Everyman's Unspoken Confession

Abstract : In Everyman, the representation of the sacraments, especially penance, poses the problem of the ways in which allegory works in theatre. Critical studies of the representation of Confession as both character and sacrament downplays the problematic nature of this aspect of the play in resorting to conventional medieval schema or in suggesting ways of resolving the difficulties in production. Though the sacraments are central to the play, they are occulted or represented obliquely. Neither communion nor extreme unction are presented on stage. Though Everyman meets a character named Confession, the stages of the sacrament do not appear in the order prescribed in religious treatises. Moreover, Everyman fails to make a complete public confession. This unorthodox representation of the sacraments can be partly explained by the cultural context. Since the sacraments of penance and communion were criticized by the Lollards and other dissident groups, the playwright may have been reluctant to desacralize them by representing them on stage. Instead, he evokes these sacraments by showing their effects on the protagonist. This may also reflect the inward turn in spiritual practice due to the devotio moderna.
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Submitted on : Sunday, July 15, 2012 - 3:32:10 PM
Last modification on : Wednesday, May 23, 2018 - 5:58:10 PM
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Wendy Harding. Everyman's Unspoken Confession. La Théâtralité de Everyman, Jan 2009, Toulouse, France. pp.229-236. ⟨hal-00712155⟩

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