Doctor Faustus Study Guide (Choose to Continue)


Doctor Faustus: Metaphor Analysis

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"Till swol'n with cunning of a self-conceit,
His waxen wings did mount above his reach,
And melting, heavens conspired his overthrow."
--Act 1, Scene 1, Lines 20-22: Chorus to audience
The chorus indirectly alludes to the myth of Icarus and Daedalus and compares Faustus to the foolish Icarus.  Daedalus and Icarus were father and son, respectively, and were trapped in the famed labyrinth of Crete.  To escape, Daedalus fashioned wings made of wax and feathers so that they could fly off the island.  He warned his son to stay safely between the ocean and the sun, as the water would weigh down the feathers and drown him while the sun would melt the wax.  Icarus did not heed his father's advice, strayed close to the sun and plummeted to his death.  The chorus compares Faustus to Icarus because he too foolishly rejects the safe middle ground.  Instead, he aspires for things that are not meant for mortals, and is thus predestined to be doomed.
"Oh, what a world of profit and delight,
Of power, of honour, of omnipotence,
Is promised to the studious artizan!"
--Act 1, Scene 1, Lines 52-54: Faustus to himself
By comparing himself with a "studious artizan," Faustus hopes to gain all worldly pleasures and goods as the fruits of scholarly work.  He does not understand, however, that scholars study for personal enlightenment, not material gain.
"A sound magician is a demi-god.
Here, tire my brains to get a deity."
--Act 1, Scene 1, Lines 61-62: Faustus to himself
Faustus realizes that by practicing the dark arts, he will have supreme power in the world.  This is the turning point in his transition from scholar to sorcerer.
"Monarch of hell, under whose black survey
Great potentates do kneel with awful fear,
Upon whose altars thousand souls do lie,
How am I vexed with these villains' charms?"
--Act 3, Scene 4, Lines 75-78: Mephostophilis to Robin and Rafe
Mephostophilis addresses Lucifer as the "monarch of hell" in his rage against the mischievous stableboys.  At the same time, this quote could also aptly describe Faustus, as he is quite immersed in hell and all of its devilish wonders by now.
"Though thou hast now offended like a man,
Do not persever in it like a devil."
--Act 5, Scene 1, Lines 38-39: Old man to Faustus
The old man begged Faustus to repent before it was too late, but he was not contrite.  The old man realized that although Faustus seemed superficially to be enjoying his damned wealth and power, he was actually struggling between repentance and surrendering his soul to Lucifer.  Thus, while error may be only human, persevering in what is wrong is considered wayward from the righteous path.
"Oh, thou art fairer than the evening's air,
Clad in the beauty of a thousand stars."
--Act 5, Scene 2, Lines 110-111: Faustus to Helen of Troy
In one of Faustus's more beautiful soliloquies, he compares the phantasmal Helen of Troy to all things heavenly.  This is ironic because at the same time he says, "her lips suck forth my soul." (Act 5, Scene 2, Line 100) Faustus tried to forget the old man's warnings by using Helen as his paramour.  Despite her astounding physical beauty, she represents Faustus's hellish final fall into sin.  Heaven cannot forgive him now that he has so openly embraced mortal pleasures and spurned heavenly prayer.
"Cut is the branch that might have grown full
And burned is Apollo's laurel bough,
That sometime grew within this learned man."
--Act 5, Scene 3, Lines 20-22: Chorus to audience
The chorus compares the laurel bough to classical wisdom and intellectual/artistic accomplishment.  They lament Faustus's once great potential that is now lost forever.


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