Helen Edmundson's play The Heresy of Love is based on the extraordinary life of Sor (Sister) Juana Inés de la Cruz, a poet, nun and major literary figure of Mexico. The play was commissioned by the Royal Shakespeare Company and first performed in the Swan Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon, on 2 February 2012.
In a convent in seventeenth-century Mexico, Sister Juana strives to reconcile her love for God with her desire for a life of the mind. Her gift for writing plays and poems is celebrated by the Court, but her success creates alarm within the Church. Persecuted by a zealous archbishop, Sister Juana’s world threatens to crumble around her as everything she holds dear is jeopardised by dangerous ambitions and illicit desires. The play places Juana’s faith at the centre of the story and provokes questions about orthodox belief systems and the silencing of women within the Church.
In an author's note in the published edition of the play, Edmundson writes, 'I decided early on that I wanted to try to write about [Sister Juana] rather as a seventeenth-century Spanish playwright might have done. The context and high drama of her story seemed to invite this. So I have luxuriated in intrigues and rivalries, in disguised identities and mischievous servants. I have made full use of the bold and sudden contrast of the comic and the dramatic, characteristic of the period, and enjoyed forging a rhythmic and heightened language.'
The RSC production was directed by Nancy Meckler and designed by Katrina Lindsay. The cast was Teresa Banham, Geoffrey Beavers, Matthew Flynn, Raymond Coulthard, Dona Croll, Marty Cruickshank, Laura Darrall, Catherine Hamilton, Diana Kent, Youssef Kerkour, Catherin McCormack, Ian Midlane, Sarah Ovens, Daniel Stewart and Simon Thorp.
The play was revived in a new production at Shakespeare's Globe, London, in July 2015, directed by John Dove and directed by Michael Taylor.