Religion has always had a major influence in all aspects of human culture. This can be seen in many different forums from education to social norms to entire governments: Art, in particular, has been deeply affected by religious ideals. In order to see the role religion plays upon an aspect of human life, it is important to be able to identify the time period and location of the interaction. This can be seen strongly in plays such as The Second Shepherd's Play as well as Doctor Faustus by Marlowe. These two plays, in particular, show the fascinating way religions effect on art can change due to contemporary thoughts. Many medieval plays such as The Second Shepherd's Play were simply the retelling of famous biblical stories. The religious story within this play builds a framework on which the play grows upon. While later plays, such as Doctor Faustus, focus more on the individual and his or her relation to morality. Here religion is used as a window to understand these concepts rather than dictating the events within the play. Both these works have religion in the forefront, but it interacts and molds each of these plays in different ways.
The Second Shepherd's Play is a prime example of how medieval plays merged religious teaching and people's everyday lives.
[...] By having the play focus on the issues and interactions of the shepherds the play does two things: it empowers the plays interaction with the audience by giving them a relationship with the shepherds and that allows it to reinforce the biblical story which concludes the play. The audience is give the first six scenes to get to know the characters and is then carefully led into the biblical story. Due to this the audience is able to stay engaged and connected to the play while being constantly reminded of the religious foundation the play is based upon. [...]
[...] Nor does Christianity get control from dictating the structure and form of the play like it did with Second Shepherd's Play”. Christianity gains its power from having complete control over the universe which Faustus resides in. Christianity creates the moral concepts of and punishes those who do the thing, and then doesn't allow them to come back to its good side. Faustus has the ability to choose his actions, but once he chooses the one he is damned forever. The play gives Faustus independence and some form of free will only to show that it doesn't allow Faustus to escape the strict guidelines of Christianity's judgment. [...]
[...] Morality within this play is not seen through concrete biblical stories like Second Shepherd's instead morality is seen in spiritual forces which interact with human kind. These moral extremes affect Faustus' judgment and goes as far as to test his ability to have free will. At the start of the play Faustus is looking to achieve power. He looks for power within many different forms of study but each one he dismisses: from being a philosopher to being a doctor. [...]
[...] In scene XII an Old man, who is another incarnation of the and “heavenly” path, tells Faustus that angel hovers o'er thy head,/And with a vial full of precious grace/offers to pour the same into thy soul.” (Scene XII, lines 48-51). Faustus is given, yet again, another chance to redeem himself: all he has to do is ask for mercy. His says, “Accursed Faustus, where is mercy now?/ I do repent, and yet I do despair./ Hell strives with grace for conquest in my breast” (Scene XII, Lines 57-59). [...]
[...] Names grant characters a sense of identity. By removing the three main shepherd's names from the dialogue the play allows the characters to act as a clean slate for the audience to project themselves upon. All of these factors allow the play to be an interactive event rather than solely a biblical story meant to teach. Though the first part of the play keeps the spotlight solely upon these shepherds and their personal struggle with Mac, the sheep thief, there is still an always present backdrop of Christian doctrine. [...]
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