The mood of The Tragical History of the Life and Death of Doctor Faustus is tragicomic, with elements of both fearful horror and coarse levity interspersed throughout the play. Because the full title of the play directly tells the audience that its titular character will die, the crowd is tense from the start, fully aware that no matter what they are about to witness, this story will only ever end in misfortune. The first few scenes switch back and forth between seriousness and comedy in a somewhat jarring manner, keeping the audience on their toes and never fully allowing them to relax.
Scenes involving the use of magic and the appearance of Mephastophilis (not to mention the Evil Angel, other devils such as Beelzebub, and even Lucifer himself!) would have been absolutely terrifying to witness for audiences contemporary to Marlowe’s own time. Historical accounts such as the Puritan William Prynne’s 1632 text Histriomastix record instances of actors and audience members alike expressing fear and abject terror at the presence of the costumed devils on stage. Conversely, Wagner, Robin, Rafe, the Clown, and the Horse-Courser (among others) lighten the mood with their many hijinks, parodic actions, and vulgar language. As the play goes on and Faustus becomes more and more tightly gripped by the trappings of hell, the line between the comedic and the terrible begins to blur, until all is horror at the end.