Saturday, October 31, 2015


I remember how when I was growing up in Pensacola my parents took me to see some student-directed one-act plays at the University of West Florida. Two of the plays were forgettable, but the third, Everyman, stayed with me.

Now that I'm teaching theatre history at City College, I get to introduce this play to a new generation. Unfortunately, they can't benefit from the wonderful production I saw, but I hope they enjoy the piece, nevertheless.

Everyman begins with God summoning the title character.

In the UWF production, three different people, all in mask, recited God's lines in unison. The creation of a trinity, both visually and aurally, was stunning. God calls for Death in the play, saying:

               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.

Everyman tries to get Fellowship to go with him. I remember clearly that this character was dressed as a fraternity brother. He wore a t-shirt with Greek letters on it, and he exuded the aura of a party animal. At first Fellowship promised he would help Everyman in whatever he needed, but when he heard that the trip he was to take was the journey of Death, he changed his tune:

               Now, by God that all hath bought,
               If Death were the messenger,
               For no man that is living today
               I will not go that loath journey--
               Not for the father that begat me!

Similarly, Kindred and Cousin decline to accompany Everyman. The hero's encounter with Worldly Goods is particularly funny. In the script, Goods is a man, but in the production I remember, an attractive woman played Goods, dressed in a gold dress and wearing gold fingernail polish. This worked quite well, in my opinion, as Everyman swears he always loved Goods.

However, Goods responds:

               That is to thy damnation without lesing,
               For my love is contrary to the love everlasting...
               As for a while I was lent thee,
               A season thou hast had me in prosperity;
               My condition is man's soul to kill;
               If I save one, a thousand I do spill...

Ultimately, only Good Deeds can accompany Everyman on the pilgrimage of Death to meet his God. She is lame, however, and to heal her Everyman must go to Confession.

That somber character gives Everyman the scourge of penance, which heals Good Deeds so she can walk again. I clearly remember the actor playing Everyman stripping off his shirt and whipping his own back with the scourge. It was quite powerful.

Everyman is one of those plays everyone should read. Fortunately, it's in the public domain and pretty easy to find. You can read a modernized text here: