Everyman: Morality Play

Everyman: Morality Play Quotes and Analysis

That of our lives and ending shows

How transitory we be all day.


This quote, from the Messenger's opening speech is interesting for several reasons: it, right at the start of the play, announces that the play has a moral purpose, and foregrounds the play's dual concerns with our lives as well as our deaths (our "ending"). Moreover, the play's emphasis on transitoriness is expressly stated in the very first speech.

Ye think sin in the beginning full sweet

Which in the end causeth the soul to weep.


This quote from the Messenger's opening speech foregrounds the play's exploration of sin and damnation right at the beginning of the play. It is one of many quotes in this play exploring the ideas of beginnings and endings (the play itself, of course, shows "of our lives and ending").


...all creatures be to me unkind,

Living without dread in worldly prosperity.


This quote comes right at the beginning of God's first speech, and speaks of his anger with "all creatures of the earth" (perhaps suggesting that Everyman perhaps represents, more than every man, but every creature!). The conflict between the spiritual and the earthly is immediately raised: God is angry that people focus on "worldly prosperity" without thinking about damnation and sin.


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.


God instructs Death to go to Everyman and take him on the pilgrimage towards judgement. It is an interesting quote for several reasons. Firstly, the shorter verse lines (the first two, unusually for this play, are lines of iambic trimeter) might imply increased tension, and certainly set these staccato lines apart from the ones that follow it. Secondly, God seems to imply that Everyman's "pilgrimage" will be from dying into death, an unusual metaphor in this period (a pilgrimage is usually life to death). Thirdly, and lastly, it also shows how God himself requires a "sure reckoning" - for Everyman to be clear of sin - if he is to be admitted to heaven.


Yet of my good will I give thee, if thou will be kind

Yea, a thousand pound shalt thou have,

And defer this matter till another day.


This is Everyman attempting to bribe Death to postpone his death. It is a comical moment, but one interesting to examine for Everyman's own worldly, wealth-orientated way of thinking. One of the lessons Everyman will learn by the end of the play is that money, in fact, is not the solution to all problems.


For, in faith, and thou go to hell,

I will not forsake thee by the way.


This is Fellowship speaking before he hears of the nature of Everyman's pilgrimage. He, like so many of Everyman's other false friends, makes many promises about keeping faith with Everyman which turn out to be false; there is also a dark irony in his hyperbolic use of "and thou go to hell" (meaning "even if you were going to hell") - of course, that is exactly where Everyman might end up going.


My love is contrary to the love everlasting.

But if thou had me loved moderately during,

As to the poor give part of me,

Then shouldest thou not in this dolour be.


Goods cruelly reveals to Everyman that love of goods is in fact opposite to love of God and love of the divine. It is notable that Goods and Good Deeds are symmetrically positioned in the play: they are, of course, opposite behaviours - as Goods here points out. If Everyman had only given some of his money to the poor, Goods could have become Good Deeds - but he didn't, and now must pay the price.


In the name of the Holy Trinity

My body sore punished shall be.

Take this, body, for the sin of the flesh!

He scourges himself


It is notable that, in the lines before Everyman physically scourges himself, he draws out the play's ongoing juxtaposition of the worldly and the spiritual. His body will suffer for the sins of flesh, but his soul will be redeeemed; undergoing worldly pain will lead to spiritual salvation, just as worldly pleasure can lead to spiritual damnation.

There is no emperor, king, duke, ne baron,

That of God hath commission

As hath at least priest in the world being.

For of the blessed sacraments pure and benign

He beareth the keys...


Five Wits talks about the holiness of priests, shortly before Everyman exits the stage to receive the sacrament and extreme unction. The play has a dual stance on priest: here, it espouses their holiness and closeness to good, and later in Five Wits' long speech in their praise, he says that they have more power than any angel in heaven. Later, though, Knowledge puts the alternate perspective that sinful priests are a bad example totheir flocks.


Sinful priests giveth the sinners example bad;

Their children sitteth by other men's fires, I have heard,

And some haunteth women's company

With unclean life, as lusts of lechery.


This is the other side of the play's examination of priests, and Knowledge, here opposing Five Wits' earlier speech in praise of them, points out that some priests commit abuses - and therefore implies that not all priests are indeed holy. It is, again, the conflict between the earthly and the spiritual: some priests are too concerned with earthly pleasures, and forget spiritual judgement. This section is also notable as it raises a theme which was politically very important at the time the play was written - it was a factor in the Protestant Reformation which began some 20 years after Everyman was published.