Morality Plays (tpb) Paperback – Dec 5 1995
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From Publishers Weekly
Set in 14th-century England, Unsworth's novel revolves around a theater troupe whose decision to enact a recent murder leads them to uncover a conspiracy.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback 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 the Hardcover edition.
Top Customer Reviews
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.
On one level, "Morality Play" is a simple tale of traveling players during the calamitous fourteenth century, a time when all bad aspects of life were perhaps at their ascendancy. The author spares us neither the plague nor the corruption of the church and the nobility. There is more than enough avarice and cruelty in this short volume to make the reader grateful that our days are so much better.
As one expects in a narrative of the Middle Ages, Fortune drives men to their destiny, in spite of any thoughts, wishes, or desires recalcitrant or reasoning minds may offer in opposition. It is Fortune that drives Nicholas Barber, our erstwhile narrator, to join a troupe of itinerant players. It is Fortune that drives the players to a town that recently had lost a child through foul murder. It is also Fortune that drives the players to create a new art form, plays based on life though still rooted in types. The end has more than a hint of deus ex machina, making the point that the timeless is so for a reason, perhaps the most valid reason of all.
Although the players are types on stage, the change is obvious as each shifts to a position where it is not clear whether the person or the role is more in control. These players are radical beyond what a casual reader might suspect.Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
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. Read morePublished on Aug. 21 2012 by A. LiVecchi
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. Read morePublished on Jan. 12 2004 by MelB
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. Read more
"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... Read morePublished on Sept. 4 2003 by MR G. Rodgers
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 morePublished on Dec 29 2002 by KateMc
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 morePublished on Sept. 16 2002 by Quickhappy
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 morePublished on April 23 2002
... Light fare. Seems more like a screen play for a film project.Published on Feb. 20 2002 by Philip Z. Andrews
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 morePublished on Jan. 17 2002