Everybody by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins
directed by KT Turner
dramaturgy by Ariana Burns
(Section of frontispiece from edition of Everyman published by John Skot c. 1530.)
Let 'em go. They're right. I don't have time for this. I've already spent my entire life dealing with this crap. I refuse to spend the last moments of it pushing the same rock up the same hill. --Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, Everybody
The above quote from Everybody is a description of the Greek legend of Sisyphus, a king punished in the underworld to push a boulder up a hill for eternity.
A cunning trickster of legend, when Death came to fetch him, Sisyphus chained Death up instead. This resulted in the sick suffering more so since they were unable to die. The world was thrown out of balance because nothing died. Ares finally freed Death because war was no fun if people didn’t die. Sisyphus was sent to Hades.
Prior to his leaving, he had told his wife to leave his body unburied. He was able to use that as an excuse to get out of the underworld which he did to punish his wife. Once free, he lived a long life until dying a second time.
When this death came, Hades was ready for him and had a special punishment for cheating Death: pushing a boulder up a hill again and again and again. A torment that has stayed with us through the ages, surviving through art, poetry, and remaining in common speech as a never-ending and futile task. Homer mentions it in the Odyssey:
Aye, and I saw Sisyphus in violent torment, seeking to raise a monstrous stone with both his hands. Verily he would brace himself with hands and feet, and thrust the stone toward the crest of a hill, but as often as he was about to heave it over the top, the weight would turn it back, and then down again to the plain would come rolling the ruthless stone. But he would strain again and thrust it back, and the sweat flowed down from his limbs, and dust rose up from his head.
Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopaedia. “Sisyphus”. Encyclopedia Britannica, 10 Jul. 2020, www.britannica.com/topic/Sisyphus. Accessed 9 February 2021.
Homer, The Odyssey, translated by A.T. Murray. www.theoi.com/Text/HomerOdyssey11.html. Accessed 9 February 2021.