King Hrothgar of Denmark, a descendant of the great king Shield Sheafson, enjoys a prosperous and
successful reign. He builds a great mead-hall, called Heorot, where his warriors can gather to drink, receive
gifts from their lord, and listen to stories sung by the scops, or bards. But the jubilant noise from Heorot angers
Grendel, a horrible demon who lives in the swamplands of Hrothgar’s kingdom. Grendel terrorizes the Danes
every night, killing them and defeating their efforts to fight back. The Danes suffer many years of fear, danger,
and death at the hands of Grendel. Eventually, however, a young Geatish warrior named Beowulf hears of
Hrothgar’s plight. Inspired by the challenge, Beowulf sails to Denmark with a small company of men,
determined to defeat Grendel.
Hrothgar, who had once done a great favor for Beowulf’s father Ecgtheow, accepts Beowulf’s offer to
fight Grendel and holds a feast in the hero’s honor. During the feast, an envious Dane named Unferth taunts
Beowulf and accuses him of being unworthy of his reputation. Beowulf responds with a boastful description of
some of his past accomplishments. His confidence cheers the Danish warriors, and the feast lasts merrily into
the night. At last, however, Grendel arrives. Beowulf fights him unarmed, proving himself stronger than the
demon, who is terrified. As Grendel struggles to escape, Beowulf tears the monster’s arm off. Mortally
wounded, Grendel slinks back into the swamp to die. The severed arm is hung high in the mead-hall as a trophy
of victory.
Overjoyed, Hrothgar showers Beowulf with gifts and treasure at a feast in his honor. Songs are sung in
praise of Beowulf, and the celebration lasts late into the night. But another threat is approaching. Grendel’s
mother, a swamp-hag who lives in a desolate lake, comes to Heorot seeking revenge for her son’s death. She
murders Aeschere, one of Hrothgar’s most trusted advisers, before slinking away. To avenge Aeschere’s death,
the company travels to the murky swamp, where Beowulf dives into the water and fights Grendel’s mother in
her underwater lair. He kills her with a sword forged for a giant, then, finding Grendel’s corpse, decapitates it
and brings the head as a prize to Hrothgar. The Danish countryside is now purged of its treacherous monsters.
The Danes are again overjoyed, and Beowulf’s fame spreads across the kingdom. Beowulf departs
after a sorrowful goodbye to Hrothgar, who has treated him like a son. He returns to Geatland, where he and his
men are reunited with their king and queen, Hygelac and Hygd, to whom Beowulf recounts his adventures in
Denmark. Beowulf then hands over most of his treasure to Hygelac, who, in turn, rewards him.
In time, Hygelac is killed in a war against the Shylfings, and, after Hygelac’s son dies, Beowulf ascends
to the throne of the Geats. He rules wisely for fifty years, bringing prosperity to Geatland. When Beowulf is an
old man, however, a thief disturbs a barrow, or mound, where a great dragon lies guarding a horde of treasure.
Enraged, the dragon emerges from the barrow and begins unleashing fiery destruction upon the Geats. Sensing
his own death approaching, Beowulf goes to fight the dragon. With the aid of Wiglaf, he succeeds in killing the
beast, but at a heavy cost. The dragon bites Beowulf in the neck, and its fiery venom kills him moments after
their encounter. The Geats fear that their enemies will attack them now that Beowulf is dead. According to
Beowulf’s wishes, they burn their departed king’s body on a huge funeral pyre and then bury him with a
massive treasure in a barrow overlooking the sea.

1. How is BEOWULF structured? How does this structure relate to the theme or themes of the
work as a whole?
Beowulf is loosely divided into three parts, each of which centers around Beowulf’s fight with a
particular monster: first Grendel, then Grendel’s mother, then the dragon. One can argue that this structure
relates to the theme of the epic in that each monster presents a specific moral challenge against which the
Anglo-Saxon heroic code can be measured and tested. Beowulf’s fight with Grendel evokes the importance of
reputation as a means of expanding one’s existence beyond death. Grendel’s great and terrifying nature ensures
that Beowulf will long be celebrated for his heroic conquering of this foe. His subsequent encounter with
Grendel’s mother evokes the importance of vengeance. Just as Beowulf exacts revenge upon Grendel for killing
Hrothgar’s men, so too must Grendel’s mother seek to purge her grief by slaying her son’s murderer. Beowulf’s
final encounter with the dragon evokes a heroic approach to wyrd, or fate. Though he recognizes that his time
has come and that he will thus not survive his clash with the dragon, he bravely embraces his duty to protect his
people, sacrificing his life to save them.
Alternatively, one might make a division of the text into two parts, examining youth and old age as the
two distinctive phases of Beowulf’s life. Along these lines, the gap of fifty years between the first two conflicts
and the last marks the dividing line. One of the main thematic points highlighted by such a division is the
difference in responsibilities of the warrior and of the king. As a young warrior, Beowulf is free to travel afar to
protect others, but as an old king, he must commit himself to guard his own people. Additionally, whereas
Beowulf focuses on the heroic life early on, seeking to make a name for himself, he must focus on fate and the
maintenance of his reputation late in life.
2.BEOWULF is set in a male-dominated world full of violence and danger. What role does patriarchal
history play in this world? Why does it matter to the warriors who their ancestors were?
The obsession with patriarchal history manifests itself throughout Beowulf, which opens by tracing
Hrothgar’s male ancestry and constantly refers to characters as the sons of their fathers. An awareness of family
lineage is one way in which the heroic code integrates itself into the warriors’ most basic sense of identity. By
placing such an emphasis on who their fathers were and how their fathers acted, the men of Beowulf bind
themselves to a cycle of necessity governed by the heroic code. For example, because Beowulf’s father owed a
debt of loyalty to Hrothgar, Beowulf himself owes a debt of loyalty to Hrothgar. In this way, patriarchal history
works to concretize and strengthen the warrior code in a world full of uncertainty and fear.
One might contrast this socially accepted version of patriarchal history with the various alternative
models that the poem presents. Grendel, for example, descends from Cain, the biblical icon of familial
disloyalty, and the avenging of his death is undertaken by a female relative rather than a male one. Examples of
family discontinuity abound as well. For instance, Shield Sheafson is an orphan, and the Last Survivor
represents the end of an entire race. Beowulf is similar to both of these characters—his father died while
Beowulf was still young, and Beowulf himself dies without an heir. The anxiety about succession focuses
attention on the ties between generations. Both Hrothgar and Hygelac depend on the loyalty of others if their
sons are to inherit their respective kingships. All of these concerns help emphasize the importance of family
heritage as a cultural value.

3. What role does religion play in BEOWULF?
The Beowulf story has its roots in a pagan Saxon past, but by the time the epic was written down, almost
all Anglo-Saxons had converted to Christianity. As a result, the Beowulf poet is at pains to resolve his Christian
beliefs with the often quite un-Christian behavior of his characters. This tension leads to frequent asides about
God, hell, and heaven—and to many allusions to the Old Testament throughout the work. In the end, however,
the conflict proves simply irresolvable. Beowulf doesn’t lead a particularly good life by Christian standards, but
the poet cannot help but revere him. Though some of Beowulf’s values—such as his dedication to his people
and his willingness to dole out treasure—conceivably overlap with Christian values, he ultimately lives for the
preservation of earthly glory after death, not for entrance into heaven. Though his death in the encounter with
the dragon clearly proves his mortality (and perhaps moral fallibility), the poem itself stands as a testament to
the raw greatness of his life, ensuring his ascension into the secular heaven of warrior legend.

During a New Year’s Eve feast at King Arthur’s court, a strange figure, referred to only as the Green
Knight, pays the court an unexpected visit. He challenges the group’s leader or any other brave representative to
a game. The Green Knight says that he will allow whomever accepts the challenge to strike him with his own
axe, on the condition that the challenger find him in exactly one year to receive a blow in return.
Stunned, Arthur hesitates to respond, but when the Green Knight mocks Arthur’s silence, the king steps
forward to take the challenge. As soon as Arthur grips the Green Knight’s axe, Sir Gawain leaps up and asks to
take the challenge himself. He takes hold of the axe and, in one deadly blow, cuts off the knight’s head. To the
amazement of the court, the now-headless Green Knight picks up his severed head. Before riding away, the
head reiterates the terms of the pact, reminding the young Gawain to seek him in a year and a day at the Green
Chapel. After the Green Knight leaves, the company goes back to its festival, but Gawain is uneasy.
Time passes, and autumn arrives. On the Day of All Saints, Gawain prepares to leave Camelot and find
the Green Knight. He puts on his best armor, mounts his horse, Gringolet, and starts off toward North Wales,
traveling through the wilderness of northwest Britain. Gawain encounters all sorts of beasts, suffers from hunger
and cold, and grows more desperate as the days pass. On Christmas Day, he prays to find a place to hear Mass,
then looks up to see a castle shimmering in the distance. The lord of the castle welcomes Gawain warmly,
introducing him to his lady and to the old woman who sits beside her. For sport, the host (whose name is later
revealed to be Bertilak) strikes a deal with Gawain: the host will go out hunting with his men every day, and
when he returns in the evening, he will exchange his winnings for anything Gawain has managed to acquire by
staying behind at the castle. Gawain happily agrees to the pact, and goes to bed.
The first day, the lord hunts a herd of does, while Gawain sleeps late in his bedchambers. On the
morning of the first day, the lord’s wife sneaks into Gawain’s chambers and attempts to seduce him. Gawain
puts her off, but before she leaves she steals one kiss from him. That evening, when the host gives Gawain the
venison he has captured, Gawain kisses him, since he has won one kiss from the lady. The second day, the lord
hunts a wild boar. The lady again enters Gawain’s chambers, and this time she kisses Gawain twice. That
evening Gawain gives the host the two kisses in exchange for the boar’s head.

The third day, the lord hunts a fox, and the lady kisses Gawain three times. She also asks him for a love
token, such as a ring or a glove. Gawain refuses to give her anything and refuses to take anything from her, until
the lady mentions her girdle. The green silk girdle she wears around her waist is no ordinary piece of cloth, the
lady claims, but possesses the magical ability to protect the person who wears it from death. Intrigued, Gawain
accepts the cloth, but when it comes time to exchange his winnings with the host, Gawain gives the three kisses
but does not mention the lady’s green girdle. The host gives Gawain the fox skin he won that day, and they all
go to bed happy, but weighed down with the fact that Gawain must leave for the Green Chapel the following
morning to find the Green Knight.
New Year’s Day arrives, and Gawain dons his armor, including the girdle, then sets off with Gringolet to
seek the Green Knight. A guide accompanies him out of the estate grounds. When they reach the border of the
forest, the guide promises not to tell anyone if Gawain decides to give up the quest. Gawain refuses, determined
to meet his fate head-on. Eventually, he comes to a kind of crevice in a rock, visible through the tall grasses. He
hears the whirring of a grindstone, confirming his suspicion that this strange cavern is in fact the Green Chapel.

Gawain calls out, and the Green Knight emerges to greet him. Intent on fulfilling the terms of the contract,
Gawain presents his neck to the Green Knight, who proceeds to feign two blows. On the third feint, the Green
Knight nicks Gawain’s neck, barely drawing blood. Angered, Gawain shouts that their contract has been met,
but the Green Knight merely laughs.
The Green Knight reveals his name, Bertilak, and explains that he is the lord of the castle where Gawain
recently stayed. Because Gawain did not honestly exchange all of his winnings on the third day, Bertilak drew
blood on his third blow. Nevertheless, Gawain has proven himself a worthy knight, without equal in all the land.
When Gawain questions Bertilak further, Bertilak explains that the old woman at the castle is really Morgan le
Faye, Gawain’s aunt and King Arthur’s half sister. She sent the Green Knight on his original errand and used her
magic to change Bertilak’s appearance. Relieved to be alive but extremely guilty about his sinful failure to tell
the whole truth, Gawain wears the girdle on his arm as a reminder of his own failure. He returns to Arthur’s
court, where all the knights join Gawain, wearing girdles on their arms to show their support.

The Canterbury Tales is the most famous and critically acclaimed work of Geoffrey Chaucer, a latefourteenth-century English poet. Little is known about Chaucer’s personal life, and even less about his
education, but a number of existing records document his professional life. Chaucer was born in London in the
early 1340s, the only son in his family. Chaucer’s father, originally a property-owning wine merchant, became
tremendously wealthy when he inherited the property of relatives who had died in the Black Death of 1349. He
was therefore able to send the young Geoffrey off as a page to the Countess of Ulster, which meant that
Geoffrey was not required to follow in his ancestors’ footsteps and become a merchant. Eventually, Chaucer
began to serve the countess’s husband, Prince Lionel, son to King Edward III. For most of his life, Chaucer
served in the Hundred Years War between England and France, both as a soldier and, since he was fluent in
French and Italian and conversant in Latin and other tongues, as a diplomat. His diplomatic travels brought him
twice to Italy, where he might have met Boccaccio, whose writing influenced Chaucer’s work, and Petrarch.
In or around 1378, Chaucer began to develop his vision of an English poetry that would be linguistically
accessible to all—obedient neither to the court, whose official language was French, nor to the Church, whose
official language was Latin. Instead, Chaucer wrote in the vernacular, the English that was spoken in and around
London in his day. Undoubtedly, he was influenced by the writings of the Florentines Dante, Petrarch, and
Boccaccio, who wrote in the Italian vernacular. Even in England, the practice was becoming increasingly
common among poets, although many were still writing in French and Latin.
That the nobles and kings Chaucer served (Richard II until 1399, then Henry IV) were impressed with
Chaucer’s skills as a negotiator is obvious from the many rewards he received for his service. Money,
provisions, higher appointments, and property eventually allowed him to retire on a royal pension. In 1374, the
king appointed Chaucer Controller of the Customs of Hides, Skins and Wools in the port of London, which
meant that he was a government official who worked with cloth importers. His experience overseeing imported
cloths might be why he frequently describes in exquisite detail the garments and fabric that attire his characters.
Chaucer held the position at the customhouse for twelve years, after which he left London for Kent, the county
in which Canterbury is located. He served as a justice of the peace for Kent, living in debt, and was then
appointed Clerk of the Works at various holdings of the king, including Westminster and the Tower of London.
After he retired in the early 1390s, he seems to have been working primarily on The Canterbury Tales, which he
began around 1387. By the time of his retirement, Chaucer had already written a substantial amount of narrative
poetry, including the celebrated romance Troilus and Criseyde.
Chaucer’s personal life is less documented than his professional life. In the late 1360s, he married
Philippa Roet, who served Edward III’s queen. They had at least two sons together. Philippa was the sister to the
mistress of John of Gaunt, the duke of Lancaster. For John of Gaunt, Chaucer wrote one of his first poems, The
Book of the Duchess, which was a lament for the premature death of John’s young wife, Blanche. Whether or
not Chaucer had an extramarital affair is a matter of some contention among historians. In a legal document that
dates from 1380, a woman named Cecily Chaumpaigne released Chaucer from the accusation of seizing her
(raptus), though whether the expression denotes that he raped her, committed adultery with her, or abducted her
son is unclear. Chaucer’s wife Philippa apparently died in 1387.
Chaucer lived through a time of incredible tension in the English social sphere. The Black Death, which
ravaged England during Chaucer’s childhood and remained widespread afterward, wiped out an estimated thirty
to fifty percent of the population. Consequently, the labor force gained increased leverage and was able to
bargain for better wages, which led to resentment from the nobles and propertied classes. These classes received

another blow in 1381, when the peasantry, helped by the artisan class, revolted against them. The merchants
were also wielding increasing power over the legal establishment, as the Hundred Years War created profit for
England and, consequently, appetite for luxury was growing. The merchants capitalized on the demand for
luxury goods, and when Chaucer was growing up, London was pretty much run by a merchant oligarchy, which
attempted to control both the aristocracy and the lesser artisan classes. Chaucer’s political sentiments are
unclear, for although The Canterbury Tales documents the various social tensions in the manner of the popular
genre of estates satire, the narrator refrains from making overt political statements, and what he does say is in
no way thought to represent Chaucer’s own sentiments.
Chaucer’s original plan for The Canterbury Tales was for each character to tell four tales, two on the
way to Canterbury and two on the way back. But, instead of 120 tales, the text ends after twenty-four tales, and
the party is still on its way to Canterbury. Chaucer either planned to revise the structure to cap the work at
twenty-four tales, or else left it incomplete when he died on October 25, 1400. Other writers and printers soon
recognized The Canterbury Tales as a masterful and highly original work. Though Chaucer had been influenced
by the great French and Italian writers of his age, works like Boccaccio’s Decameron were not accessible to
most English readers, so the format of The Canterbury Tales, and the intense realism of its characters, were
virtually unknown to readers in the fourteenth century before Chaucer. William Caxton, England’s first printer,
published The Canterbury Tales in the 1470s, and it continued to enjoy a rich printing history that never truly
faded. By the English Renaissance, poetry critic George Puttenham had identified Chaucer as the father of the
English literary canon. Chaucer’s project to create a literature and poetic language for all classes of society
succeeded, and today Chaucer still stands as one of the great shapers of literary narrative and character.
Nobody knows exactly in what order Chaucer intended to present the tales, or even if he had a specific
order in mind for all of them. Eighty-two early manuscripts of the tales survive, and many of them vary
considerably in the order in which they present the tales. However, certain sets of tales do seem to belong
together in a particular order. For instance, the General Prologue is obviously the beginning, then the narrator
explicitly says that the Knight tells the first tale, and that the Miller interrupts and tells the second tale. The
introductions, prologues, and epilogues to various tales sometimes include the pilgrims’ comments on the tale
just finished, and an indication of who tells the next tale. These sections between the tales are called links, and
they are the best evidence for grouping the tales together into ten fragments. But The Canterbury Tales does not
include a complete set of links, so the order of the ten fragments is open to question. The Riverside Chaucer
bases the order of the ten fragments on the order presented in the Ellesmere manuscript, one of the best
surviving manuscripts of the tale. Some scholars disagree with the groupings and order of tales followed in The
Riverside Chaucer, choosing instead to base the order on a combination of the links and the geographical
landmarks that the pilgrims pass on the way to Canterbury.

UTOPIA by Thomas More
Discuss the status of women in Utopia.
Utopia is based on egalitarian principles, and these principles extend to issues of gender. Utopian
women are allowed to work, vote, become priests, fight, and generally have just as much influence over
Utopian affairs as do men. True, some pragmatic constraints are placed on women. For example, they are not
expected or allowed to engage in heavy labor since in general they are not as strong as men. But these
pragmatic constraints do little to alter the staggering degree of freedom that Utopian women are afforded in
contrast to European women. However, while Utopian women hold a basically equal secular standard as the
men, Utopian religion, with its demand that women prostrate themselves before their husbands, is formulated in
such a way that it implicitly holds men as more religiously pure. There does not seem to be any way to reconcile
these differences in the status of Utopian women as secularly equal but religiously inferior. Rather, the
differences seem to betray the underlying influence of sixteenth century Europe; Thomas More creates a society
in which women are given more rights and power than any in existence, and yet even he cannot completely
escape the European conviction that women were inferior.
What is the nature of Utopian society? Is it an ideal society? If so, is it a society made up of ideal
Utopia is the most perfect embodiment of humanist rational ideas. But because it has not received the
direct revelation of Jesus Christ, and, furthermore, simply because it exists in the kingdom of Earth rather than
the kingdom of Heaven, it cannot be ideal. Utopia, then, is not ideal, but quasi-ideal. It demonstrates that
Christian tenets can only truly be the basis of an egalitarian society, and it simultaneously shows that
supposedly Christian Europe drastically fails to follow these tenets in the formulation of its own political
It would be incorrect to assume, however, that Utopia is as close to ideal as it is because its inhabitants
are ideal. In fact, the opposite is true: Utopia is close to ideal because it assumes that its population is not ideal.
Utopia has built its laws to make acting immorally irrational, and then uses its schools to teach its inhabitants
how to think rationally. In other words, Utopia operates with the understanding that people act in their own best
interests, and then formulates its laws and institutions so that an individual's best interest is also the best interest
of the community.
There are many aspects of Utopian life and policy that More describes as absurd. There are some, even,
that Hythloday sees as absurd. Discuss the meaning of the absurd in Utopia. Are absurd practices always absurd
in the same way? Are some absurd practices simply absurd while others betray deeper significance? Is the
sometimes absurdity of Utopia meant to imply that Utopia is ideal or less than ideal? How do the absurdities of
Utopia play into Erasmus's notion of Christian Folly? Identify the moments of absurdity in Utopia and analyze
them separately and in contrast.
Unlike Plato's Republic, Utopia is not presented to the reader as a blueprint for an ideal state. It is
presented as a fiction rather than as a possibility. How does the fictional frame change the way a reader
understands the book? How does the fictional frame in Utopia function? What are the consequences of making
Utopia fictional? How does it offer protection to Thomas More the author?

More travels to Antwerp as an ambassador for England and King Henry VIII. While not engaged in his
official duties, More spends time conversing about intellectual matters with his friend, Peter Giles. One day,
More sees Giles speaking to a bearded man whom More assumes to be a ship's captain. Giles soon introduces
More to this new man, Raphael Hythloday, who turns out to be a philosopher and world traveler. The three men
retire to Giles's house for supper and conversation, and Hythloday begins to speak about his travels.
Hythloday has been on many voyages with the noted explorer Amerigo Vespucci, traveling to the New
World, south of the Equator, through Asia, and eventually landing on the island of Utopia. He describes the
societies through which he travels with such insight that Giles and More become convinced that Hythloday
would make a terrific counselor to a king. Hythloday refuses even to consider such a notion. A disagreement
follows, in which the three discuss Hythloday's reasons for his position. To make his point, Hythloday describes
a dinner he once shared in England with Cardinal Morton and a number of others. During this dinner,
Hythloday proposed alternatives to the many evil civil practices of England, such as the policy of capital
punishment for the crime of theft. His proposals meet with derision, until they are given legitimate thought by
the Cardinal, at which point they meet with great general approval. Hythloday uses this story to show how
pointless it is to counsel a king when the king can always expect his other counselors to agree with his own
beliefs or policies. Hythloday then goes on to make his point through a number of other examples, finally noting
that no matter how good a proposed policy is, it will always look insane to a person used to a different way of
seeing the world. Hythloday points out that the policies of the Utopians are clearly superior to those of
Europeans, yet adds that Europeans would see as ludicrous the all-important Utopian policy of common
property. More and Giles do disagree with the notion that common property is superior to private property, and
the three agree that Hythloday should describe the Utopian society in more detail. First, however, they break for

Back from lunch, Hythloday describes the geography and history of Utopia. He explains how the
founder of Utopia, General Utopus, conquered the isthmus on which Utopia now stands and through a great
public works effort cut away the land to make an island. Next, Hythloday moves to a discussion of Utopian
society, portraying a nation based on rational thought, with communal property, great productivity, no rapacious
love of gold, no real class distinctions, no poverty, little crime or immoral behavior, religious tolerance, and
little inclination to war. It is a society that Hythloday believes is superior to any in Europe.
Hythloday finishes his description and More explains that after so much talking, Giles, Hythloday, and
he were too tired to discuss the particular points of Utopian society. More concludes that many of the Utopian
customs described by Hythloday, such as their methods of making war and their belief in communal property,
seem absurd. He does admit, however, that he would like to see some aspects of Utopian society put into
practice in England, though he does not believe any such thing will happen.

DOCTOR FAUSTUS by Christopher Marlowe

Doctor Faustus, a well-respected German scholar, grows dissatisfied with the limits of traditional forms
of knowledge—logic, medicine, law, and religion—and decides that he wants to learn to practice magic. His
friends Valdes and Cornelius instruct him in the black arts, and he begins his new career as a magician by
summoning up Mephastophilis, a devil. Despite Mephastophilis’s warnings about the horrors of hell, Faustus
tells the devil to return to his master, Lucifer, with an offer of Faustus’s soul in exchange for twenty-four years
of service from Mephastophilis. Meanwhile, Wagner, Faustus’s servant, has picked up some magical ability and
uses it to press a clown named Robin into his service.
Mephastophilis returns to Faustus with word that Lucifer has accepted Faustus’s offer. Faustus
experiences some misgivings and wonders if he should repent and save his soul; in the end, though, he agrees to
the deal, signing it with his blood. As soon as he does so, the words “Homo fuge,” Latin for “O man, fly,”
appear branded on his arm. Faustus again has second thoughts, but Mephastophilis bestows rich gifts on him
and gives him a book of spells to learn. Later, Mephastophilis answers all of his questions about the nature of
the world, refusing to answer only when Faustus asks him who made the universe. This refusal prompts yet
another bout of misgivings in Faustus, but Mephastophilis and Lucifer bring in personifications of the Seven
Deadly Sins to prance about in front of Faustus, and he is impressed enough to quiet his doubts.
Armed with his new powers and attended by Mephastophilis, Faustus begins to travel. He goes to the
pope’s court in Rome, makes himself invisible, and plays a series of tricks. He disrupts the pope’s banquet by
stealing food and boxing the pope’s ears. Following this incident, he travels through the courts of Europe, with
his fame spreading as he goes. Eventually, he is invited to the court of the German emperor, Charles V (the
enemy of the pope), who asks Faustus to allow him to see Alexander the Great, the famed fourth-century B.C.
Macedonian king and conqueror. Faustus conjures up an image of Alexander, and Charles is suitably impressed.
A knight scoffs at Faustus’s powers, and Faustus chastises him by making antlers sprout from his head. Furious,
the knight vows revenge.
Meanwhile, Robin, Wagner’s clown, has picked up some magic on his own, and with his fellow
stablehand, Rafe, he undergoes a number of comic misadventures. At one point, he manages to summon
Mephastophilis, who threatens to turn Robin and Rafe into animals (or perhaps even does transform them; the
text isn’t clear) to punish them for their foolishness.
Faustus then goes on with his travels, playing a trick on a horse-courser along the way. Faustus sells him
a horse that turns into a heap of straw when ridden into a river. Eventually, Faustus is invited to the court of the
Duke of Vanholt, where he performs various feats. The horse-courser shows up there, along with Robin, a man
named Dick (Rafe in the A text), and various others who have fallen victim to Faustus’s trickery. But Faustus
casts spells on them and sends them on their way, to the amusement of the duke and duchess.
As the twenty-four years of his deal with Lucifer come to a close, Faustus begins to dread his impending
death. He has Mephastophilis call up Helen of Troy, the famous beauty from the ancient world, and uses her
presence to impress a group of scholars. An old man urges Faustus to repent, but Faustus drives him away.
Faustus summons Helen again and exclaims rapturously about her beauty. But time is growing short. Faustus
tells the scholars about his pact, and they are horror-stricken and resolve to pray for him. On the final night

before the expiration of the twenty-four years, Faustus is overcome by fear and remorse. He begs for mercy, but
it is too late. At midnight, a host of devils appears and carries his soul off to hell. In the morning, the scholars
find Faustus’s limbs and decide to hold a funeral for him.
1. Is DOCTOR FAUSTUS a Christian tragedy? Why or why not?
Doctor Faustus has elements of both Christian morality and classical tragedy. On the one hand, it takes
place in an explicitly Christian cosmos: God sits on high, as the judge of the world, and every soul goes either
to hell or to heaven. There are devils and angels, with the devils tempting people into sin and the angels urging
them to remain true to God. Faustus’s story is a tragedy in Christian terms, because he gives in to temptation
and is damned to hell. Faustus’s principal sin is his great pride and ambition, which can be contrasted with the
Christian virtue of humility; by letting these traits rule his life, Faustus allows his soul to be claimed by Lucifer,
Christian cosmology’s prince of devils.
Yet while the play seems to offer a very basic Christian message—that one should avoid temptation and
sin, and repent if one cannot avoid temptation and sin—its conclusion can be interpreted as straying from
orthodox Christianity in order to conform to the structure of tragedy. In a traditional tragic play, as pioneered by
the Greeks and imitated by William Shakespeare, a hero is brought low by an error or series of errors and
realizes his or her mistake only when it is too late. In Christianity, though, as long as a person is alive, there is
always the possibility of repentance—so if a tragic hero realizes his or her mistake, he or she may still be saved
even at the last moment. But though Faustus, in the final, wrenching scene, comes to his senses and begs for a
chance to repent, it is too late, and he is carried off to hell. Marlowe rejects the Christian idea that it is never too
late to repent in order to increase the dramatic power of his finale, in which Faustus is conscious of his
damnation and yet, tragically, can do nothing about it.
2. Scholar R.M. Dawkins once called Faustus “a Renaissance man who had to pay the medieval
price for being one.” Do you think this is an accurate characterization of Marlowe’s tragic hero?
Doctor Faustus has frequently been interpreted as depicting a clash between the values of the medieval
world and the emerging spirit of the sixteenth-century Renaissance. In medieval Europe, Christianity and God
lay at the center of intellectual life: scientific inquiry languished, and theology was known as “the queen of the
sciences.” In art and literature, the emphasis was on the lives of the saints and the mighty rather than on those of
ordinary people. With the advent of the Renaissance, however, there was a new celebration of the free
individual and the scientific exploration of nature.
While Marlowe’s Faustus is, admittedly, a magician and not a scientist, this distinction was not so
clearly drawn in the sixteenth century as it is today. (Indeed, famous scientists such as Isaac Newton dabbled in
astrology and alchemy into the eighteenth century.) With his rejection of God’s authority and his thirst for
knowledge and control over nature, Faustus embodies the more secular spirit of the dawning modern era.
Marlowe symbolizes this spirit in the play’s first scene, when Faustus explicitly rejects all the medieval
authorities—Aristotle in logic, Galen in medicine, Justinian in law, and the Bible in religion—and decides to
strike out on his own. In this speech, Faustus puts the medieval world to bed and steps firmly into the new era.
Yet, as the quote says, he “pay[s] the medieval price” for taking this new direction, since he still exists firmly
within a Christian framework, meaning that his transgressions ultimately condemn him to hell.
In the play’s final lines, the Chorus tells us to view Faustus’s fate as a warning and not follow his
example. This admonition would seem to make Marlowe a defender of the established religious values, showing
us the terrible fate that awaits a Renaissance man who rejects God. But by investing Faustus with such tragic

grandeur, Marlowe may be suggesting a different lesson. Perhaps the price of rejecting God is worth it, or
perhaps Faustus pays the price for all of western culture, allowing it to enter a new, more secular era.
3. Discuss the character of Mephastophilis. How much of a role does he play in Faustus’s
damnation? How does Marlowe complicate his character and inspire our sympathy?
Mephastophilis is part of a long tradition of fascinating literary devils that reached its peak a century
later with John Milton’s portrayal of Satan in Paradise Lost, published in the late seventeenth century.
Mephastophilis seems to desire Faustus’s damnation: he appears eagerly when Faustus rejects God and firms up
Faustus’s resolve when Faustus hedges on his contract with Lucifer. Yet there is an odd ambivalence in
Mephastophilis. Before the pact is sealed, he actually warns Faustus against making the deal, telling him how
awful the pains of hell are. In a famous passage, when Faustus remarks that Mephastophilis seems to be free of
hell at the moment, Mephastophilis retorts,
Why this is hell, nor am I out of it.
Think’st thou that I, who saw the face of God,
And tasted the eternal joys of heaven,
Am not tormented with ten thousand hells
In being deprived of everlasting bliss?
Again, when Faustus expresses skepticism that any afterlife exists, Mephastophilis assures him that hell
is real and terrible. These odd complications in Mephastophilis’s character serve a twofold purpose. First, they
highlight Faustus’s willful blindness, since he dismisses the warning of the very demon with whom he is
bartering over his soul. In this regard, his remark that hell is a myth seems particularly delusional. At the same
time, these complications inspire a kind of pity for Mephastophilis and his fellow devils, who are damned to
hell just as surely as Faustus or any other sinful, unrepentant human. These devils may be villains, but they are
tragic figures, separated forever from the bliss of God’s presence by their pride. Indeed, Mephastophilis and
Faust are similar figures: both reject God out of pride, and both suffer for it eternally.

"Deor's Lament" appears in the Exeter Book, which has been dated to around 960-990 AD. "Deor" is a
heroic Anglo-Saxon poem consisting of 42 lines. The poem is a lament in which someone named Deor
compares the loss of his job to seemingly far greater tragedies of the past. The poem's theme is one common to
Anglo-Saxon poetry and literature: that a man cannot escape his fate and thus can only meet it with courage and
The author is unknown and may have been a scop (poet) named Deor. But it is also possible that the
poem was written by someone else. Doer's name means "|dear” and the poet puns on his name in the final
stanza: “I was dear to my lord. My name was Deor.” The name Deor may also has connotations of "noble" and
"Deor's Lament" is, as its name indicates, a lament. The poem has also been classified as an AngloSaxon elegy or dirge. It is the only poem from the Anglo-Saxon era in which stanzas (strophes) are used for
artistic effect, and only one of two poems (the other being “Wulf and Eadwacer") that has a refrain.
"Deor's Lament" has six strophes (stanzas) of unequal length, and the refrain, "That passed away, this
may also" concludes each strophe. By concluding each stanza with the same refrain, the narrator asks the
audience to identify with the example in question and recognize their own misfortunes. All of the characters in
the poem are historical or mythical figures that readers would have likely been familiar with. Deor’s lament is
not just purely personal but also about the universal sense of loss, estrangement and solitude which makes the
hearer or the reader sympathize deeply with the speaker of the poem.
In the first stanza, the narrator refers to Weyland, who is the Old Norse Goldsmith/God (Beowulf's
armor was said to have been fashioned by Weland). Deor talks about Weland who went into exile and suffered
major emotional and physical pain: “Welund tasted misery among snakes”; “endured troubles \ had sorrow and
longing”; “cruelty cold as winter”. Weland was in a cold dungeon and was in effect a displaced person who
had to endure exile with courage in the hopes it would pass and he would be freed once again.
The second stanza describes Beadohild's despair at being impregnated by the man who killed her
brothers. She believes her life is on the wrong track now and that she has no future hope:“her brothers' death
was not so painful to her heart as her own problem”. She is concerned about her unborn child: “foresee without
fear how things would turn out” . However, again, the indication by Deor is that this time of trouble for
Beadohild may pass and she may come through it to a happier stage in her life.
In the third stanza, the narrator describes how the powerful love between Geat and Maethild takes a
physical toll on Geat “so that the painful passion took away all sleep.” . It is presumed that Maethhild
(Matilda) and Geat (or "the Geat") are a pair of lovers from the Scandianavian ballads. Magnild (Maethhild)
was distressed because she foresaw that she would drown in a river. Gauti (Geat) replied that he would build a
bridge over the river, but she responded that no one can flee fate. Sure enough, she drowned. Gauti then called
for his harp, and, like a Germanic Orpheus, played so well that her body rose out of the waters. In one version
she returned alive; in a darker version she returned dead, after which Gauti buried her properly and made
harpstrings from her hair.

In the fourth stanza, the narrators mentions the rule of Theodric, who was King of the Ostrogoths from
471-526 CE. The indication in this stanza is that Theodric ruled his realm with an iron hand and that the
inhabitants of this realm were burdened by this and hoped that this time of oppression would end: “possessed
the Maring's stronghold”.
In the fifth stanza, the narrator describes Ermanaric, similar to Theodric above, who ruled his kingdom
without mercy on others. He was a cunning king - likened to a wolf – “Eormanric's … wolfish mind” and even
warriors feared him and wished his rule would end. Deor again gives a word of hope that this terrible time
passed away - as did the terrible times mentioned above.
Eormenric was another king of the Ostrogoths who died in 376; according to Ammianus Marcellinus, he
killed himself out of fear of the invading Huns. According to other Old Norse Eddic poems (Guðrúnarhvöt and
Hamðismál, Iormunrekkr), Eormenric had his wife Svannhildr trampled by horses because he suspected her of
sleeping with his son. So he might qualify as a "grim king" with "wolfish ways."
In the six stanza, Deor gives voice to the suffering of a minstrel or a scop who has been replaced by a
rival after years of service to his Lord. Deor has left no trace of himself, other than this poem. Heorrenda
appears as Horant in a thirteenth century German epic Kudrun. It was said that Horant sang so sweetly that birds
fell silent at his song, and fish and animals in the wood fell motionless. That would indeed make him a
formidable opponent for the scop Deor. The speaker’s self consolation takes a meditative form as he looks back
upon five instances of suffering inflicted upon Germanic heroes for the comfort that he is not the only one who
has had to face loss and despair. By recalling the misfortunes that fell upon gods and heroes, Deor opines that
suffering is the common lot of man and that every evil passes with time. He hopes that the pain of his rejection
will pass away just like the sorrows of the Germanic legends passed eventually –
“And so I sing of my own sad plight
Who long stood high as the Heodening’s bard
Deor my name, dear to my Lord.
Mild was my service for many a winter,
Kingly my king till Heorrenda came
Skilful in song and usurping the land-right
Which once my gracious lord granted to me.
That evil ended. So also may this! “
The plot of Deor's poem is simple and straighforward: other heroic figures of the past overcame
adversity; so Deor may also be able to overcome the injustice done to him when his lord gave his position to a
rival. In my opinion Deor is optimistic about what the future brings and by using the refrain "That passed away,
this may also" which concludes each strophe he is trying to convince us and himself of that. His faith is that
which gives him hope for the future. Each stanza exemplifies a moral that the audience would have been
familiar with: that God gives to some and takes from others.