Everyman

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During the war in Eastern Europe, German warplanes and tanks caused many casualties. These planes and tanks also left the towns buildings in a complete ruble. The sound of war was very common in everyday life and bombs could be heard dropping from all around. Due to the massacre, friends and families died each day leaving people with a sense of emptiness. Death was a regular mishap and because of this the play “Everyman” was written which is a play about death and destruction. “Everyman” is a sermon on the meaning of life, which was written in 1485, but was not published until 15. The author was unknown, but was thought to be a priest. “Everyman” was performed in England for approximately five years during the war. The play was showed everyday, thus making the play a consistent showing of about 1,800 days.





In the beginning of the play, the Messenger begins to speak about what the play is based on. He states that the play is called “Everyman” and that our lives are like shows which change everyday.


The Summoning of Everyman called it is,


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That our lives and ending shows


How transitory we be all one day.


This matter is wondrous precious,


But the intent of it is more gracious,


And sweet to bear away.


After this brief introduction, God then begins to speak on how people are more focused on materialistic things and do not tend to show much appreciation for the spiritualistic side of life. Everyman is defined as every human being. He uses the main character Everyman as his example because everyman only cares for their materialistic possessions and tends to overindulge in seven deadly sins. These sins include envy, sloth gluttony, wrath, pride, lust, and greed.


My law that I showed, when I for them died


They forget the clean, shedding of my blood red;


I hanged between two, it cannot be denied;


To get them life I suffered to be dead;


I healed their feet, with thorns hurt was my head.


I could do no more than I did, truly;


And now I see the people do clean forsake me.


They use the seven deadly sins damnable;


God is very angry with the people in his introduction. He says that people are too focused on fulfilling their own pleasures and still they are not secure with anything in their lives. This goes to show that the world was in a horrible state at the time, and it gives God a superior reason to call upon everyman. God calls upon Death and he enters the scene. God then tells Death to go and get a hold of Everyman and take him on a pilgrimage. Here for the first time Everyman is personified as literally every human, mankind. Death accepts God’s command and says, “He that loveth riches I will strike with my dart.” Death accepts Gods command and sets off in seek of Everyman.





Death spots Everyman walking alone and he commands him to stand still. Death asks him where he is going. Death tells him that God, as a messenger, has sent him because he has forgotten of God and of what significance God is for human kind. Everyman asks Death why would God send for him and what does he desire him to do. Death tells him that he needs to come on the pilgrimage and there he will show him what God desires of him. Everyman asks Death for more time to think about this pilgrimage that he must make because he will not be able to come back. Death tells Everyman that he needs to bring a book of accounts with a list of all his good deeds, all his sins, and on how he has spent his life. The book of accounts is for God’s use. He will look upon these and see if Everyman is worthy for Heaven or for Hell. Everyman has doubts on who Death is, so he goes into interrogating him to find out who he really is. Death then tells him who he is, and that he is Death. He who fears no man, does not spare or fear the rich or the poor, he cares for no bribes and gives no respite.


I am Death, that no man dreadeth.


For every man I’ rest, and no man spareth;


For it is God’s commandment


That all to me shall be obedient.


Everyman tries to get out of the situation with Death. He does not want to go on this journey. He proceeds to bribe him with a “thousand pound shalt” for him to come back on another day. Death tells Everyman that it cannot be that way and that he does not accept any form of bribes because if he did he would be a very rich man. He then goes on to tell him that his slate is clean unlike the one of Everyman. He then restates that it is God’s will that Everyman come with him on the journey. Everyman agrees on going with him, but he asks if he may bring along a friend. Death agrees to his plea as long as that person is willing to go along.


Every character in this play is given a name of a specific attribute that humans have. The first person that Everyman decides to ask is Fellowship. Everyman has faith in Fellowship and knows that he will accept his proposal to go on the journey. Once Fellowship approaches Everyman, he notices that there is something bothering Everyman. He asks him what is wrong and if he may say a prayer for him in order to help him with his sorrows. Everyman then goes into detail of what is bothering him and Fellowship tells him that he will stand by his side no matter what happens. Fellowship says that he will even go to hell with him and back if that is the case.


And so ye shall evermore;


For, in faith and thou go to hell


I will not forsake thee by the way!


After hearing this, Everyman goes on to tell Fellowship about his meeting with Death.


Fellowship then backs out of going with Everyman on the journey because he does not like what he has just heard. Fellowship shows what a coward he his by first saying he would do anything with him and then how he backs out after hearing his tale. He claims that people say certain things as jokes and what he told Everyman earlier was indeed a joke. Everyman begs Fellowship to go with him, but he still refuses to go along on his journey.


I will not a foot with thee go;


But, and thou had tarried, I would not have left thee so.


And, as now, God speed thee in thy journey


Everyman pleads with Fellowship to come, but he refuses to go. Everyman accepts his departure and Fellowship tells him that by his faith he will commend him to God and that “parting is mourning”. Everyman is left stranded, all alone, thinking of how Fellowship had forsaken him. He thinks of someone new that he might be able to take on his journey. While thinking of a new companion, Everyman comes to find that while he had “prosperity” he had many friends, but when in “adversity” his friends were unkind and hard to come by.





Everyman calls upon his cousin and Kindred. Both of these men can see that Everyman is not doing so well, so they ask what is wrong with him and notify him that they will be there with him whenever he needs them.


For, weet you well, we will live and die together.


In wealth and woe we will with you hold,


For over his kin a man may be bold.


Everyman goes on by thanking them for what they have just said. He proceeds to tell them that a messenger who is a High King’s Chief officer has come to him telling him that he needs to come on a journey because of his pain. He also states that he knows he will not come back and that there is a powerful enemy that is waiting for him, someone like the Devil, who has been watching him every minute of the day looking to get his soul. The reason for his visit with the Devil is to tell him all of the bad things that he has done and how he has spent his days. After hearing what he said, Cousin said to him that he would much rather spend five years fasting on bread and water. He also claims to have a cramp in his toe and that if he goes he will put a burden on the journey. Kindred, by Saint Anne says that he will not go with him and says that there is no point is trying to convince them of going. Kindred and Cousin wish him farewell and that they will see him on another day. Here we see that Everyman is left with no one to turn to. He must once again look for a companion to accompany him on his pilgrimage.





Everyman then begs of Goods’ advice and calls him over. Everyman gives a speech telling Goods that he is to go in front of an Almighty God and confess his life. He also tells him that money makes all right that is wrong. But once again, Goods tells him that he will not go along on the voyage.


Nay, Everyman; I sing another song,


I follow no man in such voyages;


For, and I went with thee,


Thou Shouldst fare much for worse for me;


In the bible, Jesus states that people can love God and Money but not both at the same time. This means that no one should preoccupy themselves by indulging in money and with God. When it comes to the after life, the poor have less to worry about and the rich have more. Goods tells Everyman that he is different than God


Nay, Everyman, I say no.


As for a while I was lent thee,


A season thou hast had me in prosperity.


My condition is man’s soul to kill;


If I save one, a thousand I do spill;


Weenest thou that I will follow thee


From this world? Nay, verily.


True happiness and love is found within the soul. Everyman will be able to face God with nothing to hide. Here again, Everyman is left alone.





Everyman sits and mopes, thinking of whom he should ask next. He runs through his list of friends that denied his proposal. He remembers Good Deeds, but knows that she is weak and helpless, cant walk nor speak. Everyman’s sins have taken over Everyman’s good deeds. Everything that Everyman has done bad in the past is coming back to slowly haunt him, he is scared and does not know what to do. Good Deeds agrees to go along with him, she will also bring her sister, Knowledge. There is only one way that Knowledge will come along, that is if Everyman listens to whatever she says. Knowledge’s role in the play is acknowledgement of sin. Confession is then introduced into the play.





Confession calls to Everyman to kneel and ask for mercy. Confession is a character who symbolizes auricular confession, which is one of the four sacraments. The others are true sorrow for sin, absolution, and satisfaction.


And a precious jewel I will give thee,


Called Penance, voider of adversity;


Therewith your body chastised be,


With abstinence, and perseverance in God’s service.


Here shall you receive that scourge me.


Which is penance strong that ye must endure


To remember thy Savior was scourged for thee


With sharp scourges, and suffered it patiently;


So must thou ere thou’ scape that painful pilgramige.


Confession explains here the method of self-beating as a way to pay for repent ones sins. It could be carried out by oneself or by the priest.





After hearing what Confession had to say, he begins the process of confession to purify his soul. After confessing, Confession exits the scene and sends him on his way with Knowledge to guide him to Good Deeds. When Everyman and Knowledge meet Good Deeds, the “oil of forgiveness” brought up, which is the sacrament administered to the dying. Now Gods mercy will save him from eternal punishment. Everyman begins his prayer which is recommended to the dying, and asks to escape damnation by having his name inscribed on the “table of penance.” He does this so he will be saved, because he must first suffer punishment on earth and then suffer in the “fires of Purgatory” as well. Now that he has confessed his sins, Good Deeds has the power to walk because he has been powerless the whole time. But first Good Deeds needs mortal sins to be confessed and pardoned before he has the power to do anything.


I thank God, now I can walk and go,


And am delivered of my sickness and woe.


Good Deeds agrees to go with Everyman and Knowledge continues to give Everyman the garment of remorse. This garment is a white sheet worn by public penitents and will cover his merry clothes or his naked body. The garment is also covered in Everyman’s tears. Good Deeds tells Everyman that he needs to call upon four of his final friends to come with them or else he will not go along with the journey. Everyman did not know who to call upon so he was told to ask Discretion, Strength, Five Wits, and Beauty. Five wits is a character that represents the human’s five senses. All of his friends agree to come along and they reassure him that they will not back out on his proposal.





With his friends along for the journey, Everyman is confident and sure that nothing but good will result. Here he begins his testimonial which consists of the disposal of religious and earthly possessions. He begins with his disposal of his soul to God.


In alms half my good I will give with my hands twain


In the way of charity, with good intent,


And the other half still shall remain


In queath to be returned there it ought to be.


This I do in despite of the fiend of hell


To go quit out of his peril


Ever after and this day.


Everyman is told that he should visit a priest who can give him communion. Because a priest can give anointing of the “oil of forgiveness”, also known as “The blessed sacraments of seven.” A priest has supreme power because it is thought that a priest has received his Holy Orders from God himself. Therefore Everyman can go to the priest for total forgiveness. Priests are also thought to be above the angels.





IF priests be good, it is so surely.


But when Jesus hanged on the cross with great smart,


There he gave out of his blessed heart


The same sacrament in great torment





Strength reassures Everyman that he will not leave his side. Then Beauty tells Everyman that she will not stay down there with him, not even all the gold in a treasure chest will make her stay. As Beauty leaves, Everyman begins to loose his strength and this is where Strength, the character, leaves him. Strength tells him that he does not like the game that is being played and he will forsake him by leaving. Then Discretion decides to follow Strength as he leaves. Next, Everyman begins to loose his senses and here is where Five Wits deserts him. Strength, Knowledge, and Five Wits are soon to follow Beauty with a similar excuse to not go. Everyman and Good Deeds are the only ones left to lie in the grave. All of these characters have helped Everyman write his list of good and bad deeds; however, in the end the only one left by Everyman’s side is Good Deeds. As Everyman is lying in the grave, he begins to speak.


Into thy hands, Lord, my soul I commend


Receive it, Lord, that it be not lost,


As thou me boughtest, so me defend,


And save me from the friends boast.


That I may appear with that blessed host


That shall be saved at the day of doom.


Inmanus tuas-of mights most


For ever commendo spiritum meum.


Christ spoke these words as he was being crucified, “Into thy hands, most mighty and everlasting one, I commend my spirit.” Knowledge is sitting outside of the grave; he listens to the angels who are singing from heaven. This is the sign that Everyman has been repented for his sins and has made it passed the heavenly gates. Knowledge states that Everyman is gone to heaven where everyman is set to be free before he exits the play.


Now hath he suffered that we all shall endure;


The Good Deeds shall make all sure


Now hath he made ending.


Me thinkith that I hear angels sing.


And make great joy of melody


Where Everyman’s sole received shall be.


Come, excellent elect spouse to Jesu!


Hereabove thou shalt go


Because of thy singular virtue.





Finally, the Doctor enters the play to thus conclude this morality play. The doctor is a doctor of theology and not of medicine.


For, after death, amends may no man make,


For then mercy and pity doth him forsake,


If his reckoning be not clearwhen he doth come,


God will say, ite, malediciti, ignem acternum.


And he that hath his account whole and sound,


High in heaven he shall be crowned;


Unto which place God bring us all thither,


That we may live body and soul together.


Thereto help the Trinity!


Amen, say ye, for saint charity.


This is a sermon on how fate plays a huge role in everyone’s life. He gives a passage from the bible in which God stated, “Depart, ye cursed, into everlasting fire.” This means that everyone gets their judgment at death, but everyone should also focus on their daily judgments, do the right things, and not focus so much on materialistic things. Here ends the play of “Everyman.”





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