Everyman: Morality Play

Examining Allegory: A Versatile Concept in Beowulf, Everyman, and Mother! College

Throughout early English literature as well as modern stories of various mediums, a popular literary device is that of allegory. The Merriam-Webster online dictionary describes allegory as “the expression by means of symbolic fictional figures and actions of truths or generalizations about human existence” (“Allegory”). Essentially, allegory is the implementation of symbols and metaphors as a means of progressing the narrative in a story or relaying a message of sorts. Two potent examples of allegory can be found in the epic Beowulf as well as the morality play, Everyman. A recent example of this storytelling mechanic can be found in the form of Darren Aronofsky’s film, Mother!, which will be discussed later in this essay. While Beowulf adopts pointed instances of symbolism and allegorical concepts, the entirety of Everyman utilizes allegory by way of personifying mankind’s deeds and struggles.

Perhaps the most profound allegorical elements of Beowulf are Grendel and his mother. Grendel is a descendent of Cain while his mother can be interpreted as a personification of original sin. Elaborating on the idea of the allegorical relationship between Grendel and Cain, take a look at the similarities of their respective origins...

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