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February 28, 2007

"Everyman"

From the very beginning of “Everyman,” we see the numerous ways that this play relates to mimicry, or at least our own perceptions of reality. Growing up in churches, attending schools with strong religious beliefs, or watching television, we get a strong image of judgment day and the fear of the fiery pits of hell where perhaps many of our friends and co-workers will be waiting to shake our hand. We could do a historical reading or a formalist reading, but whatever our criticism is, it is guided by one thing: our version of reality.
“They forget clean, and shedding of my blood red; I hanged between two, it cannot be denied; To get them life I suffered to be dead; I healed their feet; with thorns hurt was my head.” (2). In this 15th century play, the audience didn’t have access to Bibles usually and not everyone who had them could even read them. The Bible was sometimes read aloud in rhyme or people were listed in threes so it was easier for people to remember. The above line exemplifies the way the audience read and gives us a sense of their reality. It also sets the mood for the play. It explains Christ’s suffering on the cross to pay for our sins and seems to really open us up to the idea that there will be consequences for going against a God who performed such a sacrifice for us. When Plato once described reality as being based only on our senses and the forms people were seeing the cave he wrote about, he managed to also explain the need for poets and playwrights alike to use symbols to enhance our perceptions of such realities.
“Philosophers who manage to escape the cave and enter the transcendent realm of pure forms can communicate what they have discovered only means of metaphor and symbol. To talk at all about such a realm, the thinker must …become…a poet,” (Keesey 207) Keesey says. Thus, to provide the audience with an understanding, their reality must be shaped like that of the playwright’s and word choice certainly plays a role.
Twice, Everyman mentions death “comest when I had thee least in mind,” (3) reminding people that when they stop thinking of the consequences of their life style God can judge them. The word choice here and the repetition reminds the audience of the judgment day that will soon be a reality and at the time, the church ruled the government even more than it does today, so people’s fear was apart of their daily lives.
“For Adam’s sin must die of nature,” (3) refers to Genesis when the fall began and Death is reminding Everyman that people will get their come-uppance for being born with this original sin. Apart of word choice, is also the characters themselves, for Fellowship and Kindred embody not only what Everyman needs to help celebrate Christ as he should be celebrated (someone to read the Bible with, etc.) but to provide comfort for Everyman as well. As we have partners in Christ, we also have partners in destruction and apart of reality in the lives of the audience is that we can relate to the need of someone to be corrupt right along with us. We have a group mentality and as we see in modern times of cyanide Kool-Aid drinking, the group mentality isn’t always so helpful. Besides the destruction of group mentality, there is also the issue that at the end of the play, of all Everyman’s friends, Good-Deeds is the only one who will accompany him.
As a society we are raised to believe that good deeds will get us into heaven, or at least the good karma that will one day win us the lottery, but as apart of our reality and within the play, we see that money is constantly an issue and money “maketh all right that is wrong.” (8). The play seems to adopt the moral tone that we hear daily, that while money can buy temporary happiness, it can’t buy our way into heaven or make people like us genuinely. As the people in the 15th century and Everyman sought confession to make up for lost time, we are still trying to do that within the Catholic Church perhaps by donating more money or being the first to volunteer to help with bingo. There is much more than just history and trying to compensate for our actions in reality or mimetic criticism.
As Keesey says, “Almost any verbal representation, particularly one in narrative or dramatic form, seems to invite comparison with our nonliterary experience.” (213). This provides the “justification” that mimetic criticism seeks. While formalists may argue that there is no way to accurately look at a work without paying attention to structure, form does relate to our sense of reality, because whatever we’ve looked at in the past in the way of form represents our concept of what form is. In order to look at form and reality, we must look at history so we have past events to back up our claims.
Overall, while mimetic criticism that we’ve seen in “Everyman” is argued as irrelevant at times (and difficult to pin down the rules of as opposed to other forms of criticism), each of the forms interrelate to give us our “big picture” or “reality” when it comes to making an honest criticism.

Posted by ErinWaite at February 28, 2007 1:26 PM

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