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The morality play Everyman is an allegory which carries two different levels of meaning. These two different levels of meaning are used to help the audience understand the author and the society in which he lives. The content of this play also helps the reader to better understand the author and his culture. This portrays how each character, idea, moral issue, and ideology of the era is personified. The original audiences of this era understood the role of religion in their lives. They also greatly believed in the reality of death, heaven, hell, and an afterlife.
Everyman has three main characters. They are Everyman, Good Deeds, and Knowledge. They play essential roles for the reader to better understand how the author feels society views its way of life. The play Everyman has a literal meaning of an individual named Everyman who goes on a journey to the end of his life and tries to get his friends to accompany him along the way. On Everyman’s voyage, Good Deeds is the only one who can accompany him into death, and he is the only character that is able to linger with him before the presence of God. Since Knowledge can only lead Everyman to Good Deeds, Knowledge cannot accompany him all the way on his journey before God. Humanity can take this at a literal level in that your friends are influences in your life that help to sway your decisions, but not all will go to the same resting place in death. Now, symbolically Everyman is, of course, the representation of every human being alive. The other basic characters like Fellowship and Goods for example are supposed to be of what every man, so to say, has in life. Some of these basic characters are there to help find life’s true meaning and the fulfillment in things that will last. The moral of the story becomes clear in that we need to examine now what in the end will truly prove to be of value.
There are also a set of ideas that are laid out by the author. These ideas are the central propose of the play. One theme or idea indicates that man will always be betrayed by worldly companions, and that each man is eventually selfish when it comes down to the end. This idea of betrayal sheds light on a principle specific to this theme and forces the character Everyman to seek out a superior truth. The superior truth being that death itself is impending, and to be considered the most fear-provoking experience that man will face. This is the fear that according to this culture would make a man need more time because he was not ready for death, and in addition be made to consider his life and deeds. Another theme or idea focuses on the inventible separation or division from loved ones when in the judgment of your life’s actions. This gives the audience the notion that a man is never more alone than during his time of death. Now, the idea that follows is also important for the author and he wants society to recall this belief. This is when Everyman is feeling most terrified and without help, he is given the chance to compensate for his actions. Still the author perceives that death is unconquerable and that it does not spare any one.
The story Everyman seeks to answer the important moral issues. Such as, the conflict between good and evil is drawn out into the open by the communication between characters. This play shows us not only how every man should meet death but also how every man should live. It is saying that how a man lives his life, whether good or evil, he would be judged based on his deeds and that all the material things in life cannot grant you salvation. The cultural accounting belief in this society, it is a man and his good deeds that will offer access to heaven. Thus once again, it is only Good Deeds who can accompany Everyman on his final journey. When faced with God’s judgment, man’s riches, the unsavory reputation of his friends, and the significance of his family will not speak for his worth. Only the good deeds that a man does here on earth can speak for him before God. Accordingly, good deeds are more important than faith in achieving salvation in this society.
The ideology of the play Everyman was intended to help reinforce the importance of God and religion in people’s lives during this time period. In this play, God represents salvation, but it is religion that provides the means to achieve that salvation. This particular drama of the medieval period focus is how religion and a belief in God will help man overcome any travail, including death. Although God appears as a character only at the beginning of the play, his presence is felt throughout as Everyman begins to recognize his need for help beyond the earthly realm. Now, sin is the motivation for this play. It is sin that angers God in the play. It is Everymen’s sins that force his final judgment. He has sinned much in his life, and the audience is told that his sins are so great that Good Deeds is at a standstill. Only when he can be aware of and abandon his sins can Everyman be saved.
I feel that the play Everyman can still be seen and read today with the same ideas and values that existed during the Middle Ages. When you talk to people in everyday life you see their values and morals are all based off of how they live and interact with others. Also when you bring up the concept of death to anyone they normal speak as if they have a life time of waiting before death will come to them and how they will in old age get prepared for death.
The morality play Everyman is a drama which has a religious meaning. This meaning is brought to the surface in a symbolic way. This is used to describe the author and the cultural beliefs in which he wrote about. The play portrayed how each character, idea, moral issue, and ideology of the era and how it came to life. This is one of the ways that audiences of this era understood the role of religion in their lives.
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