Sir Laurence Olivier in the 1948 film adaptation of Shakespeare’s “Hamlet”
A morality play is an allegorical form of drama where the main conflict is between the virtues and vices personified by the characters.
A classic example is Shakespeare’s “Hamlet”, where the main character (Prince Hamlet) must deal with events after his father is murdered by his uncle Claudius. It is a tale of good and evil, and we watch as Hamlet contemplates the ramifications of his actions.
A similar morality play is unfolding in American politics. We get to watch our elected leaders contemplate the ramifications of policy decisions, but the political theater is where the real action takes place. It is here we see politics as a morality play, and the battle is between good and evil. See if you can figure out who is wearing “the black hats.”
Take the issue of fiscal responsibility. The problem is real, but the conflict is perceived as being between those who want to protect our citizens and those who have no such feelings.
What about gun control? Reducing tragedies from gun violence is a problem, but the drama is between people who want to protect our citizens and those who are characterized as being aloof and ideological.
Problems of foreign policy, voting rights, and sexual identity are also part of our national debate, but the drama is always between those who are sensitive to the feelings of individuals and those who are cast as having no such concern.
Our political leaders have a host of problems to confront, but Americans should consider how political issues are simply props for the larger morality play being staged.
We can look to the character of Hamlet himself, who muses “…the play’s the thing wherein I’ll catch the conscience of the King.”