Return to Medieval Studies

Discover more by following these links.                                                                       

History Of Morality Play

Understanding the Allegory and Nature of Virtues

Medieval Themes

Annotated Bibliography

Some other useful links

The Text of Everyman
(At Luminarium)                    

See the play in Rome
The Morality Play is alive at well.
The Miracle Players continue the tradition.

See the Everyman video


The genre of "Everyman" is that of the morality play. The plot is allegorical. Its message is considered to be didactic in that it desires a moral conversion of the audience.

Time Frame
In the fourteenth century, a new genre of drama called the Morality Play was born. The morality play's ease of adapting to the ever changing conditions of the time allowed them to continue well into the renaissance. "The Castle Perseverance" (ca. 1405-25) is an example of an early morality play.  It is marked with elaborate staging and the use of very dramatic visuals. In the play  "Everyman" (ca.1495)  we can observe the changes that were incorporated in order to accommodate theme and social context. There is a debate if "Everyman" was a translation of an earlier Flemish/Dutch play. 

The story is not hard to follow because the opening scene sets up the plot.  Death tells everyman that he must journey to face God in his final judgment.  On his pilgrimage, Everyman asks allegorical representations of virtues to accompany him. Everyman is surprised by his friends who fail him and soon finds out what is required for the redemption of his soul. If in medieval times, there was a presumption that every man had faith, then what was thought to be the key to salvation? 

 Pageant Qualities
Everyman is not as dependent on props like some of the other morality plays.  Instead the presentation of the powerful image of Death, the dramatic pace of the speeches, and the very strong visuals add to the delight of the audience. These dramas could be seen on stages or in churches but drama became unfavorable to the churches so the plays were moved outside.  What resulted was the use of pageant wagons.  These portable stages could contain all the costumes and elements necessary in the production and very easily be moved from town to town.