the light fantastic

vague ramblings re: early british lit

Friday, September 08, 2006


Obviously, this play is steeped in symbols and morals. Friends, Family, Material Goods, Physical Humanity (beauty, 5 wits, discretion) all failed Everyman in his grave, and the only thing that stayed until the very end was Good Deeds. This is all straightforward and to be expected, with God demanding accountability of Everyman and Death being his angel and so forth.

The willingness of various characters to join and then their reluctance and refusal to follow his death is written with flair, shall we say? At first they are all eager to be true, to comply with Everyman's love and appreciation for them. Then, their selfish fears take over and they refuse to rot and decay in the grave. In fact, Death can be grouped with the characters, since he started out a bit friendly, conveying God's message, urging him to start his journey and only in line 115, does his starkness come out;
"I am Death that no man dreadeth,
For every man I'rest, and no man spareth;"

The most unsettling thing about this was the emphasis put on Good Deeds. Being accountable for your actions (good and bad, confessing sins, etc) might be the only thing you could bring before God, but who knew that it would be so conceited? I would think that no matter his good deeds, Everyman would feel shame at having done bad deeds before...or perhaps that Good Deeds would be more humble about it all. Instead, here he is claiming that he's the only one that can/will help Everyman before God. Everyman, in turn, is in love with Good Deeds, not particularly for the sake of salvation, but for the fact that now he won't be alone in his grave. Was loneliness (or solitude, for a certain euphemism) so harsh that Everyman couldn't just suck it up and accept life? or in this case Death.

I don't know; the moral of this play was clear, but the nuance of the conversations between Everyman and Good Deeds, and for that matter Knowledge too, threw me for a loop. I mean, was Knowledge Everyman's knowledge, or was he representing God's-Mercy-via-Knowledge? He sure knew alot about how to carry on this dying business, pardon the blatant abuse of pun.


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