The author’s perpective of death and the treatment of death in Everyman
Write a 1,500-word (5�7 pages) essay that addresses ‘EVERYMAN’ from the Drama Unit. A minimum of 6
citations, including the primary source and at least 5 secondary scholarly sources, is required for this assignment.
-The assignment MUST INCLUDE a 1-page thesis statement and outline
-Actual research paper
-bibliography of sources used.
Format the thesis/outline, the draft, and bibliography using current APA format.
Address in the paper:
Discuss the author�s perception of death and the treatment of death in ‘Everyman.’
The author’s perspective of and the personification of Death in Everyman
The play titled “Everyman” is a moralist play, a form of performed art that was common in English
Theater during the 16th Century. It followed a style of presentation that had a narrative acted out in such a
manner that it would deliver a moral lesson to the audience that was in attendance. Most common plays
from this period have well-known playwrights, top on the list being Shakespeare. The play titled
“Everyman” however stands out for two reasons. The first reason is the fact that its author remains
anonymous to this day. The second reason why it is unique is the manner in which it uses allegory with
concepts such as death, life, company, wealth, humanity and also good virtues. Ordinarily these aspects or
elements of life were represented in plays as ideas creatively maintained in the respective scenes.
‘Everyman’ is however delivered through allegory where each of the main ideas to be used in the play
have tangible actors with verbal exchanges with the play’s protagonist. This makes it possible for these
different issues to be packaged in a different way from the way they were usually done. The format of
‘everyman’ gives the audience an alternate perspective of death based on what the anonymous viewer
believed about this concept. Death, in the mindset of this play’s playwright takes on several roles in
mankind’s existence and relationship with God. Death, in the play ‘everyman’ appears to be have more of
an active role than a passive one where it is signified as a stage marking the end of life on earth. This can
be compared to the belief that people have in the ‘grim reaper’ since this is the only other example of
death taking on a personified role. The different roles that death plays are brought out through the
dialogue that exists between it and God as well as the dialogues it has with everyman (Cohn, 2015).
The manner in which the author views death helps to bring out the roles that death played in the
playwright of the author. The dialogue in this play paints death as a servant of God as well as his
messenger to humanity. Death is the common denominator and this means that it makes all men equal at
the time of their judgment. Death is also a moralist for humanity in the author’s point of view. Death
serves to give man vital life lessons, a catalyst for chance and also an executor of God’s punishments on
earth. In the paragraphs below, these different roles of death will be expounded upon (King, 2014).
The role of death as God’s messenger is seen at the start of the play. At the beginning of the play, death is
having a conversation with God as the latter laments about how much he is disappointed in mankind. God
tells death that mankind is out of control and the reason for this is the lack of accountability for their
actions is the lack of consequences. God further proceeds to suggest that this lack of accountability and
obedience comes from the fact that humans are not conscious about what will happen to them after they
pass on, that is heaven or hell as the final fate for humanity. Death listens keenly and it appears that the
way he works is based on what God feels about people. This is the first illustration that death is not
merely a passive stage. His relationship with God can be compared tot he relationships that angels have
with God as detailed in scriptures. The proximity and the context of the conversation closely mirrors the
conversation that God has with angels in several Bible stories such as prior to the tormenting of Job and
also during creation. This dialogue therefore foreshadows the role that death plays in the perspective of
the playwright (Barnow, 2012).
Death also plays the role of a common denominator for all humanity. Given the heavy use of allegory in
this play, it is safe to assume that the main character, everyman, represented humanity and not really a
specific single individual. Death is sent to everyman to teach him a lesson, this refers to the profound
reactions and thoughts that people have when they come face to face with the issue of their mortality.
When death comes close to a person, it is normal for them to think about themselves, for example when
they are at a funeral or similar gathering. The reason why death is seen as humanity’s common
denominator is the fact that it catalyzes the process of separating people with their material possessions
and wealth, leaving them all equal before their final judgment. In the context of the play this is seen by
death informing everyman that he will take away. The material possessions that death strove to take away
from everyman were goods and knowledge. These were also personified as human-like characters. Goods
refer to all forms of wealth that an individual would gather during their time on earth while knowledge
was more or less the same as intellect that an individual gathered while on earth. These two are apparently
really important to everyman and this is indicative of the importance they have to humanity. Material
possessions and knowledge are considered to be important since they are the things that determine the
worth of an individual while he or she is on earth. Death gets rid of this hegemony that exists between
people by ensuring man is separated from the two. Once this happens, people get to leave the earth as
equals without the ability to gain unfair leverage above their counterparts on earth. This appears to be one
of the main role death plays in the lives of humanity. God talks about humans in a manner that suggests
that they are feeling invincible and beyond reproach for their actions. As such death is sent to reset the
status quo and place it in a manner that God desires it where humans focus on what is actually important
In Death’s work of resetting the status-quo, it also plays another role. This role is that of revealing to
humanity what is actually important in this life and beyond. This aspect of death’s work in humanity’s
existence is seen in the grace-period he gives everyman, a chance for him to make his life right before his
life on earth comes to an end. From the author’s point of view, the issue of death is meant to give lessons
to humanity, not just the dying buy humanity in general, people need to realize that there is a bigger
picture than what they can see in their immediate environment. God sends death because everyman is
short sighted in the things he values. The authors may likely have seen this in his own society, people
prioritizing things that are selfish and not really of any value in a spiritual context. When people witness
death, hear of it or just think of it, it makes them think twice about their own existence and what they are
currently doing in their lives and how this will reflect on their existences after death. This was done in a
context where Christianity was the main if not only form of faith in England. As such these people
believed in heaven or hell with the former being a place for those who lived a virtuous life and the latter
being a place where sinners got punished. Within the strict context of the play, sinners would have been
those who held close to goods and knowledge at the expense of good deeds. Good deeds as the only
friend who everyman had vaguely refers to the fact that one’s ascension into heaven was pegged on not
just refraining from sin but actively engaging in positive actions.
Last but not least, death appears to be the determinant of a person’s fate in terms of the final judgment that
he or she will be subjected to at the end of their lives. In the play death does not instantly go to take the
life of everyman. His conversation with man begins with somewhat of an introduction and this leads to
their having a conversation. During the conversation death makes man aware of the fate awaiting him.
The other friends of man, virtues and vices such as the love for wealth and knowledge are given an
opportunity to reveal their true nature and worth for everyman before he dies. Good deeds are also given a
chance to reveal themselves and give man a chance to take them seriously and to heart. Death had the
option of immediately taking the life of man but instead he gives man a chance to actually purge the vices
and embrace virtues. In this regard death appears to have used some form of discretion instead of being as
harsh and scary as humanity believes. This however also means that death had the option and ability to
take the lives of other people without giving them a chance to make their ways right (Potter, 1975)
From the above it is clear that the creative use of allegory by the anonymous playwright of this play helps
tremendously in painting death in more than one dimension. The verbal interaction between death and
other characters in the play is significant in that it gives the audience a chance to see the different roles
and attributes of death not previously thought about. Death appears to do God’s bidding when it comes to
the relation between humanity and the concept of mortality. The main character and possible the audience
all get to learn about the importance of being deliberate about good deeds as well as being weary about
the perils of loving wealth too much.
Anonymous (n.d.) Everyman
Potter, R. A. (1975). The English Morality Play: Origins, History, and Influence of a Dramatic Tradition.
Gilman, D. (1989). Everyman & company: essays on the theme and structure of the European moral play
(Vol. 15). Ams Pr Inc.
Barnouw, A. J. (2012). The Mirror of salvation: a moral play of Everyman C. 1490 (Vol. 2). Springer
Science & Business Media.
King, P. M. (2014). Rules of exchange in mediaeval plays and play manuscripts. Literature as Dialogue:
Invitations offered and negotiated, 22, 177.
Cohn, R. (2014). Just Play: Beckett’s Theater. Princeton University Press.