Free Medieval Morality Play "Everyman" Essay Sample


Everyman is a medieval morality play that refers to the last days of human life on the earth. Written by the unknown author in the 15th century, it tells a story of a man captured in the prison of materialistic values. Employing allegorical characters and personifying the main virtues, the author provides specific contemplations on the issue of life and death. The image of death plays a significant role as it acts as the messenger of God who appeals to every individual with the warning. The dark messenger calls the humanity to reconsider their values and step on the path of justice and retention. The author treats death as something inevitable, implacable, and indispensable: it reminds people that sooner or later every human being is going to meet it to have the earthly life judged and no worldly treasures will be more valuable than the good deeds, sincere heart, and knowledge.

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Explanation of the Play and Characters

The play begins with the Messengers monologue that gives the audience a brief introduction of the play. God gives a speech that has biblical meaning. God sends Death as a Messenger to give Everyman instructions. God tells Death, Everyman must take on the journey He has set for him; there is no way of escape, bring with him a sure reckoning without delay or tarrying (Everyman Scene II). Death agrees to go to Everyman. God and Death leave their meeting. God chooses Everyman to take his journey to redeem him.

Everyman is an earthly man who cares for his material possessions and is blind to sin in his life. Death approaches Everyman while he is walking on a road. Death will approach the entire humanity one day. Phoebe S. Spinrad writes, Everyman a soul struggles with temptations, falls into sin, is arrested by Death (185). As Everyman is walking, he pays no attention to Death; his mind is on fleshly lust and his treasures. Everyman lives after his own pleasures and full of pride just as many today live after their pleasures. Death asks, Everyman to stand still, did he forget his Maker? (Everyman Scene III). Everyman responds, What God desires of me? Death tells, Everyman God sent him with haste; he must take a long journey and bring his book of accounts with him (Everyman Scene III). Death explains, I am Death, no man dreaded...all should be obedient (Everyman Scene III). Everyman tries to bribe Death, he requests an extension of time, twelve years, and Death refuses and gives him one day. Death forces Everyman to go to his reckoning with God, but Everyman desires to come back to the earth after he reckons with God and requests a friend to accompany him in his journey.

Everyman meets Fellowship while walking. Fellowship greets Everyman with excitement and he quickly realizes that Everyman is troubled. Fellowship inquires what is wrong and he asks if he can pray for Everyman. Fellowship agrees to go to hell and back with Everyman until he realizes Death was the Messenger sent by God, which is why Fellowship changes his mind. Everyman continues his journey and finds Kindred and Cousin. Kindred and Cousin reject Everymans plea to go with him. As Everyman continues his journey, he meets his favorite Goods that also refuse his plea to accompany him on his journey. Only the Knowledge accepts the offer.

Knowledge leads Everyman to Confessions. Helen S. Thomas notes, The character Knowledge in Everyman is the Sapience or Wisdom figure who counsels the hero on the right way to salvation. She teaches him how to make his account sure and his reckoning clear.. Everyman kneels before Confession and prays to God and Mary for mercy; he repents of his lewd lustful behavior and greed. Confession tells Everyman to call penance; Confession states, And a precious jewel I will give thee, call penance, voider of adversity (Everyman Scene XI). Everyman scourges himself. Everymans scourging is the beating of him with a rope. Knowledge tells Everyman Good Deeds is coming now. Good Deeds rises from the ground. Everyman welcomes her and asks, Have we cleared our reckoning (Everyman Scene XI). Good Deeds replies to Everyman, Yes, indeed (Everyman Scene XI). Everymans sure reckoning is his repentance of sin and scourging. Everyman places on his garment of sorrow and calls Discretion, Strength, Beauty, and his Five Wits as his Counselors to have them ready at all hours.

Everyman goes to the Priest and honors the seven Sacraments and receives the Sacraments from the Priest. Everyman continues his journey to his grave in the company of Strength, Discretion, Knowledge, Good Deeds, Five Wits, and Beauty. At the grave, Beauty, Strength, Discretion, and Five Wits walk out on Everyman. In the company of Knowledge and Good Deeds, Everyman commits his spirit in the hand of the Lord. Good Deeds surrenders with Everyman in death. An Angel receives Everyman into Heaven.

Authors Interpretation of the Play

The characters overview in the play is relevant to ones perception of death at ones time of judgment. God represents the Almighty. Death represents Death; one day every person will face death. Everyman represents the entire humanity in the world. Fellowship represents friends and acquaintances that one values, having a good time in ones life. Goods represents ones wealth or material possessions. Good Deeds represents the act of kindness and charity one has done in their life. Knowledge represents ones intellect or ones guide in life. Confession represents the acknowledgement of ones sin. Discretion represents maturity. Strength represents ones might. Beauty represents ones splendor. Five Wits represents ones five senses.

Everymans journey compared to Mans journey in real life has a similarity in character and quality in ones life. Everymans center of attention was his earthly treasures, goods, and pleasures. He had no time for God; he was bound up in his worldly life style. Death appears as a reminder that the earthly life is just a moment in the existence of the human soul (Smith).

Authors Perception of Death

Death enters the play with a reverence to God by simply stating Almighty God, I am here at your will, Your commandment to fulfil. (Everyman Scene I). From the very beginning of the play, the author refers to Death as a messenger from God to common people that are represented by the character of Everyman. The task given by the heavenly power to Death consists in finding Everyman and informing him in the Gods name of the mission he is required to go on. The mission is the mission of life, truly God wants Everyman and he has sent Death to get Everyman. During the process, Everyman wants to postpone the inevitable by making deals with Death because he is not ready yet.

Everyman gets addressed by Death and learns of his required mission from God. The first thing that Everyman begins to do is to bargain with death and state that he is not ready yet. Everymans inability to recognize the permanence of Deaths journey raises the question for the audience of what might constitute such a recognition (Paulson). Everyman has built up treasures and still needs to appoint a person to take care of his estate. Everyman continues to bargain with Death and Death continues to inform Everyman that there is no getting out of the mission God has made for him. Everyman is required to take this mission and he will never come back to where he is today. Throughout Everymans bargaining with Death, he asks if he could have companionship for this mission Death in turn lets him begin asking if anyone would be willing to take this journey with him and Death.

Authors Treatment of Death

The author puts a lot of responsibility on Death as he is the one that must inform Everyman that he is going to die and be judged by God. The author makes it clear that Death is something to fear and usually comes when one least expects it. The time for penance and preparation comes when people live, but not when death arrives at their door. The author also demonstrates that Death holds people accountable for their actions and deeds. When Everyman tries to bribe Death to delay his end till another day, Death says he places no value on wealth or goods and insists that Everyman come with him. Death seems cold and dark and is also described as looming over Everyman. Throughout the play, the author uses Death to serve as a reminder about real values and invites readers to make sure they have their priorities straight and aligned with God. Death is isolating and people must come into the world alone and will leave the world alone.

In the play, death is treated as something inevitable. The unknown author describes death by using allegory to camouflage the idea of death. Trapping the idea of fear of death throughout the humanity is a growing concern as well. When it is all said and done, God, the Almighty, is the controller of death. This allows individuals to become closer to him. Although it is not a part of Gods eternal plans, death is a part of human nature. Allegories used throughout the play depict that God is not one of deism, but the one who is based solely on reason and is vigorously working in His creation. With a clear insight into the soul of the play, it brings about a clear understanding of the Christian faith.

Finally, Death is defined as something implacable. Despite all the pleadings of Everyman, the Death gives him only a single extra day to look back on his life. Everyman believes that his wealth may accompany him; however, Death is firm and admits that only moral and spiritual virtues are valuable. This force acts on behalf of the heavenly powers for the sake of righteousness and justice (Van Laan). It is depicted and perceived as an inalterable executor of the Gods will that has strict orders and his hand will not shake in front of any flows of tears or plea.


The author of this late XV-century play could not have known at the time the impact it would have on future readers. However, he or she had to know that it carried a tremendous message about Death and how people tend to deal with it. Death enters the play with a tremendous impact by showing reverence to God and fulfilling the mission that God has sent him on. The reverence that Death shows to God when he enters the play is what the Disciples and the Apostles were trying to get the Nations to show God. Death, in turn, becomes a messenger from God to Everyman. Once Death begins his mission with Everyman, Everyman starts trying to make deals with Death who in no uncertain terms tells Everyman there is no way he will accept his bribes as he has no use for gold, silver, or any riches. During Everymans journey with Death, Everyman suddenly realizes the true values as he turns to God and away from his daily life. The whole allegorical story describes Death as the inevitable end of the earthly journey. Its character serves as a reminder that human life and wealth are temporary and that the materialistic aspect will be worthless after meeting Death. It also tells that nothing can prevent the arrival of Death, but people are able to change the outcome of the meeting.


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