Barry Unsworth | Critical Review by Patricia Lothrop-Green

This literature criticism consists of approximately 2 pages of analysis & critique of Barry Unsworth.
This section contains 328 words
(approx. 2 pages at 300 words per page)
Buy the Critical Review by Patricia Lothrop-Green

Critical Review by Patricia Lothrop-Green

SOURCE: "It's Hip! It's Contemporary! It's Literature!," in School Library Journal, Vol. 43, No. 9, September 1997, pp. 128-29.

In the following review, Lothrop-Green provides a brief overview of the plot of Morality Play and praises the novel's exploration of the role of art in revealing universal truths.

Barry Unsworth's Morality Play (Norton, 1995) was praised by novelist Hilary Mantel (in the New York Times Book Review) as "a near-perfect novel, with a diamond's glitter and a diamond's hardness: a profound meditation on the nature of justice and the transforming power of art." It is also a gripping mystery, a coming-of-age story, and a fascinating road trip through 14th-century England. Nicholas is a young cleric on the run from his boring desk job (copying Latin manuscripts). He sees a troupe of traveling players grouped around a death bed; characteristically, Nicholas fails to do his duty and absolve the dying man. The troupe could disguise his fugitive status, however, so he persuades the players to let him wear the dead man's clothes—both literally and figuratively. As he (and readers) learn about the life of the group and the nature of the morality play, issues bridging that time and ours are raised: the role of women, social roles generally, prejudice and fear, the arrogance of privilege and the cynicism of power, and the piety or nostalgia that conceal corruption. Questions of identity and purpose underline the actors masking, disguises, and role-playing (Follow this novel with a discussion of masking in Shakespeare's Much Ado about Nothing). When the troupe stops to raise money for the funeral of the dead man, they are caught in another death. Why has a young boy been so hastily buried? What does a father's radical politics have to do with the accusation against his mute daughter? The players' leader decides to make a daringly original move: to improvise a play about the murder. Like a mask, art conceals but can thereby reveal the truth.

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This section contains 328 words
(approx. 2 pages at 300 words per page)
Buy the Critical Review by Patricia Lothrop-Green
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