Allegorical Elements in Everyman

Allegory is a literary device according to which the characters and events presented in a literary work have secondary meaning or significance. Even abstract qualities are presented as human characters. Basically, this kind of device is well suited to a treatment of moral and religious issues.

During the medieval period, allegory was predominant for imparting moral and religious lessons to the people. However, allegory is not necessarily confined to moral and religious issues and can be advantageously employed for dealing with other issues and for imparting different lessons indirectly. Medieval drama depended heavily on this method. Everyman, a medieval morality play is a good example of allegory.

Everyman as a representative medieval morality play aims at imparting moral lessons allegorically by presenting abstract qualities as characters in a play. Everyman’s journey from life to death is allegorically every Christian's journey from life to death. Everyman has qualities like Good Deeds, Beauty, and Happiness as characters. As the play opens Everyman is asked by the messenger to present the account of his sins and virtues as he has to prepare for death. Everyman is caught unprepared and is in great trouble. The side of sin weighs heavier than that of virtue on the scales. The journey of life is a preparation for a higher spiritual life. For this reason one should live a life of morality without giving priority to the mundane gains and pleasure. The play upholds Christian virtues and the characters presented stand for abstract qualities. Cloaking characters with abstract qualities make the play an absolute Allegory. The journey of Everyman is allegorically a journey of every Christian. It stands for a pilgrimage and should be undertaken with morality in mind all the time. The desertion of Everyman by all others except good deeds highlights the value of good work in life. Beauty, wealth, and relatives are merely temporary companions and it is the good works one has done that, make the journey bearable, comfortable and easy. Therefore, presentation of abstract qualities as characters, the journey of life as a journey on a spiritual plane and Everyman as every Christian for imparting moral and religious lessons makes Everyman an Allegorical play.

Everyman lived his life with a greater emphasis on wealth, happiness and worldly pleasure without devoting himself to the service of god. He was lost in the greed and pleasure of mundane existence without ever thinking of the day of death and the judgment, he would have to face in front of the heavenly father at the time of death. When Death suddenly comes to take him away and asks him to present an account of his life detailing the good and the bad he has done during his life, Everyman is awe-struck at this because he is not prepared for this moment. Everyman requests Death to wait till tomorrow so that he would ask for advice from others and would be better prepared for death. Death wouldn't listen to Everyman and is ready to strike him at the heart. It is Death's nature to come suddenly without announcing its arrival in advance. Death as a power is simply unfeeling and unyielding. It says that it will not consent and spare nobody and would not need any advice and pleas. Whether Everyman is prepared it doesn't care and asks Everyman to be ready shortly.

Everyman Study Center

Introduction of Everyman

Summary of Everyman

The World of Medieval Drama in Everyman

Themes of Everyman