Everyman is nearing the end of his journey to stand before God to give an account for the deeds he has done. As is the nature of all flesh, his aging body weakens, and he approaches the grave. Beauty and Strength have left him, for they can go no further. Now he wonders if the other companions, Good Deeds, Knowledge, Discretion, and Five-Wits, will leave or stay.
DISCRETION: Everyman, I will after Strength be gone:
As for me, I will leave you alone.
EVERYMAN: Why Discretion, will ye forsake me?
DISCRETION: Yea, in faith, I will go from thee.
For when Strength goeth before,
I follow after evermore.
EVERYMAN: Yet I pray thee, for the love of the Trinity,
Look in my grave once piteously.
DISCRETION: Nay, so nigh will I not come.
EVERYMAN: O all things fail save God alone—
Beauty, Strength, and Discretion.
For when Death bloweth his blast
They all run from me full fast.
FIVE-WITS: Everyman, my leave now of thee I take.
I will follow the others, for here I thee forsake.
EVERYMAN: Alas, then may I wail and weep,
For I took you for my best friend.
FIVE-WITS: I will not longer thee keep.
Now farewell, and there an end!
EVERYMAN: O Jesus, help, all hath forsaken me!
GOOD DEEDS: Nay, Everyman, I will abide with thee:
I will not forsake thee indeed;
Thou shalt find me a good friend at need.
EVERYMAN: Much thanks, Good Deeds! Now may I true friends see.
They have forsaken me every one—
I loved them better than my Good Deeds alone.
Knowledge, will ye forsake me also?
KNOWLEDGE: Yea, Everyman, when ye to Death shall go,
But not yet, for no manner of danger.
EVERYMAN: Much thanks, Knowledge, with all my heart!…
Methinks, alas, that I must be gone
To make my reckoning and my debts pay,
For I see me time is nigh spent away.
Take example, all ye that this do hear or see,
How they that I best loved do forsake me,
Except my Good Deeds that bideth truly.
GOOD DEEDS: All earthly things are but vanity.
Beauty, Strength, and Discretion do man forsake,
Foolish friends and kinsmen that fair spake—
All flee, save Good Deeds, and that am I.
. . .
EVERYMAN: Into thy hands, Lord, my soul I commend:
Receive it, Lord, that it be not lost.
As thou me boughtest, so me defend,
And save me from the fiend’s boast,
That I may appear with that blessed host
That shall be saved at the day of doom.
[EVERYMAN and GOOD DEEDS descend into the grave.]
from Everyman, after 1485
This is Part 11 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, Part 10: Strength & Beauty Depart.
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.