Arditti’s boldest innovation is his handling of religious orthodoxy and its close entanglement with political power. David invokes his divine ruler to justify actions that contravene divine rules, and uses God-given commands to serve personal or political ends. Anointing, likewise, is not always divine, nor are the anointed always kings. When Abigail manages to conceive, she shrewdly observes, “I too am anointed by the Lord.”
Rich in history, The Anointed highlights the lost role of women in the foundation stories of the great faiths, and suggests the hidden homoeroticism (between David and Michal’s big brother Jonathan, described in the Old Testament as ‘becoming one in spirit’) lurking in otherwise emotionally inexplicable passages in our holy books.
Most of all, Arditti asks profound questions about those who feel themselves called to lead — whether they be great kings, godlike figures or today’s statesmen and women. What is the human cost incurred when their self-belief slides into self-delusion — for them and for those around them?
Arditti brings Ancient Israel to life – far more thoroughly and with richer imagination than I even attempted. He makes a strange and distant culture vivid and immediate, in all its beauty and horror. His David undoubtedly believes himself to be the Chosen of the Lord, therefore one to whom everything is permitted. It has always been obvious that the powerful but self-doubting Saul, rejected, if we are to believe the prophet Samuel, by the Lord who had chosen him as the first King of Israel, is a tragic figure, but it takes an acute and generous understanding to reveal David as tragic too.