Doctor Faustus

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Doctor Faustus Scene 1 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Alone in his study (in Wittenberg, Germany), Faustus delivers his first soliloquy. He professes to have sounded the depths of each major field of study and to have found each undeserving of his full attention: logic, because he has already mastered its “chiefest end,” (I, 8), which is to dispute well; medicine, because even an excellent doctor cannot make men live forever or rise from the dead; law, because it “aims at nothing but external trash” (1, 33-4); and theology, because sin is unavoidable and its consequences too hard to face.
Faustus is very well-learned and confident in his intelligence and ability as an individual. Paradoxically, his dismissal of ordinary areas of study such as logic is dependent upon his mastery of logic and argumentation. His detached examination of sin foreshadows his future inability to avoid sinning, but also shows that Faustus does not realize how relevant the nature of sin is to his own life.
Themes
Temptation, Sin, and Redemption Theme Icon
The Renaissance Individual Theme Icon
Education, Knowledge, and Power Theme Icon
Faustus decides instead to devote himself to gaining power through a mastery of magic. He praises the “necromantic books” (1, 48) filled with “lines, circles, letters, characters” (1, 49) from which he will learn the dark arts and obtain immense profit and power.
Faustus is attracted to magic because he craves knowledge of the occult, but he desires knowledge largely for the power and profit that will come with it, not for its own sake.
Themes
Education, Knowledge, and Power Theme Icon
Wagner, Faustus's servant, enters. Faustus tells him to invite the magicians Valdes and Cornelius to visit him. Wagner agrees and exits, and Faustus says, “Their conference will be a greater help to me / Than all my labors, plod I ne'er so fast” (1, 65-6).
While Faustus is a rather self-reliant individual, confident (even arrogant) in his own abilities, he still relies heavily on the help of others to teach him.
Themes
The Renaissance Individual Theme Icon
As Faustus waits for Valdes and Cornelius to arrive, the Good Angel and Bad Angel enter. The Good Angel begs Faustus not to be tempted by the dark arts, and to read Scripture instead. The Bad Angel encourages him to go forward with it, hinting that he stands to gain both treasure and power. Both Angels exit.
The angels symbolize Faustus' tempting desires and his potential for redemption. Faustus appears to be free to choose which angel to listen to. At this point, before he has made the deal, the bad angel lures him toward sin with promises of power and wealth.
Themes
Temptation, Sin, and Redemption Theme Icon
Fate vs. Free Will Theme Icon
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Alone again, Faustus delivers another soliloquy, imagining the “pleasant fruits and princely delicates” (1, 82) his devil servants might fetch for him, the secrets and “strange philosophy” (1, 83) they will share with him, and the glory they will help him bring to Germany (and Wittenberg in particular) by both political and military means – not to mention his own possible ascent to the throne.
Again, Faustus' desire for knowledge is revealed to be, at its core, a desire for power. While he wishes to bring glory to Germany, he is mostly focused on what he can attain for himself as an individual person. At this point his ambitions extend all the way to becoming king.
Themes
The Renaissance Individual Theme Icon
Education, Knowledge, and Power Theme Icon
The magicians Valdes and Cornelius arrive, and Faustus welcomes them, revealing his intention to listen to their past encouragement to study necromancy and asking for their help.
Despite his confidence in his own abilities, Faustus relies upon Valdes and Cornelius to learn magic.
Themes
The Renaissance Individual Theme Icon
Valdes and Cornelius are excited that Faustus is going to try magic. Valdes compares the power he'll have to Spanish lords, lions, German cavalrymen, and even giants. Cornelius assures Faustus that he has all the background in minerals, languages and astrology he needs to excel in the dark arts and obtain limitless riches. Faustus, Valdes and Cornelius make plans to dine together, and afterwards to hold Faustus's first magic lesson. All three exit.
Faustus is tempted by Valdes' description of immense power. But this power is dependent upon a knowledge of minerals, languages, astrology, and magic spells. It is not that Faustus' desire for knowledge is merely a red herring, when what he really wants is power. The two concepts are inevitably entangled, and Faustus wants both.
Themes
Temptation, Sin, and Redemption Theme Icon
Education, Knowledge, and Power Theme Icon