DON’T MISS THIS SCRIPT: The Tragical History Of The Life And Death Of Doctor Faustus
For this week’s Don’t Miss The Script, Undermain Costume Designer Giva Taylor (whose work is currently onstage in An Iliad, recommends Christopher Marlowe’s The Tragical History Of The Life And Death Of Doctor Faustus.
Christopher Marlowe was one of Shakespeare’s great Elizabethan contemporaries. He led a colorful life, and his legend includes criminality, homosexuality, espionage, and possible assassination.
His most famous drama, The Tragical History Of The Life And Death Of Doctor Faustus, is a re-telling of the Faust legend, perhaps best known now from Goethe’s version (and the fantastic Murnau film adaptation). The contours are familiar: a brilliant man sells his soul to the devil in return for great gifts. We see the same shape in the tale of blues pioneer Robert Johnson down at the crossroads.
Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus is written in eminently quotable blank verse, but displays a truly rambunctious spirit. In addition to the devil, appearances are made by the Seven Deadly Sins, Alexander the Great, Helen of Troy, and the Pope.
This recommendation comes from Giva Taylor, costume designer and frequent collaborator of Undermain. Asked what she likes about Doctor Faustus, she said:
“It’s got monsters, and it travels about from place to place. It has magic. It has God; it has demons. It has jokes. There are clowns in it.
There’s two versions of it, and I recommend the one that has all of the clowns. Because those guys come in, they’re wet, they’ve fallen in the horse pond. And it really is a relief to all of that serious selling of the soul business.
I love Marlowe. He’s Shakespeare but better – the language is still wonderful, there’s still poetry, but he doesn’t fuck around. It goes straight for the liver. I like him very much. I think he was a little crazy.”
Doctor Faustus was published in 1604. The text is available in multiple versions online at Project Gutenberg. It can also easily be found at the Dallas Public Library and in its many print publications at bookstores on and offline.