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Doctor Faustus | Study Guide

Christopher Marlowe

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Act 3, Scene 2

Course Hero Literature Instructor Russell Jaffe provides an in-depth summary and analysis of Act 3, Scene 2 of Christopher Marlowe's play Doctor Faustus.

Doctor Faustus | Act 3, Scene 2 | Summary



Robin and Rafe have been using Doctor Faustus's book to do some conjuring. Robin holds up the proof of their success: a stolen silver goblet. Just then a vintner (wine merchant) approaches, demanding payment for the goblet. Robin and Rafe deny having the item and secretly pass it back and forth while the vintner searches each of them. Then Robin insists on searching the vintner, uttering an incantation while he does so. The result is the appearance of a disgruntled Mephastophilis, who has traveled all the way from Constantinople to answer the summons. Finding that the call came from these two lowly villains, the devil angrily turns Robin into an ape and Rafe into a dog.


Robin and Rafe again provide some comic relief while making a point. In two previous scenes Faustus has been treated to a parade of the Seven Deadly Sins and, with Mephastophilis's help, has played low pranks on His Holiness, the pope. Similarly, Robin and Rafe use magic to tease and torment a lowly wine merchant. Though the subjects of these pranks differ in social rank, the pranks themselves are equally mean-spirited and petty in nature. The point is that for all Faustus's knowledge and power, his instincts for its use are no more noble or moral than the instincts of a couple of ridiculous lowlifes.

When Robin and Rafe summon Mephastophilis, he is outraged by their silliness. He appears not as the obliging servant to Faustus, but as the proud and powerful demon—the "monarch of hell"—who snares souls for Lucifer. This is the Mephastophilis who will mercilessly work to send Faustus to his doom. His punishment for Robin and Rafe's audacity is both amusing and a reminder of his role of demonic destroyer as he transforms them into an ape and a dog to emphasize their lowliness and foolishness.

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