Morality Play

Paperback | September 3, 1996

byBarry Unsworth

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The time is the fourteenth century. The place is a small town in rural England, and the setting a snow-laden winter. A small troupe of actors accompanied by Nicholas Barber, a young renegade priest, prepare to play the drama of their lives. Breaking the longstanding tradition of only performing religious plays, the groups leader, Martin, wants them to enact the murder that is foremost in the townspeoples minds. A young boy has been found dead, and a mute-and-deaf girl has been arrested and stands to be hanged for the murder. As members of the troupe delve deeper into the circumstances of the murder, they find themselves entering a political and class feud that may undo them. Intriguing and suspenseful, Morality Play is an exquisite work that captivates by its power, while opening up the distant past as new to the reader.

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From the Publisher

The time is the fourteenth century. The place is a small town in rural England, and the setting a snow-laden winter. A small troupe of actors accompanied by Nicholas Barber, a young renegade priest, prepare to play the drama of their lives. Breaking the longstanding tradition of only performing religious plays, the groups leader, Marti...

Barry Unsworth (1930-2012), who won the Booker Prize for Sacred Hunger, was a Booker Prize finalist for Morality Play and was long-listed for the Man Booker Prize for The Ruby in Her Navel.

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:208 pages, 8.2 × 5.5 × 0.55 inPublished:September 3, 1996Publisher:WW Norton

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0393315606

ISBN - 13:9780393315608

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Customer Reviews of Morality Play

Reviews

Rated 1 out of 5 by from Not a (Booker) winner Why this book was short-listed for the Booker Prize, I'll never understand. This short novel of group of 13th Century players who re-enact a true murder story was incredibly dull, and at the end I sped through the pages in order to just be finished with it. I also found nothing realistic or drawing about the characters.
Date published: 2004-03-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Hidden Gem Unsworth isn't very well known in Canada, and the fact that he co-won the Booker Prize with Michael Ondaatje (Ondaatje for English Patient and Unsworth for Sacred Hunger) often goes unnoticed. Morality Play is an excellent literary mystery set in medieval England. The narrator is a disaffected young priest who joins a troupe of actors who stumble across England performing morality plays in different towns. In one of the towns they arrive in, a murder has just occurred, and the troupe of actors decides to act out the murder and in so doing - in investigating their roles, they discover that the wrong person has been convicted of the crime. Morality Play is one of the best books that you've never heard of.
Date published: 2003-02-02

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Editorial Reviews

Morality Play is a bravura performance. . . . The novel is a thought-provoking comedy on the eternal sameness of disaster and the recurrent uses we put it to in art. On the way we toy with morality and also play our way to the truth. — Janet Burroway (New York Times Book Review)Morality Play is a book of subtlety, compassion, and skill, and it confirms Barry Unsworth's position as a master craftsman of contemporary British fiction. — Charles Nicholl (Los Angeles Times Book Review)A historical novelist of rare talent. . . . A spare and disquieting tale that, like a morality play itself, urges us to question the allure of Murder One, Prime Suspect 3, and our most recent trial of the century. — Linda Simon (Boston Globe)The entire novel is brilliantly imagined. . . . It is a dramatic meditation on the relationship between life and play. — Brian Finney (San Francisco Chronicle)In Morality Play, [Unsworth] has created an entertaining, thought-provoking work of remarkable scope and detail. — Rick Quackenbush (Houston Chronicle)A gem. . . . Morality Play resonates with meaning for our own time. — Dan Cryer (Newsday)A perfect novel. . . . This book dazzles on every level. Its lyrically surprising, unforgettably credible, darkly challenging. You succumb happily on page one and stay in thrall right up to the quick, bruising end. — Julie Myerson (Independent on Sunday [London])