Chorus 1

[Enter Chorus (Wagner).]

Not marching now in fields of Thrasimene,
Where Mars did mate the Carthaginians;
Nor sporting in the dalliance of love,
In courts of kings where state is overturned;
Nor in the pomp of proud audacious deeds,(5)
Intends our Muse to vaunt her heavenly verse:
Only this, gentlemen,—we must perform
The form of Faustus' fortunes, good or bad:
To patient judgments we appeal our plaud,
And speak for Faustus in his infancy.(10)
Now is he born, his parents base of stock,
In Germany, within a town called Rhodes:
Of riper years, to Wertenberg he went,
Whereas his kinsmen chiefly brought him up.
So soon he profits in divinity,(15)
The fruitful plot of scholarism graced,
That shortly he was graced with doctor's name,
Excelling all whose sweet delight disputes
In heavenly matters of theology;
Till swollen with cunning, of a self-conceit,(20)
His waxen wings did mount above his reach,
And, melting, Heavens conspired his overthrow;
For, falling to a devilish exercise,
And glutted now with learning's golden gifts,
He surfeits upon cursed necromancy;(25)
Nothing so sweet as magic is to him,
Which he prefers before his chiefest bliss:
And this the man that in his study sits!

[Exit Wagner.]


  1. In Early Modern theater, a "Chorus" was a single actor reciting a prologue to the audience. The prologue either introduced the Act, the Scene, or the entire play. Sometimes the Chorus would return to deliver the play's Epilogue as well. This character is reminiscent of a chorus in Greek tragedy in which a group of actors would use song, dance, and recitation to comment on the main action of the play.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  2. "Necromancy" is black magic, witchcraft, or magic that comes from the Devil. The prologue outlines Faustus's origins as a gifted theological student who turned to black magic and devil worship when his knowledge became arrogance.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  3. By "divinity" Marlowe means "theology." Faustus studied religion in his university and received his doctorate.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  4. Wertenberg is the university where Martin Luther, an influential figure in the Protestant Reformation, was educated. In this allusion, Faustus is implicitly equated with radical theological thought.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  5. "Plaud" means applause. The characters and famous stories mentioned at the beginning of the prologue are now juxtaposed with "Faustus' fortunes," the subject of Marlowe's play. With this structure, Marlowe both elevates his story to the status of one of these "applause worthy" well-known stories, and distinguishes Faustus as different; his story is not an archetype or a trope, it's something new.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  6. Notice that the subject of these first lines is delayed until the sixth line. This is a literary device used to draw the audience into what the Chorus is saying—the audience is forced to wait for the conclusion of this sentence and thus forced to listen. Since the Chorus's purpose is to introduce the audience to the story, it is interesting that they first begins with a list of what the play is not about.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  7. In this context, "mate" means to join. Carthage, a once great empire in the Mediterranean, once rivaled the Roman Empire for power in the region. In 217 B.C. the Carthaginians and their leader Hannibal defeated the Romans in an epic battle at Lake Thrasimene.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff