Doctor Faustus is at once one of the most impressive and one of the most frustrating of Elizabethan plays. It has come down to us in two texts, the 1604 ‘A’ text and the 1616 ‘B’ text, both of which show clear signs of a hand or hands other than Marlowe’s. We cannot, therefore, ever feel confident that what we read is the text as Marlowe left it or as he would have wished us to have it.
However, even though the details are murky, the overall design of the play seems clear. Doctor Faustus, an eminent Wittenberg scholar, is bored by all the academic disciplines and branches of knowledge which he has mastered with such ease, and decides to sell his soul to the devil in exchange for twenty-four years of unlimited power and knowledge. He explains his decision in the soliloquy which
Citation: Hopkins, Lisa. "Doctor Faustus". The Literary Encyclopedia. First published 08 January 2001; last revised 01 March 2021. [https://www.litencyc.com/php/sworks.php?rec=true&UID=5519, accessed 04 December 2023.]