The originality of the Elckerlijc has been discussed at length since it is very similar to Everyman but after careful studies it has emerged that Elckerlijc is the original poem from which Everyman draws its story: it is, in fact, a later version. The most convincing evidence that Elckerlijc was the original version came from the Englishman E.R. Tigg in a 1939 essay. Tigg showed how many words in Dutch, but not in English, were in the English text, followed by additions. It is unlikely that a hypothetical Dutch translator would decide to drop all these rhymes and end up with two words that do not rhyme in English but, if translated into Dutch, do. While the opposite is likely, i.e. that an English translator was forced to add rhymes after translating lines that rhymed in Dutch but not in English.
This morality play is highly allegorical and we can understand it from the personification of various emotions and actions such as Virtues and Vices, which are at odds with each other. Everyman literally “anyone” personifies not only his character, but represents all men on earth. In the representation, on one day God decides to send Death to Everyman, who will tell the protagonist that he will have to appear before the divine to be judged. When he realises the situation, Everyman offers Death some money begging to do without him, but it denies him this favour and tells him that, in case, what he can do is choosing companions who will be close to him in the moment of judgement.
Everyman therefore asks for help from Good Deeds and Knowledge, which advise him to bring Discretion, Strength and Beauty with him too. But in the moment when Everyman dies, after receiving the Extreme Unction, the last three ones leave him, together with the Acquaintance, one after the other; only Good Deeds, therefore, will remain with him before God.
This drama was then staged on Broadway in the early 1900s by Ben Greet, an English actor and theatre manager. One of the reasons why this show was particularly successful is also due to the fact that Ben decided to have Everyman play a woman, Edith Wynne Matthison, an Anglo-American theatre actress, and therefore to make a choice considered strange at the time.