Author’s Perception and Treatment of Death in Everyman

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Death is treated and alleged as the patron of life in many cultures. It is despised, treated with distress, and is viewed as cruel to the highest capacity. Death is seen as all dejection since human is disengaged from the living. Anybody’s interpretation of the same lies in their belief about death and life. The description of death is relative depending on a person’s view or opinion on the same. In the Christian understanding, death is well-defined as either being right or wrong depending on a person’s prior lifestyle. Death is taken as good for a person whose lifestyle was right and vice versa for a person who lived a wicked life. Christians believe that those who die sinful will have a painful eternal life full of suffering and burning in hell. On the other hand, for the righteous, life after death will be full of greatness and happiness; thus a life of merrymaking, dancing, and sharing in the glory of God in paradise. In the play ‘Everyman’, the author considers death as a phenomenon that is unstoppable and that will continue taking away every man’s life. The author also views it as a transition to another life that is full of joy for the righteous and a life of pain and dejection for the sinful.

Everyman is a Christian principle play circulated in the fifteenth century. The play tries to explain why people need salvation and to seek God’s guidance. As it sounds, the word every man is, concerning, the common man, irrespective of their religion, race, gender or social status in their society. Everyman is a character that the reader can easily connect with since they are also an everyman. Everyman is about the innate man, the man that thrived during the good old day (Simko, 2010). Though everyman still exists in the present days, they are a little more self-centered and peculiar. Therefore, the reader is expected to relate his opinion of everyman with the days gone by. That is, one is supposed to take the medieval man, unlike the modern day man. The reader should, therefore, plug themselves in the circumstances of native everyman. These variations come due to the evolution of science and technology, urbanization, and influx of modernity in the current lifestyle. In spite of this exceptional contrast, the view and opinion of death remains practically the same. Death remains as the common factor in all aspects of life and therefore the most exciting topic in both forms of life. 

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Everyman is the human representative. The play ‘Everyman,’ is a metaphorical journey pursued by every man in their entire life (Keyishian, 2008). It dwells the view of Christianity and salvation based on Roman Catholicism, the dominant church during the time the play was written. During the expiry of everyman, he is taken to the holy place, and their actions weighed from good to evil. To attain eternal life, a man should pursue good and forfeit evil. Everyman furthermore tries to bring other everymen on board to compliment them on their righteous ways to eternity (Keyishian, 2008). However, these comradeships are not set to face death alongside everyman. Instead, they will forge reasons not to complement everyman. Various characters in the play exhibit conflicting interests of moral and evil. Some display material possessions, enlightenment, and even communion. This is a display of the fight between good and evil. Death is also a symbol of the evil and wicked, while angels and God symbolize holiness (Keyishian, 2008).

In the play, death cannot be categorized as severe and harsh if one has lived a righteous and moral life. This is so since such a person plans to get to a better dwelling in the future. Therefore, death is only a means of a changeover to a better life. It is an ordinary part of human life, in that whatever has a commencement will eventually conclude. To some extent, death acts as a restrainer as people dread to do wrong with the fear that they will pay dearly for it. Death therefore guarantees peace, order, and harmony in the human race. Moreover, death brings solidity and a feeling of unity when people come together to send off a loved one. Death, therefore, acts as a behavior check for the human race. Nevertheless, people are usually left grieved and desperate due to the loss incurred both physically and emotionally. It therefore brings a lot of sorrow and pain in the society.

In the play, death is the harsh and inexorable messenger that takes man’s life. It is God’s proxy that gets everyman to account for their actions. God is angry with everyman’s quest for wealth and material possession. Man deserts God, and in return, he delivers death to him. “On me, you must take a long journey: Therefore my book of the count with me you bring; for turn again you can by no way forfeit, and look you be sure of my reckoning…” (Roth, 2006). Death is what fetches everyman from his limpness such that he thinks about his life choices and the type of life he was living. The author of Everyman’s insight and how he views death is full of fear, confusion, and anguish. This is so as man realizes he has not lived a holy and righteous life. He is not prepared to die and therefore tries hard to persuade death to offer him another chance. Above all, he begs for a longer time to make things right. On the contrary, death gives a second chance to nobody.

Everyman hates death and the whole idea of leaving the world. He even hopes to bribe death by offering him a thousand pounds, which he declines. “If he wanted wealth then all wealth could be his” (Roth, 2006).  He could be getting bribes from everyone who wanted to avoid death. This shows that whenever death comes summoning, no affluence, persuasion or amount of intimidation can avert him from taking one’s life. Everyman enquires if he will be permitted to go back to the earth after delivering his account to God. He is informed that it is not possible once he leaves the earth. He has only one chance. Thus he should live an upright and model life so that whichever day death knocks, he will go and without any regrets. He will be happy and be glad as he gets ready to get into paradise

Moreover, the author perceives death as an occurrence that brings isolation and solitude, and nobody wants that. Everyman apprehends that death is demanding and won’t give another chance. Everyman persuades his friends and family to accompany him, but they are unwilling to be with him in death. Everyman is all set to enjoy his life on earth. However, the knowledge of death is repelled with much resolve. This indicates that everyman will finally face death and decree alone and not even his friends or family can rescue him. Ultimately, the earthly possessions are left on earth and the decree is delivered to an individual alone. The fleshly body is also left behind. Only the soul reaches the other world. The earthly is symbolized by material possessions, everyman’s cousin, associates, and fellowship.

Everyman discovers that death is not ready to go away and is frightened. In turn, he tries to the right and lives righteously. However, moral actions cannot follow him to death because all these years, he has always rejected morality. The deeds lack the power or enthusiasm due to ages of neglect and desertion. However, Good deed requests his sister Knowledge to accompany everyman (Roth, 2006). Everyman seeks compassion and reparation for his sins. However, he is punished with a plague for the atrocities during his life. The Virgin Mary and his son Jesus pray for God to forgive Everyman. When Everyman redresses and acknowledges his sins, ‘good deeds’ is re-energized and empowered again (Roth, 2006). Everyman is dressed in a robe symbolizing a new atoned being. Everyman is now sinless and eternity pounces on him. This indicates that everyman has to be righteous, atoned, and clean before God to be accepted in His kingdom. Likewise, no one can inherit eternal life without deliverance and repentance.

Later, Everyman is escorted by all his wits, pleasure, splendor, and strength. These are deemed to offer him the power to encounter his death. However, he apprehends that is the farthest they can go. They cannot accompany him to the life after death. Everyman receives the final sacrament. This sacrament symbolizes the numerous formalities conducted by the Catholics, which is also called The Holy Eucharist (Ma, 2017).

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Everyman prays to God and requests him to acclaim his spirit. He eventually joins others in paradise, and he perceives angel’s singing. He comprehends that the far he has come is only by good deeds. He leaves behind everything else. This demonstrates that worldly things and immorality are a hindrance to the realization of eternal life. Everyman cannot carry his earthly wealth to the after-life (Conick 2007). Instead, they were better if he had assisted the less privileged in society. 

In conclusion, from the play, it is clear that the author’s message is that every man should struggle to live for the day. Besides the earthly, there also exists another happy and promising life. Every man ought to pursue eternal life via good deeds, acknowledging his sins, and praising God through everything he does. Then, he will receive God’s Kingdom. In spite of every man’s shortcomings, God still loves him. He gives him another chance to repent. He is all merciful; He wants every man to turn to him. Nevertheless, Everyman is resolute, and when death comes, Everyman is so busy with earthly possessions that he overlooks God’s call. Everyman has to account for all his life. Nobody can avoid the Judgment Day. When the day comes, everybody, everyman, will be evaluated on the scales of their deeds. “And he who has his account in whole and sound, High in paradise he shall be crowned” (Fiero, 2005). 

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  1. Conick, A. D. (n.d.).(2007) The Vision Of God Or His Kavod. Seek to See Him,97-125. doi:10.1163/9789004313002_006
  2. Fiero, G. K. (2005). The Humanistic Tradition: Medieval Europe and the World Beyond. New York: McGraw Hill. 
  3. Keyishian, H. (2008, September 22). The Summoning of Everyman. Shakespeare Bulletin.
  4. Ma, T. (2017). The Uncanniness of the Death Instinct in “Bartleby”. International Journal of Languages, Literature and Linguistics 3(4), 174-180. doi:10.18178/ijlll.2017.3.4.129
  5. Roth, P. (2006). Everyman. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company.
  6. Simko, E. (2010, January 15). CCTI: A Theatre Initiative for Every Man. Curator.
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