1400 AD Everyman

15th century

Everyman is a short morality play, and we don’t know who wrote it.  It is quite entertaining, and I enjoyed the language as well, it not being a translation, so it has a ‘medieval’ feel to it.  I really like the symbolism.  The play is pretty simple and straight-forward, but at the same time, gives lots of food for thought.

Everyman is the main character, going about his business when an unexpected visitor, Death, pays him a call.

Death says:

“Before God thou shalt answer, and show

Thy many bad deeds and good but a few;

How thou hast spent thy life, and in what wise,

Before the chief lord of paradise.”

Everyman says:

“O, Death, thou commest when I had thee least in mind;

In thy power it lieth me to save,

Yet of my good I will give thee, if ye will be kind,

Yea, a thousand pound shalt thou have,

And defer this matter till another day.”

Death obviously cannot accept payment to hold off on his duty, so Everyman begins to worry about his life’s reckoning and searches for those who may be able to travel with him and help him.  One by one, Fellowship, Kindred, and Goods (as in worldly goods) answer Everyman’s call but either cannot or will not help him.

Finally Good-Deeds says she will help, but unfortunately she is too weak to stand.  Good-Deeds has a sister, though, called Knowledge, who can help.  Knowledge brings Everyman to Confession, who is a holy man that God esteems highly.  After this visit, Good-Deeds gains enough strength to walk, and so goes with Everyman.  At this point, Beauty, Discression, Strength, and Five-Wits (common sense, imagination, fantasy, estimation, and memory) all visit Everyman, but as with Fellowship, Kindred, and Goods, they do not follow Everyman on his journey.  Knowledge stays with him, but only Good-Deeds can follow and help at the reckoning.

In the end, Everyman says:

“Methinketh, alas, that I must be gone,

To make my reckoning and my debts pay,

For I see my time is night spent away.

Take example, all ye that this do hear or see,

How they that I loved best do forsake me,

Except my Good-Deeds that bideth truly.”

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