Deaths Mission from God
The play Everyman often hailed as one of the most influential morality plays ever written. The Bloomsbury Dictionary of English Literature states: “A morality play is a term used by modern critics to distinguish plays expounding points of moral doctrine, extant from the fifteenth- century, from other kinds of contemporary vernacular drama, which commemorate the events of Christian history (such as the cycle plays or saints' plays)” ("Morality Plays," 1997, para. 1). The exact author of the play often debated, as there are many sources recognized for the play. Everyman may be an adaptation of a Dutch play entitled Elckerlijc although it is unclear to which play aided as a foundation for the other ("Everyman," 2000). Written during the height of the Roman Catholic Rule, the play contains several references to the Roman Catholic act of penance. Everyman finds that his Good Deeds cannot continue with him, and it is not until Knowledge brings him to Confession, whom like Good Deeds before him gives Everyman the comfort of “ a precious jewel” called penance that Everyman finally understands why Good Deeds lays ill. According to an article on the CARM website: “Penance, according to the Roman Catholic Church, the sacrament of reconciliation that reestablishes a relationship between God and a wayward Catholic” (Slick, n.d., para. 1). This morality plays main purpose was to teach the audience virtuous behavior, and conduct, as well to heed a warning to all who live in sin. The author of Everyman uses the powerful representation of death to bring the protagonist to salvation.
The role of death is fascinating; although he only shows up in the first part of the play, he is a constant reminder that judgment day is coming for Everyman. This one act play uses death as an attention getter, ingrained in us all is the utter fear of death, and nobody can escape death. The author skillfully uses this knowledge of the fear of death to surprise and engage the audience's attention. God calls for death, and he enters the scene. He takes on a special assignment:
God: Where art thou, death, thou mighty messenger?
Death: Almighty God, I am here at your will, your commandment to fulfil.
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.
(McNee, White, & Bassanesi, n.d., para. 3)
This passage points to death as a mere messenger for God. The author uses death as an allegorical depiction of death itself as he does with all the characters; used to represent the effects of good and evil. This morality play is a dramatic allegory; in it the author uses a subtle dramatic irony when using death as a personification. The author shows the protagonist as a man focused on earthly wants, and he fails to recognize death for what he is. Even when Everyman realizes his predicament, he tries to...