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Everyman

29 Apr

Cut out of figure of Death from the frontispie...

Image via Wikipedia

Everyman (1485) is a morality play, which is different from the mystery plays I wrote about earlier. According to the Norton Anthology, morality plays used allegory to dramatize the Christian struggle with morality. In Everyman, the main character is deserted by all the things he cherished most in life — Beauty, Fellowship, Strength, etc. — and all that was left for him to take to the grave was Good Deeds.

The first part was his conversation with Death, which I found most enjoyable of the whole play, I guess because it’s so commonsense.

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.

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 to the heart suddenly I shall smite,
Without any advisement.

The Anthology pointed out that it was humorous how all the friends took off when Everyman needed them. Here are some examples of the lame excuses and funny getaway lines:

Fellowship: I wot well I said so [that I would go with you], truly.
And yet, if thou wilt eat and drink and make good cheer,
Or haunt to women the lusty company,
I would not forsake you while the day is clear,
Trust me verily!

And as now, God speed thee in thy journay!
For from thee I will depart as fast as I may.

Cousin: No, by Our Lady [I will not go with you]! I have the cramp in my toe:
Trust not to me. For, so God me speed,
I will deceive you in your most need.

Beauty: What, into this grave, alas?

And what, should I smother here?

I cross out all this! Adieu, by Saint John–
I take my tape in my lap and am gone.

Strength: In faith, I care not;
Thou art but a fool to complain;
You spend your speech and waste your brain.
Go, thrust thee into the ground.

Then, at the end, the Doctor comes in and tells the audience that they better put their stock in Good Deeds rather than in Goods and Beauty:

For after death amends may no man make,
For then mercy and pity doth him forsake.

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