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A brilliant scholar, Doctor Faustus sells his soul to the devil in exchange for limitless knowledge and powerful magic, yet remains unfulfilled. He considers repenting, but remains too proud to ask God for forgiveness. His pride ultimately seals his fate.


Marlowe

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Garfield Faustus

“A classic that never dies. . . ”

Faustus’s story serves as a warning to those who would sacrifice righteous living for earthly gain. But Marlowe’s play is also a deeply symbolic analysis of the shift from the late medieval world to the early modern world — a time when the medieval view that the highest wisdom lay in the theologian’s contemplation of God was yielding to the Renaissance view that the highest wisdom lay in the scientist’s and statesman’s rational analysis of the world around them. Caught between these ideals, Faustus is both a tragic fool destroyed by his own ambition and a hero at the forefront of a changing society. In Doctor Faustus, Marlowe thoughtfully examines faith and enlightenment, nature and science — and the terrible cost of the objects of our desire.

Works based on the Faust Legend literally number in the hundreds according to Wikipedia.


My Materials

Study Guide -- Scene-by-scene questions. To be done as students read the play. Kinda proud of these.

“Helen” Passage for annotation, explication, etc.

Faustus Overall -- Discussion Questions that focus on the play as a whole.

Citing Evidence -- Students are required to cite evidence (specific details and textual evidence onlhy) for five statements/extracts about the play. A sample Evidence Extract is also available for the statement, “Faustus is foolish.”

The Over-Reacher -- Focus on Marlowe’s use of hyperbole with a slight deconstructive bent. Harry Levin’s excellent The Over-Reacher, a critical biography of Marlowe, is worth hunting down.

Creative Writing -- a baker’s dozen.

Connections -- theme statements to provoke discussion.

Critical Analysis -- asks students to apply a definition of “tragedy” to Doctor Faustus.

Possible Theses -- best for a longer essay, written and revised mostly outside class.

Faustus Test -- Objective and short answer questions. Also a shorter short answer exam.

Ancillary Poems for Enrichment --


OriginalTeacher Resources

Audio of the Play -- Librivox offers a wonderful free version, act by act (1:43 total time). Also inlcudes links to various text versions.

Text of the Play -- Assignments here are based on the Signet edition.

Teacher Guides Performance Study Guides -- Theatre companies that have actually performed the play offer insight, especially if you are interested in approaching the play as a stage production.

Laying the Foundation Vocabulary -- 292 words and definitions.

Study Questions -- In order, mostly at a recall and comprehension level. Good for reading checks as well.

Crossref.it.info -- This British site includes extensive background and three video scenes for analysis (with worksheets, including text, below). Introductory worksheets on the Role of Comedy, Elements of the Gothic, the Seven Deadly Sins, and Marlowe’s Style. These include excellent challenging group activities.


Musical Resources

NewmanRandy Newman’s Faust: With Newman as the Devil and James Taylor as God, this modern rock opera really rocks. In his modern adaptation of Goethe’s Faust, they fight for the soul of Notre Dame student Henry Faust, played by The Eagle’s Don Henley. Elton John, Linda Ronstadt, and Bonnie Raitt guest. The cynical narrative is long and winding, but the songs stand on their own, especially “Bleeding All over the Place,” “Can’t Keep a Good Man Down,” “Life Has Been Good to Me” and “Feels Like Home.” YouTube highlights.

Other Modern Musical Interpretations:

Classical Musical Interpretations: Beethoven, Berlioz, Liszt, Mahler, Mendelssohn, Mussorgsky, Schubert, Schumann, and Wagner -- to name a few bewitched by the Legend.

Metropolitan Opera: The most famous operatic adaptations, Berlioz and Gounod -- are based on Goethe.

Hector Berlioz’s La Damnation de Faust. Full opera on YouTube.

The Virginia Opera offers a very accessible guide to Charles Gounod’s Faust.

And, of course, there is Gertrude Stein’s “Doctor Faustus Lights the Lights,” her libretto for a modernist opera, drawing upon both Marlowe and Goethe. YouTube has several clips, but the Temptation Scene from a French production and Concordia University’s Trailer are intriguing.


PowerPoints

None of these are mine, but each could be useful. Three offer an overview of Marlowe’s life and give a background to the play -- Marlowe 1, Marlowe 2, Marlowe 3. Others present the Faust Legend and analyze the character of Mephistopheles.

 

SkeletonStudent Resources

Dramatis Personae -- Who’s Who in the Play

Seven Deadly Sins

Marlowe Biography

Structure Overview

Barrons Book Notes (in Word .doc form) --  excellent character and plot analysis


Stage on ScreenVideo Versions

Stage on Screen -- This British company provides stage productions on DVD, with an extensive accompanying guide of more than 60 pages. Filmed 2009 performance. Website includes four video exerpts. £19.99 or $31.00. Love mine!

The short cartoon, Danse Macabre, music by Camille Saint-Saëns, available originally from PBS, sets the mood of the play, though it is not part of the play itself.

Burton

Doctor Faustus -- The infamous Richard Burton / Elizabeth Taylor version (1968) actually has redeeming qualitiues. perhaps because Nevill Coghill helped adapt the play for the screen. The last scene in which Hell opens underneath Faustus’s study makes up for the endless and inappropriate multiple scenes with Taylor.

Bedazzzled

Bedazzled -- This comic adaptation parallels the Faustus story. Made in 1967 and remade in 2000, the most useful and entertaining aspect of each tale is the Seven Deadly Sins psychomachia.

Bedazzled Remake



The movie posters may be the best part of the remake.

 

 

 



MephistoIstván Szabó’s Mephisto (1981) is a film adaptation of Klaus Mann’s novel of the same name, twists the tale in even darker ways. Set in pre-WWII Germany just as the Nazis take power, this is a powerful metaplay. Bitterly ironic, the actor protagonist dreams of playing Mephisto, achieving this dream by selling his soul, only to realise too late that in reality he has become Faustus.

Excellent Roger Ebert review.

SvankmajerAlthough Jan Švankmajer’s Faust does not accurately portray the plot, it imaginatively utilizes the legend, borrowing and blending elements from the story as told by Goethe and Christopher Marlowe with traditional folk renditions. Distinctly Modernist, Absurdist, and Kafkaesque feel, the tone is dark but humorous.

Teenage

OK, time to spare -- try I Was a Teenage Faust (2002), made for Canadian TV by ShowTime, with Robert Townshend and Morgan Fairchild. Goethe’s Faust.





Visual Interpretations

The Faustus Legend has inspired many artists, though not all are specific to Marlowe’s play. Many of the visual representations of the Faust story make excellent introductions to the play. From the original “cover” illustration to the latest theatre production poster, the tone is set for a play that remains relevant.

Each individual illustration can be used as a simple writing prompt, focusing on visual literacy --

“What is the effect of the illustration and how is that effect is produced?”

Or use the OPTIC guidelines for writing about visual texts.

Visual Versions: Enjoy more than sixty illustrations of the Faust story -- book covers, movie posters, theatrical playbills, even comic books.

Artistic Interpretations: These ten pieces of art span 400 years of the legend -- etchings, drawings, paintings, and sculptures.

Movie Clips also present a unique opportunity for visual literacy. Each could be used to introduce the play or evaluated as a fair or unfair representation of the play after reading. Or, of course, use the OPTIC guidelines or prompt above.


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Updated 12 June 2016.

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