Compare and contrast Christopher Marlowe's play Doctor Faustus with the medieval morality play Everyman. How is Marlowe's doctor more complex?

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vangoghfan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The title character in Christopher Marlowe’s play Doctor Faustus is more complex than the title character in the medieval morality play Everyman in a number of ways, including the following:

  • Faustus is very well educated, whereas Everyman apparently is not.  Faustus’s education makes his involvement with the devil even more blameworthy than Everyman’s sins.  Faustus’s education should have made him know better than to sell his soul to Satan.
  • In particular, Faustus has studied theology, whereas Everyman’s knowledge of the teachings of the church seems to be quite rudimentary.
  • Faustus actively chooses to consort with evil and to embrace it, whereas Everyman seems (at first) largely ignorant of his shortcomings.
  • Faustus actively chooses evil, whereas Everyman’s main failing seems to be an insufficient number of good deeds.
  • Faustus is warned by Mephastophilis about the dangers of selling his soul to Satan, but he chooses to ignore such warnings.  Everyman, in contrast, responds almost immediately and positively to the teachings he receives, from Death as well as from other characters.
  • At the end of Doctor Faustus, the title character cannot seem to decide how to behave.  He feels tempted to ask for God’s help but never really does. He is extremely conflicted.  In contrast, by the end of Everyman the title character has fully embraced his good deeds and walks into the grave with her without hesitation and indeed with real anticipation and joy. Everyman has learned his lessons well; Doctor Faustus, in contrast, never expresses genuine or deep regret for the evil he has chosen.
  • Ironically, Doctor Faustus is the more complex of the two characters (especially intellectually), but in some ways he is also the more obviously foolish and stupid.