Arrears blogging: June 1: Let's go Devils!

You know that film cliche where the angel appears on one shoulder and the devil on the other one? I think we may have a source for it right here in Marlowe's Doctor Faustus. Faust is on the verge of repenting and this random old man comes out to urge him to do so. I puzzled over who this old man might be, and, smiling at the idea that I might read the rest of the play, decided that maybe he's supposed to be Faustus's conscience:

Old Man. Ah, Doctor Faustus, that I might prevail
To guide thy steps unto the way of life,
By which sweet path thou may’st attain the goal
That shall conduct thee to celestial rest!
One of the things I might point out is the smooth way that the old man refers to him as "Doctor," even though I believe that Faustus is not an M.D.. Non-M.D. doctors love that, I have found.

Now, you'd think Mephistopheles would make a counter-argument: Women! Fame! Grapes out of season! (Which just happened in the previous scene.) But you don't get to be a devil by not knowing how to deal with the weak -- instead, he goes for intimidation, and it works:
Meph. Thou traitor, Faustus, I arrest thy soul
For disobedience to my sovereign lord;
Revolt, or I’ll in piecemeal tear thy flesh.
This works and Faustus asks Mephistopheles to torture the old man -- another classic sign of the weak.

Finally, after some time, the jig is up for Dr. Faustus, and this leads into a long monologue that makes one think that the Elizabethan stage must have been noted for its shouting:
My God! my God! look not so fierce on me! Enter DEVILS.
Adders and serpents, let me breathe awhile!
Ugly hell, gape not! come not, Lucifer!
I’ll burn my books!—Ah Mephistophilis!
Exeunt DEVILS with FAUSTUS.
I would love to know how the devils and Faustus exeunted. Did they have smoke bombs in the 16th century?

0 comments: