Everyman (play)

Everyman (play)

Infobox Play
name = Everyman
writer = Unknown author
characters = Everyman
Good Deeds
Five Wits
setting = Heaven, Earth
date of premiere = Unknown
country of Origin = Possibly The Netherlands
original language = Middle Dutch or Middle English
genre = Morality play

"Everyman" (German: "Jedermann") is a late 15th century English morality play, There is a similar Dutch (Flemish) morality play of the same period called "Elckerlijc". "Everyman" may be a translation of the Dutch play, or both may be derived independently from a Latin work named "Homulus". Dutch and English scholars are yet to come to an agreement whether the play is originally Dutch or English. Nothing is known of the author, and although the play was apparently produced with some frequency in the seventy-five years following its composition, no production records survive. [Literature of the Western World, Volume I, The Ancient World Through the Renaissance, Fifth Edition]


The play opens with God giving a monologue about his troubles. He complains about how humans have become too absorbed in material wealth and riches to follow Him. He feels taken for granted, because he receives no appreciation for all that he has given them. God summons Death, his messenger, and tells him to go to Everyman and summon him to heaven to make his reckoning. It is then that he will be judged.

Upon hearing this, Everyman is distressed as he does not have a proper account of his life prepared. Everyman tries to bribe Death and asks for more time. Death denies this request but tells Everyman he may find a companion for his journey, someone to speak for his good virtues.

Fellowship, representing a person's friends, happens along and promises to go anywhere with Everyman. However, when Fellowship hears of the true nature of Everyman's journey, he immediately refuses to go. Fellowship says that he would stay with Everyman were they having fun, but will not accompany him on such a journey. It is here established that Fellowship is a personification of the "fair weather friend".

Everyman then sees Kindred and Cousin, who represent family, and asks them to go with him. Kindred flat out refuses, saying he'd rather go to parties and Cousin says, "No, I have a cramp in my toe," so he can't go either. Cousin also presents a fundamental reason why no one will accompany Everyman: they have their own accounts to write as well.

Everyman realizes he has put much love towards Goods and so Goods will surely come with him on his journey with Death. Goods will not come with Everyman; he says it is to Everyman's damnation that he put so much effort of his life to Goods and therefore Goods would make Everyman's case even worse.

Everyman then turns to Good Deeds. Good Deeds says she would go with him, but she is too weak as Everyman has not loved her. She sends her sister Knowledge with Everyman, and together they go to see Confession.

There, Everyman repents for all his sins, and punishes himself with a scourge. Confession gives Everyman a jewel called Penance. Everyman is now absolved of all sins, and Good Deeds becomes strong enough to accompany Everyman on his journey. Knowledge gifts Everyman with a garment made from her own tears, called Contrition. Good Deeds summons Beauty, Strength, Discretion and Everyman's Five Wits to join them. They all agree to go with him, after he goes to a priest to take sacrament.

Again, when Everyman tells them where his journey ends, all but Good Deeds forsake him. This is because beauty, strength, discretion, and Five- wits are qualities that leave a person as they get older. Knowledge cannot accompany him beyond the point where he leaves his physical body. Everyman gets into his grave. Everyman and Good Deeds ascend into heaven, where they are welcomed by an Angel. A Doctor, representing a scholar, then explains the moral of the story: that in the end, a person will only have his Good Deeds to accompany him beyond the grave.


Another well-known version of the play is "Jedermann" by the Austrian playwright Hugo von Hofmannsthal, which has been performed annually at the Salzburg Festival since 1920. [Banham (1998, 491).] Frederick Franck too published a new universalist version [ [http://www.sitm.info/history/Groningen/mateer.htm] ] of the tale entitled "Everyone", drawing on Buddhist influence.



*E. R. Tigg. "Is Elckerlyc prior to Everyman?", "Journal of English and Germanic Philology", 38, 1939, pp. 568-96.
*A. C. Cawley (1989). "Everyman", "Dictionary of the Middle Ages". ISBN 0-684-17024-8
*A. C. Cawley (1961). "Everyman and Medieval Miracle Plays", Everyman's Library. ISBN 046087280X (one of many reprints)
*Reinder Meijer "Literature of the Low Countries: A Short History of Dutch Literature in the Netherlands and Belgium." New York: Twayne Publishers, Inc., 1971, pp. 55-57, 62.
*Genji Takahashi (1953). "A Study of "Everyman" with Special Reference to the Source of its Plot". pp. 33-39
* Banham, Martin, ed. 1998. "The Cambridge Guide to Theatre." Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0521434378.

External links

* [http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/basis/everyman.html Complete Text of Everyman]

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