Saturday, March 29, 2014

Everyman and Medieval Miracle Plays

This was my latest classic read.  Next up is a collection of Shakespeare.  I was surprised at how much I enjoyed these plays.  The plays were well written, though of course, archaic, and it was fun to read a slightly new take on classic Bible stories that many people know so well.  Part of the reason I was so eager to read these, is that these plays are credited with being the sort of plays that would have inspired Shakespeare.
This is the edition of the book from which I read.
I also was interested in this book in light of Russell Crow's new Noah movie (I haven't seen it, but apparently it was very good).  The story of the flood is one of the plays included in this book and the take on the story, and the medieval exclamations that biblical characters made such as, "Ye gads!"  made me laugh.  It just goes to show that people have been changing and reinterpreting bible stories to suit their particular life experiences for a very long time.  What doesn't change is the attraction to the stories.  

The majority of the book is taken up with plays written about bible stories.  Most of the major stories in both the new and old testament are included.  Then, the last 30 pages are the Everyman play.  The Everyman play is the story of Everyman, an average human.  God says that people have become too obsessed with money and power and that they need to be taught a lesson, through Everyman.  So, God sends Death, the reaper, to bring Everyman to eternity, never to return to earth.   Along the way, Everyman makes a friend, called Fellowship, who promises to stay with him forever, until he realizes that Everyman is summoned by death.  Fellowship leaves.  A similar situation happens with Kindred and Cousin.  Next, Everyman turns to Goods (inanimate objects, representing worldly stuff), which does not comfort him. Finally, Everyman meets Good Deeds and others like him, has his soul purged of sin, and goes with his new friend, Good Deeds, to heaven to meet God.  This story reminded me very much of Pilgrim's Progress.

So, overall, I recommend this book.  I think it's a great place to start in reading medieval plays, because it shows the play-watching background that so many famous playwrights would have had.

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