The Summoning of Everyman
“It is appointed unto man once to die, but after this the judgment.”(Hebrews 9:27).
Death comes to all, and it comes without warning. This almost seems to be the message of the Play “Everyman”, while the author is unknown, it is widely accepted that it was written in the 15th century. The story meets an almost universal audience in its simplistic symbolism. In the story, Everyman is given a gift in the knowledge that he will soon die. The story is as disturbing as it is heartwarming. I understand why everyone fears death, even though everyone must face it. I have learned in this story that it is not important just that we live life, but that we live it well. It is not the treasure we have on earth but those we are able to take with us. In Everyman the reader seems himself. In this paper, the similarities between the story Everyman and every man will be discussed, I will show that the story is not just an entertaining yarn, but is a warning and an encouragement to every man.
There is an obvious indication as to the true genius of story, in its title Everyman, and in its ability to be easily translated into so many cultures, which is evident in the multiple resurgences of the play and the many different incarnations of the play from the literary scholar’s worldwide (Strietman pg. 130). This is a very difficult story to review as it is both a metaphor and a simile; the character Everyman is both the protagonist, and to a great degree the antagonist and the characters are all named in such a way that reviewing is confusing at best. In the story Everyman, Everyman is the name of the central character, who by the way, is a metaphor for every man. In the story, Death is sent by God to warn Everyman of his impending demise. The body of the story is a walk in which Everyman meets with varied characters who represent differing aspects of every man’s life. The story unfolds in a single day, in which the main character faces his own mortality and recognizes his fate, when reflecting on his life and his lack of virtue (good deeds). Upon first reading it appears that the story is dark and somber. But upon further reading the tale is a reflection on the love of God, His sacrifice, His willingness to forgive, and more the promise that His mercy is offered to all, up and until death takes its victim.
Death meets Everyman: The Play opens in Heaven, God is musing to Himself about the stubbornness and foolishness of man. Disgusted with the arrogance of Everyman, God decides to send Death to our hero (?), informing him that soon he shall make the final journey. Everyman is greeted on the road by Death, the messenger of God. In this scene Death explains to Everyman that God is angry and has become weary of his constant denial that all his wealth and blessings are from God. Death tells Everyman that God has decided to that it is coming time for him to die, and he shall soon have to make an accounting of his life and face God’s judgment. The similarity to every man begins here. While walking through life, each man/woman becomes aware of his/her own mortality and that life is fleeting. Even for the unsaved it is understood that an accounting of their life will occur, even if only for those who remain after them, or in the obituary that is written about them. Everyman is confronted with his own upcoming death, and he begins to reflect on his life. Death (the character) has met with Everyman and has told him that he will have to stand before God and make an accounting of his life and his good and bad deeds will be his only witness.
The journey begins - friends and family: Told of his plight, Everyman realizing that it is too late, death is upon him. He seeks to find a companion who will take the journey with him, someone who will give testimony to the deserving nature of Everyman. First Everyman meets with his friend