`Everyman’s Good Deeds – For Life or Death?
Everyman, in its attempt to clearly depict the importance of man’s morality, focuses on a faith based on works, however; this focus is not on good deeds already obtained but on locating said deeds before proceeding to death. It would seem, then, that it is not necessary for Everyman to reflect on good deeds he has performed but that he find a way to acquire them quickly. Unlike the Protestant view, which bases religion on faith alone, Everyman noticeably centers on the Catholic religion that was prevalent during medieval times. Since illiteracy was a vast problem, Catholic religious leaders needed to get their message out to their followers. It was vital that these people become aware of the fate of their souls if they disregarded works. Everyman made it clear to all that saw it that without “good deeds” they had no way to heaven. It did not, however, require that these good deeds be performed over time but that they could be found, through “knowledge”, before death came.
It is crucial to the interpretation of this drama that one believe that their eternity depends on the good works that they do in life. The fact that this is considered a “morality play” predicts that there will be a focus on what behavior is customary and accepted as upright. Yet, when Death comes, it does not demand that Everyman be ready instantaneously to give account for his life. Death gives notice and warns him when he says, “See thou make thee ready shortly”, and herein giving Everyman opportunity to make himself ready (468). Everyman then turns to Fellowship whom he feels is “best my complaint to make” (468).
By looking to Fellowship for comfort, Everyman displays his awareness of his failure in the works department. He does not immediately look for his works to save him from his fate. He looks for companionship for his journey. He acknowledges that he is in “great jeopardy” and wants to “ease” his...
Cited: Greenblatt, Stephen; M.H. Abrahams. (2006). The Norton Anthology of English
Literature: Volume A: Middle Ages. New York: Norton & Company, 463-484.
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