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Shakespeares Depiction Of A Tragic Hero

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Christopher Marlowe's depiction of the tragic hero in both The Jew of Malta and Doctor Faustus displays protagonists that have a weakness which they give in to, and which ultimately leads them to their downfall. Faustus displays more human characteristics which the reader can relate to, Barabas being the more inhuman of the two, yet at their ends, the result is the same; the reader feels as though the right thing has been done, and this realization is followed by a sense of relief. Marlowe's tragic heroes help the reader achieve a sense of at their demise through use of vices to which the protagonist succumbs.

In Christopher Marlowe's Doctor Faustus, Faustus is portrayed as the protagonist, as well as the tragic hero. An extremely intelligent and successful man, Faustus is distracted from living a good life by Mephastophilis, an evil character sent from Hell. The reader is sympathetic towards the tragic hero because of his flaws, seeing that they (as exaggerated as they are) are commonly done, and one can easily relate. Faustus shows a range of emotions throughout the play, again proving to the reader that this is a real man that possesses common traits. Every man at one point has dreamt of power and knowledge, and that is exactly what Faustus pursues in this play, and as it is said;

"If we say that we have no sin/We deceive ourselves, and there is no truth in us./Why then, belike, we must sin,/And consequently die./Ay we must die an everlasting death.." (I.I.41-46)

Faustus admits that if one is to believe that they live without committing sins, they are lying to themselves, as in order to be human, you need to make mistakes and live up to the consequences that come with them. Faustus is highly admired by his scholars, who show great concern when they find out he is being introduced to the black arts; these practices turn out to be his greatest flaw in the play. A tragic man is defined by competing loyalties and desires, and is divided by good and evil. Faustus is therefore considered a tragic hero under the terms that he can be related to by the audience, but has one tragic flaw that eventually leads to his demise, in this case involving his pursuit for knowledge and power.

Marlowe's depiction of the tragic hero in Faustus, as stated above, creates a character which the reader can relate to and therefore sympathize with. This does not mean that when the protagonist reaches his demise, there is no satisfaction felt by the audience. Because of Faustus meddling with the dark arts, there must be consequences reached, or else the ethics of the play would be lost, achieving no sense of essential goodness within it. If Faustus did not suffer for his actions, it would not lead to any moralistic outcome of the story, leaving the audience to believe that the character did not learn from his wrongdoing, and would not continue on with a new knowledge of what is right and what is wrong. The demise of Faustus is the most profound of the entire play; though most of it is riddled with farce, the end result is the protagonist begging for mercy, and completely regretting all of his previous actions. If he had not had to face the gates of Hell in the end, he would not have felt such intense regret of what he had done, and would have learned nothing from his actions, as there would be no consequences. Because of this, the reader is left with a sense of relief in realizing that not only does living in sin lead to such tragic ends, but that not even fictional characters can get away with such acts. Marlowe continues with the theme of the tragic hero throughout his other plays such as the Jew of Malta, in which Barabas takes on the role of the tragic hero.

Barabas, the protagonist in Marlowe's The Jew of Malta, is not as clearly defined as a tragic hero as Faustus was in Doctor Faustus. Barabas is presented to the reader as a money-hungry, greedy and vengeful man who will do anything to gain riches, resulting in not only the deaths, but the murder of someone he loves--his own daughter. This may be a hard character to sympathize with, seeing that no one could possibly admit to relating to a character as such, but Marlowe does achieve a human quality in the protagonist in his story telling, revealing that Barabas' love for Abigail is sincere and that it was only her conversion to Christianity that set him off. Ithamore confessing Barabas' crimes to the Governor showed him that there is absolutely no one that one can trust, and though the reader cannot relate as easily to a murder spree, it is understood how upset one can get from such treachery. Though this is an extreme case, Barabas still falls under the category of a tragic hero on the grounds that he is a character that the reader can sympathize with, but has one tragic flaw, which leads to his demise. In this situation, Barabas was a normal practicing, religious man who could not succumb to his greed and need for revenge, which led to his own destruction.

Though the reader can relate to Barabas because of his display of extreme emotions throughout the play, though not as rational as most would agree upon, there is definite pleasure when Ferneze and Calymath overtake him. This scenario would impose more understanding when the tragic hero falls because of the depth to which Barabas had surrendered to his flaws; murdering family and friends and given the chance to change his ways, he instead attempts to commit more murders in order to restore his wealth. The reader



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