Doctor Faustus

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A traditional figure in Greek tragedy, the Chorus delivers the Prologue, a monologue in the middle of the play, and an Epilogue that ends the play. Unlike traditional Greek choruses, though, this chorus is a single person. Removed from the action of the play, the chorus helps introduce and set the scene for the main plot, and concludes the play, confirming for the audience that Faustus was damned to hell.

Chorus Quotes in Doctor Faustus

The Doctor Faustus quotes below are all either spoken by Chorus or refer to Chorus. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Temptation, Sin, and Redemption Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the W.W. Norton & Company, Inc. edition of Doctor Faustus published in 2005.
Prologue Quotes

...Till, swollen with cunning, of a self-conceit,
His waxen wings did mount above his reach,
And melting heavens conspired his overthrow.
For falling to a devilish exercise,
And glutted more with learning's golden gifts,
He surfeits upon cursed necromancy. (20-25)

Related Characters: Chorus (speaker), Doctor Faustus
Page Number: Pro.20-25
Explanation and Analysis:

In the Prologue, Chorus gives a brief introduction to Doctor Faustus, telling his history before the start of the play. Faustus, like Marlowe himself, was of low birth, and his rise to power and scholarship are an echo of the playwright's own career. He says that the play will merely contain the subject of "Faustus's fortunes, good or bad." The Chorus then details how Faustus rose as an academic and became lifted up by his excellence in divinity, until, as the quote asserts, Faustus became prideful and obsessed with learning more and more. Compared to the Greek myth of Icarus (who flew too close to the sun, which melted his wings and caused him to fall to his death), Faustus flies too high, reaching above what is natural and normal, and then he falls, committing himself to the "devilish exercise" of necromancy (black magic dealing with death).

Already we are made aware of Faustus's sinfulness: he is prideful (self-conceit) and devotes himself to the cursed, sinful arts. We see another one of the seven deadly sins in his desire for knowledge, power, and learning: gluttony. His excessive search for knowledge and books is the source of his temptation, and when he falls prey to it he "surfeits" (overindulges) on the new, dark knowledge he achieves. The Chorus tells us that Faustus will turn to magic, which is sweeter to him than his "chiefest bliss," but the Prologue does not tell us what Faustus's fate will ultimately be (though the appearance of "Tragical" in the title is a good indicator that it will not be a good one).


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Epilogue Quotes

Regard his hellish fall,
Whose fiendful fortune may exhort the wise
Only to wonder at unlawful things:
Whose deepness doth entice such forward wits
To practice more than heavenly power permits. (4-8)

Related Characters: Chorus (speaker), Doctor Faustus
Page Number: E.4-8
Explanation and Analysis:

These lines spoken by the Chorus conclude the Epilogue and the play. The Chorus warns viewers to "regard [Faustus's] hellish fall," encouraging them "only to wonder at unlawful things" but not to act upon them. This lesson is a strange one, as it suggests that it is okay to wonder and think about unlawful things like necromancy and deals with the devil, and even to consider them for yourself; it is only bad to act on base desires and to "practice more than heavenly power permits." 

This lesson also stands out because they do not emphasize Faustus's misunderstanding of God's power or crucial error of not repenting. We are left with the question, are some sins so great that they cannot be forgiven? Logic and much of the play suggest that the answer is no— even Faustus could have been forgiven if he repented—but the Epilogue still warns us to stay away from his dark practices, which made repenting for Faustus all but impossible.

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Chorus Character Timeline in Doctor Faustus

The timeline below shows where the character Chorus appears in Doctor Faustus. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
The Renaissance Individual Theme Icon
The Chorus enters and delivers the Prologue. He begins by assuring the audience that the play will... (full context)
The Renaissance Individual Theme Icon
The Chorus summarizes Faustus's biography, including his humble origins, precociousness as a student, interest in necromancy, and... (full context)
Chorus 3
The Renaissance Individual Theme Icon
Education, Knowledge, and Power Theme Icon
The chorus enters and tells the audience that Faustus has returned home from his travels, amazing his... (full context)
Education, Knowledge, and Power Theme Icon
The chorus announces that Faustus is gone and tells the audience to see his downfall as an... (full context)