• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

Can Faustus truly be regarded as a tragic hero?

Extracts from this document...


Elena Solaro 13M Can Faustus truly be regarded as a tragic hero? Much of the information in Dr Faustus is derived from a collection of semi-fictitious German stories (the 'Faustbuch') in which the life of German scholar and purported necromancer, Georgius Faust are narrated. Where the Faustbuch narrates a simple tale of sin and retribution, Marlowe creates a tragedy in which a human being makes a clear choice for good or bad, with some knowledge of the possible outcome. In order to do this, Marlowe has drawn on the conventions of classical Greek tragedy, many of which dictate the nature of the hero or heroine. In ancient times, a hero achieved heroic status not because of saintliness or wickedness, but because of the acts he performed in life. The hero should have a socially elevated status and suffer a reversal of fortune in which he experiences great suffering. This is all certainly true of Faustus, who is highly regarded as both a lecturer at the University of Wittenberg, and an accomplished scholar. During his life, he performs extraordinary feats, which were unlike anything experienced by lesser mortals. ...read more.


Faustus is given a chance to repent on several occasions; before signing the contract with Mephastophilis, he seems to heed the voice of the good angel, and is about to "turn to God again", but denies this as a possibility because God does not love him. However, despite the "vain fancies" of God and heaven which clearly plague him, Faustus is resolute and clear about what he is committing himself to. Here, we see another trait of the classical tragic hero, hell bent on a course of action which he believes is right, even thought he knows it will eventually bring about his downfall. Even at the very end of his 24 years, when the hope of salvation comes along in the form of the old man, Faustus (fearful of the wrath of Lucifer) instructs "sweet Mephastophilis" to torture his would-be saviour. When Faustus chooses to kiss the image of Helen of Troy, whom he knows is nothing more than a demonic spirit in disguise, we feel that he must realise he has made a fatal choice. ...read more.


Despite the fact that Faustus essentially cheats, twisting quotes from the Bible in order to justify his intended pursuit, one cannot help but feel that he shows insight into the problems raised by fate/free will, concluding that what is meant to be shall be ("che sara, sara"). In conclusion I would say that for the most part, Faustus is the perfect example of the tragic hero. He is an engaging character who holds the audiences' attention until the very last, even when we do not find his personality particularly appealing. Indeed, the arrogance and blasphemy apparent in many of Faustus' speeches ("a greater subject fitteth Faustus' wit", "Faustus, try thy brains to gain a deity" etc) are characteristic of the classical tragic hero. For example, Faustus' pride and arrogance (which the Greeks called 'hubris') is strikingly similar to that of Aeschylus' tragic hero, king Agamemnon. As far as the issue of free will is concerned, I think that Faustus does have the opportunity to make his own decisions, despite Marlowe's paradoxical portrayal of a God whom, whilst able to control our predestination, cannot (when it comes down to it) control or undo the contract which Faustus makes. ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our AS and A Level Christopher Marlowe section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related AS and A Level Christopher Marlowe essays

  1. Marked by a teacher

    Can Faustus truly be regarded as a tragic hero

    4 star(s)

    His terror, desperation and frantic hopes are all conveyed by the final soliloquy, which is both graphic and physical in its nature. The dramatic moment of Faustus' death, as his flesh is torn by devils, is at the same time horrendous and moving.

  2. Choruses - what is the importance of these speeches in 'Dr. Faustus?

    How they are performed though is arguably less important than the function they serve. As the play is set over a period of over twenty years, the choruses give the feeling that time is passing.

  1. How Successfully Does Marlowe portrayal of Faustus reflect the attitudes and beliefs of Elizabethan ...

    This is verified in the introduction to Scene 1, where the story of Icarus is told. The story shows the consequences of over-ambition, and tells you what will happen to Faustus. Scene 1 also shows the Elizabethan need for extravagance, money and fame, lines 14-15 show how Faustus wants gold,

  2. What does Marlowe's presentation of Mephastophilis tell an audience about sixteen century ideas of ...

    When Faustus asks Mephastophilis about the planets and the heavens he refuses to answer the question of who made the world, claiming the answer is 'against his kingdom'. Faustus has been given the gift of knowledge but yet Mephastophilis refuses to tell him who created the world.

  1. In what ways and with what effects does 'Dr. Faustus' question the acquisition and ...

    character to seem more human and allows the audience to relate to certain qualities in him. Marlowe also seems to make the scenes of transgression appealing to the audience and they are filled with indulgence and aimed to impress. The audience can relate to the temptations Faustus embraces and can feel the flaw of having those human feelings inside themselves.

  2. 'Compare the ways that Marlowe and Chaucer present the theme of sin in 'Dr ...

    Mephistopheles conjures devils masquerading as each of the sins to present to Faustus. This is generally accepted by critics as Marlowe's shorthand way of introducing the Deadly Sins into the play without adding numerous extra scenes detailing the incorporation of all the sins into Marlowe's deeds.

  1. Comment on the relationship between the comic and serious material in Dr Faustus.

    because the Ostlers have almost the same magical ability as him and for this pathetic amount of power he will be damned to suffer eternal agony in hell! Scene nine shows Faustus conjuring tricks to impress the Emperor Charles V.

  2. Faustus: Renaissance Martyr or Tragic Hero

    After this, he completed his education from Cambridge over a period of six years. During this time he wrote some plays, including Hero and Leander, along with translating others, such as Ovid's Amores and Book I of Lucan's Pharsalia (Henderson 276).

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work