Christopher Marlowe, Scene 9
of the B-Text of Doctor Faustus
Faustus suggests that there is something
inherently spectacular and theatrical about
both sorcery and statecraft. As many texts
and illustrations of the time reveal, on
a given day in Elizabethan London, actors,
conjurors, and public hangmen might all
be putting on the same sort of "show":
the gruesome spectacle of decapitation.
In this excerpt from Scene
9 of the B-text of Doctor
Faustus, Benvolio (the equivalent of
the "Knight" in the A-text) conspires
with his fellows to avenge himself on the
magician by beheading him. The trick Faustus
plays on them is similar to but more spectacular
than the one he plays on the horse-courser
in Scene 10 of the A-text (see NAEL 8, 1.1048-49).
Benvolio's plans to display the conjuror's
head to the public remind us that the audience
would have been familiar with the sight of
the severed heads of traitors mounted on
pikes on London Bridge.
FREDERICK. Close, close, the conjuror is
And all alone comes walking in his gown.
Be ready then, and strike the peasant down.
BENVOLIO. Mine be that honor then. Now, sword, strike home,
For horns he gave, I'll have his head anon.
>> note 1
Enter FAUSTUS with the false head.
MARTINO. See, see, he comes.
BENVOLIO. No words — this blow ends all.
Hell take his soul, his body thus must fall.
FREDERICK. Groan you, Master Doctor?
BENVOLIO. Break may his heart with groans. Dear Frederick, see,
Thus will I end his griefs immediately.
MARTINO. Strike with a willing hand. His head is off.
BENVOLIO. The Devil's dead, the Furies
>> note 2 now
FREDERICK. Was this that stern aspect, that awful frown,
Made the grim monarch of infernal spirits
Tremble and quake at his commanding charms?
MARTINO. Was this that damned head, whose heart conspired
Benvolio's shame before the Emperor?
BENVOLIO. Aye, that's the head, and here the body lies,
Justly rewarded for his villainies.
FREDERICK. Come, let's devise how we may add more shame
To the black scandal of his hated name.
BENVOLIO. First, on his head, in quittance of my wrongs,
I'll nail huge forked horns, and let them hang
Within the window where he yoked me first,
That all the world may see my just revenge.
MARTINO. What shall we put his beard to?
BENVOLIO. We'll sell it to a chimney sweeper. It will wear out
>> note 3 ten
birchen brooms I warrant you.
FREDERICK. What shall eyes do?
BENVOLIO. We'll put out his eyes, and they shall serve for buttons to
lips, to keep his tongue from catching cold.
MARTINO. An excellent policy. And now, sirs, having divided him, what
shall the body do?
FAUSTUS stands up.
BENVOLIO. Zounds, the Devil's alive
FREDERICK. Give him his head, for God's sake.
FAUSTUS. Nay, keep it. Faustus will have heads and hands.
I call your hearts to recompense this deed.
Knew you not, traitors, I was limited
>> note 4
For four and twenty years to breathe on Earth?
And had you cut my body with your swords,
Or hewed this flesh and bones as small as sand,
Yet in a minute had my spirit returned,
And I had breathed a man made free from harm.
But wherefore do I dally my revenge?
Asteroth, Belimoth, Mephastophilis!
Enter MEPHASTOPHILIS and other devils
Go horse these traitors on your fiery backs,
And mount aloft with them as high as heaven,
Thence pitch them headlong to the lowest hell.
Yet stay, the world shall see their misery,
And hell shall after plague their treachery.
Go Belimoth, and take this caitiff hence,
And hurl him in some lake of mud or dirt.
Take thou this other, drag him through the woods,
Amongst the pricking thorns and sharpest briars,
Whilst with my gentle Mephastopholis
This traitor flies unto some steepy rock,
That rolling down, may break his villain's bones,
As he intented to dismember me.
Fly hence, dispatch my charge immediately.
FREDERICK. Pity us, gentle Faustus, save our lives.
FREDERICK. He must needs go that the Devil drives.
Exeunt spirits with knights.