morality play

Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Wikipedia.

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.
..... Click the link for more information.
. 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.
..... Click the link for more information.

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
References in periodicals archive ?
At the risk of buying another ticket to that damn morality play, you deserve it.
One of his regional English novels, Morality Play (1995), a tightly organized murder mystery, concerns a troupe of dramatic players who tour northern England in the fourteenth century performing morality plays for their living.
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.
The film's message, that there is a point past which right and wrong become indistinguishable, may be mistook by some as a lesson in how bad some black folks are; but Training Day is really a morality play, not a lesson in myths about race, In the end, Alonzo is not ev il because he's black, he's evil because he's corrupted by a system in which success and exploitation go hand in hand.
In fact, people in the future may look back on this world of ours as the stage for an ongoing ecological morality play, from oil exploration in once-virgin national parks in Alaska to the fiery destruction of ski lodges in Colorado by the clandestine ecoterrorist group Earth First
He has, it is worth noting, a similar problem with the morality play section where he states that morality plays first appeared in the fourteenth century, when Hildegard of Bingen was writing what looked like morality plays considerably earlier.
The movement has been reduced to a morality play with an ample supply of pure heroes and pure villains.
The tape shows Kate in a village hall morality play discussing making a leap of faith.
In Clifford, which Chicago Tribune critic Richard Christiansen called "a kind of melodramatic morality play," De Jesus has the opportunity to establish a character, a loner, who threads through the dance.
The story soon takes on the trappings of Christ's crucifixion and also the morality play Everyman, but with a difference.
Throughout the text he makes agile, witty references to post-modernist language theory: even the names Sfax and Laubreaux could be names in a Morality Play.
The Struggle Everlasting (1907), a modern morality play, was followed by The Unwritten Law, another melodrama, and Lancelot and Elaine (1921), a dramatization of Tennyson's poem.