John Masefield’s ‘The Coming of Christ’

[UPDATE: this article has now been published in a slightly revised form in a collection of essays edited by Andrew Chandler.]

I am bound to note the appearance, on the School of Advanced Study’s institutional repository SAS-Space, a post-print text of my article on this play by John Masefield. Commissioned by George Bell for performance in Canterbury Cathedral in 1928 (one of Bell’s last acts as Dean before his appointment as Bishop of Chichester), it is often (incorrectly) described as the first play to be staged in an English cathedral since the Reformation. The article explores what precedents there were for such a performance; examines the controversy provoked by the play, on theological, moral and aesthetic grounds; and locates it in the development of Bell’s own thinking with regard to the relationship between the Church of England and the arts.

The article is to be published in Humanitas. The Journal of the George Bell Institute later this year. I am extremely grateful to the Editor for permission to publish this version at this time. It was originally given at a conference under the auspices of the Institute last year.