Sunday, 13 March 2011

Editions of Doctor Faustus

Now that the three copies of Marlowe's Doctor Faustus have arrived that I ordered a few weeks back I thought I'd do a post on them, and on all of the other editions that I have. As you can see, there are ten of them! (Just ignore Tydeman's Doctor Faustus: Text and Performance for now.) I will add a few details about each of them as I go through them.

Top row, from left:

[1] The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus, edited by Frederick S. Boas (London: Methuen and Co., 1932). From The Works and Life of Christopher Marlowe series.

[2] Marlowe, Tragical history of Doctor Faustus Greene, Honourable History of Friar Bacon and Friar Bungay, ed. Adolphus William Ward, 4th ed. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1901). ¶ Amazing introduction, excellent notes and contextualising primary material, obviously the criticism and bibliography are very dated; based on the A text, sensibly edited (except, apparently, it is silently bowdlerised!).

[3] Marlowe, The Plays and Poems (London: Simpkin, Marshall, Hamilton, Kent & Co., [1905]). Simpkin's Thin Paper Classics series. I only have this because I love these thin-paper editions.

Middle row, from left:

[4] Doctor Faustus: A 1604-version edition, ed. Michael Keefer (Peterborough, Ontario: Broadview, 1991).

[5] Doctor Faustus: The A-text, ed. David Ormerod and Christopher Wortham (Perth: University of Western Australia Press, 1985).

[6] Doctor Faustus, ed. John D. Jump (1962; rpr. London: Methuen, 1965). Revels Plays series.

[*] William Tydeman, Doctor Faustus: Text and Performance (Basingstoke, Hampshire: Macmillan, 1984).

Bottom row, from left:

[7] Doctor Faustus and Other Plays, ed. David Bevington and Eric Rasmussen (1995; rpr. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008).

[8] Doctor Faustus [Based on the A Text], ed. Roma Gill, rev. Ros King (2nd ed. 1989; rpr. London: Methuen, 2008). New Mermaids Series

[9] Doctor Faustus: A-and B-texts (1604, 1616), David Bevington and Eric Rasmussen (1993; rpr. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1995). Revels Plays series.

[10] Doctor Faustus: A Norton Critical Edition, ed. David Scott Kastan (New York: W. W. Norton, 2005). ¶ Excellent on criticism, a useful bibliography; text and notes sensible; brief introduction.

I have been looking at the newbies (bottom row) in order to select a text for my Dark Hero course, but I have been progressively re-examining the others too. The only one that I haven't had a very close look at is the new Revels Plays edition [9], but it would have to be a lot more impressive than both the old Revels Plays edition [6] and the World's Classics edition edited by the same editors [7], in order to come close to the front-runner for my Dark Hero course: the Norton Critical Edition [10].

I prefer the text and introduction to the Ormerod and Wortham edition, though the actual notes to the text are not as extensive as most other editions. I also like the fact that the notes are on facing pages to the text. It is disappointing that more publishers do not adopt this approach, but the reason might be that it does limit what you can say. (Ward [2] has one hundred pages of notes on top of almost two hundred pages of Introduction and there are many places in the new Revels Plays edition [9] where the notes cover more of the page than the text. So, the convenient layout clearly wouldn't have worked for these editors.)

As I said, the Norton Critical Edition is front-runner. The introduction is very brief—a few pages—and the note on the editing of the text is spartan. Both are sensible and workmanlike, as is the editing. The value of this edition is in the convenience of having a sensible, if not ground-breaking version of the A and B texts, with all that ancillary material, including quite a few very important articles.

Any student with this book in hand, has enough to understand the academic debates about the play and could write a well-researched essay. With the best of the other editions, a student might come to understand most of the points of academic debate from one point of view (the view if the editor), and most of the textual issues, but they would have to go and find the articles which are in the Norton edition in order to get a more rounded understanding of the academic debates.

Still, the Norton edition lacks an account of religion and renaissance magic to match either the Ward [2] or Ormerod and Wortham [5] editions. But if, as I hope, some will students will really take to the play, perhaps they will also go looking for other editions until they find one that provides this sort of detail. (Don't tell me if you think I'm living in fantasy land.)


a female Faust said...

not a fantasy -- some no doubt will -- on their behalf i offer you gratitude.

but enough: am here to ask you if you know of online facsimiles of the A & B texts. am having shall we say a devil of a time...

Patrick Spedding said...

Thank you "female Faust"!

The answer is, sadly, no: not that I know of. This post of mine ( is almost two years old. It lists edited versions of the A and B text, but I didn't, and haven't since, found a facsimile text online.

Of course, it is available on Early English Books Online (EEBO), and entire books can be downloaded from EEBO, but one must first have access …