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Faustus: Renaissance Martyr or Tragic Hero

  • Date Submitted: 01/28/2010 06:28 AM
  • Flesch-Kincaid Score: 61 
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Faustus died a death that few could bear to imagine, much less experience.   After knowing for many years when exactly he would die, he reached the stroke of the hour of his destiny in a cowardly, horrid demeanor.   Finally, when the devils appeared at the stroke of midnight, tearing at his flesh as they draw him into his eternal torment, he screams for mercy without a soul, not even God Himself, to help him.   However, what to consider Doctor John Faustus from Christopher Marlow’s dramatic masterpiece The Tragical History of the Life and Death of Doctor Faustus is a very debatable issue.   For example, one can see that he threw his life away for the sake of knowledge, becoming obsessed with the knowledge that he could possess.   In this case, he is unarguably a medieval tragic hero.   However, when considering the fact that he died for the sake of gaining knowledge, pushing the limits of what is possible in spite of obvious limitations and, eventually, paying the ultimate penalty, he could be considered a Renaissance martyr.   These two points of view have their obvious differences, and depending on from what time period one chooses to place this piece of literature varies the way that the play is viewed.   However, the idea of considering him a martyr has many flaws, several of which are evident when considering who Faustus was before he turned to necromancy and what he did once he obtained the powers of the universe.   Therefore, inevitably, the audience in this play should realize that Faustus was a great man who did many great things, but because of his hubris and his lack of vision, he died the most tragic of heroes.


        Christopher Marlowe was borne on February 6, 1564 (Discovering Christopher Marlowe 2), in Canterbury, England, and baptized at St. George’s Church on the 26th of the same month, exactly two months before William Shakespeare was baptized at Stratford-upon-Avon (Henderson 275).   He was the eldest son of John Marlowe of the...

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