The word tragedy finds its origin in Greek spirit,theory and mythology in the word tragedia. Tragedy tends to bring to mind the thoughts of pity and sympathy. According to Aristotle, the famous Greek philosopher emotions of pity and fear are aroused while watching or listening to a tragedy. Tragedy is a play that represents a central action or plot that is serious and significant. These plays involve a main character that is a normal human being with his share of good and bad characteristics. The protagonist is socially active, intelligent and a learned man.
A tragic play entails both verbal and dramatic irony. Dr. Faustus was perhaps the most well written tragedy of its times and happens to remain so till date. Christopher Marlowe is the founder and the originator of the mature English tragedy. Written in 1586, Dr. Faustus is a part of the age that was famous unprecedented literary activity in England, especially drama. Insofar as the significance of the formulation of tragedy by Aristotle is unparalleled, the Elizabethan’s quest for prosperity both personal and national and spiritual and moral growth remains the major reason for the rise in tragic drama.
In addition to this the Renaissance brought with it a keen awareness of infinite capabilities and aspirations all of which remain unchanged even today. Marlowe’s Dr. Faustus is on similar lines. Its art of tragedy is instrumental in comprehending the complex nature, mind and life of a man in those times. For Marlowe or his successors tragedy was not a restriction of man’s ability to excel, rather it was in view of the glory it brought to in the man’s pursuit of his dreams, even though failure was inescapable. Dr. Faustus is not about the usual romantic-love tragedy but only about Faustus who was born to humble parents. Yet his story is worth telling because of his capabilities, his beyond excellence academia which led him to be awarded a doctorate and his wisdom. Dr. Faustus is thus a great man of knowledge and his infinite, unrelenting quest for more knowledge, which also is the first sign of his downfall. He comments that he has studied and practiced every subject he has undertaken be it logic,medicine,law or even divinity.
The story of Dr. Faustus’ deceptions commences with his personification of the Renaissance man; the man who has sought exhaustive knowledge an all possible subjects and has become the ‘overreacher’ in Christopher Marlowe’s words, but still is insatiable. The writer brings out the strengths, the heroism and the dignity of the protagonist for his capabilities and also brings out the irony this quest and deception lead to which is failure and damnation of the hero. When Dr. Faustus realizes that he knows it all he tries to gain more knowledge by making a pact with the devil believing that the devil will give him what he desires; even the forbidden knowledge. Faustus then sets himself to believe that there is’nt anything like hell. Putting together the two deceptions, Faustus strikes a deal with Lucifer, the prince of devils, in the presence of another devil Mephitosphilis who serves Lucifer, to allot Faustus twenty four years on earth during which Mephitosphilis will be doctor’s personal servant and that the doctor will be able to do and attain anything that he wishes for.
In return for this deal, Faustus gives the right to Lucifer to claim his soul at the end of the contract after twenty-four years. He signs the contract in his own blood and even though there is a divine intervention and Mephitosphilis also tries to dissuade Faustus from doing something as extreme as this, Dr. Faustus chooses to ignore it all and goes ahead with signing the contract. One of the main aspects of this play is sin. The wrong choices that are made throughout the play are the reasons for the downfall of a scholarly man like Dr. Faustus. But the greed for more of everything, which is material, leads him to be awfully absorbed in trusting the devil and believing that more knowledge power will give him more happiness. Even when he realizes the folly of his mistakes he decides not to repent and continues to commit sins that are uncalled for. Dr. Faustus then fears his damnation when the time arrives for his contract with the devil to end. Marlowe’s attempt to bring fore a man’s mental makeup is undoubtedly mature and alluring.
The wrong beliefs, the unrelenting pride and the arrogance of knowing it all are the pit holes any man digs for himself. Although this play was written centuries ago, it still remains as relevant as ever. There is a very famous old saying, “Pride always has a fall. ” This is not just a quotation but stands true in all life’s situations. We are all creations of the same Creator though our mindsets and capabilities may differ. While some remain good accomplish the zenith, others get carried away in their pride of accomplishments and start considering them infallible. The result therefore is failure.
In the history of mankind, each incidence of going against nature and pushing the limits beyond the divine limitations has more often than not resulted in loss and fatality. Just like Dr. Faustus, there have been people who have tried to overcome every obstacle and while trying to do so have conveniently forgotten that all is possible because of a supreme power. They get a feeling of being a superhero who cannot ever fall short or do anything wrong. Dr. Faustus strikingly describes the states of the minds of such men, their restlessness and their struggle to achieve the maximum thereby losing their all.
Dr. Faustus also brings to light the aspect of good and evil and the victory of good over evil. While the good aspect is always difficult to tread upon, it ends on a positive note. Whereas the bad one has its temptations of being easy and simple to tread upon, the result is mostly a fatal one. Most men in history can be related to Dr. Faustus and his story of damnation. These men have been overwhelmed with their desires for the materialistic world and for which committing a sin is’nt a big deal.
All sorts of men ranging from Icarus who flew too close to sun out of his pride had his downfall when his wings melted with the heat and he fell off, to Hitler who got his men killed for no reason, took so much pride in his action and his reigning policies was assassinated by one of his men or Ravana in the Hindu mythology who was also killed and good found its victory over evil are some of the examples of men who have fallen prey to such follies. Dr. Faustus is one such tragedy that shall forever remain relevant in all times because time and again man will try to gain control over nature and lose himself while doing so.