Good Deeds (from Everyman)

Having been forsaken by Fellowship, Kindred, and Cousin, Everyman turns next to his earthly Goods for companionship, but Goods also refuses to go with him, and even goes so far as to say that if Everyman had not loved him so much, he would not be in his present predicament. Everyman now turns his attention to his Good Deeds. She is weak, but he asks her for help anyway. She says that she will go with him if he will do what she says…. 

GOOD DEEDS: Here I lie, cold in the ground:
Thy sins hath me sore bound
That I cannot stir.

EVERYMAN: Why? Is there anything on you fallen?
GOOD DEEDS: Yea, sir, I may thank you of all:
If ye had perfectly cheered me,
Your book of account would full ready be….
[shows him the book]
EVERYMAN: Our Lord Jesus help me!
For one letter here I cannot see.
GOOD DEEDS: There is a blind reckoning in time of distress!
EVERYMAN: Good Deeds, I pray you help me in this need,
Or else I am forever damned indeed.
Therefore help me to make reckoning
Before the Redeemer of all things
That King is and was and ever shall.
GOOD DEEDS: Everyman, I am sorry for your fall
And fain would help you if I were able.
EVERYMAN: Good Deeds, your counsel I pray you give me.
GOOD DEEDS: That shall I do verily,
Though that on my feet I may not go;
I have a sister that shall with you also,
Called Knowledge, which shall with you abide
To help you to make that dreadful reckoning.

from Everyman, after 1485

This is Part 6 in a series of Sunday segments from this allegory, which I am sharing as much to educate as to entertain. Click here to read previous posts: Part 1: Messenger, Part 2: God, Part 3: Fellowship, Part 4: Kindred, Part 5: Goods.

Everyman is the best surviving example of that kind of medieval drama which is known as the morality play. Moralities apparently evolved side by side with the mysteries and in England were, like them, acted by trade guilds, though they were composed individually and not in cycles. They both have a primarily religious purpose, though their method of attaining it is different. The mysteries endeavored to make the Christian religion more real to the unlearned by dramatizing significant events in Biblical history and by showing what these events meant in terms of human experience. The moralities, on the other hand, employed allegory to dramatize the moral struggle that Christianity envisions as present in every man. The actors are every man and the qualities within him, good or bad, and the plot consists of his various reactions to these qualities as they push and pull him one way or another—that is, in Christian terms, toward heaven or toward hell.

 

 

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