morality play


: an allegorical play popular especially in the 15th and 16th centuries in which the characters personify abstract qualities or concepts (such as virtues, vices, or death)
: something (such as a court trial) which involves a direct conflict between right and wrong or good and evil and from which a moral lesson may be drawn

Examples of morality play in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Kendi’s stark provocation that one is either a racist or an anti-racist epitomized the morality play that the right has come to describe as the essence of woke politics. Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, The New Yorker, 21 Oct. 2023 Here, Hong offers up a bitterly ironic view of the world of movies, almost an Eastwood-esque morality play in which the greatest danger that art poses to an artist is demagogy—the use of fame for personal gain, rather than in the interest of the work itself. Richard Brody, The New Yorker, 5 May 2022 The allegorical characters in this morality play are Beauty, Pleasure, Time, and Truth. Beth Wood, San Diego Union-Tribune, 25 June 2023 All of this shows how the banking crisis has become in part a morality play with crypto—a shady and invasive foreign species to the world of New York finance—a central villain. Jeff John Roberts, Fortune Crypto, 16 Mar. 2023 Brooker has a penchant for including references to previous characters, settings and storylines in new episodes of the show, and Season 6 was no different, seemingly proving once and for all that every single one of these sobering morality plays occurs in the same extended universe. Philip Ellis, Men's Health, 26 June 2023 Sure, the shrill caricature of Simon Cowell is entertaining, but the whole episode lacks the subtlety of Brooker’s most compelling morality plays. WIRED, 21 June 2023 All this falls into place, like a morality play, against a scenic backdrop, with solid performances rendered by the aforementioned actors and Sharlto Copley, who plays an old friend of the family and their tour guide to the wildlife preserve in which the action takes place. Michael O'Sullivan, Washington Post, 18 Aug. 2022 Down Low, directed by Rightor Doyle (Bonding), is an ambitious coming-of-age story wrapped in a pseudo morality play wrapped in a screwball comedy. Lovia Gyarkye, The Hollywood Reporter, 13 Mar. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'morality play.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

First Known Use

1866, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of morality play was in 1866

Dictionary Entries Near morality play

Cite this Entry

“Morality play.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 7 Dec. 2023.

Kids Definition

morality play

: a type of play popular especially in the 15th and 16th centuries in which the characters stand for moral qualities (as virtue or vice) or conditions (as death)

More from Merriam-Webster on morality play

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