Globe Theatre to mark 400 years of King James Bible

Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre is to celebrate 400 years of the King James Bible by hosting a cover-to-cover reading of the text next year.

Up to 20 actors will take part in the event, which the Globe says will be “simple” and “unstaged”.

A spokesman for the Theatre, which is in London, said it would be a rare opportunity to “experience one of the most significant pieces of world literature in its entirety”.


The readings, which are estimated to take 69 hours, will happen between Palm Sunday and Easter Monday next year.

Work on the King James translation began in 1604, at the request of James I of England, and carried on until 1611.

A team of 47 of the best Bible scholars of the day worked on translating the text into English and the King James translation became the version read by many English speaking nations.

It is believed to be the best selling book ever produced.


The production at the Globe is part of a season entitled “The Word is God” and the Theatre says it will interrupt the readings with performances of Shakespeare’s Hamlet.

The Globe’s artistic director, Dominic Dromgoole commented: “We are celebrating the word, and man’s capacity to make a god of language, and out of language.”

Mr Dromgoole said: “If people want to take a bit of God, of whatever religion they might be, they are welcome to do so.”


In October it was revealed that BBC Radio 4 is devoting a Sunday next year to readings from the King James Version of the Bible.

According to reports the readings will be selected from “the most powerful stories in the Bible” and each of them will begin with an introduction explaining its literary significance.

Last month a survey disclosed that more than half of young adults have never heard of the King James Version of the Bible.

The poll showed that 51 per cent of under-35s were not aware of the version, compared to 28 per cent for those over the age of 55.


In July a move by Royal Mail to celebrate the King James Version’s anniversary was welcomed.

Prompted by numerous requests from members of the general public, Royal Mail is to produce commemorative stamps for the occasion.

Mervyn Storey, MLA for North Antrim, was one of those who petitioned.

He said: “The Authorized or King James Version of the Bible is the most influential piece of literature in the English Language.

“However the King James Version didn’t just influence our literature and language. It also had a beneficial influence upon political and constitutional affairs.”