Faustus as a Contradictory Character in Christopher Marlowe’s Play

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About this sample


Words: 1023 |

Pages: 2|

6 min read

Published: Jul 17, 2018

Words: 1023|Pages: 2|6 min read

Published: Jul 17, 2018


Christopher Marlowe's "Doctor Faustus" stands as a timeless exploration of the clash between medieval piety and Renaissance humanism, encapsulating the profound transformations occurring during this pivotal period in history. Through the character of Faustus, Marlowe intricately weaves a narrative that delves into the complexities of ambition, knowledge, and morality, ultimately serving as a cautionary tale about the perils of unchecked hubris and the pursuit of power at the expense of one's soul. This essay aims to dissect Faustus' character, his embodiment of Renaissance ideals, his tragic downfall, and the overarching thematic implications of Marlowe's masterpiece.

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Faustus emerges as a figure of contradiction and complexity, embodying the tensions between traditional values and the burgeoning humanism of the Renaissance. At the outset of the play, Faustus is depicted as a man of exceptional intellect and ambition, yearning to transcend the limitations of his mortal existence through the acquisition of forbidden knowledge. The Chorus sets the stage for Faustus' tragic fate, likening him to the mythical figure of Daedalus, whose ambition led to his downfall. Despite the ominous foreshadowing, Faustus' grandiose visions of reshaping the world and acquiring ultimate knowledge speak to the audacious spirit of the Renaissance humanist, who seeks to challenge established norms and expand the boundaries of human understanding.

Early in his quest for knowledge, Faustus symbolizes the spirit of the Renaissance by rejecting the traditional, God-centered worldview of the Middle Ages. Marlowe portrays Faustus' disdain for conventional wisdom and authority figures such as Aristotle and Galen as emblematic of the Renaissance emphasis on individual autonomy and empirical inquiry. By seeking to forge his own path and discover knowledge on his own terms, Faustus embodies the spirit of intellectual rebellion and human potentiality that defined the Renaissance era.

However, Faustus' intellectual pride and hubris blind him to the consequences of his actions, leading to his tragic downfall. Despite his initial aspirations for greatness, Faustus becomes ensnared in a Faustian bargain with Lucifer, trading his soul for fleeting worldly pleasures and power. His refusal to acknowledge the moral implications of his pact reflects the dangers of unchecked ambition and the corrupting influence of power. Faustus' descent into mediocrity serves as a sobering reminder of the perils of forsaking moral integrity in the pursuit of worldly desires, as he squanders his supernatural abilities on trivial pursuits and petty displays of power.

In his final moments, Faustus experiences a moment of clarity and remorse, recognizing the folly of his actions and the inevitability of his damnation. His belated desire for repentance serves as a poignant reminder of the human capacity for redemption, even in the face of overwhelming despair. However, it is too late for Faustus to alter his fate, as he is ultimately consumed by the consequences of his actions.

Marlowe's portrayal of Faustus' tragic demise serves as a cautionary tale against the dangers of intellectual pride and moral complacency. Through Faustus' journey, Marlowe highlights the inherent tension between knowledge and wisdom, power and morality, in the human quest for understanding. While the Renaissance heralded a new era of intellectual inquiry and individual autonomy, it also exposed the fragility of human nature and the perils of forsaking moral guidance in the pursuit of enlightenment.

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In conclusion, Christopher Marlowe's "Doctor Faustus" offers a profound meditation on the dynamic interplay of values in the transition from the medieval to the Renaissance era. Through Faustus' character, Marlowe explores the complexities of ambition, knowledge, and morality, revealing the tragic consequences of intellectual hubris and moral ambiguity. As Faustus grapples with the allure of forbidden knowledge and the seductive promises of power, he ultimately becomes a cautionary symbol of the perils of forsaking moral integrity in the pursuit of worldly gain. Marlowe's timeless masterpiece continues to resonate with audiences today, serving as a poignant reminder of the enduring struggle between enlightenment and damnation in the human quest for understanding.


  1. Greenblatt, S. (2005). Renaissance self-fashioning: From More to Shakespeare. University of Chicago Press.
  2. Paster, G. (1991). The idea of the Renaissance. Routledge.
  3. Bevington, D. (1999). Doctor Faustus. Manchester University Press.
  4. Hadfield, A. (2004). Literature, politics, and national identity: Reformation to Renaissance. Cambridge University Press.
  5. Logan, R. K. (2010). Renaissance Drama: An Anthology of Plays and Entertainments. John Wiley & Sons.
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Dr. Faustus’s Tragedy. (2022, November 22). GradesFixer. Retrieved February 25, 2024, from
“Dr. Faustus’s Tragedy.” GradesFixer, 22 Nov. 2022,
Dr. Faustus’s Tragedy. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 25 Feb. 2024].
Dr. Faustus’s Tragedy [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2022 Nov 22 [cited 2024 Feb 25]. Available from:
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