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DOCTOR FAUSTUS AS A TRAGEDY OF ANOVERREACHEREnglish literature owes a great debt to Christopher Marlowe (1564-1593) for identifying acertain type of classical tragic hero in the works of Sophocles and making him intelligible inEnglish cultural terms. Harry Levin called this type “the over-reacher” after rhetoricianGeorge Puttenham’s attempt to find a close English synonym for the Greek word ‘hyperbole’(in The Arte of EnglishPoesie, 1589). Marlowe’s characters have an exaggerated appetite forachievement, whether it’s knowledge as power (Doctor Faustus), world conquest(Tamburlaine), or revenge and the acquisition of riches (Barabus). Marlowe’s heroes werepopular then, and remain fascinating now, as portraits of English imperial ambitions dressedin the appearances of a German scholar, an Asian warlord, and a wealthy Maltese Jew. Theirexotic appearances and settings gave Marlowe an opportunity to dazzle us with some of themost elaborate and extended set speeches in English drama. Marlowe was an English dramatist, poet and translator of the Elizabethan era. He wasthe foremost Elizabethantragedianof his day. He greatly influenced William Shakespeare,who was born in the same year as Marlowe and who rose to become the pre-eminentElizabethan playwright after Marlowe's mysterious early death. Marlowe’s plays are knownfor the use of blank verse and their overreaching protagonists. One of the greatestachievementsof Marlowe was that he broke away from the medieval conception of tragedy.In medieval dramas, tragedy was a thing of the prince’s only dealingwith the rise and fall ofkings or royal personali.ties. But it was left to Marlowe to evolve and create the real tragichero. Almost all the heroes of Marlowe’s great tragedies Tamburlaine, Doctor Faustusor The
Jew of Malta—are of humble parentage, but they are endowed with great heroic qualities. Histragedy is in fact the tragedy of one man—the rise, fall and death of the tragic hero. Hisheroes are titanic characters afire with some indomitable passion or inordinate ambition. Hewas also inspired by the Machiavellian ideals of human conduct and desires, the doctrine ofcomplete freedom to gain one’s end by any means, fair or foul. The entire interest in aMarlovian tragedy centres round the personality of the hero who is in a certain way of theprojection of Marlowe, the dramatist who was generally saturated with the spirit ofRenaissance with its great faith in individual, with its sky kissing ambition to gain limitlessknowledge and power with its revolt against tyrannies. The old legend that a man could obtain supernatural power by selling his soul to devilfound its climax in the sixteenth century in the person of Doctor Faustus who really lived inthe first half of that century. This man was a wandering scholar who became notorious as anecromancer, braggart, and super-quack, who, abandoning the disinterested pursuit ofknowledge in favour of its worldly exploitation, and attaining some temporary success,ultimately mate disaster. After his death, a book called