The later Middle Ages brought upon a rapid growth in the native drama, a preparation for the Great Age of Elizabeth; The ancient classical drama was not so popular and the only traces of it could be found in the mimes or the professional strolling players to be found throughout the Middle Ages in all parts of Europe. The church played a major role in the growth of the Drama, it was however ironic that the Drama was earlier being banned by the Church because at that time Drama was common among the Pagans.
It was earlier performed at great festivals, a crude survival of pagan ritual, developed into more elaborate amusements with simple dramatizations of the feat of such heroes as Robin Hood and St George. This however brought a change in the art of story telling as the audiences could easily picture the characters on stage and would leave a much more lasting imprint on the viewer’s memory. These festivities were the occasion of much popular fun and licence.
It is in the Church and the liturgy that we find the stimulus which leads to the rebirth of drama. Such was the popularity that most of the performances had to be taken to the streets. The Catholic Church started the Dramatized form of familiarizing the stories of the Bible through the Miracle Plays where all the miracles that were in the Bible were acted out Especially in the Mass, were developed as part of the elaborate ceremonial of great religious feasts such like Easter.
The Authorities were quick to appreciate the instructional value of these performances as an addition to the Latin liturgy, since most of the sermons at that time were delivered in Latin, therefore it was incomprehensible for the common people but through these dramatized displays the people were made aware of their own identities as Christians and this added more impetus to the popularity of the Drama in Medieval Europe and also the attendance on the pews got better. A Morality play was a play that comes between a religious play and the secular play of the 16th century
Everyman (about 1940) was among the most popular of the Morality Plays. The Characters in this play are simple but effectively portrayed, and the play does not lack a noble pathetic quality. Everyman is somewhat different from other Morality Plays although the main features of these style of plays portrays the battle between virtue and vice there was however no such battle in the play. The origins of this play were obscure but it was believed that it resembled the Dutch play Elckerlyc (Everyman) first printed in 1495. Everyman was no doubt a popular play that was hitherto performed nowadays in theatres.
It displays the predicaments of the character Everyman and the development of his character as the play progresses. It was an impressive play in a sense that it has the classical simplicity of action, by the concreteness of the allegorical and that it was also a rough attempt to excite terror and pity. Above all the redemption of Everyman at the end brought out the moral aim of the play. The Play starts with the Messenger as he addresses the audience; the dialogue somehow generalizes the character of Everyman, so that the audience could identify themselves through his character.
And also a Discourse by God upon the materialistic pursuit of the world, this already sets the tone of the play as the audiences are already reprimanded on the dangers of the materialistic world. Everyman also echoes the moral story of friendship, of isolation, of patience and of God’s abundant Grace on his people. Everyman was portrayed as a character who had abandoned his love for God and lived in live on the means of Goods, only after his encounter with the Character of Death that Everyman realizes that there was more to his life than just material gain. Death. Yea, certainly though thou have forget him here, He thinketh on thee in the heavenly sphere, As, ere we depart, thou shalt know. ” The character of Everyman in the play also addresses the audience directly and also his soliloquies served as a sermon to the audience. The audience identifies the predicament of Everyman as he was approached by Death at the height of his fruitful years. “Lines 188; Everyman. Alas, I may as well weep with sighs deep! Now I have no of company to help me in my journey, and me to keep; And also my writing is full unready. ”
It teaches of the uncertainty of death that will come upon all men. Everyman realizes that he had to face God but in failing to bribe Death he is in want of a company of friends. Everyman as a morality play echoed the silence of God as Everyman blindly led his life of materialistic pursuit. Only when he was driven to the brink, and when he faced isolation from among his so called friends such as Fellowship, Kindred Cousin, and Goods as they became aware of his predicaments did he realised his mistake and looked back at his past life that was without any purpose.
Everyman realized that he had to let go of his material gain and regretted no having done one single good deed. Everyman also echoed man’s nature to sin and also of the weakness of the flesh, therefore everyman at the latter part of the play had to undergone scourging just as Christ himself was scourged, therefore out of this penance would brought out feelings of contrition, absolution and satisfaction, so that Everyman would die of the flesh as it was a common practice that time to achieve God’s grace and redemption.
Through this process of scourging there was a transition from Everyman’s sinful nature to a state of grace Everyman as a morality play exposes the sins that the common people should avoid which includes greed, avarice, gluttony, lechery etc. Therefore the common people this play were also made aware of the seven sacraments where in order for Everyman to gain access into God’s Kingdom these were The Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist, Ordination, Confession, Matrimony and the Anointing of the Sick.
The Drama ends however not only of the Salvation of Everyman but also of humanity. It was therefore a Play that sets an example of how Humanity can be saved.
Bibliography: Primary text The Moral Play Of Everyman Reprinted by Sir Walter Greg Secondary Text: The History of English Literature Albert, Edward fifth edition Oxford University Press 1979 Robert Potter G. R Owst, Literature and Pulpit in Medieval England, (Newyork Barnes and Noble, 1961)