Morality Play and over one million other books are available for Amazon Kindle. Learn more

Vous voulez voir cette page en français ? Cliquez ici.

Have one to sell? Sell yours here
Start reading Morality Play on your Kindle in under a minute.

Don't have a Kindle? Get your Kindle here, or download a FREE Kindle Reading App.

Morality Play [Large Print] [Hardcover]

Barry Unsworth
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (38 customer reviews)

Available from these sellers.


Amazon Price New from Used from
Kindle Edition --  
Hardcover --  
Hardcover, Large Print, April 1996 --  
Paperback CDN $11.51  
Audio, Cassette, Audiobook --  
Join Amazon Student in Canada

Book Description

April 1996 Wheeler Large Print Book Series
A novel about a group of travelling players touring England in 1390 in the years following the Black Death. Tired of presenting the usual mystery plays they decide to re-enact a murder that has recently taken place in the town they are visiting. This has unforeseen consequences as they are forced to confront the real story of death.
--This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.

Product Details

Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

A portentous opening sentence?"It was a death that began it all and another death that led us on"?sets the tone for Booker Prize winner Unsworth's (Sacred Hunger) gripping story. Indeed, a larger spectre than those two deaths hangs over this tale set in 14th-century England. The Black Plague is abroad in the land, and here it also symbolizes the corruption of the Church and of the nobility. One bleak December day, young Nicholas Barber, a fugitive priest who has impulsively decamped from Lincoln Cathedral, comes upon a small band of traveling players who are burying one of their crew. He pleads to join them, despite the fact that playing on a public stage is expressly forbidden to clergy. His guilt and brooding fear of retribution pervade this taut, poetic narrative. Footsore, hungry, cold and destitute, the members of the troupe are vividly delineated: each has strengths and weaknesses that determine his behavior when their leader, Martin, suggests a daring plan. In the next town they reach, a young woman has been convicted of murdering a 12-year-old boy, on evidence supplied by a Benedictine monk. Desperate to assemble an audience, Martin suggests that they enact the story of the crime. This is a revolutionary idea in a time when custom dictates that players animate only stories from the Bible. As the troupe presents their drama, many questions about the murder become obvious, and they improvise frantically, gradually uncovering the true situation. This, in turn, leads to their imprisonment in the castle of the reigning lord and their involvement in a melodrama equal to the one they have acted. Among the strengths of this suspenseful narrative are Unsworth's marvelously atmospheric depiction of the poverty, misery and pervasive stench of village life and his demonstrations of the strict rules and traditions governing the acting craft; underlying everything is the mixture of piety and superstition that governs all strata of society. Though sometimes he strays into didactic explanations, Unsworth searchingly examines the chasm between appearance and reality and the tenuous influence of morality on human conduct. Author tour.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.

From Library Journal

The author of the Booker Prize-winning Sacred Hunger (LJ 7/92) brings 14th-century England to life in this imaginative medieval mystery, which will inevitably invite comparisons with Umberto Eco's The Name of the Rose (LJ 4/1/83). Its narrator is Nicholas Barber, a young monk who has forsaken his calling and joined an itinerant troupe of players that gets caught up in the real-life drama of a small-town murder. The crime presents Barber and his fellows with an opportunity to attract a larger-than-usual audience, and they turn sleuths, weaving the bits of information yielded by their investigation into an improvised play that eventually reveals the surprising, sordid truth. Rich in historical detail, Unsworth's well-told tale explores some timeless moral dilemmas and reads like a modern page-turner. Recommended for fiction collections.
David Sowd, formerly with Stark Cty. District Lib., Canton, Ohio
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
Browse and search another edition of this book.
First Sentence
IT WAS A DEATH that began it all and another death that led us on. Read the first page
Explore More
Browse Sample Pages
Front Cover | Copyright | Excerpt | Back Cover
Search inside this book:

Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Profound Historical Mystery Aug. 21 2012
Morality Play by Barry Unsworth tells the story of a troupe of actors in 14th century England who become involved in the murder of a young boy. As they investigate the crime for the purposes of producing a play based on it, they become increasingly aware of the inconsistencies that pervade the case against the girl accused by the authorities. The actors soon find themselves well over their heads, embroiled in a mystery that involves far more than a peasant boy's death, a play whose actors are the most powerful men in all of England.

Unsworth's characters make up one of the strongest points of this novel. The narrator, Nicholas, is insightful and philosophical yet not to the degree that he becomes alienating to the reader. He is given a fully fleshed out and flawed personality so that he does not merely become the lens through which we view the novel's world but is instead a character on par with any of the others in the book. Martin Ball, the head of the group is perhaps the most fascinating of the actors. From the outset, Unsworth prepares us for this man's uniqueness and consequent dangerousness. In a time where creativity is not looked highly upon in the ranks of the peasantry, Martin is a dangerous person to be associated with. He is not content to continue performing the same tired out, formulaic Biblical plays and wants to experiment with an entirely new method of theatre. Casting aside convention, he attempts to depict contemporary life through art, a risky move even in today's culture and outrageous in the 14th century. Martin is very much a visionary, and I had the impression while reading this novel that had he been born a few hundred years later, he would have been a successful and famous playwright.
Read more ›
Was this review helpful to you?
3.0 out of 5 stars A good book club discussion book Jan. 12 2004
By MelB
Set among a troupe of players in Medieval England, "Morality Play" is a vigorously researced historical novel. There's a murder mystery, but that's secondary. Unsworth goes into great deal about the troupe's costumes, dramatic tools, recitation, and improvisation. One of the most interesting parts of the book is when he explains how hand gestures were used to communicate certain ideas to the audience and how they were used among players while improvising.
Others in my book group liked the book more than I did but we all agreed that the value lies in its description of the times and the power and evolution of theater. There's even a clever use of Deus Ex Machina in the plot. It proved to be a good discussion book but is a must read of theater people.
Was this review helpful to you?
4.0 out of 5 stars Evocative, compelling, focused Jan. 2 2004
I don't read historical novels; I grabbed this one because the bookstore was closing in five minutes and the first page seemed interesting.
This is an excellent book. There's no history to slog through--throughout, context is implied briefly as the narrative proceeds; there are no "info dumps"--and the story is in motion by the time you get to page two. It's a tight story, a shrewd observation of the functions and origins of art, and a convincing historical setting, in that order of prominence. My reason for emphasizing this order is that I'd like people like me, who don't read historical fiction, to try this one.
There's a lot to admire, but most of it can be reduced to this: clarity. Clarity of thought, clarity of plot, clarity of language. An admirable trick in itself is the way the language seems always "period" in flavor, but is never arcane or difficult.
I've been recommending this one.
Was this review helpful to you?
4.0 out of 5 stars Murder in the North Sept. 4 2003
"Morality Play" is a murder mystery set in the Middle Ages. Nicholas Barber, a wayward priest, joins a troupe of itinerant actors in northern England who are on their way to Durham.
The troupe stops in a remote town, where recently a child has been murdered. Will the murderer be discovered as the troupe becomes more interested in the case?
"Morality Play" is a short, entertaining book. I suppose that every novel of this type tends to be compared to "The Name of the Rose", despite the fact that it might be a little unfair to do that. It has a similar feel to Eco's work, but "Morality Play" is still good stuff - Unsworth is a skilled author, and manages to convey what might be an authentic feel for what life was like then. Although it's not as weighty as say "Stone Virgin", "Sacred Hunger" or "The Rage of the Vulture", it's still a well-controlled piece of writing.
G Rodgers
Was this review helpful to you?
4.0 out of 5 stars Atmspheric Medieval Mystery Feb. 14 2003
I picked up this book because I've always loved mysteries, this one promised to be a mystery and also qualify as decent lit., and because I loved the cover.
Unsworth is obviously a very talented writer, and the amount of research that must have gone into this novel in phenominal. Even more impressively, it doesn't feel like research when you read it. I learned all sorts of interesting details about Medieval life and culture in general and Medieval theatre in particular, and I got to learn all these things while being primarily engaged by a fascinating story, and a group of well-drawn characters. They were all good. Stephen, Tobias, Straw, Springer, our narrator, the marvelously real Nicholas, and particularly Martin, the leader of the Players, and Margaret, the marginalized member.
The mystery itself wasn't particularly difficult to discover; however, the tension of the book was steadily built, and the threat that the Players constantly felt seemed very real.
Unsworth also excels at description, and passages describing the bitter winter weather, and the arrival of the knight, are excellent.
Was this review helpful to you?
Want to see more reviews on this item?
Most recent customer reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Roaring promise but weak conclusion.
Morality Play starts out with roaring promise as the curtain opens: a fugitive monk stumbles into a traveling actors troupe in the woods of medieval England and is taken under... Read more
Published on Dec 29 2002 by KateMc
4.0 out of 5 stars Marvelous tale churns the ages
I took a wild chance on this book, having never heard of the author, and loved it, cover to cover. Unsworth has a masterful pen and a magnificent imagination. Read more
Published on Sept. 16 2002 by Quickhappy
4.0 out of 5 stars A Masterful Tale of Fourteenth Century England
Life in fourteenth century England was a grim affair, particularly when viewed through modern eyes. There was little in the way of material comfort, most people struggling merely... Read more
Published on April 23 2002 by "botatoe"
3.0 out of 5 stars Good...
... Light fare. Seems more like a screen play for a film project.
Published on Feb. 20 2002 by Philip Z. Andrews
4.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful Morality Play
Barry Unsworth's book borders on brilliance. Unlike some period pieces purportedly focusing on medieval times and life, the timelessness of this tale draws us in and challenges us,... Read more
Published on Feb. 13 2002 by Sheldon S. Kohn
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful Historical Fiction
Morality Play is the best and most enjoyable book I've read in many months. Barry Unsworth's prose is perfect and he does a wonderful job of bringing 14th century England to life. Read more
Published on Jan. 17 2002
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing
Pillars of the Earth, Narcissus and Goldmand, and Unsworth's Morality Play are my favorite novels that take place during the medieval period. Read more
Published on Aug. 21 2001 by Noble M. Smith
4.0 out of 5 stars A Masterful Tale of Fourteenth Century England
Life in fourteenth century England was a grim affair, particularly when viewed through modern eyes. There was little in the way of material comfort, most people struggling merely... Read more
Published on Nov. 28 2000
Search Customer Reviews
Only search this product's reviews

Look for similar items by category