God to Death:
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.
I have heard of this play here and there over the years, but never saw a performance of it. There was one recently at Franciscan University of Steubenville, and it was quite well done. The performance was quite medieval, with lots of music and dress from the era, but also there were touches of the 21st century (e.g. death speaks through a synthesizer and sounds like something out of a horror movie).
The pilgrimage of Everyman is one focused first on how most folks are just not into the whole preparing for death thing. Yet, when a tragedy happens, we are reminded, if only briefly. I sometimes think of the place where Jesus says, “Unless you repent, the same thing will happen to you.” He is not speaking exactly literaly, but in the sense that you will be caught unaware.
Everyman is caught unaware, but also has some short time to prepare for death, and the allegory still has much to teach us today.
Death says, for instance:
For before God thou shalt answer, and show true
Thy many bad deeds and good but a few,
How thou hast spent thy life and in what wise
Before the Chief Lord of Paradise.
Get thee prepared that we may be upon that journey,
For well thou knowest thou shalt make none for thee attorney.
It’s rare to see something rhyme with journey, but there it is. No attorney comes with us at that judgement.
You can hear a radio adaptation of the play here (broadcast October 23, 1938), with some commentary at the beginning that is not completely pro-Church. Still, it is best to experience the play live.