Doctor Faustus, the titular character of Christopher Marlowe’s play, is widely regarded as a tragic hero. A tragic hero is a literary character who experiences a downfall as a result of a personal flaw or a decision that leads to their eventual downfall. Faustus embodies these characteristics, making him a classic example of a tragic hero. In this essay, we will examine the various elements that make Doctor Faustus a tragic hero.
One of the primary reasons that Doctor Faustus is considered a tragic hero is his hubris, or excessive pride. Faustus believes that he can achieve anything he desires through his knowledge of black magic. He desires power, wealth, and knowledge that he believes he can obtain through his pact with the devil. This belief in his own abilities blinds him to the consequences of his actions and ultimately leads to his downfall.
Another characteristic of a tragic hero is that they must have a flaw or a personal failing. In Faustus’s case, his fatal flaw is his insatiable thirst for knowledge and power. Faustus is never satisfied with what he has achieved and always seeks more. This trait leads him to make a pact with the devil, which ultimately leads to his demise.
Additionally, Doctor Faustus is a tragic hero because he experiences a reversal of fortune. At the beginning of the play, Faustus is a highly respected scholar, but as the play progresses, his fortunes change. He becomes increasingly obsessed with his desire for knowledge and power, and this leads him to make a deal with the devil. This decision leads to his eventual downfall and damnation.
Another element that contributes to Doctor Faustus’s tragic hero status is the fact that he has a moment of realization or anagnorisis. In the final moments of the play, Faustus realizes the full extent of his actions and the price he must pay for them. He begs for mercy from God but ultimately succumbs to the devil’s power, and he is dragged to hell. This moment of realization adds to the tragic nature of Faustus’s story because he recognizes the error of his ways, but it is too late to make amends.
Finally, Doctor Faustus is a tragic hero because his downfall is not entirely his fault. While Faustus is ultimately responsible for his actions, he is also a victim of circumstances. He is surrounded by individuals who encourage him to pursue his desires, such as his servant Wagner, and he is also faced with societal pressures that make it difficult for him to pursue his goals through conventional means. This combination of factors creates a situation where Faustus is almost predestined to fail.
In conclusion, Doctor Faustus is a classic example of a tragic hero. His excessive pride, insatiable thirst for knowledge and power, and eventual downfall make him an ideal embodiment of the tragic hero archetype. The play illustrates the consequences of hubris and serves as a warning against the dangers of excessive ambition.