Dr. faust (c. 1480–1540)

Although many assume that Dr. Faust was a fictional character created by Christopher Marlowe (1564–1593) for his famous play, The Tragedy of Dr. Faustus (1589), and utilized again later by Johnann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749–1832) for his masterwork Faust (1808), there actually was a magician named Georg Faust, who was born in Knittlingen, Wurttenburg, Germany, around 1480. Faust was a traveling magician, visiting town after town, performing feats of legerdemain, telling fortunes, and professing to have supernatural powers. While some contemporary scholars were impressed

John Dee (1572–1608). (FORTEAN PICTURE LIBRARY)
John Dee (1572–1608). (
with his alleged abilities, others branded him as nothing more than an unscrupulous charlatan. At some point, Georg Faust became confused with an academic named Johann Faust, and he was mistakenly credited with many of the learned professor's scholastic achievements.

When Georg Faust died around 1540, he had become such a legendary magician in Germany that in 1558 Johann Speiss published a book entitled The History of Dr. Johann Faust, which listed his many feats and adventures. Speiss included his interpretation of how Faust had become a master magician by selling his soul to the devil in exchange for 24 years of limitless knowledge and power.

Over the course of time, the Faust story has been the subject of numerous plays, operas, and films. The first cinematic production of the ageless tale of Dr. Faust selling his soul to the devil for unlimited knowledge was a French film in 1905. The noted German actor Emil Jannings played the role in a classic

Mephistopheles appearing before Faust in the 1865 edition of Faust by Johann Wolfgang Goethe. (FORTEAN PICTURE LIBRARY)
Mephistopheles appearing before Faust in the 1865 edition of Faust by Johann Wolfgang Goethe. (
version of the story in 1926, and British actor Richard Burton enacted Dr. Faustus in 1968.

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