Doctor Faustus | Study Guide

Christopher Marlowe

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Doctor Faustus | Act 1, Scene 2 | Summary

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Summary

Two nosey scholars come looking for Faustus at his residence. Wagner engages them in a bit of verbal sparring before telling them his master is at dinner with Valdes and Cornelius. The scholars take this as bad news, knowing the doctor's guests are infamous practitioners of "that damned art." They fear that Faustus may be practicing magic as well. Gloomily, they go off to inform the head of the university, faintly hoping he will be able to rescue Faustus from this grave mistake before it is too late.

Analysis

The concern of the two scholars illustrates Faustus's respected status at the university, where knowledge and mental agility are prized. They seem to miss his presence most keenly at debates, introducing his arguments with the familiar scholarly phrase sic probo—meaning "Here is my proof."

The two scholars reveal a personal sense of intellectual superiority by addressing Faustus's servant Wagner as "sirrah," an address reserved for inferiors. When they demand Wagner tell them where Faustus is, he challenges their right to insist that he knows. The ensuing exchange provides a closer look at Wagner's character.

Wagner has the intellect and education to engage the scholars in a dispute using logic. He does not appreciate being treated as an inferior and impudently plays the scholars for fools, using wordplay to obscure the truth of where Faustus is at the moment. His impatience with these two representatives of traditional learning mirrors Faustus's impatience in this arena, as expressed in the previous scene. Wagner's logic is flawed but clever enough to confuse the scholars. He is not only having some fun, but also protecting Faustus. He knows that the scholars will not approve of his master's guests. This establishes Wagner's role as a rather clever, very loyal, and protective servant to Faustus. In some respects he acts as a double for Faustus, albeit in the form of a servant. His outlook and actions will often reflect those of his master, as they do in this scene. He will also step into the role of the chorus on occasion.

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