A Main Theme Of Everyman Novel
The author of “Everyman” does an excellent job of portraying Everyman’s purpose in life as well as his journey to heaven. Everyman proclaims, “Take example all ye that this do hear or see,/ How they that I best loved do forsaketh me,/ Except my good deeds that bideth truly.” (Simpson/David 528) This quote embodies a key motif of the play—worldly pleasure leads to spiritual damnation; on the contrary, selflessness and even physical suffering on Earth may lead to eternal and spiritual peace and happiness.
The play begins with God criticizing the way all creatures do not show their creator the amount of love he deserves. God is disgusted with mankind’s obsession with worldly possessions and their disregard their eternal life in heaven or hell. God sends Death as his messenger to strike all people who are infatuated with worldly possessions and desires with his dart—unless, however, their good deeds outweigh their bad deeds. When Death approaches Everyman, he is horrified and not ready to face Death. He is ordered to keep up with his good as well as bad deeds in his “book of count.” Throughout Everyman’s journey he is forsaken by all but his Good Deeds.
When Everyman states “How they that I best loved forsaketh me”, (Simpson/David 528) he is referring to his friends known as Discretion, Strength, Beauty, Five-Wits, and many more who initially say they will accompany Everyman on his journey to either heaven or hell. For instance, Fellowship eagerly offers to help Everyman. He even pledges to never forsake Everyman. However, when Everyman shares with him the details of his journey, Fellowship is quick to back away.
Perhaps the most significant of the people Everyman turns to for help on his journey is his “Goods.” Everyman goes so far as to attempt to bribe Death to postpone his death by telling him “Yet of my good will I give thee, if thou will be kind Yea, a thousand pound shalt thou have, And defer this matter till another day.” (Simpson/David 511) At this time Everyman does not realize that all of his issues cannot be resolved with his wealth and possessions. Goods informs everyman that the pursuit of goods is, in fact, the opposite of the love of God. In The Bible Matthew States “ 19“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (6 Matt 19-21) This is a recurring theme in the Bible and is possibly the author’s main moral of the play.
The genre of Everyman is a morality play. Since plays are to be told orally it is likely that a large portion of the author’s intended audience was illiterate, which would provide a great opportunity to teach illiterate citizens Biblical knowledge. Everyman is believed to be written sometime after 1485. Although the printing press was invented in 1445, books were still not as accessible as they are now. In the following century, plays had an enormous impact on British culture. Morality plays actually originated with mystery plays, which were in fact produced by various city guilds and typically contained a religious message.
A dominant and recurring theme in morality plays is psychomachia. Psychomachia is known as the constant battle between good and evil. In Everyman the “evil” that Everyman is forced to battle with is his innate human nature to cling to worldly possessions such as beauty or strength, which ultimately will fade and cease to exist. However the “good” Everyman can do is Good Deeds, or “alms”, as God calls them, which will not perish with Everyman. Everyman learns that even knowledge is mortal, but his good deeds can live on forever.
Everyman states that he has been forsaken by everything “Except my Good Deeds that bideth truly.” (Simpson/David 528)This is an excellent example of the way the author uses allegory in Everyman. Good Deeds is the character who ultimately accompanies Everyman to his judgment and allows him to “Come excellent elect spouse to Jesu!” (Simpson/David 536) (Reach heaven) The allegory in “Everyman” is significant because it allows the reader or viewer to easily apply the morals of this story to their lives. The author uses the character Everyman to show that every man in fact goes through these struggles. However, it is important that one must not forget to fear God and commit good deeds in order to reach eternal life in heaven.
In conclusion, the author of “Everyman” does a fantastic job of telling the story of Everyman through the use of allegory and psychomachia. The author shows that although Everyman might cling to wealth and the lust of the physical world, it is not too late to focus on eternal life and selflessness by doing good deeds for others. It is important to keep in mind things such as pride, beauty, strength, and even fellowship with other people will ultimately let you down. On the contrary, there is eternal peace and pleasure to reward those who live their lives filled with good deeds and a love for God rather than material possessions.
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