The Portrayal of Faustus as a Tragic Hero

AA100, Assignment 01

Christopher Marlowe, Dr Faustus
Read the following passage from Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus.   Discuss how the passage contributes to the portrayal of Faustus as a tragic hero, paying particular attention to Marlowe’s use of language.

At the beginning of the passage, Mephistopheles is aware that Faustus is in a state of flux and believes he will break his vow to Lucifer:   “But what I may afflict his body with / I will attempt, which is but little worth”. (Act 5, scene 1, ll. 80-81).
However, Faustus is easily distracted from this when he asks Mephistopheles to bring him Helen of Troy as his lover.   Marlowe uses the metaphor ‘heavenly Helen’, she is not like heaven, she is heaven.   Faustus admits he wants her not just as his lover, but also as a means to rid him of any doubts about his pact; “Whose sweet embracings may extinguish clean / These thoughts that do dissuade me from my vow”.   (Act 5, scene 1, ll. 86-87).
This suggests Faustus is weak, not only because he fears reality, but also because he cannot resist temptation.   But fear and sexual desire surely makes Faustus human?   He craves the intimacy of a heavenly being to distract him from what he has done, yet never asks to be saved from it.   As Pacheco (2008) points out, the tragic hero is someone: ‘who is neither evil nor morally perfect, who moves from a state of happiness to a state of misery because of some frailty or error of judgement.’
After Helen is brought to Faustus,   Mephistopheles remains silent   suggesting that instant gratification has won Faustus over.  
Marlowe momentarily breaks the iambic pentameter with the monosyllabic metaphor; “Her lips sucks forth my soul.   See where it flies!” (Act 5, scene 1, ll.94); slowing down the delivery of the first part of the line, giving it greater impact.   Whilst this gives Faustus pleasure, Marlowe’s use of language describes it in such a way that Helen is draining Faustus of life itself.  
Marlowe relies heavily on the use of...