The main characters in Everyman include Everyman, Fellowship, Cousin, Kindred, Goods, Good-Deeds, Knowledge, Beauty, Strength, Discretion, the Five-Wits, God, and Death.
- Everyman is an allegorical figure who represents all of humanity.
- Fellowship is the allegorical representation of Everyman’s friends.
- Cousin and Kindred are Everyman’s family.
- Goods are Everyman’s material possessions.
- Good-Deeds are the good deeds which Everyman performed in life.
- Knowledge advises Everyman to confess his sins.
- Beauty, Strength, Discretion, and Five-Wits accompany Everyman to the gates of heaven.
- God sits in judgment of Everyman.
- Death delivers the message that Everyman will be judged by God.
Last Updated on October 6, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 824
The Messenger appears only once to deliver the prologue, in which he presents Everyman as a morality play concerning the dangers of sin and the transitory nature of worldly concerns. In this respect, he and the Doctor act as bookends to the drama, guiding the audience in their reception of it.
God also appears only at the beginning of the play. He is displeased with mankind, which he says has forgotten him and now follows a sinful path, corrupted by wealth and growing worse from year to year. He decides to demand that Everyman present a “reckoning” of his life so that God can judge him.
Death is the servant of God and shares his contempt for wealth and for the conduct of mankind, as well as his implacable nature. He seems to know about Everyman’s way of life and rebukes him for his many bad deeds, his few good ones, and his neglect of God.
Everyman is intended, as his name suggests, to be an ordinary person, someone in whose place audience members can readily imagine themselves. At the beginning of the play, he is depicted as simple and unreflective, living his life without thinking about its end or meaning. He does, however, have some individual characteristics. His chief vice is avarice, and he seems to have spent much of his life piling up a large fortune, since he offers Death a bribe of a thousand pounds, a huge sum in the fifteenth century, to leave him alone. Everyman also seems unreasonably confident that his friends and family will be content to share his death. These specific traits are a sign of Everyman’s general self-absorption, which he loses as his soul becomes purified over the course of the play.
Fellowship is a friend of Everyman and represents friendship in general. He claims to be willing to do anything for Everyman but quickly reneges on this promise when asked to accompany Everyman on his journey. He only enjoys Everyman’s company when they are amusing themselves and joining together in sin.
Kindred is a member of Everyman’s family who initially promises loyalty but then refuses to join Everyman on his journey.
Cousin is another member of Everyman’s family who has the same selfish attitude as Kindred. He makes unconvincing excuses to avoid going with Everyman, first complaining of a cramp in his toe, then saying that he has a reckoning of his own to prepare.
Goods represents earthly wealth. Though Everyman has loved Goods all his life, he is malevolent and hostile to Everyman, the nearest thing in the play to a villain. He is proud to have corrupted Everyman and boasts that he will do the same to others after Everyman’s death.
Good-Deeds is the only character who is entirely good and completely loyal to Everyman, volunteering to share his fate. She is painfully weak at the beginning of the play but gains strength as Everyman draws closer to God, and goes up to heaven with him.
Knowledge is the sister of Good-Deeds and represents the teachings of the Church. She is able to stay with Everyman until the moment of his death, the only one of his companions except Good-Deeds who does so. However, unlike Good-Deeds, she can only guide him to the grave and cannot go with him up to heaven. Her help and advice are particularly useful at the beginning of Everyman’s journey, when Good-Deeds is too weak to travel with him.
Confession is a holy man of simple purity who helps Everyman to cleanse his soul, giving him a jewel called “penance” and a whip with which to scourge himself.
Beauty is superficially charming and obliging, and vows to stay with Everyman, come what may. However, she is fickle and is the first of his companions to depart from him when he is approaching death.
Strength promises to stay with Everyman and help him and is a useful companion on his journey. However, as Everyman approaches death, Strength quickly abandons him.
Discretion is one of Everyman’s companions who appears wise but is only discerning in worldly matters. She follows Strength and leaves Everyman near the end of his journey.
Five-Wits personifies the five senses of sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch. He is therefore very perceptive and initially a useful companion to Everyman. However, he deserts Everyman before the end of his journey, as the senses become useless after death.
The angel appears at the end of the play to announce that Everyman’s reckoning has been found “crystal-clear” and that he has ascended into heaven.
The Doctor is a learned man, a scholar or “Doctor of the Church,” who delivers the epilogue, addressing the audience directly and drawing clear morals from the play that they can apply in their own lives.