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Faustus as a Tragic Hero

Faustus as a Tragic Hero

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Published by Rizwan Rao
Rao Rizwan Sadiq
Rao Rizwan Sadiq

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Published by: Rizwan Rao on Feb 15, 2010
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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 There may be different or varying ways of looking at certaincharacters and revealing them as a certain type of character. InChristopher Marlowe’s play Doctor Faustus, the main character,Doctor Faustus, could be described and revealed as a tragic hero,similarly to other tragic characters, such as Sophocles’ Oedipusand Shakespeare’s Hamlet may also be described as such. Thereare different features and characteristics, which would makethese characters be considered as tragic heroes rather thananother type of character.One of the features that characterize a tragic hero is that thistype of character “will mistakenly bring his own downfall”,(McManus) which is referred to as “hamartia”. In Marlowe’s play,the main character, Faustus, brings his own downfall by the endof the story. In his opening speech, in Act 1 Scene 1, Faustus tellsand explains the audience and the readers that he has skilledhimself in law, medicine and divinity, but he wants to know morethan what he knows and also know more about other things. Thisaspect of Faustus, his curiosity to learn and know more, may bethought of as part of the human condition and human nature andisn’t something that is seen as wrong in our society.However, this aspect also blinds Faustus from a sense of reasonand right from wrong. This eventually leads the main character of Doctor Faustus to make an agreement with the devil, whichresults in Faustus’ downfall. This aspect of Faustus’ character andpersonality is similar to Oedipus, in SophoclesOedipus Rex.Oedipus’ pride blinds him from seeing truth, reason, as well asthe difference from right and wrong, which leads to and results inthe character’s downfall and to the main character of Sophocles’play, Oedipus, stabbing his eyes out. This feature will lead to the characteristic and fact that, by doingthese mistakes or “flaws”, the tragic heroes are doomed from thebeginning and the audience and readers know the fate of thesecharacters is sealed. And for the tragic hero be just that, a tragichero or tragic character, this type of character has to be doomedfrom the beginning of the play, but doesnt hold anyresponsibility for possessing his flaw or fault. This may be seen inFaustus. From the beginning of the play, from the time that hetells the audience and readers that he wants to acquire more
Rao Rizwan Sadiq. M.A English (2009-11) Islamia University of Bahawalpur.
knowledge and especially when he signs the, the audience andreaders may that Faustus is doomed to have a less than perfectand happy ending. Much like Faustus, Oedipus’ fate is sealedwhen he refuses to see the truth, even when it’s standing right infront of him. Though these two tragic heroes may feel somesense of guilt about their actions, neither Faustus nor Oedipusseem feel some sense of guilt or responsibility of their flaw.A third feature or characteristic that the tragic hero should haveis that “[t]he protagonist should be renowned and prosperous”.(McManus) The audience and readers may witness and see thischaracteristic in the main character of Doctor Faustus. Early on inthe play, the audience and readers knows that Faustus is wellrenowned and with some reputation. Over the course of the play,there are several people, mainly three scholars, talk aboutFaustus, his knowledge, and such aspects of this character. Theaudience and readers may see some signs of prosperity inFaustus. In Act 1 Scene 1, Faustus calls in his servant andstudent, which reveal not only that Faustus is prosperous, butalso renowned. The reason for this is that people at this timewanted to send theirchildrenstudy would to well known people.It could also be said that Oedipus and Hamlet are also prosperousand renown. Oedipus is king of Thebes, which leads the readersand audience to assume that he is fairly prosperous. The readersand audience may also assume that he is renown, because thecitizens of Thebes come to Oedipus, when the city is attackedwith plague, in the prologue. Hamlet is a prince, which also maylead us to suggest that he is fairly prosperous and successful.A fourth feature and aspect involving the tragic hero is that thischaracter must support the plot of the story, which is similar tomany other protagonists. This may be easily seen with Faustus, inMarlowe’s Doctor Faustus. It is Faustus’ actions, which seem tolead and direct the plot and the entire story of the play. This isthe same situation with Oedipus and Hamlet, in Oedipus Rex andHamlet. Both Oedipus and Hamlet are tragic heroes, who bothlead and guide the story and its plot. This may be also part of andapplied to the human life, as most of us make our own decisionsand lead and drive our own lives, much like Faustus, Oedipus,and Hamlet guide the plays they are in.
Rao Rizwan Sadiq. M.A English (2009-11) Islamia University of Bahawalpur.

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