When you read this long passage of Everyman [when he turns to good deeds) what do you feel for him? Do you feel sorry for his desperate situation?

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wordprof eNotes educator| Certified Educator

It is important to remember this drama’s source and its raison d’etre.  It began as an oral piece, performed for its religious instructive value.  As an extended metaphor acted out to mostly illiterate audiences, it was not meant to be “psychological” (the characters are not whole human beings, but only symbolic representations of abstract ideas, like Friendship and Kin), so the only “emotion” the anonymous playwright was interested in was the effect on the audience member’s subsequent behavior.  The immediate reaction to the Good Deeds episode should have been “Oh, I get it.  My earthly good deeds will accompany me to the grave and to my judgment day, but my friends, my wealth, etc. will desert me.” There is little support for a belief that the audience member identified per se with the Everyman character (or feel sorry), except insofar as he was warned about his earthly priorities in time to save his soul.  Was the audience chagrined about the loss of wealth, etc.?  No, merely admonished for past mistakes in priorities.

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Everyman

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