Wagner In Dr. Faustus Essay, Research Paper
In Christopher Marlowe’s play, Doctor Faustus, Wagner is the most loyal, loving, and
protective character in regards to protagonist, Faustus. His actions, which include everything
from his choric function to the comic relief he instills, influence the play immensely, emphasizing
how the bond between he and Faustus is unique and and irreplaceable one. Thus, leading to the
idea that Wagner should be recognized as the only character entitled to be Faustus’ heir.
It is easy to realize that Wagner is not happy as his role as a servant. “He’s sufficiently
educated to regard himself as a scholar and he’s eager to prove his prowess in logical dispute
(Instant Knowledge).” According to this, it almost seems as through he secretly wishes he could
have the power that his master possesses. Wagner isn’t too phased by this, however as he doesn’t
stop from being as faithful as possible he can be to Faustus. This is shown, along with his loyalty
and protectiveness, in Act I, Scene ii when two nosy scholars ask the whereabouts of Faustus.
Wagner refuses to tell them and even after taking insult upon insult from the two, he still tries as
best he can to shield his master from the scholars’ prying eyes. Eventually, Wagner gives into the
scholars and informs them that Faustus is dining with Valdes and Cornelius. He doesn’t do this
without first showing that he is more than a servant or a “sirrah”, though. He takes his revenge
by matching wits with the two and proving that he is just as intelligent as either of them.
Not only does this scene emphasize how much Wagner cares for Faustus, but it also
serves as some comic relief for the audience. “The functions of the comic scenes are to cover
passages of time, parallel and parody the main plot, and foreshadow events to come (Appleton).”
First, the coverage of time would definitely be shown when the play is being performed, as the
scene undoubtedly would takes quite awhile, especially Wagner’s speech. Secondly, the parallels
between Wagner and Faustus are clearly noticeable when Wagner’s boldness towards the two
scholars echoes that of Faustus’ indestructible pride. Wagner seems to make a habit of imitating
his master, as shown here. Finally, the foreshadowing can be thought of when Wagner tells the
scholars that Faustus is with Valdes and Cornelius and the two start to fear that Faustus has
started to practice magic. Their fright foreshadows that the magic Faustus is indeed studying will
lead to horrific things. Wagner is able to successfully complete all these tasks as well as reinforce
the comic tone of the scene.
In Act I, Scene iv, it seems as though Wagner is finally fed up with being a servant and he
now wants one of his own. His previous encounter with the scholars was not a pleasant one and
and as a result, he is looking for someone to humiliate in return. He gets a hold of Robin the
Clown and asks him, “Sirrah, wilt thou be my man and wait on me (1.4.15)?” As expected, Robin
denies the offer, causing Wagner to make two devils appear to terrorize Robin into agreeing to be
his servant. Not only does this lead Wagner to getting what he wants, a servant, but it also shows
how cleaver he is. He’s been practicing his master’s magic and has been successful with doing so.
“To Faustus, magic means a new way of living (Appleton)”, and because Wagner is the only one
around to watch Faustus conjure it, he is able to learn the ways of magic, therefore, he, too, has
new ambitions. All of which put Wagner into a higher category than a sirrah or servant.
Later, Wagner, who is very puzzled, appears on stage suspecting that his master is dying.
What troubles him most is not the idea that Faustus might be dying, but the fact that he isn’t
acting like he is. He doesn’t appear sickly. He is actually out drinking the night away and having
a great time with his companions from Wittenberg. It is in fact the last time that we see Wagner,
that this whole ordeal is cleared up. Faustus is indeed dying and is shown in Act V, Scene ii
making his will, in which he will leave Wagner all of his property. Faustus asks Wagner if he likes
the final copy and Wagner replies positively saying that, “Sir, so wondrous well/As in all my
humble duty I do yield/My life and lasting service for your love (5.2.21-24).” This conversation
between the two truly emphasizes the fact that Wagner is as loyal as can be to Faustus and while
many feel that Faustus is evil and greedy, he is shown here being extremely generous with leaving
his belongings to Wagner as a thank you for many years of good service. Wagner definitely helps
to bring out Faustus’ good side.
Aside from Wagner’s comic relief and loyalty (To Faustus) roles, he is also used as a
narrator. He often notes what is going on and helps advance the plot by narrating action that
happens both on and off stage. The most noticeable instance of this is his speech, mentioned
above, of Faustus nearing death. Without Wagner’s commentary, the audience would be unaware
and lost. G.K. Hunter is remarked as saying that each act handles a separate stage in Faustus’
career but the stages cannot move forward in any single and significant line of development
without help (Hunter 181). Thus, supporting the idea that without Wagner and his use as part of
the Chorus, there would be no adcancemet in the plot.
The general idea in regards to Wagner, is that he is foolish. This, however, is completely
untrue. He knows magic and conjures demons without going to hell and edges by the devil
without getting caught, unlike his master. With this in mind, it is correct when said that there is
no other character who is worthy enough of taking on the roles that Wagner does. No one else
would be proper in acting as the narrator or serving the comic relief of the play to the audience.
No other character shows the unconditional love to Faustus that Wager does. He is seen in both
the first and last act of the story and all the way from the introduction to the finale, he is there
moving the plot along in only a manner that he could. This is why he is the only one who
rightfully deserves to be Doctor Faustus’ heir.