Everyman 2 Essay, Research Paper
Everyman” certainly fits the mold of a typical medieval mystery play. Ominously, the play begins with God perceiving how “all creatures be to [Him] unkind.” Men, it seems, commit the Seven Deadly Sins far too regularly, and their only concern seems to
be their own pleasure. Angered by this casual manner humans have adopted toward Him, God decides a reckoning is in order. He summons his “mighty messenger” Death, eerily and effectively personified for the audience members. God commands the dark figure to go forth to the Earth and take Everyman on a “pilgrimage” he will never escape. At the beginning of the play, there is no doubt that this pilgrimage is the road to hell and eternal damnation.
The character of Everyman, is the personification of the human race. The play relies heavily on that literary technique. Human traits and ideals are personified to more effectively convey the stern message of the play. Fellowship, knowledge, discretion, and other human concepts appear not as the intangibles we know them to be, but as actual characters conversing and interacting with Everyman. By personifying these and other concepts, the author allows the theme of Everyman to become more visible, though it is difficult to imagine it being overlooked otherwise. By having Everyman interact with these conceptualized characters, the author externalizes his inner conflict. Perhaps this technique seems too obvious or almost condescending to our more literate age, but whatever the case, it effectively conveys the central message of the play.
A consequence of this technique is a stage full of characters with whom we cannot identify. it is difficult for an audience member, medieval or otherwise, to identify with a character who is a concept without individuality. The uniqueness we associate with humans can not be found here, as the characters represented do not represent actual human beings. Even Everyman, the primary narrative agent, is problematic. Although we feel for him, we can only do so at a distance. He is not one of us, he is all of us. Obviously, the play is a product of the Christian religion. Most important among the ideas and recurring themes presented in this passage is God’s statement: “Charity do they clean forget(266).” Too concerned for their own worldly possessions, human beings
have forgotten their duties to the less fortunate. This prompts God’s call for a “reckoning,” which Death readily carries out.
God also states that “Every man liveth so after his own pleasure(266).” In fact, later in the play, Everyman confronts Goods, the personification of all that he has owned during his life. He learns that though he has derived pleasure from his goods, he is no
better off for it. In such a stark landscape of right and wrong, there is little room for shades of grey. The message is not shown by the constraints of a traditional narrative. The allegories and the religious overtones of the story serve to enhance the moral
message of the play.
The use of Death as a character is very effective, and as we discussed in class, it would have made a profound effect on medieval audiences. One wonders if this effect is more pronounced in the world of today. After all, most Americans have the luxury of being able to ignore or hide from death, fearing it only in their innermost thoughts In medeival times, congregations were taught to fear God. The clergy were very powerful, and most dramas of this period dealt with religious themes. In class, someone mentioned that these plays might have been a way for landowners to keep their serfs in line. By scaring them into civil behaviour, the upper classes would not have to worry about peasant uprisings and/or disobedience, civil or otherwise. Everyman is a play with a message, and it gets that message across. By using allegory and personification, the opening passage featuring God and Death is extraordinarily effective.