Everyman

Video Clips

Reading Guide

Motifs and Images

  • gold, treasure, wealth and associated images
  • clean, cleanliness
  • blind, blindness; clear, clarity and associated images
  • pleasure(s)
  • imagery of exchange (very important one!)
  • debt/lend/own/profit
  • images of friendship, counsel, advice
  • deception, lying

Staging

  1. This play has no stage directions, but there are clues in the text to help us understand how it may have been staged, what kinds of choices may have been made. What evidence does the play give us to suggest staging choices? You might consider props, costumes, the location of the stage(s), scene design, and so on. Is Everyman always “on stage”? What clues to the gender of each character do we have in the play?
  2. Given what you now know about medieval performance traditions, what from your textbook might help us understand how Everyman could have been staged in the 15th century?
  3. Medieval drama is known for its use of allegory. What is allegory, and where do you see it in the text? How do you think the play would have been staged, given the medieval tendency toward allegory? Consider one scene in particular.
  4. In what ways is this play conscious of its status as theater? What is the purpose of such performance?
  5. How do you think the role of God would have been performed? Are there any circumstances in which performing God might be problematic?
  6. Medieval drama blurs the line between “performance” and “reality.” In what ways might Everyman do so?

Content and Character

  1. Consider the role of the messenger. What does he do in his first speech?
  2. What different responses does Everyman give Death? What does this reveal to us about Everyman? What kind of character is he? Is he evil? Why, or why not?
  3. Why does Cousin refuse to go with Everyman?
  4. In the play, Goods shares a line with Death. What is it? Why do you think this might be the case? Do you notice other parallels between characters or situations?
  5. Why can’t Good Deeds go with Everyman at first?
  6. Were you surprised when Strength and Discretion also left Everyman at the end? Why, or why not?
  7. How are Strength, Beauty, Five-Wits, and Discretion like Fellowship, Kindred, Cousin, and Goods? How are they unlike? What, if anything, sets Goods apart from the other characters who refuse to go with Everyman? Is Goods at all like Good Deeds?
  8. What is a “clear reckoning,” and how does Everyman get it?

Larger Questions: Pleasure, Exchange, Deception

  1. What kinds of things are exchanged in this play? Keep in mind that exchange comes in many forms, and it is not just about the exchange of money for goods/services. Why do you think the play places such emphasis on exchange?
  2. This play discusses several different kinds of pleasure. What kinds of pleasure does the play put its finger on?
  3. In a very basic sense, all acting and performance is a form of deception, of lying. This play is also about the many ways we deceive ourselves. How does this play negotiate the relationship between performance and deception?
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