Universal and cosmic

Marlowe creates Faustus as an individual with a wide-ranging imagination, reflecting both his, and his creator's, learning. In Faustus' case, however, the scope of his imagery also indicates the depth of his desire for power (see also the next section).

Exploration, discovery and trade

In Scene 1, Faustus evokes the distant world (at least to Marlowe's first audience) of the East, lands that were in the Elizabethan period comparatively ‘new found'. In an age of discovery and burgeoning trade, with new routes being opened all the time, the idea of travelling to ‘all corners' and returning with great riches would be familiar to those watching the play:

I'll have them fly to India for gold,
Ransack the ocean for orient pearl,
And search all corners of the new found world
For pleasant fruits and princely delicates.
Scene 1, 82-85

The words also express Faustus' anticipation of the power and pleasure that he hopes to obtain by practising necromancy. They occur in a speech which contains numerous repetitions of expressions like, ‘I'll have them', ‘I'll make', so that the overall rhetorical effect is to make it clear that he expects to bend events to his own will.

Faustus' use of the word ‘princely' is a reference to earthly and political power, a clear indication of the kind of life he hopes to live. This might be linked to the word ‘ransack', which goes beyond search, discovery and trade to suggest the idea of plunder. This kind of thoughtlessness emphasises the desire for riches over the integrity of the ocean – an idea also relevant in our eco-conscious age.

Orion and the Antarctic

The next example appears to be based on a mistake on Marlowe's part. He seems to think that night falls not from the east but from the south – the Antarctic. Nonetheless, the image evoked is a powerful one, with the world gradually darkening until the stars of the constellation Orion appear. Visually, it seems to comprehend the whole world, suggesting a viewpoint from somewhere in the sky – again suggesting the scope and power of Faustus' imaginative vision:

Now that the gloomy shadow of the earth
Longing to view Orion's drizzling look,
Leaps from th'antarctic world unto the sky,
And dims the welkin with her pitchy breath.
Scene, 3, 1-4

Note also how the meaning is conveyed through three powerful adjectives: ‘gloomy', ‘drizzling' and ‘pitchy', which, together with ‘shadow' and ‘dim', create the overall idea of gathering darkness or obscurity.

Finally, as part of the personification of the earth's shadow, the lines also contain an idea of desire. The shadow is ‘longing' to see Orion and therefore ‘leaps' to embrace the earth. This is yet another example of the sensuality of Faustus' mode of expression.

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