Breaking The Chains

 By John McNeil


A mime. The devil binds us with chains we forge for ourselves. Jesus can break those chains, but at a cost.


John 8:26


A Blacksmith
His Assistant
The Devil
A Disciple


The only props should be a pad and felt pen carried by the Devil, two pairs of chains with padlocks, and three large metal spikes. All other items should be mimed.

The effect of chains bursting off - towards the end of this play - can be achieved by use of a simple trick well-known to conjurors, which will be explained at the conclusion.




A blacksmith mimes working at a forge, with his assistant, who alternately pumps bellows, hands apparatus to the smith, etc. Appropriate music/sound effects would enhance the effect.

The Smith takes a length of iron, examines it, heats it in the fire. He takes it out of the fire, lays the end of the iron on the anvil and beats it with his hammer, putting a loop in the end. With a pair of tongs, the assistant takes the iron and plunges it in a tub of water, while the Blacksmith repeats the performance with a second piece of iron.

As they are working, there enters the Devil in the guise of a customer. The Assistant goes to him and asks what he wants. The Devil explains he wants the Blacksmith to make him two lengths of chain, each about this long. He waves a moneybag to indicate he can pay well. The Blacksmith agrees, and the Devil says he will wait until the chain is ready.

The Blacksmith and the Assistant get to work making and welding links. As they work, the Devil takes out his pad, on each page of which there is a pre-drawn large link. In large letters he writes the word 'pride' on the first page, tears it off, shows the word to the audience, then slyly slips the page between the hammer and the anvil. The Blacksmith and Assistant do not see/do not notice him as he does this. He continues doing this, writing such words as 'lust', 'greed', 'selfishness,' etc, on pages and slipping them under the hammer.

The Blacksmith finishes his work, and picks up two lengths of real chain from where they have been concealed under a cloth on the floor. He displays the chain to the Devil, who appears a little dubious, and asks whether it is strong. In answer, the Blacksmith and the Assistant take an end each of the pair of chains, and pull hard against each other. The Devil is still not convinced. He says that to test the strength of the chain properly, he wants to bind the Blacksmith in it, to see whether he can break out. The Blacksmith agrees. The Devil takes the set of chains, and with the help of the assistant, binds them around the Blacksmith's torso and arms. A padlock is used to lock the chain in place. The Devil takes a second set and similarly binds the Assistant.

The Smith and the Assistant find that they cannot escape, no matter how hard they writhe and strain. With a laugh, the Devil flourishes the key to the padlocks, and slips the cord on which they are strung over his neck. He exits, leaving his hapless victims helpless.

Enter Jesus and a Disciple, who are carrying on an earnest discussion. They go as if to walk past the smithy, when they hear the cries of the Blacksmith and the Assistant. The Disciple runs over, peers in the door, and excitedly comes back to Jesus, exhorting him to come and see.

The Blacksmith and the Assistant plead with Jesus to help them. Jesus sees the pieces of paper lying on the floor. He picks each up in turn, reads it and tears it up. As he does so, the chains burst off first the Blacksmith, and then the Assistant. They rejoice, and then kneel in front of Jesus. But Jesus draws them to their feet, and points to the chains and the anvil, indicating what he wants done. The Blacksmith becomes horror-struck, and protests violently, but Jesus insists.

Extremely unwilling, the Blacksmith gives in, and in great sorrow takes a length of chain. He mimes cutting off a length, which he gives to the Assistant, while the remainder of the chain falls to the floor. While the Assistant holds it, the Blacksmith beats the chain into a spike. On completion, the Assistant goes to pick up the spike, but drops it. In the process of picking it up, he picks up the real spike concealed under the cloth. He gives the spike to the Blacksmith, who protests to Jesus as he holds it up, but Jesus bids him continue. In similar fashion, the Blacksmith makes two more spikes.

As he holds all three aloft, Jesus kneels down by the anvil. Jesus commands the Blacksmith, who in utter dejection begins to hammer a spike into Jesus' wrist as the lights fade.

The effect of the chains bursting off may be achieved as follows:

Take two equal lengths of chain, and using a clear nylon thread tie them together in the centre. When the Blacksmith and his assistant first tug on the chains, they just have to be careful not to accidentally break the thread.

When the Devil takes the chains from them, he inserts his thumb at the tie join, and grasps the thread so that one chain falls doubled over on one side of his hand and the other chain falls to the other side of his hand. (The two ends of the left hand side of his hand are now the two ends of the same chain, and similarly with the two ends on the right hand side of his hand.) The two ends on the left (or right) hand side may now be picked up by the assistant, while the Devil takes the other two ends. With care, the chain may be wrapped around the Blacksmith and padlocked. As the only thing holding the chain together in reality is now the thread, it may easily be broken when required.

© John McNeil 1998

All rights reserved
This play may be performed free of charge, on the condition that copies are not sold for profit in any medium, nor any entrance fee charged.
In exchange for free performance, the author would appreciate being notified of when and for what purpose the play is performed.
He may be contacted at:
Or at: 36B Stourbridge St, Christchurch 8024, New Zealand.