William Blake's Divine Humanity

First staged at The New Players Theatre in London’s West End on the 250th anniversary of the birth of William Blake (November 2007).

From the original programme:

"Our motivating force is to mark Blake’s anniversary and celebrate his life and work by bringing  them alive onstage. Indeed, we believe that this is the first time in the world that his core  prophetic works have been performed as theatrical drama; and where better to do it than in  London, but two streets away from where he lived, worked and died. 

Making the un-manifest manifest is never easy, especially in a theatre. The task is made no easier  when you consider Blake’s own lack of success at poetical play writing (with unperformed works such  as the history play King Edward the Third) and the mixed dramatic successes of his poetical  successors such as Yeats, Tagore, Gibran or Tony Harrison; yet Blake’s creative use of the English  language is an unparalleled testament to the enduring power of the human imagination, and its  ability to ‘open the doors of perception’ links us to the inspired vision of the ancient prophets.  The complexity of his work is at times breath-taking, at other times child-like in its simplicity; yet  Blake is always consistent and true to his symbols which speak directly to the imagination (Jung’s  ‘Collective Unconscious’) and rouses the sleeping soul within. Everything he created resounds  with a crystal clear vision of the Infinite - the ‘Divine Vision’ - and it is this vision above all that is  the true subject of our play.  

After a year experimenting and playing around with Blakean texts and images in a number of  theatrical workshops in Italy, Austria, Belgium and the UK, we decided to re-create twelve vivid  tableaux based on his engravings of the biblical Book of Job. This provided us with a simple linear  storyline which tells of the Odysseus-like journey of the soul from ‘vegetative man’ to become  what Blake calls the ‘Divine Humanity’ – the fully-awakened Inspired Man at one with the Divine.  It quickly became apparent that Blake’s own myth of the Giant Albion (the collective man) was a  perfect parallel to the story of Job, so much of the dialogue is derived from the prophetic books  Jerusalem, Milton and The Four Zoas (Vala), with excerpts from The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, Songs  of Innocence and Songs of Experience and from Blake’s letters; also some words are taken from the  King James’ translation of the Old Testament Bible and from the 18th century mystical writings of  Emanuel Swedenborg and Jacob Boehme.  

Naturally, poetic license was called for to weave Blake’s words into drama and so the text does not  always appear as it would in the original, but we have tried as far as possible to be true to the spirit  of Blake. Similarly, we have used Blake’s ‘actual’ words (which were later reported by witnesses  interviewed by Blake’s first biographer, Alexander Gilchrist) when portraying some of the key  moments of his life. 

So sit back and enjoy the performance, and let Blake do the rest. 

‘To See a World in a Grain of Sand 

And a Heaven in a Wild Flower 

Hold Infinity in the Palm of your Hand 

And Eternity in an Hour.’ 

from Auguries of Innocence, 1803

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Scene-by-scene Synopsis 

Act One 

Prologue The Bard, Blake’s prophetic narrator, opens the play. 

Scene 1 London at sunrise, 28th November 1757  

William Blake is born and later plays with his brother Robert, surrounded by visions  of angels. 

Scene 2 In the Biblical land of Uz  

The virtuous Job and his family worship God on the Sabbath,  

yet all is not as it seems. 

Scene 3 In Beulah (the spiritual realm of the Psyche) 

Satan challenges God to a contest to test the faith of the seemingly virtuous Job. God  – in the form of Elohim the Creator – agrees and sends Satan back to the world of  man. 

Scene 4 The streets of London, 1772 

Blake (aged 16) sketches the everyday lives of people in a busy street and receives his  first commission as a journeyman engraver from his master James Basire to draw the  Gothic statues of Westminster Abbey.  

Hellish creatures try to destroy him, but he overpowers them and inspires the  youthful artisans of London to ‘Rouze up’ and be true to their own imaginations,  ‘those Worlds of Eternity in which we shall live forever’.  

Scene 5 In Ancient Uz , the house of Job’s eldest son 

Satan sets to work and kills the sons and daughters of Job. 

Scene 6 In Ancient Uz, a hillside near Job’s house 

A messenger tells Job and his wife of the death of their children and the loss of all  that they owned. In spite of this, Job’s faith in God remains firm. 

Scene 7 In Beulah (the spiritual realm of the Psyche) 

The three nymphs of creation reveal ‘The Divine Image’. 

Scene 8 The Boucher household, Battersea, summer 1781  

Blake (aged 23) meets Catherine Boucher (age 19) and proposes marriage. 

Scene 9 Blake’s workshop in Hercules Buildings, Lambeth, 1791 

Blake (aged 33) and Catherine (aged 29) work together harmoniously as man and  wife. They are suddenly interrupted by the Old Testament prophet Ezekiel who  appears from the spirit world and converses with Blake.  

In a ‘memorable fancy’, he asserts how true virtue and spirituality are innate  and come from within, not from rules or laws. 

Scene 10 In Eden (the celestial realm of the Spirit) 

Blake’s deceased brother Robert, now his spirit guide and inspiration, shows Blake  the celestial realms, and they are hailed by a host of heavenly angels. Satan tries to  attack Blake, but has no power in Eden.

Scene 11 In Ancient Uz, a hillside near Job’s ruined house 

A vengeful Satan torments Job’s body with plagues and diseases. 

Scene 12 A week later in Ancient Uz 

Under Satan’s influence, three friends (representing the limitations of rationality,  the emotions and physical sensation) try to comfort Job with moralistic religion and  urge him to look to his soul for the cause of his suffering. Job and his wife bemoan  the loss of the Divine Vision and fear that they have instead been worshipping a false  image, a spectre – a mental projection of their own creation ≠ and that ‘Divinity lies  neglected’. 

Scene 13 The salon of the Reverend Mathews, London, 1794  

Blake (aged 36) is invited to perform his Songs of Innocence & Experience at the  prestigious salon of the Reverend Mathews. Polite society is mystified by his visions  and outspoken views of life beyond death.  

Scene 14 A month later in Ancient Uz 

Jesus the Imagination appears to Eliphaz (Job’s friend) in a dream and instructs Job  and his wife to ‘despise not the chastening of the Almighty, for happy is the man  whom God correcteth’. 

Scene 15 In Ancient Time 

The sons and daughters of Jerusalem gather at sunset to worship her as  

the Divine Mother. 


Act Two 

Scene 16 A dark night, in Ancient Uz  

Satan torments Job with nightmares and assumes the false face of God. Job realises  that all his life he has worshipped Satan, a bitter reflection of his own rational ego. 

Scene 17 In Beulah (the spiritual realm of the Psyche) 

The three nymphs of creation reveal ‘The Human Abstract’  

Scene 18 The streets of London, 1804 

The Napoleonic wars rage on. A street-entertainer amuses Blake (aged 46) and a  gathering crowd by miming the story of how Blake forcefully ejected soldier John  Schofield from his garden in Felpham, after he caught the man urinating against his  wall. Schofield accuses Blake of ‘assault and uttering seditious and treasonable  expressions against the King’. (Allegedly: ‘Damn the king. The soldiers are all slaves!’)  After a long trial, Blake is found innocent and cleared of all charges.  

Scene 19 A dark Satanic mill, London, 1819 

De-humanised by the relentless grind of the Industrial Revolution, robotic workers  steal away an ailing child and force him to work in a lifeless industrial machine.  Blake saves the child and resurrects the workers from their living death, and the  liberated souls celebrate in dance. 

Scene 20 In Ancient Uz  

Elihu, a Divine Youth, visits Job and his wife with new hope. He inspires them  with talk of the awakening of Jerusalem, the Divinity within. 

Scene 21 In Ancient Uz, opening into Beulah  

In a vision, God reveals the created heavens to Job and his wife. 

Scene 22 Blake’s house in Fountain Court, London 1825  

Blake (aged 67) and Catherine (aged 63) have financial problems, but their spirits  remain high as they are visited by two admiring young artists, ‘The Shoreham  Ancients’, who revere Blake as ‘The Interpreter’. He shows them his latest  masterpiece, an engraving from the Old Testament Book of Job. Blake then steps  into the visionary world of his own engravings and assumes the form of Jesus the  Imagination. 

Scene 23 In Ancient Uz, opening into Beulah 

Jesus appears before Job and his wife and awakens their divinity within.  

Scene 24 In Beulah, opening into Eden (the celestial realm of the Spirit) The prophet Job worships the Divine Flame and assumes the character of Los  (Inspiration). He rallies the sons and daughters of Albion (the collective man) and  works for ‘man’s reconstruction into his lost Divinity’. Meanwhile, Jesus (Blake)  awakens Jerusalem and leads her out of her Satanic prison. Satan rages within the  collective body of Albion and a battle ensues as Satan tries to prevent Jesus,  Jerusalem and her emanations from awakening Albion from his sleep of spiritual  death. Finally, Satan the Great Selfhood is cast out and destroyed, and, as Eden  begins to open again to man, the combined masculine-feminine power of Jesus and  Jerusalem awakens within all mankind the Divine Humanity. 

Scene 25 Blake’s house in Fountain Court, 12th August 1827 

Surrounded by his admirers, Blake passes away into Great Eternity




Tim Bruce (after the works of William Blake)
with additional material from Paul Duncan, Deborah Eckman and Monia Giovannangeli


Co-directed by Eric Loren, Monia Giovannangeli, Vanessa Payer-Kumar and Tim Bruce

Original Cast

The Bard - Victor Vertunni
William Blake/Jesus the Imagination - Tim Bruce
Catherine Blake/dancer/ensemble - Monia Giovannangeli
Robert Blake/ensemble - Sergio Otero Ksiloco
Job/Albion - Reinhardt Winter
Job’s wife/Jerusalem/ensemble - Vanessa Payer-Kumar
Elohim the Creator/Ezekiel/ensemble - Adda van Zanden
Satan/ensemble - Deborah Eckman and Eva Neubauer
Mrs. Boucher/Jones/ensemble - Nicolette van 't Hek
Sarah Boucher/dancer/ensemble - Marja Merisalo
Devil/Richmond/ensemble - Alexandra Maitland Hume
Voice of The Divine Mother -Carol Starks
Matthews/ensemble - Carl-Johan Haggman
Elihu/ensemble - Mirjam Garscha
Palmer/ensemble - Leo Vertunni
Dancer/ensemble - Francesca Panariti


Carl-Johan Haggman - percussions
Leo Vertunni - guitar
Victor Vertunni - vocals, guitar


Monia Giovannangeli and Marja Merisalo

Stage and lighting design

Hugo & Thea de Leener


Duncan & Thuy Baillie, Marianne Schulz, Antonio & Antonietta Giovannangeli

Review quotes

performance history
(country, theatres)

20/11 - 2/12/2007

The New Players Theatre
London, UK


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