David Bruce: Christopher Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus: Retelling of the 1604 A-Text — Act 4 (Scenes. 10-11)


— Chorus —

[Chorus 3]

The Chorus arrived and said to you, the readers, “When Faustus had with pleasure taken the view of the most splendid things and the royal courts of kings, he ceased his journey, and so returned home, where such as had borne his absence only with grief, I mean his friends and closest companions, expressed joy at his safety with kind words, and in their conversation about what happened during his journey through the world and air, they put forth questions about astronomy that Faustus answered with such learned skill that they admired and wondered at his knowledge.

“Now his fame has spread forth in every land. Among these lands is the land of the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, at whose palace now Faustus is feasted among the Emperor’s noblemen.

“What he did there, in trial of his art, I leave untold; your eyes shall read what happened.”

— 4.1 —

[Scene 10]

The Emperor and Faustus talked together with a knight and attendants near them. Mephastophilis, who was invisible, was present.

“Master Doctor Faustus,” the Emperor said, “I have heard strange reports of your knowledge in the black art and how none in my empire nor in the whole world can compare with you for the rare effects of magic. They say that you have a familiar spirit by whom you can accomplish whatever you wish.”

Witches were supposed to have a supernatural spirit — a familiar — that would serve them. Faustus’ familiar spirit, of course, was Mephastophilis.

The Emperor continued, “This, therefore, is my request, that you will let me see some proof of your skill, so that my eyes may be witnesses to confirm what my ears have heard reported, and here I swear to you, by the honor of my imperial crown, that whatever you do, you shall be in no ways prejudiced against or injured.”

The knight said to himself about Faustus, “Indeed, he looks ‘much’ like a conjurer.”

The knight did not believe in sorcery, and so he was sarcastically saying that Faustus looked like a conman.

Although the knight was speaking quietly to himself, Faustus heard him.

“My gracious sovereign,” Faustus said, “although I must confess myself far inferior to the report men have published, and quite unequal to the honor of your imperial majesty, yet because love and duty bind me thereunto, I am content to do whatsoever your majesty shall command me.”

When Faustus had made a gift of deed of his soul to Lucifer, he believed that he would be Emperor of the World, and that Holy Roman Emperor Charles V would not live except with his permission, but now Faustus was servile to Charles V.

The Emperor said, “Then, Doctor Faustus, pay attention to what I shall say. As I was recently sitting solitary in my study, sundry thoughts arose about the honor of my ancestors, how they had won by prowess such exploits, got such riches, and subdued so many kingdoms. These accomplishments are such as we who do succeed, or they who shall hereafter possess our throne, shall — I am afraid — never attain to that degree of high renown and great authority.

“Among these kings is Alexander the Great, chief spectacle of the world’s pre-eminent men; the bright shining of his glorious acts lightens the world with his reflecting beams, such that when I hear even just a mention made of him, it grieves my soul that I never saw the man.

“If, therefore, you, by the cunning of your art, can raise this man from the hollow vaults below, where this famous conqueror lies entombed, and bring with him his beauteous paramour, both in their right shapes, gestures, and attire that they used to wear during their time of life, you shall both satisfy my just desire, and give me cause to praise you while I live.”

The Emperor wanted to see both Alexander the Great and his paramour, by whom he meant Roxana, one of Alexander’s wives.

Raising the dead was black magic, but the Emperor was careful to say that his desire to see Alexander the Great and his paramour was a “just desire.” The Emperor was willing to benefit from Faustus’ magic, but the Emperor did not want to risk losing his own soul.

Faustus replied, “My gracious lord, I am ready to accomplish your request, as far as by skill and power of my spirit I am able to perform it.”

The knight said to himself, “Indeed, you are able to perform nothing at all.”

Faustus continued, “But, if it pleases your grace, it is not in my ability to present before your eyes the true substantial bodies of those two deceased Princes, who long since have been consumed to dust.”

A “Prince” could be either a male or a female.

The knight said to himself, “Yes, indeed, Master Doctor, now there’s a sign of grace in you, when you will confess the truth.”

The knight was correct. By confessing his limitations, Faustus was doing the right thing. Even now, if Faustus were to sincerely repent his sins, God would forgive him for committing them.

Faustus continued, “But such spirits that can realistically resemble Alexander and his paramour shall appear before your grace in that manner that they both lived in, in their most flourishing estate. I don’t doubt that this shall sufficiently content your imperial majesty.”

“Go to, Master Doctor,” the Emperor said, “let me see them immediately.”

“Go to” was a mild expression of impatience. The Emperor was accustomed to being obeyed and being obeyed immediately.

“Do you hear, Master Doctor?” the knight said. “You bring Alexander and his paramour before the Emperor!”

The knight smirked, implying that Faustus had said that he could do this, but he was unable to do this.

“What, sir?” Faustus asked.

“Indeed, that’s as true as Diana turned me into a stag,” the knight said.

“No, sir, but when Actaeon died, he left the horns for you,” Faustus said.

Actaeon was an ancient hunter who accidentally saw the virgin goddess Diana bathing nude in a stream. She noticed him, and she punished him by turning him into a stag; he had the body of a male deer with horns, but he kept his human mind. His own dogs caught his scent and they ran him down and tore him to pieces.

Faustus was threatening to give the knight horns on his forehead. A common joke of the time was that unfaithful wives gave their husbands horns.

Faustus ordered, “Mephastophilis, be gone.”

Mephastophilis exited to recruit two spirits to impersonate Alexander the Great and Roxana.

The knight said, “If you go to conjuring, I’ll be gone.”

He exited.

Faustus said to the departing knight, “I’ll be even with you soon for interrupting me so.”

He then said to the Emperor, “Here they are, my gracious lord.”

Mephastophilis returned with spirits impersonating Alexander the Great and Roxana.

The Emperor said, “Master Doctor, I heard that this lady, while she lived, had a wart or mole on her neck. How shall I know whether it is so or not?”

“Your highness may boldly go and see,” Faustus replied.

The spirits stayed in character. Alexander the Great would have been too proud to allow the Emperor to inspect Roxana, and the spirits exited before the Emperor could see whether the spirit impersonating Roxana had a mole.

The Emperor, shocked at not having his wishes respected, said, “Surely, these are no spirits, but the true substantial bodies of those two deceased Princes.”

Faustus asked, “Will it please your highness now to send for the knight who was so insulting to me here recently?”

The Emperor ordered his attendants, “One of you call him forth.”

The attendant exited and immediately returned with the knight, who now had a pair of horns on his head.

The Emperor said, “How are you now, Sir Knight! Why, I had thought you had been a bachelor, but now I see you have a wife, who not only gives you horns, but makes you wear them. Feel your head.”

Knight Bachelor is the lowest order of knights.

The knight felt the horns and said to Faustus, “You damned wretch and execrable dog, bred in the hollow of some monstrous rock, how dare you thus abuse a gentleman? Villain, I say, undo what you have done!”

When Faustus had written a deed of gift of his soul to Lucifer, he had thought he would become Emperor of the World, but now this member of the lowest order of knights did not respect him.

“Oh, not so fast, sir!” Faustus said. “There’s no haste, but good sir, do you remember how you crossed me during my conversation with the Emperor? I think I have gotten even with you for it.”

“Good Master Doctor, at my entreaty release him,” the Emperor said. “He has done sufficient penance.”

The Emperor was now treating Faustus with more respect than he had previously.

“My gracious lord,” Faustus said, “not so much for the injury he offered me here in your presence, as to delight you with some mirth, has Faustus worthily requited this injurious knight. Since that is all I desire, I am content to release him from his horns.”

He then said, “And, Sir Knight, hereafter speak well of scholars.”

He then ordered, “Mephastophilis, transform him immediately.”

Mephastophilis removed the horns.

Faustus said to the Emperor, “Now, my good lord, having done my duty, I humbly take my leave.”

“Farewell, Master Doctor,” the Emperor said. “Yet, before you go, expect from me a bounteous reward.”

The Emperor, knight, and attendants exited.

Faustus said, “Now, Mephastophilis, the restless course that time runs with calm and silent foot, shortening my days and my thread of vital life, calls for the payment of my late years — the years I won’t live because I have bargained them away. Therefore, sweet Mephastophilis, let us make haste to Wittenberg.”

Faustus’ final twenty-four years of life were coming to an end.

Mephastophilis asked, “Will you go on horseback or on foot?”

“Until I’m past this fair and pleasant green, I’ll walk on foot,” Faustus replied.

A horse trader, aka horse-courser, arrived and said to himself, “I have been all this day seeking one Master Fustian.”

Fustian is a coarse kind of cloth used to make the kind of clothing the horse trader would wear. The word “fustian” also means bombastic language.

Horse traders had much the same kind of reputation that used-car dealers have: They will lie and cheat in order to make money.

The horse trader then said, “By the Mass, I see where he is!”

He said out loud, “May God save you, Master Doctor!”

Faustus said, “Oh, the horse trader! You are well met. It’s good to see you.”

“Listen, sir,” the horse trader said. “I have brought you forty dollars for your horse.”

“I cannot sell him for that price,” Faustus said. “If you like him enough to pay fifty dollars, take him.”

“Alas, sir, I have no more!” the horse trader said.

He then said to Mephastophilis, whom he thought to be Faustus’ servant, as in a way he was, “Please, speak up for me.”

Mephastophilis said to Faustus, “Please, let him have the horse. He is an honest fellow, and he has great expenses, and neither wife nor child.”

“Well, come, give me your money,” Faustus said.

The horse trader gave Faustus the money.

Faustus then said, “My boy will deliver him to you.”

By “my boy,” he meant his servant: Mephastophilis.

“But I must tell you one thing before you have him,” Faustus said. “Don’t ride him into the water, for any reason.”

“Why, sir, will he not drink of all waters?” the horse trader asked.

“Drink of all waters” means “go anywhere.”

“Oh, yes, he will drink of all waters,” Faustus replied, “but don’t ride him into the water. Ride him over hedge or ditch, or wherever you will, but not into the water.”

“I understand, sir,” the horse trader said.

He thought, Now I am a made man forever. I have made a very good deal. I’ll not leave my horse for forty dollars. If he had only the quality of hey-ding-ding, hey-ding-ding, I’d make a brave living out of him: He has a buttock as slick as an eel.

“Hey-ding-ding, hey-ding-ding” was a song refrain; often it referred to sex.

Apparently, the horse trader had bought a gelding, not a stallion, and he was thinking that if the horse were a stallion, he could make a lot of money using it as a stud. A slick buttock is a sign of potency.

The horse trader said, “Well, may God be with you, sir. Your boy will deliver it to me, but listen, sir; if my horse becomes sick or ill at ease, then if I bring his urine to you, you’ll tell me what’s wrong with it?”

“Go away, you villain!” Faustus said. “What do you think I am? A horse-doctor?”

The horse trader exited.

Faustus said, “What are you, Faustus, but a man condemned to die? Your time of death draws closer to its final end. Despair drives distrust into my thoughts. I will allay these strong emotions with a quiet sleep. Tush, Christ called the thief upon the Cross, so then rest yourself, Faustus, quiet in mind.”

Faustus was comforting himself with a Biblical story of a man who was saved from damnation at the end of his life: Jesus was crucified between two thieves, one of whom asked to be remembered when Jesus came into his kingdom. Luke 23:39-43 states (1599 Geneva Bible):

39 And one of the evildoers, which were hanged, railed on him, saying, If thou be that Christ, save thyself and us.

40 But the other answered, and rebuked him, saying, Fearest thou not God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation?

41 We are indeed righteously here: for we receive things worthy of that we have done: but this man hath done nothing amiss.

42 And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me, when thou comest into thy kingdom.

43 Then Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, today shalt thou be with me in Paradise.

Faustus fell asleep in a chair.

The horse trader returned, wet and crying.

“Damn! Damn!” he said. “Doctor Fustian, said he? By the Mass, Doctor Lopus was never such a doctor; Doctor Fustian has given me a purgation — he has purged me of forty dollars; I shall never see them anymore.”

Doctor Roderigo Lopez was executed after being convicted of plotting to poison Queen Elizabeth I. The horse trader had gotten the name wrong.

The horse trader continued, “But yet, like an ass as I was, I would not be ruled by him, for he told me I should ride the horse into no water, but because I thought my horse had some rare quality that Doctor Fustian would not have me know about, I, like a venturesome youth, rode him into the deep pond at the town’s end. I was no sooner in the middle of the pond, but my horse vanished away, and I sat upon a bundle of hay, never so near drowning in my life. But I’ll seek out my doctor, and have my forty dollars again, or I’ll make it the dearest horse!”

He was making a threat — he would make the horse very expensive for Faustus unless Faustus gave back his forty dollars.

The horse trader said to himself, “Oh, yonder is his snipper-snapper.”

A snipper-snapper is a presumptuous young fellow.

He then said out loud, “Do you hear? You, hey-pass — you, juggler. Where’s your master?”

A juggler is a trickster, aka a cheater.

“Why, sir, what do you want?” Mephastophilis said. “You cannot speak with him.”

“But I will speak with him,” the horse trader said.

“Why, he’s fast asleep. Come some other time.”

“I’ll speak with him now, or I’ll break his glass-windows — his eyeglasses — about his ears.”

“I tell you that he has not slept these past eight nights,” Mephastophilis said.

“Even if he has not slept these past eight weeks, I’ll still speak with him,” the horse trader said.

“Look,” Mephastophilis said, pointing, “there he is, fast asleep.”

“Yes, this is he,” the horse trader said.

He said loudly, “May God save you, Master Doctor, Master Doctor, Master Doctor Fustian! Forty dollars, forty dollars for a bundle of hay!”

“Why, you see that he doesn’t hear you,” Mephastophilis said.

“So-ho, ho! So-ho, ho!” the horse trader said loudly in Faustus’ ear. “Won’t you wake up? I’ll make you wake up before I go.”

He pulled Faustus by the leg, and Faustus’ leg came off in his hands.

He shouted, “Oh, no! I am ruined! What shall I do?”

He could be tried and convicted for maiming Faustus. The penalty would likely be death.

“Oh, my leg! My leg!” Faustus shouted. “Help, Mephastophilis! Call the police! My leg! My leg!”

Mephastophilis said to the horse trader, “Come, villain, you’re going to the constable.”

“Oh, Lord, sir, let me go,” the horse trader said, “and I’ll give you forty dollars more!”

“Where is the money?” Mephastophilis asked.

“I have none on me,” the horse trader said. “Come to my inn, and I’ll give it to you.”

The horse trader had lied to Faustus when he said that he had only forty dollars to pay for the horse.

“Leave quickly,” Mephastophilis said.

The horse trader ran away.

“Is he gone?” Faustus said. “Farewell to him! Faustus’ leg has magically already grown back, and the horse trader, I take it, has a bundle of hay for his labor. Well, this trick shall cost him forty dollars more.”

Before he had made his bargain with Mephastophilis to give his soul to Lucifer, Faustus had said about the spirits that would serve him, “I’ll have them fly to India for gold, ransack the ocean for oriental pearls ….”

Now, he was defrauding a horse trader for eighty dollars.

Wagner, Faustus’ servant, arrived.

“How are you now, Wagner?” Faustus asked. “What’s the news you bring?”

“Sir, the Duke of Vanholt earnestly requests your company.”

“The Duke of Vanholt!” Faustus said. “He is an honorable gentleman, to whom I must not be sparing with my magical conjuring. Come, Mephastophilis, let’s go to him.”

Previously, Faustus had entertained an Emperor; now, he was going to entertain a Duke.

— 4.2 —

[Scene 11]

The Duke of Vanholt, the Duchess of Vanholt, and Faustus talked together. They had been watching an entertainment. Mephastophilis was also present, but he was invisible to everyone except Faustus.

“Believe me, Master Doctor,” the Duke of Vanholt said. “This entertainment has much pleased me.”

“My gracious lord, I am glad it contents you so well,” Faustus replied.

He then said to the Duchess of Vanholt, who was visibly pregnant, “But it may be, madam, you take no delight in this. I have heard that great-bellied women long for some dainties or other. What is it you long for, madam? Tell me, and you shall have it.”

“Thanks, good Master Doctor,” she replied, “and because I see your courteous intention is to make me happy, I will not hide from you the thing my heart desires. If it were now summer, instead of being January and the dead time of the winter, I would desire no better food than a dish of ripe grapes.”

“Ah, madam, that’s nothing!” Faustus said.

He then ordered, “Mephastophilis, be gone.”

Mephastophilis exited.

“If you want a greater thing than ripe grapes, as long as it would make you happy, you will have it,” Faustus said to the Duchess of Vanholt.

Mephastophilis returned, holding ripe grapes.

“Here they are, madam,” Faustus said. “Will it please you to taste them?”

As his wife ate a few grapes, the Duke of Vanholt said, “Believe me, Master Doctor, this makes me wonder more than the rest of the things you have done: It is now the month of January — the dead time of winter — so how could you come by these grapes?”

“If it pleases your grace,” Faustus said, “the year is divided into two circles over the whole world, so that when it is here winter with us, in the contrary circle it is summer with them, as in India, Sheba, and farther countries in the east, and by means of a swift spirit that I have, I had them brought hither, as you see.

India and Sheba (now called Yemen) are in the northern hemisphere, but as usual Mephastophilis did not correct Faustus.

“How do you like the grapes, madam?” Faustus asked. “Are they good?”

“Believe me, Master Doctor,” the Duchess of Vanholt replied, “they are the best grapes that I have ever tasted in my life.”

“I am glad they content you so, madam,” Faustus said.

“Come, madam,” the Duke of Vanholt said, “let us go in, where you must well reward this learned man for the great kindness he has shown to you.”

“And so I will, my lord and husband, and as long as I live, I will remain beholden to him for this courtesy.”

“I humbly thank your grace,” Faustus said.

“Come, Master Doctor, follow us, and receive your reward,” the Duke of Vanholt said.

When he had made his bargain with Lucifer, Faustus had wanted to be the Emperor of the World. Now he was merely a court entertainer.

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