves. For example, you might discuss (1) Mephistophilis' ad-lib show in Act II Scene I, which distracts Faustus' attention from the warning inscription on his arm and gets the scholar to hand over the contract. (2) Lucifer's pageant of the Seven Deadly Sins in Act II, Scene II, which captures Faustus' interest after his abortive attempt at repentance and makes him wonder what other marvels hell has in store. (3) The trick Faustus plays on the horse-courser in Act IV, Scene V, which takes the magician's mind off thoughts of his approaching death. Faustus, well trained in the ways of hell, provides this diversion for himself.

There are many other examples from which to choose. You might discuss the elaborate feasts Faustus holds for the scholars of Wittenberg (V, i); the journey to Rome (III, i); and the most wonderful diversion of all, Helen of Troy.

14. To answer this question, you'll need to focus only on two or three scenes in the play.

In Act I, Scene IV, Wagner has learned how to conjure. Being Faustus' servant is not good enough for him any more. Wagner now wants a servant of his own. Heady with the sense of his new powers, Wagner summons two devils to impress the clown, Robin, into his service.

By Act II, Scene III, Robin has caught on to the idea. He has stolen one of Faustus' conjuring books and plans to learn magic, so that he can tell his master off and live on the devil's hand-outs.

For both these lower-class characters, magic means new ambitions, aspirations above their station in life. You might want to mention that Robin's swelled head gets him into trouble. The clown manages to summon Mephistophilis, who turns him into an ape.

15. To answer this question, you will have to analyze carefully the Chorus' language in his four appearances. (See the beginning of Acts I, III, IV, and the end of Act V.) You may decide that the Chorus has ambivalent feelings toward Faustus- that he admires Faustus' achievement but deplores his godless beliefs. Or you may feel that the Chorus changes his mind about Faustus over the course of the play. In your essay, be sure to discuss the Icarus image and that of the burnt laurel bough.


  1. B
  2. C
  3. B
  4. C
  5. B
  6. C
  7. A
  8. A
  9. C
  10. A

11. This is a tricky question because Marlowe makes use of three different concepts of hell. (1) Though Faustus avails himself of hell's services, at times he denies the existence of hell. In Act II, Faustus calls hell "a fable" and claims that there is no hell at all. (2) Mephistophilis, an apparent expert on the subject, describes hell as a real, if unlocalized place. The spirit says hell is where the damned dwell, forever banished from the light of God. (3) Faustus is sent to a hell which is a very tangible pit of fire. This is the hell suggested by the setting of Doctor Faustus, where a smoking trapdoor is a constant reminder of flame just below the stage.

There is perhaps a fourth definition of hell implied in the play. Hell exists, but it is here and now. Hell is the human condition. It is life itself because in life we are subjected to the frustration of our dreams and to the terrors of death and old age.

Do you find one definition of hell more convincing than the others? If so, develop this in your essay and explain your choice.

12. Most readers of the play sense a large gap between Faustus' original hopes for magic and the realization of those hopes. The inspiration is grand, the price is terrible, and the stage business verges on the ludicrous.

If you agree with this interpretation, you can prove your case by comparing Faustus' glowing dreams in Act I with his trivial magic tricks in Acts III and IV. Faustus envisions fabulous riches, but ends up robbing a working man of his coins. Faustus dreams of power over Nature, dominion over the winds and the clouds. Yet all he has to show for it is a bunch of out-of-season grapes. Curiously, Faustus seems smugly pleased with himself as he pulls off these silly stunts. Somewhere along the line, the dreamer has vanished and the showman in Faustus has taken over.

You will find it a little more difficult to argue that Faustus realizes his dreams and becomes a great wizard after all. But you can do it. You will want to point out the limits of Elizabethan stagecraft and mention that Elizabethan audiences took the word for the deed. In their eyes, a bunch of grapes stood for all of Nature, as a pot stood for a kitchen or a bush for the Forest of Arden.

You should also mention that the Holy Roman Emperor, a sophisticated ruler, is left speechless when Faustus summons the ghost of Alexander the Great. And you will point to Faustus' truly impressive feats of magic in the play- his trek among the stars, described by the Chorus in Act II, and his raising of the most exquisite of Homeric shades.

13. In the last act of the play, the Old Man and Helen are two rival contenders for Faustus' soul. Of the two characters, the Old Man is undoubtedly real. His gray hair and wrinkles are the harsh results of life. Helen, on the other hand, is eternally young and beautiful. Thousands of years after the Trojan War, she is as radiant as she was on the day Paris stole her from her husband's side. But Helen is a shade, a ghost, an airy thing not made of flesh and blood.

Point out in your essay that the Old Man is a spokesman for faith. In the entire play, he's the only human being who believes profoundly in God. The Old Man fervently pleads with Faustus to turn from magic and its illusory delights. By precept and example, he tries to persuade Faustus to accept heaven's grace.

Helen does not open her mouth. Nonetheless, she's an effective spokesman for worldly pleasure. With her exquisite beauty, Helen is a walking argument for love.

In your essay, you will have to take a position for or against Helen's authenticity. If you think Helen is the real Helen, then talk about her as Nature's supreme creation- this world's answer to the next. If you think Helen is a demon spirit, then describe her as a sort of watch dog for hell, brought on by Mephistophilis to guard Faustus' soul against the Old Man's persuasions.

14. This is a difficult question, and one you can't answer by reading Doctor Faustus alone. You will have to draw on your knowledge of Shakespearean drama. You should also get a copy of Everyman, so that you will have some first-hand information about medieval morality plays. (You will find Everyman in many anthologies, like the Norton Anthology of English Literature.)

The question is included in this guide because it's a popular essay, and one you should be prepared to answer if you're studying Doctor Faustus in a college-level drama course.

To argue that Faustus is a Renaissance hero, you'll want to point out that, unlike Everyman, he is very much an individual. Faustus has a well-documented background, a hometown, and an Alma Mater. In this, Faustus resembles Hamlet, for example, whose upbringing in the Danish court and whose scholarly pursuits are germane to Shakespeare's play. Faustus also has distinctly Renaissance aspirations. He wants to take advantage of the possibilities of knowledge and sensations that were just opening up in the sixteenth century. The emerging sciences fascinate Faustus. And his yen for New World fruits reflects his interest in the recent voyages of discovery.

To argue that Faustus is a medieval hero, you will want to talk about the many holdovers in Marlowe's drama from the medieval morality plays. Faustus lives in a world of angels and demons, supernatural beings who belong to the medieval stage. Like a medieval hero, Faustus has direct dealings with heaven and hell. (God is a character in Everyman, but divine intervention vanishes entirely from the English Renaissance stage.) Finally, Faustus pays a medieval hero's penalty for his sin. Because of his overbearing ambition, Faustus is sent to an eternity of torment in hell. (Macbeth, for a similar transgression, suffers agonies of mind in the here and now.)

Still a third possibility is to portray Faustus as a man caught between two worlds. For help with this kind of answer, see the sections on Characters and Setting. -

15. The best examples of hyperbole can be found in Acts I and V. If you choose as one example the Helen of Troy speech, you would point out that the speech begins with a rhetorical question in which Faustus implies that the whole world would be well lost for Helen's love. The speech goes on to include highly poetic and exaggerated comparisons. ("O, thou art fairer than the evening air," etc.) In addition, it draws on Trojan War heroes to heighten Faustus' nobility. You might mention, however, that an undercurrent of irony in the speech works against the high notes of a lover's rapture. For more help on hyperbole, see the section on Style.

[Doctor Faustus Contents]


    1. Is Faustus a hero?
    2. What kind of relationship exists between Faustus and Mephistophilis?
    3. Why is Wagner Mephistophilis' heir?
    4. Does Faustus choose to be damned? Or is he forced into it by demons?
    5. What role do Valdes and Cornelius play in Doctor Faustus?
    6. Of all the things that Faustus desires, what does he desire most?
    7. How does Benvolio resemble Faustus?
    8. Write an entry in Wagner's diary, and date it from the last month of Faustus' life.
    9. Wagner tells Robin to follow in his footsteps. How does Robin carry out the order?
    10. Contrast the characters of the Pope and the Old Man.
    11. Why do the central relationships of Faustus' life involve spirits and shades, not human beings?
    1. What is the point of the Icarus image in the prologue?
    2. What examples of hyperbole (exaggeration) can you find in Faustus' speech to Helen of Troy?
    3. Why is there so much Latin in the play?
    4. How does Marlowe change the verse line to show frustration or uncertainty in Faustus?
    5. Find three examples of irony in Doctor Faustus and explain what purpose the irony serves.
    1. What do you learn about Faustus from his study?
    2. Why is the University of Wittenberg in a state of unease?
    3. What use does Marlowe make of the trapdoor on the Elizabethan stage?
    4. Compare the world of Doctor Faustus to a medieval painting.
    1. Would Marlowe agree with this statement: "A man's reach should exceed his grasp, or what's a heaven for?" (The quotation is from Robert Browning's "Andrea del Sarto.") Why?
    2. Does Doctor Faustus have a Christian moral? What is it?
    3. According to Marlowe, hell is _______________. Finish the sentence, and explain your answer.
    1. What do Marlowe and Faustus have in common? Is Doctor Faustus an autobiographical play?
    2. Faustus and Macbeth are two men of ambition. How are they alike? How are they different?
    3. Is Doctor Faustus a tragedy or a morality play? Explain.

THE STORY, continued

ECC [Doctor Faustus Contents] []

© Copyright 1985 by Barron's Educational Series, Inc.
Electronically Enhanced Text © Copyright 1993, World Library, Inc.
Further distribution without the written consent of, Inc. is prohibited.

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