Act 1, scene 1: As a prologue
to the play, the chorus enters and introduces Doctor Faustus and his history to the audience.
During Marlowe and Shakespeare's time, a chorus was frequently used in a play to act as narrator and
interpreter. They explain that Faustus was born into a middle-class family in Rhodes, Germany
and later traveled to Wittenberg for higher studies. He became renowned as a brilliant scholar
and immersed himself in studying necromancy, the conjuration of the living dead. The chorus alludes
to the Greek myth of Icarus and Daedalus, comparing Faustus to the self-conceited Icarus who broke all
boundaries only to meet with his demise. Thus, the chorus foreshadows Faustus's eventual hellish
The chorus leaves and
the audience finds Faustus in his study, deep in thought. He is not happy with himself, despite
the fact that he is an excellent physician and scholar. Faustus wants to make men live eternally,
thereby eliminating the problem of death once and for all. His greatest wish is to be the world's
first successful necromantic practitioner. Faustus knows that if he can raise the dead, he will
have incomparable power over humanity. He asks to see his friends Valdes and Cornelius, who are
very interested in his work. While Faustus is waiting for them in his study, good and evil angels
talk to him.
The good angel
advises Faustus to relinquish this blasphemous profession for fear of God's wrath. The evil angel
urges him to continue his work and become the commander of the elements. Faustus daydreams about
becoming very rich and powerful and resolves to continue studying and practicing the dark arts.
Cornelius and Valdes enter and are pleased to find that Faustus has finally agreed to work with them
in necromancy. The three friends and partners retire for the night with the resolve to become
Act 1, scene 2: The second scene
opens with two students at Wittenberg, who are Faustus's acquaintances. They are wondering what
happened to him and why he is no longer at school. The pair asks Faustus's servant Wagner about
his whereabouts. Wagner replies that he is in the company of Valdes and Cornelius. The two
students are aghast, for Valdes and Cornelius are infamous for practicing the dark arts. They
hurry off to meet the Rector and inform him of the unsettling news.