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Everyman ​and Everywoman Essay

When one imagines the Medieval time period, images of illiterate, mutton eating, vikings who live in filth, appear. Certainly, the thoughts of class and theatre never enter the brain; the words “medieval” and “theatre” shouldn’t belong in the same sentence (unless it’s a dinner and a show kind of talk). However, that was not the case. There were problems with illiteracy, but the time period was much more religious and progressive. In the Early Medieval theatre, Christainity was new and quickly spreading (Rea), creating a struggle among the churches on how to explain it to those that were highly illiterate. Therefore, churches began staging dramatized versions of Bible stories and events that helped those understand the stories and it was a new way to celebrate the events. These performances were considered Liturgical Dramas, plays acted within or near the church and related stories from the Bible (Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica).

Everyman ​and Everywoman

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Unfortunately, in the 5th century AD, Western Europe was in a state of chaos due to political instability with the fall of the Roman Empire (Brogan). Fortunately, this lasted until the 10th century AD with the establishment of the Byzantine Empire, pushing towards a more Christianized population (Brogan). In this new century, new playwrights such as Hrosvitha, a German aristocrat canones (a woman living in a community under a religious rule but not under a perpetual vow) (Merriam-Webster), who wrote six plays that not only glorified God but gave women of the time a voice. She imitated her plays from the works of “Ovid, Terence, and Virgil” (comedic playwrights) (Butler) by replacing characters with religious subjects and “denaturalized the binary conceptions of gender…” (Butler). As a tenth century Christain, she accepted the idea that women were naturally inferior to men, because of Eve in the Garden of Eden. She praises her intellectual abilities to God, “…that God grants gifts to people and that people are responsible for the degree to which they utilize those gifts”(Butler). However, Hrosvitha looks to the teachings of Paul, who stated “there is no male or female, for you are all one in Jesus Christ” (Butler). In contrast, even though Paul saw no gender, he also wished for women to not have any leading role in the church (Butler). Defying Paul’s teaching, Hrosvitha says “I am not in love with myself that I would cease to preach the virtue of Christ…in order to evade criticism”; to break away from “traditional molds rather than hold them in” (Butler).

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Thereby, Hrosvitha’s works suggest that “the category of gender is seperable from that of sex and that gender is socially constructed” (Butler). Hrosvitha’s plays served the purpose of speaking truth to those in power, suppressing the voice of women with male dominance; “as long as there is theatre, as long as there are women, as long as there is an imperfect society, there will be women’s theatre” (Butler). She was, perhaps, the first feminist. Five centuries later, in the 15th century, ​Everyman​, written by an unknown author, tells the story of how the good and bad deeds of a man get counted against or for him in the afterlife. The story opens with God, lamenting about humans and how they have been “living without dread in worldly prosperity..”(HalSall), that they have lost sight of who God is; “drowned in sin, they know me not for their God…in worldly riches is all their mind” (HalSall). God then decides that Everyman needs to make a pilgrimage he can’t escape; and that he brings with him a sure reckoning without delay or any tarrying” (HalSall).

Death, working as God’s messenger, goes down to Earth and confronts Everyman; “Everyman, stand still…Hast thou thy Maker forget?” (HalSall). It is here that Death states that God commands Everyman to take a “long journey” (HalSall) and from that journey, God will make judgement upon him. As expected, Everyman states, “full unready I am such…” (HalSall) asking for a longer respite; “I may say Death giveth no warning: to think on thee, it maketh my heart sick, for all unready…that my reckoning I should not need to fear…spare me till I provided of remedy” (HalSall). Death denies to give him more time but allows him to find a companion for his journey; “yea, if any be so handy that would go with thee and bear thee company” (HalSall). The first companion Everyman asks is Fellowship, “I trust that he will bear me company; therefore to him I will speak to ease my sorrow. Well met, good Fellowship, and good morrow” (HalSall). However, when he hears of the meaning behind Everyman’s journey, he refuses to go; “Now, by God that all hath brought, if Death were the messenger, for no man living today I will not go that loath journey- not for the father that begat me!” (HalSall). Although Fellwoship says that if Everyman seeks to have someone killed, Fellowship will be glad to help; “But and thou wilt murder, or any man kill, in that I will help thee with good will!” (HalSall). Everyman then calls upon Kindred and Cousin and lays out the purpose of his journey, “Of all my works I must show how I have lived and my days spent…I pray you thither with me, to help to make account for saint charity” (HalSall). Both Kindred and Cousin respond by refusing. Kindred states “Take good heart to you, and make not moan.

Bust as one thing I warn you, by Saint Anne, as for me, ye shall go alone” (HalSall). Cousin states that not only does he have a cramp in his toe, but he’s also not ready to give his reckoning, “Also of mine an unready reckoning I have to account for; therefore I make tarrying…” (HalSall). Afterwards, Everyman seeks out Goods, who, even though he’s loved Goods the most, (“And all my life I have had joy and pleasure in thee”) (HalSall), Goods refuses to go. Their reason being that God will give Everyman a harsh punishment should Goods appear in God’s presence; “Thou shouldst fare much the worse for me; for because on me thou didst thy hand, thy reckoning I have made blotted and blind, that thine account thou cannot make truly; and that hast thou for the love of me” (HalSall). It is at this moment, Everyman is feeling defeated. Everyone that he has asked to journey with him has said no; “O, to whom shall I make my moan for to go with me in that heavy journey?” (HalSall). It is in his lament of despair Everyman decides to go see Good Deeds, even though she is weak. It’s with Good Deeds, Everyman finally gets his companion, however she is too weak to move because Everyman has not loved her enough in his life; “if ye had perfectly cheered me, your book of account full ready had be” (HalSall). Good Deeds’ solution is to summon her sister, Knowledge, to accompany them to “the house of knowledge” (HalSall); Confession. Confession asks that Everyman “ask God mercy, and he will grant truly” (HalSall). In Confession’s presence Everyman begs for forgiveness and repents his sins, “Though I be, a sinner most abominable, yet let my name be written in Moses’ table…I beseech you, help my soul to save.” (HalSall).

In what was a common means of showing your repentance towards God, Everyman scourges himself; “”My flesh therewith shall give a quittance; I will now begin… take this body for the sin of the flesh” (HalSall). After, Everyman is absolved of all his wrongdoings and Good Deeds becomes strong again; “Now, Everyman, be merry and glad; your Good Deeds cometh now; now is your Good Deeds whole and sound…” (HalSall). Having enough strength to continue on Everyman’s journey, Good Deeds summons Beauty, Strength, Discretion, and Five Wits to agree to go with them to a priest to partake in sacrament; “For priesthood exceedeth all other things; to us Holy Scripture they do teach. And coverteth man from sin heaven to reach…” (HalSall). After the sacrament, Everyman tells all where his journey now ends, “I have received the sacrament for my redemption, and then mine extreme unction: blessed be all they that counsel me to take it! And now my friends, let us go without longer respite; I thank God that ye have tarried so long…” (HalSall). They all depart, except for Good Deeds who says “I will bide with thee, I will not forsake thee indeed; thou shalt find me a good friend at need” (HalSall). Knowledge, however, decides to stay with him until his soul leaves Everyman’s body on the time of his death; “…I will not depart from hence depart, till I see where ye shall be come” (HalSall). Finally at peace, Everyman states “Into thy hands, Lord, my soul I commend…” (HalSall). Everyman dies in peace and goes into his grave with Good Deeds at his side. Knowledge, not being able to follow states about Everyman’s passing, “Now hath he suffered that we all shall endure; the Good Deeds shall make sure. Now hath he mad ending; Methinketh that I hear angels sing and make great joy and melody, where Everyman’s soul received shall be” (HalSall).

Everyman’s soul is welcomed into Heaven by an Angel; “…Now the soul is taken the body fro; thy reckoning is crystal clear…” (HalSall). As the play closes, a Doctor appears, and gives a speech to those watching, a warning about how one should live before death; “And remember Beauty, Five Wits, Strength, and Discretion, thy all at last do Everyman forsake, save his Good Deeds, there doth he take. But beware, and they be small before God, he hath no help at all… for then mercy and pity do him forsake. If his reckoning be not clear when he do come, God will say – ite maledicti in ignem aeternum” (HalSall). In the end, Everyman is a portrayal of everyone on Earth, both men and women, who struggle with the sins of daily life. His struggle to find peace with God before death, is a struggle most humans face. In some way, shape, or form, most fear what will happen to them in the afterlife, but as Everyman found, in the end, all you are left with are your “Good Deeds”. Live nobly, honorably, and unselfishly, you’ll be accepted into the kingdom of Heaven; don’t let one’s “Good Deeds” die.


  1. Brogan, H. (2020, February 4). The Middle Ages. Retrieved from https://www.britannica.com/topic/government/The-Middle-Ages
  2. Butler, C. D. (2016). Queering the Classics: Gender, Genre, and Reception in the Works of Hrotsvit of Gandersheim. Retrieved March 16, 2020, from Queering the Classics: Gender, Genre, and Reception in the Works of Hrotsvit of Gandersheim
  3. HalSall, P. (1998, August). Medieval Sourcebook: Everyman, 15th Century. Retrieved March 16, 2020, from https://sourcebooks.fordham.edu/basis/everyman.asp
  4. Merriam-Webster. (n.d.). Canoness. Retrieved March 16, 2020, from https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/canoness
  5. Rea, K. G. (2019, November 15). Medieval theatre. Retrieved from https://www.britannica.com/art/Western-theatre/Medieval-theatre
  6. The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica. (2009, May 5). Liturgical drama. Retrieved from https://www.britannica.com/topic/liturgical-drama

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Everyman ​and Everywoman Essay
When one imagines the Medieval time period, images of illiterate, mutton eating, vikings who live in filth, appear. Certainly, the thoughts of class and theatre never enter the brain; the words “medieval” and “theatre” shouldn’t belong in the same sentence (unless it's a dinner and a show kind of talk). However, that was not the case. There were problems with illiteracy, but the time period was much more religious and progressive. In the Early Medieval theatre, Christainity was new and
2022-01-27 06:42:24
Everyman ​and Everywoman Essay
$ 13.900 2018-12-31
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