The Everyman Shepherds'
While many will note the fact that the medieval ages was a point of stagnation and uncompromising control over the theatre, it should also be noted that there were some positive things to come out of this supposed dark age of the theatre. While innovations in the manner of spectacle were sparse to non-existent, the use of the stage in order to relate moral tales to the common people of the time were prevalent. Two works that were particularly poignant during the middle ages in their allegorical and metaphorical messages are The Wakefield Second Shepherds' Pageant and Everyman. While the two differ greatly in the way that they attempt to get across their message, both plays work as thresholds for a greater understanding of the important events of life. Through the use of simplistic language to express important values the clergy could easily express moral and religious messages to the audience. However, while both works express their messages admirably, they achieve this task in several different ways.
The first major way in which the two works differ, obviously, would be in plot and the style of the show. While the plot of Everyman takes a serious and allegorical stance, The Wakefield Second Shepherds' Pageant works as a metaphorical tale brought to light through comedy.
The basic story of Everyman is simply a man's journey to death. During his journey, Everyman comes to the realization that the good deeds of ones life, along with repentance, are the only things of significant importance. The general idea is furthered by the fact that characters such as Goods, Kinship, and Cousin reject him en route to death. As well, later on, when Everyman gets nearer the grave, he is further rejected by Beauty, Five Wits, and Strength, amongst others, to show that the closer a person gets to death and lose all their positive worldly characteristics, all they have during judgment day is the good deeds one has done upon the earth.
While not owning to a particular religion, except for the mention of confession at one point, Everyman's theme works at bringing home the idea of what should be important to people of all religions, creeds, and races. By using the massive allegory of naming all the characters after personal characteristics and items, the audience is able to relate on a very personal level and witness how they, in fact, are Everyman. In actuality, Everyman can be seen as simply a foundation for the concept that is presented in the shows closing speech. When the Doctor takes the stage in the final moments, it works as a way of literally beating home the themes main idea of what was the point of the story and stating, flat out, that what is truly important in life are the good deeds one performs. However, while Everyman seems to work as a moral tale for all people, other plays in the time period were far more focused on Catholic teachings.
The plot of The Wakefield Second Shepherds' Pageant is a metaphorical comedy which is completed with a biblical tie in. The play can basically be broken into two major parts, the first part could easily be called "the Mak comedy" while the second part could be called "the gospel." The first part of the show follows the exploits of three shepherds who have their sheep stolen by a man with magical abilities named Mak. As the Shepard's wander the woods, attempting to find their stolen sheep, Mak concocts an elaborate plan for maintaining his stolen goods along with his wife. However, as can be assumed, the sheep is returned and the shepherds head out unto part two of the play, the gospel lesson. The second part of the play basically breaks down into a retelling of the birth of baby Jesus through the eyes of the shepherds and the devotion all people should have towards Christ, and concludes with the shepherds paying homage to the new born Jesus.
While Everyman worked as an allegorical tale, The Wakefield Second Shepherds' Pageant works as a metaphorical tale. While the first part may simply seem to be a humorous event involving a stolen sheep, it actually works as a metaphorical tale about Jesus, the "lamb of God" as it was. The lamb being stolen by a being with magical powers (Mak) shows the corrupt virtues of humanity that stole Jesus from the world at the end of his life. However, as the Bible says, though the "lamb of God" is taken away, he eventually returned to walk to the Earth again and visit his disciples, though the Shepard's would seemingly be the leaders, rather than the followers. As well, in the ending when the Shepherds pay homage to Christ by saying "Hail, darling dear, full of Godhead! I pray thee be near when that I have need" (The Wakefield Second Shepherds' Pageant 8.20) it also brings in the idea that by acknowledging and worshiping Christ, he will always be there for a person in their hours of need.
A particularly noteworthy topic to note is the characters of the two texts. Since both plays are working on different levels in varying constructs, it becomes apparent that the character representations within the texts are aiming towards different goals. In the case of The Wakefield Second Shepherds' Pageant, the characters are chosen to be easily relatable too. Through the common and comedic manner with which they talk, the audience is quickly able to relate to the characters and the struggles they must go through. In contrast, Mak and his wife work to symbolize strife and temptation that dwells within all people, and through their underhanded nature, foreshadow the ways in which temptation works against all beings. As well, the characters of the Angel and Mary work to bring the emphasis back on the church. While their parts may not be seen as incredibly crucial due to the fact that they are brought up in the last two scenes, their presence directs the action back unto the church and allows the audience to begin to connect the idea that the show is a metaphor for the life Christ will live.
In dramatic contrast to the somewhat comedic portrayal of people in The Wakefield Second Shepherds' Pageant, Everyman uses its characters in a giant allegory. While people are able to relate to the conversations of the shepherds, the characters of Everyman work as a basic blue print of humanity. While no individual would seem exactly like Everyman, certain aspects of him appeal to anyone. As well, the characters of Fellowship, Kindred, Cousin, and Goods do not work as realistic people, but as the mental representations of their namesakes. The characters of Good Deeds and Knowledge, while representing what they are, work equally well as a representation of the human conscience. This idea is frequently touched upon, such as when Knowledge states "Now, Everyman, be merry and glad! Your Good Deeds cometh now; ye may not be sad." (Everyman 1.620) While they double as a conscious, though, the characters also represent the ideal of the importance of good deeds and how the only true knowledge comes from knowing the importance of a persons good deeds. Much like the metaphorical characters of Kindred and company, Beauty, Strength, Discretion, and Five Wits work merely to stress the point that en-route to death, all things abandon man but his deeds upon the earth. As such, the four are as transparent as Goods and others. Meanwhile, the characters of Angel, Doctor, and Messenger work as tools of once more bringing up the general concepts of the play, much like Mary and the Angel of The Wakefield Second Shepherds' Pageant. In particular, the Doctor's final speech flat out states the plays theme when he starts off "forsake Pride, for he deceiveth you in the end; and remember Beauty, Five Wits, Strength, and Discretion. They all at the last do every man forsake, save his Good Deeds there doth he take." (Everyman 902) Seemingly, all the characters work to remind the audience of what they should be getting from the piece.
When one attempts to discuss the spectacle of these productions, one needs to take into perspective the period at which they were being performed. With no theatres around during their respective periods, the shows would only be performed in one of two places, the church, by the clergy, or during a wagon parade, by the local populous. The key thing about the said time period was that the church wished to control everything, so very little could be made in the way of props, costumes, or stage directions for the afore mentioned shows. In the case of Everyman, the spectacle is one of the most limited one could imagine. Typically, the cast would dress up in religious attire and act there part. The only stage direction that is present for the spectacle of Everyman is the hole through which Everyman must descend at the end. While placing a trap door into a wagon wouldn't be an overly complicated accomplishment, finding such a hole within a church would be a rather arduous task. Currently, people are still unaware how this obstacle would be completed.
In the case of The Wakefield Second Shepherds' Pageant, the spectacle was still far from an extravaganza, yet, constituted more flair then other plays of the time with its setting of not only Mak's house, but the manger scene as well. The most common theory as to how these set would be accomplished is the idea of temporary skenes if the show was performed within church, or, in the case of wagon productions, the cloth backdrop would be made which could be put up as the action called for it.
The language of both The Wakefield Second Shepherds' Pageant and Everyman are simplistic in their rhyme scheme, which becomes apparent when ones examines the players of time. While in modern day shows, rhyme is rarely used, due to the fact that professional actors are paid to memorize their lines, the parts in the medieval period were played by either illiterates or the clergy. Due to this fact, the lines would have to be presented in a manner which would be easy for not only memorization, but pronunciation as well. Through its simplistic language an rhyme scheme, the illerate towns people who would most likely take parts during the wagon shows would easily be able to commit their lines to memory by simply having the lines read over to them. For example, by examining on speech of The Wakefield Second Shepherds' Pageant when the shepherds talk, one can see how the rhyme works off of other characters as well as in the long speeches.
Shepard 1:"God look over the raw! Full deafly ye stand"
Shepard 2:"Yea, the devil in they may, so tariand!" (1.110)
Upon quick examination, the reader would easily be able to recall their lines by playing of the rhymes of the fellow actors, such as with the use of raw and maw, as well as stand and tariand in the above excerpt.
Another notable fact when comparing these two works would be to note the function and occurrence of the plays. While in earlier and later periods, festivals would occur throughout the year for the sake of producing the various plays that came out during the year, in medieval times, the plays would be produced annually at their most frequent. In the case of The Wakefield Second Shepherds' Pageant, it would be at least performed three times a year, most likely at either the Wakefield or York cycle or the Corpus Christi festival. Due to its amount of parts, the play would often be performed by the local townspeople, who, upon learning their lines, would reprise their roles annually. In the case of Everyman, however, it could have been performed in church, however, due to the use of a character representing God, it is more probable that the play was typically performed outside so that such a character could be performed and not seen as blasphemous. In fact, it was due to plays such as Everyman that plays were finally removed from the church. By having plays performed outside, representations of God, Satan, and Christ could be presented without being seen as heretical.
While both Everyman and The Wakefield Second Shepherds' Pageant differ in several key factors, such as realism of characters, staging, and theme, they both manage to teach their audience important lessons. Whether it be an allegorical tale of the importance of Good Deeds and Confession, or a metaphorical tale of the life of Christ, both pieces work at stressing their points through their representations of life. While both plays date back to the medieval ages, the fact that they have been so well maintained, and that their ideas still ring true stresses the universal nature of both the works.