Everyman: A Morality Play (Illustrated with Notes and Bibliography)by Montrose J. Moses, Unknown
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The Somonyng of Everyman (The Summoning of Everyman), usually referred to simply as Everyman, is a late 15th-century English morality play. Like John Bunyan's 1678 novel Pilgrim's Progress, Everyman examines the question of Christian salvation by use of allegorical characters, and what Man must do to attain it. The premise is that the good and evil deeds of one's life will be tallied by God after death, as in a ledger book. The play is the allegorical accounting of the life of Everyman, who represents all mankind. In the course of the action, Everyman tries to convince other characters to accompany him in the hope of improving his account. All the characters are also allegorical, each personifying an abstract idea such as Fellowship, (material) Goods, and Knowledge. The conflict between good and evil is dramatized by the interactions between characters.
Nothing is known of the author. Although the play was apparently produced with some frequency in the seventy-five years following its composition, no production records survive.
There is a similar Dutch (Flemish) morality play of the same period called Elckerlijc. Scholars have yet to reach an agreement on whether Everyman is a translation of this play, or derived independently from a Latin work named Homulus.
Like the characters, the setting is allegorical: God speaks from heaven, then sends Death to earth to seek Everyman, who ascends to heaven in the final scene. Figuratively, the setting is anywhere on earth.
The cultural setting is based on the Roman Catholicism of the era. Everyman attains afterlife in heaven by means of good works and the Catholic Sacraments, in particular Confession, Penance, Unction, Viaticum and receiving the Holy Eucharist.
The play opens with a prologue, which takes the form of a messenger telling the audience to attend to the action to come, and to heed its lesson. Then God speaks, lamenting that humans have become too absorbed in material wealth and riches to follow Him. He feels taken for granted, because He receives no appreciation from mankind for all that He has given them. So God commands Death, His messenger, to go to Everyman and summon him to heaven to make his reckoning. Death arrives at Everyman's side and informs him it is time for him to die and face judgment.
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