First sentence: HERE BEGINNETH A TREATISE HOW THE HIGH FATHER OF HEAVEN SENDETH DEATH TO SUMMON EVERY CREATURE TO COME AND GIVE ACCOUNT OF THEIR LIVES IN THIS WORLD AND IS IN MANNER OF A MORAL PLAY.
Premise/plot: Everyman is a morality play from 1485. This play has a single focus--what will happen when man comes face to face with God and his works are examined. The speaking roles include: Everyman, God: Adonai, Death, Messenger, Fellowship, Cousin, Kindred, Goods, Good-Deeds, Strength, Discretion, Five-Wits, Beauty, Knowledge, Confession, Angel, and Doctor.
The play opens with Messenger and God having their say. God is angry with mankind--a race of sinners who have one and all forgotten him and forsaken worshiping him. Death is sent--by God--to "collect" Everyman. Everyman argues with Death. He does not want to die. He is not ready to die. He needs/wants more time. It's not fair. Can he pay Death money in exchange for more time. However, instead of taking Everyman right then and there, he does allow Everyman a little time to try to find a companion to take with him to the grave. Surprise, surprise, he doesn't find many eager takers for that one-way journey. He does, however, find some.
My thoughts: The subject matter is a sobering one. And while I'm glad that today's world offers more variety--a lot more variety--in terms of entertainment, in some ways we've lost something vital. I do think that contemplating life, death, what comes next, should have some part in our thinking lives. (If we actually have "thinking lives" today.)
Everyman is definitely an allegory, and one that predates Pilgrim's Progress by a century or two! I am hosting a reading challenge to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. Reading Everyman a thoroughly medieval Catholic play gave me some background and context. For these two reasons, I am glad I read this short little play.
I will add one last thing. Theologically, Everyman is a mess. The message of Everyman seems to be that Good Works (and Strength and Knowledge and Discretion, etc.) accompany him to the judgment seat of Christ, and, because Everyman had received all seven sacraments of the church, he ultimately had nothing to fear because God found him good enough and worthy of heaven. Let's just say I wanted to yell at this book.
© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible