The concept of death varies from one society to another in terms. Socio-cultural aspects play an important role in shaping the attitudes, perception, and treatment of death in a given community. The drama Everyman while instilling morals into society, delves into discussing the different viewpoints of death as a concept. Based on a religious background, Everyman also helps in highlighting the different ways that people choose to treat death (Adu-Gyamfi & Schmidt, 2011). Besides death, the play presents moral lessons on the significance of salvation for humans, the atonement of sin, and the benefits of good deeds. By way of allegory and pilgrimage, this unknown author is projecting, upon death, that every man’s good deeds and repentance are the only way to live eternally with God. Death is inevitable, denied by man but assigned to every man by God, and causes plans and dreams to dissolve.
This study discusses the perception and the treatment of death in the drama Everyman. Perception of Death In Everyman death is perceived as being an inevitable event that presents the mandatory end to the material world for an individual. Everyman views death as terrifying and yet inescapable. An illustration of the inevitability of death as depicted in the play found in the words of Death to Everyman “I am Death, that no man dreadeth / For every man I rest/ and no man spareth / For it is God’s commandment/That all to me should be obedient” (Anonymous, 2011, L. 115-118).
The author as such presents death as being an inevitable occurrence sent by God to regulate behavior in people. Everyman makes efforts to evade death by opting to bribe Death. Showing off his massive wealth, Everyman requests that Death allow him more time to enjoy it. He is asking to be spared by telling Death “O Death, thou comest when I had thee least in mind! / In thy power it lieth me to save” (Anonymous, 2011, L.119-120). Death responds that as a messenger from God, he cannot be corrupted or change his options once sent on a mission by God. The illustration shows that humans would not like their worldly life to come to an end considering the fear they hold regarding death. The illustration as well describes how helpless Everyman feels, trying to make efforts to escape death. To Everyman, death is a terrifying especially when he imagines being inside the grave. Death terrifies him further to emphasize its inescapability by saying “I set not by gold, silver, nor riches / Ne by pope, emperor, king, duke, ne princes” (Anonymous, 2011, L. 126-127) and later emphasizes that “But my custom is clean contrary / I give thee no respite/Come hence, and not tarry” (Anonymous, 2011, L. 129-130). The illustrations thus show that the author of Everyman aimed at describing the terrifying effects that death brings upon people in society. Secondly, death perceived as a scary experience, instills fear in people. The scary aspect of death is seeing when Everyman comes near his would-be grave and expresses how he is scared to Beauty.
Everyman scared stiff says “Alas, I am so faint I may not stand / My limbs under me doth fold / Friends, let us not turn again to this land, earth / For into this cave must I creep grave / And turn to earth, and there to sleep” (Anonymous, 2011, L. 788-793). From the illustration it is clear, death perceived as scary will make Everyman turn into earth, an option he would not take. The trouble that the scared Everyman undergoes makes him so feeble as seen in the line “I am so faint I may not stand.” As such, it can conclude that death is perceived scary in the drama Everyman. Death as such makes Everyman so weak even though he had strengthened his faith before coming close to the grave. He realizes that he needs more spiritual strength to face death. The scary aspect of death is as well emphasized in Paulson (2007) who examines the reactive nature of Everyman when death arrives. The author is highlighting how divided Everyman is while stricken with fear on the arrival of Death in the play helps emphasize the view that death instills fear. The Treatment of Death In Everyman, there are two distinct ways that humans treat death. Maintaining death denial is one of the approaches that the characters in the drama choose to treat death. Denial makes one think that death can be put aside and ignored (Martin, 2009). Everyman as the main character is among those individuals who opt to live in denial regarding the realities of death. His first encounter with death, for instance, makes him seek, to be pardoned from death, but his efforts to avoid death remain futile.
In trying to ignore death, Everyman finds himself terrified and this even increases when he learns that Death had been sent to offer no good; “But my custom is clean contrary / I give thee no respite/Come hence, and not tarry” (Anonymous, 2011, L. 128-130). Everyman’s initial behavior towards death shows how people can live in denial of death. His denial of death becomes more highlighted when he tried to bribe Death to let him be in the text “Yet of my good will / I give thee, if thou will be kind-possessions / Yea, a thousand pound shalt thou have / and defer this matter till another day” (Anonymous, 2011, L. 121-123). In the illustration, it is clear Everyman was in denial of the fact that death’s victory over humans remains inevitable. Everyman according to Harper & Mize (2006) believed in material wealth and ended up like any other person, ignoring the reality of death. The illustration above which shows his intention to bribe the allegorical Death confirms his materialistic view of life without giving thought to spirituality and thus his denial of death. Secondly, people treat death by accepting its inevitability and preparing themselves for it in time. Acceptance of death involves letting go the fear of it and detaching oneself from whatever issues that one has to value in their lives (Martin, 2009).
Acceptance of death goes hand in hand with agreeing that God is sovereign and is the one that decides when one has to die. Everyman is made to transit from denial of death to its acceptance by being taken through the confession prayer. In his own words, Everyman says “O glorious fountain, that all uncleanness doth clarify / Wash from me the spots of vice unclean / That on me no sin may be seen / I come with Knowledge for my redemption, with heart and full contrition” (Anonymous, 2011, L. 545-549). Everyman has gradually accepted the fact that he must die and has opted to choose the way of salvation. Taking on death is merely confronting the fact that one is mortal and at one time they must die. Everyman went through the stages of death denial before settling for acceptance when he finally confesses and readies himself for the pilgrimage. While at one point he wants to bribe Death so that his demise postponed, he finally accepts to make peace with his past after repenting with the help of Confession. His acceptance of death can be seen in the text “In the name of the Holy Trinity / My body sore punished shall be / Take this, body, for the sin of the flesh!” (Anonymous, 2011, L. 611-614). From the illustration, it is clear that repentance and good deeds in life are the main ways in which an individual can live eternally with God.
Everyman knows that by repentance, his soul will be redeemed and only by his good deeds shall he be judged. According to Rosenberg (2008), God uses death as the only measure to make humans repentant. Choosing repentance at the time of death as was the case in the play shows accepting death as a spiritual connection between man and God. At the end of the play, Everyman has come to terms with death readies himself for the same knowing well his soul would be saved. Munson (1985) supports the idea that Everyman moved from being defensive to accepting salvation and thus making peace with God. His acceptance of death as depicted in his final journey with Angel can be illustrated in the lines “Into thy hands, Lord, my soul I commend; Receive it, Lord, that it be not lost / And save me from my fiend’s boast / That I may appear with that blessed host” (Anonymous, 2011, L. 883-887). The illustrations thus contribute to the view that the humans treat death by either remaining in denial or accepting it as a natural process.
In Everyman, there are various perceptions of death as well as ways in which death is treated. Regarding perception, death is first perceived as a terrible unstoppable force to humans and as a scary experience. Everyman also shows that while there are individuals that treat death with denial, others treat death with acceptance as being a stage for a spiritual connection with God. Even so, it is evident that through spiritual guidance one can confess and atone for their sins and be ready to accept death as a peaceful process. It thus means that it is possible for one first to treat death with denial and later face it through acceptance. Everyman thus through the use of allegorical characters and the concept of pilgrimage projects upon death that the good deeds of everyone and repentance comprise of the option that they can live with God in eternity. The play does so by providing emphasizing the message that death is inevitable designed by God even though it brings to an end an individual’s human interests