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Page 8 of 16


Scene 1

Courtyard of the Antonia. Early Friday morning.
Barca, Marcus, Spurius Naso. Barca sitting on steps—half dozing
(to Barca) Amid alarms and riots Barca sleeps With dreams of Grecian maids to soothe his exile.
(rousing himself) Sleep has scarce touched my
eyes this past two nights.
At midnight from the rampart’s chilly top
I spied a crowd with clubs and lamps and swords
Steal down across the bridge o’er Kedron brook,
Their torches blinking through the wooded gloom.
It was the Temple guards and Sanhedrin police
Foraging full-armed with murder in their hearts
To seize the Nazarene. They found him in a grove.
A friend betrayed him. All the others fled.
Has Pilate been informed of his arrest?
Ere morning watch I gave him my report.
He feared the priests and Jesus were combined
Against us.
Now it is clear
They have come to mortal grips. They haled him off
And in their council sentenced him to death.
‘Tis like they’ll stone him.
Not so. They’re thirsty for a spectacle of blood
With all the trappings of a crucifixion.
Then Pontius Pilate must issue a decree.
The priests have held a second secret court
With witnesses who testified his guilt.
Forthwith you will see them here in panoply
To vex our ears with hissing Hebrew speech.
I’d wish their tongues the hiss of adders’ fangs
To sink their venom deep in Pilate.
‘Twill make us more secure if he accede.

(Confused sound of voices approaching in the street below.)
They have not tarried. A seething swaying mass
Is surging through the street, more like your snakes
Than like appellants in a court of law.
Soldiers, guards. Bring these men to order!

(First Jews appear)
Their blood is up.

(Jews stride in, somewhat disorderly. Jesus is hidden somewhere in the middle)
Go tell your master, the Roman Governor,
That we would speak with him. At paschal time
Religion bids us flee from gentle house.
Announce that we await him here.
Rank impudence I call it. Why should Rome
Upon the doormat treat with rebel Jews
And haggle with her subjects in the streets?
The Procurator knows the thing you seek
And comes to hear you in this public court.

(Fanfare—general movement to prepare for Pilate’s entrance. Trumpet; lictors, etc. Pilate enters and is seated.)
Who is the accused, and on what grounds,
And who are the complainants
The Temple and the people of Judea
Against Jesus that he subverts the nation.
The charge is vague; come to specific acts.
He would not wear these fetters were he not
A malefactor proven and condemned
Before the highest court of our religion.
No man in Roman law can be pre-judged.
If ye are come to seek a Roman judgment
`Ye must abide by our procedure and prefer
Specific charges based on evidence.
Else deal with him yourselves and carry out
Such justice as the Mosaic code permits.
Whosoever heinously offends out faith and spurns
Our consecrated rites, deserves to die
Stoned in a public place. But during feasts,
And none more solemn than these days of expiation,
The Law ordains we keep our hands inviolate
From blood.
Besides, this man is stained with double guilt;
First as perverter of our law, he merits death.
More grievous still, this self anointed preacher
Beguiles men with his words and undermines
Their due allegiance to the Emperor.
Does not this crime deserve a crucifixion
Such as Rome metes to rebellious slaves?
In what has he offended? Has he enticed
By treasonous words, or offered gold
To tempt men from their loyalty?
We’ve found him stirring up the populace
Holding assemblies, acting as their leader,
Forbidding them to pay the Imperial tax,
Pretending he will institute a kingdom
Unsanctioned by our laws, unratified by Rome.
Away with him! Crucify him!
The charge is grave, nor can it be adjudged
Without as grave reflection. That you have lent
Your dignities to press these accusations
Commends both you and them to our attention.
But haste must wait on justice, and to prove the truth
The prisoner must answer to my scrutiny.
Meanwhile withdraw.
(reluctant and mumbling) Crucify him!
Soldiers, clear the court!

(Soldiers marshall the Jews out of the court.)
Longinius, Marcus, guard our private intercourse.
(To Jesus)
Approach our throne and raise thy downcast eyes,
Nor fear the majesty of Roman law,
For Rome is just even to humble folk.
Herod is King, and Rome respects his kingship
Dost thou pretend to equal loyalty?
What answer would thine own heart make?
What hast thou learned from others about me?
(showing slight annoyance at this)
Am I a Jew or privy to Jewish gossip?
What hast thou done?
My kingdom and my power are not from hence,
Nor of this world. My kingdom is not one
Whose boundaries are limited by earth
Nor by the milestones of man’s measuring.
My throne I build deep in the hearts of men
Not by the power of the sword, but by the sword of truth.
Therefore thou dost confess thyself a king?
Not as the world ranks kings.
No regal court Attended on my birth. I chose to be so born
As lowly as the least, that I might lead
The lowliest of men to light and truth.
For this I came into the world.
What man art thou to name birth as thy choice?
What means this boast? Are not all men
Uncounselled cast upon the shores of time?
Our coming into life and our decease
Depend not on our choice but on our stars,
Mastered by decrees of destiny.

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