Strength & Beauty Depart (from Everyman)

Everyman is well on his way on his journey to stand before God to give an account for the deeds he has done, accompanied by Good Deeds, Knowledge, Strength, Discretion, Beauty, and Five-Wits. Everyman vows to give half his Goods to the poor, and he does other deeds as well that befit a follower of Christ. But as if the nature of all flesh, by and by he begins to weaken.

EVERYMAN: Alas, I am so faint I may not stand—
My limbs under me doth fold!
Friends, let us not turn again to this land,
Not for all the world’s gold.
For into this cave must I creep
And turn to earth, and there to sleep.
BEAUTY: What, into this grave, alas?
EVERYMAN: Yea, there shall ye consume, more or less.
BEAUTY: And what, should I smother here?
EVERYMAN: Yea, by my faith, and nevermore appear.
In this world live no more we shall,
But in heaven before the highest Lord of all.
BEAUTY: I cross out all this! Adieu, by Saint John—
I take my tape in my lap and am gone.
EVERYMAN: What, Beauty, whither will ye?
BEAUTY: Peace, I am deaf—I look not behind me,
Not if thou wouldest give me all the gold in thy chest.

STRENGTH: Everyman, I will thee also forsake and deny.
Thy game pleases me not at all.
EVERYMAN: Why then, ye will forsake me all?
Sweet Strength, tarry a little space.
STRENGTH: Nay, sir, by the rood of grace,
I will hie me from thee fast,
Though thou weep till thy heart break.
EVERYMAN: Ye would ever bide by me, ye said.
STRENGTH: Yea, I have you far enough conveyed!
Ye be old enough, I understand,
Your pilgrimage to take on hand:
I repent me that I hither came….
Thou art but a fool to complain;
You spend your speech and waste your brain.
Go, thrust thee into the ground.
EVERYMAN: I had supposed surer I should you have found.
He that trusteth in his Strength
She him deceiveth at the length.
Both Strength and Beauty forsaketh me—
Yet they promised me fair and lovingly.

from Everyman, after 1485

This is Part 10 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, Part 8: Confession, Part 9: Other Companions.

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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