friendship in everyman

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  • Medieval Academy of America

    The Doctrine of Friendship in EverymanAuthor(s): John ConleySource: Speculum, Vol. 44, No. 3 (Jul., 1969), pp. 374-382Published by: Medieval Academy of AmericaStable URL: .Accessed: 03/04/2014 20:26

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    THE plot of Everyman obviously consists of a test of friendship made by a worldly young man when he suddenly learns that God has summoned him to his reckoning. The doctrine of friendship in this morality is accordingly worth examining even though our conclusion can be anticipated, namely, that this doctrine consists of the essential commonplaces of the mediaeval doctrine of friendship.' As in certain of the Faithful Friend analogues,2 these common- places have been adapted to the plot in keeping with two articles of faith in par- ticular: (1) the necessity, for salvation, of good works, and (2) divine judge- ment after death.

    One of these commonplaces is that no one should be accounted a friend whose friendship has not been tested. This ancient precept, which has been called "the first law of friendship,"3 occurs, for instance, in Ecclesiasticus vi 7: "If thou wouldst get a friend, try him before thou takest him, and do not credit him easily."4 Petrus Alfonsus, in the introduction to his version of the Faithful

    1 On the doctrine of friendship in the Classical and early Christian periods, cf. the following: Leo M. Bond, "A Comparison between Human and Divine Friendship," The Thomist, in (1941), 54-94; Philippe Delhaye, "Deux adaptations du De amicitia de Ciceron au XIIe siecle," Recherches de thiol- ogie ancienne et medievale, xv (1948), 304-331; L. Dugas, L'amiti6 antique (Paris, 1894); R. Egenter, Gottesfreundschaft: Die Lehre von der Gottesfreundschaft in der Scholastik und Mystik de 12. und 13. Jahrhunderts (Augsburg, 1928); Pierre Fabre, Saint Paulin de Nole et l'amitie chretienne (Paris, 1949), Bibliotheque des ecoles francaises d'Athenes et de Rome, CLXVII; Adele M. Fiske, R. S. C. J., The Survival and Development of the Ancient Concept of Friendship in the Early Middle Ages, (diss., Fordham University, 1955, 2 vols.); "Aelred's [sic] of Rievaulx Idea of Friendship and Love," Citeaux, Commentarii Cistercienis, xIII (1962), 5-17, 97-132; "Alcuin and Mystical Friendship," Studi Medievali, 3rd. ser. (1961), 551-575; "Cassian and Monastic Friendship," American Benedictine Review, xII (1961), 190-205; "Hieronymous Circeronianus," Transactions and Proceedings of the American Philological Association, xcvi (1965), 119-138; "Paradisus Homo Amicus," Speculum, xL (1965), 436-459; "St. Augustine and Friendship," Monastic Studies, II, (1964) 127-135; "St. Bernard of Clairvaux and Friendship," Cit., Comment. Cister., xI (1960), 5-26, 85-103; "William of St. Thierry and Friendship," ibid., xii (1961), 5-27; ltienne Gilson, La theologie mystique de saint Bernard (Paris, 1947), pp. 21-24, 82; Jean Leclerq, "L'amitie dan les lettres du moyen age autour d'un man- uscrit de la bibliotheque de Petrarque," Revue du moyen age latin, i (1945), 391-410; Paul Philippe, Le r6le de l'amitie dans la vie chrEtienne selon saint Thomas d'Aquin (Rome, 1939); Rob Roy Purdy, "The Friendship Motif in Middle English Literature," Vanderbilt Studies in the Humanities, i (1951), 113- 141; G. G. Meersseman, "Pourquoi le Lombard n'a-t-il pas concu la charite comme amitie," Mis- cellanea Lombardiana (Novara, 1956), pp. 165-174; G. Vansteenberghe, "Amitie," Dictionnaire de spiritualite ascetique et mystique, doctrine et histoire (Paris, 1937). On the reasons for the neglect and even disparagement of friendship in recent times, see C. S. Lewis, "Friendship," in The Four Loves (London, 1960), pp. 69 ff.

    2 Conveniently sketched by A. C. Cawley, ed., Everyman (Manchester, 1961), pp. xviii-xix (cited below as Cawley; all citations from Everyman are to this edition). See also Karl Goedeke, Every-Man, Homulus and Hekastus: Ein Beitrag zur internationalen Literaturgeschichte (Hanover, 1865), pp. 1-132, 204-226; Woodburn O. Ross, ed., Middle English Sermons, EETS., o. s. 209 (1940), 345, and Helen S. Thomas, "Some Analogues of Everyman," Mississippi Quarterly, xvi (1963), 97-103. Though I consider Elckerlijc to be prior, the relation of Everyman to Eleckerlijc is not at issue in this paper.

    3 Cornelius a Lapide, Commentarii in Scripturam Sacram, v (Lyons and Paris, 1860), 167. 4Cf. Geoffrey of Vend6me, Epist. XXV (Migne, P.L., CLVII, col. 92) and also Publilius Syrus,

    line 120 (Publilii Syri Sententiae, ed., Edward Woelfflin, Leipzig, 1869).


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  • The Doctrine of Friendship in Everyman 375

    Friend, provides an example. A dying Arab asks his youthful son how many friends he has acquired, and on being told, "An hundred, in my opinion," ad- monishes him not to praise a friend until he has been tested.5 In fact, we find that "probatio" appears among the four steps of friendship in Aelred of Rievaulx' De spirituali amicitia, a treatise that was frequently adapted in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries.6 In Everyman "the first law of friendship" in effect is introduced almost at the onset, when God's messenger, Death, admonishes Everyman to "preue thy frendes yf thou can."7 Interestingly, this admonition is lacking in the corresponding passage in Elckerlijc;8 indeed, Everyman might be said to have the more emphatic treatment of friendship, as is further indicated by the following instances of friend, especially "good friend," none of which is paralleled in Elckerlijc: "Except that almes be his good frende -" (Death in reference to every man that "loueth rychesse," 78); "Than be you a good frende at nede" (Everyman to Fellowship, 229); "Alas, than may I wayle and wepe,/For I toke you for my best frende" (Everyman to Five Wits, 847-848); "Thou shalte fynde me a good frende at nede" (Good Deeds to Everyman, 854); "Folysshe frendes and kynnesmen that fayre spake/All fleeth saue Good Dedes, and that am I" (872-873).

    The ancient test par excellence of friendship is adversity, a commonplace ex- pressed, for example, by the formula In necessitate probatur amicus, which Aelred cites in his discussion of "probatio."9 Evidently the source of this formula is Proverbs xvii 17: "Omni tempore diligit qui amicus est, et frater in angustiis comprobatur."10 The equivalent formula in the Classical tradition is "Amicus certus in re incerta cernitur,"" which is credited to Ennius and which is cited in

    6 Disciplina clericalis, ibid., col. 673: "Respondens filius dixit: 'Centum, ut arbitror, acquisivi amicos.' Dixit pater 'quia philosophus dixit: Ne laudes amicum donee probaveris eum.' " Cf. Cicero, De amicitia, xvii 62.

    6 P.L., cxcv, col. 680. On the popularity of this treatise, one compendium of which long passed as St Augustine's, see Dom A. Hoste, ed., "The First Draft of Aelred of Rievaulx' De spiritali amicitia," Sacris Erudiri, x (1958), 186-187 (cited below as Hoste). On this treatise as one of Jean de Meun's sources for the Roman de la Rose, see Lionel J. Friedman, "Jean de Meun and Ethelred of Rievaulx," L'Esprit Createur, ii (1962), 135-141.

    7 Cawley, line 142. Laurens J. Mills, One Soul in Bodies Twain: Friendship in Tudor Literature and Stuart Drama (Bloomington, 1937), p. 83, devotes one paragraph to a summary of Everyman in terms of this admonition.

    8 See Elckerlijk, a Fifteenth Century Dutch Morality (Presumably by Petrus Dorlandus) and Every- man, a Nearly Contemporary Translation, ed., H. Logeman (Ghent, 1892), p. 18. R. W. Zandvoort observes that this addition is illogical (Collected Papers [Groningen, 1954], p. 47).

    9 De spirituali amicitia, P.L., cxcv, col. 687. Cf. also Geoffrey of Vend6me as cited above. Dom Hoste (p. 209) cites for comparison St Ambrose, De officiis, iii, 22, 129 (P.L., xvi, 191 B) and St Bernard of Clairvaux, Epist. CXXV, 1 (P.L., CLXXXII, 970 A). Cf. also The Diets and Sayings of the Philosophers, ed., Curt F. Buhler, EETS., o.s. 211 (1941), 70-72. For equivalent formulas in the Middle Ages, see Samuel Singer, Sprichworter des Mittelalters, in (Bern, 1947), 54; Hans Walther, Proverbia sententiaeque Latinitatis medii aevi, lateinische Sprichwirter und Sentenzen des Mittelalter8 in alphabetischer Anordnung, Pt. 1, Carmina medii aevi posterioris Latina (Gottingen, 1963), 109, and Proverbia Communia, A Fifteenth Century Collection of Dutch Proverbs with the Low German Version, ed. with a commentary by Richard Jente (Bloomington, 1947), Indiana University Publications, Folklore Series No. 4, under item 430, pp. 216-217.

    10 Which Aelred quotes in conjunction with the formula just cited. n See Archer Ta