In learning about the play Dr. Faustus I have discovered many things.
Interestingly what came to my attention as necessary to educate our performance was the
study of rituals and necromancy itself. As Faustus creates a circle and writes many
religious names and characters within the circle it seemed important to honor the time
period by discovering what a ritual of this nature would look like in the 1700’s at the time
that Dr. Faustus was first produced.
It was through Cameron’s directing of myself as Dr. Faustus and Amanda as
Mephistopheles that I remembered some knowledge as to the rules of these rituals.
Probably from the occasional ghost hunter reality TV show I had to question Cameron’s
direction for Mephistopheles to enter the circle and interact with Faustus. This spurred
me to begin my research on the rules of summoning and the knowledge of witchcraft in
the Elizabethan era. First of all I discovered that there is indeed protection given to the
summoner by the circle that demons cannot cross. This was an interesting piece of
information because it gave merit to Faustus’ boldness in dealing with Mephistopheles. It
would make sense for him to be morebold in his words if he felt protected by the circle.
As I researched into what magic looked like at the time I discovered some very
interesting information in regards to what was happening with witchcraft in the late 16
and early 1700’s. Many famous witch trials happened in Europe over the span of 1560 to
1630 (with Dr. Faustus opening in 1594) including the Trier witch trials, the Fulda trials,
the Basque, Würzburg and Bamberg trials all taking place in countries like Germany to
Spain. The North Berwick witch trials took place in Scotland in 1590 which involved
James VI claiming several noblemen were involved in witchcraft and were executed
which lead to the book Daemonologie to be written in 1597. Needless to say, at the time
Dr. Faustus was performed in England, the fear of witches and the alternative fear of
being accused of witchcraft was very prominent and it appears that the story of Dr.
Faustus would have been very relevant to the time.
Members of the audience were recorded to go mad when real devils appeared on
stage in an early production of the play as William Prynne recorded in his book
Histriomastix, “…Not to relate the various tragicall ends of many, who in my
remembrance at London, have beene slaine in Playhouses, or upon quarrels there
commenced: Nor yet to recite the sudden feareful burning even to the ground, both