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Introducing modern morality plays on BBC Radio 3

Sue Niebrzydowski, Senior Lecturer in medieval literature at Bangor University’s School of English Literature is to be heard introducing a series of five modern morality plays this week (15-19 February, 2016) on BBC Radio 3. Covering moderation, envy, pride, wrath and justice, the five plays inspired by the genre of medieval morality drama explore how far contemporary attitudes to sin and virtue have changed.

Medieval audiences had many opportunities to experience theatre. Medieval drama existed in a variety of forms, but the original authors remain unknown. Processions, mummers plays, minstrels, and Morris dancers enlivened city streets.

In the homes of the wealthy, interludes (short plays) were performed at banquets. Long before Shakespeare, medieval drama had got its act together, using market squares, city streets, churches, and the homes of the wealthy for performance spaces. According to Sue Niebrzydowski, medieval playtime was, at the end of the day, educational – and its lesson was how to lead a good Christian life.

The aim of much current theatre, drama, television, and film is to entertain. Medieval drama entertains as it teaches life lessons. These five radio dramas, and the recent revival of Everyman, remind us of the relevance of this early drama, and how this drama can still entertain and provide food for thought.

According to Sue Niebrzydowski: “The moral dilemmas of medieval drama are as relevant today as they ever were. Reinvigorating medieval morality plays through modern retellings, brings the age-old battle between good and evil to life for new audiences.”

The plays can be heard on BBC Radio 3 at 10.45 every evening this week.

Publication date: 15 February 2016