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The Treatment of Death in Everyman
Everyman is one of the longest running morality plays during the Middle Ages. The morality plays presented moral lessons and Christian ideals to the illiterate masses. The plays taught the masses how they should be behave and act towards one another in order to maintain a Christina lifestyle (Cummings, 2010). Everyman is a play that is about man's life and his fight to apply Christian ideals so that he will be allowed into the kingdom of heaven when he dies. The theme of death is central to the plot. The play continually reminds the viewer that our life here is temporary. It teaches them to focus on what happens when they die. However, this study will examine the thesis that even though the play contains numerous depictions of death and death imagery, Everyman is not really about death, it is a play about life and the life eternal.
The title of the play implies that the messages contained within apply to every single person on earth equally and that no one can escape them. This message applies to every man, regardless of their station in this lifetime. The focus of Everyman is on the afterlife. It urges the viewers to live for tomorrow, not for today, by doing good and remaining virtuous and steadfast in their morality.
Throughout the play, death serves as an inevitable and ever-present force in the lives of man. Death is the ticking clock, the sands of the hourglass running out it is the end of this life, and the beginning of the next. Everyman uses many symbols to portray the inevitability of the cycle of life such as the flower that withers and dies in the autumn and winter (Cummings, 2010). One of the most prevalent themes throughout the play is the deceptive nature of the material world and of sin. Sin and worldly goods can look enticing, but death is the continual reminder that in the end, everyone will have to make the same journey and face their final judgment. Death serves as the earthly force that guides man along his journey and reminds him of the need to stay mindful of how their actions affect the afterlife.
In the beginning of the play, death is commanded to go to Everyman and to bring him to him for his reckoning. Like many at the time of their death, Everyman tries to bargain with death, he tries to go back for a second chance, and he tries to bribe death to allow him to find some friends who can accompany him to increase his accounting of good deeds. This portrayal of death is familiar to the audience. In a time when the black plague was rampant and death was everywhere, this play established a connection with the audience through something that they were familiar with. In the end, all of Everyman's efforts to delay death were not successful. The message in the play is that when a man's time comes, it is time, and all of the begging in the world cannot change that.
Death represents inevitability and facing one's destiny, regardless of the other deeds that one has done in their life, they have no choice about when they will die. In this beginning scene, the point is driven home to the audience that death is one of the few things in our life that we do not have a choice about. We have many opportunities throughout our life to make choices, both good and bad, but we have no choice about death. Therefore, we must remain mindful of the one inevitability that will eventually come and make the choices that we can with the moment of our death in mind.
Much of the play revolves around Everyman's attempts to find someone to go with him into the afterlife and to speak for his good deeds. His friends will not go, nor will his family will go. He finds that they will not go, because they do not want to own up to their own sins in the present (Halsall, 1998). The play uses a twist on material earthly goods and good deeds. Everyman finds that his goods and good deeds are not the same. He finds that all of his material goods on earth would not speak well of him in…[continue]
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