Faustus Trial

Designed by: Kisha G. Tracy, Fitchburg State University
Category: Early Modern

Relevant Course Outcome
  • Students will be able to identify and analyze the textual, historical, and cultural contexts of works of literature.
  • Students will be able to read works of literature closely and thoroughly;


Trial Announcement
Faustus Flier.png
Prepared by former student

Pre-Trial Preparation
Imagine if Faustus was put on trial. Create notes on potential preliminary research for such a trial. 1) Prepare AT LEAST ONE potential accusation against the defendant, Faustus. 2) In thinking about your own accusation OR one of the others listed, prepare AT LEAST ONE potential argument for the defense. Provide quotations and page numbers from the text as supporting evidence. Remember: to add a note, double-click anywhere. Entitle it with your name. Add in the body of the note your accusation and defense. Note: the Privy Council represents the prosecution. In this time period, they were advisors to the Crown, who sought out religious heresy in varying forms (depending on how they defined it).

Trial Set-Up
Prepare slips of paper with an equal number of Privy Council and Faustus. Also include two Judge slips. Have students randomly select a slip when they come in and seat themselves on one side of the room or the other. Judges will be at the front. You may also have slips with "witnesses" as well. When students are in their spots, explain the trial:
  • The Privy Council will decide as a group on a list of accusations against Faustus (note: I usually give them the first one in order to allow the defense group to begin its work) and write them on the board.
  • For the next thirty minutes or so (this can vary depending on amount of time available in class), both sides prepare their arguments.
    • I suggest groups devoted to each accusation/defense.
    • I also suggest telling each group that one person will present their argument, but everyone must talk during the debate.
    • Criteria for arguments: evidence from book and logical reasoning
  • It is useful to have the two judges sit in on the discussion from both sides, so they are prepared for the arguments.

Format of Debate
  • Bailiff (instructor) brings courtroom to order.
  • First accusation is read, and the Privy Council is allowed to present its case.
  • First rebuttal from Faustus/defense (one student).
  • Debate begins. Anyone on either side may jump into the debate.
  • When significant time has passed, the bailiff will bring the court to order and ask the judges to make a judgement (with reasoning) on that accusation.
  • Once the judgement has been given, the court moves on to the next accusation.
  • Whichever side wins the most judgements by the end of class wins the trial. If it is a tie, Faustus must remain in Purgatory!