Everyman and Good Deeds descend into the grave alone, as none other of their companions may go with them. At last, the Day of Reckoning has come for Everyman. Is he ready?
KNOWLEDGE: Now hath he made ending,
Methinketh that I hear angels sing
And make great joy and melody
Where Everyman’s soul received shall be.
ANGEL [from within]: Come, excellent elect spouse, to Jesus!
Here above thou shalt go
Because of thy singular virtue.
Now the soul is taken the body fro,
Thy reckoning is crystal clear:
Now shalt thou into the heavenly sphere—
Unto the which all ye shall come
That liveth well before the day of doom.
DOCTOR: This memorial men may have in mind:†
Ye hearers, take it of worth, old and young,
And forsake Pride, for he deceiveth you in the end.
And remember Beauty, Five-Wits, Strength, and Discretion,
They all at the last do Everyman forsake,
Save his Good Deeds there doth he take—
But beware, for if they be small,
Before God he hath no help at all—
None excuse may be there for Everyman.
Alas, how shall he do then?
For after death amends may no man make,
For then mercy and pity doth him forsake.
If his reckoning be not clear when he doth come,
God will say, “Ite, maledicti, in ignem eternum!”‡
And he that hath his account whole and sound,
High in heaven he shall be crowned,
Unto which place God bring us all thither,
That we may live body and soul together.
Thereto help, the Trinity!
Amen, say ye, for saint charity.
from Everyman, after 1485
†The Doctor is the learned theologian who explains the meaning of the play.
‡”Depart, ye cursed, into everlasting fire.”
This is Part 12 in a series of Sunday segments from this allegory, which I am sharing as much to educate as to entertain. If you have continued with me from the beginning, many thanks to you. But if no one else enjoyed it, I certainly did. I studied this drama in college, but that was a long time ago. It was nice to go back and refresh my memory. 🙂 If you missed any of the previous posts, you may read them here: 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, Part 11: Into the Grave.
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.