‘Falling to a diuelish exercise’: The Copernican Universe in Christopher Marlowe's Doctor Faustus

  • Gabrielle Sugar York University


Frustrated with the limits to his knowledge, Christopher Marlowe's Doctor Faustus uses black magic to gain access to 'all natures treasury' and, in particular, to discover the true nature of the universe. While Ptolemy's earth-centred universe, based on Aristotelian cosmology, was still the prevailing belief in Elizabethan England, Copernicus's sun-centred universe was slowly beginning to affect the conception of the cosmos. Scholars have often commented on the absence of Copernican theory in Marlowe's play. However, by comparing the two extant versions of Doctor Faustus--the 1604 'A-text' and the 1616 'B-text'--and drawing on the pivotal work of Leah S. Marcus, this note traces the ideological shift in the astronomy of early modern England and finds evidence of Copernican theory in the play. As Faustus becomes an intellectual explorer, searching for proof of this newly conceived world, Faustus's connection to Copernicanism causes him to become more transgressive than the devil himself.