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The Summoning of Everyman is probably the best known of the extant medieval morality plays, although it's not known if it was ever actually performed during the era in which it was written. Many such works were written to be read aloud in groups rather than actually performed. Published in the early 16th century, it was probably based on an earlier Dutch work of the previous century. Below are three sites, one of which has the complete text. The summaries are fine, but reading the actual play along with the summary and other materials will give you a better understanding of the play and its meaning. Like other such works of the later Middle Ages, Everyman is an allegory, with the characters given such transparent names as Beauty, Good Deeds, Worldly Goods, etc., to teach through figurative symbolism.
The high Father of heaven sends Death to summon every creature to come and give account of their lives in this world.God laments that his creatures live preoccupied with worldly prosperity, blinded to what is really important. Man being drowned in sin, does not know Him for their God,” He summons the messenger, Death, and tells him to inform Everyman that his time on earth has ended and that he must now give an account of his life..Everyman wants more time and appeals to Death for it.But Death refuses to grant it. Everyman then attempts to muster acquaintances to support him. When he begs Fellowship to help him with a problem, the latter seeks assistance. However, when Fellowship learns that Everyman wants him to testify in the land of death, Fellowship says he would normally accompany Everyman everywhere—to eat, drink, make merry, and pursue the pleasures of lust. He would even help Everyman commit murder. . Fellowship is reluctant to go to undertake such a fearsome journey in afterlife.Everyman then goes to Kindred and Cousin for seeking assistance. but they did not help him.Everyman was now desperate. Everyman turns to Good Deeds and prays to help him in this need or else he will for ever be damned.Good Deeds is however in a pitiable condition. Everyman has neglected him for a long time. So he is unable to muster the required strength. However , he introduces Everyman to his sister, Knowledge, who says she can help him by taking him to Confession. Everyman weeps for joy.
.......Confession tells Everyman he will give him a precious jewel, penance, if he confesses his sins. Everyman calls on the Lord to forgive his grievous offenses, acknowledging that he is a “sinner most abominable,” and calls on the Virgin Mary to intercede with her Son on his behalf. After Everyman completes his confession, Knowledge informs him that his friend Good Deeds is healthy and whole once again. Good Deeds himself then comes forth and says Everyman is now prepared for eternity. Knowledge outfits Everyman with a robe of contrition, signifying that he repents his sins.
.......Good Deeds introduces Everyman to Discretion, Strength, his Five Wits, and Beauty and asks them to accompany Everyman on his journey. Knowledge then tells him before he leaves he must receive the last sacraments of the church—Holy Viaticum (which is a special name for Holy Eucharist or Holy Communion when given to anyone about to die) and anointment with an oil. After he receives the sacraments, Beauty, Discretion, Strength, and the Five Wits go with Everyman to his grave but refuse to accompany him to the afterlife. Everman becomes disheartened. However, Good Deeds agrees to bide with him. Knowledge also agrees to accompany Everyman who then prays to Lord will to receive him, and commend his spirit.
.......Knowledge hears angels singing. One of them invites Everyman into the heavenly regions. Only Good Deeds accompanies him.
Dr. Ratan Bhattacharjee Kolkata
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