Morality Play

Download PDF Print Page Citation Share Link

Last Updated on March 17, 2020, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 165

Morality play - an allegory in dramatic form. Popular from the Fourteenth to the Sixteenth Centuries, most morality plays used personified abstractions of vices and virtues. They did not necessarily use the Bible or strictly religious material and were more concerned with morality than spirit. This type of play essentially depicted a battle between the forces of good and evil in the human soul.

Illustration of PDF document

Download Guide to Literary Terms Study Guide

Subscribe Now

The word “morality” comes from the Latin moralis which was derived from mor or mos, meaning “custom.” The word play comes from the Old English plegan, meaning “to play.”

The morality play had its dramatic origins in the Mystery and Miracle plays of the late Middle Ages. Its allegorical origins were from sermon literature and other works of spiritual education.

Everyman (c. 1510) is the most common, but was preceded by Castle of Perseverance (c. 1420). The legacy of the morality play may be seen in Shakespeare’s Iago, from Othello, who resembles the Vice in morality plays.

see: allegory

Explore all literary terms.

Unlock This Study Guide Now

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-hour free trial