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Duration: 45 minutes

First broadcast: on BBC Radio 4 FMLatest broadcast: on BBC Radio 4 LW

Nick Warburton's tense and moving drama springs from one curious historical fact: the Elizabethan playwright Ben Jonson once escaped execution for manslaughter, just by reading a psalm.

An old loophole in the law meant that anyone who proved that they could read from the bible, could have their case tried in an ecclesiastical court as if they were clergy, and that their sentence would be lighter.

The fact that the passage normally chosen to be read was Psalm 51, with its penitential sentiments, meant that this psalm came to be called 'the neck verse'.

But what if you were a condemned man... who couldn't read?

Produced and directed by Jonquil Panting. Show less





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