Marking Time in Doctor Faustus 5.2

  • Joseph Candido University of Arkansas


Doctor Faustus 5.2, the scene in which Faustus confronts the prospect of damnation against the auditory background of the striking clock, directs our attention to time and mortality in a number of ways. Not only does Marlowe manipulate audience response to make short periods of time seem long and long periods of time seem short (the latter phenomenon mocking Faustus’s bargain with the devil), he also ingeniously deploys the twenty-four separate strikings of the clock to make them recall, with deep irony, the fleeting twenty-four years of Faustus’s ill-fated contract. The scene thus collapses the ‘long’ space of twenty-four years into the ‘short’ space of sixty minutes (the time from eleven to midnight), rendering these separate spans of time symbolically as a single moment and, moreover, one that elapses in only a few minutes of stage action.