by Christopher Marlowe
Doctor Faustus Cunning and Cleverness Quotes
How we cite our quotes: (Act.Scene.Line)
You are deceived, for I will tell you; yet, if you were not dunces, you would never ask me such a question. For is he not corpus naturale? And is that not mobile? Then wherefore should you ask me such a question? But that I am by nature phlegmatic, slow to wrath, and prone to lechery (to love, I would say), it were not for you to come within forty foot of the place of execution, although I do not doubt but to see you both hanged at the next sessions. Thus having triumphed over you, I will set my countenance like a precisian and begin to speak thus. (1.2.15-24)
When Faustus's scholar friends ask his servant, Wagner, where he is, Wagner replies with this mishmash of nonsense. Of course it's not nonsense at all. In fact, Wagner is mocking the fussy language of university scholars. He references the physical sciences with his discussion of corpus naturale (natural bodies) and mobile (able to move, to say that Faustus is a "moveable body"). Then he references medicine and its belief in the "humors" and "natural" dispositions, or personalities, one of which is the phlegmatic. Then he claims victory, as if this whole time he had been engaging in scholarly debate with Dr. F's fellow smart guys. With all this, he displays his cleverness, his ability to beat the scholars at their own game. Bet they didn't see that coming.
I walk the horses? I scorn't, faith. I have other matters in hand. Let the horses walk themselves an they will. [Reads.] "A" per se "a"; "t," "h," "e" – "the"; "o" per se "o"; "Deny orgon gorgon." Keep further from me, O thou illiterate and unlearned ostler!
Snails, what hast thou got there? A book? Why, thou canst not tell ne'er a word on't.
That thou shalt see presently. [Draws a circle.] Keep out of the circle, I say, lest I send you into the hostry with a vengeance. (2.2.5-14)
Robin displays a surprising amount of literacy for a stable boy. Despite Dick's claim that Robin can't read, he manages to puzzle out the word "the" and, with "deny orgon gorgon," a version of the word "demogorgon" (no, we hadn't heard of that word before either). Robin's attempts to practice magic are humorous, parodying Faustus's more serious attempts. But their funniness also reminds us that maybe Faustus isn't as special as he thinks, and we'll see that later when Robin successfully calls Mephistopheles.
Then in this show let me an actor be,
That this proud Pope may Faustus' cunning see. (3.1.75-76)
Faustus claims to want to hang around the Pope's chambers so that he can make a show of his cunning. Yet, when he actually interacts with the Pope, he's either in disguise or completely invisible. Faustus seems to want to play tricks here more than he really desires to be renowned for cunning. Why the change of heart?