Monday, July 25, 2011

Doctor Faustus

I enjoyed going to the theatre last week to see Faustus. The production was (as far as I could work out) a bit of blend of Goethe's version (which I studied at uni) with Marlowe's version (with which I was completely unfamiliar), and a few other things thrown in for good measure.

Anyway, not knowing the Marlowe version I was pleasantly surprised when it started thusly:
Not marching in the fields of Thrasymene,
Where Mars did mate the warlike Carthagens;
Nor sporting in the dalliance of love,
In courts of kings where state is overturn'd;
Nor in the pomp of proud audacious deeds,
Intends our Muse to vaunt her heavenly verse:
Only this, gentles,--we must now perform
The form of Faustus' fortunes, good or bad:
Thrasymene refers to the Battle of Trasimene where Hannibal and the Carthaginians (Carthagens) destroyed the Roman army in one of the opening encounters of the Second Punic War.

In fact there was a lot of Latin in the play, some translated for the benefit of the audience, some not. Here are a few examples:
When all is done, divinity is best:
Jerome's Bible, Faustus; view it well.
[Reads.] Stipendium peccati mors est.
Ha! Stipendium, &c.
'The reward of sin is death': that's hard.
[Reads.] Si peccasse negamus, fallimur, et nulla est in nobis veritas;
'If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and there
is no truth in us'. Why, then, belike we must sin, and so consequently die:
Ay, we must die an everlasting death
What doctrine call you this, Che sera, sera,
What will be, shall be? Divinity, adieu!
Faustus, begin thine incantations,
And try if devils will obey thy hest...
Sint mihi dii Acherontis propitii! Valeat numen triplex Jehovoe! Ignei, aerii, aquatani spiritus, salvete! Orientis princeps Belzebub, inferni ardentis monarcha, et Demogorgon, propitiamus vos, ut appareat et surgat Mephistophilis Dragon, quod tumeraris: per Jehovam, Gehennam, et consecratam aquam quam nunc spargo, signumque crucis quod nunc facio, et per vota nostra, ipse nunc surgat nobis dicatus Mephistophilis!
Is't not midnight?--come Mephistophilis,
And bring glad tidings from great Lucifer;--
Is't not midnight?--come Mephistophilis,
Veni, veni, Mephistophile!
F. Stay, Mephistophilis, and tell me, what good will my soul do thy lord?
M. Enlarge his kingdom.
F. Is that the reason why he tempts us thus?
M. Solamen miseris socios habuisse doloris.
O Faustus,
Now hast thou but one bare hour to live,
And then thou must be damn'd 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!
This last one is particularly interesting. It's a quote from Ovid's Amores (here is a translation, and here is an adaptation by John Donne). Ovid imagines his intended lover appealing to the 'horses of the night' (an unusual image, more normally associated with the day time) to 'run slowly' (a cheeky oxymoron) so that she may enjoy her lover's company for longer. Ovid's appeal is made in a moment of ecstasy with the hope that it will long endure; Faust's in a moment of torment in the dreadful anticipation of greater torment to come.

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