Everyman Morality Play
Death as Part of Religious Transformation
The depiction of death in the play is entirely consistent with the Catholic during the medieval period. Considering that the play was written before the protestant reformation and no real ecclesiastical challenge existed to the Catholic orthodoxy, the play promulgates the doctrine of salvation in a great way. According to the Protestant belief system, faith is quintessential in salvation and thereby, predestination is the true concept. Protestants believe that God has already destined every human on earth to find his way to either hell or Heaven one day and that it is impossible to change the will of God.
On the other hand, Catholics believe that salvation is a personal choice of every believer. Catholicism is based on the notion that the manner, in which humans conduct their day-to-day lives, determines their fate in the afterlife, and every person is doomed to face death. The author points out that good deed would enable a person to escape the everlasting lake of fire and after death, no one would have faculties to change.
Good deeds are used allegorically in the play as an instrument that enables Everyman to be saved following the step he took to renounce the whole of his sinful past through repentance. Therefore, the play illustrates how death is viewed differently among Christians: with Catholics seeing death as a way into salvation while Protestants see it as a way of meeting destiny depending on one’s deeds on earth.
Death as God’s Messenger
At the commencement of Everyman, the author portrays death as a reliable (mighty) messenger of God by showing how God calls on his messenger to execute justice on his behalf, and Death responds in abject humility. In this context, it is clear how Death arrives when God orders it, thus implying that God has all the authority to summon death whenever he chooses. The ongoing relationship between them is clarified. Indisputably, Death accounts for his superior, who is God and is ready to execute whatever he orders. The relationship is also authoritative in nature with the obvious pecking order being God over Death.
It sheds light on the intrinsic functions similar to the military line of command where the commanding officer issues an order that the subjects are supposed to follow without defiance or question. The soldiers are made to believe that anything the superior officer asks them to do will contribute to the greater good of the subjects. Their faith lies neither in the orders themselves nor in the orders issued by their up-line commander but in the convictions and character of their superior. Their belief in the order is based on their belief in him. For instance, in Lines 61-65, Death replied, “Almighty God, I am here at will, Your commandment to fulfill”.
On the same note, Death also keenly listens to the directions provided by God just the same way soldiers normally listen to their commanding officer. This is exemplified in Line 66-71 when God sends Death to Everyman to make him see his name, the pilgrimage he must take, and without fail, he takes along a sure reckoning. From these lines, the author depicts the firmness of God’s orders with statements such as, ‘…in My name,’ ‘…sure reckoning’ and ‘without delay’. It hardly gives any room for excuse, escape, or failure.
In lines 72-77, Death further illustrates his submission by calling God ‘Lord.’ This shows an act of obedience. He proceeds to promise to go and subdue all, beset everyone who has adopted a beastly living, strike all who love riches, and take them to hell to dwell eternally. Therefore, Death has the authority of speaking on God’s behalf, which means that Death has a full comprehension of God’s intent. Thus, it illustrates the character of Death as a loyal servant of the Almighty God.
Death is God’s Educator
God summons Death as an educator to go on his behalf to request for a reckoning rather than slay people or execute his wrath. Based on the monologue featured at the beginning of the play, which shows how God’s creations have deviated from his ways, it is certain to say that God needed an educator. The monologue shows that God had followed the ways of his creation. It made him disappointed to learn that they were hardly concerned about his will but rather engrossed in the worldly ways to the extent of losing sight of the eternal life. God laments over all that he has given to his creation and death is what they deserved.
God foresaw that if the man were left without his intervention, he would end up leaving all human semblances and eventually implode in his morals. God uses Death as his educator when he sends him to enter an interactive educational talk with him. As shown in the early lines, God has clarified that man is accorded all the pleasures and goods, and then Death is seen addressing the same theme when conversing with Everyman, thus re-educating him that all his possessions have been given to him by God. This truth is further affirmed by another character: Goods.
Death, while serving as God’s educator, has become a catalyst for change. The imminent pursuit of Death stirred a series of events that needed Everyman to chose between his life and God. Death did his job successfully after conveying the message God had sent him with and had tried to correct all the fallacies existing within Everyman’s system of belief. Lines 72-77 also culminate the truth about the nature of Death as one who educates God.
From the play, it is evident that God expressed a great disappointment with the fallen nature of his creation as it is illustrated through a list of a number of specific complaints. The talk between God and Death is brief: just adequate to give Death all the necessary instructions. (83) . When a comparison is drawn from the words of Death, his monologue, and that short interlude, distribution of information seem to incongruent.
This begs the question as to how Death manages to know the heart of God. It is questionable how Death knows that God is disturbed by the fact that Everyman does not care about his love for money or foolish conduct. Despite the fact that the writer does not divulge the source of Death’s foreknowledge, one can realize that Death is undoubtedly God’s close confidante or God has made known to Death his true nature and character. In either way, the inference that can be drawn from this is that Death is part of God’s inner circle. It is beyond reasonable doubts that God and Death have an intimate relationship.
Therefore, Death is the perfect choice of God’s agent who is trusted to act under his authority as opposed to other subjects who only knows his heart. Additionally, Death’s choice of words indicates moral alignment, for example, ‘cruelly,’ and ‘beastly’ among others thus showing his partiality as a messenger. Death accepts to carry God’s message because he solely accounts for him, he is his close acquaintance, and he has an agreement with him. Therefore, Death is an important informer to God, and he demonstrates loyalty, submission, allegiance, and intimacy while relating to God.
In conclusion, this essay discusses the way Death is featured in the play Everyman. Death is a scary topic in contemporary society. However, the artistic elements and entertaining dialogues in the play make it one of the most acted plays to date. The understanding of death in this play defines how people lead their normal lives. It spreads the idea of the way people go through inner struggles to choose between the spiritual judgment and things of the world. It presents a conflict between the spiritual judgment, riches, heaven and hell, and relationship.
The author shows to the readers how life is transitory in nature by giving a steady account of Everyman’s journey of transformation from a life of sin to a sinless life and, lastly, to a righteous death. The play is relevant to date and it still captures the way Christians live their lives in the conscious preparation for the afterlife. Death is portrayed as an important part of the religious process, the messenger of God on earth, and God’s educator.
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