c. 1590 | London

Moment of Reckoning

Christopher Marlowe conjures the Devil.

Faustus: Gentlemen, farewell: if I live till morning, I’ll visit you; if not, Faustus is gone to hell.

[Scholars exit—the clock strikes eleven.]

Faustus: Ah, Faustus,

Now hast thou but one bare hour to live,

And then thou must be damned perpetually!

Stand still, you ever-moving spheres of heaven,

That time may cease, and midnight never come;

Fair nature’s eye, rise, rise again, and make

Perpetual day; or let this hour be but

A year, a month, a week, a natural day,

That Faustus may repent and save his soul!

O lente, lente, currite noctis equi!

The stars move still, time runs, the clock will strike,

The devil will come, and Faustus must be damned. 

Oh, I’ll leap up to my God!—Who pulls me down?—

See, see where Christ’s blood streams in the firmament!

One drop would save my soul, half a drop: ah, my Christ!

Ah, rend not my heart for naming of my Christ!

Yet will I call on him: Oh, spare me, Lucifer!

Where is it now? ’Tis gone: and see, where God

Stretcheth out his arm, and bends his ireful brows!

Mountains and hills, come, come, and fall on me,

And hide me from the heavy wrath of God! 

No, no!

Then will I headlong run into the earth:

Earth, gape! Oh, no, it will not harbor me!

You stars that reigned at my nativity,

Whose influence hath allotted death and hell,

Now draw up Faustus, like a foggy mist,

Into the entrails of yon laboring clouds,

That, when you vomit forth into the air,

My limbs may issue from your smoky mouths,

So that my soul may but ascend to heaven!

[The clock strikes the half hour.]

Ah, half the hour is past! ’Twill all be past anon.

O God,

If thou wilt not have mercy on my soul,

Yet for Christ’s sake, whose blood hath ransomed me,

Impose some end to my incessant pain;

Let Faustus live in hell a thousand years,

A hundred thousand, and at last be saved!

Oh, no end is limited to damnèd souls!

Why wert thou not a creature wanting soul?

Or why is this immortal that thou hast?

Ah, Pythagoras’ metempsychosis, were that true,

This soul should fly from me, and I be changed

Unto some brutish beast! All beasts are happy,

For, when they die, 

Their souls are soon dissolved in elements;

But mine must live still to be plagued in hell.

Cursed be the parents that engendered me!

No, Faustus, curse thyself, curse Lucifer

That hath deprived thee of the joys of heaven. 

[The clock strikes twelve.]

Oh, it strikes, it strikes! Now, body, turn to air,

Or Lucifer will bear thee quick to hell! [thunder and lightning]

O soul, be changed into little water drops, 

And fall into the ocean, never be found! 

[Enter devils.]

My God, my God, look not so fierce on me!

Adders and serpents, let me breathe a while!

Ugly hell, gape not! Come not Lucifer!

I’ll burn my books!—Ah, Mephistopheles!

[Devils exit with Faustus.]


Christopher Marlowe

From The Tragicall History of Doctor Faustus. Queen Elizabeth’s Privy Council quelled the worries of Cambridge University in 1587 over Marlowe’s absences, issuing a statement that he was employed in “matters touching the benefit of his country”; it is the earliest record of his clandestine government service. He was denounced variously in his short career: by one man for his “pestilent Machiavellian policy” and by another for supposedly having said, “All they that love not tobacco and boys were fools.” He died in 1593 at the age of twenty-nine from a stab wound.