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Everyman Play Moral

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Literature
Wordcount: 960 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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The play “Everyman” dates back to the Dark Ages when illiteracy was the norm and religious and moral stability were stressed. Due to high rates of illiteracy, symbolism was used as a tool to teach common people the ways of Christianity and its moral system. “Everyman” was a morality play that was full of symbolic meaning and simple ideas designed for easy comprehension for the masses of the time.

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The author of “Everyman” is unknown, but it can be assumed that he/she was an intelligent person with the ability to find a clever way to relate an important moral message to the common person. The symbolism the author used is clear and understandable. By embedding drama and humor into a play based on a moral lesson allows it to takes on an exciting and humorous feel. This can help to open up the audience and keep their attention rather than bore them into an early nap.

This is a play that has been represented in an elementary way in order to make a greater impact on the people of the Dark Ages. The play begins with a messenger who introduces the story and prepares the audience for the lesson. The main character is called Everyman, which embodies everyone and enables the audience to recognize the universal struggle concerning moral judgment that religious beliefs encourage in every person. The moral lessons in this play are represented by actions of the symbolic characters. The characters in the play each personify one aspect of Everyman’s life and are given those names to clarify what they symbolize. The names of the characters, including Everyman allows this story to become personal for the audience because the elements the characters represent are familiar to the audience. This helps the lessons to resonate with audience and have a greater impact.

The story begins when Everyman is approached by Death and is informed that the end is near. Everyman tries to buy himself some more time “a thousand pound shalt thou have-and defer this matter till another day”. His attempt portrays his character as a man who does not show concern for good morals. Death does not accept his offer and Everyman begins to realize he has to own up to what he has done with his life. This example of Everyman trying to buy himself another chance is similar to what was happening in the Catholic Church during the same era. Many people were trying to buy their way into heaven, which eventually lead to an upheaval of the Catholic institution.

After much internal conflict Everyman begins the pilgrimage that will eventually lead him to his judgment. Throughout the play Everyman seeks out council and company for his pilgrimage. He is turned down by Fellowship first and then seeks out his Kindred and Cousin, and then Goods under the assumption that they will surely go with him on his journey. They refuse to go and Everyman feels betrayed by them. He is beginning to realize he cannot look to anyone to give him solace. He is on his own and must face this alone. The comforts that he has distracted himself with his whole life can no longer help him. They were only temporary gratifications.

Everyman seeks council and comfort from Good Deeds. Good Deeds is not able to give him much comfort. Everyman learns through his council that his good deeds are buried by all of his bad deeds “Look the books of your works and deeds eke, As how they lie under the feet, To your soul’s heaviness”. Knowledge informs him that in order for him to receive support and comfort from Good Deeds he has to find Confession and repent his sins. He does this and gains Good Deeds and Knowledge by his side. This shows that Everyman is starting to see the error of his ways and make amends for what he has done. He begins to see the value of what is really important rather than placing significance on all of the things in his life that brought him instant satisfaction with no lasting effects.

As Everyman proceeds on his journey with Good Deeds and Knowledge by his side he finds Beauty, Strength, Discretion, and Five-Wits. They all lead him on to think they are by his side till the end, but they all leave him on his own with excuses. Strength shows no remorse for Everyman as he leaves him with an insulting remark “you spend your speech and waste your brain. Go, thrust thee into the ground”.

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Throughout his journey Everyman is rejected again and again. In the end he comes to realize all of the things he thought were important hold no value to in the eyes of God and were all just distractions from what really mattered, good deeds. “How they that I best loved do forsake me, Except my Good Deeds that bideth truly”.

After Everyman walks into his grave with Good Deeds the Doctor comes in and closes the story with ending thoughts and a summation of the moral of the story. “Before God he hath no help at all-none excuse may be there for Everyman”. This is a wonderful way to wrap up the meaning for the audience and to make sure the message has been completely understood. The introduction with the messenger and the conclusion with the doctor help to complete the story and prevent any loose ends. It also helps to eliminate any confused question the audience may have had otherwise.

This approach to story telling and moral teachings was important during the Dark Ages.

The awareness that Everyman experienced in this story is a realization that takes place everyday to people who have a life changing experience, near death experience, or are dying. If it is not something that we have experienced, reading this story could enable us to stop and look at our lives a little closer and see where we are going and where we have been.


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