Perspectives and Functions
Ewa Błasiak - Emotional Patterns in Morality Plays
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The University of Wrocław
Emotional Patterns in Morality Plays
It is a truth universally acknowledged that the prime objective of medieval religious drama was to teach rather than to entertain. Heavily didactic and tediously allegorical, morality plays would not probably be the first choice when it comes to the study of emotions. The scholars of medieval literature often discard morality plays as a genre potentially appealing to a contemporary audience. One of the many aspects of morality plays which may support their view is what Marion Jones identifies as an unqualified lack of unexpectedness: the absence of any surprising turn of events within the play (216). Talbot Donaldson points to the neatness of “allegorical equations” as a potential reason for the unpopularity of a moral play today (367). Hardin Craig espouses his view, claiming that it was indeed the constant re-introduction of “allegorical figures of virtues and vices on the stage” which became the bane of moralities in the Renaissance (378). Morality plays approached their end, argues A.M. Kinghorn, because as time went on “they no longer answered the questions which were being asked by educated people” (125). In his essay on medieval drama, Brander Matthews contrasts the classical drama of Greece and Rome, which he calls a “dramatic literature” with the religious drama of the Middle Ages (1). At the same time, however, he observes that the medieval drama is similar to the ancient drama of...
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