Post Structuralism & Phenomenology Concepts in Architecture

1. Post-structuralism
Post-structuralism is a progression of earlier movement resulted by the work of a Swiss linguist, Ferdinand De Saussure in the 1910s and 1920s called Structuralism. The latter was influenced by semiotics (a study of signs). According to Saussure, a language is a system of signs made up of a ‘signifier’ (an acoustic-image) and a ‘signified’ (a concept).[1] Structuralism is understood as how the system works to structure their individual elements to imply a meaning.

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Post-structuralism is often interchangeably linked with postmodernism and deconstruction in general, as all these movements respond to structuralism’s philosophy of language but they apply those insights to a wider range of topics and radicalize some of the structuralism’s premises. [2] The consideration of architecture as communication while recognizing its functionality came during the Modernism era, which revolves around the universal form and the principle of ‘form follows function’ phrased by American architect, Louis Sullivan. “Modern architects believed the ‘functions’ of diagrammatic objects would be transparent, or obvious to everyone.”[3] However, the text, “The Lesson of the Toilet Bowl”, has taught us that it is through learning that human knows how to use a ‘form’.
Charles Jencks and Peter Eisenman both opposed the former movement in post-modernism and deconstruction respectively. Jencks sees communication as the main problem of modernism as modern architects abandoned the traditional ‘language’ of architecture and tried to design ‘functional’ buildings. Post-modernism is characterized as ‘double-coding’[4], highlighting multivalent, unlike modern architecture which was criticized as univalent in terms of form. While modern architecture strives to create new, independent works of art, postmodern architecture embraced diversity with the merge of ideas, styles, and characters to promote parody, humor and irony. Deconstruction, on the other hand, challenges the values of harmony, unity, and stability, and proposing instead a different view of a structure that the flaws are intrinsic to the structure.[5]  Deconstructivist rejects the presence of metaphysics, as well as the function, scale, and context. [6]
In terms of design process within the discipline of architecture, structuralism revolves around the idea of binary, hierarchical, and structural thinking for example, black cannot be white and vice versa. Whereas in poststructuralism, French philosopher, Gilles Deleuze (1925-95) collaborated with the psychoanalyst, Félix Guattari (1930-92) introduced the concept of rhizome in A Thousand Plateaus (1980). “A rhizome has no beginning or end; it is always in the middle, between things, interbeing, intermezzo’.”[7] The term ‘rhizome’ promotes connective thinking in which post-structuralists criticized the reductive and that phenomena actually occurs in a more multifarious manner. There are in betweens and tangents and ambiguous non-binary associations. Post-structuralist’s approach argues that to understand an object, it is necessary to study both the object itself and the systems of knowledge that produced the object.
2. Phenomenology
Phenomenology is a philosophical movement or approach which was inaugurated by a German philosopher, Edmund Husserl (1859-1938) during the 1800s.  In architecture, the term phenomenology is the study of the essence of human consciousness through the subjective experience of phenomena. Architectural phenomenology acknowledged the importance of human experience as part of architecture; also referred as a return of lived experience.[8] This theory promotes the integration of human sensory and perception as part of built form to create an architectural and experiential space that is beyond tangible, but rather abstract, observed and perceived.
One of the key approaches in phenomenology discourse was shaped by the thought of Martin Heidegger where he defines the meaning of Bauen (building) as to dwell, the latter simply means creating a sense of quality space within the building, providing the sense of feeling “being at home” – to build is in itself already to dwell. However, dwelling does not necessarily occur in every building or typologies.[9]
It was later then, the Heidegger’s philosophy becomes influential among a number of architectural theorists, namely, Christian Norberg-Schulz, a Norwegian architectural theorist, who was among the first to attempt to translate phenomenological approach into architecture. Schulz argues that the “perception is inseparable from our preexisting knowledge about the things we perceive. Our perception is actually a result of our previous experiences.”  This infers that every individual’s perception is very subjective to their experiences and thus, asserted as a limiting factor to the phenomenological approach.
In the architecture of today, people give too much of attention on the visual image (appearance) that the “reality of how a building an experience” has been neglected as mentioned by Finnish architect, Juhani Pallasmaa, who explored this notion in his work titled, The Geometry of Feeling (1985). Pallasmaa phrases that, “the artistic dimension of a work of art does not lie in the actual physical thing; it exists only in the consciousness of the person experiencing it.”[10]
This statement enables us to think thoroughly that “we do not only design a building as its physical form, and it is the images and feelings” in other words, the design aims to achieve emotions/ experiences. A phenomenological concept in architectural design strategies to develop a unique experience by taking account of phenomena factors like space, light, and form. Architecture aims to provide to human needs and therefore, it is essential that a great design considers the relation of human senses with built form in order to create a rich experience that unfolds over time and gives a memorable impact for users.[11]
3. Theory and Practice
Every now and then, we see theories overlap and developed from criticism, judgment, descriptive or interpretation on specific existing works. Consequently, this provides “alternative solutions based on observations of the current state of the discipline, or offers new thought paradigms for approaching the issues.”[12] The discourse of architectural theory and practice began after the Renaissance period when the Art of Building in Ten Books, which closely modeled Vitruvius’work was published by Alberti.[13] According to Korydon Smith in Introducing Architectural Theory, he defined architectural theory as:
the evolution of the objective principles and subjective values that guide individual and collective decisions about, and assessments of one’s own and others’architectural works.[14]
Based on the definition, we can infer theories in architecture appear to be subjective and rather more individualistic and collective paradigms as everyone relatively do not share the same opinions or visual languages.
His work also introduced the concept of the ‘dialectic’ in particular, a dialogue. It arises as a dichotomy, a debate between two opposing positions, ideas, or theories (thesis and antithesis) but, through the desire to reconcile (synthesis) the debate, results in proposition. The dialectic, as such, is popularly known as Fichtean dialectics by Kant’s philosophies. The idea of ‘dialectic’ is to be said a process using reasoning to ascertain what the truth could be.
The discourse of theoretical within the discipline of architecture focuses on the relationship between theory and practice with two very distinct views revolving on the necessity of theory to practice effectively. For Bernard Tschumi, he argues that “Architecture is not an illustrative art; it does not illustrate theories” whereas, Vittorio Gregotti insists on “theoretical research as a direct foundation of action” in architectural design.[15] Theory within the practice is resolved to be inevitable as quoted by Iain Borden, “Theory is indispensable. It is how we make sense of the world.”[16] The Oxford philosophy professor John Alexander Smith phrased:
The real gain from studying philosophy is not in learning about the views of great philosophers but in understanding their arguments and in acquiring confidence in one’s ability to think critically, by thinking through these arguments.[17]
From this statement inferences the relation of theory and practice where two have to evolve simultaneously. Dialectics are often present within the discipline of architecture design and practice, as “a process of making incremental, though interrelated, decisions.”[18] The theoretical dissertation has hugely contributed a number of architectural works today which helps to stimulate people to apply critical thinking in theory and practice and thus, the cycle repeats.
1) Book Bibliography. Macey, David. The Penguin Dictionary of Critical Theory London: Penguin Group, 2000.
2) Book Chapter Bibliography. L. Fastiggi, Robert. “Post-Structuralism.” In New Catholic Encyclopedia Supplement 2012-13: Ethic and Philosophy, Volume 3. Detroit: Gale Cengage Learning in association with the Catholic University of America, 2013.
3) Book Chapter Bibliography. Jencks, Charles. “The Architectural Sign.” In Signs, Symbols, and Architecture. New York: Wiley, 1980.
4) Book Chapter Bibliography. Jencks, Charles. “The Paradoxical World of Post-Modernism.” In Movements in Twentieth Century Architecture, Ed. Michael J. Ostwald. Sydney; Arcadia Press / University of Newcastle, Faculty of Architecture, Building and Design, 2000.
5) Book Chapter Bibliography. Wigley, Mark. “Deconstructivist Architecture.” In Movements in Twentieth Century Architecture, Ed. Michael J. Ostwald. Sydney; Arcadia Press / University of Newcastle, Faculty of Architecture, Building and Design, 2000.
5) Book Bibliography. Mitrović, Branko. Philosophy for Architects. New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2011.
6) Book Chapter Bibliography. Deleuze, Gilles, and Guattari, Felix.’Introduction: Rhizome.” In A Thousand Plateaus. London: Continuum, 2010.
7) Book Chapter Bibliography. Heidegger, Martin. “Building Dwelling, Thinking: Part One.” In Rethinking Architecture; A Reader in Cultural Theory, Ed. Neil Leach. London: Routledge, 1997.
8) Book Chapter Bibliography. Pallasmaa, Juhani. “The Geometry of Feeling: A Look at the Phenomenology of Architecture.” In Theorizing A New Agenda for Architecture: An Anthology of Architectural Theory 1965-1995, Ed. Kate Nesbitt: New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 1996.
9) Peter Zumthor. “The Hard Core of Beauty.” In Thinking Architecture, Second, expanded edition. Basel â- Boston â- Berlin: Birkhäuser – Publishers for Architecture.
10) Book Chapter Bibliography. Nesbitt, Kate. “Introduction”. In Theorizing A New Agenda for Architecture: An Anthology of Architectural Theory 1965-1995, Ed. Kate Nesbitt. New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 1996.
11) Book Bibliography. Smith, Korydon. Introducing Architectural Theory, Ed. Korydon Smith. New York: Routledge, 2012.
12) Book Chapter Bibliography. Borden, Iain and Rendall, Jane. “Introduction.” In Intersections: Architectural Histories and Critical Theories. London: Routledge, 2000.

Analysis of Structuralism in Sonnets

Structuralism is a movement that gives importance to the underlying structure of a literary text. It pays great importance to the structural similarities within various texts, whereas the individual work content are neglected. This school of thought sees the world in two fundamental levels. Firstly as visible or a surface phenomenon for example activities and objects of everyday life. Secondly, Structuralist see the world as invisible where there are structures underlying all the phenomena to make understanding of the world. For an example, weddings, choices of partners and the focus of bearing children are the main structure within a marriage and will not change even though the surface components (love or arranged marriages) differ. Furthermore in Structuralist theory, a text is free from context, history, readers interpretation and isolated from the author itself. Meaning of any text then solely comes from rules and underlying system which governs it. ” What we see on the surface are the traces of a deeper history;only by excavating beneath the surface will we discover the geological strata or the ground planes which provide true explanations of what we see above” ( Selden 69). Structuralist also see language as scientific where sign is made of both signifier and the signified. ” Words are not symbols which correspond to referents, but rather are signs which are made up of two parts : a mark either written or spoken, called the signifier and a concept called signified” (Selden 53).
When we examine the poems “To My Wife” by Phillip Larkin, “Sonnets are full of love…” by Christian Rossetti and “Not at the first sight…” by Sir Phillip Sidney using Structuralism, the individual meaning and authorial intention of each of these sonnets are not taken into account. For a structuralist critic, these are sonnets and sonnets have structures and system of their own which contributes meaning for the readers. Underlying structure is important because ” A structure is both like a skeleton and like a genetic code”(Rivkin and Ryan 53) which brings about stability and meaning to a literary work . Structuralist Roland Barthes for instance believes that it’s the”anterior language” (Ames 91) which aids the understanding of communication and literature and ” his concern is not with the message but with what system or structure makes message available”(Ames 91).So for an example we can expect that all sonnets have fourteen lines and gives rhythmic effect which pleases the reader. In addition sonnets are expected to have certain repeating rhyme scheme which we understand contributes to the beauty of the overall sonnets.”To My Wife” for instance has the rhyme scheme of a-b-a-bc-d-c-d -e-f-g-h-f-e, “Not at the first sight…” has a-b-b-a-a-b-b-a-c-d-c-e-f-f and “Sonnets are full of love…” has a-b-b-a-b-a-b-a-c-d-a-a-e-d. ” Certain qualities common to the sonnet as a form should be noted. The more or less set rhyme patterns occurring regularly within the short space of fourteen lines afford a pleasant effect on the ear of the reader, and can Create truly musical effects. The rigidity of the form precludes a too great economy or too great prodigality of words. Emphasis is placed on exactness and perfection of expression” ( In my opinion, structure does bring familiarity and make readers have adequate knowledge, capacity and understanding in a literary work (literary competence). Framework of sonnets then becomes a guideline to help readers grasp the meanings within sonnets. Therefore it is evident that structures within sonnets help convey meaning to their readers.

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Nevertheless in my opinion there is a flaw of the structuralist concept which was stated above. One must not forget that there is not only one type of sonnets. The primary type of sonnets are Italian (Petrarchan) sonnet, Occitan sonnet, English (Shakespearean) sonnet and Spenserian sonnet. Yet there are many other types too, such as the modern, and twentieth century sonnets. Therefore taking the stance that by recognizing the structure alone for a sonnet might not be sufficient to comprehend the sonnet. Each type of sonnet differ slightly from the other. For example, Shakespearean sonnets have couplet in the end which represents a twist in the meaning of the sonnets and a-b-a-b, c-d-c-d, e-f-e-f, g-g would be the rhyme scheme. When compared to the twentieth century sonnets, there are no couplets or perfect rhyming scheme either. Since structures of all sonnets are not the same, therefore structures cannot solely give meaning to sonnets.
Next, all three sonnets from a structuralist point of view have love as their underlying theme. Therefore these sonnets then have similarities in their tones. Emotional words can be found throughout these sonnets which then contribute to the sentimental tone for love sonnets. Words such as love, bleed, suffer and wound are some of the examples that are found within all of the three sonnets, “To My Wife”, “Sonnets are full of love…” and “Not at the first sight…”. Therefore when a reader is given a love sonnet for example, he or she will know what to expect. However structuralist do not bother about the individual meaning of the sonnets. Structuralist theory also forgoes the author and historical background of each sonnets. All that matters to a Structuralist is that the similarities and the bottom line theme of love which governs these sonnets. ” Meaning is no longer determined by the individual but by the system which governs the individual” ( Selden 69). For example according to Vladimir Propp inHis Morphology of the Folk-Tale (1927), individual content of a folktale is not the main issue. He believes that there is a system that binds them which make folk tales similar in structure. “Propp is one of the first Structuralists in that he sought to delineate the innate order that existed in a disparate body of texts. Like a scientist searching for the one law that binds a number of different, physically distinct phenomena together and accounts for their similarities, Propp studied hundreds of Russian folk-tales or oral stories and came to the conclusion that they all followed the same pattern” (Rivkin and Ryan 72).So the recurring of a pattern in the case of these sonnets , love then becomes a useful tool in understanding the given sonnets. However, in my opinion, love maybe the main theme of all three sonnets, but by universalizing meaning of love can be problematic. This is because love in “To My Wife” is directed to a wife and “Sonnets are full of love…” is directed towards the poets mother. Whereas “Not at the first sight…” was written for a lover. For structuralist Saussure , “Words are signs in that they consist of two faces or sides -the signifier, which is the phonic component, and the signified, which is the ideational component. A word is both a sound and an idea or image of its referent”(Ryan and Rivkin 54). Therefore,
SIGN= Signifier
In the case of these sonnets however , the word love has a lot of meanings and values into it. By just having one meaning for the word love, the beauty and the message intended to be passed down through these sonnets will meet failure. Essence of these sonnets becomes mistakenly understood by the readers. For an example, in the sonnet “Sonnets are full of love…” which was meant or directed towards a mother then becomes an incestuous poem or may create a feeling of disapproval and uncomfortableness within the readers as well. Words can have a lot of signifier attached to it, and signifiers attached to multiple signifieds. Thus forms chains of signifieds and signifiers and there is no linear form to it as suggested by structuralists. ” In other words, there is no one-to-one link between signifier and signified but rather an “effect of signified” generated by the movement from one signifier to another”(Ryan and Rivkin 342).
In conclusion, I do agree to an extent that the structuralism theory does help in providing meanings to the sonnets, “To My Wife” by Phillip Larkin, “Sonnets are full of love…” by Christian Rossetti and “Not at the first sight…” by Sir Phillip Sidney. However I prefer the latter part of structuralism which is the post structuralism theory, because it takes into account of the social context. Text according to Post Structuralism cannot escape discourses which are bound to ideology and language. I believe that the context around us which is a major contributor to the meaning of sonnets which Structuralism fail to take account of. Furthermore the sonnets are differentiated or named according to the era they were written and differ in their way own ways too. For example Renaissance sonnets (Shakespearean and Italian sonnets) were written during 13th century till 16th century and were laden with words courtly tradition words compared modern sonnets which are not. ” Renaissance sonnet tradition a phenomenon as richly varied as marked by an obedience to conventions, Courtly Platonic and Christian love elements mingle and coalesced as the rhetoric of amor courtois was adapted to praise the sonneteer’s mistress as the earthly manifestation of heavenly virtue” (Tucker 353). Whereas twentieth century sonnets uses words and phrases to describe love and lover in a more down to earth and simplistic vocabulary such as “Matchless potential”, “my first love” and “blessed glow”.
Work Cited
Selden, Raman. A Reader’s Guide To Contemporary Literary Theory. Kentucky: The University Press of Kentucky, 1985. 52-66. Print.
Rivkin, Julie, and Michael Ryan, eds. Literary Theory: An Anthology. Second ed. Australia: Blackwell Publishing, 2004. 72-89. Print., 18 July 2007. Web. 15 Feb. 2011. .
Scribner Ames, Sanford. “Structuralism, Language, and Literature.” The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 32.1 (1973): 89-94. Web. 16 Feb. 2011.
Tucker, Cynthia G. “Meredith’s Broken Laurel: “Modern Love” and the Renaissance Sonnet Tradition.” Victorian Poetry 10.4 (1972): 351-65. Web. 18 Feb. 2011. .

An Overview Of Semiotics And Structuralism Drama Essay

In the early 20th Century Ferdinand de Saussure developed the linguistic theory of semiotics, the study of signs within language and the implications of these signs. This involved the analysis of words within texts but after development could be applied to all kinds of art, even paintings and music. The meanings and signs were discovered by studying why a word had been chosen over another, which in turn developed the idea of binary oppositions, for example it is ‘cold’ because it is ‘not hot’. The signs within a text are differential, and it is important to study the relationship between the signs that are being given, and therefore in performance the audience are being sent many messages from what they perceive and this produces very complex layers of meanings as different signs connect with one another. Even seeing how the words are put together, particularly in old texts where the order is different to now, studying the sentences and which words are put with one another give a deeper meaning to the piece.
Saussure introduced the idea of there being a signifier and signified to produce a sign. For example, the word ‘tree’ would be a signifier, and then in the receiver’s mind they would produce their idea of a tree and this would be the signified, which when both are put together produce the sign of an actual tree. There are many interesting parts to this idea, for example the arbitrary state of these signs, ‘in that there is no intrinsic link between signifier and signified’ (Culler, 20) as there is no clear reason why a tree is called a tree. Most words can be classed with this arbitrary argument (except onomatopoeia and words that are formed from two others, such as ‘typewriter’) and as a result what is further revealed is that because these words have no clear reason for use, everyone has their own interpretation. As a result different words mean different things to different people, and therefore one person may take a certain sign from an aspect of a piece, whereas another person’s interpretation could produce a completely separate sign from the same aspect. As there are so many cultures and no two people have the exact same experiences, each view of a piece will be very different. This does not make one reader’s interpretation more important, but in fact all signs picked up by all readers of the piece have to be taken into account, making it more complex than even just one person analysing it.
Texts are made more complicated by the fact that they are diachronic, as they mean different things depending on when they are being read. For example, an ancient Greek play would have different meanings to it if seen by an ancient Greek in comparison to a contemporary audience. These contrasts in cultures add even more signs to a piece, as it is the differences between the views that show that one audience is missing a significant part of the meaning, and what this lack of meaning will mean as a result. Consequently it is important to acknowledge what would have been taken from the piece in its original time and place for cultural context.
Theologists such as Charles Peirce produced another branch off these original ideas based on the idea of the arbitrary state, by analysing how arbitrary a signifier would be in relation to the sign. What he produced was three tiers – symbols (such as a word) which were very arbitrary, indexes would be something more closely connected, (such as a musical note on paper) and icons were the least arbitrary, for example a photo or an actor playing a character. Even though this branched off from Saussure’s semiology ideas, what was important to take from it was that even if a signifier was an icon and was very close to the sign, still ‘a sign stands for something which is not present… thus reinforcing the absence and metaphysical hollowness that haunt all signification’. (Fortier, 22) In light of this, the whole of reality is questioned as if everyone’s interpretation of a situation is different, and no sign is more valid than another, what truly is reality, when nobody has the same view? This is what semiotics takes on as it is used, as every little thing is an interpretation to somebody, and therefore it is hard to see where to stop analysing, leading to ‘unlimited semiosis’, (22) as either everything must have a meaning or nothing has. In light of this a performance can be analysed as soon as an audience enters the theatre space, if not earlier. Peirce’s ideas, though connected, did branch off significantly from Saussure’s original work, so for this essay Peirce’s work is acknowledged but Saussure’s work will be put into use more.
From semiology, Roland Barthes saw the significance of interpretation and chose to take this further in his own studies as he developed what is now known as structuralism. In his ideas, he emphasised the ‘Death of the Author’: ‘it is language which speaks, not the author; to write is, through a prerequisite impersonality… to reach that point where only language acts, ‘performs’, and not ‘me’.’ (Barthes, Image, 143) In this light, the author’s only function is to produce the text but the reader’s interpretation is that which brings the detail to the piece, activating ‘jouissance, an orgasmic joy in the unbridled dissemination of meaning’. (Fortier, 24) Similar to semiotics, the use of contrasting cultures can produce ‘resistant reading’ in structuralism, for if a piece has been produced in the style of one culture’s codes, reading it using the codes of a different culture means that the text can be read against itself. Codes were very important to Barthes, seen as cultural definitions, for example to the Western world a cow is often seen just as an animal that produces milk and beef, but to a Hindu culture cows are sacred, so even something as simple as this has hugely contrasting meanings to different cultures, and so codes are put into place to help with this analysis.
In his work S/Z, Barthes produced five important Narrative Codes, which were: proairetic, which indicated actions; hermeneutic, providing suspense in questions within the text; cultural, using social norms to define information about characters, referencing outside the text to knowledge that should be common to certain cultures; semic or connotative, which detail characters through theme, connected to the final code, symbolic, which goes further than this to binary pairings and larger themes to create a more detailed image for the reader. (Barry, 51)
It is clear that semiotics and structuralism overlap and connect with each other greatly and so can be used together in analysing a piece of text, artwork or similar. In their development it seems as if they fed off each other, each building on the same ideas and creating similar ideas. However the main difference appears to be that semiotics are very focused, studying in detail cultural inferences, whereas structuralism is much broader and looks more at the overall effects of the play. By understanding these systems and theories of how all aspects of a text are codes and symbols for the reader to interpret, they can then be used on a play, such as the medieval play ‘Everyman’. Written in the late 15th Century, it is generally thought that this play’s origin is the Dutch play Elckerlijc, written about the same time (Patterson, 142). Interestingly in the idea of the Death of the Author, the author is unknown for this piece. As a result any personal influences are immediately ruled out and simply the reader’s interpretation can be focused on.
In this play, Everyman is preparing to die after a visit from Death, and so asks different allegorical figures to join him on his journey to his final resting place. All of these figures represent certain characteristics of humans, such as ‘Goods’, ‘Kindness’ or ‘Strength’, but are ‘vividly fleshed out, for the playwright gives these characters traits and behaviours that make them powerfully “real” and recognizable as individuals on the stage rather than as abstract moral emblems.’ (Worthen, 236) As a result the use of gestures and the language style that each character uses would emphasise these traits or attributes, and so semiotics can be used to analyse these in detail. Sadly in this text there are very limited stage directions as with most pieces of that era, so much of the work has to be found within the text itself. This reminds us that a play text is arguably not complete in its own state, as it is simply a tool to be used to produce a performance.
In medieval times God was much more prominent than nowadays, and so for God to appear in a play in such a way would have had a significant impact on the audience as a true moral lesson in the dwindling ways of people’s behaviour. However in contemporary audiences who are much more atheist, the full significance of the situation may be lost, as an afterlife is believed in less and less, so this means that the moral must come out of not the religious side of the play but of the morals, to simply encourage people to be better in their way of living rather than to emphasise the preparation of arriving at heaven’s doors.
God, in this play, only appears at the beginning of the play to send Death on his mission but as he is the first proper character to appear his moment is made even more prominent. What is notable about the version in Patterson’s Wadsworth Anthology is that when God finishes speaking he ‘withdraws’ (line 71) whereas all other characters such as Death ‘exit’ (183). This contrast in word choice implies that God never truly exits, and is therefore still involved in the action on stage, a very subtle religious message to the audience that God is always watching. The text also suggests something about the character of God, as he says ‘they forget clean’ (30) and ‘clean forsake me’ (35). Using the word ‘clean’ as he describes sinners is very symbolic as it reflects God’s willingness to forgive and see people as naturally good people who are corrupted, but the cleanliness of their souls is still evident.
In contrast to God, Death’s language seems simpler and more to the point when speaking to him, as he takes no time to talk about himself but offers himself up fully for God’s will: ‘Your commandment to fulfill’ (65). An audience’s first view of this character would see a very obedient character that was sudden and swift, which portrays death in reality, which is often sudden and sharp, striking at an unexpected moment. Already within the first 70 lines the reader has experienced very powerful messages, some of which may have only been absorbed subconsciously but will be brought up constantly throughout the play.
Everyman, the human representative in the play, is very interesting to study. He gives off a style of conversation that is very hermeneutic, constantly asking questions until he finally gets the answers he needs. His inquisition suggests that he is very confused and startled by the appearance of Death, as would any human, as well as doubtful of what is happening. However as soon as he understands he seems sorrowful and it is clear that he does believe what he is being told by Death as the questions become less frequent. Sadly though, he seems naïve of reality, saying ‘Death giveth no warning!’ (132) but this seems foolish as death never gives warnings in real life. His fear of death is shown through his desperation, as he offers Death a thousand pounds if his fate could be delayed, again a sign of naivety. Overall this seems to represent a man who does have faith, who is naturally good, but who has got lost in life and has been distracted by worldly things rather than higher meanings.
On line 184, Everyman says ‘Alas, I may weep with sighs deep!’ This is a very poetic moment as there is an internal rhyme and a true rhythm to the line, and we can learn a lot just from these words. It gives a general feeling of true sorrow, emphasised by ‘Alas’ but he also seems a softened character, by the use of ‘weep’. Where ‘sob’ or ‘cry’ may have been used, the author has provided us with a softer sounding word that creates poetry. The beautiful result is that of grace and compassion, and so the reader feels for and relates closely to the character of Everyman, which is obviously the point of the play.
We, as readers, then experience the arrival of the first moral figure – Fellowship. Death has just left but clearly the impending doom still lingers in the air, as Fellowship even though oblivious to the recent events uses many words connected to death, such as ‘life’s end’ (213), ‘die’ (220), ‘say no more’ (223) and ‘hell’ (232). This could be seen as dramatic irony, as these words would sting Everyman because of his most recent experience. As a character he is very friendly and his first words on line 206 (‘…good morrow, by this day!’) are of enthusiasm and amity. These emphasised, optimistic words suggest that Everyman will be safe after all, and Fellowship vows his companionship to Everyman with words suggesting he would die for the friendship, wanting nothing in return. However in discovery of what is needed, Fellowship fails Everyman and refuses to commit to the journey, even in ‘true’ friendship. This seems like a comment on human actions, questioning whether all humans are like Fellowship, willing to be dedicated and loyal until a true time of need comes and we have to sacrifice something important to ourselves. The despair that comes over Everyman in realisation of the fleeting, worthless relationship would resonate throughout an audience as they realise their own decisions in life.
Many of the characters are like this, giving Everyman hope at first but letting him down at the true moment of need. Even Five Wits, Beauty, Discretion and Strength, who all appear to be dedicated to him, fail him at the moment when he reaches the grave. All of these are comments on human observations, as we fail one another in the same way and depend on the wrong things in life. Strength is a very interesting character to analyse as every time he speaks he uses several proairetic words, for example ‘We will bring him all thither, / To his help and comfort, ye may believe me’ (lines 675-6). This suggests that this strength is to represent both mental and physical strength, as his words are active as well as emotive, as ‘help’ and ‘comfort’ have dual functions. The physical aspect is emphasised by reference to Judas Maccabaeus, a Jewish historical warrior, so there is a true feeling of fighting and power which is encouraged further by his words such as ‘in battle fight on the ground’ (685). However, as Strength leaves, it reflects on how fear would overpower Everyman at this point, finally coming to terms with his mortality and feebleness as a human as well as despairing in his inevitable fate.
Knowledge, on the other hand, is the figure that saves and guides Everyman in the end. He acts as a helping hand to the protagonist, as he can give him information and provide logic and clear decisions, such as suggesting the visit to Confession. This pushes Everyman forward where he may have been lost before, having not thought to call on Knowledge but was suggested by Good Deeds. This is used within the text to show how when fear arrives, humans struggle to focus and think logically, so the arrival of Knowledge is vital to Everyman’s continued journey, who soon realises the value of this companion and depends on him: ‘give me cognition’ (538) so the message of the true worth of knowledge is passed on to the readers.
Our final character contact is that of the Doctor, who sums up the whole significance of the tale for the reader. In reality a doctor is a scientific, logical person who can be trusted and is responsible for saving others, so the image of a doctor at the end is very official and makes the meaning that more important to listen to. Stating the point of the play very clearly, he addresses the audience directly (‘ye hearers’, line 903), drawing in the spectators to emphasise the connection between Everyman and every man. He stresses the importance of understanding the moral of the play by saying ‘take it of worth’ (903) while the word ‘worth’ plays on the idea of our true values in life and what things are really worth to us.
This play has constant religious intonations throughout, a significant example is that it opens with the words ‘I pray’ and the last line says ‘Amen’. This is suggesting that the whole text is a prayer, from start to finish. Additional to this is the constant references to Jesus such as on lines 751 and 894 as well as a variety of other religious figures, which supports the theory that a monk or cleric wrote it. (Patterson, 236) Furthermore, the use of the Angel who uses very soft sounds rather than having words chosen with sharp endings or harsh starts, we get a very peaceful feeling of this character as appears only briefly and suggests a soothing impact on our Everyman. Overall, by analysis we can see deeper emphasises of the various figures and their significance within this story as well as the story of life. Semiosis and structuralism allow us to question words with a more scientific mind to see hidden layers of meaning, giving the whole play a stronger feeling of implication on our own life. The author, although unknown, may have written it as a message on his own views, or may have been channelling a message from above, but whether in text or performance the reader is taught that this life is fleeting and we must not hesitate to discover our true priorities on Earth.