Elckerlijc

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Elckerlijc (also known as Elckerlyc) is a Dutch morality play which was written somewhere around the year 1470 and was originally printed in 1495. It was extremely successful and may have been the original source for the English play Everyman, as well as many other translations for other countries. The authorship of Elckerlijc is attributed to Peter van Diest, a medieval writer from the Low Countries.

Swedish edition of Macropedius' Hecastus. Göteborg 1681. Courtesy of the Royal Library, Stockholm

The play won the first prize in the Rederijker contest in Antwerp in 1485. As a morality play, it stresses the didactic message. It uses allegory of the hero as an "everyman" (a typical human person) and is written in moderately elevated Rederijker style.

Dutch and English historians argued for decades over whether the English play Everyman was based on Elckerlijc (or vice versa). The most convincing evidence that Elckerlijc was the original was provided by the English historian E.R. Tigg, who showed how many rhymes and literal translations were copied from the Dutch play into the English Everyman.[1] On the other hand it is perfectly credible that an English translator should have added a rhyming tag to each of a pair of words that rhyme in Dutch but not in English.[2] In the end, there is no irrefutable factual evidence either way.

Translations and adaptations[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Meijer, 1971:55, quoting of Journal of English and Germanic Philosophy, 1939.
  2. ^ A. C. Cawley (1989). "Everyman". Dictionary of the Middle Ages. ISBN 0-684-17024-8.

Sources[edit]

  • Meijer, Reinder. Literature of the Low Countries: A Short History of Dutch Literature in the Netherlands and Belgium. New York: Twayne Publishers, Inc., 1971, pp. 55–57, 62.

Further reading[edit]

  • "Is Elckerlyc prior to Everyman?" Journal of English and Germanic Philosophy 1939, pp. 568–96.