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on 29 November 2012
I had not been introduced to Marlowe's work (or, indeed, heard of the legendary playwright at all) until after taking the mammoth decision to start an Open University module. This was a Level 1 module for 60 credits; AA100 `The Arts Past and Present'. During the second week, we had the task of reading the play from this suggested A-Text version, alongside an audio track provided by the university. Having not studied for the past 4-5 years, I found the play initially hard to go by. But, of course, this is expected for a higher education student who has been away from academia for quite some time. My fellow students and I found this text to be a surprising read, and, reading from the perspective of an observer of the production, rather than the reader of a novel (or stage-play) helped to put the play into context.
Having not studied much Shakespearean literature, I found `Doctor Faustus' the perfect play to be introduced into the discipline of Renaissance English Literature, with its vastly complex and visionary characterisation. The character of Faustus, for me, is a living representation of the dangers pertaining to seeking knowledge beyond one's physical (and spiritual) capabilities. The Christian message is embedded throughout the play, as was suitably the norm during Marlowe's lifetime, of repentance, forgiveness and God's ultimate will.
The Pearson Longman edition is especially useful for the Open University student, as this is indeed the first set book for the aforementioned module for the humanities. It provides extensive details on the text and footnotes detailing the many idioms and contemporary translations of early-modern English. There are also many more sections on the life of Christopher Marlowe and his contemporaries, as well as notes on the period and life for the common Englishman during the Renaissance. There are some shocking revelations about his life and, ultimately, his death.
I am so glad that the Open University introduced me to this wonderful stage-play and its amazingly complex themes, but, most importantly, its writer. Now I am continuing on with Level 2 studies and have come across the likes of Charles Dickens et al, but Doctor Faustus will forever hold a special place in my literary heart. Additionally, not to miss is the film translation made famous by Elizabeth Taylor, the `Stage on Screen' DVD of the play recorded at London's Greenwich Theatre, and the upcoming Opus Arte production starring Arthur Darvill (Rory Williams from the BBC's `Doctor Who' television series).
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on 5 February 2009
I have never read a play before and the only reason I opened this one up was because I needed to buy it for my Open University course and I was surprised to find I enjoyed it. The book is split with the play on the right hand side with explanations on the left making it easy for you to understand what is being said.

There is also a description in the back about the life of Marlowe, which was interesting as he had lived quite an amazing life, not only this, he had been writing plays while Shakespere was still working on his. Marlowe's death has been shroded in secrecy with many ideas on why he died and I think that helps makes his plays even more interesting.
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HALL OF FAMEon 4 January 2006
'Was this the face that launched a thousand ships...' There are so many great lines in this play! The greatness of Marlowe was recognised in his own time (a gentle modern reminder of this came in the film 'Shakespeare in Love', when almost every actor auditioning chose a bit from Marlowe, and all of those defaulted to this play).
It is somewhat ironic that if Shakespeare and Marlowe were writing today, they should most like be charged with plagiarism and copyright infringement; 'The Tragedy of Doctor Faustus' is likewise not an entirely original construct of Marlowe's, but rather derives from an anonymously penned German poem translated into English shortly before Marlowe recast it for his play. The German poet Goethe was influenced by the same anonymous source, and perhaps knew of Marlowe's play during his writing.
Dr. Faustus may have been based on a brilliant professor in Germany a generation or two prior to Marlowe. In any event, the idea of the seduction of the power of knowledge was (and continues to be) inspiring. The idea of selling one's soul to get the object of one's desire is also not a unique concept. Knowledge in the ancient world often always involved the spiritual realm, which had both its light and dark sides (one has but to think of the Star Wars saga to see how such concepts remain firmly rooted in our own time). Faustus becomes a conjurer, and strikes a deal with Lucifer to maintain power and knowledge in return for his soul after 24 years.
Despite the temptations to repent, Faustus in Marlowe's text never manages to break free of the temptations. 'My heart's so hardened I cannot repent. / Scare can I name salvation, faith, or heaven, / But fearful echoes thunder in mine ears: / "Faustus, thou art damned." ' Even recognising this, in the span of this one monologue, Faustus talks himself out of despair with the temptations of knowledge and secret power. Unfortunately for Faustus, he spends so much of his time and power doing ultimately useless tricks that he ends up in a worthless position despite his deal, and pays the ultimate price for his deal with the devil.
This edition contains a very interesting essay, including a biographical sketch of Marlowe (who died at the very young age of 29, having already become a leading light in Elizabethan drama), and a survey of his plays and playwriting techniques, influences, and subsequent influence on others. One story bears repeating, dealing with the performance history of the play: 'A legend developed that during a performance in Exeter, in one scene in which Faustus called up devils, the actors counted one more devil than the scene called for and realised that Satan himself was in the their midst. In terror, they stopped the play; the audience bolted from the playing place; and the actors quitted the town the next morning.' Such was the power of Marlowe's rendering, that his language was thought to have magical conjuring power.
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on 13 October 2015
I absolutely *loved* this play, especially after watching the 2012 Globe Theatre version starring Paul Hilton & Arthur Darvill as Faust and Mephistopheles. Directed by Jules Maxwell, that brilliant rendition of this classic from Shakespeare's rowdy contemporary Christopher Marlowe brought the book alive for me, and is available on Amazon too.

This edition gives comprehensive glossing (on the facing page), with explanations of obscure language and also of meanings not immediately apparent to the reader unfamiliar with this text. It is by far the best version of the play for students and literature aficionados alike.

It also forms part of the Open University's AA100 The Arts Past and Present course, their introduction to Literature and the Humanities. It was the part of the course that I enjoyed the most. Marlowe, short though his life was, produced a work of genius here which still chills the blood and makes us laugh, 500 years later.
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on 18 April 1999
I have read and reread all of Marlowe's plays, and this one, written when he was 24, is still my favorite. It dramatizes the fall from grace of Dr. John Faustus, a physician in 15th century Germany. Faustus is unsatisfied with the laurels of earthly fame, so to extend his knowledge and his power he sells his soul to the devil. The tragedy is that he doesn't get nearly what he thought he would, and in the end he descends to using his powers to play sophomoric tricks on country bumpkins. The final scene, in which Faustus realizes it is too late, and he is damned to hell forever, is one of the most terrifying, powerful and moving in English literature.
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on 9 July 2016
Introducing a classic of literature that needs no real introduction seems somewhat pointless, except when it is newly adapted and published in a modern form in order to inform secondary school students and actors new to acting. This is such a book. An adaption by Geraldine McCaughrean of the Germanic myth of Faust.

Marlowe's version of this myth has Doctor Faustus - A student of excellence: becoming tired of such humble enterprises as philosophy, theology and science. He is looking for something worth his time. He decides on the occult and black magic. After consulting two of his friends (Valdes and Cornelius) who are magicians, he decides to summon a devil. He does so when he is alone by drawing a chalk pentagram and seeking the service of a Devil of Hell.

The devil Mephistopheles answers his call and swears to serve Faustus no matter the demand. Faustus asks for twenty four years of his every wish to be granted. This pact is made by signing a deed with his own blood: that after those twenty four years his soul shall be Satan's and Hell's. While trying to sign this contract with his blood (as the devil says it must be) it begins to congeal, and forces him to cut himself, and then Mephistopheles has to assist him to finish the contract. This very act makes it seem like Faustus' own body (or maybe even his soul) is resisting the choice because its consequences are not worth it.

The story then skips to the future. Faustus is now famous for his powers. He entertains kings and noblemen, earning the respect of all but a few people who distrust him as a charlatan. He deals with these people in a comedic fashion, giving them antlers and the like. But he also punishes them with the torment of Hell which makes us question what he has become. All the while he fails to notice these twenty four years are almost up.

During the entire story Faustus is being advised by his good angel and evil demon who he cannot actually hear, but narrates what the consequences of his actions will be. The angel screaming "Think of your soul! Don't turn your back on heaven.", while the Demon speaks over it with: "Damn it all to Hell! Do what you desire!". This demonstrates the choices he is making, and the duality of man and his desires mixed with what he should do (morality).

He is alone at his home when Mephistopheles informs him he only has an hour left. He dramatically speaks about how blind he has been, how he has rejected God and doesn't even deserve to ask for forgiveness. All the while begging for the contract to be voided. With a clock ticking to increase the drama and his heart beating so loud the audience can hear his panic: this scene never fails to throw up anxiety, and make you worry about Faustus as if you yourself are him regretting his life choices. This puts the audience in the shoes of the good angel and evil demon: judging his choices and showing our own bias.

This particular version is the B text: which can be shown clearly by the ending - Faustus is dragged off by the devil Mephistopheles with two hooks which are plunged into him. He is thus dragged to hell, or so it seems. When three fellow students of Faustus' university visit his house they find gloom, a mess and a body torn limb from limb. While the A text is far more ambiguous: Faustus is merely dragged away (presumably to hell) and nothing else is heard from him. His fellow students just find an empty, messy house with evidence of a struggle.

This adaption is unique in the way that it doesn't just tell the story, but has a twenty page section on writing and acting in order to refine people's abilities to absorb the play, and other abilities related to writing and play acting. Showing that the play is about choices and consequences, and the many ways that the play could have been utterly different. A study of the morality of the play and how Faustus can be seen in so many ways: weak, arrogant, knowing what he is doing, a victim of human flaw. It even imagines that Faustus is on trail and for you to write a defence/attack on him in order to free him from the contract, or for him to be punished with Hell. While all of this is useful for honing one's abilities, it also allows one to take even more from the play than you get from one simple reading. This all works together to show Marlowe's genius, and why this play is still performed to this day.
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on 19 May 2009
Like the above review I had to read this book for an OU course. It took a couple of scenes for me to get into the language. At first I found myself checking the notes every couple of lines because I was unfamiliar with some of the terminology but once I got into it I was hooked. I ended up reading it in one go and really enjoyed it. The sections after the play are very useful aswell as they provide a lot of background information and put the play in context. Whether you are reading this play for fun or for a course its definately worth a read.
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on 14 April 2016
The play is separated into five Acts, which makes reading it very structured and thus easier to analyse. Also, since the play is written in Elizabethan English (and some parts are also in Latin too) there are aids (pretty much 'translation') to help you understand the text itself. There's also a thick part of the book (nearly half of it!) dedicated to analysis and putting the play into social and historical context, which I am currently reading through.

I'm not doing it as a set A-Level text, so i can't really comment on how transferable this is to exam, but it is definitely set up to support study with exam practice at the end of every Act (again, this does further help in analyzing the play anyways, so... good)

Overall, I enjoyed the play massively, and look forward to analyzing it even more so. I have no doubt that this book will help me every step along the way of that (monumental!) task
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on 6 October 2011
As someone who was recently involved with a theatrical production of Faustus, I found this edition extremely helpful. The historical context, detailed notes and accurate presentation of both the A and B texts all make it much easier to navigate this fascinating piece of drama. Highly recommended edition.
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Bought for an Open University course that I was doing, it was listed as essential reading for the OU AA100 'The Arts Past and Present'
course. It provided all the information that I needed and was not too expensive - just make sure that if you're buying books for higher education that you buy exactly the right edition (as listed on your course details) or you may not have the same information as everyone else on your course.
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