Morality Plays in Literature? | History and Characteristics of Morality Plays

Morality Plays in Literature_ _ History and Characteristics of Morality Plays

The Morality or Miracle plays have been based mainly on the Bible stories, carried out in or close to the churches. Many events in Biblical mythology have been appropriate subjects for them. These early plays are known as Miracle or Mystery plays and morality plays. They are among the many earliest formally developed plays in medieval Europe. They evolved from 10th to 16th century.

History of Morality Plays

Morality Plays have been the verbal elaborations of liturgical texts. Eventually, these liturgical dramas acquired popularity and commenced to be organized by native communities and have become more widespread within the later Middle Ages. The term mystery play or mysteries is derived from the Latin word mysterium. The Catholic Church-eyed mystery or miracle plays warily. Until the start of the thirteenth century, they have been carried out by priests and monks. Still, Pope Innocent III was threatened by their popularity and forbade any priest or monk from further acting. Outside the church, the players and writers enjoyed more freedom, expression, and efficiency and commenced concentrating on their performance’s entertainment value.

The morality plays developed throughout the Medieval period. The morality plays tried to teach using entertainment. It is believed that the Dominican and Franciscan orders of Christian monks originated the morality play within the thirteenth century by including actors and theatrical elements in their sermons. This was the objective of this because the illiterate masses might more simply be taught the fundamentals of Christianity using dramatic spoken words. This made complicated subjects resembling original sin and atonement easier. By personifying vices, virtues, the Devil, and the Good Angel, temptation stories have been made accessible to those unable to learn them themselves.

Characteristics of Morality Plays

Miracle or mystery plays developed from the illustration of Bible stories in church buildings with accompanying antiphonal songs such as the Quem quaeritis. The miracle play subjects have been numerous: the disobedience of Adam and Eve; Noah and the great flood; Abraham and Isaac; events within the life of Christ; and so forth. Individuals of the town have enacted them on a stage on wheels known as a pageant. Several miracle plays have been being carried out at a similar time somewhere else. They have been severe and religious in intention.

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Morality plays weren’t presenting the people resembling Adam and Eve or Noah; they have been virtues such as Truth or vices such as Greed or Revenge, which walked and talked. In short, they have been personifications of good and evil. Morality plays usually include a protagonist who represents both humanity as an entire or a smaller social structure. This alignment of characters to the virtues and vices offers the play’s audience some ethical steering. Morality plays result from the dominant perception that human beings can repent for their sins and attain entry into heaven if they comply with the slender path of virtues and keep away from vices.

The morality play’s central theme is that this: Man begins in innocence, then falls into temptation, and repents and is saved. The fundamental action is man’s struggle towards the seven deadly sins, which can be personified into real characters. It is the allegory of vices and virtues fighting over Man’s soul. This allegorical application of theatre to Christianity is meant to help the audience perceive the more important sin and virtue concepts.

Structure of Morality Plays

Mystery plays usually revolve around the Old Testament, the New Testament, and the stories of saints. Unlike the farces or comedies of the time, they have been seen by audiences as non-fiction, historical tales. The plays started comparatively short however grew in size over time. However, they have been carried out not by professionals but by dramatic associations formed in all large towns to carry out mystery plays.

The scenes of a mystery play will not be derived from each other—every scene is linked solely by facilitating everlasting salvation concepts. The plays may use as few as one or as many as five hundred characters, not counting the chorus. They usually ran over many days. Places have been represented considerably symbolically by vast surroundings rather than described. For instance, a forest could be presented by two or three trees. And though the action may change locations, the surroundings remained fixed. There have been no curtains or scene changes. Thus, the audience may see two or three sets of actions happening directly, on totally different stage components. The costumes, nevertheless, have been typically more beautiful than accurate, and actors paid for them.

The shape of the stage stays a matter of some controversy. Some argue that performances occurred on a circular stage, whereas others hold that many figures have been used—round, square, horseshoe, and many others. It is thought for sure, nevertheless, that at the very least some performs have been carried out on round stages.

Characters could be well-known saints and martyrs, pagans and devils, and even ordinary people, resembling merchants, soldiers, peasants, wives, and even drunkards. Mystery plays have been well-known for being closely religious, exceptionally down-to-earth, and even comic.

One of the best-known fifteenth-century Moralities is Everyman, which was translated from the Dutch. It is the archetypal morality play. It is the story of the end of Everyman’s life when Death calls him away from the world. The characters tackle the typical pattern and symbolize broader concepts. Some of the characters in Everyman are God, Death, Everyman, Good-Deeds, Angel, Knowledge, Beauty, Discretion, and Strength. The personified meanings of those characters are hardly hidden. The premise of Everyman is that God, believing that the individuals on earth are too focused on wealth and worldly possessions, sends Death to Everyman to remind him of God’s power and the significance of upholding values. The emphasis placed on morality, the seemingly vast distinction between good and evil, and God’s strong presence makes Everyman one of the most concrete examples of a morality play. Simultaneously, most morality plays focus more on evil, whereas Everyman focuses more on good, highlighting sin in distinction.

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Shaheer

Shaheer, owner of Literature Times, is a BS (Hons) English graduate and loves to write literary articles. Apart from that, he loves to explore technology, reading books and writing about his own life.

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