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Doctor Faustus | Study Guide

Christopher Marlowe

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Act 2, Scene 2

Course Hero Literature Instructor Russell Jaffe provides an in-depth summary and analysis of Act 2, Scene 2 of Christopher Marlowe's play Doctor Faustus.

Doctor Faustus | Act 2, Scene 2 | Summary



Robin, an ostler (a person who works with horses), has stolen one of Doctor Faustus's books of spells and intends to try his hand at conjuring. A fellow ostler named Rafe comes to inform him that a gentleman requires their services, but Robin shoos him away with a warning that he is about to do something risky. Seeing the book, Rafe remarks that Robin cannot read. Robin replies that, with luck, he can read well enough to seduce his mistress. Rafe learns that Robin is using a powerful book of spells and has been practicing some minor magic. Robin promises him a spell for beguiling the kitchen maid, Nan Spit, anytime he wishes. Thrilled at the prospect, Rafe agrees to assist Robin in his conjuring.


Comic relief again contrasts with the seriousness of the preceding scene in which Faustus deeds his soul to Lucifer in exchange for power and knowledge. Robin is as uneducated as Faustus is scholarly in matters of magic. He has not studied it, but stolen a book about it from Faustus. He cannot read but intends to try conjuring anyway. His ambitions are not lofty, as are Faustus's, but boorish and vulgar. Magic as an exalted subject to be seriously pursued is reduced by a lout to something trivial and low. Once more, the actions of a minor character seem to point out that anyone with the right book can perform magic of some kind without limitless knowledge or loss of his soul.

Variations of the A-Text and B-Text identify Robin as an ostler (A-Text) or as the clown (B-Text). In addition the B-Text lists the second character as Dick instead of Rafe. There are variations as well in the placement of this scene within the play. Some A-Texts place it later, after Act 3, Scene 1, displacing the chorus. Some B-Texts place this scene after Faustus views the Seven Deadly Sins. Nevertheless, several authorities have agreed that a scene was missing at this point in both versions of the text and Marlowe likely intended this scene to fill that gap.

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