The Characters, Perception and Treatment of Death, and the Repercussions of Evil Deeds in Everyman, a Morality Play
Everyman, the play is based on the premise that a person will be held accountable for the good and evil deeds committed on earth by God after they have died. All these deeds are noted in a ledger book by God and one is expected to be answerable upon their death (Cawley, 1989). The characters in the play are allegorical and the main character Everyman tries to convince them to aid him in improving his account so that after death he can be able to account for his good deeds. These characters personify different abstracts like material goods, fellowship and knowledge and most importantly good deeds.
Thesis statement: At the end of life, every man has to face judgment with his God; good deeds will be the only thing that can accompany him through the journey to judgment.
The play starts with God declaring that his creatures do not abide by him and serve him properly; they live without considering their wellbeing after life on earth and do not acknowledge the role of heaven and hell in the afterlife (Meijer, 1971). On the same breath he declares that he will have a reckoning to hold them accountable; a reckoning of their character, a judgment for the choices made while on earth.
Characters in the play
According to the play, everyman is a character seen to be unaware of the repercussions of his actions while still alive on earth. When the time for his death comes, he is not ready to face judgment and seeks to have his time extended (Davidson, et al, 2007). Typical to any other human being, he starts to regret most of the things he had a chance of doing and did not do. He is also afraid about the journey that awaits him after death. His fear makes him to seek to have company in the journey, little to his knowledge that one has to go down that road alone and face judgment for their actions and account for their life alone. Everyman character is that he has been living a reckless life and not willing to face the consequences, especially alone. In this case, he is apologetic as he seeks to repent for all the wrongs he has committed (Meijer, 1971). He seeks for guidance from his friends and would like them to accompany him not just for his sake but for their sake as well as the journey awaits all of us upon death.
The first friend who comes to his rescue is fellowship. Fellowship is a curious cat as he seeks to know the reason as why his friend is sad. He pesters everyman to tell him what ails hi and has taken away his joy. This he does amidst seeing the seriousness of the matter and does not give everyman a chance to be alone with his thoughts. Fellowship is a liar as he tells everyman that he would never forsake him as a friend and will be with him throughout all his problems. Conversely upon hearing the dilemma of everyman, fellowship changes his stand and declares that there is no way he would be able to accompany everyman on such a journey. It is obvious that fellowship, just like everyman is scared and wishes to live forever without experiencing death and undergoing judgment before his God. Fellowship quickly leaves everyman alone to his own fate.
Kindred and cousin are the second one to come to everyman and he makes the same appeal to them to accompany him on his journey but they too forsake him. Everyman remembers the many fun times they shared together and cannot believe that they are forsaking him in his hour of need (Davidson, et al, 2007). He then turns to goods and riches who was his friend and tells him of his journey but he declines as well. He tells everyman that the love for goods and riches is opposite to the love for God. Additionally, goods and riches enjoyed his life on earth and did not want to be part of a journey that would lead to an afterlife that did not involve enjoying the finer thing in life. In this case, goods and riches only saw life while still on earth and had no value for life after death.
Everyman then turns to his last friend good deeds, who seems to be very weak and to his surprise he agrees to accompany him on his journey but under the condition that he would have to do something to make her strong enough. Good deed’s sister called knowledge advises everyman to confession where he shows penance and this strengthens good deeds enough for her to accompany him on his journey. After good deed and everyman embark on their journey they are accompanied by knowledge, beauty, discretion, strength and the five wits. As everyman begins to die all these others leave his side except for good deeds who stands by his side during his judgment. Death is believed to be as a result of sin as God only introduced it after seeing the wickedness of man.
Good deeds helps everyman to understand that though death is inevitable and has to take place, there is a Christian faith that keeps hope alive to believe that there death is a path to a wonderful eternal life and instead of being feared it should be embraced. Conversely, death is not just a path that ushers people into to an eternal life with God but also a way of holding them accountable for their actions while on earth.
Perception and Treatment of Death
Under the face of death everyman has to bear consequences for the life choices he has led. Death is seen as another character in the play that is introduced by God as much as he is an allegorical character; he’s a journey that has to be taken on alone. Death in this case is a cue for everyman to account for his good or evil deeds. As death slowly approaches everyman, God grace and knowledge, everyman is given a second chance to make better decisions and to repent for his sins and acquire penance. Death in this case is viewed as a form of punishment that God sends to man when he discovers that he is concerned about the material possessions and wealth and not his spiritual wellbeing. In this case, death is a separation of man from his earthly possession and a time to either unite with his creator God or get punished eternally for bad deeds committed on earth.
Death is viewed as a condition that everyman has to undergo and not a choice. Even though everyman would have liked to stay alive for longer, he has no choice, when death comes, and there is no stopping it (Takahashi, 2003). Although everyman tries to bribe death with his material possession, death does not budge and he had to fulfill his intentions here on earth. Death does not seem to have any interest and value for material possession; he is here to fulfill God’s will and will do it accordingly. Death is associated with loneliness and alienation because no one wants to be associated with death or with a person who is on the death row. Additionally, judgment has to be faced while one is alone as it comes out clearly from the play, everyman’s friends forsake him after they discover that the spirit of death is upon him and he has to be judged upon his death.
Death also evokes fear from all the characters except for good deeds. This is because the characters are materialistic and do not have time for interaction with God and have forsaken his commandments (Kuehler, 2008). Death in real sense represents a separation of the characters should from the body and it means that they will no longer be able to enjoy earthly pleasures. Death is also revealed to be under the control of God as he was the one who had commanded death to come to earth and is the one who determines at what exact time it should follow a person. Death cannot be bribed and is seen to be adamant as it refuses to take everyman’s bribe and seeks to fulfill the command of God.
Everyman discovers that in the end, it is always man, God and his actions. Even though God is gracious enough to give everyman a second chance, he believes in punishment. If one is involved in good deeds while on earth, they would have no need to fear death as their judgment will not lead to them being cast into the burning flames of hell. Death in this case, is not the actual death where one is gone and never to be heard from again. Death is the separation from what one values; if one values their God and abides by his commandments, the physical death will not be death but the beginning of an eternal life with their maker praising and worshiping him. But when one loves the earthly possessions, the physical death will be a real death for them as they will have lost what they value and upon judgment they will be cast in the ever-burning flames of hell never for eternity.
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