Scene thirteen

Synopsis of scene 13

Faustus confesses to his fellow scholars about his pact with Satan. The scholars beg him to turn to God, but Faustus finds himself unable to do so. He is left alone with only an hour to live, during which he fearfully anticipates the arrival of Satan to claim his soul.

Watch scene 13

Accompanying teaching resources

Commentary on scene 13

now I die eternally According to the Bible, when an individual commits his / her life to Christ s/he is assured of salvation and eternal life (John 3:16). The parallel point is that rejection of God leads to eternal death, sometimes called the ‘second death' of the damned.

Belike … by being over-solitary This was often said to happen to scholars. The pale-faced, bookish student appears in literature from medieval times, following the formation of universities in Europe.

Faustus' offence can ne'er be pardoned Because of the nature of what Faustus has done, he believes that he cannot be forgiven by God. His thinking is based on a passage from Matthew's Gospel. After Jesus performed a miracle, some onlookers claimed that he had done so by the power of Satan rather than by the Holy Spirit. In response, Jesus stated:

And so I tell you, people will be forgiven every sin and blasphemy. But blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come. TNIV Matthew 12:31-32.
More on the 'unforgivable sin': By denying that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, inhabited by God's Holy Spirit, the effectiveness of his sacrifice for the wrongdoing of humanity is nullified (i.e. dying on the cross would not have achieved anything, unless Jesus was who he said he was). The consequence of this position is that individuals cannot be saved from the consequences of God's judgement for their own sins.

Adam und EvaThe serpent that tempted Eve may be saved, but not Faustus Faustus compares himself with Satan as portrayed in chapter three of Genesis, where Satan appears as a snake / serpent and deceives Adam and Eve into disobeying God. See Aspects of literature > Impact of the Bible > Big ideas from the Bible > Adam and Eve, Garden of Eden, Second Adam. Is Faustus suggesting that Satan can be saved? Or is he saying that it is as hard for Faustus to be saved as for the Devil himself to repent? Either way, he is expressing a despairing fatalism about his future.

what wonders … hell for ever Faustus' words are reminiscent of Jesus' warning in Matthew 16:26:

‘What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?' TNIV

This saying of Christ could be seen as a summation of Faustus' life since he signed the pact. He has had everything a man could want – travel, acclaim, wealth, sexual pleasure, entertainment and intellectual stimulus – but now realises what he has lost.

heaven … the throne of the blessed The Bible describes Heaven as having rewards of thrones and crowns for Christian believers.

Gush forth blood instead of tears Again, the motif of blood appears.

Lucifer and Mephastophilis! In the B text, Faustus can see them appear before him and the audience can see them on stage.

vain Worthless.

four-and-twenty years … eternal joy There is a semantic and emotional contrast between the short time of 24 years and eternity.

bill Contract.

with mine own blood This reminds us that blood played a part in the beginning of Faustus' pact, just as it will at the end.

now ‘tis too late! Faustus believes this, despite the fact that he would have been familiar with the account of the last-minute repentance of the thief on the cross in Luke 23:39-43.

to Faustus On behalf of Faustus. In spite of what he has done, Faustus' friends stay faithful to him and want to do all they can to help him and save his soul.

Tempt not God This alludes to the New Testament account of Jesus' response when the devil suggested that he ‘tested' God's divine powers Matthew 4:7: ‘Thou shalt not tempt the lord thy God' AV.

nothing can rescue me Marlowe's audience would recognise that Faustus is committing the sin of despair (considered a sin because it meant that a person did not believe that God's powers were adequate to the task / all powerful). Faustus' pessimism about his fate seems passive but he believes he is fated to be taken by Lucifer, so his future is determined.

The clock strikes eleven … Now hast thou but one bare hour to live This stark and chilling line, with the preceding stage direction, signals the beginning of the end for Faustus.

Fair Nature's eye The sun as a marker of time passing. Faustus wants this day to continue for ever so that midnight, when his twenty-four years will end, will never come.

let this hour be but / A year, a month, a week, a natural day Notice how the amount of time Faustus begs for decreases – Faustus will accept just a day if he can live a little longer.

O lente, lente currite noctis equi ‘Run slowly, slowly, night's horses!' a quotation from Ovid's Amores. In this poem, the narrator wants night to last longer so that he can continue to enjoy the embraces of his lover. In Greek and Roman mythology, there are frequent references to horses pulling the sun and the moon across the sky.

See, see … in the firmament! Faustus has a vision of the blood (shed by Jesus on the cross) which could save him. (Matthew 26:28, John 1:29, Revelation 5:9).
See also Aspects of literature > Impact of the Bible > Big ideas from the Bible > Blood; and the note on this subject in Scene 11.) More on the significance of blood?

his ireful brows God is full of anger in Faustus' new vision.

Mountains and hills, come, come and fall on me, / And hide me In Luke 23:30, Jesus gives his listeners a fearful warning of what it will be like when the Day of the Lord comes. Faustus echoes the cry of despair uttered in Revelation 6:16 when those who had rejected Christ were confronted with judgement. See Aspects of literature > Impact of the Bible > Big ideas from the Bible > Judgement.

You stars, that reigned at my nativity A reference to astrology, which assumed that the disposition of the stars at a person's birth would guide the rest of their lives. See The world of Shakespeare and the Metaphysical poets > making sense of the tangible world > Astronomy and astrology.

draw up Faustus … forth into the air Faustus is prepared to accept any kind of physical dissolution if his soul can be saved.

for Christ's sake … ransomed me A ransom is paid to release someone from captivity or slavery. This is a direct reference to Mark 10:45:

‘For even the Son of man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.' TNIV

O, no end is limited to damned souls Again, Faustus is obsessed with the idea of time and eternal punishment. Marlowe's audience would be familiar with the church's teaching about the fate of those who did not choose to be saved by Jesus:

‘They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power' TNIV (2 Thessalonians 1:9).

Why wert thou not a creature wanting soul? An animal with no soul. See The world of Shakespeare and the Metaphysical poets > Making sense of the tangible world > Chain of being

Pythagoras' metempsychosis … brutish beast Pythagoras proposed the theory that, when people died, their souls would transmigrate and enter the body of another creature. Faustus is trying to draw on the other areas of knowledge he explored, but cannot be swayed from the reality of what awaits him.

still Ever.

O soul, be changed … into the ocean Faustus again desperately seeks an image of physical dissolution.

My God, my God, look not so fierce on me The words are similar to the despairing opening of Psalms 22:1 and Jesus' words on the cross Mark 15:34.

I'll burn my books! Faustus makes a last desperate promise in an attempt to avoid damnation. Magicians would burn their books to show repentance. Faustus' last words to Mephastophilis are ambiguous.

Investigating scene 13

  • What do you notice about how Marlowe handles time in this scene?
  • List the techniques that Marlowe uses to increase the tension of Faustus' final hour
  • What challenges would this scene present to an actor playing the part?
    • As a director, write down the guidance you would give the actor playing Faustus for his final soliloquy. As you go through the speech, cover areas such as: Movement / Vocal expression / Motivation / Dramatic shape / Desired impact on the audience
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