by Barry Unsworth
Fourteenth century England does not seem to have been a nice place to live: the plague was in the process of decimating the population and power was wielded arbitrarily and bluntly by those who had it. Morality Play is rooted in the desperate circumstances of a group of traveling players: facing the prospect of going hungry in winter, they follow their charismatic leader and perform a play based on the recent murder of a boy in a town they are traveling through. Through performing the murder the players scrutinize the publicly accepted version of who is responsible for the crime and find it unconvincing. The more plausible explanation, unfortunately, brings them into direct conflict with a local Lord.
Morality Play is well written and a pleasure to read. The metaphor between a play and real life is effectively used. Probably the only weak spot is the ending, which is a bit too neat to be convincing.
copyright © 2002 John Regehr