Reverted trope name to All Are Equal in Death
. Some minor edits of the description. Comments on the title are welcome. No Launching Please
Who was the fool, who the wise man,
who the beggar or the emperor?
Whether rich or poor, all are equal in death.
—Anonymous, Vierzeiliger oberdeutscher Totentanz
Death comes to all of us, and we will all be treated equally by and in it. It doesn't matter if you're a master or a slave, a sinner or a saint, man or woman, a bishop or knave, white or black — we are all treated the same. Either the funerals
or the afterlife
(if any) must be the same for everyone, whichever is used last in the work.
It's an old theme in medieval art with the Danse Macabre, which reminded the living that death comes to all and that all earthly glories will vanish, but it can also take other expressions.
Note that this goes one step further than that everyone is going to die — everyone must be treated the same as well. Even a statement that everybody is judged the same way implies a weakening of this trope. If everyone has the same funeral, but then go to different afterlifes, then the trope is subverted. Put another way, this is An Aesop
that all differences between people are erased upon death.
See also Cessation of Existence
. Not to be confused with We All Die Someday
or Together in Death
As a Death Trope
, there will be spoilers ahead.
- The Danse Macabre of mediaeval Christian art was meant to evoke this trope.
- Death from The Sandman is a rather benevolent version of this trope, she never misses the opportunity to say that everybody dies at the end, but for the same reason and since she knows everything about everyone, she never hates anyone, they are all the same to her but because she knows them all.
- The Grimm Godfather Death about a man looking for a godfather for his newborn, and asks Death to do so for this reason (having previously rejected God for giving to the rich and not to the poor and the Devil for tempting men).
- In the Chalion series by Lois McMaster Bujold every soul is picked up by one of the gods at their death, regardless of status or faith, and which god is shown in a miracle at their funeral. Then explored in the third book, where certain souls are shown to be impossible for the gods to pick up, and the trouble is about how to make them pickable again.
- Also a theme of the Lois McMaster Bujold's short story "Aftermaths", showing the crew of a space ship that is out reclaiming the dead bodies after a space battle.
- Invoked in-universe in The Elenium, when Sparhawk has to sneak into the catacombs under the Cimmura Cathedral.
Live Action TV:
- The Series/MASH episode Follies of the Living - Concerns of the Dead is told from the POV of a dead soldier. At the end of the episode he walks down the road towards the afterlife along with all the other dead - US soldiers of various ranks, North Korean soldiers, civilians, etc.
- Bones: In "The Titan on the Tracks" a rich industrialist faked his death, then was beaten severely by his accomplice in order to cover his (the accomplice's) participation. The follwoing takes place in his hospital room:
BRENNAN: When can we talk to him?
DOCTOR: Any time you want, as long as you don't expect a response. This man has severe brain damage. Off the record, he's not going to wake up. Best case scenario, he spends the rest of his life hooked up to feeding tubes.
BRENNAN: This is one of the richest men in the country.
DOCTOR: Most of the time, that might mean something. Not now.
- The god Sithrak in Oglaf will supposedly treat everyone equally, by torturing them forever.