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Doctor Faustus the Tragic Hero Essay

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Updated: Mar 22nd, 2020

Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus, the Tragic Hero, is a fascinating must-read chef-d’oeuvre featuring Dr. Faustus as the protagonist and a knowledgeable who decided to sell his soul to the devil to gain knowledge. He enters into an agreement that lasts for twenty-four years.

He is optimistic about himself. His quest to acquire skills leads him to a horrible ending when he goes to hell following his malicious killing by the Lucifer. Though many interpreters of this character view him as a misguided sinner, there is sufficient evidence that depicts Faustus as a tragic hero as revealed in the paper.

A tragic hero is an individual who evokes people’s pity as well as their terror because he has both good and bad characteristics. The first instance, which portrays Dr. Faustus as a tragic hero is that he evokes the listeners and the readers’ pity. It creates some form of connection between the audience and the character. Before joining Lucifer, he was working as a normal individual doing his studies in law, medicine, and theology. The mistakes that he does are just the same as those that any other person can make.

Like any other normal human being, he is optimistic and ambitious in life aspiring to gain more knowledge. As human beings, people sympathize with the doctor because he had made the wrong decision in life by choosing Lucifer instead of God. Therefore, people wish that he finds the truth and accepts to repent his sins and come back to God. His fate is dreadful and hence the people’s pity for him. At the end of the play, he is destined to lose his life and taken to hell because of his decisions that they made.

Even though Faustus has committed many evils, people pity him and want God to forgive him rather than being so fierce to him. Therefore, the tragic hero character is manifested at the end of the play where Faustus pleads with God to forgive him and liberate him from the hand of the devil. He says, “My God, my God, look not so fierce on me (Marlowe Act 5 Scene II line 181).

The fact that Faustus is a scholar is stated twice, first, in the opening and then at the end of the play. This clue demonstrates the scholar as a tragic hero for the readers and the audiences to sympathize with him throughout the play. For instance, at the beginning of the play, Faustus is a person who is prosperous and well known.

His reputation is known as a well-respected professional. For instance, he presents his speech to students and servants in different areas of scholarships. This demonstrates his level of intellect. For example, he says,” philosophy is odious and obscure, both law and physics are for petty wits” (Marlowe Act 2 scene I Line 109). Furthermore, in the closing line of the play, his colleagues lament about their fallen hero and scholar.

This lamentation and sorrow show how they lost an individual that had a positive impact on their life’s and the careers of many students. They lament,” yet for he was a scholar once admired, for wondrous knowledge in our German schools” (Marlowe Act 5 Scene III Line 18). This happens even after Mephistopheles had made efforts to warn him that his soul was to be damned. Again, this depicts him as a tragic hero rather than a misguided sinner.

Tragic hero character is also manifested in Dr. Faustus’ mistaken choice. He decided to exchange his soul with knowledge from Lucifer. This choice is what makes him die. It leads him to downfall. The agreement blinds him. Therefore, he is not able to choose what is wrong or right.

For instance, when approached by the good angels, he is blinded and thus goes into the ways of the devil. This decision brings agony to his life when he is taken away by the devil after the elapse of the twenty-four years that they had agreed. He says, “shall I make spirits fetch me what I please…” “I will make my servile spirits to invent” (Marlowe Act 1 Scene I Line 88). This quest to know more is evident in the first Act where he says that, even though he is skillful in sciences, he still wants to know more.

The desire of most human beings usually is to learn and acquire skills and knowledge to the maximum level. However, Faustus desires make him choose wrong ways without feeling guilty, which is depictive of a tragic hero rather than a misguided sinner. He is hasty in his ambitions for honor and power, which makes him rush in the decision.

For instance, he says, “…and chase the Prince of Parma for our land and reign sole in of all the provinces” (Marlowe Act 2 Lines 79). The quest and desires for power and honor make him refuse to repent his sins and come backlight. He fails to decide between the ways of the Lucifer and the path of God making him end his life tragically as a hero.

Faustus tried to achieve his goals deciding something on his own. The heroic behaviors illustrate a manifestation of the Renaissance period where science shadowed most of the lives of people. Therefore, he was aspiring to set free of fate and decide his destiny on his own. He makes his own decisions to join Lucifer without anyone compelling him to do so. A good illustration of this is when he demands that Mephistopheles goes to inform the devil about his intentions and desires.

Mephistopheles is told to, “Go, bear these tidings to great Lucifer, “say he surrenders up to him his soul.” He further says, “So he will spare him for four and twenty years, letting him live in all voluptuousness” (Foster 6). This is the message that Dr. Faustus sent Mephistopheles to tell the Lucifer about his desires and the will of becoming one of his children to be allowed to be his follower (Marlowe Act 1 Scene III lines 91-104).

Therefore, Dr. Faustus was not the kind of a person that could not live an opportunity, without utilizing it. Therefore, by following the ways of Lucifer, he has contended that he would conquer all and raise his destiny in life. Consequently, he vowed to work for the Lucifer. He, therefore, demonstrates the character of a tragic hero. He was a hero, but because of this decision, he ends up losing his life and even the knowledge and the power and the honor that he looked and aspired to get.

Faustus can also be argued to be a misguided sinner in the sense that, he decided to go the ways of Lucifer and yet he knows about the existence of God. It is the work of the devil to mislead him to make him fail to enter heaven. The desires he develops of amassing more knowledge and skills to conquer destiny and to have power are all works of the devil. His conscious and the fact that he was knowledgeable, he could have resisted the power of the devil to come into his way and instead stick to his work.

However, regardless of this, I contend that I can describe Faustus as a tragic hero. He is devoted to the devil. This devotion hinders him to choose from what is right and wrong and leads to him to his downfall. The drama as presented by Marlowe is optimistic. The character Dr. Faustus is optimistic about life, and this makes him or drives him in the wrong direction. Therefore, I can argue that Marlowe teaches Christians how they can build a strong Christian faith and seek salvation.

Therefore, a tragic hero is used to depict the downfall of a tragic hero. Dr. Faustus encounters a very stronger tragedy compared to other people or scholars below him. His wrong choices in life make him experience misery after leading a happy life working as a researcher in different fields. It is his error in his judgment, which brings a harrowing ending of his life (Potter 124).

He decided to go against his fate and decided to follow his own free will by wanting to be the master of his fate. The decision he makes is the basis of his downfall and vanishes. This has been depicted and illustrated by the drama. Hence, I agree that the play has more sufficiently revealed the aspect of a tragic hero than a misguided sinner in Dr. Faustus.

Works Cited

Foster, Brett. “Sympathy for the Devil: The Lives & Afterlives of Christopher Marlowe.” Common Review 5.4(2007):6-16. Print.

Marlowe, Christopher. Doctor Faustus the Tragic Hero. London: Routledge, 1998. Print.

Potter, Lois. “Doctor Faustus and The Devil is an Ass.” Shakespeare Bulletin 26.1(2008):124-131. Print.

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