Middle Age Society and Everyman

Middle Age Society and Everyman

In the morality play “Everyman” it goes without saying that the author, who is unknown, was trying to make a point about life and death. During the Middle Ages when there were so many plagues that were deadly spreading and wars that were among them the people thought about death and dying a lot. In this play I believe that the author was speaking to society and trying to tell them to prepare themselves for the time that they too shall meet death and to make sure that they are ready. How they are to get ready is the question and each character brought out in this play was intended to teach that lesson to the audience. Most notably, I feel, is Knowledge and Good Deeds that made the most impact in the story. The story of Everyman is a story of morality; it teaches a lesson, a moral. No matter what time, age, or place that we are in, it is safe to say that we all need a lesson in morality.

Knowledge gives a person power and can give one a sense of belonging and satisfaction. It makes up who a person can be. It is defined as-- the fact of knowing about something; general understanding or familiarity with a subject, place, situation. When Knowledge entered the play, she had the ability to change the feeling from despair and upset to the feeling of happiness and joy. Knowledge was Everyman's only hope to realize how he has spent his life. She is the one who helps him to see the errors committed in his life and that he must make atonement for his sins that he has committed. Knowledge tells him “Everyman, I wyll go with the, and be thy gyde in thy moost nede to go by thy side”. She also leads him to Confessions and penance. Knowledge does promise to go along the journey with Everyman, but in the end it is not Knowledge that will get him into heaven so she tells him that she cannot accompany him any further.

Good Deeds starts out as a lump lying on the ground. Good Deeds tells Everyman that Everyman's sins are keeping him on the ground. Good Deeds goes on to tell Everyman that he will follow Everyman on his journey, but this time it is different; Good Deeds already knows exactly what journey Everyman is going to be taking. Everyman, after hearing of this promise, screams out to the Lord Jesus for help. Good Deeds responds with “There is a blind reckoning in time of distress” , which is equivalent to the “there are no atheists in foxholes” line; when times are stressful, one is more likely to call out for help in a higher being than when things are going well. This line is very notable because it is one of the first lines spoken by a character that Everyman calls upon that questions Everyman's faith. This leads Good Deeds to the introduction of his sister, Knowledge, who is to lead Everyman to Confession to rid him of his sins.

During the Middle Ages, Christians believed they needed to do good works to get into heaven. Remember that this was before the Protestant Reformation, so most Christians belonged to "The Church" -- which was the Catholic Church at this time. Even though Ephesians 2:8 and 9 says, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” This idea was not prevalent until after the Protestant Reformation. Remember that during the Middle Ages, popes were corrupt, and church leaders were selling indulgences. This is what reformers, notably Martin Luther, were so outraged by. Initially, they did not want to break way from The Church, they wanted to "reform" it - hence the name, "Reformation". In any case, when Martin Luther nailed his 95 Thesis onto the door of the cathedral in Germany, one of the problems he had was that the church was not preaching Scripture correctly. Menare expected to do good works ONLY after being saved, he believed, and only because it built up God's kingdom on earth. Otherwise, men would brag, like it says in Ephesians. Men are saved only because God saves us, not because of anything we can do. So, when Everyman is called to give an account of his good works, this was a popular, accepted and "correct" idea - something that every Christian must do - in the mind of a Middle Ages believer. If you did enough good works, you not only would get into heaven, but you would get to live in a pretty good "mansion" while you were there.

The fact that the playwright of Everyman is anonymous doesn't mean that we can take the play out of its context of being a Middle Age morality play. And with that being the case, it is clear to see the author's stance- that good deeds and God are the only things that truly matter in the end, and good deeds are the only things you can take with you when you die. Although that is not necessarily the belief of every Christian today, that was what the Middle Age people believed. This kind of play made an impact on their society and remains popular today as religion and God are still a large part of our society and lives. We still should seek for the knowledge of our ways and still seek to do good deeds. Even though I personally do not believe that good deeds gets us into heaven but that of accepting the Lord Jesus Christ as personal savior, doing good while on this earth will not hurt anyone and will be rewarded once I reach the end of my life and meet my Savior and he can tell me “well done thy good and faithful servant”.

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