Discuss The Author's Perception Of Death And The Treatment Of Death In Everyman

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Discuss the author's perception of death and the treatment of death in Everyman

Author's Perception of Death and the Treatment of Death in Everyman


The anonymous, fifteenth century English morality play Everyman was first published in 1508. It relates through allegory the tale of a dying Everyman and the items and qualities he most values, which attend to him in his death. The play opens with a messenger preparing the way for God, who after an opening meditation commands Death to seek out Everyman and warn him that God sits in judgment of Everyman's soul. Death approaches Everyman and foretells his demise, telling Everyman that he will now undertake the pilgrimage of the soul and stand before God to be reckoned. Everyman pleads to be released from his journey, even begging for the journey to be delayed if only for a day, but Death reminds Everyman that he comes for all people in their turn. Everyman laments at his fate and attempts to find comfort and companionship for his journey.

Thesis Statement

The message of death in Everyman is associated with the search of the reasoning of life.

Author's perception of Death and Treatment of Death

The authors' perception of death and treatment of death are that one need not go quite so far afield. As Kolve and Williams attest, at the very center of Everyman's doctrinal concern is the generic morality emphasis upon the expiatory action of Calvary as the primary means by which "every man" might share in the fruits of the Atonement.

Thomas F. Van Laan has pointed out in this regard that through his extensive references to the Passion. The dramatist sets Christ's sacrifice and Everyman's progress in a significant thematic parallel: The Christic action--Christ's assumption of the human form, his suffering and death, and his subsequent resurrection--is pertinent to the meaning of Everyman, for it alone has made possible the salvation there enacted, and in Christian thought the successful pilgrimage of the individual analogously recreates that action."

What has been ignored, however, is that the playwright reorders the traditional moral play categories of human salvation in a wholly clear direction. Implicit in the Christocentric interest of the play is a functional definition of the efficacy of human knowledge, as the principal disposition by which man may indeed become an active agent in the work of his own redemption. Aberrant though it may appear, the dramatist's theology hews closely to the theory of satisfaction which arose in the later Middle Ages as an adjunct to the soteriological doctrine of Christus patiens, a theory that is largely Bernardine in the intellectual, as well as affective design by which it was known to the Everyman audience.

To understand the impact of the Bernardine penitential piety upon the doctrinal structure of Everyman is to appreciate the late-medieval emphasis upon the potentialities of human nature--not only that of Christ, but also that of man himself--as the operative principle in the redemptive process. Unlike the earlier Church Fathers who saw the victory, of Calvary in terms of ...
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