How do I analyze the theme and other elements of the Old English play "Everyman"?

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The Old English dramatic text, “Everyman,” is a transcription of an oral traditional religious lesson, mainly for an illiterate congregation.  The fact that is was eventually written down, in the early development of the English language, turned it into literature, and we can study it as such, but we must always remember its origins – and that it is anonymous.   Like virtually all Middle and old English texts, it is usually read in a Modern English translation.  The “analysis,” then, must be confined to the themes and dramatic construction rather than any author-oriented approach, or even from a linguistic approach, at least on the undergraduate level.  Thematically, it is a visualization of the religious lesson:  your earthly values and acquaintances cannot help you to salvation – they will “abandon” you when you “go to the grave” –only your good deeds will count.  The characters can be discussed thematically and as stage symbols in stage “language” – how are they dressed and how do they act and talk to reveal their part in the representation?  As a student, you can speculate on these aspects, or even “direct” it in the abstract, describing blocking, proxemics, etc., to show that you have read and understood the text.  If you have some knowlede of religious history, you might also discuss Death as a personification of Early English religious beliefs.   As for other Old English texts, your most fruitful analytical approach might be to relate the literature not to our modern readership, but to the social function it had it its own time.  How, for example, did the Arthurian legend emerge from the early English/Welsh stories to affect the populus’ attitude toward chivalry?  Pedagogically, you should simply absorb the literature, and in your teacher's assignments, essays, etc., simply demonstrate that you have read the material with concentration and penetration.  One method is to imagine you are explaining a text to a friend who hasn't read it -- what general statements would you make to familiarize your friend with the text's value, and what details would clarify those general statements?  Think of "analysis" as "looking at things carefully."

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