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Morality Play

Barry Unsworth (Author)

Overview | Inside the Book

The national bestseller: A medieval murder mystery full of the wonders of the time—and lessons for our own time—by a master storyteller.

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.

Book Details

  • Paperback
  • September 1996
  • ISBN 978-0-393-31560-8
  • 5.6 × 8.3 in / 224 pages
  • Sales Territory: Worldwide including Canada, but excluding the British Commonwealth.

Endorsements & 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]

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