Everyman: Morality Play

Suggested Essay Questions

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  1. 1

    Imagine that you are the director of a production of Everyman. Describe the choices you would make to bring the play to life, focusing on acting, set design, costume, music and lights.

    This question asks you to consider Everyman as a play in the theatre, and to consider ways of translating it to the stage. Remember that we have no evidence Everyman was performed on stage in the late medieval period, so it might be worth you looking carefully at the text for clues as to how an original production (if indeed there was one) might have dealt with the play in production.

  2. 2

    Everyman is primarily a play about death. Do you agree?

    This question asks you to examine a statement about the play and consider how much you agree with it. Remember that, with questions like this, it is always good to see two sides to the story: in some ways the play is about death, but it is also about other things - and a good essay will weigh up both sides before coming to a conclusion.

  3. 3

    Is Everyman himself a sympathetic figure? Should he be?

    This question asks you to consider the central character, Everyman, and consider whether or not he has the sympathies of the audience, before looking more generally at the role he has to play within the structure of the play as a whole should be sympathetic. Do you feel sorry for him? Would a medieval Christian audience have pitied him?

  4. 4

    Everyman's tone is extremely simple: like a reading from the Bible, it exists only to reinforce the Christianity of its audience, not to shock them or change them in any way. Do you agree?

    This is another question that asks you to consider a statement made about the play. In this instance, I would advocate disagreeing with the idea that Everyman's tone is "extremely simple" (see the Summary and Analysis section of this note for more information) - it is sometimes incredibly difficult to pin down. Remember to weigh up arguments for the statement and against the statement before coming to a conclusion.

  5. 5

    Allegorical characters simply make for boring, didactic drama. Do you agree?

    This question asks you to look specifically at the use of allegorical figures - in Everyman, this is almost every character except God, Death, the Angel and the Doctor! How do they work dramatically - are they simply boring, two-dimensional mouthpieces for a single viewpoint? Or, perhaps, can they be more complex and more interesting? It is, again, helpful to weigh up both sides before concluding.

  6. 6

    Watch Ingmar Bergman's 1956 film 'The Seventh Seal', taking careful notes. Compare and contrast the presentation of the relationship between man and Death in both this film and Everyman.

    This question asks you, somewhat unusually, to make a comparison cross-media, between an old play and a more modern film. The two works do not necessarily have any overt connection, but there is clearly good thematic reasons for considering them together. Ask yourself first about Death - is he personified? How is he dressed? What does he say? Why has he come? How does man react? Who is the 'Everyman' figure? These questions should give you more than enough information to get started!

  7. 7

    Examine closely the discussion of the priesthood in this play. What do you think is the purpose of the writer in including this material?

    This question asks you to speculate about the writer's intention in the discussion of the priesthood that happens in the final third of the play. Remember that two opposing perspectives are put: there are speeches made praising priests, and some condemning sinful priests. It might also be a good idea to look up some of the religious and historical context for Everyman to understand more about clerical abuses.

  8. 8

    Examine the presentation of God, Death and the Angel in Everyman, paying attention to the doctrine of what they say, and the way they might be brought to life on stage.

    This question asks you to pay attention to the way the play dramatizes three figures about whom the audience might already have expectations. Consider what they say (and where its foundation is in Catholicism) but also how they say it - what sort of character do they each seem to be? How might they be dressed?

  9. 9

    Examine the theme of clothing and garments in Everyman.

    This question asks you to trace a theme throughout the play as a whole. Firstly, read the text and note down any time clothes or garments are mentioned (don't forget stage directions!). Then, try and construct a broader argument about what that theme appears to mean - what is its relevance to the other themes and issues in the play?

  10. 10

    What do you think the allegory in Everyman is trying to teach its audience? How is this message made clearer by being told using allegorical means?

    This questions asks you to consider the play's use of allegory, to outline broadly what you think the play is trying to teach its audience, and then to consider how the two fit together. Why might some ideas be better told using allegory? Why might allegory be a "good fit" for certain types of lessons? (See Summary & Analysis for Section 2 for more help).

  11. 11

    Compare and contrast Everyman with Mankind. Do you think the somberness of the former or the humor of the latter is a more effective means of communicating the Christian message?

    This question asks you to read and compare two morality plays, and then to weigh up which one you think is more effective. There is, remember, no single right answer to this question, so you need to support your opinion with textual evidence. What do you think the best way to teach is - through seriousness or through humor? What are the advantages and disadvantages of each approach?