The Work: Plays

Blood Libel

1991, (11 actors play 34 characters: 3w 8m)


In 1144 a young boy, WILLIAM, was found brutally murdered in Thorpe Wood, Norwich. The Jews were accused of slaughtering a Christian child to use his blood for Passover and mock the crucifixion. This is the genesis of the first ever 'blood libel' accusation - a calumny which has spread throughout Europe and persists to this day. The Prior of the Norwich Priory, ELIAS, did not believe the accusation. The charge was dropped. Twenty years later the monk, THOMAS OF MONMOUTH, joined the priory and, together with the zealous priory monks, campaigned to have WILLIAM named a martyr. They succeeded. Pilgrims came in search of miracles. The church grew rich. WILLIAM's death would today be known for what it almost certainly was in the 12th century - a crime of sexual assault. Blood Libel repeatedly enacts this while playing out the myth of martyrdom - a contrapuntal of furious irony.


"The ecumenical councils pass edict after edict declaring such belief in Jewish slaughter false, yet such belief persists. I am tired of the ignorance and stupidity of the simple flock. The simple flock chooses superstition for which it needs no learning. I am tired, yes, and full of contempt. Jesus was a Jew steeped in the knowledge of the wisest laws. Law, learning, mercy, wisdom - these are the pillars of the Christian faith. They represent all that I cherish in this damned existence, they are the only hope for hopeless mankind, they are what formed my life and what in life I informed. I will not bow to the fevered intoxications of illiterate monks who love more their image before God than God's meaning to the world."