Immorality and Justifiable Tragedy of Dr. Faustus
Dr. Faustus is more of a Morality Play than a tragedy. The Play has the qualities of a tragedy, as the central character of the play dies because of the flaw in him. But at the same time, it lacks the qualities of a tragedy as Dr. Faustus indulges in triviality. But it has all the qualities of a Morality Play, as the play deals with Christian way of life.
Tragedies deal with the fall of a great man. Dr. Faustus as portrayed in the play is a great man and so we find the story dealing with the fall of a great man. Nevertheless he executes great power only with the help of the spirits and he does not hold any great portfolios in the society except being an itinerant conjurer. As a conjurer, he indulges in trivial conjuring tricks; frustrating the Pope at his dinner table, making non-seasonal grapes available for the Duchess of Vanholt, changing a horse into heap of straw, and so on. These are not qualities of a tragic hero. And as these conjuring tricks show his sadistic pleasure of tormenting people, it is clearly a degradation of his moral values that fixes the play in morality sphere.
Morality Play deals with the Christian views of life in this world and also life after death. Dr. Faustus clearly portrays such a view of life for the spectator/readers from the life of Dr. Faustus. The life of Dr. Faustus is presented before the audience as a caution not to lead such a wretched life and spoil their soul. Dr. Faustus is portrayed as a character that would lust after wealth and vain glorious pleasure signaling an imminent disaster. Thus the play is didactic in nature.
Personifications of good and the evil are depicted in the play. Seven deadly sins described in the play stand for certain detestable vices described as sins in the Bible. In addition to the seven deadly sins, the good and the evil angel vying with each other for the soul of Dr. Faustus is a typical ingredient of a Morality Play.
GOOD ANGEL. O, Faustus, lay that damned book aside,
And gaze not on it, lest it tempt thy soul,
EVIL ANGEL. Go forward, Faustus, in that famous art
Wherein all Nature’s treasure is contain’d:
And towards the end of the play in ACT V, the old man pleading with Dr. Faustus to repent, strengthens the idea of a Morality Play.
Therefore, Dr. Faustus is clearly a morality play and not a tragedy as it has the traits of a Morality Play and not a tragedy. Dr. Faustus through his fall does not evince sympathy from the audience. In a tragedy the protagonist demands the sympathy of the audience as the punishment the tragic hero receives for his tragic flaw is grievous and is unacceptable for the audience but in the case of Dr. Faustus, his flaw is not a chink in his armour. He willingly sells his soul and his tragic end is justified.
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