Tragedy – Definition
Aristotle defines a tragedy as a ‘representation of an action which is important, complete and limited in length. It is enacted not recited and by arousing pity and fear, it gives an outlet to emotions of this type.’ However, for the Elizabethans, more specifically for Marlowe and Shakespeare, tragedy is not a restrictive view of human excellence or weakness as the Greeks are often inclined to present but an affirmative view of human aspirations whose pursuit brings a glory to the definition of a man. Struggle, conflict, suffering and failure may be the inescapable attendants but the human spirit is not stifled in its pursuits by what attends to them. The ability to withstand them is the tragic glory of man. Marlowe’s tragedy, therefore, is in fact the tragedy of one man – the rise, fall and death of the tragic hero. His heroes are titanic characters afire with some indomitable passion or inordinate ambition discarding all moral codes and ethical principles and plunging headlong to achieve their end. Such intense passion and pitiless struggle with super-human energy to achieve earthly gain and glory make Marlowe’s heroes great indeed and adds to the shining glory and grandeur to their personalities.
Doctor Faustus’ Tragic Flaw
Doctor Faustus has elements of both Christian morality and classical tragedy. On the one hand, it takes place in an explicitly Christian cosmos: God sits on high, as the judge of the world, and every soul goes either to hell or to heaven. There are devils and angels, with the devils tempting people into sin and the angels urging them to remain true to God. Faustus’s story is a tragedy in Christian terms, because he gives in to temptation and is damned to hell. Faustus’s principal sin, tragic flaw according to Aristotle, is his great pride and ambition, which can be contrasted with the Christian virtue of humility; by letting these traits rule his life, Faustus allows his...