The Summoning of Everyman, usually referred to simply as Everyman, the anonymous, late 1400s morality play, contains comic vignettes, but no truly comic scenes. This isn't unusual, considering that the play takes place at the end of Everyman's life and concerns the "pilgrimage" he must undertake to prepare himself for his final reckoning before God. There are, however, underlying and often darkly comic elements that run through the play.
The premise of the play itself is not only deadly serious, but it's also a little absurd in its oversimplification of a man's life, to the extent that Everyman can actually walk the earth talking with those elements of his life that he can take to his final judgment with him.
The play beings with God, the supreme being in the universe, sitting in majesty in his "heavenly sphere," complaining at length about how he's been ignored, forsaken, and generally mistreated by the creatures he created and about how no one seems to respect or fear him anymore.
GOD. I perceive here in my majesty,
How that all creatures be to me unkind,
Living without dread in worldly prosperity...
But now I see, like traitors deject,
They thank me not for the pleasure that I to them meant,
Nor yet for their being that I them have lent...
Poor, underappreciated God fails to see the irony and humor in his situation.
God calls upon Death, the most terrifying of all his creations, to go to Everyman, but Everyman doesn't even recognize Death as who or what it is.
EVERYMAN. I know thee not: what messenger art thou?
When Death identifies itself, Everyman seems unimpressed and tries to bribe Death into giving him more time and to come back later.
EVERYMAN. Yet of my good will I give thee, if ye will be kind,
Yea, a thousand pound shalt thou have,
And defer this matter till another day.
Everyman keeps trying to negotiate his way out of his pilgrimage.
EVERYMAN. For all unready is my book of reckoning.
But twelve year and I might have abiding,
My counting book I would make so clear,
That my reckoning I should not need to fear...
Now, gentle Death, spare me till to-morrow,
That I may amend me
With good advisement.
Everyman doesn't seem to understand the gravity of his situation or the finality of God's judgment, and he asks Death if he can come back to his life after his reckoning before God.
EVERYMAN. Death, if I should this pilgrimage take,
And my reckoning surely make,
Show me, for saint charity,
Should I not come again shortly?
DEATH. No, Everyman; and thou be once there,
Thou mayst never more come here,
Trust me verily.
Death finally grows impatient with Everyman, and threatens to "smite" him if he doesn't stop procrastinating.
DEATH. Nay, thereto I will not consent,
Nor no man will I respite,
But to the heart suddenly I shall smite
Without any advisement.
And now out of thy sight I will me hie;
See thou make thee ready shortly,
For thou mayst say this is the day
That no man living may scape away.
Everyman finally, if reluctantly, comes to terms with his situation. Ironically, and not a little comically, Everyman cries out in despair to the entity who demands the reckoning.
EVERYMAN. I would to God I had never be born!