In Christianity, death is a rite of passage which is regarded as the commencement of a new life after death. Death is sudden and painless in a biological view whereas, in a personalist view, death is viewed as tolerable when there is hope in dying. The author of the play Everyman dissects the issue of death from the Roman Catholic point of view. The message delivered is that people should regard morality and righteousness in their quest to inheriting the eternal Heavenly Kingdom after death. The play indicates that Everyman should be saved to guarantee a place in Heaven or hell if he does not get salvation before death. Soul damnation is taken into account when considering the actions of individuals on the Judgement day. The journey to inheriting the Heavenly Kingdom in the authors view begins with salvation, leading a righteous life with purityforgiveness when individual sin. This paper will look at the treatment and perception of death in the play Everyman.
In society, death is assumed to be the taker of life. Death is loathed and treated with fear as it is perceived to be cruel and unforgiving in many cultures. It is easy to concur with the perception that death is inevitable as it takes loved ones from the living, leaving them with pain, sorrow and grief. The Bible (Job 14:5 NIV) says that a man's days are determined; you have decreed the number of his months and have set limits he cannot exceed. Death is gloomy as it deprives a persons ability to living, making the living act weirdly. Peoples thinking and interpretations of death are relative and different because of factors like individual beliefs. The Christian and biblical definition of death is dependent on the life that the person led. If a person led a righteous life, his death would be regarded as a good death in contrast to a person who led a sinful life. Adu-Gyamfi and Schmidt (2011) allude that person that led a sinful life will endure pain, brimstone and eternal fire in hell. A person who lived a righteous life shall rise with the dead in Christ and share the glory of resurrection with God. It is believed that life in paradise will be singing glory to God.
People plan to move and live in a better place in the future. Therefore, death cannot be categorized as good or bad depending on the life an individual led. Death being a transition rite, it is a concept people regard differently in society (Bradford, 2017). The time an individual will die is not specified, but is attributed to the fact that everything must end eventually. Christians try to live a righteous life and seek forgiveness any time they do something wrong as they believe they will pay the ultimate price when they die. The living associate with mortals. People in some cultures dissociate with the dead as they cannot relate.
Death can be classified as good or bad depending on the way in which individuals die. If one does not battle with death in the dying moments, then it can be considered a good death, but if the individual dies while battling, their death is considered cruel. However, the living cannot ascertain the concept of life after death because of ambiguity as no individual other than Jesus Christ has died and come back to life, (Thessalonians 4:13-14 NIV). Therefore, death is an issue that is subject to different opinions and treatment.
Everyman is a Christian morality play that was published in the fifteenth century striving to make people believe in God and the need for salvation. Besides, in the play, Everyman and other characters portray the lives of the common man, what they think of life and how they contemplate death (Laurio, 1995). Everyman refers to the common man irrespective of his or her social status, religion, gender, age or race. The reader of the play can be able to connect with Everyman who existed in the good old days as described in the play. However, in the modern society, there is Everyman who is individualistic and medieval in comparison to the 15th-century Everyman. Bradford (2017) alludes that a reader of the play should fit him/herself in the medieval man by eliminating the concept of technology, the heights of urbanization and science. Paulson (2007) alleges that the treatment and perception of death today remain the same as expressed in the play dating back to the 15th century. The reason is that death is the common denominator in human life.
The morality play is the literal journey of any individual pursues when they are alive. The journey to salvation according to Christians begins when they start laboring for the Master, preaching His wondrous love and care. When a person dies, he/she will be brought before God, and his actions weighed and judged on the scale of good or evil. Therefore, people should endeavor to pursue righteousness as it is the ticket to inheriting the eternal Heavenly Kingdom when his work on Earth is over. The play indicates that Everyman has the option of not choosing salvation because of conflicting interests and definition of good or bad as depicted by the play's characters which is the case for many people. The author alludes alleges that God and Angels are a symbol of righteousness whereas Death signifies sin, attributed to the unending war between God and the Devil.
In Everyman, death is an inevitable cruel Messenger of God, sent to humankind to bring them to account for their actions when they lived on Earth and guide them in seeking salvation. Death is used to make Everyman seek salvation before death comes beckoning. The pursuit of material possession and riches makes a man forsake God whose eventuality is death. "On thee, thou must take a long journey: therefore, thy book of the count with thou bring; for turn again thou cannot by no way, and look thou be sure of thy reckoning (Adu-gyamfi & Schmidt, 2011)." Robinson (2011) says accountability of the life an individual lived makes them think of death differently as it brings fear, distress and confusion. Everyman does not want to die as death is thought to be cruel thereby seek to live longer, and even try to convince death that they should be given second chances to amend mistakes.
Everyman loves living on this Earth and loathes Death. In the play, Everyman attempts to bribe Death with a thousand pounds. Matthew 20:28 KJV says, even as the son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister and give his life as a ransom for many, implying Jesus was the only ransom paid as the price for the death of humankind and no payment can be made for death. Death declines the offer claiming that if it were after wealth, then it could be owning tons of wealth on Earth. Everyman expresses the desire to go back to Earth after accounting for his actions. The response is that no one is allowed to go back to Earth after death (Robinson, 2011). An individual should lead a righteous life so that when death comes, they should not be terrified, but be happy and rejoice moving to Heaven.
In society, it is assumed that death brings loneliness and alienation. Everyman acknowledges Death is unforgiving and does not grant anyone second chances. It is essential to enjoy life to the fullest and try to resist death firmly enjoying life when alive is attributed to ambiguity and uncertainty in life after death, alongside what that life has in store for them. Dying alone is an indication that one will be held accountable for their actions alone and not with family members, material possessions or friends (Adu-Gyamfi & Schmidt, 2011). The implication is that earthly possessions are left here on Earth, and only the souls move on to another world after death.
The feeling of fear creeps in any human being when they contemplate the Death issue. Everyman begins to do what is required of him like seeking forgiveness of sin as dictated by societal and Christian standards. Citing the work (2007) Everyman thinks that Good Deeds will not accompany him to wherever he goes. He argues that the right acts lack the courage and motivation after many years of neglect. Seeking of Knowledge will help an individual accompany his life with Good Deeds. Knowledge and wisdom will enable Everyman to confess and ask forgiveness and atonement of the sin and wicked things he commits. Prayers are interceded by Mary the Virgin and Jesus Christ on behalf of God. Once Everyman is forgiven, it is a clean slate as he is regarded as pure unless he sins again. Everyman receives the Holy Communion as a ritual for the Catholics that signifies taking the body and blood of Jesus Christ in addition to the Holy Spirit that will help in guiding them to salvation.
When Everyman's life is almost dying, he prays asking God to commands his spirit to Heaven. Everyman joins Angels in Heaven along with his Good Deeds only. Metaphorically, it shows that Earthly material possessions are a hindrance to Good Deeds. The Bible tells us; keep your lives free of money and be content with what you have (Hebrews 13:5 NIV). Material possessions are a deceiver to losing one's soul as they motivate a person to sin. Why should one attain all worldly things, and lose their soul in return? Everyman could not take earthly possession with him to Heaven implying that the material properties are only relevant to humans in the worldly life says Matthew 6:19-24. Once death beckons, you leave all your wealth behind and go with your soul. It is recommendable that you help those who do not have in society. God is interested in Good Deeds and the soul, but not the wealth amerced.
Life is about enjoying the little moments an individual is privileged to. Material possessions facilitate a happy life, but they should not be a distraction in the journey to inheriting eternal life (Robinson, 2011). Everyman praises God thanking him for the things he has done to him through songs and prayers. People should seek the divine intervention of the Holy Spirit to help them in choosing right actions and avoiding sin. After death, an individual is held to account of his actions on Judgement day.
Righteous or sinner, God loves man equally. Sinners are accorded the opportunity to obtain purity by praying, confessing sin and asking for forgiveness from the ever-merciful God. Being adamant in seeking forgiveness makes Death caught up with a man in their sinning ways resulting in eternal perishing (Allen, 2012). Adamancy is attributed to not repenting and atoning sin, but pursuing earthly pleasures. When Death beckons, the Judgement Day arrives, and no man can cheat Death or the Judgement day when they account for their actions. After the judgement, God will make thither Everyman by crowning the righteous with the Heavenly Kingdom and banish sinners into eternal Death. Those in Heaven will join The TrinityGod the father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.
Adu-Gyamfi, Y., & Schmidt, M. R. (2011). Literature and spirituality. Boston: Longman. Pp 265-287.
Allen, Caleb. (2012). Refutation of the doctrine of death in the morality play, Everyman. Calebsallen. Retrieved on October 18, 2017, from http://www.google.com/amp/s/calebsallen.wordpress.com/2012/07/16/refutation-of-the-doctrine-of-death-in-the-morality-play-everyman/amp/Bradford, Wade. (2017). How to study the medieval play Everyman? ThoughtCo. Retrieved on October 18, 2017, from http://www.thoughtco.com/everyman-a-medieval-morality-play-2713422Holy Bible. King James Version.
Holy Bible. New International Version.
Laurio, Leslie. (1955). The summoning of Everyman. New York.
Paulson, Julie. (2007). Deaths arrival and everymans separation. Theatre Survey, 48(1):1-21.
Robinson, Merrick. (2011). Everyman a modern adaptation (or, numbers down). Honors Programs Project.
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