Scene four

Synopsis of scene 4

This is a comic echo of the previous scene, as Wagner summons up two demons to torment Robin (the Clown in some editions of the play).

Commentary on scene 4

pickadevants Short, pointed beards.

comings in Income.

goings out Outgoings, but also with a reference to the holes in his clothing.

The villain is bare He is both poorly dressed and has no money.

out of service Jobless.

shoulder of mutton … blood-raw Wagner believes that the Clown is so poor he would sell his soul for a shoulder of mutton. The shoulder is a bony joint, not the best for roasting. The reference to ‘blood-raw' anticipates the pact that Faustus will conclude with Satan in the next scene.

I had need have it … if I pay so dear This is an ironic comment. If the Clown were to lose his soul, he would want something very good in return. Faustus seems to be willing to exchange his soul for very little.

Qui mihi discipulus ‘Whoever is my pupil': the opening line of a well-known Latin poem used in schools at that time.

beaten silk Silk decorated by hammering gold or silver into it.

stavesacre A potion against lice and fleas, made from the seeds of a species of delphinium.

knaves-acre The Clown makes a pun on the word ‘stavesacre'. Knave's acre was also a poor street in London.

if I were … vermin If I were your servant, I ‘d be full of fleas.

bind yourself Commit or sign yourself. Seven years was the usual length of an apprenticeship.

familiars Evil spirits, thought to be at the bidding of magicians and witches.

guilders … gridirons … French crowns Robin is suspicious of the coins he is being offered because they might be fakes (‘counters'). French crowns were legal tender in England at that time.

Mass Short for ‘by the Mass', a mild oath.

Round slop Baggy trousers fastened at the knee.

a pretty frisking flea The Clown cheekily offers to be a flea so that he can fly up the openings (‘plackets') of young women's dresses and underwear.

quasi vestigas nostras insistere ‘As if to tread (or follow) in my footsteps.'

he speaks Dutch fustian Double cloth, i.e., double Dutch, or nonsense.

flat Certain or for sure.

Version B (where different)

[Note: Throughout this guide, when the texts of the A and B versions are near identical, annotations are only given for those words, references and allusions that differ in the two versions.]

thou art pressed You are obliged.

will you teach me this conjuring occupation? The Clown is interested in learning how to conjure up devils.

quasi vestigiis nostris insistere ‘As if to follow in our footsteps.'


  • What does this scene tell us about the ways in which Marlowe uses the comic episodes in Doctor Faustus?
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