What are the principal allegorical figures in Everyman? What does each stand for?

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cvb2447's profile pic

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"Everyman" is a morality play about salvation; the original play was medieval. It is an allegorical drama written to teach Christians how to live their lives in order to save their souls.

Each of the principal allegorical figures stands for an element of life: Everyman represents any common man, Death is God's messenger, Kindred is family and companions, Fellowship represnts Everyman's friends, Worldly Goods represent materials or items that eventually become meaningless, Good Deeds are those that stay with you into death and Beauty is a quality that fades with time and age.

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rmhope's profile pic

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The allegorical characters in Everyman are easy to discern because they are named for what they represent. 

Everyman represents the typical human being who must face death. 

Fellowship represents false friends—those who forsake a person when his death nears. In fact, this doesn't diminish the value of friends. Each person must face death alone, without his friends.

Kindred and Cousin, like Fellowship, are the people closest to the person who must face death. Again, they cannot come along or make the journey easier.

Goods represents the material possessions and wealth a person accumulates during his life. Although they make the days on earth more comfortable, possessions do nothing to help one in the afterlife. They will not go through death with their owner.

Good-deeds is one of the only characters who changes for the better in the play. He represents the good works a person does during his lifetime. When Everyman first invites him to go with him to death, Good-deeds cannot go because he is so weakened by Everyman's sin. He introduces Everyman to Knowledge, who takes him to Confession. After Everyman goes to Confession and does penance, Good-deeds is strengthened and can then accompany Everyman to death. This shows a man's good deeds can be outweighed by sin and only confession and penance will let the good deeds be counted as worthy. Good-deeds accompanies Everyman to the grave, and Knowledge hears singing, suggesting that in the afterlife, one's good deeds will assure him admission to Heaven.

Confession represents the Church teaching on confessing sins and doing penance. 

Five-Wits represents man's reason and points Everyman to the priest and the sacrament of Holy Communion, which purges a man from sin.

Knowledge represents spiritual knowledge. Unlike Beauty, Strength, and Discretion, gifts or virtues that flee as death nears, knowledge stays with the person right until he or she passes into the next life. 

God, is, of course, the Supreme Being who controls the eternal fate of each human. Death is the personification of leaving life and entering the afterlife. 

This morality play, through its allegorical characters, teaches the doctrines of the Catholic Church regarding salvation and the afterlife.

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