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Page 10 of 16


Scene 2

The same. Spurius and Marcus
Did I not tell thee Pilate was a coward?
Unwilling to run counter to the Jews
And yet afraid to sponsor their desires.
Diplomacy is oft misunderstood
And hesitation blamed as cowardice.
The great Cunctator dallied and was brave.
Why then must women’s dreams be so omnipotent
To sanction or to veto Roman justice?
‘Tis piety to heed a heavenly call.
What virtue is it to neglect the state?
Must truth and justice not be ranked supreme
If I have learned aright from Cato’s life
‘Tis justice to be loyal to the state
And Roman truth whatever pleases Rome.
When innocence or guilt is hard to prove
To temporise is prudent. Pilate baulked
At sentencing a blameless man to death.
If I know aught of Herod’s crafty mind
We’ll shortly see the Nararene lugged back
To reawaken Pilate’s slumbering fears.
I’ll not relent until his wavering step
I send careering over the precipice.

( ENTER Chresidorus)
Good morrow, sirs. Have ye any kind thought for
a poor fellow that tries to make an honest living
from a dishonest trade?
Why, pedlar, what’s dishonest about peddling?
Nothing in itself; nothing dishonest indeed for them
as are born to the trade. But most dishonest
for a full-blooded son of the prophets to be going
in the garb of a beggar. ‘Tis open fraud and
false pretences.
Who do you claim to be?
Behold in me the remnants of a mighty past. The
Romans were but a tribe of outlawed brigands when
the ancestors of poor Chresidorus here were clothed
in Phoenician purple and drank strong wine from
golden goblets.
You greasy-tongued hypocrite. You’ve no more
Hebrew blood in your veins than a Persian cat!
O save me from iniquity and guile!
Since when did the sons of the prophets adopt Greek
slave names?
Well, I can explain that – will ye listen and I’ll
explain. My father was a Hebrew of the Hebrews,
descended from an ancient Hebrew stock. But on me
mother’s side I’m Greek, connected with all the great
names like Themistocles, and Pericles, Hermogenes and
Diogenes; Lysander – Periander –
-- and a half-baked salamander!
Your people – sorry, I mean your father’s people
seem anxious to revive those palmy days of kings and
Aye, those were the days!
You have a mania for bogus kings just now.
Oh ye mean him, the Galilean. Sure ’tis little
we could expect from such as him. Though,
mind you, he’s not a bad man in his way – poor,
honest, and no harm to him. But he hasn’t got
the backing of the priests. They’re the real
kingmakers. Without the priests he can’t get
far. I notice Pilate palmed him off on Herod.
He won’t draw the same crowds again. He got
a noisy passage through the streets.
Jesus does not rank high with you then?
Sure ‘tis hard to judge a fellow countryman.
I don’t rank him high and I don’t rank him low.
All men are kings and all men commoners. He walks the
roads like me. He’s poor like me. He breathes the air
like me – as free as anyone. The likes of us, we

(ENTER Pilate)
speak free words, and if we didn’t speak, the world
would be the poorer. Lord, guide my steps to
loaded purses. (Noticing Pilate) He doesn’t look too
happy. I’ll bide me time.
What man is this whose thought and constant image
Haunts my mind? What king is he
Whose boundaries transcend the universe?
Why drifts my soul uncompassed, buffeted
By doubt – now poised aloft the surging crest,
Now deep-engulfed in back-troughs of despair?
‘Tis rare to see a Roman walking solitary and
publishing his worry. I’ll take the risk. Ahem!
Spare pity, your honour.
What troubles thee?
Troubles aplenty. Sir. The blood of Romulus is
restless in my veins. Your nobility will not take
it ill if I ask for help towards my passage money,
to speed a true-born Roman back to Rome. It vexes me
to bide amongst these superstitious Jews.
‘Twere hard refusing such request. Take this,
And haste thee back to Rome.
Kind fortune bless your generous hand
And keep it from ungenerous deeds.

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