A Comparison of "Everyman" and Christopher Marlowe's "Doctor Faustus"

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A Comparison of "Everyman" and Christopher Marlowe's "Doctor Faustus"

Everyman and Doctor Faustus are both Morality Plays, these are specifically plays that existed within the Medieval period. They were popular during this period as they were intended to instruct the audience in the Christian way and attitudes to life. The morality play is essentially an allegory written in dramatic form. In the fourteenth Century, morality plays were mainly based on the seven deadly sins as in everyman with each character representing each sin. Everyman centers around allegory. It focuses on the allegorical representations of moral issues with the inclusion of figures that represent abstractions of the issues that are confronted.

Doctor Faustus follows the general five-act structure of an Elizabethan Romantic Tragedy. However Christopher Marlowe used the structure of an older Medieval form of English Drama, the morality play as a model. Morality plays tended to show the moral struggle of mans soul and the conflict of good and evil. This is evident in the play of Doctor Faustus who is embroiled in a battle between the temptation of the devil and God. You could argue that Doctor Faustus is not classed as a morality play. Because in the tradition of a morality play God and the devil are external forces that affect the individual. However, in Doctor Faustus it is far more of an internal drama inside Faustus? own mind. Both are entirely didactic in nature, they were made with the intent to educate their audience in one respect or another. There was a moral to each that conveyed similar messages. Therefore the term ?morality play? correctly defines each one.

The medieval time period in which Everyman was written contained a society that revolved around religion (Ecclesiasticism) The fact that Everyman can get nowhere without turning to religion directly reflects on the attitudes of the middle ages. There is constant references to the beliefs and ideas of the Catholic Church such as confession, penitence and the Virgin Mary this suggests the catholic centered society in which the play existed. It concentrates on the qualities of the catholic religion that are important in the journey to heaven. Everyman is a symbol of the human condition and how it is understood by medieval Catholicism. Whereas in the sixteenth century in which Doctor Faustus was written, saw a shift of Christian ideals. No longer was there only the strict belief in God but also the equal belief in the existence of the devil and the ?work of the devil.?

The medieval world placed God at the centre of existence, leaving the individual and the natural world in second place. The emergence of the Renaissance is evident in Doctor Faustus by the clash between the church and the introduction of knowledge through science. The Reformation caused a dramatic change at that particular time, England had converted from predominantly catholic to a protestant country. This shift becomes apparent in Doctor Faustus in the scenes with the Pope. The Renaissance was also a time when the bubonic plague was at its peak of destruction. As a result the plague was a great concern of the theatre, audiences and writers. The plague was a large part of Marlowe?s life and work. Marlowe refers to the plague regularly in Doctor Faustus with examples such as ?A Plague on her.? Here Marlowe is using specific language to reflect certain aspect of the precise period, being Reformation.

When considering the audience of each play, this can again create disagreement concerning the meaning of the term ?morality play.? Morality plays, as I have mentioned like Everyman, primarily express aspects of moral doctrine to the audience. In the Play Everyman, the anonymous author may have been a priest or teacher who was explaining the Christian values to an uneducated society. It is written by and for people of catholic religion. This would fit accurately into the description as a ?morality play.?...
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