In Himmel og Jord (1938) and in the preface to I Brændingen, Kaj Munk sets forth his theories of drama. He states a desire to see the Danish theater return to the “grand drama” of earlier years. He proposes a bold approach to drama, in which the true world is depicted. He says that the public is better off watching motion pictures, in which dramatic things happen, than watching an insipid stage production.
Herod the King
Herod the King was Munk’s first play to be presented at the Royal Theatre in Copenhagen but certainly not his greatest success. It was, in fact, met with a decided lack of enthusiasm on the part of the critics. It was later drastically revised, and the result was much more successful than the original had been. The play is fundamentally about the struggle between the king and God. It presents Herod as a person who will stop at nothing to remain in power. No sacrifice is too great if it will accomplish that end—even the murder of his own beloved wife.
This is only one of a number of Munk’s plays portraying larger-than-life characters, such as kings, emperors, and dictators. Act 1 begins with Herod’s sister, Salome, trying to influence him in the selection of a high priest. Salome is involved in plots and intrigues throughout the play, and she ultimately succeeds in turning the king against his lovely wife Miriamne, by wrongly accusing her of unfaithfulness, upon which...
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