43 pages 1 hour read



Fiction | Play | Adult | Published in 1485

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Death and Reckoning

The central themes of Everyman are announced in the play’s title page, which introduces the work as a “treatise how the High Father of Heaven sendeth Death to summon every creature to come and give account of their lives in this world […] in manner of a moral play” (1). These themes of death, reckoning, and salvation are further explored by the Messenger and later by God himself, both of whom deliver speeches at the beginning of the play that bemoan the reckoning or final judgment that human beings must face when they die. Death himself is soon brought on stage as a personified or allegorical character.

As God observes at the beginning of the play, human beings live their lives “without dread in worldly prosperity” (24)—that is, without thinking of their deaths and preparing for the judgment they will face when they die. Indeed, when Death arrives to bring Everyman to his reckoning, he notes that “full little he thinketh on my coming” (81). In forgetting Death, human beings also forget God, as Death brings humans to the eternal realm of God (or to hell). The coming of Death highlights the transience of human life.