Personification and Charity 

In the play Everyman, personification is used to show how Everyman (every man) can enter the kingdom of heaven after death. When Everyman tries to convince his other friends to join him or help him through death, only Good-Deeds follows him to the afterlife. His other friends, Strength, Discretion, Five-Wits, Beauty, Fellowship, Knowledge, Cousin, and Kindred, all abandon him in his time of need.

Good-Deeds: Nay, Everyman, I will bide with thee,

I will not forsake thee indeed;

Thou shalt find me a good friend at need.

Everyman: Gramercy, GoodDeeds; now may I true friends see;

They have forsaken me every one;

I loved them better than my Good-Deeds alone.

Knowledge, will ye forsake me also?

This play is used to spread the Christian message that only a person’s good deeds will carry them to heaven. Everything else is part of this world, such as beauty, knowledge, and strength.

In addition, there is repeated reference to “Charity” or “Saint Charity.” As God mentions:

For now one would by envy another up eat;

Charity they all do clean forget.

In this line, God is discussing how the Everyman has forgotten about Charity. The play also ends with:

That we may live body and soul together.

Thereto help the Trinity,

Amen, say ye, for saint Charity.

Charity is often defined as deep kindness. Therefore, it would make sense that Good-deeds caused the Everyday man to heaven. It’s interesting how the play makes the distinction of the two characters. The play claims that Good-deeds (good deeds) lead to Saint Charity (charity), in both a literal and metaphorical sense.

Source: Everyman (Anonymous)

Everything is a copy of a copy of a copy. 

Even this title is taken from the 1999 Film Fight Club. While it may seem dismal and edgy, it simply means that all ideas are innovations of each other. Netflix is a better television. Television was a better radio. However, in literature, human emotions are recycled over and over. How many ways can you write about two people falling in love without the stories sounding similar? While the plot may be different, we all scientifically feel similar emotions and chemicals when we are in love. We all are human, therefore, our experiences are similar to one another and our art will reflect those similarities. While this may seem bad and unoriginal, it actually enriches our literature. The more we read literature, the more we can see the similarities between texts and understand the characters. As Foster writes:

This dialogue between old texts and new is always going on at one level or another. Critics speak of this dialogue as intertextuality, the ongoing interaction between poems or stories. This intertextual dialogue deepens and enriches the reading experience, bringing multiple layers of meaning to the text, some of which readers may not even consciously notice. The more we become aware of the possibility that our text is speaking to other texts, the more similarities and correspondences we begin to notice, and the more alive the text becomes.

It’s the equivalent to being able to be empathetic towards your friend over the loss of their pet because you too have lost your pet. Since you’ve seen how the story played out once, you can hone in those past emotions and apply them to the new text. This is why it is vital to read older pieces of literature, such as the medieval dramas about Jesus. While the plays themselves may not be interesting, learning about them allows us to be able to understand other plays when they make allusions.

Source: Foster (5-7)

Acting as a form of devotion. 

Many kids were first introduced to the world of theatre through seeing their church’s Christmas rendition of the birth of Christ. While the play is cheerful and mainly played by children, the first medieval plays about Jesus Christ were more than entertainment; they were acts of devotion. In fact, they were like lively sermons, used to spread Christianity. However, as the community leaders are also the ones spreading Christianity, I’m curious to see how the leaders’ own agenda comes out in these plays. Were the plays just spreading and celebrating religious ideas or was there also propaganda used in there as well?

Source: Context for Medieval Drama

Humanizing the Soldiers

My Father, that all bales may bete,

Forgive these men that do me pine.

What they work woot they nought:

Therefore my Father I crave

Let never their sins be sought, searched

But see their souls to save.

These are the last words of Jesus before he is killed. He uses his last breathe to ask God to forgive the soldiers for their ignorance and for simply doing their job. In fact, throughout the entire play, we see the mentality of the nameless soldiers. They do not act in hatred or wickedness. Instead, the soldiers discuss honor and see the action as a part of their business. As they mention:

It may not help here for to hone,

If we shall any worship win.

In this line, they talk about how they shouldn’t delay the crucifixion if they want honor to win. This shows that what they are doing is what they think is just in the eyes of God. In fact, punishing the heathen that was Jesus was how they were “worshipping” God. The audience is supposed to sympathize with Jesus, however the enemy are not the soldiers. Perhaps in the Medieval Times, the high priests did not want to condemn the soldiers because the knights were to be respected members of society.

Source: York Crucifixion

Is Pride Bad?

In “The Creation, and the Fall of Lucifer,” Lucifer exclaims to the world:

“the beams of my brightness are burning so bright.”

This line informs the world and God that his light is powerful and as valuable as God. In this stanza, he is prideful and confident in himself. However, the story ends with Lucifer casted out of heaven by God. As God states:

Those fools, for their fairness, into fantasies fell

And envied my might, that marked them and made them.

The fall of Lucifer is due to his envy of God. However, this is also a message to the audience that you should remain in your position in life and that it is wrong to believe that your “power surpasses each peer.” Lucifer’s fall from grace is due to his belief that he is better than people and deserves more. While this mentality would thrive in our modern American capitalistic society, it crumbles in feudalistic society that was in the Medieval Times. This play could be used as propaganda at the time to enforce classes to remain in their social hierarchy.

Source: York Creation/Fall