Set in Germany, the play relates the quest of John Faustus for knowledge and power beyond normal human capabilities. Frustrated by his inability to uncover the mysteries of the universe, he makes a contract with a demon, Mephastophilis, in exchange for twenty-four years of luxury, and magical access to illicit secrets. Faustus turns his back on God and embraces a life of little more than dubious shallow trickery. No grand revelations await the doctor.

The play ends back in Wittenberg. Faustus shows his friends a vision of Helen of Troy. An Old Man tries to make him repent, but Faustus refuses. As the time draws near for Mephastophilis to take him to hell, Faustus grows more desperate, his anguish propelling him to an understanding of what heaven means. However, whether incapable or unwilling, he turns away from God and is dragged screaming to hell.

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