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Doctor Faustus (Norton Critical Editions) Paperback – 27 Apr 2005

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Product details

  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; New Ed edition (27 April 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393977544
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393977547
  • Product Dimensions: 1.3 x 0.3 x 2.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 21,178 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

About the Author

David Scott Kastan is Old Dominion Foundation Professor in the Humanities at Columbia University. He is the author of Shakespeare and the Shapes of Time, Shakespeare After Theory, and Shakespeare and the Book. He is co-editor of Staging the Renaissance: Essays on Elizabethan and Jacobean Drama and of The New History of Early English Drama. He serves as a General Editor of the Arden Shakespeare series.

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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Gustavo Orihuela Fernandez on 16 Nov. 2009
Format: Paperback
The critics and revisions at the end of the play are very complete and useful and they are what impressed me the most. The play itself comes with good footnotes and overall I recommend it.
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By Alan Lamb on 15 Sept. 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
just what my daughter needs for her school work.
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0 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Mrs. G. Mchugh-soliman on 28 Aug. 2011
Format: Paperback
the service was very good, actually I would say excellent. I received the product in good order and on time
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 61 reviews
81 of 94 people found the following review helpful
The English Faust 9 Oct. 2000
By Dmitrij Gawrisch - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Not everybody knows Faust(us). But a lot do. Most readers know this tragic personnage who allied himself with the devil and finally paid the price for his betrayal of God from a famous play written by J.W. Goethe. It was him who wrote the most famous version of Faust's history. (If you want to know more about Goethe's work, please visit my reviewer page.) But he wasn't the only dramatist who considered this lost magician worth a tragedy. Exactly 2 centuries and 1 year before Goethe published his work, a play by the Englishman Christopher Marlowe saw the light of the world.
Marlowe and Goethe are different personalities living in completely different times so that it's no wonder their plays vary in character. Goethe lived in prosperity and had all his life to think about subjects like human nature, social relationships, history and its influence on the present, love, religion and much more. He was a philosoph, and that's the reason why Goethe's "Faust" is sometimes difficult to understand because you have to dive under the surface of things to understand their true nature. Marlowe's work is different: This man was certainly very intelligent and knew a lot about the forces that moved the world, but, unlike Goethe, he didn't have a lifetime to think about one single play. You can imagine that Marlowe's "Faust" became more shallow, but still not shallow enough to be ignored by this imaginary institution we call World Literature. As a compensation, Marlowe's work contains more life and action in it, something I can't say about Goethe's. Both men were geniuses. In this review, I'd like to pay my tribute to the Englishman.
As stated above, the play tells the story of a medieval scientist who allies himself with the devil. The latter promises to serve the first in this world, whereas Faust must do the same in hell. The poor doctor doubts his choices because it's his soul being sold, still he follows the devil and has the time of his life. I beg your pardon, for I feel the need to return to Goethe to show you another important difference between both versions: Whereas Marlowe's Faust wants the devil to provide him with fun and all richness of the world (materialism), Goethe's alter ego feels the importance to be educated by the devil to get a complete picture of the world. At the end, Marlowe's Faust realizes that all experiences weren't worth his soul. He begs God to save him, but it is no longer possible. The devil tears his body apart and takes his soul with him to infinite sufferings.
The effect this play had on me was tremedous. Fascinated, I watched Faust's development. I particularly liked the 5th act where he realizes that all is finally lost. You can really feel his pain in those scenes; the effect is unbelievable.
So, if you want to be touched by human tragedy, I really advise you to read this book. It's done very quickly, so you needn't worry about the time it takes. If you want to make a step further and find additional material on Faust, read Goethe's "Faust 1" as well as Thomas Mann's "Doctor Faustus". It's a marvelous novel and the most modern narration based on the medieval German scientist named Johann(es) Faust(us).
31 of 34 people found the following review helpful
The Best Retelling of the Faust Legend 30 Sept. 2000
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
In the Faust legend, a man by the name of Faust or Faustus sells his soul to the devil for twenty-four years of worldly power. This legend has been told many times over by such writers as Goethe and Mann, but no doubt the most famous retelling, and probably the best, is the play, Doctor Faustus by Christopher Marlowe.
The most prominent influence on Marlowe's version of the Faust legend was the social upheaval during the time period in which it was written. Doctor Faustus was probably first performed in 1594, a time of tremendous change in Europe. The Medieval times were over and the Renaissance was beginning, however, influences of both times can be found in the play. Doctor Faustus is a transitional play where beliefs from both time periods intermingle, sometimes with disastrous results.
Doctor Faustus, himself, is a man torn between two traditions. He is a man with medieval beliefs, but renaissance aspirations. When he first attempts to conjure Mephistopheles, Faustus believe that Mephistopheles was forced to come by his (Faustus's) words. In response, Mephistopheles says, "for when we hear one rack the name of God, abjure the Scriptures and his savior Christ, we fly in hope to get his glorious soul." Mephistopheles has, of course, come of his own accord, because he feels that there is a soul to be had. He states this blatantly, yet Faustus is clouded by his old beliefs and also by his desires.
From a medieval point of view, Doctor Faustus can be looked upon as a morality play; a play about one man who aspires beyond his God-given place in the world. On the other hand, from a renaissance perspective, this play is a tragedy. The Renaissance was a time of individuality unlike the Middle Ages where a man was trapped in whatever social class into which he was born. Faustus is "an essentially good man" by Renaissance ideals who believes he has reached the end of human knowledge and is thus justified is using the black arts to further his knowledge. As in most classical tragedies, his downfall is complete and is due to his pride.
After Faustus makes his deal with Lucifer, the question must be asked: Is there any way back for him? Faustus believes he is damned at the moment that he signs his name in blood, although he has many chances to repent during the course of the play. The first chance comes after his first conjuring. He says, "O something soundeth in mine ear, 'Abjure this magic, turn to God.' Aye, and Faustus will turn to God again. To God? He loves thee not." Something is pleading for Faustus to repent, but Faustus remains firm in believing God has already condemned him. Each time the Good Angel appears is yet another chance for Faustus to repent, but the Evil Angel continues to threaten him if he even thinks about repenting. If it were not possible for Faustus to save his soul, then the Evil Angel and his demons would have simply left Faustus alone to cry out in anguish to God.
The final indicator that Faustus could have been saved at any point over his twenty-four year bargain is given by Mephistopheles, himself, as Faustus's fate is sealed beyond irrevocability.
Christopher Marlowe's brilliant retelling of the Faust legend springs not only from his own creativity, but from the times in which he lived. Marlowe's life and times allowed him to create the greatest retelling of one of Western cultures more timeless stories. When put to words, the legend seems so simple, yet its possibilities and implications, as Marlowe proves, can be nothing less than monumental.
18 of 21 people found the following review helpful
Not a masterpiece, but close! 5 Mar. 2000
By Sean Ares Hirsch - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I do not feel Marlowe's "Faustus" is quite as good as his "Massacre at Paris" or "Edward II," but I still consider it an outstanding play. "Faustus" is very true to life in that many people can not stay behind the 'this far and no further point.' The opening is quite chilling as Faustus decides that the legitimate knowledge of this world is not good enough and he immediately decides to cross into forbidden territory even at the expense of his soul. To this day, I never have forgotten the chills I felt in 2.1 when Faustus signs the unholy contract. It is interesting that even after Faustus signs the contract, that he is presented with several oppurtunities to escape his fate: "Faustus, repent; yet God will pity thee" (2.2.12). But he can not give up the fruits of the contract. (His powers, having Mephostophilis at his command, etc.) After the chilling tension of the first 2 acts, Marlowe releases the tension for the next two acts by having Faustus perform several practical jokes (of an evil nature to be sure), but nevertheless it offers a release of tension while at the same time we can see how malignant Faustus has become. I once read that many people feel the 3rd and 4th act are way too silly and that they drag the play down. But I don't think this is the case at all. I can not help but think Marlowe was trying to point out that in all honesty, there was a worthless aspect of the fruits Faustus sold his soul for. Furthermore, Acts 3 and 4 help us to see the mentally disturbed side of Christopher Marlowe himself. In 5.1, Faustus has 1 final chance to avoid his fate, but he resolves himself to damnation after enjoying Helen of Troy. If I were a betting man I would be willing to wage that Marlowe is pointing out that sex is an ultimate driving force. To this day, I have never been able to forget the final soliloquy of despair in 5.2 followed by the demons carrying Faustus off to hell. Marlowe himself dedicated much of his life to blasphemy, and I can not help but feel he was coming to terms with the church and starting to realize he better cut it out or else. Not only is this an excellent play, but it also helps us to take a look at Marlowe himself.
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
"This word damnation terrifies not him" 31 Jan. 2006
By Tom Birkenstock - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Christopher Marlowe is awsone. What other Renaissance writer was a freakin' spy? I mean, I like Shakespeare's plays and all, but as a person he's boring unless he's being played by Joseph Fiennes. I often pit two historical figures against one another in my mind, and I wonder what would happen if these two fought. If Shakespeare and Marlowe fought, Marlowe would bust out his super secret digital watch-that's secretly a laser-and he'd slice Shakespeare in half. Maybe `Speare would have a deadly quill like the Joker had in Batman, but a deadly quill versus a laser? I think we know who would win. I know the digital watch/laser is a bit silly because they didn't have digital watches back then, but at the very least he'd have an hourglass with a secret laser.

Reading Dr. Faustus I realize what a shame it is Marlowe died so early. Marlowe's ability to combine drama and comedy was light years ahead of Shakespeare's. It wasn't until the second half of Shakespeare's career that he started writing dark comedies, but Marlowe was interjecting his humor with a dark twist right away with plays like Dr. Faustus and The Jew of Malta. If Marlowe hadn't dies so early (in a fight over who was going to pay the bill no less-freakin' cool!) then maybe there would have been two playwriting giants in London competing against one another. Just imagine the masterpieces that would have ensued. I bet they would have made King Lear look like A Comedy of Errors.

This is the second time I've read Dr. Faustus, and I had forgotten how anti-Catholic it is. The story takes place mostly in Wittenberg, Germany where Martin Luther wrote his famous 95 theses. The location already sets up the tenuous relationship between Protestants and Catholics. This relationship, obviously biased against Catholics, is further represented in the good angel and bad angel that appear to Dr. Faustus several times. The good angel repeats over and over to Dr. Faustus that he can repent at any time and come back into good graces, while the bad angel keeps on telling him it's too late. The obvious analogy is that the good angel represents the Protestant idea of justification by faith. Not surprisingly, one of the groups of people who Marlowe is rumored to have spied on were Catholics intent on overthrowing what they saw as England's Protestant government. Furthermore, the first thing Dr. Faustus does when he makes his famous bargain is to play a practical joke on the Pope.

Please, if you're Catholic don't let this turn you away from reading this beautifully written play. At times the mixture of slapstick comedy and high brow allusions are a bit uneven, but that was the nature of the beast back then. Marlowe had to play to the peasants as well as royalty.

The trick Marlowe plays on the audience is even greater than the trick played on Faustus. Marlowe actually gets us to care about Faustus by the end of the play. This is either a trick to show us how close every one of us is to making a Faustian bargain, or it's a trick to show us how unfair these religious traditions were. After all, what did Faustus do that was so wrong? He goes into the deal with plans for making himself a despot, and ends up using all of his power to fetch grapes for debutants and summon Helen of Troy so that others may see her beauty. (Dr. Faustus has "phenominal cosmic power," and all he can manage is playing a few practical jokes and impressing people with out of season fruits.) He's never punished for his bad acts, but rather because of who he pledged his allegiance to. Over the course of twenty-four years Faustus has actually become a somewhat better person if only because he recognizes his sins. His greatest crimes are nothing more than playing practical jokes on peasants. He's not perfect, but he's also not deserving of eternal damnation.

I see Dr. Faustus as a critique of religion. Others may find that it only reinforces their beliefs, and that's what makes the text so good. The Faustian bargain finds its way into literature time and again, but it means something different to each author; likewise, Dr. Faustus means something different to each reader.
13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
"His waxen wings did mount above his reach" 6 Oct. 2002
By Michael J. Mazza - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
"Dr. Faustus," the play by 16th century writer Christopher Marlowe, has been published as part of the Dover Thrift Edition series. The brief introduction to this version notes that the play was first published in 1604, and also discusses its relationship to a German text from 1587 known as the "Faustbuch." In his play Marlowe tells the story of the title character, a scholar who is "swollen with cunning." Faust dabbles in the dark arts of "magicians / And necromantic books," and literally makes a deal with the devil. These actions drive the tragedy forward.
This play is a curious mixture of Christian theology, tragedy, slapstick comedy, and colorful pageantry. It moves along fast, and contains some really beautiful and stately language.
"Dr. Faustus" is ultimately a cautionary tale about human pride and ambition. I must admit that in the end I find it less satisfying than some of the other great tragedies of the Elizabethan era, perhaps because this play relies less on universal human issues than on a culturally-bound theological contrivance. Still, it's a noteworthy play that, I believe, still holds relevance for contemporary audiences. ...
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