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Discuss the character of Doctor Faustus.

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narrypau | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted March 13, 2009 at 6:00 PM via web

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Discuss the character of Doctor Faustus.

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Michelle Ossa | College Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

Posted March 13, 2009 at 10:05 PM (Answer #1)

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Faustus in the world of Marlowe

First, you need to observe Faustus in his element to be able to decipher him. He lived in 16th century (Renaissance) Europe. These were times when academia began to rebel against the accepted Medieval notion that everything, especially knowledge, is centered around God. Therefore, Marlowe wrote Faustus in times of philosophical and religious debate, and when people for the first time began to openly explore the supernatural as a way to think outside the parameters of the previous Medieval times. You will find that, as we discuss Faustus, he might very well be a product of his times, and a victim of his weaknesses.

Doctor Faustus himself

Doctor Faustus is a complex, confused, and tragic protagonist whose extreme intelligence brought on to him both glory and doom. It brought him glory because his wit and brilliance made him famous and respected among his peers and in academia, even in the circle of magicians that he wanted to enter. But it brought him doom because his ego got too big for his own good,and led him to a stubborn battle against the conventions of the time under his own premise he was way ahead of everyone else.

Ultimately, his ego, stubborness, ambition, and greed for more intelligence and power led him to make a pact with the devil for 24 years of service. The resultof this was a waste of everything: his so-called intelligence, his life, and his soul. This clearly shows that Faustus was indeed intelligent, but blinded by ego: The ultimate example of the typical genius who is brilliant enough to do amazing things, but who cannot tap on common sense for the most basic. In the end, he wasted it all.

Faustus' Tragedy

He wasted his intelligence because, once he began to receive the powers and gifts of Lucifer, we can clearly see that he does not use them wisely, nor can think of productive ways to make use of them. Instead, he wastes them in silly and unneccesary feats such as poking tricks at the Pope, and summoning characters from history for no important reason.

He wasted his life because, throughout his adventures, we still cannot see a genuine, or ultimate purpose to his actions. We  unveil a man who has a thick crust made of brains and wit, but inside this crust, he is ultimately empty. When his 24- year pact comes to an end, he had had more than plenty opportunities to repent and turn everything around. Yet, his personality was too egotistical, stubborn and nonsense to even come do that for his own good. In the end, he asks to burn his books in an ultimate demonstration of a life utterly wasted.

Faustus and his reality

Like in the beginning, Faustus is a representation of the mind wondering outside the box and tapping onto sources for which it is not prepared, and guided exclusively by the same weakess that was, ironically, his strength:  An intelligence he was not ready to absorb in full.




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