Summary of Wagner, Good and Bad Angels:
Faustus asks Wagner to command his dearest friends Valdes and Cornelius to come visit him; Act I, scene i, lines 61 through 94.
The good and bad angels enter; the good angel calls the book of magic blasphemy, while the bad angel promises Faustus that he shall be on earth as Jove is in the sky, lord and commander. The evil angel tells hims to, “Go forward, Faustus, in that famous art wherein all nature’s treasury is contained. Be thou on earth as Jove is in the sky, lord and commander of these elements.”
Faustus wonders why he is filled with greedy longing by the very thought, the notion of being commander, a godlike magician. Faustus performs a soliloquy, “Shall I make spirits fetch me what I please? Resolve me of all ambiguities? Perform what desperate enterprise I will?”
Faustus intentions: “I’ll have them fly to India for gold. I’ll have them “Ransack the ocean for orient pearl. I’ll have them “search all corners of the new-found world for pleasant fruits and princely delicates I’ll Reign sole king of all the provinces! I’ll make my servile spirits to invent;” “servile spirits” means he’ll serve as a slave for the evil spirits to choose his course of action as they so deem.
Analysis of Wagner, Good and Bad Angels:
Wagner enters upon the stage before Faustus begins to speak; Act I, scene i, lines 61 through 94: Faustus to Wagner asks, “Commend me to my dearest friends” (61). Faustus dearest friends are “Valdes and Cornelius” (62). Faustus asks, “Request them earnestly to visit me” (63). Wagner confirms, “I will, sir” (64).
Faustus says, “Their conference will be a greater help to me than all my labors, plod I ne’er so fast” (65-66). Faustus refers to a “conference,” but what is meant is a conversation with Valdes and Cornelius.
The good angel and evil spirit or devil enters upon the stage through separate doors. The good angel says, “O Faustus, lay that damned book aside and gaze not on it, lest it tempt thy soul and heap God’s heavy wrath upon thy head! (67-69) “Read, read the Scriptures-that is blasphemy! (70)
The good angel makes reference to “that damned book” which is the book of magic as “blasphemy” (70). Blasphemy means profanity to God and other sacred things, impious irreverence. Not pious and without piety or reverence for God and his ordinances, presumptuously irreligious, wicked and profane.
The evil angel retorts, “Go forward, Faustus, in that famous art wherein all nature’s treasury is contained. Be thou on earth as Jove is in the sky, lord and commander of these elements” (71-74).
Jove is a pagan name. Jove was often applied to the Christian God in Renaissance writings. Jose is not to be confused with the Hebrew ‘Jehovah.’ Jove or in this reference God is commander of all four elements earth, sky, fire and water. The angels exit the stage.
Faustus is left asking, “How am I glutted with conceit of this!” (75) The term “glutted with conceit” means filled with greedy longing by the very thought, the notion of being commander, a godlike magician.
Faustus performs a soliloquy, “Shall I make spirits fetch me what I please?” (76) “Resolve me of all ambiguities?” (77) The term “Resolve me of all ambiguities” mean to explain and dispel, clear away and satisfy me as to any wavering opinions, to be without hesitation or doubt, and uncertainty as to any course of action. “Perform what desperate enterprise I will?” The word “desperate” means outrageous and extravagant.
“I’ll have them fly to India for gold” (79). Faustus reference of flying to India is used indiscriminately, and may refer to either the West Indies in America or the East Indies. I’ll have them “Ransack the ocean for orient pearl” (80). The word “orient” means lustrous and brilliant, a precious pearl probably from the Indian seas, as distinguished from those of less beauty found in European mussels. I’ll have them “search all corners of the new-found world for pleasant fruits and princely delicates” (81-82). The word “delicates” means delicacies. “I’ll have them read me strange philosophy and tell the secrets of all foreign kings” (83-84). “I’ll have them wall all Germany with brass, and make swift Rhine circle fair Wittenberg” (85-86).
Wittenberg is south-west of Berlin, on the Elbe, perhaps 200 miles from the Rhine at its closest. However, I believe Marlowe is referring to the Duchy of Württemberg which borders the southern Rhine because Heidelberg, which the historical John Faustus is associated, is on the Neckar near its juncture with the Rhine.
Faustus soliloquy continues, “I’ll have them fill the public schools with silk” (87). The reference to “public schools” refer to universities. I’ll have them “Wherewith the students shall be bravely clad” in silk (88). The term “bravely clad” means splendidly and handsomely clothed (88).
Faustus apparently intends to defy the university dress codes, such as those in effect at Cambridge: ‘no man, unless he were a doctor, should wear any hood lined with silk upon his gown . . . [nor] wear any stuff in the outward part of his gown but woolen cloth of black, puke, London brown, or other sad color’ (Decree of Nov. 1578; Orders for apparel, 1585; Cambridge University Transaction 16th and 17th centuries, ed. J. Heywood, 2 vols., London, 1854, I.220, I.397).
Faustus soliloquy, “I’ll levy soldiers with the coin they bring” (89). I’ll “chase the Prince of Parma from our land” (90). The “Prince of Parma” is the Spanish governor-general of the Netherlands from 1579 to 1592 (90). The “Prince of Parma” was despised in England as a Catholic oppressor and commander of troops (90). The prince was hated because he was the commander that landed in the Spanish Armada of 1588. Hence, the “Prince of Parma” was a model tyrant for whom the Protestant patriots wished to drive out of England (90).
The soliloquy continues, I’ll “Reign sole king of all the provinces!” (91) “Yes, stranger engines for the brunt of war” (92). The term “stranger engines” means more ingenious weapons (92). The term “brunt of war” means violent assault and attack with a vivid pictorial anticipating the next line (92). The ingenious weapons for a violent assault “Than was the fiery keel at Antwerp bridge” (93). This line refers to a fire ship used by the Netherlanders’ forces on 4 April 1585 to destroy a bridge built by Parma over the Scheldt during his blockage of Antwerp in 1585 against a bridge erected by Parma to blockade Antwerp. The word “keel” is a metonymy for ship, or possibly a flat-bottomed vessel used especially for coal (93). “I’ll make my servile spirits to invent,” “servile spirits” means he’ll serve as a slave for the evil spirits to choose his course of action as they so deem (94).
Marlowe, Christopher. Doctor Faustus. Ed. by Barnet, Sylvan. New York: Penguin Group, Inc., 1969.
Marlowe, Christopher. Doctor Faustus. Ed by Bevington, David and Eric Rasmussen. Manchester and New York: Manchester University Press, 1993.
Steane, J.B. Marlowe: A Critical Study. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1964.
Oxford English Dictionary Online. 2nd ed. 1989. Lane Library, Ripon College, Ripon, WI.