from Everyman and The Diary of Margery Kempe


from Everyman: No Biography

Everyman is the best surviving example of the type of Medieval drama known as the morality play. Moralities evolved side by side with the morality plays, although they were composed individually and not in cycles. The moralities employed allegory to dramatize the moral struggle Christianity envisions universal in every individual.
Everyman, a short play of some 900 lines, portrays a complacent Everyman who is informed by Death of his approaching end. The play shows the hero's progression from despair and fear of death to a "Christian resignation that is the prelude to redemption." First, Everyman is deserted by his false friends: his casual companions, his kin, and his wealth. He falls back on his Good Deeds, his Strength, his Beauty, his Intelligence, and his Knowledge. These assist him in making his Book of Accounts, but at the end, when he must go to the grave, all desert him save his Good Deeds alone. The play makes its grim point that we can take with us from this world nothing that we have received, only what we have given.
The play was written near the end of the fifteenth century. It is probably a translation from a Flemish play, Elckerlijk (or Elckerlyc) first printed in 1495, although there is a possibility that Everyman is the original, the Flemish play the translation. There are four surviving versions of Everyman, two of them fragmentary.

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.
This matter is wondrous 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!
Ye 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.

[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 my righteousness, the sharp rod. . . .
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; . . .
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 fulfill.

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.
[GOD withdraws.]

DEATH. Lord, I will in the world go run overall,
And cruelly outsearch both great and small;
Every man will I beset that liveth beastly,
Out of GOD's laws, and dreadeth not folly. . . .
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 forget?

EVERYMAN. Why askest thou?
Wouldest thou wit?

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.

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

DEATH. On thee thou must take a long journey;
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 show
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. . . .

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. O 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 not 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 abiding,
My counting book I would make so clear
That my reckoning I should not need to fear.
I 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 journey,
And prove thy friends if thou can;
For, wit 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 no 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 wend 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 life
For suddenly I do come.

EVERYMAN. 0 wretched caitiff, O whither shall I flee,
That I might scapeo 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. Alas, I may well weep with sighs deep!
Now have I no manner of company
To help me in my journey and me to keep
And also my writing is full unready. . . .
To whom were I best my complaint to make?
What and I to FELLOWSHIP thereof spake,
And showed him of this sudden chance?
For in him is all mine affiance
We have in the world so many a day
Be good friends in sport and play.
I see him yonder, certainly.
I trust that he will bear me company;
Therefore to him will I speak to ease my sorrow.
Well met, good FELLOWSHIP, and good morrow!

FELLOWSHIP EVERYMAN, good morrow, by this day!
Sir, why lookest thou so piteously?
If anything be amiss, I pray thee me say,
That I may help to remedy.

I am in great jeopardy.

FELLOWSHIP. My true friend, show to me your mind;
I will not forsake thee to my life's end,
In the way of good company.

EVERYMAN. That was well spoken, and lovingly.

FELLOWSHIP. Sir, I must needs know your heaviness;
I have pity to see you in any distress.
If any have you wronged, ye shall revenged be:
Though I on the ground be slain for thee--
Though that I know before that I should die.

EVERYMAN. Verily, FELLOWSHIP, gramercy.

FELLOWSHIP. Tush! by thy thanks I set not a straw.
Show me your grief and say no more. . . .

EVERYMAN. Ye speak like a good friend; I believe you well.
I shall deserve it, and I may.

FELLOWSHIP. I speak of no deserving, by this day!
For he that will say, and nothing do,
Is not worthy with good company to go;
Therefore show me the grief of your mind,
As to your friend most loving and kind.

EVERYMAN. I shall show you how it is:
Commanded I am to go a journey,
A long way, hard and dangerous,
And give a strait count, without delay,
Before the high Judge, Adonai.
Wherefore, I pray you, bear me company,
As ye have promised, in this journey.

FELLOWSHIP. That is matter, indeed. Promise is duty;
But, and I should take such a voyage on me,
I know it well, it should be to my pain;
Also it maketh me afeard, certain.
But let us take counsel here as well as we can,
For your words would fear-- a strong man.

EVERYMAN. Why, ye said if I had need
Ye would me never forsake, quick ne dead,
Though it were to hell, truly.

FELLOWSHIP. So I said, certainly,
But such pleasureso be set aside, the sooth to say;
And also, if we took such a journey,
When 'should we come again?

EVERYMAN. Nay, never again, till the day of doom.

FELLOWSHIP. In faith, then will not I come there! . . .

EVERYMAN. Whither away, FELLOWSHIP? Will thou forsake me?

FELLOWSHIP. Yea, by my fay! To GOD I betake thee.

EVERYMAN. Farewell, good FELLOWSHIP; for thee my heart is sore.
Adieu forever! I shall see thee no more.

FELLOWSHIP. In faith, EVERYMAN, farewell now at the ending;
For you I will remember that parting is mourning.
[Exit FELLOWSHIP.] . . .

EVERYMAN next appeals to Kindred and Cousin, but they, too, refuse to accompany him on his journey.

EVERYMAN. My kinsmen promised me faithfully
For to abide with me steadfastly,
And now fast away do they flee:
Even so FELLOWSHIP promised me.
What friend were best me of to provide?
I lose my time here longer to abide,
Yet in my mind a thing there is:
All my life I have loved riches;
If that my Good now help me might,
He would make my heart full light.
I will speak to him in this distress--
Where art thou, my GOODS and riches?

[GOODS speaks from a corner.]
GOODS. Who calleth me? EVERYMAN? What! hast thou haste?
I lie here in comers, trussed and piled so high,
And in chests I am locked so fast,
Also sacked in bags. Thou mayst see with thine eye
I cannot stir; in packs low I lie.
What would ye have? Lightly me say.

EVERYMAN. Come hither, Goods, in all the haste thou may,
For of counsel I must desire thee.

GOODS. Sir, and ye in the world have sorrow or adversity,
That can I help you to remedy shortly.

EVERYMAN. It is another disease that grieveth me;
In this world it is not, I tell thee so.
I am sent for another way to go,
To give a strait count general
Before the highest Jupiter of all;
And all my life I have had joy and pleasure in thee,
Therefore, I pray thee, go with me;
For, peradventure, O thou mayst before GOD Almighty
My reckoning help to clean and purify;
For it is said ever among
That money maketh all right that is wrong.

GOODS. Nay, EVERYMAN, I sing another song.
I follow no man in such voyages;
For, and I went with thee,
Thou shouldst fear much the worse for me;
For because on me thou did set thy mind,
Thy reckoning I have made blotted and blind,
That thine account thou cannot make truly;
And that hast thou for the love of me.

EVERYMAN. That would grieve me full sore,
When I should come to that fearful answer.
Up, let us go thither together.

GOODS. Nay, not so! I am too brittle, I may not endure;
I will follow no man one foot, be ye sure.

EVERYMAN. Alas, I have thee loved, and had great pleasure
All my life,days on GOODS and treasure.

GOODS. That is to thy damnation, without leasing,
For my love is contrary to the love everlasting;
But if thou had me loved moderately during,
As to the poor to give part of me,
Then shouldst thou not in this dolor be,
Nor in this great sorrow and care.

EVERYMAN. Lo, now was I deceived ere I was ware,
And all I may wite my spending of time;

GOODS. What, weenest thou that I am thine?

EVERYMAN. I had wend so.

GOODS. Nay, EVERYMAN, I say no.
As for a while I was lent thee;
A season thou hast had me in prosperity.
My condition is man's soul to kill;
If I save one, a thousand I do spill.
Weenest thou that I will follow thee?
Nay, not from this world, verily. . . .

EVERYMAN. Ah, Good, thou hast had long my heartly love;
I gave thee that which should be the Lord's above.
But wilt thou not go with me indeed?
I pray thee truth to say.

GOODS. No, so GOD me speed!
Therefore farewell, and have good day.
[Exit GOODS.] . . .

EVERYMAN calls next on his GOOD DEEDS.

EVERYMAN. I think that I shall never speed
Till that I go to my Good Deed.
But, alas, she is so weak
That she can neither go nor speak;
Yet will I venture on her now.
My GOOD DEEDS, where be you?

[GOOD DEEDS speaks from the ground.]
GOOD DEEDS. Here I lie, cold in the ground;
Thy sins hath me sore bound,
That I cannot stir.

EVERYMAN. 0 GOOD DEEDS, I stand in fear!
I must you pray of counsel,
For help now should come right well.

GOOD DEEDS. EVERYMAN, I have understanding
That ye be summoned account to make
Before Messiah, of Jerusalem King;
And you do by me, that journey with you will I take.

EVERYMAN. Therefore, I come to you, my moan to make;
I pray you that ye will go with me.

GOOD DEEDS. I would full fain, but I cannot stand, verily.

EVERYMAN. Why, is there anything on you fall?

GOOD DEEDS. Yea, sir, I may thank you of all;
If ye had perfectly cheered me,
Your book of count full ready had be.
Look, the books of your works and deeds eke!
Behold how they lie under the feet,
To your soul's heaviness.

EVERYMAN. Our Lord Jesus, help me!
For one letter here I cannot see.

GOOD DEEDS. There is a blind reckoning in time of distress.....

EVERYMAN. GOOD DEEDS, your counsel I pray you give me. '"

GOOD DEEDS. That shall I do verily.
Though that on my feet I may not go,
I have a sister that shall with you also,
Called KNOWLEDGE, which shall with you abide
To help you make that dreadful reckoning. . . .

KNOWLEDGE escorts EVERYMAN to Confession. EVERYMAN then does penance for his sins and receives contrition. GOOD DEEDS is thus restored to health. GOOD DEEDS and KNOWLEDGE advise Eueryman to call on Discretion, Strength, Beauty. and Five Wits to help him on his journey. When EVERYMAN and the others reach his graue, all but GOOD DEEDS and KNOWLEDGE refuse to accompany him further and leave.

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 I will not 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 loved best 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.

EVERYMAN. 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, cornmendo spiritum meum
[He sinks into his 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 ANGEL sing,
And make great joy and melody
Where EVERYMAN's soul received shall be.

ANGEL. Come, excellent elect spouse, to Jesu!
Hereabove 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 moral 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 every man 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 every man.
Alas, how shall he do then?
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, te, maledicti, in ignem etemum.
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 together.
Thereto help the Trinity!
Amen, say ye, for saint charity.

from Everyman: Discussion Questions

1. At the beginning of the play, what does the messenger say that Everyman will be about?
2. For what reason does God send Death to visit Everyman?
3. How does Everyman attempt to stall Death, and how does Death respond?
4. Summarize the reaction of the character called Goods to Everyman's plea for help.
5. Where is Good Deeds when Everyman first calls on her for assistance?

6. How do the messenger's words (lines 1-21) further the purpose of the play?
7. In what ways are the relationships between God, Death, and Everyman similar to those between the playwright, messenger, and audience? In what ways are they different?
8. What does Everyman's response to Death reveal about human nature?
9. In your opinion, what does the dialogue between Goods and Everyman reveal about people living in medieval times?
10. What does Good Deeds' weak physical condition tell you about Everyman?

Evaluate and Connect
11. In your opinion, is this play persuasive? Explain your answer.
12. Did Everyman have any of the characteristics you discussed during the Reading Focus on page 210? After reading the play, are there any characteristics you would add to your "everyman'?
13. How might the play have changed if the playwright had used real characters instead of symbolic figures? For example, what if Fellowship had been a real person, a friend with his or her own personality and desires?
14. State the main message, or theme (see literary Terms Handbook, page R1G), of Everyman in your own words. What relevance do you think the theme has to today's world?
15. What characters would you suggest adding to the play if it were set in the present? Why?


from Margery Kempe's Biography

Margery Kempe died 1438 or afterward, English religious writer, born at King's Lynn. She was the wife of a prominent citizen and the mother of 14 children. Her autobiography, The Book of Margery Kempe (complete ed. 1940; ed. with modern spelling 1944), was known only in small excerpts until 1934, when the whole was discovered. She was a religious enthusiast whose loud weeping in church and reproof of her neighbors kept her in public disfavor. She traveled abroad as a pilgrim, and her work has rich details of the everyday life of her time. The narrative is occasionally interrupted with visions, prayers, and meditations, many of them of great beauty. The book may be the earliest autobiography in English

from The Book of Margery Kempe

WHEN I WAS TWENTY, OR A LITTLE OLDER, I was married to a well--respected burgess, and, things being what they are, I quickly found myself pregnant. During the pregnancy and up to the time the child was born I suffered from severe attacks of illness; and then, what with the labor of giving birth on top of my previous illness, I despaired of my life and thought that I would not survive.
At that point I sent for my priest, because I had something on my conscience which I had never before divulged in my life. For I was constantly hindered by my enemy, the devil, who was always telling me that so long as I was in good health I had no need to make confession; I should just do penance by myself, in private, and God, in his all, sufficient mercy, would forgive me for everything.
And therefore I often did harsh penances, restricting myself to bread and water; I also did other godly deeds, praying devoutly but never revealing my guilty secret in the course of confession.
But when I was ever sick or out of spirits, the devil whispered to me that I would be damned because I had not been absolved of that special sin. Therefore, not expecting to survive the birth of my child, I sent for my priest, as I've already told you, fully intending to be absolved for everything I had done in my life.
But when I was on the point of revealing my long--concealed secret, my confessor was a little too hasty with me; he began to tell me of in no uncertain terms, before I had even covered all I meant to say; and after that, try as he might, he couldn't get me to say a word.
Eventually, what with my fear of damnation on one hand and the priest's sharp tongue on the other, I became insane, and for half a year, eight weeks and a few days I was prodigiously plagued and tormented by spirits.
During that time I saw (or I believed I saw) devils opening their mouths as if to swallow me, and revealing waves of fire that were burning inside their bodies. Sometimes they grabbed at me, sometimes they threatened me; they tugged and pulled me, night and day for a whole eight months. They also bayed at me fearsomely, and told me to forsake the church and its faith and deny my God, his mother, and all the saints in heaven.
They told me to deny my good works and all my good qualities, and turn my back on my father, my mother, and all my friends. And that's what I did: I slandered my husband, my friends, and my own self. I said many wicked and cruel things; I was empty of any virtue or goodness; I was bent on every wickedness; I said and did whatever the spirits tempted me to say and do. At their instigation I would have destroyed myself many times over and been damned to hell; and as if to show determination I bit my own hand so savagely that the mark has been visible ever since.
What's more, I used my nails (for I had no other instrument) to scratch myself viciously, ripping the skin on my chest near my heart. And if I'd had my own way I would have done even more to myself, but I was bound and restrained by force day and night. I suffered from these and other temptations for such a long while that people thought I'd never recover or even survive, but then something happened: as I lay by myself, without my attendants, our merciful Lord Jesus Christ--ever to be trusted! his name be praised!-never forsaking his servant in a time of need, appeared to me--his creature who had forsaken him in human form, the most pleasing, most beautiful, loveliest sight that human eyes could ever behold. Dressed in a mantle of purple silk, he sat by the bed, looking at me with so much holiness in his face that I felt myself inwardly fortified. And he spoke to me in the following way:
"Daughter, why have you abandoned me, when I never thought to abandon you?"
And instantly, as he spoke these words, I swear that I saw the air open up as brightly as any shaft of lightning. And he rose up into the air, not. very fast or quickly but with grace and ease, so that I could clearly see him in the air until it closed again.
And at once my composure and mental faculties came back to me, just as they had been before, and I begged my husband, as soon as he came, for the keys of the cellar so that I could get myself food and drink as I had done in the past. My maids and attendants advised him not to hand over any keys; they said I would only give away any such stores as we had, for they thought that I was beside myself.
Nevertheless, my husband, who was always kind and sympathetic to me, ordered them to give me the keys; and I got myself food and drink, insofar as my physical health would allow me to do so. And I recognized my friends, the members of my household, and all the others who came to see the act of mercy which our Lord Jesus Christ had performed on me. Blessed may he be, who is always close to us in our troubles. When people think he is far away, he is right beside them, full of grace.
Afterwards, I returned to all my other household duties, doing everything in a quite level--headed and sober way but not really knowing the call of our Lord.

from Discussion Questions for Margery Kempe

Recall and Interpret
1. What motivates Kempe to send for her priest? In your opinion, would she have sent for him if she thought she would recover?
2. Why does Kempe refuse to tell the priest her secret? What does this refusal reveal about her character?
3. How does Kempe's illness affect her personality?
4. Describe the vision that changes the course of Kempe's illness. How was it a turning point in her life? Explain.
5. What words would you use to describe Kempe's husband? Provide reasons for your answer.

Evaluate and Connect
6. Which of the images in the selection did you find the most powerful? Explain why.
7. Why, do you think, did Kempe choose to include this event in her autobiography?
8. In your opinion, would the selection be more interesting if Kempe had revealed her secret to readers? Explain why or why not.
9. Poet William Wordsworth once wrote, "From the body of one guilty deed / A thousand ghostly fears, and haunting thoughts, proceed!" Would Kempe agree with this statement? Support your answer with evidence from the selection.
10. Theme Connections In your opinion, is Kempe a kind of hero? Why or why not?