While Faustus, Cornelius, and Valdes celebrate their mutual interest in the necromantic arts, Cornelius extols the many ways he believes that magic will fulfill their lives. He promises that their study of magic will be so full of spectacular delights that it will take the place of all other academic pursuits, dry up the seas, and bring the three of them untold riches beyond their wildest imaginings. Self-satisfied at the conclusion of this list, Cornelius asks Faustus a question that foreshadows the central conflict of the play:
Then tell me, Faustus, what shall we three want?
The question of what exactly Faustus will want once he can perform magic is a loaded one, as his very soul hangs in the balance. Unfortunately for Faustus, despite his grand ambitions to attain boundless treasure, fame, glory, and respect, once he signs on the bloody dotted line, he only ever achieves one of his goals: fame, in the form of infamy.
Of course, Faustus cannot predict his own end, and for the time being he can only imagine the great things that will surely come with the fantastical prospect of magic. His answer is thus simple and, in the context of the play’s tragic finale, utterly haunting:
Nothing, Cornelius. O, this cheers my soul!
What Faustus means, in this moment, is that he, Cornelius, and Valdes will achieve riches and greatness so unparalleled that they will never lack anything they could ever possibly need or want. However, this line also foreshadows Faustus’s eventual fall and desire to repent, for in the end, once he becomes aware of the true cost of the bargain he’s made, all he wants is nothing: not wealth, not women, and not glory—only the forgiveness of God and safety from hell.
When Faustus first appears on stage in Scene 1, he delivers a soliloquy which foreshadows his eventual fall to hell. At the start of the play, Faustus is introduced as an ordinary, successful scholar plagued by delusions of grandeur. Lamenting his dissatisfaction with the limitations of each standard field of academia, Faustus rejects medicine, law, and theology as insufficient. Instead, he turns to the study of magic in the hopes of gaining power, recognition, and glory:
O, what a world of profit and delight,
Of power, of honour, of omnipotence
Is promised to the studious artisan! [...]
But his dominion that exceeds in this
Stretcheth as far as doth the mind of man.
A sound magician is a mighty god.
Faustus confidently, but wrongly, believes that the use of magic will allow him to grow as powerful as a deity. His certainty in his chosen path is exceedingly vivid, verging on hyperbolic. It is Faustus’s very arrogance which, ironically, foretells his demise. The dazzling power he dreams of is predicated on the fulfillment of one critical condition: glory is promised only to the “studious artisan.” Yet, once Faustus makes his infamous bargain, he makes little use of the studying skills he gained at university. Rather than devoting himself to the study and practice of magic, he relies on Mephastophilis to enact his will, and in lieu of the grand feats of his imagination, resorts to petty parlor tricks and amusements. Further disproving Faustus’s self-important assertion that magic is a task reserved for the highly skilled is the fact that his lower-class companions Wagner, Robin, and Rafe are each able to perform similar acts with practically no effort or study at all. Faustus never becomes a “sound magician,” and so he never becomes a “mighty god.”