Death has issued a summons to Everyman, calling him to give an account before God for the deeds he has done. Fellowship, Kindred, Cousin, and Goods have all forsaken him. Good Deeds is willing go with him, but she is weak because he has not exercised her sufficiently. So she recommends her sister, Knowledge, as a traveling companion….
KNOWLEDGE: Everyman, I will go with thee and be thy guide,
In thy most need to go by thy side.
EVERYMAN: In good condition I am now in everything,
And am whole content with this good thing,
Thanked be God my Creator.
GOOD DEEDS: And when she hath brought you there
Where thou shalt heal thee of thy smart,
Then do you with your reckoning and your Good Deeds together
For to make you joyful at heart
Before the blessed Trinity.
EVERYMAN: My Good Deeds, much thanks!
I am well content, certainly,
with your words sweet.
KNOWLEDGE: Now go we together lovingly
To Confession, that cleansing river.
EVERYMAN: For joy I weep—I would we were there!
But I pray you give me cognition,
Where dwelleth that holy man Confession?
KNOWLEDGE: In the House of Salvation:
We shall us comfort, by God’s grace.
from Everyman, after 1485
This is Part 7 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, Part 6: Good Deeds.
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.