English 102-MW 12:30
10 June 2013
Everyman: A Morality Play for the Preparation of Death
In the late fifteenth century, all of Europe was infested with epidemics of sickness and death. Through these catastrophic events, people of the late Medieval era were infatuated with death and the spiritual events that would somehow bring salvation to the soul. It was also a time that brought forth powerful poetry, paintings with great meaning, and a macabre theme in the theater. The techniques of using allegorical characters in the theaters to entertain the idea of death and the search for spiritual truths are what most historian scholars believe is the origin of the morality plays. The morality play Everyman was the most popular of all morality plays in the fifteenth century. This play brings a sobering power to the journey one’s soul must go through during life and the final reckoning by God. Therefore, some would find this theatrical look into death a manual for the spiritual salvation of the soul and a way to prepare people for death.
According to Denise Ryan, the author of “’If Ye had Parfytely Cheered Me’: The Nurturing of Good Deeds in Everyman,” she writes about how the allegory of Everyman characterizes charity as the pinnacle of all virtues. For example, if the materially fortunate were to take care of the poor and sick they would have a “sure ticket to salvation and eternal life” (5). The play starts with a prologue, which is read by the Messenger, who asks the audience to give their attention and announces the purpose of the play, which will show the audience their lives as well as their deaths and how humans are always changing from one state into another.
God speaks next, and He immediately launches into a criticism of the way that all humans are not serving Him properly. People are living without fear in the world and without any thought of heaven or hell or of the judgment that will eventually come to them. They live in only...