Presentation and Analysis of the author’s perception of death and the way death is treated as an issue in the play ‘Everyman’
[The author’s name]
This paper is to present you with the issue of death and the way it is analyzed and presented to the readers and / or audience of the play ‘Everyman’. The way death is approached as an issue on behalf of the writer of the paly – who still nowadays remains anonymous - is mainly ironic and lies in the historical and sociological background of the year it was written.
The play ‘Everyman’ was written in the late 15-century and this is a period of time actually divided by the conflict between the preceding medieval years and their mentality and the new spiritual and cultural movement of Renaissance.
The play in terms of its plot, its way of approaching its main thematic core which is that of death and its ending ought to be approached, studied and presented only having taken into consideration the socio-historical context within which it was written.
That period was a period in which Renaissance, part of the wider spiritual movement of Enlightenment had started. People had started reacting to the preceding status-quo which was conquered by the mentality of the medieval years. Reactions towards the role that religion would hold in people’s lives had started appearing and questions, ironic attitudes and behaviors, awakening critique and thoughts had begun entering people’s lives.
The play ‘Everyman’ is the result of this atmosphere. It is common knowledge that literary production is to represent the socio-historical context of its era, thus the play ‘Everyman’ depicts the irony existing within people towards the fear that previous generations used to have as far as death is concerned.
It could be argued that what the writer of this play really wanted to do was to express his own critique against the previous status-quo as far as fear of death is concerned. Whether a man or a woman the writer wanted to show that neither fear nor indifference are to be the appropriate feelings one ought to have towards death. It seems that this play through its irony manages to put forward a logical approach and rationalized interpretation of how death is supposed to affect humans’ lives.
This paper will focus on the way the plot is used by the writer to depict his / her thoughts, on the critical analysis of this play and on its contribution nowadays.
The paper will present the results of the research done into the way death was perceived by people of the 15th century and the way this kind of perception affected people’s lifestyle and quality of life. The research will conclude in presenting you with the conclusions drawn as far as such a perception is potential to exist nowadays and if there are any beneficial effects of this play nowadays.
The outline of this paper will be built upon the thesis description. The socio-historical background of the play will be described so that the readers can fully understand the context of the play and what it really wishes to criticize.
The contribution of the play nowadays will be presented.
The main questions and or themes which will be answered / presented will be the way people of the late 15th century perceived death and the way this perception affected their lifestyle.
Reflections on this and its potential similarities and / or differences to nowadays will be presented in the conclusion.
Death and its treatment in the play ‘Everyman’
This paper will present you with the issue of death in the play ‘Everyman’. This is a play which was written in the late 15-century. This period is considered to be ‘a period still carrying effects of the medieval years’ . The medieval period was the period preceding the wider philosophical and political movement of Renaissance which was born in the 15th-16th centuries.
The medieval years known for their darkness, strictness, and pluralistic ignorance as far as their effects on humans’ mentality are concerned, ‘created a great fear within the uneducated poor masses of people who, facing the fear of death, were turned into easy victims in the hands of those who promised eternal salvation’.  As a result people were led to adopting a number of irrational methods and means which were alleged to provide them with a position in heaven.
Religion had been used by those who had given themselves the authority to interpret it and teach the masses upon its principles as a way of intimidating people, of creating a dark veil which they lay upon the heads of the uneducated, intimated due to their ignorance, masses. As a result the human existence had entered a period of time during which the nature and scope of life had been misinterpreted. The principles of ancient civilizations and their classical principles had been left aside. So, Renaissance was born out of the need for finding the real meaning and joy of life. All this fear, poverty, lack of quality in life gave birth to the need for a new multi-promising enlightening movement, the one of Renaissance. Renaissance focused on humans aiming at ensuring the improvement of their lives’ conditions by focusing on the revival of the classical values of Ancient classical civilizations.
It is within this socio-cultural environment that the play ‘Everyman’ was written by an unknown author.
The writer uses ‘allegorical characters to examine the question of Christian salvation and what Man must do to attain it’.  ‘Everyman’ is the name of the main leading role of the play. There has been lots of discussion within the borders of the linguistic community whether the meaning of the word ‘everyman’ is a ‘meaning which was attributed to this word after the first publication and appearance of this play or it existed and the writer used this preceding word in order to emphasize on the meaning he / she wanted to put across through the plot of his play’ .
The writer uses the figure of a man who can be anyone living in any time and being faced with the fear of his own death.
The opening scene of the play is a Messenger addressing the audience. The Messenger informs the audience on the purpose of the play. This is a play which will show people the real nature of human life. People are just passers-by whose life is of certain, limited expectancy and they are about to die at one specific moment. No one is eternal and no one has come on earth to stay forever.
Then God appears addressing the audience and expressing his complaints. Although what the Messenger has just told them is true, there seems to be total negligence on behalf of mortals towards serving God properly. This means as God says that people live their lives without fearing God, as if they consider themselves immortal and this is a fatal mistake.
‘In worldly riches is all their mind’  God says so people are to be punished. They are not to get a position in heaven when the moment of their death is to come.
Another messenger is called by God, and this messenger is Death. The moment for a man’s death has come. As God says if this man has not ensured to have ‘alms be his good friends’  then he will find himself in hell.
‘Everyman’ is the person who will be announced his death.
As expected, ‘Everyman’ is not at all happy at the news. On the contrary he is feared to death. He cannot die alone. He cannot accept that he is to meet God and be judged upon the nature of his action on his own. He wants to get a place in heaven and his fear that he may not, makes him unable to proceed.
This is the starting point of the plot.
‘Everyman’ representing all mankind decides to start his quest on finding the right companion for his trip to his death.
The people who ‘Everyman’ decides to approach in order to ask for their help are all presented allegorically by the writer as well.
‘Everyman’ needs serious help so he has to find characters who are by all means widely accepted as personalities holding a serious profile which can be of beneficial help to him in his journey to life after death.
The characters drawn by the writer are all the abstract ideas which are supposed to represent the ethical values and principles upon which people of that time used to organize their lives and their way of living.
These abstract ideas are Fellowship, material Goods, and Knowledge.
The plot is built upon the interactions taking place between ‘Everyman’ and each one of these characters.
All characters approached by ‘Everyman’ serve the play’s aim. The play wants to emphasize on making it clear that the journey to life after death is a journey that people do on their own without any companionship.
Therefore Fellowship denies following him to this journey because it is a journey that she does not want to experience. Then Kindred and Cousin enter. They also deny their help to him. The journey to life after death is similarly intimidating to them.
The Material Goods and richness to whom Everyman turns for help seem unable to help him as well. After all if God sees that richness Everyman has spent his life in order to become rich and wealthy then heaven is not to be enjoyed by him. God has always been against material wealth.
The person that Everyman turns for help afterwards is Good Deeds. Unfortunately there seems to be total weakness on their part to accompany him. Everyman has not spent his life in doing good things so how could ‘Good Deeds’ be powerful enough to follow him to such a long journey?
Knowledge who is presented as the sister of Good Deeds is the only one who seems able to help ‘Everyman’. She advises him to go to Confession so that by admitting his sins and his mistakes there may be a hope to get a place in heaven.
A number of more interactions follow with Everyman following step by step the advice given to him by Knowledge. He goes to Confession, he goes to Priesthood. He interacts with Discretion, Strength, Beauty and Five Wits.
The end of the play finds Everyman getting into the grave accompanied by his Good Deeds. A doctor is the person who gives the epilogue to the play. The audience is advised to have room in their lives for Discretion, Knowledge, Beauty, Strength, Five Wits. This is the only way that common mortals according to the last message of the play can ensure that Good Deeds will accompany them to their journey to life after death.
It is clear by this short presentation of the play that the writer is ironic. He uses this irony to depict the confusion existing in his era. A confusion covering people’s lives and mentalities. Good and Evil seem to be the opposing powers which are represented by different powers. Materialism and wealth is bad. Confession and knowledge cannot walk side by side with comfort and wealth.
There seems to be a great confusion in people’s lives as far as their principles and ethical values are concerned. ‘Everyman’ depicts also the ironic nature lying in what is considered to be ‘Good Deeds’. How good can ‘Good Deeds’ be considered to be truly if they are performed only as a means of earning a place in heaven?
This is an arising question which is of value even nowadays.
Death is the means through which a severe critique is given by the writer on the way all values have fallen into the hands of being exploited. If people were not afraid of death, would they have tried to make sure that they live a virtuous life?
This is another significant question arising from this play.
Death is treated by the writer of ‘Everyman’ as ‘the best way due to the fear that cause to mortals to depict the ridiculous face of human fear’.  Humans are carried away to ‘adopt behaviors which do not really fit the meaning and nature of virtue’  in order to serve their ‘unfortunate inner need to feel settled’ .
‘Everyman’ seems a play which has a lot to teach to people of nowadays. People nowadays need their compass of ethical nature in a world mixed up by multiculturalism and misinterpretation of cultural values. ‘Everyman’ reminds people that each journey of self - significance, each journey which aims at revealing things of one’s inner self is to be performed individuality if one wishes to keep his / her identity and have knowledge of his / her identity and wishes.
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