3 REASONS WHY “VIKINGS” IS THE MOST RELIGIOUSLY INTERESTING SHOW ON TV
by Bishop Robert BarronJuly 26, 2016
“At the prompting of some of my younger colleagues at “Word on Fire” I spent time during a recent vacation getting caught up on the History Channel show Vikings. My friends had told me that Vikings, curiously, is the most religious show on television. They were right. Don’t get me wrong, there is enough violence, pillaging, plundering, sword-fighting, and political intrigue to satisfy the most macho viewers; but Vikings is also drenched with religion—and for that I applaud Michael Hirst, its sole writer and director. For this emphasis is not only historically accurate, but it also resists the regnant orthodoxy in much of the entertainment industry that characters should be presented as though they are indifferent to the world of faith.
First of all, everyone in Vikings is religious: the Northmen (and women) themselves, the English, the French, and visitors from distant lands. To be sure, they are religious in very different ways, but there is no one who does not take with utter seriousness a connection to a higher, spiritual realm. Moreover, their spirituality is not an abstraction, but rather is regularly embodied in ritual, prayer, procession, liturgy, and mystical experience. The ubiquity and intensity of faith in these various peoples and tribes calls to mind philosopher Charles Taylor’s observation that, prior to 1500 or so, it was practically unthinkable not to be religious. That God exists, that spiritual powers impinge upon the world, that we live on after we die, that a higher authority judges our deeds—all of this was simply the default of the overwhelming majority of the human race prior to very recent times in certain pockets of Western civilization. Taylor speaks of the “buffered self” that has come to dominate today. He means the identity that is closed in upon itself, oblivious to a transcendent dimension, committed unquestioningly to a naturalist or materialist view of reality. I must confess that it was enormously refreshing to watch a program in which every single (Continued)
“J'adore ce jeune homme fils du serviteur de Dieu Athelstein!” ~ Danielle Gagne “I love this young man, son of the servant of God, Athelstan .”
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We see the true existential nature of the television drama Vikings as a Morality Play. Mankind: Medieval Morality Plays
Morality plays were popular in England for a long period which begins in the late medieval period and continues right up to the end of Shakespeare’s writing lifetime – from about 1400 to 1600. The word “morality” points the reader towards the genre’s central concern: dramatizing simple stories and events in a way which reinforces or makes manifest Christian morals and teachings. More generally, “morality” can refer simply to the matters of good versus evil, right versus wrong, and indeed, the morality plays often centrally focus on the battle between good and evil.
David Bevington, in his hugely important book “Medieval Drama” has defined the morality play as “the dramatization of a spiritual crisis in the life of a representative mankind figure in which his spiritual struggle is portrayed as a conflict between personified abstractions representing good and evil”, and, though it does not catch all of the surviving examples, this definition is a good starting point.
The moralities are certainly often peopled by – as Bevington suggests – “personified abstractions” and allegorical figures (Strength and Mercy are two examples from Mankind and Everyman respectively), but there are also more general types (such as Fellowship and Cousin from Everyman), and one must also be careful not to forget those exceptional characters who appear as themselves (God and Death in Everyman and the popular devil character Titivillus in Mankind.
There are about sixty surviving morality plays, many of which are anonymous, and Two are “Everyman” and “Mankind.” *Picture edit by
On this day, 745 years ago, King Håkon IV of Norway died while staying at the Earl's Palace located in the Orkney Isles, Scotland.
Håkon IV had established himself as the uncontested king of Norway, bringing an end to just under a century of civil war.
In 1256 Håkon conquered the Danish province of Halland, and in 1261 he brought the Norse settlements in Greenland under Norwegian rule. Finally, in 1262 he achieved a long standing ambition and gained control over Iceland. This was the high water mark for the Norwegian empire.
Early in 1263 the Scot forces of King Alexander III mounted raids on the Norwegian territories in the Outer Hebrides. Håkon IV responded in July of that year by arriving in the Firth of Clyde with a large invasion force. However, before victory could be secured by the Vikings, bad weather forced the Norse fleet to Orkney for the winter. This proved a fatal delay as King Håkon fell ill and died before the battle could be resumed.