Late fifteenth century
The Summoning of Everyman, or Everyman, is a Christian morality play. It is either a translation and adaptation of a Dutch play of the same time, Elckerlyc, or the Dutch play is a translation and adaptation of Everyman. Unlike cycle plays, which are written as a sequence of plays from events in the Bible, morality plays are written individually. In a little over 900 lines, Everyman presents what happens when Death (one of the many allegorical figures in the story) is sent to Everyman. Everyman then attempts to convince the other characters—Kin, Friendship, Strength, Beauty, Wisdom, and others—to accompany him on the journey. The play follows mainstream medieval Roman Catholic doctrine, including confession, penance, and extreme unction. The text is careful to condemn bad priests, who abuse the trust of the faithful, while assuring Everyman that good priests are necessary for the salvation of the soul. Despite the grim topic, the play is quite funny at times, and the clever way that it presents its subject makes it one of the finest surviving morality plays.
Here heginneth a treatise how the High Father of Heaven sendeth Death to summon every creature to come and give an account of their lives in this world and is in manner of a moral play.
[The Messenger enters.]
I pray you all give your audience,
And hear this matter with reverence,
In form a moral play.
The Summoning of Everyman it is called so,
That of our lives and ending maketh show How transitory we be every day.
This matter is wondrous precious,
But the meaning of it is more gracious
And sweet to bear away.
The story saith: Man, in the beginning
Watch well, and take good heed of the ending.
Be you never so gay!
Ye think sin in the beginning full sweet,
Which, in the end, causeth the soul to weep,
When the body lieth in clay.
Here shall you see how Fellowship and Jollity,
Both Strength, Pleasure, and Beauty,
Will fade from thee as flower in May,
For ye shall hear how our Heaven’s King
Calleth Everyman to a general reckoning.
Give audience and hear what he doth say.
[The Messenger goes.]
I perceive, here in my majesty.
How that all creatures be to me unkind,
Living, without fear, in worldly prosperity.
In spiritual vision the people be so blind,
Drowned in sin, they know me not for their God;
In worldly riches is all their mind.
They fear not my righteousness, the sharp rod.
My law that I disclosed, when I for them died,
They clean forget, and shedding of my blood red.
I hung between two it cannot be denied,
To get them life I suffered to be dead,
I healed their feet, with thorns was hurt my head.
I could do no more than I did truly.
And now I see the people do clean forsake me;
They use the seven deadly sins damnable
In such wise that pride, covetousness, wrath, and lechery.
Now in this world be made commendable.
And thus they leave of angels the heavenly company.
Every man liveth so after his own pleasure,
And yet of their lives they be nothing sure.
The more I them forbear, I see
The worse from year to year they be;
All that live grow more evil apace;
Therefore I will, in briefest space,
From every man in person have a reckoning shown.
For, if I leave the people thus alone
In their way of life and wicked passions to he,
They will become much worse than beasts, verily.
Now for envy would one eat up another, and tarry not,
Charity is by all clean forgot.
I hoped well that every man
In my glory should make his mansion,
And thereto I made them all elect.
But now I see, like traitors abject,
They thank me not for the pleasure that I for them meant.
Nor yet for their being that I them have lent.
I proffered the people great multitude of mercy.
And few there be that ask it heartily.
They be so cumbered with worldly riches, thereto
I must needs upon them justice do, —
On every man living without fear.
Where art thou, Death, thou mighty messenger?
Almighty God, I am here at your will,
Your commandment to fulfil.
Go thou to Everyman,
And show him in my name
A pilgrimage he must on him take,
Which he in no wise may escape.
And that he bring with him a sure reckoning
Without delay or any tarrying.
Lord, I will in the world go run over all.
And cruelly search out both great and small.
Every man will I beset that liveth beastly
Out of God’s law, and doth not dread folly.
He that loveth riches I will strike with my dart
His sight to blind and him from heaven to part —
Except if Alms be his good friend —
In hell for to dwell, world without end.
Lo, yonder I see Everyman walking.
Full little he thinketh on my coming!
His mind is on fleshly lusts and his treasure.
And great pain it shall cause him to endure
Before the Lord, of Heaven the King.
Everyman, stand still ! Whither art thou going
Thus gayly? Hast thou thy Maker forgot?
Why askest thou?
Wouldest thou know? For what?
Yea, sir, I will show you now.
In great haste I am sent to thee
From God, out of his majesty.
What, sent to me!
Though thou hast forgot him here.
He thinketh on thee in the heavenly sphere,
As, ere we part, thou shalt know.
What desireth God of me?
That shall I show thee.
A reckoning he will needs have
Without any longer respite
To give a reckoning longer leisure I crave.
This blind matter troubleth my wit.
Upon thee thou must take a long journey,
Therefore, do thou thine accounting-book with thee bring.
For turn again thou canst not by no way,
And look thou be sure in thy reckoning.
For before God thou shalt answer, and show true
Thy many bad deeds and good but a few,
How thou hast spent thy life and in what wise
Before the Chief Lord of Paradise.
Get thee prepared that we may be upon that journey,
For well thou knowest thou shalt make none for thee attorney.
Full unready I am such reckoning to give.
I know thee not. What messenger art thou?
I am Death that no man fear,
For every man I arrest and no man spare,
For it is God’s commandment
That all to me should be obedient.
O Death, thou comest when I had thee least in mind!
In thy power it lieth to save me yet; —
Thereto of my goods will I give thee, if thou wilt be kind, —
Yea, a thousand pounds shalt thou get! —
And defer this matter till another day.
Everyman, it may not be in any way.
I set no store by gold, silver, riches, or such gear,
Nor by pope, emperor, king, prince, or peer.
For, if I would receive gifts great.
All the world I might get,
But my custom is clean the contrary way.
I give thee no respite. Come hence, nor delay!
Alas, shall I have no longer respite!
I may say Death giveth no warning!
To think on thee, it maketh my heart sick,
For all unready is my book of reckoning.
But if I might have twelve years of waiting,
My accounting-book I would make so clear
That my reckoning I should not need to fear.
Wherefore, Death, I pray thee, for God’s mercy.
Spare me till I be provided with a remedy!
It availeth thee not to cry, weep, and pray,
But haste thee lightly, that thou mayest be on thy journey.
And make proof of thy friends, if thou can,
For, know thou well, time waiteth for no man,
And in the world each living creature
Because of Adam’s sin must die by nature.
Death, if I should this pilgrimage take,
And my reckoning duly make.
Show me, for Saint Charity,
Should I not come again shortly?
No, Everyman, if once thou art there,
Thou mayest nevermore come here,
Trust me, verily.
O gracious God, in the high seat celestial,
Have mercy on me in this utmost need!
Shall I no company have from this vale terrestrial
Of mine acquaintance that way me to lead?
Yea, if any he so hardy
As to go with thee and bear thee company.
Haste thee that thou mayest be gone to God’s magnificence,
Thy reckoning to give before his presence,
What, thinkest thou thy life is given thee,
And thy worldly goods also?
I had thought so, verily.
Nay, nay, it was but lent to thee,
For, as soon as thou dost go,
Another awhile shall have it and then even so.
Go therefore as thou hast done.
Everyman, thou art mad! Thou hast thy wits five,
And here on earth will not amend thy life,
For suddenly I do come!
O wretched caitiff, whither shall I flee
That I may escape this endless sorrow!
Nay, gentle Death, spare me until to-morrow
That I may amend me
With good avisement!
Nay, thereto I will not consent,
Nor no man respite, if I might,
But to the heart suddenly I shall smite
Without any “advisement.”
And now out of thy sight I will me hie,
See that thou make thee ready speedily,
For thou mayest say this is the day
Wherefrom no man living may escape away.
Alas, I may well weep with sighs deep!
Now have I no manner of company
To help me on my journey and me to keep,
And also my writing is all unready.
What can I do that may excuse me!
I would to God I had never been begot!
To my soul a full great profit it would be,
For now I fear pains huge and great, God wot!
The time passeth — help, Lord, that all things wrought!
For, though I mourn, yet it availeth naught.
The day passeth and is almost through,
1 wot not well of aught that I may do.
To whom were it best that I my plaint should make?
What if to Fellowship I thereof spake,
And what this sudden chance should mean disclosed?
For surely in him is all my trust reposed —
We have in the world so many a day
Been good friends in sport and play.
I see him yonder certainly —
I trust that he will bear me company;
Therefore to him will I speak to ease my sorrow.
Well met, good Fellowship, and a good morrow!
I wish thee good morrow, Everyman, by this day!
Sir, why lookest thou so piteously?
If anything be amiss, prithee to me it say
That I may help in remedy.
Yea, good Fellowship, yea,
I am in great jeopardy!
My true friend, show to me your mind.
I will not forsake thee to my live’s end,
In the way of good company.
That was well spoken and lovingly.
Sir, I must needs know your heaviness.
I have pity to see you in any distress.
If any have wronged you, revenged ye shall be.
Though I upon the ground be slain for thee,
Even should I know before that I should die.
Verily, Fellowship, gramercy!
Tush! By thy thanks I set not a straw.
Show me your grief and say no more.
If I my heart should to you unfold,
And you then were to turn your heart from me,
And no comfort would give when I had told,
Then should I ten times sorrier be.
Sir, I say as I will do indeed!
Then you be a good friend at need.
I have found you true heretofore.
And so ye shall evermore,
For, in faith, if thou goest to hell,
I will not forsake thee by the way.
Ye speak like a good friend — I believe you well.
I shall deserve it, if so I may!
I speak of no deserving, by this day,
For he that will say, and nothing do.
Is not worthy with good company to go.
Therefore show me the grief of your mind,
As to your friend most loving and kind.
I shall show you how it is:
Commanded I am to go a journey,
A long way hard and dangerous.
And give a strict account without delay
Before the High Judge, Adonai.
Wherefore, I pray you, bear me company,
As ye have promised, on this journey.
That is matter, indeed! Promise is duty —
But if I should take such a voyage on me,
I know well it should be to my pain;
Afeard also it maketh me, for certain.
But let us take counsel here as well as we can,
For your words would dismay a strong man.
Why, if I had need, ye said
Ye would never forsake me, quick nor dead,
Though it were to hell truly!
So I said certainly,
But such pleasant things be set aside, the truth to say;
And also, if we took such a journey,
When should we come again?
Nay, never again till the day of doom.
In faith, then, will I not come there.
Who hath you these tidings brought?
Indeed, Death was with me here.
Now, by God that all hath bought,
If Death were the messenger,
For no man living here below
I will not that loathly journey go —
Not for the father that begat me!
Ye promised otherwise, pardy!
I know well I do say so, truly,
And still, if thou wilt eat and drink and make good cheer.
Or haunt of women the merry company,
I would not forsake you while the day is clear,
Trust me, verily.
Yea, thereto ye would be ready!
To go to mirth, solace, and play.
Your mind would sooner persuaded be
Than to bear me company on my long journey.
Now, in good sooth, I have no will that way —
But if thou would’st murder, or any man kill,
In that I will help thee with a good will.
Oh, that is simple advice, indeed!
Gentle Fellowship, help me in my necessity!
We have loved long, and now I am in need!
And now, gentle Fellowship, remember me!
Whether ye have loved me or no.
By Saint John, I will not with thee go!
Yea, I pray thee, take this task on thee and do so
much for me.
As to bring me forward on my way for Saint
And comfort me till I come without the town.
Nay, if thou wouldest give me a new gown,
I will not a foot with thee go.
But, if thou hadst tarried, I would not have left thee so.
And so now, God speed thee on thy journey,
For from thee I will depart as fast as I may!
Whither away, Fellowship? Will you forsake me?
Yea, by my faith! I pray God take thee.
Farewell, good Fellowship, — for thee my heart is sore.
Adieu forever, I shall see thee no more!
In faith, Everyman, farewell now at the ending.
For you I will remember that parting is grieving.
Alack! Shall we thus part indeed?
Ah, Lady, help! Lo, vouchsafing no more comfort,
Fellowship thus forsaketh me in my utmost need.
For help in this world whither shall I resort?
Fellowship heretofore with me would merry make,
And now little heed of my sorrow doth he take.
It is said in prosperity men friends may find
Which in adversity be full unkind.
Now whither for succor shall I flee.
Since that Fellowship hath forsaken me?
To my kinsmen will I truly.
Praying them to help me in my necessity.
I believe that they will do so
For “Nature will creep where it may not go.”
[Kindred and Cousin enter.]
I will go try, for yonder I see them go.
Where be ye now, my friends and kinsmen, lo?
Here we be now at your commandment.
Cousin, I pray you show us your intent
In any wise and do not spare.
Yea, Everyman, and to us declare
If ye be disposed to go any whither,
For, wit you well, we will live and die together I
In wealth and woe we will with you hold,
For “with his own kin a man may be bold.”
Gramercy, my friends and kinsmen kind!
Now shall I show you the grief of my mind.
I was commanded by a messenger
That is a High King’s chief officer.
He bade me go a pilgrimage to my pain,
And I know well I shall never come again;
And I must give a reckoning strait,
For I have a great enemy that lieth for me in wait,
Who intendeth me to hinder.
What account is that which you must render? —
That would I know.
Of all my works I must show
How I have lived and my days have spent,
Also of evil deeds to which I have been used
In my time, since life was to me lent.
And of all virtues that I have refused.
Therefore, I pray you, go thither with me
To help to make my account, for Saint Charity!
What, to go thither? Is that the matter?
Nay, Everyman, I had liefer fast on bread and water
All this five year and more!
Alas, that ever my mother me bore!
For now shall I never merry be,
If that you forsake me!
Ah, sir, come! Ye be a merry man!
Pluck up heart and make no moan,
But one tiling I warn you, by Saint Anne,
As for me, ye shall go alone!
My cousin, will you not with me go?
No, by our Lady! I have the cramp in my toe.
Trust not to me, for, so God me speed,
I will deceive you in your utmost need.
It availeth not us to coax and court.
Ye shall have my maid, with all my heart.
She loveth to go to feasts, there to make foolish sport
And to dance, and in antics to take part.
To help you on that journey I will give her leave willingly,
If so be that you and she may agree.
Now show me the very truth within your mind —
Will you go with me or abide behind?
Abide behind? Yea, that I will, if I may —
Therefore farewell till another day!
How shall I be merry or glad? —
For fair promises men to me make,
But, when I have most need, they me forsake!
I am deceived — that maketh me sad!
Cousin Everyman, farewell now, lo!
For, verily, I will not with thee go.
Also of mine own an unready reckoning,
I have to give account of, therefore I make tarrying.
Now God keep thee, for now I go!
[Kindred and Cousin go.]
Ah, Jesus, is all to this come so?
Lo, “fair words make fools fain,”
They promise, and from deeds refrain.
My kinsmen promised me faithfully
For to abide by me stedfastly.
And now fast away do they flee.
Even so Fellowship promised me.
What friend were it best for me to provide?
I am losing my time longer here to abide.
Yet still in my mind a thing there is.
All my life I have loved riches.
If that my Goods now help me might,
He would make my heart full light.
To him will I speak in my sorrow this day.
My Goods and Riches, where art thou, pray?
[Goods is disclosed hemmed in by chests and bags.]
Who calleth me? Everyman? Why this haste thou hast? I
lie here in corners trussed and piled so high.
And in chests I am locked so fast,
Also sacked in bags, thou mayest see with thine eye,
I cannot stir; in packs, full low I lie.
What ye would have, lightly to me say.
Come hither. Goods, with all the haste thou may.
For counsel straightway I must ask of thee.
Sir, if ye in this world have sorrow or adversity,
That can I help you to remedy shortly.
It is another disease that grieveth me;
In this world it is not, I tell thee so,
I am sent for another way to go,
To give a strict account general
Before the highest Jupiter of all.
And all my life I have had joy and pleasure in thee,
Therefore 1 pray thee go with me,
For, peradventure, thou mayest before God Almighty on high
My reckoning help to clean and purify,
For one may hear ever and anon
“That money maketh all right that is wrong.”
Nay, Everyman, I sing another song —
I follow no mail on such voyages,
For, if I went with thee,
Thou shouldest fare much the worse for me.
For, because on me thou didst set thy mind.
Thy reckoning I have made blotted and blind.
So that thine account thou canst not make truly —
And that hast thou for the love of me.
That would be to me grief full sore and sorrowing,
When I should come that fearful answering.
Up, let us go thither together!
Nay, not so! I am too brittle, I may not endure,
I will follow no man one foot, be ye sure.
Alas! I have thee loved, and had great pleasure
All the days of my life in goods and treasure.
That is to thy damnation, I tell thee a true thing,
For love of me is to the love everlasting contrary.
But if thou hadst the while loved me moderately,
In such wise as to give the poor a part of me,
Then would’st thou not in this dolor be.
Nor in this great sorrow and care.
Lo, now was I deceived ere I was ware,
And all I may blame to misspending of time.
What, thinkest thou I am thine?
I had thought so.
Nay, Everyman, I say no.
Just for a while I was lent to thee,
A season thou hast had me in prosperity.
My nature it is man’s soul to kill,
If I save one, a thousand I do spill.
Thinkest thou that I will follow thee?
Nay, from this world not, verily!
I had thought otherwise.
So it is to thy soul Goods is a thief.
For when thou art dead I straightway devise
Another to deceive in the same wise
As I have done thee, and all to his soul’s grief.
O false Goods, cursed may thou be!
Thou traitor to God that hast deceived me,
And caught me in thy snare.
Marry, thou broughtest thyself to this care, —
Whereof I am glad!
I must needs laugh, I cannot be sad!
Ah, Goods, thou hast had long my hearty love.
I gave thee that which should be the Lord’s above.
But wilt thou not go with me, indeed? —
I pray thee truth to say!
No, so God me speed!
Therefore farewell, and have good-day.
[Goods is hidden from view.]
Oh, to whom shall I make my moan
For to go with me on that heavy journey!
First Fellowship, so he said, would have with me
His words were very pleasant and gay,
But afterwards he left me alone;
Then spake I to my kinsmen, all in despair,
And they also gave me words fair.
They lacked not fair speeches to spend,
But all forsook me in the end;
Then went I to my Goods that I loved best.
In hope to have comfort, but there had I least,
For my Goods sharply did me tell
That he bringeth many into hell.
Then of myself I was ashamed.
And so I am worthy to be blamed.
Thus may I well myself hate.
Of whom shall I now counsel take?
I think that I shall never speed
TILL I GO TO MY GOOD DEEDS.
But, alas! she is so weak,
That she can neither move nor speak.
Yet will I venture on her now.
My Good Deeds, where be you ? [Good Deeds is shown]
Here I lie, cold in the ground.
Thy sins surely have me bound
That I cannot stir.
Good Deeds, I stand in fear!
1 must pray you for counsel,
For help now would come right well!
Everyman, I have understanding
That ye be summoned your account to make
Before Messias, of Jerusalem King.
If you do my counsel, that journey with you will I take.
For that I come to you my moan to make.
I pray you that ye will go with me.
I would full fain, but I cannot stand, verily.
Why, is there something amiss that did you befall?
Yea, Sir, I may thank you for all.
If in every wise ye had encouraged me.
Your book of account full ready would be.
Behold the books of your works and your deeds thereby.
Ah, see, how under foot they lie
Unto your soul’s deep heaviness.
Our Lord Jesus his help vouchsafe to me,
For one letter here I cannot see.
There is a blind reckoning in time of distress!
Good Deeds, I pray you help me in this need,
Or else I am forever damned indeed.
Therefore help me to make reckoning
Before him, that Redeemer is of everything,
That is, and was, and shall ever be. King of All.
Everyman, I am sorry for your fall.
And fain would I help you, if I were able.
Good Deeds, your counsel, I pray you, give me.
That will I do, verily.
Though on my feet I may not go,
I have a sister that shall with you be, also.
Called Knowledge, who shall with you abide,
To help you to make that dire reckoning.
Everyman, I will go with thee and be thy guide,
In thy utmost need to go by thy side.
In good condition I am now in everything.
And am wholly content with this good thing,
Thanks be to God, my creator!
And when he hath brought thee there.
Where thou shalt heal thee of thy smart,
Then go with thy reckoning and thy good deeds together,
For to make thee joyful at heart
Before the Holy Trinity.
My Good Deeds, gramercy!
I am well content, certainly,
With your words sweet.
Now go we together lovingly
To Confession, that cleansing river fair.
For joy I weep — I would we were there!
But, I pray you, give me cognition,
Where dwelleth that holy man, Confession?
In the House of Salvation,
We shall find him in that place,
That shall us comfort by God’s grace.
Lo, this is Confession. Kneel down, and ask mercy,
For he is in good favor with God Almighty.
O glorious fountain that all uncleanness doth clarify,
Wash from me the spots of vice unclean.
That on me no sin be seen!
I come with Knowledge for my redemption.
Redeemed with heartfelt and full contrition,
For I am commanded a pilgrimage to take,
And great accounts before God to make.
Now I pray you, Shrift, Mother of Salvation,
Help my good deeds because of my piteous exclamation!
I know your sorrow well, Everyman,
Because with Knowledge ye come to me.
I will you comfort as well as I can,
And a precious stone will I give thee.
Called penance, wise voider of adversity.
Therewith shall your body chastened be
Through abstinence and perseverance in God’s service.
Here shall you receive that scourge of me
That is penance stronge, that ye must endure.
To remember thy Saviour was scourged for thee
With sharp scourges, and suffered it patiently —
So must thou ere thou escape from that painful pilgrimage.
Knowledge, do thou sustain him on this voyage.
And by that time Good Deeds will be with thee.
But in any case be sure of mercy.
For your time draweth on fast, if ye will saved be.
Ask God mercy, and he will grant it truly.
When with the scourge of penance man doth him bind,
The oil of forgiveness then shall he find.
Thanked be God for his gracious work,
For now will I my penance begin.
This hath rejoiced and lightened my heart,
Though the knots be painful and hard within.
Everyman, see that ye your penance fulfil.
Whatever the pains ye abide full dear.
And Knowledge shall give you counsel at will.
How your account ye shall make full clear.
O eternal God, O heavenly being,
O way of righteousness, O goodly vision,
Which descended down into a virgin pure
Because he would for every man redeem
That which Adam forfeited by his disobedience —
O blessed God, elect and exalted in thy divinity,
Forgive thou my grievous offence!
Here I cry thee mercy in this presence.
O spiritual treasure, O ransomer and redeemer,
Of all the world the hope and the governor,
Mirror of joy, founder of mercy.
Who illumineth heaven and earth thereby.
Hear my clamorous complaint, though late it be,
Receive my prayers, unworthy in this heavy life!
Though I be a sinner most abominable,
Yet let my name be written in Moses’ table.
Mary, pray to the Maker of everything
To vouchsafe me help at my ending.
And save me from the power of my enemy,
For Death assaileth me strongly! —
And, Lady, that I may, by means of thy prayer,
In your Son’s glory as partner share.
Through the mediation of his passion I it crave.
1 beseech you, help my soul to save!
Knowledge, give me the scourge of penance;
My flesh therewith shall give acquittance.
I will now begin, if God give me grace.
Everyman, God give you time and space!
Thus I bequeath you into the hands of our Saviour,
Now may you make your reckoning sure.
In the name of the Holy Trinity,
My body sorely punished shall be.
Take this, body, for the sin of the flesh.
As thou delightest to go gay and fresh.
And in the way of damnation thou didst me bring,
Therefore suffer now the strokes of punishing.
Now of penance to wade the water clear I desire.
To save me from purgatory, that sharp fire.
I thank God now I can walk and go.
And am delivered of my sickness and woe!
Therefore with Everyman I will go and not spare;
His good works I will help him to declare.
Now, Everyman, be merry and glad.
Your Good Deeds comet h now, ye may not be sad.
Now is your Good Deeds whole and sound,
Going upright upon the ground.
[Good Deeds rises and walks to them,]
My heart is light and shall be evermore.
Now will I smite faster than I did before.
Everyman, pilgrim, my special friend.
Blessed be thou without end!
For thee is prepared the eternal glory.
Now thou hast made me whole and sound this tide,
In every hour I will by thee abide.
Welcome, my Good Deeds! Now I hear thy voice,
I weep for sweetness of love.
Be no more sad, but ever rejoice!
God seeth thy manner of life on his throne above.
Put on this garment to thy behoof,
Which wet with the tears of your weeping is,
Or else in God’s presence you may it miss,
When ye to your journey’s end come shall.
Gentle Knowledge, what do you it call?
A garment of sorrow it is by name,
From pain it will you reclaim.
Contrition it is,
That getteth forgiveness,
Passing well it doth God please.
Everyman, will you wear it for your soul’s ease?
[Everyman puts on the robe of contrition.]
Now blessed be Jesu, Mary’s son.
For now have I on true contrition!
And let us go now without tarrying.
Good Deeds, have we all clear our reckoning?
Yea, indeed, I have them here.
Then I trust we need not fear.
Now, friends, let us not part in twain!
Nay, Everyman, that will we not, for certain.
Yet must thou lead with thee
Who should they be?
Discretion and Strength they hight.
And thy Beauty may not abide behind.
Also ye must call to mind
Your Five Wits as your counsellors beside.
You must have them ready at every tide.
How shall I get them hither?
You must call them all together,
And they will hear you immediately.
My friends, come hither and present be.
Discretion, Strength, my Five Wits, and Beauty.
Here at your will be we all ready.
What will ye that we should do?
That ye should with Everyman go,
And help him in his pilgrimage.
Advise you — will you with him or not, on that voyage?
We will all bring him thither,
To help him and comfort, believe ye me
So will we go with him all together.
Almighty God, beloved mayest thou be!
I give thee praise that I have hither brought
Strength, Discretion, Beauty, Five Wits — lack I
And my Good Deeds, with Knowledge clear,
All be in my company at my will here.
I desire no more in this my anxiousness.
And I, Strength, will stand by you in your distress,
Though thou wouldest in battle fight on the ground.
And though it were through the world round,
We will not leave you for sweet or sour.
No more will I unto Death’s hour,
Whatsoever thereof befall.
Everyman, advise you first of all.
Go with a good advisement and deliberation.
We all give you virtuous monition
That all shall be well.
My friends, hearken what I will tell.
I pray God reward you in his heavenly sphere.
Now hearken all that be here.
For I will make my testament
Here before you all present.
In alms, half my goods will I give with my hands
In the way of charity with good intent,
And the other half still shall remain
In bequest to return where it ought to be.
This I do in despite of the fiend of hell,
Out of his peril to quit me well
For ever after and this day.
Everyman, hearken what I say.
Go to Priesthood, I, you advise,
And receive of him in any wise
The Holy Sacrament and Unction together,
Then see ye speedily turn again hither.
We will all await you here, verily.
Yea, Everyman, haste thee that ye may ready be.
There is no emperor, king, duke, nor baron bold,
That from God such commission doth hold
As he doth to the least priest in this world consign,
For of the Blessed Sacraments, pure and benign,
He beareth the keys, and thereof hath the cure
For man’s redemption, it is ever sure.
Which God as medicine for our souls’ gain
Gave us out of his heart with great pain,
Here in this transitory life for thee and me.
Of the Blessed Sacraments seven there be.
Baptism, Confirmation, with Priesthood good.
And the Sacrament of God’s precious Flesh and Blood,
Marriage, the Holy Extreme Unction, and Penance.
These seven are good to have in remembrance,
Gracious Sacraments of high divinity.
Fain would I receive that holy body.
And meekly to my spiritual father will I go.
Everyman, that is best that ye can do.
God will you to salvation bring,
For Priesthood exceedeth every other thing.
To us Holy Scripture they do teach,
And convert men from sin, heaven to reach.
God hath to them more power given
Than to any angel that is in heaven.
With five words he may consecrate
God’s body in flesh and blood to make,
And handleth his Maker between his hands.
The priest bindeth and unbindeth all bands
Both in earth and heaven. —
Thou dost administer all the Sacraments seven.
Though we should kiss thy feet, yet thereof thou worthy wert.
Thou art the surgeon that doth cure of mortal sin the hurt.
Remedy under God we find none
Except in Priesthood alone. —
Everyman, God gave priests that dignity,
And setteth them in his stead among us to be,
Thus be they above angels in degree.
If priests be good, it is so surely;
But when Jesus hung on the cross with grievous smart,
There he gave out of his blessed heart
That same Sacrament in grievous torment. —
He sold them not to us, that Lord omnipotent.
Therefore Saint Peter the apostle doth say
That Jesus’ curse have all they
Which God their Saviour do buy or sell.
Or if they for any money do “take or tell.”
Sinful priests give sinners bad example in deed and word,
Their children sit by other men’s fires, I have heard,
And some haunt of women the company,
With life unclean as through lustful acts of lechery—.
These be with sin made blind.
I trust to God no such may we find.
Therefore let us do Priesthood honor,
And follow their doctrines for our souls’ succor.
We be their sheep, and they shepherds be,
By whom we all are kept in security.
Peace! for yonder I see Everyman come.
Who unto God hath made true satisfaction.
Methinketh it is he indeed.
Now may Jesus all of you comfort and speed!
I have received the Sacrament for my redemption,
And also mine extreme unction.
Blessed be all they that counselled me to take it!
And now, friends, let us go without longer respite.
I thank God ye would so long waiting stand.
Now set each of you on this rood your hand,
And shortly follow me.
I go before where I would be.
God be our guide!
Everyman, we will not from you go,
Till ye have gone this voyage long.
I, Discretion, will abide by you also.
And though of this pilgrimage the hardships be
never so strong,
No turning backward in me shall you know.
Everyman, I will be as sure by thee,
As ever I was by Judas Maccabee.
Alas! I am so faint I may not stand,
My limbs under me do fold.
Friends, let us not turn again to this land.
Not for all the world’s gold.
For into this cave must I creep,
And turn to the earth, and there sleep.
What — into this grave! Alas! Woe is me!
Yea, there shall ye consume utterly.
And what, — must I smother here?
Yea, by my faith, and never more appear!
In this world we shall live no more at all,
But in heaven before the highest lord of all.
I cross out all this! Adieu, by Saint John I
I take “my cap in my lap” and am gone.
What, Beauty! — whither go ye ?
Peace! I am deaf, I look not behind me.
Not if thou wouldest give me all the gold in thy chest.
[Beauty goes, followed by the others, as they speak in turn.]
Alas! in whom may I trust?
Beauty fast away from me doth hie.
She promised with me to live and die.
Everyman, I will thee also forsake and deny,
Thy game liketh me not at all!
Why, then ye will forsake me all!
Sweet Strength, tarry a little space.
Nay, Sir, by the rood of grace,
I haste me fast my way from thee to take,
Though thou weep till thy heart do break.
Ye would ever abide by me, ye said.
STRENGTH. Yea, I have you far enough conveyed.
Ye be old enough, I understand,
Your pilgrimage to take in hand.
I repent me that I thither came.
Strength, for displeasing you I am to blame.
Will ye break “promise that is debt”?
In faith, I care not!
Thou art but a fool to complain.
You spend your speech and waste your brain.
Go, thrust thyself into the ground!
I had thought more sure I should you have found,
But I see well, who trusteth in his Strength,
She him deceiveth at length.
Both Strength and Beauty have forsaken me,
Yet they promised me fair and lovingly.
Everyman, I will after Strength be gone —
As for me, I will leave you alone.
Why, Discretion, will ye forsake me!
Yea, in faith, I will go from thee,
For when Strength goeth before
I follow after, evermore.
Yet, I pray thee, for love of the Trinity
Look in my grave once in pity of me.
Nay, so nigh will I not come, trust me well!
Now I bid you each farewell.
Oh, all things fail save God alone —
Beauty, Strength, and Discretion!
For when Death bloweth his blast,
They all run from me full fast.
Everyman, my leave now of thee I take.
I will follow the others, for here I thee forsake.
Alas! then may I wail and weep,
For I took you for my best friend.
I will thee no longer keep.
Now farewell, and here’s an end!
Jesu, help! All have forsaken me.
Nay, Everyman, I will abide by thee,
I will not forsake thee indeed!
Thou wilt find me a good friend at need.
Gramercy, Good Deeds, now may I true friends see.
They have forsaken me everyone,
I loved them better than my Good Deeds alone.
Knowledge, will ye forsake me also?
Yea, Everyman, when ye to death shall go,
But not yet, for no manner of danger.
Gramercy, Knowledge, with all my heart!
Nay, yet will I not from hence depart.
Till whereunto ye shall come, I shall see and know.
Methinketh, alas! that I must now go
To make my reckoning, and my debts pay,
For I see my time is nigh spent away.
Take example, all ye that this do hear or see,
How they that I love best do forsake me,
Except my Good Deeds that abideth faithfully.
All earthly things are but vanity.
Beauty, Strength and Discretion do man forsake,
Foolish friends and kinsmen that fair spake.
All flee away save Good Deeds, and that am I!
Have mercy on me, God most mighty,
And stand by me, thou Mother and Maid, holy Mary!
Fear not, I will speak for thee.
Here I cry God mercy!
Shorten our end and minish our pain,
Let us go and never come again.
Into thy hands, Lord, my soul I commend —
Receive it, Lord, that it be not lost!
As thou didst me buy, so do thou me defend,
And save me from the fiend’s boast
That I may appear with that blessed host
That shall be saved at the day of doom.
In manus tuas, of mights the most,
Forever commendo spiritum meum.
[Everyman goes into the grave.]
Now that he hath suffered that we all shall endure,
The Good Deeds shall make all sure;
Now that he hath made ending,
Methinketh that I hear angels sing.
And make great joy and melody,
Where Everyman’s soul shall received be!
[The Angel appears.]
Come, excellent elect spouse to Jesu!
Here above shalt thou go.
Because of thy singular virtue.
Now thy soul from thy body is taken, lo!
Thy reckoning is crystal clear.
Now shalt thou into the heavenly sphere,
Unto which ye all shall come
That live well before the day of doom.
[The Angel goes and the Doctor enters.]
This moral men may have in mind, —
Ye hearers, take it as of worth, both young and old,
And forsake Pride, for he deceiveth you in the end, as ye will find,
And remember Beauty, Five Wits, Strength, and Discretion, all told.
They all at the last do Everyman forsake
Save that his Good Deeds there doth he take.
But beware, if they be small,
Before God he hath no help at all,
None excuse for Everyman may there then be there.
Alas, how shall he then do and fare!
For after death amends may no man make.
For then Mercy and Pity do him forsake.
If his reckoning be not clear when he doth come,
God will say, Ite, maledicti, in ignem ceternum.
And he that hath his account whole and sound,
High in heaven he shall be crowned.
Unto which place God bring us all thither
That we may live, body and soul, together!
Thereto their aid vouchsafe the Trinity —
Amen, say ye, for holy Charity!
Thus endeth this moral play of Everyman.
1.18.2 Reading and Review Questions
1. How is allegory used in the play? How many types of allegory can you find, and what purpose(s) do they serve?
2. What are the differences between Everyman’s original group of friends and the group that gathers around him at the end? What are we meant to infer from those differences?
3. Why is Everyman’s journey referred to as a pilgrimage? What kind of pilgrimage is it?
4. What kind of financial metaphors does the author use, and what is their purpose?
5. What does the play say about priests? How is this similar to and different from the various portrayals of the priesthood in the Canterbury Tales?
1.19 KEY TERMS
• Alliterative Verse
• Anglo-Saxon Chronicle
• Anglo-Saxon Warrior Code
• Battle of Hastings
• Bob and Wheel
• William Caxton
• Chivalric Code
• Common Brittonic
• Courtly Love
• Domesday Book
• Dream Vision
• Ecclesiastical History of the English People
• Geoffrey of Monmouth
• History of the Kings of Britain
• King Arthur
• Lays or Lais
• Lyric Poetry
• Morality Play
• Mystery Play Cycle
• Order of the Garter
• Social Satire
• Three Estates
• Wars of the Roses
• William the Conqueror