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Everyman and The Second Shepherds' Play remind the audience that good deeds are necessary for redemption, however, they reinforce the idea that we must shun material concerns to be redeemed. Both plays seek to reinforce these aspects of redemption to insure that all may be redeemed. The world is imperfect, and the only way we can make ourselves perfect and worthy of redemption is by not worrying about our material well being and performing good deeds. It is by disregarding our material concerns that allow us to perform good deeds.
Everyman places his faith in material things, his friends, relatives and goods. These material things do him no good. Fellowship claims he "will not forsake thee to my life's end" (Everyman 213), yet when Everyman asks Fellowship to accompany him on his journey for redemption and ultimately death he "will not go that loath journey- / Not for the father that begat me!" (Everyman 268-269). By placing his faith in man rather than God, he does not receive "any more comfort" (Everyman 304). The same discouragement greets Everyman after his talks with Cousin and Kindred. Kindred claims that they "will live and die togither" (Everyman 324), but abandons him soon after making this statement. After Kindred and Cousin leave him, Everyman realizes that "fair promises men to me make, / but when I have most need they me forsake" (Everyman 370-371). Since man will not help him, he turns to goods. Everyman realizes that the goods he has loved his whole life "to thy soul is a thief" (Everyman 447), they do nothing but hinder his eternal happiness. His reliance on people and goods has left Everyman's soul in a precarious condition.
The shepherd's lives are similar to Everyman's, because they too devote their time to worldly concerns. By fixating on their material well being, they follow the same path as Everyman, the path away from salvation. At the beginning of The Second Shepherds' Play all three shepherds, Coll, Gib, and Daw, seek to relieve their pain by complaining. Their complaints are many, and justified, yet they accomplish nothing. Although Coll thinks that
It does me good, as I walk
Thus by mine one,
Of this world for to talk
In manner of moan. ( Shepherds' Lines 66-69)
He really does not get any closer to redemption by doing this, although it may ease part of his emotional burden, his spiritual failings remain.
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We are so hammed,
Fortaxed, and rammed,
We are made hand-tamed
With these gentlery-men. (Shepherds' 23-26)
His financial situation is in jeopardy because the gentry have overtaxed and oppressed him. They further oppress him since "I were better be hanged / Than once say him nay" (Shepherds' 51-52). Coll lives under trying conditions, and his opening speech reflects his horrible living conditions. Coll does not mention God in this, since he is focused on his material well-being, and he neglects his whole spiritual side. Like Everyman they love their goods above all else. Gib and Daw do this also. Gib has become henpecked,
Sely Copple, our hen,
Both to and fro
but begin she to croak,
To groan or to cluck,
Woe is him our cock,
For he is in shackles (Shepherds' 98-104).
Since his marriage has made him miserable, he can see nothing wonderful in his life. He focuses on his misery and cannot open himself up to redemption. Since his focus is on his worldly contentment, not his spiritual contentment, he cannot see the pain others feel, unless it relates to his misery. Daw is no different from the other shepherds, he does not eat well and "A drink fain would I have, / And somewhat to dine" (Shepherds' 211-212). Daw is honest on his feelings toward repentance. "I may lightly repent, / My toes if I spurn." (Shepherds' 207-208). Daw does not attempt to repent honestly and change his ways. After swearing, he immediately says he is sorry, and goes on, without making any effort to alter his sinful behavior. Daw is also a victim of injustice, because they do not compensate him for his work,
But here my troth, master,
For the fare that ye make
I shall do thereafter:
Work as I take. (Shepherds 235-239)
Since he is paid little, he works little. He "among ever lake" (Shepherds' 240), which means that he often plays around when he should be working. The shepherds complain about the material well being because it is all with which they are concerned. To them nothing else matters, and this is the major impediment to their salvation. If they were concerned with the needs of others, their path toward salvation would be clearer and their lives happier.
Once Everyman embraces and strengthens his good deeds he is ready to go into Heaven. Good Deeds "will abide with thee: / I will not forsake thee indeed" (Everyman 853). Good Deeds is the only one who matters when we confront God at our time of death.
The shepherds cannot meet Jesus in their sinful, materialistic condition. After they become charitable to their fellow man however, they are able to see the baby Jesus. They begin their string of good deeds by being kind to Mak's baby. Coll asks his fellow shepherds "Gave ye the child anything?" (Shepherds' 825) realizing their lack of charity. Daw offers to give
That little day-starn.
Mak with your leaf,
Let me but give your barn
But sixpence. (Shepherds' 834-837)
Their good deed allows them to find their lost sheep and recover it. By performing a good deed they regain what was theirs originally. When they decide
For this trespass
We will neither ban ne flite,
Fight nor chite,
But have done as tite,
And cast him in canvas. (Shepherds' 902-907)
They perform a very charitable deed. The penalty for stealing is hanging, but they decide just to throw him in a sack. Much like Everyman's embracing of his good deeds allows his salvation, the shepherds' good deeds allow them to regain their sheep, and more importantly make them fit to witness the birth of Jesus. The angel addresses them as "herdmen hend" (Shepherds' 920), or gracious shepherds. This form of address reinforces the value of their charity in God's eyes. Through their good deeds "God is made your friend / Now at this morn" (Shepherds' 926-927). Without their leniency they would be unable to visit Jesus. They are joyous because of "Coll. What grace we have fun! / Gib. Come forth, now are we won!" (1085-1086). Through their visit they receive grace and are redeemed for their past transgressions. Without their original charity toward Mak, they would never be able to view Jesus. Besides being redeemed the shepherds also become happy, "Daw. To sing are we bun: / Let take on loft" (1087-1088). Redemption not only brings us closer to God, it also brings happiness that no material things can bring.
The Second Shepherds' Play has the same theme with Everyman. Although Everyman uses simple imagery, it has much in common with The Second Shepherds' Play. The Second Shepherds' Play combines a biblical story with a morality message. Both emphasize the need for human beings to move away from being concerned with what they lack toward caring about what others lack. It is only through caring about others that we are redeemed.