"The Difference Between Medieval And Early Modern Is One Of Degree Rather Than Strict Demarcation." Discuss This Idea In The Context Of Any Two Writers You Have Read.(Everyman And Dr Faustus)

2428 words - 10 pages

The medieval and early modern periods were eras with distinctive issues and ideals. Some of their key themes were very similar, such as the importance of religion and the role it played in everyday life, while other matters were unique to their time, such as the medieval selling of indulgences, or the early modern Reformation of the Church. These examples illustrate clearly the mixture of change and stasis in the two ages, as a subject shared by both periods yielded so great a diversity of issues. The distinction of the eras makes it evident that some change did occur, but as the period of time between them was not very great, the change must be limited. Everyman and Dr Faustus are respectively medieval and early modern drama texts that share common issues. However, the way in which they handle them varies, and allows an exploration of whether the people and culture of the medieval and early modern period differed by slight degree or strict demarcation.The medieval age of English history is epitomised as a strongly religious time, where Christianity provided a strict identity and purpose in life. Belief in Heaven, Hell and Judgement was very real, as was the constant fear of sin and damnation. The Church was able to manipulate the devout faith of its followers by selling fake holy relics and religious indulgences. The laymen believed it was necessary for them to obtain such items in order to purify themselves of sin, and enter Heaven without suffering through Purgatory. Medieval drama did much to reinforce these beliefs, being completely liturgical. Morality plays were first performed at religious holidays, and warned audiences about sin and salvation, with personification of the psychomachia. They all shared a highly similar narrative structure as good and evil battled for the soul of an initially virtuous man who had become caught in vice. This person represented the whole of humanity, and the play would show how, despite temptation and with the help of Christian values, he realised his error and won salvation.By the early modern era, neither the faith in Christ nor in Judgement had diminished, but the understanding of them had altered. People became frustrated with the "ecclesiastical despotism" that was rife in the established Church, and there was widespread dissatisfaction with the papal organisation which, according to Erasmus, was felt to be dominated by ignorant monks. The subsequent Reformation changed the form and understanding of religion, making it more accessible to the average person by removing the intercessory functions of priests and bishops, and giving ordinary people more control over their spiritual state. This religious change also had political implications. The disestablishment of the Church created a degree of civil unrest among Catholic and Protestant groups, as factions sprang up with each viewing the other as traitorous, either to England or to God. However, this was not the only face of the early modern era. As the...

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