From The History of the Damnable Life and Deserved Death of Doctor John Faustus

The notorious Jorg Faustus (d. 1539), who seems to have been more quack than satanist, was considered a sorceror by Luther. Rumors and stories proliferated after his death, and by the 1570s stories of Faustus the magician were appearing in German collections of moral histories. The German Faustbook (1587) was outstandingly popular, with twenty editions by century's end. An English translation by P. F. appeared under the title The History of the Damnable Life and Deserved Death of Doctor John Faustus. This translation, which may have appeared as early as 1588, though the first surviving copy is 1592, is notable in that it embellishes the plain prose of the German version and expands on Faustus's travels, drawing its topographical information from the most recent atlases and incorporating a visit to the New World. The identity of the translator remains unknown.

This excerpt from the final chapter of The History of the Damnable Life and Deserved Death of Doctor John Faustus records the last night of the magician's life, as witnessed by his students. The discovery in the morning of Faustus's mangled remains corresponds with a scene found only in the B-text of the play.

[Faustus's Final Night]

This oration or declaration was made by Doctor Faustus, and that with a hearty and resolute mind, to the end he might not discomfort them. But the students wondered greatly thereat, that he was so blinded, for knavery, conjuration, and such like foolish things, to give his body and soul unto the Devil. For they loved him entirely, and never suspected any such thing before he had opened his mind to them. Wherefore one of them said unto him, "Ah friend Faustus, what have you done to conceal this matter so long from us? We would by the help of good divines, and the grace of God, have brought you out of this net, and have torn you out of the bondage and chains of Satan, whereas now we fear it is too late, to the utter ruin of your body and soul."

Doctor Faustus answered, "I durst never do it, although I often minded to settle my self unto godly people, to desire counsel and help, as once mine old neighbor counselled me, that I should follow his learning, and leave all my conjurations. Yet when I was minded to amend, and to follow that good man's counsel, then came the Devil and would have had me away, as this night he is like to do, and said so soon as I turned again to God, he would dispatch me altogether. Thus, even thus (good gentlemen, and my dear friends) was I enthralled in that Satanical band, all good desires drowned, all piety banished, all purpose of amendment utterly exiled by the tyrannous threatenings of my deadly enemy."

But when the students heard his words, they gave him counsel to do naught else but call upon God, desiring him for the love of his sweet son Jesus Christ's sake, to have mercy upon him, teaching him this form of prayer: "O God, be merciful unto me, poor and miserable sinner, and enter not into judgment with me, for no flesh is able to stand before thee. Although, O Lord, I must leave my sinful body unto the Devil, being by him deluded, yet thou in mercy mayest preserve my soul." This they repeated unto him, yet it could take no hold, but, even as Cain, he also said his sins were greater than God was able to forgive. For all his thought was on his writing; he meant he had made it too filthy in writing it with his own blood.

The students and the other that were there, when they had prayed for him, they wept, and so went forth, but Faustus tarried in the hall. And when the gentlemen were laid in bed, none of them could sleep, for that they attended >> note 1 to hear if they might be privy of his end. It happened between twelve and one o'clock at midnight there blew a mighty storm of wind against the house, as though it would have blown the foundation thereof out of his place. Hereupon the students began to fear, and got out of their beds, comforting one another, but they would not stir out of the chamber; and the host of the house ran out of doors, thinking the house would fall. The students lay near unto that hall wherein Doctor Faustus lay, and they heard a mighty noise and hissing, as if the hall had been full of snakes and adders. With that the hall door flew open wherein Doctor Faustus was. Then he began to cry for help, saying, "Murder, murder," but it came forth with half a voice, hollowly. Shortly after they heard him no more.

But when it was day, the students that had taken no rest that night arose and went into the hall in the which they left Doctor Faustus, where notwithstanding they found no Faustus, but all the hall lay besprinckled with blood, his brains cleaving to the wall; for the Devil had beaten him from one wall against another. In one corner lay his eyes, in another his teeth, a pitiful and fearful sight to behold. Then began the students to bewail and weep for him, and sought for his body in many places. Lastly, they came into the yard where they found his body lying on the horse dung, most monstrously torn, and fearful to behold, for his head and all his joints were dashed in pieces.


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