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Doctor Faustus | Study Guide

Christopher Marlowe

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Course Hero Literature Instructor Russell Jaffe provides an in-depth summary and analysis of the Epilogue of Christopher Marlowe's play Doctor Faustus.

Doctor Faustus | Epilogue | Summary



The chorus confirms that Faustus is in hell. Like the branch of tree that has grown twisted and unhealthy, his twisted, unhealthy life has been cut off. His chance for great achievements and immortality has been destroyed. The chorus warns that, while it may be interesting to consider the life path Faustus chose, the wise will understand it is dangerous to follow in his footsteps.


While assuring the audience Faustus is in hell, the chorus sums up all he has lost in the line "And burnèd is Apollo's laurel bough." The Greek god Apollo is associated with knowledge, art, poetry, and oracles. In ancient times a wreath of laurel, which was Apollo's symbolic tree, was awarded to victors in athletic competitions and poetry contests. The laurel is also associated with eternity or immortality, as the leaves never wilt. While Faustus might have enjoyed triumph and immortality through fame, this has been destroyed by his twisted ambitions, which have led him to the burning fires of hell.

Though the chorus blames Faustus for his "hellish fall" and "fiendful fortune," it also expresses sympathy for the man whose potential for greatness was never realized. He is "the branch that might have grown full straight." The final line suggests that Faustus was punished by God for practicing "more than heavenly power permits." This echoes the prologue, in which the chorus states that, like Daedalus and his son Icarus, the doctor "did mount above his reach" and the "heavens conspired his overthrow." In other words Faustus is doomed from the start for seeking "unlawful things." His life serves as a warning to seek knowledge carefully and be wary of the pitfalls of pride and ambition.

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