During the Middle Ages, religion was one of the most powerful tools which had a great impact on all areas of life and human activity including philosophical ideas and issues. Christianity was supported by the rise of the Church and its tremendous influence on the state. On the other hand, science and new knowledge confronted with old ideas and dogmas. In both plays Everyman and Dr. Faustus the main characters goes beyond predetermined roles and social limits trying to find universal wisdom and knowledge. The authors depict heroes’ attitude towards death, their feelings and fears.
Thesis Both characters, Everyman and Dr Faustus, make a leap from fear of Death to “Christian resignation” which have a great impact on their virtues and moral values. From the very beginning, Everyman and Dr. Faustus are at desperate informed about their last day. Dr. Faustus comments: “The reward of sin is death: that’s hard” (Marlowe, 1997). Previously, he had been a man who was somehow placed above ordinary mortals, who, either through his depth of suffering or his nobility of nature felt and suffered more than readers could be expected to do in everyday life. Similar to Dr. Faustus, Everyman supposes that: “I may say Death giveth no warning/ To think on thee, it maketh my heart sick” (Everyman, 1993). The protagonists do not fight with death because it is senseless and useless. Although, Marlowe depicts that it is a vein sacrifice that is painful and sorrowful causing terrible sufferings and emotional burden for Dr Faustus. Again it is stres¬sed that the most profound horrors are those of guilt at the irreparable consequences of one’s own actions. In Everyman, the protagonist tries to bribe Death in order to gain time and find solution to his problems.
In this case, the author depicts that for Everyman the death is not inevitable evil but an ordinary events which he tries to postpone. “Wherefore, Death, I pray thee, for God’s mercy, / Spare me till I provided of remedy” (Everyman, 1993). Similar to Everyman, Dr Faustus tries to summon the devil but fails. It is important to note that both authors depict the themes of death through “good and evil”. Personal ambitions and inability to see the truth have changed personality of Dr Faustus. In these conditions, Marlowe unveils the dark side of human personality.
He provided his own obituary, declaring, among other things: “And yet, methinks, if that death were near, / He would not banquet, and carouse, and swill” (Marlowe, 1997). In general, both protagonists are afraid of death and this fear determines his relations with other people and the world around them. Both plays comment that death sets limits to human behavior forcing people to accept established norms, but if they do not possess high morals it leads to corruption of power. Marlowe depicts that even if a scientist do his own thing in life, death and sins set some limits on human behavior.
The desire to obtain power results in his moral decay. In Everyman, Death describes him: “His mind is on fleshly lust and his treasure, / And great pain it shall cause him to endure / Before the Lord Heaven King” (Everyman, 1993). He depicts a hypocrisy which has led to tragic outcomes. Both characters play with death trying to postpone their last day. It is possible to say that despair and fear are the main driven forces in their desire to survive. The first feature is that both characters exhibit the remarkable prevalence of aggression and violence in a movement that claimed to promote peace and love.
Dr. Faustus and Everyman suppose that values exist outside of themselves and their choices are made by obeying them. This is the common approach taken by religious believers who claim that absolutes exist and they must adhere to them in order to be considered moral. Perhaps a broader picture may be seen on a closer examination of Marlowe motives behind the play. In broad sense, he criticizes the futility of Dr. Faustus actions and his fight against “death”. The old man says to Faustus “stay, good Faustus, stay thy desperate steps! I see an angel hovers o’er thy head, / And, with a vial full of precious grace” (Marlowe, 1997). In both plays a symbol of death is a cultural symbol which has a universal meaning understandable without a context. The context helps to specify details and circumstances but the interpretation does not differ from traditional one. The burden of death is sometimes lightened by exercise and contem¬plation of grotesque. The symbolic meaning is part of the whole work of art, and the inter-connection are realized and brought out (Mebane, 1989).
The symbolic meaning is specified by events and actions of people. It is evident that both Everyman and Dr Faustus do not fit into this traditional pattern of ordinary existence, but both of them are mortal men. Everyman says to Goods: “That would grieve me full sore, / When I should come to that fearful answer. / Up, let us go thither together” (Everyman, 1993). Indeed, Marlowe point is that Dr Faustus must be average: he tries to rise above this, but fails. Nor does he appear to have one ‘fatal flaw’: he is proud, but also false.
Faustus comments: “Accursed Faustus, where is mercy now? / I do repent; and yet I do despair: / Hell strives with grace for conquest in my breast” (Marlowe, 1997). Faced with death, Everyman and Dr Faustus think about God and an opposite side of evil. For thousand years, people have been interested in afterlife and Heaven, although, both characters have no concise and even accurate explanation of this type of “existence”. Both of them have his own understanding of Heaven and God interpreting things in a peculiar way.
At the beginning of the plays, the heroes do not believe in God and Christian values denying virtues and goodness. “To give a reckoning longer leisure I crave; / This blind matter troubleth my wit” (Everyman, 1993). Till the end of the play, Everyman and Dr. Faustus feel that, as morality was created by God, those who reject faith are in turn rejecting individualistic way of life. The conflict between virtues and sins helps Marlowe to depict that some might feel that if there is no reason for making these choices then there is no point in making decisions at all.
On the other hand, Everyman denies this possibility explaining that unlike beings-in-themselves, humans are beings-for-themselves. This term refers to those which are consciously aware of themselves which makes it impossible for us to avoid making choices even if they are meaningless. In contrast, Dr Faustus embodies features common to every scientist: he considers that he can change the nature and the world around him applying scientific concepts and knowledge where there is no place for God and virtues. “And with my blood again I will confirm / My former vow I made to Lucifer” (Marlowe, 1997).
Thee similarity between the heroes under analysis is their desire (at the end of the plays) to reach Christian resignation. Their values, religious and ethical, reflect on their relationship to a higher order of existence, whether one perceives it as an eternal force, the universe, a defined spiritual entity, or a concept that answers to a basic human need for a sense of order behind the turbulent appearance of everyday life (Mebane, 1989). Both of the heroes were on predestined journeys, all striving for what sometimes seemed unobtainable to them and the audience alike.
Death becomes the main driven force in this process of self-understanding. It is possible to say that for both characters Christian resignation is the universal dogma, which can be expressed in the following: On God, whom Faustus hath abjured! on God, whom Faustus / hath blasphemed! Ah, my God, I would weep! but the devil draws in / my tears. Gush forth blood, instead of tears! yea, life and soul! ” (Marlowe, 1997). The problem of death concerns the question of whether it is possible to reconcile the existence of evil in the world with the existence of a perfectly good.
The changing attitude towards death and its meaning can be called as the manifestation of truth and universal virtue. Both authors depict that each person most desire and do good simply for the sake of the other person. Each person must spend time with the other and must share both bad and good times together. Marlowe underlines that the hero should look out for his own good. The theme of Christian resignation helps to create a conflict arising between old and new values of the heroes.
To some extent, the way to faith of both heroes is a form of perspective of contemporary norms. Faustus exclaims: “O, I’ll leap up to my God! –Who pulls me down? / See, see, where Christ’s blood streams in the firmament! / One drop would save my soul, half a drop: ah, my Christ! / Ah, rend not my heart for naming of my Christ!? (Marlowe, 1997). In choosing a particular friend (Kindred, Goods or Good-deeds) Everyman is giving it value because he is apparently unable to choose the worse of the options. The leap to Christian resignation represents this change.
Doctor says to Everyman: “This moral men may have in mind; / Ye hearers, take it of worth, old and young, / And forsake pride, for he deceiveth you in the end” (Everyman, 1993). Nevertheless, most of their tenets describe the basic assumptions articulated in one way or another by the theorists whose orientation toward Christianity captivated the discussion of God and eternal existence, the role of humans and divine in the world (Mebane, 1989). The main issues of the attitude towards death include the idea that God; belief in death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Marlowe underlines: “Only to wonder at unlawful things, / Whose deepness doth entice such forward wits /To practice more than heavenly power permits” (Marlowe, 1997). The irony is that both characters want to escape death forgetting that all people are mortal. Even trying to challenge destiny, people cannot change ordered hierarchy of the world, and is punished with an eternal hell. Marlowe builds the attitude towards death and discussion on the contrast between Christian values and science opposing to faith.
In contrast, in Everyman the conflict arises between good and bad actions of the main hero. At the beginning of the play the author mentions: “The Summoning of Everyman called it is, ‘ That of our lives and ending shows / How transitory we be all day” (Everyman). At the end, Everyman’s philosophy, ethics and morality must begin with faith. Also, the role of individual and universal becomes paramount. Coming through different stages of despair and fear before death Everyman and Dr Faustus accept Christian resignation and God.
Everyman ends with: “Unto which place God bring us all thither / That we may live body and soul together. / Thereto help the Trinity, / Amen, say ye, for saint Charity” (Everyman, 1993). In sum, Everyman and Dr Faust have similar attitudes towards death which have gradually changed during the plays. Both authors emphasize irrational side of human nature through death and fears. Everyman forces readers to understand what fate and destiny mean, and how useless all attempts are: only Good-Deeds should have value for a human.
In contrast, Marlowe persuades readers to think, to analyze and to come to conclusion themselves; it just plays with the differences adding tension to the novel development. Probably the readers know from the very beginning that the death is inevitable, but hope till the very end that a chosen one can be saved. Per¬haps the life is to be taken as the true image of the human condition: frightened, lonely, Godless, thrown unwillingly into a world made miserable by human irrationality and irresponsibility.