Doctor Faustus by Marlow: Struggle of Protagonist

Doctor Faustus

In this article, we are going to discuss the phenomena in Doctor Faustus, where Marlow attempted something new in the delineation of a struggle within the mind of the Protagonist.

Doctor Faustus: Delineating the Struggle

In Doctor Faustus, Marlow has been quite successful in delineating the struggle within the mind of one of his towering heroes Faustus. In all his literary works, his tragic heroes are great personalities of limitless capabilities alloyed with unbridled passions. All of them remain determined to achieve their end by any means, fair and foul. According to Thorn:

“They are evil men intent on evil deeds. They appeal to our sympathy only in misfortune or despair; in a more fortunate mixture of admiration, horror, and even contempt. Tamburfame the atheist and Faustus the dealer in magic invite great inspiration of Machiavelli, and perhaps also of stage practices. As an intriguing villain and all the accompaniments ever since in drama and fiction.”

Marlow’s tragic heroes are always full of inordinate ambitions and extraordinary passions. They are so brave that in order to fulfill their worldly and carnal desires, they take mighty actions and do not care for moral codes.

Something New

In Doctor Faustus, Marlow has attempted something new. He has brought in the conflict, which springs up in the mind of the Tragic Hero Faustus. It moves on two planes: the physical plane and the spiritual plane. In this regard, Marlow actually conceived the idea from Aristotle’s conception of a tragic hero. Dr. Faustus is, in all respect, a superior person on account of his extraordinary knowledge in different subjects. The hero should have a tragic flaw that should lead him ultimately to a catastrophic end. Faustus due to his worldly and carnal desire breathes his last in a disastrous and catastrophic manner.

Marlow being a great dramatist reveals the work in the mind of Faustus and the combination of opposites in his nature. Faustus masters major subjects like physics, philosophy, astronomy, and law. But, he finds this knowledge quite inadequate because it does not satisfy his lust for power and position. He wants to have full command over all things, which lie in between two poles.

More Explanation

Basically “Doctor Faustus” seems to be the spiritual history of Marlow himself. We get an expression of Marlow’s innermost thoughts and experiences and his attitude towards God and religion in general. The character of Faustus with its yearning for unlimited power, pleasure, and learning, expresses the true spirit of Renaissance, which reveals to us, to a great extent, Marlow’s reckless and adventurous spirit. So Faustus is basically a mouthpiece of Marlow himself and through him, he wants to reveal his denouncing God, blaspheming Trinity and other Christian doctrines, and selling his soul to the Devil to gain superhuman powers in order to live a life of luxury and voluptuousness for 24 years. That is why he says:

“…. Divinity Adieu: These Metaphysics of magicians,
And necromantic books are heavenly”

Faustus draws some strange lines and figures and with his special incarnation, he wants to experiment with his magic pertaining to the spirits of the underworld. As soon as he completes his magician prayers, the great lieutenant of the prince of Hell appears before him, though in submissiveness gives him great pleasure and provides him luxury and voluptuousness, after Faustus writes a mutual deed in his own blood.


Hence we come to the conclusion that Marlow attempted something new in this play and in the light of the above, it can be enumerated as under:

  1. The intense conflict in a deeply agonized soul between the medieval beliefs and superstitions on the one hand and the humanism, intellectuality and passion for knowledge and power of the Renaissance on the other, has been very effectively delineated.
  2. By introducing the Old Man in Act V, Scene I, Marlow tries to establish that it is beyond the control of the evil angels to harm a person who has firm faith in God. He also establishes that forces of good can overcome the forces of evil.
  3. The death-scene is one of the most terrible and magnificent scenes and the poignant soliloquy, one of the most outstanding speeches in the whole range of English literature. Marlow explains the terrible condition of sinful dying man:

“My God, my God, look not so fierce on me!
Adder and serpents let me breathe a while!
Ugly well, gape not! Come not Lucifer!
I will burn my books! Ah Mephestophilis!”

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