David Edgar's Written on the Heart is a historical drama about the creation of the King James Bible, commissioned by the Royal Shakespeare Company to mark its four-hundredth anniversary in 2011. It was first performed by the Royal Shakespeare Company in the Swan Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon, on 27 October 2011.
After almost a century of unrest, the King James Bible was intended to end the violent upheavals of the English Reformation. But deep-seated discord forces a leading translator to confront the betrayal of his youthful religious ideals for the sake of social peace. The play begins with a heated debate about last-minute revisions to the new version, taking place in the Holborn house of Bishop Lancelot Andrewes in 1610. It then backtracks first to Flanders in 1536 to show us the outlawed William Tyndale smuggling his biblical translation out of prison, and then to Yorkshire in 1586 to demonstrate the unresolved tensions inside the Protestant Reformation. At the heart of the play is a long scene in which Andrewes debates at length with the ghost of Tyndale, who had been burnt at the stake almost 70 years earlier.
Edgar probes into the complex history of the translation of the Bible, and sets out to prove that it was both a product of its time and also a patchwork of previous translations, foremost amongst them Tyndale's.
The Royal Shakespeare Company premiere was directed by Gregory Doran and designed by Francis O’Connor, with Oliver Ford Davies as Lancelot Andrewes and Stephen Boxer as William Tyndale.
The production transferred to the Duchess Theatre in the West End on 19 April 2012, but closed early on 19 May.