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, and Knowledge immediately takes him to Confession, at the House of Salvation….
KNOWLEDGE: Lo, this is Confession: kneel down and ask mercy,
For he is in good esteem with God Almighty.
EVERYMAN [kneeling]: O glorious fountain that all uncleanness doth clarify,
Wash from me the spots of vice unclean,
That on me no sin may be seen.
I come with Knowledge for my redemption,
Redeemed with heart and full contrition,
For I am commanded a pilgrimage to take
And great accounts before God to make….
CONFESSION: I know your sorrow well, Everyman.
Because with Knowledge ye come to me,
I will you comfort as well as I can,
And a precious jewel I will give thee…
Ask God mercy and he will grant, truly…
The oil of forgiveness then shall ye find.
. . .
EVERYMAN: O eternal God, O heavenly figure,
O way of righteousness, O goodly vision
Which descended down in a virgin pure
Because he would every man redeem,
Which Adam forfeited by his disobedience;
O blessed Godhead, elect and high Divine,
Forgive my grievous offense!
Here I cry thee mercy in this presence:
O ghostly Treasure, O Ransomer and Redeemer,
Of all the world Hope and Guide,
Mirror of joy, Founder of mercy,
Which illumineth heaven and earth thereby,
Hear my clamorous complaint, though it late be;
Receive my prayers, of thy benignity.
Though I be a sinner most abominable,
Yet let my name be written in Moses’ table….
KNOWLEDGE: Everyman, God give you time and space!
Thus I bequeath you in the hands of our Savior:
Now may you make your reckoning sure.
. . .
GOOD DEEDS: I thank God, now can I walk and go,
And am delivered of my sickness and woe.
Therefore with Everyman I will go, and not spare:
His good works I will help him to declare.
from Everyman, after 1485
This is Part 8 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, Part 7: Knowledge.
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.