David Bruce: Christopher Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus: Retelling of the 1604 A-Text — Act 3 (Scenes 8-9)

CHAPTER 3 (1604 A-TEXT)                   

— Chorus —

[Chorus 2]

Wagner appeared and said, “Learned Faustus, to learn the secrets of astronomy engraved in the book of Jove’s high firmament, did himself mount to scale Olympus’ top. Being seated in a chariot burning bright, drawn by the strength of yoked dragons’ necks, he now has gone to put to the test cosmography and see whether the maps of the cosmos are correct, and as I guess, he will first arrive in Rome, to see the Pope and the manner of his court, and to take part in holy Peter’s feast, that to this day is highly celebrated.”

— 3.1 —

[Scene 8]

Faustus said, “We have now, my good Mephastophilis, passed with delight the stately town of Trier, which is surrounded with airy mountain-tops, with walls of flint, and with deep-entrenched lakes, and which is not to be won by any conquering Prince.

“From Paris next, exploring the realm of France, we saw the river Maine fall into the river Rhine, whose banks are set with groves of fruitful vines.

“Then we went up to Naples and rich Campania. The buildings of Naples are fair and gorgeous to the eye, the streets are straight and paved with finest brick, and the town is quartered into four similarly sized sections. There we saw the golden tomb of the learned Publius Virgilius Maro, author of the Aeneid, and we saw the passage he cut, an English mile in length, through a huge mass of stone, in one night’s space, with the use of magic.

“From thence we went to Venice, Padua, and the rest, in one of which a sumptuous temple stands that threatens the stars with her aspiring top.

“Thus hitherto has Faustus spent his time. But tell me now what resting place is this? Have you, as earlier I commanded you, conducted me within the walls of Rome?”

“Faustus, I have,” Mephastophilis said, “and so that we will not be unprovided, I have taken up his Holiness’ personal chamber for our use.”

“I hope his Holiness will bid us welcome,” Faustus said.

“Tut, that doesn’t matter, man,” Mephastophilis said. “We’ll be bold with his good cheer. We’ll enjoy his hospitality whether or not he wants us to.

“And now, my Faustus, so that you may perceive what Rome contains to delight you with, know that this city stands upon seven hills that provide support for the groundwork of the same. Just through the midst runs flowing Tiber River’s stream with winding banks that cut it in two parts, over which four stately bridges lean that give safe passage to each part of Rome.

“On the bridge called Ponte Angelo is erected a surpassingly strong castle, within whose walls such store of ordnance are, and large-caliber cannon framed of carved brass, as match the days within one complete year — it has 365 cannon. In addition, it has gates, and it has a high obelisk that Julius Caesar brought from Africa.”

The Sistine Chapel was not among the delights of Rome that Mephastophilis enumerated.

“Now, by the kingdoms of infernal rule, of Styx, of Acheron, and the fiery lake of ever-burning Phlegethon,” Faustus said, “I swear that I long to see the monuments and layout of brightly resplendent Rome.”

Souls cross the Styx River to reach the Land of the Dead. The Acheron River is the river of woe in the Land of the Dead. The Phlegethon, which is often described as a river, is made of liquid fire.

Faustus said, “Come, therefore — let’s go.”

“No, Faustus, stay,” Mephastophilis said. “I know you’d like to see the Pope and take some part of and in holy Peter’s feast, where you shall see a troop of bald-pate — bald-headed — friars, whose summum bonum is in belly-cheer.”

Saint Peter’s feast day is June 29.

God is the Highest Good — the Summum Bonum. According to Mephastophilis, however, the highest good of these monks is a full belly.

“Well, I’m content to contrive then some entertainment, and by their folly make us merriment,” Faustus said. “So then, charm me, so that I may be invisible, to do whatever I please, unseen by anyone while I stay in Rome.”

Mephastophilis, who was invisible to everyone except Faustus and anyone else either he or Mephastophilis wanted to see him (of course, God could see him), cast a spell that made Faustus invisible, and then he said, “So, Faustus, now do whatever you will, you shall not be discerned.”

A trumpet announced the arrival of important people. The Pope and the Cardinal of Lorraine arrived to partake of the banquet. Many friars were with them.

The Pope asked, “My lord of Lorraine, will it please you to draw near me?”

The invisible Faustus said, “Fall to, and may the devil choke you, if you don’t eat your fill!”

The Pope said, “What is this? Who’s that who spoke? Friars, look around and find him.”

“Here’s nobody, if it pleases your Holiness,” the first friar said.

The Pope picked up a dish of food and said to the Cardinal of Lorraine, “My lord, here is a dainty dish that was sent to me by the Bishop of Milan.”

The invisible Faustus snatched away the dish as he said, “I thank you, sir.”

“What is this?” the Pope asked. “Who’s that who snatched the food from me? Will no man look?”

He picked up another dish of food and said to the Cardinal of Lorraine, “My lord, this dish was sent to me from the Cardinal of Florence.”

“You say the truth,” the invisible Faustus said. “I’ll take that.”

He snatched away the dish of food.

“What, again!” the Pope said. “My lord, I’ll drink to your grace.”

The invisible Faustus said as he snatched away the cup of wine, “I’ll pledge your grace.”

“My lord,” the Cardinal of Lorraine said, “it may be some ghost, newly crept out of Purgatory, come to beg a pardon of your Holiness.”

“It may be so,” the Pope said.

He then ordered, “Friars, prepare a dirge to lay the fury of this ghost to rest.”

A dirge is a requiem mass — a mass for the repose of the souls of the dead.

The Pope then said to the Cardinal of Lorraine, “Once again, my lord, fall to.”

The Pope crossed himself.

“Are you crossing yourself?” the invisible Faustus said. “Well, do that trick no more, I would advise you.”

The Pope crossed himself again.

“Well, there’s the second time,” the invisible Faustus said. “Beware the third; I give you fair warning.”

The Pope crossed himself again, the invisible Faustus hit him on his ear, and the Pope, Cardinal, and friars all ran away.

“Come on, Mephastophilis,” the invisible Faustus said. “What shall we do?”

“I don’t know,” Mephastophilis said. “We shall be cursed with bell, book, and candle.”

At the end of the ritual of excommunication, the bell is rung, the Bible is closed, and the candle is snuffed out.

“What!” the invisible Faustus said. “Bell, book, and candle — candle, book, and bell — forward and backward, to curse Faustus to Hell!

“Soon you shall hear a hog grunt, a calf bleat, and an ass bray because it is Saint Peter’s holiday.”

Apparently, Faustus was comparing the sounds of the ritual of an excommunication performed on Saint Peter’s Feast Day to the sounds of a hog, a calf, and an ass.

All of the friars returned. Previously, the Pope had instructed them to sing a dirge, which is sung for the repose of souls, but apparently the Pope was very angry at the invisible Faustus because the friars sang a curse instead of a dirge.

The Pope had wanted to be merciful to Faustus, but Faustus’ actions had convinced the Pope to be not merciful.

“Come, brethren,” the first friar said. “Let’s go about our business with good devotion.”

They sang:

Cursed be he who stole away his Holiness’ food from the table!

Maledicat Dominus!

Cursed be he who struck his Holiness a blow on the face!

Maledicat Dominus!

Cursed be he who struck Friar Sandelo a blow on the pate!

Maledicat Dominus!

Cursed be he who disturbs our holy ‘dirge’!

The invisible Faustus was interfering with the friars’ singing.

The friars continued singing:

Maledicat Dominus!

Cursed be he who took away his Holiness’ wine!

Maledicat Dominus!

Et omnes Sancti! Amen!

Maledicat Dominus” means “May the Lord curse him!”

Et omnes Sancti!” means “May all the saints also [curse him]!”

Mephastophilis and the invisible Faustus beat the friars and flung firecrackers among them, and the friars all ran away.

— 3.2 —

[Scene 9]

Robin and Rafe talked together. Robin had a silver goblet that he had stolen from the innkeeper at whose inn they were staying. Since Robin had stolen Faustus’ conjuring book, they had come up (in a material sense) in the world.

Robin said, “Come, Rafe, didn’t I tell you, we were forever made — permanent successes — by using this Doctor Faustus’ book?”

He pointed to the silver goblet and said, “Ecce, signum!

The Latin means, “Behold, the sign!” Or: “Here’s the evidence!”

Robin continued, “Here’s a good haul for horse-keepers: Our horses shall eat no hay as long as this lasts.”

Robin meant that their horses would eat well; however, horses are supposed to eat hay. Eating too much grain can be harmful for horses; it can give them colic. Good horse-keepers feed horses grain in small amounts.

“But, Robin, here comes the vintner,” Rafe said.

A vintner is an innkeeper who sells wine.

“Hush!” Robin said. “I’ll cheat him supernaturally.”

The vintner walked over to them.

Robin said, “Drawer, I hope all is paid. May God be with you!”

A drawer was a bartender.

Robin then said, “Come, Rafe.”

They attempted to leave.

“Wait, sir,” the vintner said. “I must have a word with you. I must yet have a goblet paid for from you, before you go.”

“I, a goblet, Rafe! I, a goblet!” Robin said.

Then he said to the vintner, “I scorn you, and you are but an etc. I, a goblet! Search me.”

“I mean to do so, sir, with your pardon,” the vintner said.

Robin managed to secretly pass the goblet to Rafe, and then the vintner searched him.

“What do you say now?” Robin asked the vintner.

“I must say something to your friend,” the vintner said.

He then said to Rafe, “You, sir!”

“Me, sir!” Rafe said. “Me, sir! Search your fill.”

Rafe managed to secretly pass the goblet to Robin, and then the vintner searched him.

Rafe said to the vintner, “Now, sir, you may be ashamed to burden honest men with a matter of truth.”

“Well, one of you has this goblet about you,” the vintner said.

Robin thought, You lie, drawer; it is before me.

He had hidden the goblet under the front of his jacket.

He then said to the vintner, “Sirrah, you, I’ll teach you to accuse honest men.”

He said to Rafe, “Stand back.”

He said to the vintner, “I’ll scour you for a goblet.”

He said to Rafe, “You had best stand back a little.”

He conjured, “I charge you in the name of Belzebub.”

He managed to secretly pass the goblet to Rafe and whispered, “Look after the goblet, Rafe.”

“What do you mean, sirrah?” the vintner asked Robin.

“I’ll tell you what I mean,” Robin said.

He read out loud from Faustus’ conjuring book, “Sanctobulorum Periphrasticon.”

Apparently, he was mispronouncing the unfamiliar words both here and elsewhere, but the Latin “periphrasis” means “a roundabout way of speaking.”

Robin said, “I’ll tickle you, vintner. Yes, I’ll beat you.”

He whispered, “Look after the goblet, Rafe.”

He read out loud from Faustus’ conjuring book, “Polypragmos Belseborams framanto pacostiphos tostu,Mephastophilis, etc.”

The Greek “polypragmon” means “busybody.”

Invisible, Mephastophilis entered and placed firecrackers on their backs, and then he exited. As the firecrackers went off, Robin, Rafe, and the vintner jumped.

The vintner said, “Oh, nomine Domine!

He meant, “Oh, nomine Domini!” — “In the name of God!”

The vintner said, “What do you mean by this, Robin? You have no goblet.”

He was willing to give up the goblet because he was afraid.

Also frightened, Rafe said, “Peccatum peccatorum! Here’s your goblet, good vintner.”

Peccatum peccalorum!” means “sin of sins!”

He gave the goblet to the vintner, who left.

Robin said to Mephastophilis, “Misericordia pro nobis!

He meant, “Miserere nobis!” This means, “Have mercy on us!”

He added, “What shall I do? Good devil, forgive me now, and I’ll never rob your library anymore.”

Who else but a devil would frighten them so?

Mephastophilis, now visible, returned and said, “Monarch of Hell, under whose black survey great potentates kneel with awed fear, upon whose altars a thousand souls lie, how I am vexed with these villains’ charms! From Constantinople have I come hither only for the pleasure of these damned slaves.”

Mephastophilis and Faustus had been doing much more traveling, but Mephastophilis had come in response to Robin’s summons. As usual, he hoped to get a soul, but Mephastophilis was an important demon and Robin’s soul was not worth his time. Faustus, on the other hand, had — or used to have — great potential to do good, and gaining Faustus’ soul was worth twenty-four years of servitude.

“What!” Robin said. “From Constantinople! You have had a great journey! Will you take sixpence in your wallet to pay for your supper, and be gone?”

Mephastophilis replied, “Well, villains, for your presumption, I will transform you into an ape, and you into a dog, and so be gone!”

“What!” Robin said. “Transform me into an ape! That’s splendid. I’ll have fine entertainment with the boys. I’ll get plenty of nuts and apples.”

“And I must be a dog,” Rafe said.

Robin said, “Indeed, your head will never be out of the porridge-pot.”

Dogs are known for sneaking people’s food.

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