Moralities – English Literature Essay (100 Level Course)
Miracle Plays were a form of popular art characterized by realism, simplicity of diction, and the absence of metaphors or sentimentalism.Of quite another quality was the second great literary product of the time, the Morality Play, which, in its structure, was complementary to the Miracle Play. It was also a religious drama, but whereas Miracles were concerned with biblical events,
the Morality Play focused on the conflict between good and evil. It aimed less at teaching the scriptures than at improving people’s moral conduct, and was therefore intended for a more learned audience.
No longer inspired by episodes from the Bible, dramatists now began in venting their own plots, albeit stereotyped, which were didactic in content and allegorical in form. In accordance with the medieval love of allegory, in fact, the Morality Play presented personifications of vices and virtues (Avarice, Luxury, Gluttony, Anger, etc.) and generalized characters (Everyman, Mankind). The lines were rhymed, as in the Miracles, but the atmosphere was more melancholy. Sometimes, however, it was enlivened by the presence of such characters as the Vice who, with his rather clownish behaviour, may be considered the forerunner of the Shakespearean “fool”.
Perhaps the best Morality Play is Everyman, written about 1500. This is the story of Everyman, informed by Death that he must die. He looks for some one to go with him, but is deserted by everyone (Fellowship, Beauty, Strength, Knowledge, Five Wits, etc.). Only Good Deeds will follow him and sink with him into the grave, as we can see in the final scene of the play.