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Dr Faustus, A Tragic Hero Or A Flawed Scientist?

Dr Faustus is a renaissance play written by the great writer, Christopher Marlowe and published in 1604. The play depicts the downfall of a very well-known brilliant professor who thought he had enough of everything so he decided he’s going to go against God and study necromancy, selling his soul to the devil in exchange for 24 years of ultimate power. The thing is, a lot of people consider Faustus as a tragic hero just because he has heroic qualities, but that’s not really it. Even though Faustus had many heroic qualities, he was full of flaws that led to his downfall.

Faustus’s Flaws That Caused His Downfall

Considering that Faustus is a tragic hero, he must have had a tragic flaw that mainly led to his downfall. Faustus’s main flaws are pride and greed for more power and wealth. Faustus couldn’t just get enough of anything and he always wanted more. One of the main reasons why he decided to give up on science is because he felt that he reached the end and knew it all in every field . He never thought of himself as a regular man, on the contrary, he always thought so big of himself to the point that he decided to become a demi-god. Faustus wasn’t only greedy, but was also so proud because he thought dark magic is the art that will bring him ultimate knowledge and pleasure after reaching the peak of every other art. However, he was a really smart professor in different fields. He even came up with the antidote for the black death and having done so, he saved thousands of people’s lives because it was an incurable disease back in their time. Faustus having heroic qualities does not make him a true tragic hero though. Tragic heroes are usually noble by birth like Caesar, but Faustus was the son of an ordinary family. Tragic heroes also usually have a flaw, however, it’s not necessarily the cause of their downfall, it’s usually a greater force that caused their downfall not their own doing. Faustus, on the other hand, was fully aware of what he’s doing since the very beginning but he decided to carry on anyway.

Fate Or Free-Will 

People and scholars who think Faustus is a tragic hero also think that it is fate that caused his downfall, but still, this is not quite correct. As previously mentioned, Faustus was fully aware of what he’s doing since the very beginning. Even before signing the contract with Lucifer, he was given many signs to repent but he did it regardless of each and every sign. There was always a presence of a good angel telling him that what he’s doing is unforgiven and is not right whatsoever but he was just blinded by his greed and pride. Whenever Fasutus thought about repenting, there was always temptation by Lucifer to redirect his mind. He would tempt him offering money or a beautiful female devil for his pleasure. Faustus’s friends, the scholars, warned him a few times and asked him not to do so but he just did not listen and dreamt of having all the gold and money in the world. Furthermore, Faustus was approached by an old man who clearly told him how bad what he’s doing is and he still carried on making it worse.

People say it is fate because they think human beings don’t have a say in what they go through and it is all God’s making. If you really thought this through,  you will come to recognize that we are probably given a choice when it comes to making a decision; especially if it’s a sin. He is a scientist who is very proud of himself and what he accomplished in life to the point that he thought he was better than everyone else. He could have just read and studied more sciences or fields but his pride blinded him from seeing anything but what good he is gonna get if he sells his soul to the devil.

Faustus’s Realization

When talking about Faustus’s downfall, we can’t just disregard Faustus’s regret and realization of his situation. It’s true, Faustus enjoyed each and every day of the 24 years he and Lucifer agreed on. He was so powerful and had the chance to meet emperors and people he never thought of coming across. However, when it was time for Faustus to fulfill Lucifer’s request, which was spending the rest of his life in hell, he realized his mistake and it was too late. In the last moments of Lucifer’s existence on earth, he was doing nothing but expressing how regretful and sorry he is hoping God will forgive him. This proves that Faustus was certainly free-willed and it wasn’t God who decided to torture such a great scientist on earth. He realized how bad and incorrect his decision was and that he should have just listened to the good angel, the scholars or even the old man. Now if a hero is fated, he wouldn’t regret anything because he did nothing wrong and a good example of that is Oedipus the Greek tragic hero who killed his father and married his mother. The only difference between him and Faustus is that Oedipus didn’t really have a choice and he didn’t even know the man he killed was his father or the woman he married was his mother. This is why in this case, Oedipus is not to blame, it’s the Gods to blame. But in Faustus’s case, only Faustus is to blame.

To sum it all up, it can be said that Faustus indeed was noble and had many heroic qualities, however, they are just not enough to make him a classic tragic hero like Julius Caesar or King Oedipus. Faustus had the free-will to choose what he was going to go through and had every possible sign so he could repent but he chose not to. God has given Faustus many chances and wanted to forgive him but unfortunately, Faustus was too late and out of chances. Anyhow, If you’re into analysis of plays, stories or art in general, you should definitely click here.

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