Table of Contents
1. The anatomy of damnation
The closest artwork similar to Everyman in the fact that a person’s internal soul is divided into different parts that battle each other for influence is Christopher Marlowe’s Tragical History of Doctor Faustus. It is noticeable that the differences between the two plays are credited to their difference in time period. The medieval view of sin presented in Everyman is challenged by the Renaissance view of sin offered in Dr. Faustus. In Everyman knowledge is painted as a virtue, as long as it comes out of longing for that which is virtuous rather than selfish. In Dr. Faustus knowledge is not considered to be inherently bad, quite the opposite, but it might lead one into selfishness, greed and sin. Though the undoing of Faustus may be his endless thirst for knowledge, the underlying theme is that his own greed in this regard caused his damnation, not the actual knowledge itself.
Both plays, written with a certain instructive effect can be considered morality plays. In a strictly theological manner, they both make a case against worldly pursuits and also a case for penitence and humbleness. The presence of good deeds is essential to both plays, being the only facts their heroes are to be judged upon.
2. The Last companion
Through his companions, Everyman also develops a theological mistrust: the things of the world lie. Fellowship, Kindred and Cousin all excuse themselves from sharing Everyman’s fate. At this point the existence of the psychology of relationships between the self and the things outside the self becomes quite clear. Each false friend pinpoints a relationship with Everyman’s self: Fellowship in an external entity liable to change with time, place, and mood. Kindred is closer to the self, yet by definition represents something that is always there and can be drawn at will. Finally, Goods is a distorted depiction of the self, personal objects hoarded outside oneself to serve as a self-identity. This psychology of relationships makes each attachment increasingly dangerous to the soul and quite shattering in the moment when the objects are removed. As this gradually happens to Everyman, he feels his identity being stripped away until he is a nonentity.
Knowledge is also part of the worldly identity and cannot be removed from the parameters that contain it. The impression that Knowledge should have followed Everyman to his grave is a direct consequence of the fact that she was perceived as a positive character in the play. Had it happened that way, the entire subject would have been ruined, as it had been built on the theological belief that the soul – on his reckoning day – has only his good deeds on his side. Also, it is pointed out that good deeds are the facts that a man is remembered for after his soul leaves this world.
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