Biblical Drama in England from the Middle Ages to the Present Day

Biblical Drama in England from the Middle Ages to the Present Day

Biblical Drama in England from the Middle Ages to the Present Day

Biblical Drama in England from the Middle Ages to the Present Day

Excerpt

Inscribed above the entrance to the Delphic oracle was the challenging injunction Know Thyself, and drama, born within that cultural context, has in its finest form continued to offer an exploration of man's inner self, an enquiry into the human predicament. The biblical ethos, on the other hand, encouraged obedience rather than self-exploration, an obedience epitomized in the words of Micah: What doth the Lord ask of thee but to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with thy God? For the Greek, then, an unfettered investigation of man's nature and destiny; for the Christian, a humble acceptance of divine order and the performance of good deeds on earth.

The very phrase 'biblical drama' would thus seem a contradiction in terms, offering the bleak prospect of dramatized sermons on moral rectitude with casts drawn from the saints and sinners. Such, indeed, it has been at its worst — in the kind of simplistic Sunday-school play either ignored or only glanced at in this present study. But at its best, scriptural drama is set not within the millennial Jerusalem to which Micah points but in the craggy terrain that lies before it where men may stumble and fall. If the prophet demanded justice in the name of a righteous God, Job's uncompromising insistence upon truth impelled him to question the example of that justice afforded by heaven; and even Peter, the most faithful of New Testament disciples, denied his Master three times before the crowing of the cock. It was within this spiritual struggle of men committed to an ideal yet torn from it by their human weaknesses and strengths that such writers as Milton, Byron, and Fry found the themes for their biblical plays.

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