from Everyman


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.


MESSENGER. I pray, you all give your audience,
And hear this matter with reverence,
By figure a moral play.
The Summoning of Everyman called it is,
That of our lives and ending shows
How transitory we be all day.
The matter is wonder precious,
But the intent of it is more gracious
And sweet to bear away.
The story saith: Man, in the beginning
Look well, and take good heed to the ending,
Be you never so gay.
You think sin in the beginning full sweet,
Which in the end causeth the soul to weep,
When the body lieth in clay.
Here shall you see how fellowship and jollity,
Both strength, pleasure, and beauty,
Will fade from thee as flower in May.
For ye shall hear how our Heaven-King
Calleth Everyman to a general reckoning.
Give audience and hear what he doth say.
[Exit MESSENGER. Enter GOD.]

GOD. I perceive, here in my majesty,
How that all creatures be to me unkind,
Living without dread in worldly prosperity.
Of ghostly sight the people be so blind,
Drowned in sin, they know me not for their God.
In worldly riches is all their mind:
They fear not of my righteousness the sharp rod;
My law that I showed when I for them died
They forget clean, and shedding of my blood red.
I hanged between two, it cannot be denied:
To get them life I suffered to be dead.
I healed their feet, with thorns hurt was my head.
I could do no more than I did, truly
And now I see the people do clean forsake me.
They use the seven deadly sins damnable,
As pride, coveitise, wrath, and gluttony
Now in the world be made commendable.
And thus they leave of angels the heavenly company.
Every man liveth so after his own pleasure,
And yet of their life they be nothing sure.
I see the more that I them forbear,
The worse they be from year to year:
All that liveth appaireth fast.
Therefore I will, in all the haste,
Have a reckoning of every man's person.
For, and I leave the people thus alone
In their life and wicked tempests,
Verily they will become much worse than beasts;
For now one would by envy another up eat.
Charity do they all clean forgeet.
I hoped well that every man
In my glory should make his mansion,
And thereto I had them all elect.
But now I see, like traitors deject,
They thank me not for the pleasure that I to them meant,
Nor yet for their being that I them have lent.
I proffered the people great multitude of mercy,
And few there be that asketh it heartily.
They be so cumbered with worldly riches
That needs on them I must do justice-
On every man living without fear.
Where art thou, Death, thou mighty messenger?
[Enter DEATH.]

DEATH. Almighty, God, I am here at your will,
Your commandment to fulfull.

GOD. Go thou to Everyman,
And show him, in my name,
A pilgrimage he must on him take,
Which he in no wise may escape;
And that he bring with him a sure reckoning
Without delay or any tarrying.

DEATH. Lord, I will in the world go run over all,
And cruelly out-search both great and small.
[Exit GOD.]
Everyman will I beset that liveth beastly
Out of God's laws, and dreadeth not folly.
He that loveth riches I will strike with my dart,
His sight to blind, and from heaven to depart-
Except that Almsdeeds be his good friend-
In hell for to dwell, world without end.
Lo, yonder I see Everyman walking:
Full little he thinketh on my coming;
His mind is on fleshly lusts and his treasure,
And great pain it shall cause him to endure
Before the Lord, Heaven-King.
Everyman, stand still! Whither art thou going
Thus gaily? Hast thou thy Maker forgeet?

EVERYMAN. Why askest thou?
Why wouldest thou weet?

DEATH. Yea, sir, I will show you:
In great haste I am sent to thee
From God out of his majesty.

EVERYMAN. What! sent to me?

DEATH. Yea, certainly.
Though thou have forgot him here,
He thinketh on thee in the heavenly sphere,
As, ere we depart, thou shalt know.

EVERYMAN. What desireth God of me?

DEATH. That shall I show thee:
A reckoning he will needs have
Without any longer respite.

EVERYMAN. To give a reckoning longer leisure I crave.
This blind matter troubleth my wit.

DEATH. On thee thou must take a long journay:
Therefore thy book of count with thee thou bring,
For turn again thou cannot by no way.
And look thou be sure of thy reckoning,
For before God thou shalt answer and shew
Thy many bad deeds and good but a few-
How thou hast spent thy life and in what wise,
Before the Chief Lord of Paradise.
Have ado that we were in that way,
For weet thou well thou shalt make none attornay.

EVERYMAN. Full unready I am such reckoning to give.
I know thee not. What messenger art thou?

DEATH. I am Death that no man dreadeth,
For every man I 'rest, and no man spareth;
For it is God's commandment
That all to me should be obedient.

EVERYMAN. Death, thou comest when I had thee least in mind.
In thy power it lieth me to save:
Yet of my good will I give thee, if thou will be kind,
Yea, a thousand pound shalt thou have-
And defer this matter till another day.

DEATH. Everyman, It may not be, by no way.
I set nought by gold, silver, nor riches,
Nor by pope, emperor, king, duke, nor princes,
For, and I would receive gifts great,
All the world I might get.
But my custom is clean contrary:
I give thee no respite. Come hence and not tarry!

EVERYMAN. Alas, shall I have no longer respite?
I may say Death giveth no warning.
To think on thee it maketh my heart sick,
For all unready is my book of reckoning.
But twelve year and I might have a biding,
My counting-book I would make so clear
That my reckoning I should not need to fear.
Wherefore, Death, I pray thee, for God's mercy,
Spare me till I be provided of remedy.

DEATH. Thee availeth not to cry, weep, and pray;
But haste thee lightly that thou were gone that journay,
And prove thy friends, if thou can.
For weet thou well the tide abideth no man,
And in the world each living creature
For Adam's sin must die of nature.

EVERYMAN. Death, if I should this pilgrimage take
And my reckoning surely make, Show me, for saint charity,
Should I not come again shortly?

DEATH. No, Everyman. And thou be once there,
Thou mayst never more come here,
Trust me verily.

EVERYMAN. 0 gracious God in the high seat celestial,
Have mercy on me in this most need!
Shall I have company from this vale terrestrial
Of mine acquaintance that way me to lead?

DEATH. Yea, if any be so hardy
That would go with thee and bear thee company.
Hie thee that thou were gone to God's magnificence,
Thy reckoning to give before his presence.
What, weenest thou thy life is given thee,
And thy worldly goods also?

EVERYMAN. I had weened so, verily.

DEATH. Nay, nay, it was but lent thee.
For as soon as thou art go,
Another a while shall have it and then go therefro,
Even as thou hast done.
Everyman, thou art mad! Thou hast thy wits five,
And here on earth will not amend thy live!
For suddenly I do come.

EVERYMAN. 0 wretched caitiff! Whither shall I flee
That I might 'scape this endless sorrow?
Now, gentle Death, spare me till tomorrow,
That I may amend me
With good advisement.

DEATH. Nay, thereto I will not consent,
Nor no man will I respite,
But to the heart suddenly I shall smite,
Without any advisement.
And now out of thy sight I will me hie:
See thou make thee ready shortly,
For thou mayst say this is the day
That no man living may 'scape away.
[Exit DEATH.]

Everyman calls on Fellowship, Cousin, Kindred, and Goods (hisfriends, relatives, and wealth) to accompany him on his journey, but they all refuse and desert him. Everyman then summons his Good Deeds and Knowledge, and Knowledge leads him to Confession, who comforts him. Following his meeting with Confession, Everyman is assisted by Good Deeds, Knowledge, Beauty, Strength, Five-Wits (Five Senses), and Discretion (the attributes that make up an integrated person) in making up his book of accounts. Then each one, except for Good Deeds and Knowledge, leaves him as he makes final preparations for his journey to the grave.

EVERYMAN. 0 Jesu, help, all hath forsaken me!

GOOD DEEDS. Nay, Everyman, I will bide with thee:
I will not forsake thee indeed;
Thou shalt find me a good friend at need.

EVERYMAN. Gramercy, Good Deeds! Now may I true friends see.
They have forsaken me every one-
I loved them better than my Good Deeds alone.
Knowledge, will ye forsake me also?

KNOWLEDGE. Yea, Everyman, when ye to Death shall go,
But not yet, for no manner of danger.

EVERYMAN. Gramercy, Knowledge, with all my heart!

KNOWLEDGE. Nay, yet will Inot from hence depart
Till I see where ye shall become.

EVERYMAN. Methink, alas, that I must be gone
To make my reckoning and my debts pay,
For I see my time is nigh spent away.
Take example, all ye that this do hear or see,
How they that I best loved do forsake me,
Except my Good Deeds that bideth truly.

GOOD DEEDS. All earthly things is but vanity.
Beauty, Strength, and Discretion do man forsake,
Foolish friends and kinsmen that fair spake-
All fleeth save Good Deeds, and that am I.

EVERYMAN. Have mercy on me, God most mighty,
And stand by me, thou mother and maid, holy Mary!

GOOD DEEDS. Fear not: I will speak for thee.

EVERYMAN. Here I cry God mercy!

GOOD DEEDS. Short our end, and 'minish our pain.
Let us go, and never come again.

EVERMAN. Into thy hands, Lord, my soul I commend:
Receive it, Lord, that it be not lost.
As thou me boughtest, so me defend,
And save me from the fiend's boast,
That I may appear with that blessed host
That shall be saved at the day of doom.
In manus tuas, of mights most,
Forever commendo spiritum meum.
(Into thy hands, O greatest of powers, I commend
my spirit, forever)

[EVERYMAN and GOOD DEEDS descend into the grave.]

KNOWLEDGE. Now hath he suffered that we all shall endure,
The Good Deeds shall make all sure.
Now hath he made ending,
Methinketh that I hear angels sing
And make great joy and melody
Where Everyman's soul received shall be.

ANGEL [within] Come, excellent elect spouse to Jesu!
Here above thou shalt go
Because of thy singular virtue.
Now the soul is taken the body fro,
Thy reckoning Is crystal clear:
Now shalt thou into the heavenly sphere-
Unto the which all ye shall come
That liveth well before the day of doom.
[Enter Doctor.]

DOCTOR. This memorial men may have in mind:
Ye hearers, take it of worth, old and young,
And forsake Pride, for he deceiveth you in the end.
And remember Beauty, Five-Wits, Strength, and Discretion,
They all at the last do Everyman forsake,
Save his Good Deeds there doth he take-
But beware, for and they be small,
Before God he hath no help at all-
None excuse may be there for Everyman.
Alas, how shall he do than?
For after death amends may no man make,
For then mercy and pity doth him forsake.
If his reckoning be not clear when he doth come,
God will say, "Ite, maledtcti, in ignem eternum!"
(Depart, ye cursed into everlasting fire)
And he that hath his account whole and sound,
High in heaven he shall be crowned,
Unto which place God bring us all thither,
That we may live body and soul togither.
Thereto help, the Trinity!
Amen, say ye, for saint charity.

from Everyman (no biography)

1475 [?] English theater began with what are called miracle plays, sometimes referred to as mystery plays. The aim of a miracle play is to dramatize an incident from the Bible. Morality plays, which came later, deal with the human struggle between virtues and vices. They feature characters that represent abstract qualities such as Beauty, Good Deeds, Knowledge, and Death. The most famous and sophisticated of the morality plays is Everyman, written by an unknown playwright.
The English theater originated in the medieval church. To make religious services more meaningful and impressive, the clergy began inserting bits of dialogue into the mass. These miniature dramas, much expanded, became miracle plays. The plays moved outdoors, lost their direct connection with the church, and became a popular form of entertainment. The miracle plays were performed on wagons that moved from place to place within a town or city. Each wagon stopped at designated stations, presenting the same play over and over. A viewer could sometimes see as many as fifty miracle plays by staying in one place throughout the day and watching as the procession of wagons passed by.
Morality plays such as Everyman grew out of these miracle plays and also out of medieval allegories, not all of them English, in which the characters are abstractions-Fear, Courtesy, Greed, Delight, and so on. Everyman resembles an earlier Dutch morality play, Elckerlijk, but since the subject matter of the two plays, the summoning of death, is so common, both may come from a single source. The theme of Everyman is the salvation of the soul as death approaches. When Everyman is summoned by Death, he finds that none of his friends and relatives-Fellowship, Cousin, Kindred, or Goods-will keep him company. As he makes his descent into the grave, only Good Deeds will go with him.
This play has enjoyed extraordinary success since its appearance in the fifteenth century. The allegory has been translated into many languages, has been used by later writers as the basis of their plays, and has often been performed, both as an academic revival and a commercial production, on the twentieth-century stage.

from Everyman Discussion Questions

1) On what mission does God send Death?
2. What does Everyman request when he first learns the purpose of Death's visit?
3) How does Good Deeds respond to Everyman's plea for companionship? How does Knowledge respond?
4) According to the Doctor, what can be done after death to make up for mistakes or oversights in life? Explain.
5) What is God's main complaint about the way people on earth are behaving?
6) Death repeatedly refuses to give Everyman any additional time. Why?
7) What does Death tell Everyman about the ownership of worldly goods?