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The Morality Play: More than Just a Lesson Learned Essay example

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Morality Plays are allegorical plays that teach moral lessons and were especially popular with the medieval audience. Today, the morality play Everyman, is occasionally performed or read at colleges and church organizations. These productions are usually academic in nature or focused on religious ideology. Ron Tanner, author of Humor in Everyman and the Middle English Morality Play argues that the play has value beyond such narrow focus. A closer evaluation of the plot and characters would support this assertion. Tanner strives to restore the play by unveiling the humor in it and comparing it with two other morality plays, Mankind and Youth.
Morality plays have a reputation of being dreary, grim and didactic, but Tanner knows this not to be true. He begins his argument by expressing his disgust towards the critic’s reviews, he claims that the critics underestimate the use of humor in morality plays and have given them a bad name. He then suggests three examples of humor in just the beginning of the play - Everyman’s attempt to negotiate with death, Everyman’s conversations with Fellowship, then with Kindred and Cousin.
“The playwrights main instrument of humor in these plays is irony, particularly dramatic irony (150),” Tanner explains. Tanner claims that this sets a alliance between the audience and the unaware characters and this, draws the audience in. It also creates empathy from the audience towards the characters which creates humor. Tanner claims that the introduction to the play and Everyman’s defiance would “slightly amuse (150)” the medieval audience. Throughout the article he emphasizes the humor in “stupid, ignorant (154)” characters which allows the audience to feel superior. Irony can also be found is in the ...


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...ompares death’s appearance on stage with a horror movie today he only proves that the play does not relate to society today. Undoubtedly, there is much irony found within the play, but is it enough to rehabilitate the play.
Tanner leaves it near impossible to say that there is no humor found in Everyman. His efforts at analyzing the plot and characters provide a better understanding of the irony and humor intended in the play. For instance, Everyman’s attempt to bride Death could be seen as despite not admiral and comic as Tanner points out.
A closer evaluation of the play proved the play to be humorous if perhaps you lived in medieval times. The play lacks modern appeal which Tanner’s argument against does not fully suffice. However, upon further evaluation, Tanner proved the play to be less serious and slightly ironic, in his efforts to rehabilitate the play.


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