Christopher Marlowe – Doctor Faustus (the end)

Today’s excerpt compares two versions of the scene with the Old Man from so-called Text A and Text B, two editions of Doctor Faustus, both published after Marlowe’s death, so he had no control over either of them – although we may suppose that Text A, the older one, is closer to Marlowe’s manuscript. In Text B the Old Man is much gentler than in Text A. In Text A he tells Faustus about his “vile and loathsome filthiness”, and advises him to beg for his Saviour’s mercy, as only his blood can redeem him. In Text B the Old Man calls him “gentle Faustus”, says he knows he really has “an amiable soul” and even apologizes to him, saying that his harsh rebuke (nowhere near as harsh as in Text A) is well-intentioned and if he speaks severely, it is only because he loves Faustus and wants him to turn back from his evil ways. I think there is a theological argument for the interpretation of these two speeches, and I am really out of my depth here, but Text A seems to me more sternly Calvinistic, while Text B, with the Old Man almost ingratiating himself with the sinner, sounds almost… Jesuitical?

And that’s it for Marlowe. For the next two days I am going to study the introduction to the Bard himself.


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