The Abuse of Power in the book Morality Play Many centuries ago, the wise King Arthur once stated,"ÃÂ Might does not make right."ÃÂ A thoughtful and compelling comment that serves humanity as a reminder that having power does not justify its abuse. However, even with this warning to future leaders, the abuse of power has been running rampant throughout history. Barry Unsworth's book Morality Play focuses on England in the late-medieval period, a particularly unsavory time when nobles abused their power on a daily basis. Anyone who wasn't fortunate enough to be rich was continually mistreated and misused whenever possible. The country was ragged, plague-wracked, and trembling on the brink of the modern. The story starts out with Nicholas Barber, a young priest who has hopped over the wall of his safe cathedral appointment, prompted by sheer boredom and "spring"ÃÂ urges. He meets up with a band of traveling players, costume clothed and penniless, led by the theatrical genius of Martin Bell.
The players travel to a town where a murder has just recently been committed and take the task upon them to solve the murder by putting on a play about it to find the truth. But the closer they get to the truth, the more danger they are put in. They discover countless abuses of power while searching, from the morally corrupt town priest, to Lord De Guise's vicious son.
Their first encounter with considerable abuse of power comes from the town priest, a quite unsavory fellow. Entering with the recently departed player Brendan's body in tow, the player's first order of business, a proper burial for their friend, must be taken care of. The town priest is called upon to perform the funeral, but only for an exuberant fee of four shillings for what Stephen interprets as,"ÃÂ "ÃÂ¦mumbling over a hole in the earth and the lump of clay they fill it with."ÃÂ Martin agrees to the fee but rages at the priest's greed: " As ignorant of doctrine as of grace!"ÃÂ The priest, a mockery of his very title, who,"ÃÂ "ÃÂ¦sleeps through confession"ÃÂ and whose real talents lie in,"ÃÂdrinking a flagon and exact [ing] their dues."ÃÂ While the workers slave away in the fields, the priests and nobles use their ill-gotten power to,"ÃÂ"ÃÂ¦keep folk [s] tied to the land."ÃÂ Adding to their anger is the priests open use of a concubine. "I daresay she was dressed for keeping house,"ÃÂ Margaret, the mistress of Stephen and non-player, remarks. The priest has abused his power to the fullest by making a joke of his job and using it instead to keep whores and full his own greed. But the abuse of power extends further up the ladder than just priests.
The murder of Thomas Wells, a young peasant boy, has given higher powers an excuse for the arrest of an innocent girl. Upon hearing of the boy's death, Lord De Guise's confessor, a Benedictine monk by the name of Simon Damian, intended to frame a local revolutionary who has been quite a thorn in the side of De Guise as of late, John Lambert. The monk abuses his power for ill-gotten means instead of helping those in need. Upon arrival at the Lambert residence, Damian discovers John's daughter, Jane instead. Damian accuses Jane of the murder after supposedly finding the money that the child was carrying when Damian searched the house. They took her away just to get back at John Lambert for opposing the rich and the church. "That is why they hate me so,"ÃÂ seethes John Lambert. The monk has taken the law into his own hands and almost destroyed an innocent girl's life. " They know that if I were taken the people would rise up against them,"ÃÂ Lambert laments. Someone higher up must be afraid of this man's crusade, but whom? Still searching for more truths to make The Play of Thomas Wells as realistic as possible for their third show. The play ends up being so close to the truth it must be silenced by the abuse of power by the fearful Lord De Guise. But why concern himself with the murder of a peasant boy? Simple, Lord Richard De Guise's son, Sir William De Guise has the blood of Thomas Wells on his hands. It seems Sir William,"ÃÂ Favorite of the ladies, only son of the house, flower of chivalry,"ÃÂ as the Justice put it, had a pension for raping young boys. Simon Damian was the one who procured the boys for William, but what he didn't realize was that Thomas Wells had the plague. Just as the boy had the plague, so now does Sir William who contracted it when he raped and killed young Thomas Wells. That was five days ago and now Sir William is by now "No more than an evil smell."ÃÂ Sir William used his high position as a way to commit atrocities and paid for it with his life. Damian was killed because of his mistake by Richard De Guise to erase any link between the monk and his son. Alas, abuse of power runs deep within the De Guise family. As the saying goes, the apple doesn't fall far from the tree.
Lord Richard De Guise, the aforementioned tree, abuses his power to the fullest. So much so that he has gained the ire of the King of England. "For a dozen years or so we have had trouble with the stiff-necked De Guise,"ÃÂ relates the Justice. De Guise, fond of taking the law into his own hands,"ÃÂ keeps so many unruly soldiers in arms that peace in the land is threatened."ÃÂ The Justice has been looking for a way to put the Lord's power in check and now with the murder of Thomas Wells pointing directly at his "esteemed house,"ÃÂ the Justice will use this as leverage in negotiations with him. Blackmail or subtle divine retribution, the death of Thomas Well serves as a springboard for the Justice to force De Guise to cease his abuses of power or let the Justice disseminate the awful truth about the mighty House of De Guise. Justice works in strange ways and isn't always delivered the way we would like to see it, but what goes around comes around and absolute corruption yields to an absolute downfall.
Wherever there's power, someone is bound to abuse it. The path of excess does not always lead to the palace of wisdom; as many believe it to. Look at our world of today. As a sex scandal tears through the White House like a twister through an outhouse, is there any wonder why power is still abused. Might doesn't make right, but in a world where so few control so many, the message gets lost in the shuffle. Those that truly have power know it while those that abuse power have none to begin with.