Morality Play

Narrated by: Michael Maloney
Length: 5 hrs and 34 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (72 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

It is the late 14th century, a dangerous time beset by war and plague. Nicholas Barber, a young and wayward cleric, stumbles across a group of travelling players and compounds his sins by joining them. Yet the town where they perform reveals another drama: a young woman is to be hanged for the murder of a 12-year-old boy. What better way to increase their takings than to make a new play, to enact the murder of Thomas Wells?

But as the actors rehearse, they discover that the truth about the boy's death has yet to be revealed.

©1995 Barry Unsworth (P)2014 Audible, Inc.

What listeners say about Morality Play

Average Customer Ratings
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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Fantastic

On of Barry Unsworth's best novels and all the better for being short and punchy. It plunges you into a very believable medieval worldview and meditates on the relation between art and reality, while also spinning a gripping murder mystery tale at the same time. Michael Maloney's reading is a true performance - he speaks in a breathy, hyperactive voice that captures the novel's intensity extremely well.

3 people found this helpful

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Outstanding writing, outstanding narration

It took a few chapters to get into the story. I am so glad I persevered! The writing is brilliant - a great plot with interesting, unusual characters. A wonderful look at life during the middle ages from the point of view of a group of traveling players. The narration speeds along! I usually have to listen at 1.5 speed or faster but this was a breathless, amazing tour de force. Two great talents have created a wonderful entertainment for a discerning audience.

2 people found this helpful

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Great story

A really terrific short book. Engaging reader performing a wide variety of accents and characters. Loved thinking about the development of the dramatic form, and the many different types of language required.

2 people found this helpful

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Great Story...highly recommended

Would you listen to Morality Play again? Why?

Yes...this was third time reading and first listening. Great story...a novella...and fresh every time.

What did you like best about this story?

The breathless narrative by a first person storyteller.

Which scene was your favorite?

The opening scene. Story told in first person brings you right into the forest watching the other characters in medieval England. Economically told. Cinematic.

Any additional comments?

A short novel that manages to have you engaged with several characters as they dance on the edge of danger's cliff while unraveling a mystery.

2 people found this helpful

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Superb!

Wonderful story as always from Barry Unsworth and a superb performance.
I can only hope that Mr. Unsworth’s book will be eventually be available in audio.

1 person found this helpful

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Extraordinary Writer, Story & Performance!!!

I have now listened to this audiobook a 3rd time. I've read the novel twice. Mr. Unsworth is that rare writer who makes me read and listen in awe. His work is astonishing. (Also highly recommend his novel, Sacred Hunger)

1 person found this helpful

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good historical mystery with more

This is a very good historical mystery around time of Black Death in Europe. There is a murder mystery coupled with a tale of a traveling acting troop and a "defrocked" clergyman who joins up and gets involved in acting and writing plays, acting being one of the sins he is not to participate in normally. But he is drawn to it slowly and suffers some mental anguish over his choice to remain with them. There is more to his story that adds weight to whole novel. I like the atmosphere of the story taking place in medieval times, but more importantly it plays with the idea of how morality and religious dramas grew into actual dramatic creativity freeing themselves from shackles of repeating same old biblical tales etc. I always find items of that nature interesting: the speculation on how drama and literature developed from greek drama or earlier mythic rituals, into mystery and morality plays, and into drama as we know it today.

1 person found this helpful

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Difficult Narration

"Morality Play" has a provocative premise: what happens when a medieval acting troupe has the audacity to abandon telling the age-old, church-sanctioned stories and, instead, create its own play from a sensational current event and the “lives of the people.” Because the narrator rushes through this reading with breathless urgency, half-whispering and mumbling the words, it's difficult to understand and annoying to try to follow it. I wanted to be intrigued by it, but I was just confused.

2 people found this helpful

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Fantastic

At first glance, this novel appears a simple mystery set in medieval times. However, with grace, poignancy, and articulate narration, the author paints a wonderful picture of life, art, and philosophy through Nicholas, his protagonist. I cannot recommend it more highly. Michael Maloney elevates the already fantastic novel with rich, character driven narration and brilliant observation of emotion and reveals. His voice is incredible and well suited for the period and content. I had to read this for a class and wound up loving it, buying it, and keeping it in both audio and physical editions.

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Fourteenth Century Morals

Fourteenth century traveling players (actors) re-enact the death of a boy and find out who really killed him and why. An engaging story with interesting details regarding life on the road and in small towns controlled by feudal lords.

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  • Mrs. K. I. Richards
  • 04-19-14

Very good historical crime fiction

Would you listen to Morality Play again? Why?

Yes. Even though you know the outcome I feel that re listening you would find nuances you missed the first time around as the story sweeps you along at a fast pace the further you go through the story. I couldn't put it down. I needed to find out what happened and was listening until midnight on one occasion.

What did you like best about this story?

I enjoyed the well written, well rounded characters and the interaction between them. I enjoyed the descriptions of the formulation of the play, and the way in which the body language of the characters was construed so that the reader could follow their meaning.

What does Michael Maloney bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you had only read the book?

for me Michael Maloney truly embodied the character of Nicholas Baker as well as the voices of all the other characters.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

The second performance of the play where they had gathered more information about what really happened . Where the action in the play and characters they were performing took them over and the actors became the people they were playing without the need for rehearsal.

Any additional comments?

The time in which the book is set is stated within the synopsis of the book but is never made clear in the narrative itself.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Dr. A. Aidonis
  • 04-08-20

superb

I loved this book and its performance. The setting is beautiful and the power of description exquisite.

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  • siangardner
  • 01-14-18

Great story and performance

Very original story encapsulating a medieval whodunnit,and interesting story about players and general society .

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  • Mary Carnegie
  • 10-09-17

Superior historical thriller

Before I listened I was disappointed it wasn’t David Rintoul reading, as he did for Sacred Hunger and The Quality of Mercy. I needn’t have worried as Michael Maloney, a narrator new to me, did an excellent job.
This is high quality historical fiction, well researched, original and surprising.
I don’t know why I get fooled into hearing sloppy potboilers, when there are books like this about!