Mankind: Medieval Morality Plays

Mankind: Medieval Morality Plays Essay Questions

  1. 1

    What do you think the allegory in Mankind is trying to teach its audience? How is this message made clearer by being told using allegorical means?

    This question asks you to consider the play's use of allegory, to outline broadly what you think the play is trying to teach its audience, and then to consider how the two fit together. Why might some ideas be better told using allegory? Why might allegory be a "good fit" for certain types of lessons? (See Summary & Analysis for Section 1 for more help).

  2. 2

    Allegorical characters simply make for boring, didactic drama. Do you agree?

    This question asks you to look specifically at the use of allegorical figures - which includes almost every character in the play! How do they work dramatically - are they simply boring, two-dimensional mouthpieces for a single viewpoint? Or, perhaps, can they be more complex and more interesting? It is, again, helpful to weigh up both sides before concluding.

  3. 3

    Imagine that you are the director of a production of Mankind. Describe the choices you would make to bring the play to life, focussing on acting, set design, costume, music and lights.

    This question asks you to consider Mankind as a play in the theater, and to consider ways of translating it to the stage. Remember that we have no evidence Everyman was performed on stage in the late medieval period, so it might be worth you looking carefully at the text for clues as to how an original production (if indeed there was one) might have dealt with the play in production. It might particularly be worth thinking about how you could use the audience in your production.

  4. 4

    Are the comic scenes in Mankind “vulgar but not funny” and “irrelevant”?

    This question asks you to consider a critical viewpoint on the play. Remember that you should find both reasons to agree and to disagree with the proposition put forward by the question. A good answer would also perhaps locate the comment in its critical context (see Section 4 of the Mankind Analysis for more information).

  5. 5

    How does Mankind make use of the audience and why?

    This question simply asks you to consider the audience and the role they have to play in Mankind. Perhaps start by making a list of the moments when the audience might be directly addressed or referred to - not forgetting the two key moments of the collection and the Christmas song where they are involved - before moving on to considering what the advantages might be of using the audience in this way.

  6. 6

    "The biggest weakness of Mankind is that it makes evil more fun than good." Do you agree?

    This question asks you to consider a critical proposition about the play. It's always a good idea with these questions to balance up both sides of the argument before coming to a conclusion. It might be good to start by thinking about how you might consider the play as glamorizing or endorsing evil and then to move onto counter-arguments that look at the play's construction another way.

  7. 7

    Compare and contrast Everyman with Mankind. Do you think the somberness of the former or the humor of the latter is a more effective means of communicating the Christian message?

    This question asks you to read and compare two morality plays, and then to weigh up which one you think is more effective. There is, remember, no single right answer to this question, so you need to support your opinion with textual evidence. What do you think the best way to teach is - through seriousness or through humor? What are the advantages and disadvantages of each approach?

  8. 8

    Write a short character sketch of Mankind himself. What sort of man does he seem to be?

    This question simply asks you to examine the character of Mankind as he appears in the play. As well as examining the more obvious things in the play such as his appearance and actions, don't forget to pay close attention to his language and how he speaks - particularly drawing out the contrast between him before and after he has been converted to sin.

  9. 9

    Look closely at the three vices, Mischief and Titivillus. How does the playwright ensure that they are clearly delineated as characters?

    This questions asks you to examine five characters, all of whom represent sin and evil. You might want to spend some time thinking about what they represent as well as what they do and how they speak - and don't forget any clues in the text about how they might look!

  10. 10

    Trace the references to the Bible and Christian ceremony in Mankind. What do they add to the play?

    This question asks you to think about moment when the play makes explicit or implicit reference to the Bible or Christian theology. As well as obvious moments like the references to Job and to the Crucifixion, it is worth examining some of the subtler moments (this is a great play for parody, remember) such as the mock-collection, the "Christmas song" and the re-entrance of Mercy with a whip (like Jesus in the temple).