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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.
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Customer Reviews

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By David on 12-16-14


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.

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1 of 1 people found this review helpful

By Darryl on 08-31-14

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.

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Customer Reviews

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By Mrs. K. I. Richards on 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.

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By siangardner on 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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