Death and Salvation in Everyman

1274 Words6 Pages
Everyman is possibly the best extant example of the drama type known as morality plays1. This genre of drama is, according to Encyclopaedia Britannica, “an allegorical drama popular in Europe, especially during the 15th and 16th centuries, in which the characters personify moral qualities (such as charity or vice) or abstractions (as death or youth) and in which moral lessons are taught”2. Using these allegorical personifications Everyman strives to instruct the audience that a person’s good deeds are necessary to access the grace of God in salvation of the soul. The drama begins as God instructs the personification of death to serve notice to Everyman that he is summoned to come before the Lord and give account of his life. “Go thou to Everyman, and show him, in my name, a pilgrimage he must on him take, which he in no wise may escape.” 3 This is something that the protagonist Everyman is unprepared and reluctant to do. Convinced by Death, the play’s antagonist, that he has no choice Everyman begins his pilgrimage to the grave. As he makes this trek Everyman seeks out the allegorical personifications of his own moral character to assist in his defense at the judgment he must face. Each of these encounters only serves to increase his despair as they, all in turn, refuse to go with him. Everyman: My Cousin, will you not with me go? Cousin: No, by our Lady! I have the cramp in my toe. Trust not to me, For, so God me speed, I will deceive you in your most need.4 The single exception is Good Deeds who is very willing to attend him at his trial. Even though she is favorably inclined to go with Everyman, he has had so few good deeds in his life that she cannot even stand up and is unable to make the journey. All is not lost for Everyman though. Good Deeds has a sister, Knowledge. With the help of Knowledge he is able to get traveling companions in
Open Document