The title of this play is self-evident: the playwright intends the central character to represent every human being, for death is a universal human experience. It is a morality play, a dramatized sermon intended to teach the audience important theological concepts. Using allegory, it personifies abstractions; thus, characters such as Goods and Good Deeds walk and talk as though they were human.
Through the progress of the play, after Death has come for Everyman and before he enters the grave, he learns these lessons:
This play portrays perhaps as well as any piece of literature the official view of Christianity in the medieval period, the idea that anything worldly was likely to be evil, or at best, a distraction from the purpose of life, and that purpose was exclusively to prepare for the afterlife. The question arises, "Was everyone focussing entirely on spiritual matters and turning their backs on the pleasures of the world?" Chaucer's Canterbury Tales gives us a good answer: humans in the medieval period were just as they are today, paying homage to lofty ideals but rarely being able to live up to them.
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Last Updated: January 19, 2001