Welcome to the LitCharts study guide on Christopher Marlowe's Doctor Faustus. Created by the original team behind SparkNotes, LitCharts are the world's best literature guides.
- Full Title: The Tragical History of the Life and Death of Doctor Faustus
- When Written: Unknown. Possibly around 1592, when the English translation of a German version of the story is known to have surfaced.
- Where Written: Unknown.
- When Published: 1604 (A-text) and 1616 (B-text). Scholars debate the authenticity and relative merits of these two versions of Marlowe's play that survive.
- Literary Period: English Renaissance
- Genre: Elizabethan Tragedy
- Setting: Wittenberg, Germany; Rome, at the pope's court; the court of emperor Charles V.
- Climax: Scene 13. With tension mounting, the hour of Faustus's death and damnation draws near. His cries of regret for having sold his soul to Lucifer and his pleas for more time are unsuccessful, and devils drag him away to Hell.
- Antagonist: As is the case with any good tragic hero, Faustus is arguably his own antagonist. He certainly acts as a bad influence on his friends and acquaintances (like his servant Wagner) and with petty villainy towards his enemies (like the knight at Charles V's court). Ultimately, though, the title of antagonist should probably go to Lucifer. Not only does he claim Faustus' soul, but also, as the devil himself, he is ostensibly everyone's antagonist.
Fake Beards, Real Fear. The Puritan William Prynne reported that at a 17th century performance of Doctor Faustus, upon the apparition of the devil on the stage, the actors themselves broke character and fell to prayer in fear.
Celeb Gossip. Much of the popularity of Marlowe's play can be attributed to his star actor Edward Alleyn, who performed the title role in three of Marlowe's plays during his lifetime, and for whom the part of Faustus was written. Ben Affleck plays Alleyn in the movie Shakespeare in Love.