Death in Summoning of Everyman


One of the instruments of bourgeois ideology was the theater, which created ethical teachings, morality genre. Didactic genre of morality contained not only a positive program that reflected burgher ideology and morals, but also some criticism of the feudal system. At the time of the development of morality, the mystery dominated in the theater. The protagonist of morality, nameless character, who is known simply as Everyman, is popular, successful and happy, when death comes for him. Being forced to leave his carefully constructed life, Everyman is sent to the last journey. His goal consisted in finding someone, who could put in a good word for him before the death. Everyman presents theological and palatable image of death as an Agent of God. The cornerstone of the British drama Everyman lies in finding the answer whether a man is able to cognize his life only in the face of death. Thus, the primary role of the death throughout the play consists in serving as a messenger of God and summoning people to account for the sins.


Development of Drama in the 15th Century

In parallel with the mystery and miracle plays, in the English theater of the 14-15th centuries, there was the development of a particular dramatic genre morality (moral play). Morality meant allegorical representation, which had particular instructive trend. Pineas states that morality plays are worth a thousand words, the visual impact of the homiletic play must have been worth many sermons. The actors in such plays embodied scenic images of abstraction: vices, virtues, or purely generic human figure in general, e.g. the human race, age, etc. The dramatic conflict of morality consisted in the struggle between good and evil, which was personified in various ways. It could be the fight for man, his soul, eternal moral truths. By prosperous denouement, morality sought to instill pacifying the value of repentance and the need for religious discipline and claimed absolute authority of ecclesiastical authority. Widespread motive of morality was forgiveness of sinful soul. Morality opened the way to discussion in the drama of purely human affairs and everyday principles of behavior, enabled output on a stage of actors, who were not aware of church tradition. In England, in the 15th century, morality became a favorite genre and even affected mystery and miracle, where such characters as Sensuality, Curiosity, and Flesh began to appear. The first English moralities belong to the end of the 14th century. One of the most famous English morality play is Everyman (Somonynge of Everyman) dramatizes not all human life, but only last dying hours.

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In the play Everyman, as in all morality, cautionary tendency is manifested in the instructions to the people. It encourages developing character and timely restrains the passions. This work is marked by a deep seriousness and almost tragic. The play enjoyed great popularity throughout much of the first half of the 16th century. Between 1509-1537 years, it was published four times in England. The time and even place of its occurrence remain unclear. Fletcher emphasizes that Everyman is that of a tale which though familiar in various guises during the Middle Ages, retains essentially the same structure.

Everyman is depicted as Dutch citizen. He vainly seeks himself among the bales with goods, barrels and boxes, sciences and arts, in the countryside and war. Before the hero, there is a mirror with the inscription Know thyself. Everyman lives, not anticipating death. He is entirely devoted to worldly pleasures. Nevertheless, the death is up to him to call for the judgment of God. In vain, he asks for a postponement and wants to bribe unexpected guest. The death requires immediately going on a journey of no return. However, Everyman did not immediately realize the hopelessness of his situation. He asks Friendship, Relatives, and Property to accompany him in this pilgrimage, but they turn away from him. Then he turned for help to the Good Deeds, as they are embodied in one person: Garvey states that the fifteenth-century morality play Everyman tells of a man confronted by death, deserted by friends, family, wealth, strength, beauty.


However, Good Deeds is on the earth, cold, weakened, and associated with sins of Everyman so that he could not stir. Good Deed sends Everyman to his sister, Knowledge that leads him to the confessor, dressing him in clothing of contrition. Everyman, who is accompanied by Deeds that recovered from exhaustion, his sister, Prudence, Strength, Beauty, and five senses, is concerned about the performance of the latter cases, writes his will and goes to an open grave. At the sight of the horrors of corruption, he is leaved by Beauty, Strength, Prudence, and five senses one after the other. Only Knowledge remains with him. In the end, the human soul that is clear of contamination is gladly accepted by heavenly forces. All work is concluded by simple morality that is uttered by some doctor.

Everyman reveals the theme of frailty of the life. The play shows that people are transitory in their lives. It depicts the journey of the character from his sinful life to death that is free of sins. It is a key theme of the play that shows that people cannot take daily things beyond the grave. Everything in the life is temporary, changing, moving towards the death. There are only two eternal things: heaven and hell.

The main theme in the play is about the death. Its role is bringing people to Gods judgment. Despite the fact that the play does not explore humans emotional reaction to the death, it is crucial to note that the pilgrimage of Everyman to the grave shows what a man has to do before his death.

Theme of Death

In the play, Everyman personifies mankind and all that people can experience in their life until the Gods judgment. The journey of Everyman serves as a lesson for all people. The hero meets various aspects of the life in his path. The play focuses attention on the significant eternal themes of life, death, love, friendship, and retribution. Harper and Britt  turn attention o the fact that Everyman's life is merely on loan. Everyman reaps the consequences of his deeds in the face of the death. Death is considered as the allegorical character.

Nevertheless, Death serves also as a target for the main character. In the face of the death, a man understands what he should do. Unfortunately, Everyman chose a wrong way with a number of bad deeds and only few good actions. Death has changed his attitude and perception of life and deeds. In the play, Death also plays a role of resistant opponent of the hero, who tries to force it for negotiation in vain. However, after countless attempts to avoid his last day, he changes his views.

The theme of death forces the viewers of the play to pay special attention to the significance of various scenarios. In the play, Death turns into the reminder that a man has to repay for all bad and good deeds that were committed throughout the life. Everyman received a chance to reevaluate lifes meaning and correct mistakes. Thus, Death refreshes peoples memory and creates the real value system. Paulson states that the play emphasizes protagonists transformation of social relationships, underscoring the significance of penance.

The main aim of Death is awakening Everyman and directing him to right deeds and choices. Despite the cruelness and particular unpleasant characteristics of Death, he remains an instrument of correction rather than punishment. Authors treatment of Death is expressed in Everymans actions, his fear of Death. Meeting with Death confuses and distresses Everyman. This is explained by the fact that he has lived in sin and realized his fate.

Anonymous author of Everyman considers Death as Gods servant. In his play, the author leaves numerous spaces that are intended to direct the audience for the further consideration of the real nature of death. Its character is unquestionable. The death is the only things that should be expected by every person. The image of Death is used for description of metaphor of moral death. It reveals everything that remains invisible in the daily life. The theme of death raises a big concern to mankind. Despite death is a servant of God, people are afraid of it. Everyman shows mans path to death and Gods judgment in order to change mans mind and persuade people about power of God and inevitability of Death. Thus, death is strong in ordinary life, but carries out its mission in order to bring man back to God.


Everyman (Summoning of Everyman) is a bright and popular example of morality plays that became widespread in England in 14-15th centuries. The author, time, and even place of creation of this play are unknown. All characters play an important role in the understanding of the play. Nevertheless, special attention is paid to Death that is represented as Gods servant and messenger. The common perception and treatment of Death consists in the fact that death performs function of taking humans life. Through descriptions and allegorical representation of the relationship of God and Death, as well as interaction between Death and Everyman, anonymous author depicted the comprehension of mans future in the medieval society. Being a character, Death brings people closer to the insight of Christian doctrine.

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