Faustian Latin I – General Remarks

A few months ago, I promised some grad students putting on a production of Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus that I would help them with the Latin. Now that I’m back from Germany – more on that later – it’s time I kept that promise.

How to pronounce the Latin in an Elizabethan play is not an easy question to answer. For one thing, Marlowe and his contemporaries knew at least three different kinds of Latin, and Marlowe uses all three, though they’re not always clearly distinguished:

  1. Classical quotations: most famously, the line of Ovid’s Amores Faustus speaks just before he is damned.
  2. Ecclesiastical (‘Church’) Latin: most obviously, the bits spoken by the monks who curse Faustus after he disrupts the Pope’s meal.
  3. Scholastic Latin: more generic, used by educated contemporaries for scholarly, scientific, or philosophical communication.

In upcoming posts, I will mark primary stress with an acute accent, secondary with grave, and underline the long vowels, since HTML handles that a lot better than trying to put a long mark and an accent above the same vowel. I will also include links to .wav file recordings in which I recite the lines and phrases to illustrate my recommended pronunciations. Warning: I am just beginning to experiment with recording software and hardware (Audacity and a Snowball microphone) – not to mention dramatic recitation – so these are likely to be more informative than entertaining. Comments and suggestions are of course welcome.

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