06 Nov Written on the Heart by David Edgar
On Saturday I was fortunate enough to be able to spend the afternoon at the RSC watching David Edgar’s new play ‘Written on the Heart’-the story focuses on the creation of the King James Bible published in 1611; it’s quite a challenging story and it takes a while to get to grips with all of the main characters in the play. The play centres mainly on Lancelot Andrewes, one of the 53 clerics, charged with the task of putting together a definitive version of the Bible which would hopefully bring peace to the realm of England following the destructive years of the English Reformation.
And so we are transported back in time to 1536 and the prison cell of William Tyndale who has produced a portable translation of the New Testament for the common man- his reward is to be executed for heresy. In 1586 we witness the confusion of the common man as the different Tudor rulers issue contrasting injunctions and clerics undertake visitations to ensure the new guidelines are being followed. The impact of the different religious teachings leads to confusion and executions- all in the name of faith and religion. The final scenes are perhaps the most haunting- even in a literal sense with Tyndale appearing as a ghost ensuring that Lancelot Andrewes questions and reviews his own actions. I would recommend this play to students of history as it vividly brings to life the turmoil of the English Reformation as well as chronicling the way in which the King James Bible became a part of English History.
Further Reference- David Edgar: The King James Bible Reconsidered