Everyman, composed in the late 15th century by an unknown author, is a good deal more simplistic in its presentation of good and evil than Christopher Marlowe's 1592 play Doctor Faustus . The Everyman character is, as his name suggests, just an ordinary man, someone with whom the...
Everyman, composed in the late 15th century by an unknown author, is a good deal more simplistic in its presentation of good and evil than Christopher Marlowe's 1592 play Doctor Faustus. The Everyman character is, as his name suggests, just an ordinary man, someone with whom the audience of a late medieval morality play would instinctively identify.
Everyman is a straightforward allegory which presents its audience with a clear message as to what they must do if they're to be saved. Allegorical characters such as Beauty, Strength, and Discretion leave the audience in no doubt as to the values endorsed and of the relative importance of each such value in determining whether or not Everyman's pilgrimage from this world to the next is successful. In Everyman the message is morally uplifting and clear, and the ending happy.
In Marlowe's Doctor Faustus, however, there is no such happy ending. Faustus is ultimately torn limb from limb by devils before his mortal soul is carried down to hell. If Everyman is aimed at a mass audience, Marlowe's masterpiece has a more educated, sophisticated crowd in mind. There are clearly complex—and subversive—philosophical and theological ideas at work here.
Unlike the Everyman character, Faustus is not an ordinary man; he is a brilliant and highly-trained scholar. But unlike Everyman, he's not solely concerned with faithfully adhering to the path of righteousness; he also wants to accrue enormous power and prestige. Whereas Everyman is constantly beset by all manner of temptation and diversion right throughout his spiritual quest, Faustus succumbs straight away to the forces of darkness, jeopardizing his mortal soul in return for twenty-four years of earthly power and fame. Although Faustus later repents, expressing a desire to walk in God's path, he remains susceptible to devilish influences.
One possible summation of the main difference between Everyman and Doctor Faustus is that the former tells us what we ought to do whereas the latter tells us what we ought not to do.