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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The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2013, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

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.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

morality play

a type of drama written between the 14th and 16th centuries concerned with the conflict between personified virtues and vices
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
References in periodicals archive ?
At the risk of buying another ticket to that damn morality play, you deserve it.
In his essay on "Gay Sex in the 70's" [March-April 2006], Jim Downs also makes an important point about how we interpret events as "morality plays," filtering our experiences as we render them into history.
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* Mar 12 (Sat): Confetti Stage announces auditions for The Emperor's New Clothes, a mediaeval morality play by Blanche Marvin.
Based on novelist Barry Unsworth's book Morality Play.
Woodward paints the President as almost the victim of a morality play that his aides were performing.
Wall Street (Twentieth Century Fox, 1987) Oliver Stone looks under the rock of the American Dream and finds some nasty stuff in this morality play about avarice and corruption.
"But acquittal on the genocide charge the crime of all crimes, experts say--would have far-reaching implications." For instance, it would unravel the tidy little morality play concocted by the international establishment in which the Serbs, alone among the numerous parties involved in the tragic and horrifying Balkan civil wars, were deemed guilty of aggression and horrible atrocities.
BBC Schools Commissioner, Karen Johnson, said: ``This modern morality play continues BBC education's strong support for Citizenship issues.''
"Part biology lesson, part sideshow, part morality play, part medical 'shock footage'" writes Briggs, Mom and Dad "played continuously for 23 years, still booking drive-ins as late as 1977, and grossed an estimated $100 million."