Dr Faustus Faces his End

Final Monologue

A Summary and a Reflection on the Concept of Time

by Anna-Maria Bellomo for Lnt


Faustus' eternal damnation is but an hour ahead. He suffers because he completely realizes that his eternal soul will be deprived of eternal joy and will have to suffer eternal damnation. As the clock strikes half past eleven, he thinks of every possible and impossible solution to avoid his punishment and even figure out an end to it . He is even willing to suffer a hundred thousands years if at last his soul can be saved. As the clock strikes twelve, he appeals to God to save him but amidst thunder and lightning the devils arrive to take him away. The whole passage reveals Faustus' fear of death and eternal damnation as well as his fear of not being saved.

A reflection on the concept of time

If we underline the lines / words that are connected with the idea of time in the excerpt, we can observe that the author uses them at the beginning and the end of the excerpt. 

When classifying the items listed above, we notice there are mainly three categories: nouns, verbs, adjectives (and one adverb).


On the one hand  the nouns and the verbs (see the chart above) together with the stage directions (l 1, 33, 51) are used to stress the passing of time. The nouns are connected to a clearly defined semantic area: the time that can be counted on the clock, on the calendar. 

 In the stage directions: clock, watch

l 2     hour 

l 5     midnight 

l 6     day;  day, hour

l 7     year,  month,  week,  day

l 11     time, clock 

l 33   hour 

l 37   years

l 38   thousand

l 39   no end 

The verbs, or more precisely the repetition of the verb "strike", seem to be used as a reminder of the imminent danger that dangles on Faustus' head. They convey a violent image.

Stage directions [The clock strikes]  [The watch strikes]  [The clock strikes]

l 51  it strikes, it strikes!

On the other hand the adjectives (and the adverb) all belong to a diametrically opposed semantic area: eternity, a time that cannot be counted and never ends.

l 6    Perpetual day; or let this hour be but

l 7    A year, a month, a week, a natural day,

l 3    perpetually

l 4    ever-moving spheres of heaven

l 6    Perpetual day; or let this hour be but

l 7    A year, a month, a week, a natural day,

l 41   this immortal

Only one adjective does not fit: "a natural day" (l 7). It has to be contrasted with "perpetual day"(l 6). In those two lines the fugitiveness of time is contrasted to eternity. Faustus' knowledge of their ineluctability  causes his despair.

The chart below shows how the contrast fugitiveness/eternity pervades the whole extract: