Marlowe constructed the character of Dr. Faustus to represent within himself both characteristics of the Renaissance view of humanity as divinely good and hellishly evil. First, Dr. Faustus is presented as a scholar of all things including divinity, the highest Renaissance scholarly discipline. Then, Faustus is shown as dissatisfied with the limitations of humanity and grasping for unlimited knowledge, which is a Biblical allusion to Adam and Eve who ate of the Tree of Knowledge. Throughout the play, Faustus descends to lower and lower planes of knowledge in his pursuit for the "power" and "omnipotence" that comes from knowledge. At the beginning, Mephistopheles answers all Faustus' questions but draws the line on talk of the universe, which can be seen to stand for astronomical and cosmological studies--the very studies that science is deeply involved in today: CERN; Hubble; SoHo; etc). Faustus must be content with merely mapping the universe instead of understanding it. Marlowe ultimately shows in Dr. Faustus the futility of the quest for ultimate knowledge and the inevitable end result of abandoning moral integrity for omnipotent knowledge.
Dr. Faustus also represents a Classic Elizabethan tragedy. First, the tragic hero has a flaw or makes an error in judgment that leads to his own doom. It's hard to say whether Faustus had a fatal flaw in his character or whether he was doomed by a faulty understanding that lead to a fatally disastrous error in judgment. All along the way, Faustus has doubts and hesitations which speak for an integrity of his moral character. If he has a fatal flaw, it might be that he did not reckon the power of evil highly enough, that he thought that with omnipotent knowledge, he could free himself from the chains of evil he wrapped so blithely around himself. Adam and Eve also fell to the punishment from the lure of knowledge. Of course, quite often Faustus' fatal flaw is said to be greed and irreverent disregard for goodness. One...
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