Everyman Essay, Research Paper
Everyman is an English morality play written by an anonymous author in the late
fifteenth century. It is an allegorical play as well, and may have been based on an earlier
Dutch morality play.
In the beginning of the play, a foreword describes the message the story will
portray. A messenger tells the audience that people should be good in life, and look
forward to death so they may go to heaven. Sin seems good to people at the time, but it
will bring about sorrow when they die.
When the story begins, God is unhappy with the people in the world, and says
these people are unkind to him. God believes they are only interested in secular riches and
don’t fear his justice. The seven deadly sins are now an accepted ritual in daily life. One
man in particular, Everyman, seeks his own pleasure and does not thank God.
God calls on Death to bring him Everyman. Death tells God that Everyman is not
expecting Death yet, but God tells Death to bring him anyway. When Death meets
Everyman, Everyman asks him why he has come. Death tells Everyman that he has
forgotten God, and lives a bad life.
Death then asks Everyman to give his life account to God. This life is mostly bad
with a few good deeds. Everyman bribes Death to come back another day if Everyman
gave one thousand pounds. Death tells Everyman that the richest man would never die if
he accepted bribes.
Everyman continues to plead, however, asking if he could have another twelve
years to turn his life around, or if he could take someone with him. Death responds by
telling Everyman that he is smart, but hasn’t used his knowledge to change his life. Death
then tells Everyman to go and see if anyone would come with him.
Everyman then departs and tries to find someone to go with him. He calls upon
Fellowship, and asks if he will go. When Everyman tells Fellowship that he will never
come back, Fellowship will not go with Everyman.
Next, Everyman calls upon his friends and kinsman to go with him. Everyman tells
them that Death has come for an account of his life, and that he will accept Everyman to
take someone with him. Kindred says he will not go, then Cousin tells Everyman he has a
cramp in his toe, and this is why he cannot go. Kindred says that he will give Everyman
his maid, and that she will go with him. However, Everyman realizes he has been
deceived and leaves.
Everyman then finds Goods and Riches, and asks him to go along with Everyman.
Goods and Riches is packed away in chests and is forgotten, and Everyman tells him that
money makes everything that is wrong right, so he should go with him. However, Goods
and Riches is too brittle to go, and tells Everyman that if he shared Goods and Riches with
the poor, then he would not have to take this journey. He then tells Everyman that he is a
Now Everyman realizes that Kindred, Cousin, and Goods and Riches have all
forsaken him, and that he must call upon the weak Good Deeds for help. Good Deeds is
weak because he is never used. Good Deeds tells Everyman to do as he says, and he and
his sister Knowledge will go with him on his journey. Knowledge says he must first go to
confession, and that if he asks for forgiveness of his sins from God, they will be forgiven.
Everyman asks for forgiveness, then prays for Mary to help him, and save him from his
Because Everyman goes to confession, Good Deeds and Knowledge will go with
Everyman on his journey. Everyman puts on a robe to shown his forgiveness, and believes
the three are ready to depart on the journey when Good Deeds tells Everyman he must
first meet with Discretion, Strength, Beauty, and Five Wits. These four tell Everyman
they will also accompany Everyman on his journey. Knowledge tells Everyman he must
first receive the sacrament of Extreme Unction from a priest before he dies.
During the Middle Ages, priests are believed to have been all-powerful. They
were above all men, and believed to have been given the power to cure all; they are able to
cure men’s redemption. However, like Chaucer, the author of Everyman was aware that
some religious figures led worldly and often lustful lives, and used the play as an
opportunity to satirize these clergy members. In the story, Knowledge gives a warning to
these respected religious members.
Finally, Everyman makes it to his grave, where Discretion, Strength, Beauty, and
Five Wits realize that their going along on the journey with Everyman meant death. All
four quickly gave excuses to leave Everyman, and do not embark upon the journey with
him. Good Deeds tells Everyman that earthly things are vanity, and that Good Deeds and
Knowledge are good and remain forever. Everyman then gives himself to the grave in the
presence of Good Deeds and Knowledge.
In the end of the play, the Doctor tells the audience that Pride, Beauty, Five Wits,
Strength, and Discretion leave them, and that nothing other than Good Deeds and
Knowledge will help them when they are judged at death by God. If a person lives his life
with courtesy and care while gaining knowledge and performing good deeds, he will be
placed in heaven with God.