Analysis Essay on Death in Everyman Play

Published: 2021-07-10 21:28:48
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Sewanee University of the South
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Research paper
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Everyman is one of the most interesting plays that were written during the fifteenth century whose main target was the aspect of morality. It has been argued that most morality plays in the same category as Everyman was written during the medieval period. One can easily relate the play to a fiction play since it presents states of the non-living which most people often consider superstitious. In addition, the major characters in the play have been given unique names such as Death, Everyman, Fellowship, God Cousin, Goods and Beauty among others. The author chose a very creative way of presenting the thought of death and how death was treated during the Medieval period. Therefore, this paper will delve into the play and present an analysis of how the author presents the idea death in Everyman.

The author has presented an idea that death was imposed by God as a control to all humankind. As the scene opens with a conversation between two characters, God and Death, Death imposes oneself as a servant of God who is Loyal and willing to orchestrate all the commands of the Master. Death says Almighty God, I am here at your will. In the same conversation, God responds by stating that go thou to everyman. According to Dodson (2008), personification is a style that most authors use to create different meaning and the same can be witnessed in Everyman. Personification often presents a non-living or imaginable creature with as to have similar characteristics as human beings. For instance, the author makes death to have the power to converse and by so doing death is given a mission in the play. It is through this mission that the author's perception can be derived. As the personified Death Responds to Gods command, Death states categorically that the main mission will be conducted in an extremely cruel manner. Death promises to attack the rich, poor, elderly, juvenile among others indiscriminately. This that the author believes God is the initiator and controller of death; especially that concerning of Everyman. A keen scrutiny at the conversation between God and Death reveals that God gives death the freedom to express cruelty over every man. An example is evident at the point where Everyman joins the conversation between God and Death. Death threatens and Boasts on how he will torture Everyman but God remains silent choosing not to affiliate to either side.

The author through the characters of Death has present death as a timeless ordeal that attacks everyman any time and every time. On page 269 of the excerpt provided, Everyman says, I may say death giveth no warning. From this statement, it is evident that the author presents death as a timeless ordeal that mankind has to bear with. It also implies that death does not seek approval from either God or Everyman before striking. Death can strike anytime and in any situation regardless of the riskiness or safety involved. The same idea of the timelessness of death was common among most words of the authors who produced plays during the medieval period CITATION Kor15 \l 1033 (Korpiola & Lahtinen, 2015). According to the publication by Korpiola and Lahtinen (2015) the culture of death, dying was common in most European literature during at the same time when Everyman play was authored. Korpiola and Lahtinen (2015) also seem to indicate that timelessness of death was evident.

The author presents death as a less scary thing to Everyman than in real life. On page 270, Everyman tells Death now gentle death, spare me till tomorrow that I may amend. This shows that person is aware of death as a situation to be faced in the near future and that there is time to amend things and die honorably. As Everyman discusses with death, it implies that the author is in a position to think about death without fearing that he faced a similar situation in future. It is evident that most people during the medieval period feared death but the author of this play had another intention by trying to reduce the fear of the term death. However, it can be noticed that Everyman has a reason for negotiating with death since he is more concerned about how he will die and the legacy to b left behind. Details of this will be discussed in the next paragraph. According to a publication made by Spinrad (1987), death was a mystery that most authors wanted to divulge. In the most iconography of this period, death was always presented to occur in a grisly manner to make it scarier. Characters wold die in war and at times resurrect to kill or disturb the living. In this play, death has been brought out as a compulsory event that people should prepare for. The author seems to tell people that there is need to prepare the body, mind, friends, and families to be ready for death.

According to the author of the Everyman play, death takes only the body and leaves other important aspects such as material wealth, name friends, and families. On page 268, Death tells Everyman, I set not by gold, silver nor riches. From this statement, the author attempts to make readers understand that a person only goes to the grave alone. All the gold, silver and riches that a man ma have accumulated while alive does not follow one who dies. The religiousness, power, or royalty of a person do not play a part when it comes to the question of death. This implies that all the material and spiritual components that a man might have gathered while alive is only of use while alive. Whenever people die they leave everything behind and the author has attempted to bring out of the most important aspects of living behind. A similar situation has been explained by DuBruck and Gusick (n.d) indicating that a legacy is one of the noblest things one can leave behind after dying. In the play at hand, after Everyman has been informed of the inevitability and timelessness of death, the character begins to straighten his ways. More insights can be drawn from the discussion between Everyman, Kindred, Cousin, and Goods, Everyman fails to find a single companion to the death-voyage. For instance, Goods tells Everyman that I follow no man in such voyages. This implies that the all the good things that a person does while alive are only left behind to be celebrated and act as an example for others to follow. Another perfect example can be identified when Everyman admits and reveals to Beauty by stating; Ya, there shall ye consume more and less- pp. 284. This statement ensued as Beauty expressed concerns over going to the grave. Apparently, beauty is the only part that the body goes with to the grave but assuredly is bound to wither and decompose as indicated in the Play.

The author also seems to believe that the dead are answerable to a supreme being. On page 277, Good Deeds tells Everyman, ..that ye be summoned account to make before Messias. In this excerpt, Messias represents a supreme being to which Everyman will account for all his lif after dying. This conversation ensued after Good Deeds lamented to Everyman that the later had established more acquaintance with sin and forgotten about the Good deed. The aspect of accountability of persons after death has been a common perception among Christians as expressed by Wheeler (2012). Wheeler (2012) argued that the manner in which Everyman play brings out the aspect of death is in line with the Catholic doctrines. This may indicate that the author was conversant with this particular faith or was a member of the faith organization. Catholics believe that they have to do good since they ar answerable to a supreme being, God.

Everyman was a very creative way that the author used to present the thought and understanding of death during the medieval period. Death has always been a mystery to mankind and the author only personified situations, actions, and imaginations to create a play. In the Play, the author presents death as a timeless event that was initiated by God. Death has also been presented as respect of no person or situation. Whenever people die, they leave every material wealth behind and only a carcass of their beautiful bodies is buried to decompose. Finally, the author presents an own understanding of spirituality that after dying, one is answerable to a supreme bring for all the deeds he or she did while alive.


Works Cited

Dodson, J. R. (2008). The 'Powers' of Personification: Rhetorical Purpose in the 'Book of Wisdom' and the Letter to the Romans. Boston: Walter de Gruyter.

DuBruck, E. E., & Gusick, B. I. (n.d). Death and dying in the Middle Ages. New York: Peter Lang.

Everyman. In Life, Redemption, Death, and Afterlife in Context of Spirituality.

Korpiola, M., & Lahtinen, A. (2015). Cultures of death and dying in Medieval and early modern Europe. Retrieved from

Spinrad, P. S. (1987). The summons of death on the Medieval and Renaissance English stage. Columbus: Ohio State University Press.

Wheeler, D. (2012). The Presentation of Death in the Morality Play 'Everyman'. New York: GRIN Verlag.



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