Doctor Faustus
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FAQ Contents

The following FAQ entries may contain spoilers. Only the biggest ones (if any) will be covered with spoiler tags. Spoiler tags have been used sparingly in order to make the page more readable.

Doctor Faustus is based on The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus, a play by Christopher Marlowe written in 1588. The play was adapted for the movie by Nevill Coghill and Richard Burton (who also directed the movie and starred as Doctor Faustus).

Yes. Doctor Johann Georg Faust [?-@1541] was a physician, doctor of Philosophy, writer, alchemist, and astrologer who performed magical tricks and read horoscopes throughout southern Germany. He was denounced by the church as a blasphemer in league with Satan. He is said to have died in an explosion of an alchemical experiment that greatly mutilated his body, giving rise to the belief that the devil had come to claim him.

In the Faustus legend, Mephistophilis (aka Mephistopheles) is not Lucifer. He is a minister of Lucifer, summoned by Faustus to intervene with a contract between Faustus and Lucifer in which Faustus pledges his soul to Lucifer in return for Mephistophilis' services for the next four-and-twenty (24) years.

According to the contract [as read in the movie] between Faustus, Lucifer (David McIntosh), and Mephistophilis (Andreas Teuber), the deal was made on these conditions: Mephistophilis shall be his servant and at his command and bring him whatsoever he desires at all times and in whatsoever form or shape he please. I, John Faustus of Wittenberg, doctor by these presence, to give both body and soul to Lucifer and his minister Mephistophilis, and, furthermore, grant unto them that 24 years being expired the articles above being written in violate full power to fetch or carry the said John Faustus body and soul, flesh, blood, or goods unto their habitations wheresover by me, John Faustus. In the movie, he did it to attain the beautiful Helen of Troy (Elizabeth Taylor). In the play, however, he did it for the sake of knowledge.

Faustus asked Mephistophilis questions about hell, e.g., did it really exist, where was it, etc. The second thing he asked for was a wife, so Mephistophilis showed him a bevy of beauties that turned ugly underneath. When Faustus threatened to repent and ask God to release him from the contract with Lucifer, Lucifer himself appeared and sent Faustus to a garden of hell where he was shown the Seven Deadly Sins.

The Seven Deadly Sins were first listed by Pope Gregory the Great in the 6th century. They are luxuria (extravagance, lust, lechery), gula (gluttony), avaritia (greed, avarice), acedia (sloth), ira (wrath), invidia (envy), and superbia (pride). In the movie, Lechery appears as various satyrs and nymphs frolicking in the garden, Avarice is characterized by a man counting his gold while imprisoned in a gilded cage, Pride and his sons Wrath and Envy are would-be kings riding in triumph through the city of Persepolis. Gluttony and Sloth are not depicted.

As Faustus's 24 years of fame, fortune, and wish-fulfillment draw to an end, he sinks into drink and despair. On the eve before his final day, he asks one more thing of Mephistophilis...that he can have Helen of Troy, whom he has only seen before as a spirit, come to him in flesh and be his paramour. As always, Mephistophilis obeys, and Faustus spends the night in Helen's arms, vowing that he will always return to his memory of her kiss regardless of what happens to him. And then it is the night of his last day before going to Hell. His students pay him a visit, and Faustus confesses everything. They return to their chambers to pray for him, and Faustus curses Lucifer and begs God's forgiveness. But it is too late. The floor to his chamber opens to reveal the stairway to Hell. Rising the stairs is Lucifer, come to claim him. As Lucifer approaches, Faustus sees that he bears Helen's laughing face. She leads him down the stairs. In the final scene, a book appears, showing the words "Stipendium peccati mors est," which Faustus's voice translates as "The reward of sin is death."

Burton and Taylor were married from 15 March 1964 to 26 June 1974 and then again from 10 October 1975 to 1 August 1976. Doctor Faustus came out in 1967, so the answer to that question is YES.

No. In Goethe's play "Faust", written in the 1800's, Faust is redeemed at the last minute and taken to Heaven.


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