Scene 12

[Enter Faustus with two or three Scholars and Mephistophilis.]

Master Doctor Faustus, since our confer-
ence about fair ladies, which was the beautifullest in all
the world, we have determined with ourselves that Helen
of Greece was the admirablest lady that ever lived: there-
fore, Master Doctor, if you will do us that favour, as to let(5)
us see that peerless dame of Greece, whom all the world
admires for majesty, we should think ourselves much
beholding unto you.
Gentlemen, for that I know your friendship is unfeigned,(10)
And Faustus' custom is not to deny
The just requests of those that wish him well,
You shall behold that peerless dame of Greece,
No otherways for pomp and majesty
Than when Sir Paris crossed the seas with her,(15)
And brought the spoils to rich Dardania.
Be silent, then, for danger is in words.

[Music sounds, and Helen passeth over the stage.]

Too simple is my wit to tell her praise,
Whom all the world admires for majesty.
No marvel though the angry Greeks pursued (20)
With ten years' war the rape of such a queen,
Whose heavenly beauty passeth all compare.
Since we have seen the pride of Nature's works,(25)
And only paragon of excellence,
Let us depart; and for this glorious deed
Happy and blest be Faustus evermore.
Gentlemen, farewell—the same I wish to you.

[Exeunt Scholars. Enter an Old Man.]

Ah, Doctor Faustus, that I might prevail(30)
To guide thy steps unto the way of life,
By which sweet path thou may'st attain the goal
That shall conduct thee to celestial rest!
Break heart, drop blood, and mingle it with tears,
Tears falling from repentant heaviness(35)
Of thy most vile and loathsome filthiness,
The stench whereof corrupts the inward soul
With such flagitious crimes of heinous sins
As no commiseration may expel,
But mercy, Faustus, of thy Saviour sweet,(40)
Whose blood alone must wash away thy guilt.
Where art thou, Faustus? wretch, what hast thou done?
Damned art thou, Faustus, damned; despair and die!
Hell calls for right, and with a roaring voice(45)
Says “Faustus come! thine hour is almost come!”
And Faustus now will come to do the right.

[Mephistophilis gives him a dagger.]

Ah stay, good Faustus, stay thy desperate steps!
I see an angel hovers o'er thy head,(50)
And, with a vial full of precious grace,
Offers to pour the same into thy soul:
Then call for mercy, and avoid despair.
Ah, my sweet friend, I feel
Thy words do comfort my distressed soul.(55)
Leave me a while to ponder on my sins.
I go, sweet Faustus, but with heavy cheer,
Fearing the ruin of thy hopeless soul.

[Exit Old Man.]

Accursed Faustus, where is mercy now?
I do repent; and yet I do despair;(60)
Hell strives with grace for conquest in my breast:
What shall I do to shun the snares of death?
Thou traitor, Faustus, I arrest thy soul
For disobedience to my sovereign lord;
Revolt, or I'll in piecemeal tear thy flesh.(65)
Sweet Mephistophilis, entreat thy lord
To pardon my unjust presumption.
And with my blood again I will confirm
My former vow I made to Lucifer.
Do it then quickly, with unfeigned heart,(70)
Lest greater danger do attend thy drift.
Torment, sweet friend, that base and crooked age,
That durst dissuade me from thy Lucifer,
With greatest torments that our hell affords.(75)
His faith is great: I cannot touch his soul,
But what I may afflict his body with
I will attempt, which is but little worth.
One thing, good servant, let me crave of thee,
To glut the longing of my heart's desire,—(80)
That I might have unto my paramour
That heavenly Helen which I saw of late,
Whose sweet embracings may extinguish clean
These thoughts that do dissuade me from my vow,
And keep mine oath I made to Lucifer.(85)
Faustus, this or what else thou shalt desire
Shall be performed in twinkling of an eye.

[Enter Helen.]

Was this the face that launched a thousand ships,
And burnt the topless towers of Ilium?(90)
Sweet Helen, make me immortal with a kiss.
Her lips suck forth my soul; see, where it flies!—
Come, Helen, come, give me my soul again.
Here will I dwell, for Heaven is in these lips,
And all is dross that is not Helena.(95)
I will be Paris, and for love of thee,
Instead of Troy, shall Wertenberg be sacked:
And I will combat with weak Menelaus,
And wear thy colours on my plumed crest:
Yea, I will wound Achilles in the heel,(100)
And then return to Helen for a kiss.
Oh, thou art fairer than the evening air
Clad in the beauty of a thousand stars;
Brighter art thou than flaming Jupiter
When he appeared to hapless Semele:(105)
More lovely than the monarch of the sky
In wanton Arethusa's azured arms:
And none but thou shalt be my paramour.

[Exit Faustus and Helen. Enter the Old Man.]

Accursed Faustus, miserable man,
That from thy soul excludest the grace of Heaven,
And fly'st the throne of his tribunal seat!

[Enter devils]

Satan begins to sift me with his pride:
As in this furnace God shall try my faith,(5)
My faith, vile hell, shall triumph over thee.
Ambitious fiends! see how the heavens smile
At your repulse, and laugh your state to scorn!
Hence, hell! for hence I fly unto my God.

[Exeunt on one side Devils, on the other, the Old Man.]


  1. Notice that the Old Man calls Earth a "furnace," a descriptor generally reserved for Hell. To this pious man, Earth itself has been a Hell because he is so pure. Unlike Faustus, the Old Man was able to resist temptation and pride and will now be rewarded with Heaven. The Old Man acts as a foil that demonstrates Faustus's faults.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  2. Notice that Faustus references tragic, ill fated love stories to describe his relationship with this paramour. He twists these stories and conveys them falsely. This creates a melancholic tone to this speech to a lover: his relationship with Helen is just as false, empty, and tragic as the stories he tells.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  3. Arethusa is a nymph from Greek mythology. When Alpheus, the river god, saw her bathing naked, he became infatuated with her and began to pursue her all over the world. Arethusa, desiring to remain chaste, prayed to Artemis, the goddess of chastity, to save her. Artemis turned Arethusa into a stream to save her from the lecherous god. Notice again that Faustus gets this story wrong. He calls chaste Arethusa "wonton," suggesting that he does not know the story or he intentionally mistakes it.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  4. In Greek mythology, Semele was one of Zeus's lovers. When his jealous wife Hera discovered the affair she disguised herself and befriended Semele. Hera pretended not to believe Semele about her lover, and convinced the young mortal to doubt her beloved. When Semele demanded that Zeus reveal himself to her, he was bound to an oath forced to give her anything she desired. Semele burst into flames as mortals cannot stare upon the gods. Zeus rescued their unborn son Dionysus before he burned with his mother.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  5. Faustus gets this part of the story wrong as Paris never returns to Helen. He is killed in battle, and with his death Helen is either returned to Menelaus or in some accounts ascends to Olympus. This suggests that Faustus either does not know the story, which is unlikely, or that he is intentionally rewriting the story to fit his means.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  6. Achilles was a Greek hero and the central hero of Homer's The Iliad. He accomplished great military feats during the Trojan War, including killing Hector, Troy's greatest hero, in hand to hand combat. He was invulnerable because as a child his mother had dipped him in the River Styx, holding on to him only by his heel. It was this one weakness that led to Achilles's downfall. At the end of the Trojan war, Paris shot Achilles through the heel with an arrow and killed him.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  7. Notice again that Faustus is not looking for salvation, he is looking for immortality. Faustus's pact with the Devil can be interpreted as a fear of inevitable death, and his attempt to outsmart death.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  8. This is the most famous line from Doctor Faustus, and has been so widely quoted that it became a common expression to indicate beauty. The "face that launched a thousand ships" is the mythological Greek character, Helen of Troy. Her seduction and subsequent abduction by Paris, the Prince of Troy, from her husband, Menelaus the king of Sparta, caused the Trojan War and brought about the downfall of Troy.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  9. Ilium is another name for the city of Troy.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  10. Notice how Faustus twists language at the end of this scene. To "clean" his thoughts should be to repent his sins. However, he uses "clean" to signify his desire to purge all thoughts of repentance.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  11. Notice that Faustus is worried not about Hell but about death itself. He is not repenting for his sinful actions but wondering how he can escape death all together and continue living.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  12. "Heavy cheer" in this context means "heavy heart." This colloquial saying means to be weighed down with sadness. The Old Man reluctantly leaves because he knows that Faustus will not repent his sins.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  13. By this Faustus means kill himself. In the Christian tradition, suicide was considered blasphemous; whoever committed suicide was thought to go straight to Hell. Mephistophilis hands him a dagger so that he can end his life and fulfill his promise to Lucifer to suffer in Hell.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  14. At the end of the play, Faustus fully recognizes the damnation that he has been pretending to ignore since the beginning. Notice though that Faustus does not react to the Old Man's warning the way a typical Renaissance character would. The recognition of his damnation and inevitable death does not make him repent. This suggests that Faustus cannot repent; he is predestined to die damned.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  15. The Old Man is a memento mori, a Renaissance and Medieval literary trope, in which a ghost, skeleton, or person close to death would appear to remind the main character (and by extension the audience) of the need to repent in the face of inevitable death.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  16. The Old Man is Faustus's foil. While Faustus remains beautiful because of his magic pact with the Devil, his soul is black and rotten. The Old Man, on the other hand, has a hideous exterior but a soul so beautiful Mephistophilis himself cannot touch it. The Old Man demonstrates Faustus's accursed nature by being exactly opposite of him.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  17. Doctor Faustus exists in two very different Early Modern versions. The 1606 A Text, from which Owl Eyes took its material, and the 1616 B Text. The B Text is much longer and has been altered by other writers to comply with censorship standards and elaborate on some of the characters. The most markedly different scene in the B text, besides the added material that was not in the original, is Faustus's exchange with the Old Man. In the A Text, the Old Man's tone is severe and he acts as another sign of Faustus's damnation. In the B Text, the Old Man urges Faustus to repent and treats him with a sympathetic tone.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  18. This is the last act of conjuring that Faustus does in this play. Notice that once again Faustus acts in service of someone else rather than to advance his own desires, power, or wealth. He seems to be serving, but he is not serving God so it will not redeem his soul.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  19. Dardania is another name for Troy. Faustus responds by briefly outlining the story of Helen of Troy and her lover Paris in order to remind the audience who the play is talking about. This is a rhetorical advice that would have made the play more inclusive, and therefore more popular, to the lower class members of Marlowe's audience.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  20. Helen of Greece, also known as Helen of Troy or Helen of Sparta, was considered the most beautiful woman in all of the world in Greek mythology. She was the daughter of Zeus and a mortal and the wife of Menelaus, the King of Sparta. Paris, the Prince of Troy, seduced and then abducted Helen and caused the Trojan War.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff