morality play

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morality play,

form of medieval drama that developed in the late 14th cent. and flourished through the 16th cent. The characters in the morality were personifications of good and evil usually involved in a struggle for a man's soul. The form was generally static, but it contributed significantly to the secularization of European drama. The first known moralities were called the Paternoster plays. The greatest English morality is EverymanEveryman,
late-15th-century English morality play. It is the counterpart of the Dutch play Elckerlijk; which of these anonymous plays is the original has been the subject of controversy.
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. See miracle playmiracle play
or mystery play,
form of medieval drama that came from dramatization of the liturgy of the Roman Catholic Church. It developed from the 10th to the 16th cent., reaching its height in the 15th cent.
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Morality Play


an edifying form of Western European drama of the 15th and 16th centuries. The morality play originated in France (The Wise Man and the Foolish Man [Bien avise, mal avise], 1436). Among the most famous examples of this form are Everyman, an English play adapted from a late 15th-century Dutch play; the Swiss play Man, the Sinner (L’Homme pecheur); and the Italian play The Comedy of the Soul (La Commedia delVanima). The principal characters of a morality play are allegorical figures who personify the forces of good and evil and interact in the struggle for a human soul.

Although the morality plays, like the mystery plays, preached Christian morality, they did not have religious plots. They contained elements of antifeudal criticism, and in certain instances, motifs of social satire. Historically significant because they rein-forced the abstract principle of typification, morality plays also conveyed the outlines of various human passions by approximating the situations and conflicts of real life. Morality plays were usually presented on primitive stages featuring “booths” depicting various scenes, but in Paris, for example, they were also performed on the stage of the Hotel de Bourgogne.


Dzhivelegov, A., and G. Boiadzhiev. Istoriia zapadnoevropeiskogo teatra. Moscow, 1941.
Istoriia zapadnoevropeiskogo teatra, vol. 1. Editor in chief S. S. Mokul’-skii. Moscow, 1956.

morality play

a type of drama written between the 14th and 16th centuries concerned with the conflict between personified virtues and vices
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