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  • Print publication year: 2018
  • Online publication date: September 2018

Chapter 14 - The Devil and Doctor Faustus

from Part III - Marlowe Received

Summary

Until the advent of the twentieth century, the form of Faustus’s post-Renaissance fortunes upon the English stage was largely a comic one. From the humourous Faustus of 1697 to a comic ballet in 1833, Marlowe’s Faustus survived mostly in motley. When the Faustus story did return to the English stage as tragedy, it was Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s, not Christopher Marlowe’s. 'The Devil and Doctor Faustus' therefore goes in search of Marlowe’s Faustus during its 'lost years'. It argues that while Marlowe’s play as we know it today disappeared for nearly three hundred years, it survived via its anecdotal variant, the story of an extra devil spawned by an early performance. For across the centuries—between Faustus’s premiere in the sixteenth century and its reemergence at the outset of the twentieth—Marlowe’s devil makes cameos at moments of theatrical crisis and remembers the spirit if not a word of Marlowe’s masterpiece.