Dr. Faustus as a spiritual Tragedy
Marlowe is a great dramatist. He is called the man of Renaissance. He holds a unique place in the realm of English literature. He is a great innovator of techniques. He has put a new life in the blank verse. His mighty lines are as famous as the pyramids of Egypt are. Dr. Faustus is Marlowe's masterpiece. It has been composed in blank verse. It deals with the dramatization of the medieval legend of Dr. Faustus. He was a necromancer of the 16th century. Marlowe has taken this legendary character as the principal character of this play. He has added to it the note of hunger for infinite power. This is the major theme of this drama. Its plot or structure is loose and weak. But the interest and appeal of the play depends upon its unity of the character. Dr. Faustus himself is a living play with living acts, scenes, incidents and episodes.
In the play Dr. Faustus is fond of study. He wavers among many subjects. But at last he decides to study magic and necromancy to gain power, wealth and honour. With the help of this black power he calls upon Mephistopheles to appear. He sells his soul to the Devil. It is decided that the Devil will attend on him for 24 years of his life. It is also settled that the Devil would give him whatever he asks for. The vision of Paris and Helen are called to appear. When the stipulated period is going to expire, the mind of the Dr. becomes highly agonised. Dr. Faustus is Marlowe's most personal tragedy. It is the spontaneous expression of Marlowe's innermost thoughts and experiences. He concentrates all his dramatic skills in delineating the principal character of the play. This character has passion for knowledge and love for power. But he lacks firm determination. He himself weaves the net of his tragedy with his own hands. He rejects the Christian values. Thus he commits sin and for that he suffers. On this basis this drama can be called a spiritual tragedy or the tragedy of human soul.
From the beginning of the play Faustus is divided within himself. There is a tug of war in him between appetite and timidity. He wavers between good and evil; between God and Devil. He wants to be a mighty magician and a mighty God. There is a conflict in his mind. The Good Angel and the Bad Angel aggravate his conflict. The Good Angel asks him to give up necromancy and to ignore magic. But the Evil Angel tells him to follow the art of magic. The God and Evil in him make him a battlefield. Both the forces are trying to win the soul of Faustus. He is hanging between these two forces. In the end the conflict of his mind becomes more intense. This wavering Faustus becomes the prey of the Evil. The Evil has succeeded and we should regard his hellish fall. Thus Dr. Faustus is a beautiful spiritual tragedy of human soul. This play shows development in Marlowe's dramatic art style. The conception of tragedy is mature. Dr. Faustus has passion for knowledge and love for power. He falls into the temptation of the Evil. He does not care for his conscience. Thus he faces down-fall and ultimately gets death due to his over- ambition. Here Marlowe's blank verse also attains a great height.
To conclude, Dr. Faustus is a play of vast conflict, fearful failure, intense feeling and stirring emotion. Its central idea is loss. Here sin is presented as an inescapable punishment. Thus it is a matchless spiritual tragedy in which the mighty protagonist is man and he is surrounded by the mysterious powers. At last he falls but his fall is a glorious fall. It fills our heart with a strange kind of pity.