You are on page 1of 10


Literary Context
 To know the meaning of mystery play,
morality play and everyman
 To understand the links between An
Inspector Calls and other texts
 To complete set tasks
Mystery Plays
 Mystery plays are among the earliest
formally developed plays in medieval
Europe. Their origin is obscure, but the
most common theory is that they
developed from the representation of
Bible stories in churches as tableaux with
accompanying song. These simple
structures were developed with tropes,
verbal embellishment of the liturgical text,
and became more elaborate. As these
liturgical plays became more popular,
vernacular analogues began to develop as
traveling companies of players and civic
theatrical productions became more
common in the late Middle Ages.
Mystery Play
 The mystery play developed, in some places, into
a series of plays dealing with all the major events
in the Christian calendar, from the Creation to
the Day of Judgment. By the end of the 15th
century, the practise of acting these plays in
cycles on festival days was established in several
parts of Europe.
 Sometimes, each play was performed on a
decorated cart called a pageant that moved
about the city to allow different crowds to watch
each play. The entire cycle could take up to
twenty hours to perform and could be spread
over a number of days.
Morality Play
 Morality plays are a type of theatrical allegory
in which the protagonist is met by
personifications of various moral attributes who
try to prompt him to choose a Godly life over one
of evil.
 The plays were most popular in Europe during
the 15th and 16th century; having grown out of
the religiously based mystery plays or
miracle plays of the Middle Ages, they
represented a shift towards a more secular base
for European theater.
 Examples of morality plays include the French
Condemnation des banquets by
Nicolas de Chesnaye and the English The Castle
of Perseverance, the earliest surviving complete
morality play in English and Everyman
 Everyman, sometimes considered the best of the morality
 During the 16th century morality plays often dealt with
secular topics, including forms of knowledge (in Nature and
The Nature of the Four Elements) questions of good
government (Magnificence by John Skelton and Respublica
by Nicholas Udall), education (Wit and Science by
John Redford, and the two other "wit" plays that followed,
The Marriage of Wit and Science and Wit and Wisdom), and
sectarian controversies, chiefly in the plays of John Bale.
 Throughout his career Shakespeare made references to
morality characters and tropes, suggesting that the form
was still alive for his audiences, at least in memory, long
beyond the period of its textual flowering.
 In literature and drama, the term
everyman has come to mean an
ordinary individual, with whom the
audience or reader is supposed to be
able to identify, and who is often placed
in extraordinary circumstances.
 The everyman character is written so that
the reader or audience can imagine
themselves in the same situation without
having to possess knowledge, skills, and
abilities outside their everyday
 Also, such characters react realistically in
situations that are often taken for granted
with traditional heroes. For example, an
everyman character (unless he happens
to be a pugilist) who gets into a fight is
likely to hurt his hand if he punches
someone in the face.
 No man is an island, entire of itself...any
man's death diminishes me, because I
am involved in mankind; and therefore
never send to know for whom the bell
tolls; it tolls for thee." John Donne
 Individual Responsibility
 Collective Responsibility
An Inspector Calls
 When reading to the end of act 1 think
about the following:
 Is this a mystery play or a morality play?
 Is the play trying to promote the idea of
individual or collective responsibility?
 Who, if anyone, is the Everyman
 Now, continue reading Act 1.