I just finished Barry Unsworth’s Morality Play, and it’s one of the most straightforwardly fun books I’ve read in a good while. It’s a murder mystery, with 13th-century players, is well-researched, and decently written. Unsworth plays with theatre’s ability to reveal as well as deceive (and almost answers the question of what a “fake” play might look like…), and the uncertainty this power has in the middle ages where plague, famine, and religious hypocrisy is rife, and where the nobility seems to be growing more expensively decorative. He also shows the uncertainty of theatre itself, as it develops from the morality play (sacred) to secular theatre. The ending, in the way of most Sherlock Holmes stories, is a bit sudden; it’s also a bit smugly moralising, judging the morality of the 13th century by contemporary values.
I’m quibbling over trifles. It’s an enjoyable book.
I feel somewhat guilty, writing about Unsworth before Anne Michaels. I finished The Winter Vault two days ago; it’s beautiful, and I’m still thinking my way through it. Shall hopefully collect some thoughts on it soon. In the mean, I’ll be reading Thomas Nashe.
8 May 2009 ~ St. Catharines