Places Discussed (Cyclopedia of Literary Places)
Journey to Paradise
Journey to Paradise. Long journey from life to death that Death orders Everyman to make. Everyman is to take with him his full book of accounts; he must be careful, as he has done many bad deeds and only a few good ones. When he reaches Paradise, he will be required to account for his life. Death permits Everyman to take with him on his journey any companions he wishes, but only Good-Deeds goes with him the entire way.
With several stops along the way, Everyman’s journey takes on a dual purpose. On one hand, the image of his traveling from place to place to find a suitable companion is similar to a realistic trip; on the other, and on a more spiritual plane, Everyman’s peregrination characterizes his quest for salvation. On this path, Everyman is damned until he realizes that he must free himself of his sins before he is permitted to enter the heavenly sphere. He can accomplish that task only with the help of the sacraments and his own good deeds.
House of Salvation
House of Salvation. Place where Everyman receives the sacrament of penance from Confession. On a certain level, the House of Salvation represents Heaven and is where the play begins—with God speaking about humankind’s forgetfulness of his son’s sacrifice—and ends with the angel taking Everyman’s soul, as does human life.
(The entire section is 236 words.)
Want to Read More?
Subscribe now to read the rest of this article. Plus get complete access to 30,000+ study guides!
Cultural Changes in England
The end of the fifteenth century marked the end of the medieval period in England. The sixteenth century brought with it the first of the Tudor kings and a period of relative peace following the civil wars that had plagued England during much of the preceding century. And although it was still present in smaller, yearly outbreaks, the threat of the Black Death (a plague that had killed a large portion of the European population) had finally decreased. England at the beginning of a new century was becoming a good place to live. The first of the Tudors, King Henry VII, formed alliances with neighboring countries and trade flourished in London. The cloth made from the wool of English sheep became an important commodity in Europe trading.
The ascension of commerce, however, changed the face of England. Once a predominantly agrarian culture, the cities of England—especially London— became more densely populated and urban. Farm lands were enclosed, and displaced rural families fled to the larger cities, where crowding, unemployment, and plague were a greater problem. The feudal order was ending, as well as the era of knights on horseback, who became obsolete after Henry V proved that there was a more efficient way to win a battle. Literacy increased, too, as moveable typesetting made books and other printed material more available.
Drama in the Fifteenth Century
(The entire section is 732 words.)
The word archetype is generally used to describe a character who represents a pattern from which all characters or "types" are derived. The term derives from the work of Carl Jung, who expressed the theory that behind every unconscious lies the collective memories of the past. In literature, the term is often applied to a character type or plot pattern that occurs frequently and is easily recognized. In Everyman, Death is such a character, and the audience would immediately recognize this character and his purpose in the plot.
Authors usually write with an audience in mind. Certainly the unknown author of Everyman intended this drama to instruct the audience. Since few people were literate, a medieval writer could use drama to tell a story or teach a moral. The lesson in this play is how to lead a proper religious life and prepare for death and God's judgement.
The actions of each character are what constitute the story. Character can also include the idea of a particular individual's morality. Characters can range from simple stereotypical figures to more complex multi-faceted ones. Characters may also be defined by personality traits, such as the rogue or the...
(The entire section is 746 words.)
Compare and Contrast
1495: Henry VII is king of England. Catholicism is still the religion of the country and will remain so for the next thirty years.
Today: Because of a bloody history of oppression and suppression, anti-Catholic feelings in Great Britain have remained high since the mid-sixteenth century when Mary I had Protestants burned at the stake.
1495: The Black Death (also known as the Plague), continues to claim lives. The death toll has decreased from the fourteenth century, when one-third of Europe's population died from the disease. Still, thousands will die from the Plague over the next few years.
Today: The Plague is almost non-existent in England, although it still exists in some areas of the world. Even the American Southwest records deaths from the disease each year.
1495: The Spanish Inquisition continues to persecute all "heretics" (those who disagree with Catholic doctrine) with religious zeal. Many are put to death for questioning the church.
Today: Religious belief is still a significant cause of warfare and death in many countries. In Ireland, Protestants and Catholics have begun a fragile peace. In the Middle East religious zealotry continues to fuel terrorist actions.
1495: Exploration of the New World has continued...
(The entire section is 321 words.)
Topics for Further Study
Everyman is an morality play. Discuss how morality plays influenced Renaissance dramas, especially those of Christopher Marlowe and William Shakespeare. You might consider either Dr. Faustus or Macbeth as examples of later morality plays.
In what way are all the characters of Everyman allegorical?
If you were staging this play, how would you costume the characters? Would you consider modern dress, something from science fiction, or do you think medieval costuming would work best? Be prepared to defend your choice as important to increasing the audience's understanding of the play.
Research the development of medieval morality plays in England.
Considering the roots of medieval morality plays like Everyman, why do you think they remain popular today? How or why does sixteenth-century religious drama speak to a modern need for religion in man's life?
Compare Everyman to another readily available morality play like The Second Shepherd's Play. What can such plays tell us about medieval life?
It is thought that the tenets of modern civilization have their roots in early drama. What modern values and beliefs can you identify in the ideas presented in Everyman?
(The entire section is 184 words.)
What Do I Read Next?
The Second Shepherd's Play is one of two nativity plays that has survived from the medieval period. Both the author and the exact date of publication are unknown, but this mystery play is thought to date from the mid-fifteenth century. Like Everyman, it is a good example of the religious influence on early European drama.
The Chester Pageant of Noah's Flood is another early English mystery play. It dates from the mid-fifteenth century and was so popular that it was still being performed late into the sixteenth century.
The York Cycle of the Creation and the Fall of Lucifer is one of the earliest mystery plays. Like many other medieval dramas, the author is unknown and the exact date of publication is also undiscovered.
Christopher Marlowe's Dr. Faustus is an Elizabethan example of how morality plays influenced the drama of the late-sixteenth century. Archetype characters, though more developed than in morality plays, are still easily recognizable in this play.
The Chester Pageant of the Harrowing of Hell could easily serve as a model for the last scene in Dr. Faustus. The descent of Christ into hell was a popular medieval legend that appeared in many of the mystery plays.
(The entire section is 199 words.)
Bibliography and Further Reading
Anonymous. Review of Everyman in the Athenaeum, July 20, 1901, p. 103.
Barnet, Sylvan, editor. Types of Drama: Plays and Contexts, Longman, 1997, pp. 149-51, 182-85.
Cary, Elizabeth Luther. Review of Everyman in the Critic, January, 1903. pp. 43-45.
Garner, Stan ton B. Jr. ‘‘Theatricality in Mankind and Everyman’’ in Studies in Philology, Vol. 84, no. 3, Summer, 1987, pp. 277-85.
Montague, C. E. Review of Everyman in the Manchester Guardian, November 1, 1902; reprinted in William Poel and the Elizabethan Revival, by Robert Speaight, Heinemann, 1954. pp. 162-63.
Peek, George S. "Sermon Themes and Sermons Structure in Everyman’’ in the South Central Bulletin, Vol. 40, no. 4, Winter, 1980, pp. 159-60.
Tanner, Ron. "Humor in Everyman and the Middle English Morality Play’’ in Philological Quarterly, Vol. 70, no. 2, Spring, 1991, pp. 149-61.
Fifield, Merle. The Castle in the Circle, Ball State University Press, 1967. Fifield studies the staging of morality plays. He also offers a staging of the play using medieval production information.
Munson, William. ‘‘Knowing and Doing in Everyman’’ in the Chaucer Review, Vol. 19, no. 3, 1985, pp. 252-71. Munson argues that one of...
(The entire section is 323 words.)
Bibliography (Cyclopedia of Literary Characters, Revised Third Edition)
Sources for Further Study
Davenport, W. A. Fifteenth-Century English Drama: The Early Moral Plays and Their Literary Relations. Totowa, N.J.: Rowman and Littlefield, 1982. A useful overview to the play, its genre, and contemporary works written in the same or a similar genre. Bibliographical references, index.
Foster, Edward E. “Everyman.” In Masterplots, edited by Frank N. Magill and Laurence W. Mazzeno. 2d ed. Vol. 4. Pasadena, Calif.: Salem Press, 1996. Half of the essay is dedicated to an insightful critical evaluation of the play.
Kaula, David. “Time and the Timeless in Everyman and Dr. Faustus.” College English 22 (October, 1960): 9-14. Kaula compares the two morality plays and the kinds of time represented in them. In Everyman, astronomical time is finally replaced by moral time with its attendant freedom, in which human beings can control their destiny.
Kinghorn, A. M. Mediaeval Drama. London: Evans Brothers, 1968. Examines the plot and themes of the play and its place in the tradition of the morality play.
Kolve, V. A. “Everyman and the Parable of the Talents.” In Medieval English Drama: Essays Critical and Contextual, edited by Jerome Taylor and Alan H. Nelson. Chicago: University of Chicago...
(The entire section is 411 words.)