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Everyman

Updated: Oct 10, 2023

A Dig Deeper Article by Production Dramaturg Alex de Rouyan, Sam Villetard, and Alex Ward.



Written in England during the 15th century, Everyman is the morality play from which Everybody is based. Much like Everybody, the original play, Everyman takes an allegorical approach to exploring the meaning of life. The various aspects and virtues of one's life are represented through personified characters, which interact with the character “Everyman” , a stand-in for all of humanity. Of course, given the time period it was written in and general subject matter, Everyman is intensely focused on religion, both in its structure and intended interpretation. The original play text itself reads in a format not dissimilar to a sermon that culminates in a grand reveal that ‘all will be judged by their actions before god’ reflecting the largely church dictated concerns of the time period. Of course, Everybody, is from now and, as such, takes a much more considerate approach when exploring these same ideas surrounding life and death.


Everyman has been adapted several times throughout the years, with playwrights and design teams restaging or rewriting the morality play for a variety of audiences and purposes. This includes several historical presentations, a few TV and movie adaptations, as well as at least 4 major adaptations, in which the play was redesigned or rewritten with a specific theme, idea, or intention in mind. Everybody is the latest in this storied line, being written in 2016 and performed in 2017.


It is worth noting that Everyman itself is an adaptation as well. The 15th century morality play was originally based on Elckerlijc, a Dutch play written sometime in the late 1400s. Also a morality play, Elckerlijc explores death and its significance to life in a more lyrical writing style. This was typical for Dutch plays of the time period, which were authored and performed by dramatic societies which were directly controlled by the authorities of the time period, serving as a form of public relations. While there has been some debate surrounding the level to which Elckerlijc influenced Everyman, historians agree that several passages of the play remain almost entirely translated over, many of those same passages make an appearance in Everybody, see if you can spot them.


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