Overview (Masterplots II: Christian Literature)
The anonymous, fifteenth century English morality play Everyman was first published in 1508. It relates through allegory the tale of a dying Everyman and the items and qualities he most values, which attend to him in his death. The play opens with a messenger preparing the way for God, who after an opening meditation commands Death to seek out Everyman and warn him that God sits in judgment of Everyman’s soul. Death approaches Everyman and foretells his demise, telling Everyman that he will now undertake the pilgrimage of the soul and stand before God to be reckoned. Everyman pleads to be released from his journey, even begging for the journey to be delayed if only for a day, but Death reminds Everyman that he comes for all people in their turn. Everyman laments at his fate and attempts to find comfort and companionship for his journey.
First he looks for solace among his friends, allegorized by Fellowship. Initially, Fellowship seems very concerned about Everyman’s grave state and pledges his undying fealty and assistance, but upon discovering that Everyman undertakes the journey to Death, Fellowship abandons Everyman to his own fate. Next, Everyman turns to Cousin and Kindred, believing that familial bonds will prove stronger than those of Fellowship; but, family, too, despite professing their love for and support of Everyman, abandons him in the time of his greatest need. Next, Everyman turns to his own material possessions, his Goods,...
(The entire section is 620 words.)
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Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
One day a Messenger appears to announce that in the beginning of life, human beings should look to the ending, for they shall see how all earthly possessions avail little in the final reckoning. Sin may look sweet at first, but in the end it causes the soul to weep in pain.
Then God speaks. All living creatures are unkind to him. They live with no spiritual thought in their worldly possessions. The crucifixion is a lesson they forget. Human beings turn to the seven deadly sins, and every year their state grows worse. Therefore, God decides to have a reckoning, lest humankind become more brutish than the beasts.
At an imperative summons, Death comes to receive his instructions. He is ordered to search out all human beings and tell them that they have to make a pilgrimage to their final reckoning. Death promises to be cruel in his search for everyone who lives outside God’s law.
Spying Everyman walking unconcernedly about his business, his mind on fleshly lust and treasure, Death bids him stand still and asks him if he forgot his maker. Death announces that God dispatched him in all haste to warn Everyman. Everyman is to make a long journey, and he is to take with him his full book of accounts. He is to be very careful, for he did many bad deeds and only a few good ones. In Paradise, he will soon be forced to account for his life.
Everyman protests that Death cannot be further from his thoughts. Death, who sets no store...
(The entire section is 1095 words.)
Everyman is a one-act play that begins with a Messenger announcing the play's purpose: Everyman will be called before God, and thus every man should look to the end of his life even as he begins it. The sin that initially looks sweet will eventually cause the soul to weep. Then God appears and tells the audience that man has forgotten the sacrifice that God made for them at the crucifixion. God is angry and disappointed with man, who has embraced the seven deadly sins. Since man has turned to sin, God is demanding a reckoning. He calls for Death and instructs him to seek out every man who has lived outside God's law. Death is to bring forth these men for a final reckoning. Death promises to do so and seeing Everyman, Death asks him if he has forgotten his God. Everyman is unprepared for Death and is frightened at the journey Death proposes. After warning Everyman that his judgment is at hand, Everyman asks for time to find someone to accompany him in his pilgrimage.
Everyman first sees his friend, Fellowship, with whom he has spent so much time. Initially, Fellowship says he will accompany his friend wherever he is going, but when he hears of the destination, Fellowship declines. He will offer women and good times, but he will not go on a journey to face God's judgment. Everyman is disappointed in Fellowship's response but decides that family and blood ties might make stronger companions. With this thought in mind, he approaches Kindred. It...
(The entire section is 635 words.)