Short Summary of The Castle of Perseverance

It is a 15th-century morality play of 3649 lines. The play describes the whole ontology of man, opening before his birth and ending after his death and his judgment before the throne of God. The protagonist is Humanum Genus or Man.

Mankind’s traditional three enemies, the World, the Flesh and the Devil speak from his own scaffold, introducing his followers, the Seven Deadly Sins. World points out his chief henchman, Greed (Avarice, or Covetousness), who is important in the seduction of Mankind. Flesh is accompanied by Sloth, Gluttony and Lechery; the Devil by Pride, Wrath, and Envy. Mankind is born, perhaps from the bed, which lies at the base of the castle.

He points out his ignorance and helplessness, asking for God’s grace; he introduces his two companions, the Good and Bad Angels, noting that every man has such a pair of advisors, one good and one evil. There is a comical debate between man’s Bonus Angelus (Good Angel) and Malus Angelus (Bad Angel).

Mankind opts for the pleasures of the World. He sins first by becoming a servant of the World, who sends him to Avarice and the other Deadly Sins. When Penance pierces him with a lance, he confesses to Shrift, receives absolution and enters the Castle of Perseverance. But mankind s enemies, alerted by Backbiter, summon the Sins to a siege against the Castle. Although six of the Sins are repelled by their opposing  Virtues, Avarice succeeds in enticing the aging Mankind back to worldly goods.

Mankind’s pleasure in his newfound wealth is interrupted by the figure of Death, who stabs Mankind with his lance.

With the coming of Death, he realizes that his treasure will go to an unknown heir and he dies calling on God for mercy. The Soul reproaches the body and cries again for mercy. However, since Mankind died in a state of sin, the Good Angel is unable to help his Soul and the Bad Angel carried it to hell. But Mankind’s last request for mercy has summoned the Four Daughters of God -Truth, Justice, Peace, and Mercy, who then debate his case before God. God judges in favor of Mankind and directs the Daughters to remove the Soul from Hell.