Literary Term Morality Plays

Literary Term Morality Plays

Morality plays are stories in the literature that teach lessons about good and bad behaviour, often using characters. These plays often portrayed the struggle between good and evil, featuring characters representing virtues and vices. The characters were often allegorical figures like “Everyman”. “Everyman” represents the common individual, or characters personifying virtues like Charity, Justice, and Greed, representing vices. The most famous Morality plays are “The Interlude of Youth”, “Everyman”, “Mankind”, and “The Castle of Perseverance”. 

Characteristics of Morality Plays: Morality plays were a popular form of drama in medieval and early Tudor England. Here are some key characteristics:

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  1. Didactic Purpose: Morality plays were intended to teach moral lessons and convey religious messages. They often depicted the struggle between good and evil. This emphasizes the consequences of virtuous or sinful actions.
  2. Allegorical Characters: Characters in morality plays were often allegorical figures representing virtues (like Charity, Faith, or Everyman) or vices (such as Greed, Envy, or Death) rather than fully fleshed-out individuals.
  3. Simplified Plot: The plots were straightforward. It focuses on the moral journey or dilemma faced by the protagonist, who represents humanity in general.
  4. Symbolism and Allegory: Symbolism was prevalent throughout these plays, with characters, settings, and events as allegories for moral concepts and religious teachings.
  5. Interaction with Morality and Vice: The protagonist typically encounters various allegorical characters. They represent virtues and vices, engaging in debates or struggles that illustrate moral conflicts.
  6. Religious Themes: Morality plays were deeply rooted in religious themes. They depict the soul’s journey towards salvation, the consequences of sin, and the rewards of leading a virtuous life.
  7. Theatrical Elements: While moral instruction was central, these plays still contained entertaining elements, using humour, spectacle, and dramatic techniques to engage audiences.

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  1. Strong Morality Message: The plays concluded with a clear moral message or lesson reinforced through the experiences and choices of the protagonist.
  2. Theatrical Morality: These plays aimed to instruct and entertain, balancing didacticism with dramatic flair. They were performed in various locations, from elaborate stages to simpler settings like churchyards or town squares.
  3. Influence on Literature: Morality plays significantly influenced later dramatic works, including the development of characters and themes in Elizabethan drama.
Riya Akter
Riya Akter
Hey, This is Riya Akter Setu, B.A (Hons) & M.A in English from National University.


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