Nicholas Grimald’s The Archprophet: A Tragedy

Saturday, March 11th, 8pm (duration c. 75 mins)

Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford,

with the kind permission and support of the Dean and Chapter of Christ Church

Admission free: all welcome.  To reserve a seat please email

Nicholas Grimald is remembered as ‘the Judas of the Reformation’, a recanter who betrayed the Oxford Martyrs Latimer, Cranmer and Ridley to their deaths. But he was also a Humanist scholar and translator, a prolific playwright, and an enthusiastic writer and collector of English poetry. His poetry features in Tottel’s Miscellany. Two of Grimald’s plays were printed in Germany and have survived: the scriptural dramas Christus Redivivus (1543) and Archipropheta, Tragoedia (1548), which was written in support of his application for membership of Christ Church, Oxford.

Archipropheta is a tragedy of humankind’s entanglement in sin, and the manifold ways in which the impulses of the flesh obstruct and usurp religious duty. The play combines the Gospel accounts of the life of John the Baptist, and his murder at the hands of Herod the Tetrarch, with the details of Herod’s vexed and incestuous family life recorded in Josephus’s Antiquities of the Jews. From this scriptural and historical material Grimald creates a five-act Senecan tragedy of thwarted love, jealousy and madness at court. The play culminates in John’s death, gruesomely represented onstage as his severed head is presented to the audience on a platter. It uses a classical Chorus, and alludes extensively to Virgil; for modern audiences, its telling of scriptural stories in classical style will be surprisingly different.

This production will cut down Grimald’s script and present it largely in modern English, with a few passages of Grimald’s Latin incorporated.

Presented by players from Atlantic College, as part of the Early Drama at Oxford project,, funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation.


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