The Gothic Tragedy of Stars Wars


star wars

Picture of Anakin as he has become Darth Vader

In Lord Byron’s Manfred we see the tragic life played out of the main character Manfred. The plot follows a story arc that has influenced many stories that we see today. Most notable of these is the Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. While we see that Star Wars was influenced to some extent by Manfred; Manfred itself drew great influences from Christopher Marlowe’s Dr. Faustus. Through Manfred we see the impact that the story not only has on future texts, but also that the past has impacted Manfred as well. By similarities through the plot and experiences that the characters go through, this is very clear.

The escape of knowledge is the first striking similarity that stuck out to me intertwined through the three works. In Manfred, the knowledge that he seeks is more of a release from the thoughts and memories he has from his relationship with Astarte, as well as a release from life, which he seeks bycalling upon different spirits. Similarly in Revenge Of the Sith, the main character Anakin Skywalker experiences a lust to be able to save the ones that he loves. Since Anakin can see visions of the future, specific to that of his loved ones dying, he is trying to escape the power of his knowledge  and overcome them through the use of the dark side. In Dr. Faustus the Doctor also has a form of this escape. Faustus, fed up with all the boring knowledge that he already knows, chooses to push the envelope and escape the realm of ordinary knowledge and move it onto that of the dark arts. While the situations all differ in what the characters want they all want something more and different than that of what they already have.

Other striking connections that I made was that of forbidden love. In Manfred this forbidden love is shown by that of the possibly incestuous relationship with Astarte, when Manfred states “and loved each other as we should not love.”(723) Anakin also tries to eat the forbidden fruit  when he engages in his relationship with Padme. In Revenge of the Sith the Jedi Council forbids any Jedi to marry which is why his marriage with Padme is forbidden. The idea of this forbidden love goes past the point of physical bodies. For instance in Dr. Faustus, the forbidden love is that of the dark arts. While the magic itself it not actually forbidden, Charles the V Emperor of Germany actually enjoys it, the fact that looked down upon by society and that he has to sell his soul to Lucifer definitely makes it forbidden to that of God and Society. These ideas of right and wrong come from the expectations of their society and in each case the rules set forth for them are broken.

When the main characters attempt to change their destiny, each come in contact with what I like to call the evil helping hand. While the evil helping hand actually does help in some way they don’t promise exactly what they state. For example with Manfred he summons the seven elements, which say,”Ask of us subjects, sovereignty, the power  o’er earth, the while, or portion, or a sign which shall control the elements. whereof we are the dominators, each and all, these shall be thine.”(716) But these elements can’t give him anything that he wants which is forgetfulness and oblivion. In return the elements curse him with the spell of being tortured by his own actions and will not be able to seek death.   In Revenge of the Sith’s case the evil hand would be that of Emperor Palpatine who promises Anakin that he can save anyone that he loves through the power of the dark side. However through his promises he corrupts Anakin’s mind, and blames the death of his wife on his own actions. In the Tragedy of Dr. Faustus , the Doctor summon the demon Mephastophilis, who says he will answer any question that he asks. When Faustus asks the question of who the made universe Mephastophilis says that won’t answer that question. Even when Faustus does ask his other questions Mephastophilis answers them halfheartedly and doesn’t really give Faustus any appeasement. Each one of the evil helping hands does exactly what is called of them, giving each more power or what they wanted. However they go a bit further to appease themselves or get what they want, which is why I call them the evil helping hand.

In contrast with the evil helping hand there also a good helping hand. Specific to each of the stories the good helping hand essentially gives their hand out for help and each character denies it. With Manfred this is apparent with the Chamois Hunter who tires to help him down the mountain, the Witch of the Alps who promises to fullfill his wishes, and the Abbot of St. Maurice. In each case they try to help but Manfred refuses to let anything be his master. When we see Anakin at his lowest in Revenge of the Sith Obi-Wan offers many times to reconcile with Anakin. Even offering him advice to give up a fight because he knows Anakin will lose ultimately leading to Anakin losing his limbs. The Old Man in Dr. Faustus acts in the same light that he urges Faustus to ask God for forgiveness, which Faustus ends up not doing. Whenever the helping hand doesn’t get to help the main character, each one abandons the main character and their cause.

I believe that these connections through the texts are apparent for a reason. They have started with Faustus, expanded by Manfred, and influence one of the greatest movie sagas of all time.

Works Cited:

Marlowe, Christopher. “The Tragical History Of Doctor Faustus.” Project Gutenberg, 3 Nov. 2009. Web. 21 Mar. 2014.

Star Wars: Episode III- Revenge of the Sith. Dir. George Lucas. Perf. Hayden Christensen, Ewan McGregor, Samuel L. Jackson. 2005. Film.

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