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Doctor Faustus

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  • Pages: 3
  • Word count: 747
  • Category: Faustus

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A tragic hero is similar to an idol (someone we look up to) because there is something about them that distinguishes them from ordinary people. They may have a flaw which inevitably leads to their downfall. Because of their elevated status their fall is great. They fall from greatness is an emotional experience for the audience – this is known as ‘catharsis’ – a release of tension. In a certain respect, Faustus can be seen as a tragic hero. In addition to being portrayed as a tragic Hero, Faustus can be perceived as an ordinary human being. Right from the beginning of the play, he has understood the concept of his mortality.

What art thou Faustus, but a man condemned to die! ‘ This shows that Faustus is aware of his inevitable death. At the end of scene 1, after his discussion with Valdes and Cornelius, Faustus proclaims the ‘trade-off’ between magic and death. ‘This night I’ll conjure, though I die therefore. ‘ Faustus does realise that dabbling with black magic will result in his death, but he still seems determined to continue, as the thought of having ‘all that power’ is just too much to resist! A point similarly linked to Faustus being an ordinary human, is Faustus being a pilgrim, who is tempted. In this respect Faustus has very little control over his actions; the Evil angel and Mephastophilis play a big part in manipulating him.

The Good and Evil angels appear simultaneously several times throughout the play. They make their first appearance in Scene 1. Faustus is toying with the idea of taking up black magic, the Good Angel persuades Faustus to stop whilst he can. lay that damned book aside’ The strong word ‘damned’ can be perceived simply as a curse, or more in depth – linking to Faustus inevitability. The Evil Angel then persuades Faustus to ‘go forward in that famous art’. As in a morality play, Faustus only ‘hears’ that last speaker, and is then strongly influenced by the dark force. The Good and Evil angels appear regularly when Faustus considers repentance. For example in scene 5: the Evil angel contradicts the Good Angel’s declaration that God can forgive.

‘Thou art a spirit, God cannot pity thee… Ay, but Faustus never shall repent. Faustus is again immediately persuaded towards the Evil Angel’s command. ‘My hearts so hardened I cannot repent! ‘ This cycle of doubt, then persuasion continues frequently throughout scene 5. Not only is Faustus temped (like a simple pilgrim) but also, very easily distracted. For example, when Faustus sees the message on his arm warning him about the danger of black magic, Mephastophilis is quick off the mark and produces an array of dancing devils with crowns. Sidetracked, Faustus queries Mephastophilis about the show.

‘Speak Mephastophilis, what means this show? Faustus is also distracted when he asks Mephastophilis for a wife, but is given a whore instead. It is ironically his ambition to be more than human which is his downfall. Faustus is presented representing the emergence of the Renaissance man. The 16th century was a time of change, certain beliefs were being questioned by scientists. Faustus is an individual looking to discover more, the audience has great admiration for Faustus ‘all things that move between the quiet poles shall be at my command’ This is a beautiful, poignant image which engages the audiences attention.

However, an audience in the 16th century would find Faustus particularly arrogant because it was a time when people were dying from diseases, and he is talking about how he wants power. Faustus can also be portrayed as a hedonistic villain. In other words, he is living for pleasure. This is made apparent in comic scenes such as scene 7 (the scene in which he is invisible and steals the popes food, then punches him) and scene 10 (the hours-courser scene). Faustus wastes 24 years on petit tricks, like these, and doesn’t actually accomplish anything even near to the announcements he was making in scene 1.

Faustus seems to have descended from being an intellectual, well-respected scholar to a disgraceful villain taking pleasure in the misfortune of others. In a certain respect, Faustus can be portrayed as a tragic hero, as the audience does look up to him. However, as Faustus slowly progressed from an elevated position in society to a desperate, self-centred villain throughout the play and the fact that his mortality was inevitable meant that his actual downfall did not seem as great, like a typical tragic hero.

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