The Man Born to be King: Wade Annotated Edition, By Dorothy L. Sayers alt

The Man Born to be King

Wade Annotated Edition

by Dorothy L. Sayers
Edited by Kathryn Wehr

The Man Born to be King
  • Length: 464 pages
  • Published: January 24, 2023
  • Imprint: IVP Academic
  • Item Code: A0534
  • ISBN: 9781514005347

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From December 1941 until October 1942, the BBC broadcast a series of radio dramas written by Dorothy L. Sayers. Against the backdrop of World War II, the plays presented twelve episodes in the life and ministry of Jesus, from the visit of the magi to his death and resurrection, collectively affirming the kingship of Christ.

Noted for their use of colloquial English as part of Sayers's effort to bring the Gospels to life in a new way for listeners, the plays were both controversial and incredibly successful, bolstering the morale of the country during the war. They were subsequently published in 1943, and they stand among Sayers's most beloved works to this day.

In this new critical and annotated edition, scholar Kathryn Wehr brings fresh insights to the plays, their background, Sayers's creative process, and the ongoing significance of the life of Christ today. Listen again, or for the first time, to the story of the man who was born to be—and still is—king.

"C. S. Lewis admired The Man Born to be King so much that he reread it every year during Holy Week: 'It stands up to this very particular kind of test extremely well.' This fresh edition of Sayers's cycle of plays will allow a new generation of readers to get into the same annual habit and thus be reminded of the dramatic verve, the intense human immediacy of the gospel story, otherwise so often dulled by the film of familiarity. Kathryn Wehr is to be congratulated on her fine scholarship and warmly thanked for performing such a welcome public service."

Michael Ward, University of Oxford, coeditor of The Cambridge Companion to C. S. Lewis

"It is great to see a new edition of The Man Born to be King with notes. Both scholars and general readers will learn a lot from the critical apparatus as well as from enjoying these remarkable plays, whose message about the kingdom of God and the kingdoms of this world is certainly still relevant today."

Suzanne Bray, professor of British literature and civilization at Lille Catholic University

"Dorothy L. Sayers brings all her creative imagination and intellectual brilliance together in this script to make the gospel story come alive. It is hard to believe that this production was once considered controversial. Christ, of course, is always controversial, but Sayers brought Christ too close for comfort."

Dale Ahlquist, president of the Society of Gilbert Keith Chesterton

"What a bounty—almost an embarrassment of riches! This bracing new edition contains not only Sayers's resplendent script but her own thoughts on the dramatic choices, a record of the original controversy the plays provoked (there really is nothing new under the sun!), complete Scripture references for the events and major characters depicted, and Dr. Kathryn Wehr's erudite introduction of critical historical information, explanatory references, and other related material from Sayers's other writings. This is an unmitigated treasure if only for its sheer comprehensiveness!"

Jeffrey S. Miller, professor of theatre arts at Gordon College

"With the resources of the Marion E. Wade Center at Wheaton College and more, Kathryn Wehr has done a marvelous job helping us to see how Dorothy Sayers went about her task as an author and playwright by providing us with an insightful introduction and a running commentary on the text of all twelve plays of The Man Born to be King. Giving us insights into Sayers's vocation as a Christian writer is instructive for those of us who want to do the same, especially in contexts of controversy and wartime conditions that existed at the time Sayers wrote these plays. Along the way we learn how dogma can be creatively communicated in drama. And it is wonderful to have this new edition of these plays. Sayers's introduction is a gem that provides theology and wisdom about the human condition, not just about writing. Revisiting these plays with Wehr's help brings home forcefully, once again, the story of the incarnate God and its implications for who is really ruling world events, as relevant today as it was in Sayers's World War II context."

Dennis Okholm, professor emeritus, Azusa Pacific University, and author of Learning Theology Through the Church's Worship

"This new edition of The Man Born to be King is very much to be welcomed. Dorothy L. Sayers's groundbreaking series of radio plays about the life of Christ still read as freshly as they did in the 1940s. What is so special about this new edition is that those who have not encountered the plays before will have the benefit of a new introduction by Kathryn Wehr. This introduction helpfully places the plays in their social and historical context, when World War II unfolded, but also gives a very good summary of the difficulties encountered by Sayers both within and beyond the BBC."

Seona Ford, chair of the Dorothy L. Sayers Society

"Kathryn Wehr's scholarly edition of Dorothy Sayers's The Man Born to be King is a revelation. Wehr's expertly researched commentary and her footnotes with Scripture references enable us to read with Sayers, documenting Sayers's intellectual and creative process as she reflected on the Gospels and composed the plays for radio. Wehr's full scholarly apparatus includes key historical documents and engaging introductions to each of the twelve plays, making her edition an invaluable resource for enthusiasts, students, and scholars of Sayers. Wehr's edition will also, I hope, bring Sayers's still underappreciated plays to a new and expanded readership."

George Corbett, professor of theology at the School of Divinity, University of St. Andrews
The Man Born to be King - Front Cover

Read an Excerpt


Editor's General Introduction
Title Page of 1943 Edition
Dedicatory: The Makers
Foreword by Dr. J. W. Welch
Author's Introduction
Production Note by Val Gielgud
Note on Music

The Man Born to be King
Kings in Judaea
The King's Herald
A Certain Nobleman
The Heirs to the Kingdom
The Bread of Heaven
The Feast of Tabernacles
The Light and the Life
Royal Progress
The King's Supper
The Princes of this World
King of Sorrows
The King Comes to His Own

General Index
Scripture Index


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Kathryn Wehr

Kathryn Wehr (PhD, University of St Andrews) is a creative artist and scholar. Her written work has appeared in several journals and publications, including Logos: A Journal of Catholic Thought and Culture, VII: Journal of the Marion E. Wade Center, The Journal of Inklings Studies, and Transpositions: Theology, Imagination, and the Arts. She is also the managing editor of Logos: A Journal of Catholic Thought and Culture.