The King James Version of the Bible is a product of the same culture, country, city, and language that produced the works of William Shakespeare. I have long been fascinated by the parallels between The Bard and the Bible, which is why I wrote a book by that title. So it was no surprise that I found David Teems’s book, Majestie: The King Behind the King James Bible, riveting and rewarding.
Full disclosure: the author has become a friend of mine, though I hadn’t met him when I read the book. I also love the Bible, as well as the Elizabethan and Jacobean periods, so I was predisposed to love Majestie anyway.
Even so, the book is a thorough and entertaining romp through much of the life and legacy of the enigmatic king who commissioned the Bible version that has ever since borne his name: James I of England (who is known also as James VI of Scotland). I learned so much from the book about the king who mixed theological scholarship with vulgarity and bawdiness and “bombast and majesty” (as the book’s cover copy says). Teems does a wonderful job of evoking the turbulence of James’s times and the timeliness of his Bible.
I loved the author’s injection of colloquial humor into the narrative, though it sometimes conflicted with the soaring lyricism of some of his writing. I loved the parts Shakespeare played in the book (see what I did there?), and the insights into the interplay and interaction between the court, the translators, the players, and the public. I devoured the book in three days, and was sorry to see it end.
Anyone with an interest in history, the Jacobean period, the Bible, Shakespeare, or literature in general will enjoy Majestie. I recommend it highly.