Everyman in America


In lieu of an abstract, the first paragraph of the essay follows:

To speak of Everyman in the twentieth century is somewhat imprecise, for there are two traditions of Everyman. The first is that of the late medieval play which many have seen in a variety of productions or at least have read. The second is that of von Hofmannsthal's Jedermann, which many have likewise seen or read but which has had the greater influence on twentieth-century drama. The traditions are by no means independent, and their production histories and influences are complexly intertwined. My purpose is to sketch briefly the production histories of the two plays (especially in America) and to suggest that although Everyman is widely known it has remained relatively free of major American adaptation and reshaping. In contrast, von Hofmannsthal's Jedermann has been the basis for serious reworking of the story of man's summoning and final accounting, and it is, therefore, indirectly better known than the medieval Everyman. Diverse plays have been suggested by Jedermann (such as Frisch's Biedermann und die Brandstifter and Hochhuth's Soldaten), but I consider here only the two major American adaptations: Walter Sorell's Everyman Today (1948) and Geraldine Fitzgerald's and Jonathan Ringkamp's Everyman and Roach (1968). Both plays have been very successful; Everyman Today has been produced over 110 times, and more than 500,000 spectators in New York City have seen Everyman and Roach.1

Comparative Drama is carried by JSTOR and Project MUSE.