The main themes in Everyman are judgement after death, the value of life, and religion.
- Judgement and Death: Everyman's struggle to accept and prepare himself for his imminent death and judgment reflects human fears surrounding death. Ultimately, people can only bring their good deeds with them to stand judgment.
- Value of Life: Though Christians believe in fostering community, they ultimately face God alone, as individuals. Consequently, one's way of life takes on enormous importance.
- Religion: Everyman is a Christian allegory that reinfoces the idea that material possessions and earthly wealth do not matter in the eyes of God; instead, people must live godly lives.
Everyman reflects the strongly Catholic ideal that only through one’s good deeds can the Kingdom of Heaven be attained. Its populist message and colorful, emotional stage presence made it a very successful and admired work in its time.
The play is told through allegory, which creates characters of those aspects of Everyman’s life that he deems most important. Although Everyman is rejected by Fellowship, Cousin, Kindred, and Goods, the play does not deem these relationships irrelevant or antithetical to a good Christian existence. Indeed, Fellowship, Cousin, and Kindred are all sympathetic figures; though they abandon Everyman as his death looms, this desertion is as much part of the natural process and reality of death as it is a reflection of every person’s fear of their own mortality. (Goods represents the shallower, more materialistic side of Everyman and is thus depicted in a worse light than the other figures in the play.)
While Everyman does not decry the relationships the protagonist has with his fellow human beings, the play demonstrates that it is the relationships within one’s self and with God that are most important and lead to the road of salvation. Interestingly, Everyman’s path to judgment comes not through the justification of faith, a later, more Protestant ideal, but rather through the strength of his Good Deeds and the sincerity of his confession, a staunchly Catholic notion proper for the time the play was composed.
The loss of Everyman’s more personal characteristics, including his Beauty, Strength, Discretion, and Five Wits, reflects the process of aging in human beings. They—physical appearance and health—flee when confronted with old age and death. Even Knowledge abandons Everyman, although it is his knowledge of confession and, ultimately, of God that opens the path toward Everyman’s salvation.
Everyman reminds the audience of the path to God according to the medieval Catholic Church. The allegorical tale turns every member of the audience into the protagonist, crossing boundaries of class and gender, to prove that all men are equal when they stand in judgment before God and that only an individual’s good deeds matter on the journey to salvation.
Alienation and Loneliness
As Everyman is abandoned by Fellowship, Kindred, and Goods, he begins to feels increasingly isolated and alone. When his overtures to Fellowship are rejected, Everyman thinks that surely his family will stand by him as he faces his final judgment. Instead, what he discovers is that every man must face God's judgment alone. Earthly friendships and family are left behind in such a situation, and man is never more isolated than in facing death.
Atonement and Forgiveness
When Everyman is feeling most afraid and alone, he is given the opportunity to atone for his sins. The recognition of his sin, provided by Knowledge, leads to his meeting with Confession and to penance. The medieval Christian tradition is that man must seek atonement for earthly sins, but that God's forgiveness is always available to those who truly repent. At the end of Everyman, forgiveness is given freely and Everyman is prepared to meet God.
Everyman has placed his faith in friends and family. They have been his companions throughout life and each initially indicates their willingness...
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