Marlowe's dramatic activity comprises six brief years, from 1587 to 1593. Yet those six years produced six splendid plays. As the writer of genuine tragedy, all his works illustrated his individualistic conception of tragedy. The classical Greek conception modified by the Renaissance spirit, the conception which portrays `the struggle between the overweening soul, typically Renaissance in its insatiable ambition, and the limitations which it seeks to overcome'. Doctor Faustus was probably written in 1592, although the exact date of its composition is uncertain. The idea of an individual selling his or her soul to the devil for knowledge is an old motif attached to the historical persona of Johannes Faustus. The immediate source of Marlowe's play seems to be the anonymous German work Historia von D. Iohan Fausten of 1587, which was translated into English in 1592, and from which Marlowe lifted the bulk of the plot for his drama.
Doctor Faustus essentially follows the Greek format of tragic drama. The play starts with the chorus which is the traditional attribute of Greek plays and another important element in it is that the hero's fortune depicted in the plot must be not from misery to happiness, but on the contrary from happiness to misery and the cause of it must be not on the depravity but in some great error on his part. In other words the hero is esteemed with great heights and honour in stature at start and gradually he falls to the pit of self damnation. This produces such tragic effect which is distinguished and unique.
Marlowe's Faustus is presented in the same light. In chorus at start we are introduced to Faustus who then stood as the genius and renowned persona who `profits in divinity' and surpassed all others who took delight in debating and discussing `in heavenly matters of theology'. He also mastered in the other branches of knowledge that are medicine, law and philosophy, but, due to this he became exceedingly proud of his learning and swollen with `cunning' and `self conceit' falls for the art of necromancy in thirst of eternal and superior knowledge. This inordinate ambition and pride marked the tragic flaw in Faustus which led his downfall to eternal damnation.
For that matter tragic hero becomes the main focus in drama. Doctor Faustus presents the true picture of tragic hero; he is a paradox and a mystery. He is not a plaything of fate yet is not entirely free. He is plagued by ambiguity of his own nature and at times he seen torn between conflicting emotions and doubts which is clearly reflected in the appearance of good and bad angels at various occasion. Like, in Act I scene I, the two angels appeared depicting the contradicting views concerning the fated decision he was going to make, which are reflecting the working and ambiguity of Faustus mind. However, recalcitrance is his pride. It sustains his belief and tainted Faustus with arrogance, which at scrawny times stood with determination and led him...