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Page 12 of 16
Act Two

Scene 3

The same.
What keeps the prisoner? I gave command
To interrupt the scourging instantly
‘Tis more than marvellous if he survive.
The thong and bone and twisted iron hooks
Make strong men faint.
They tore his flesh to threads upon his back.
‘Twas bloody work--
Does he still live?
I cannot tell. Exhausted by their work
They cut him down like to a savaged lamb
Whose snowy fleece is stained with red and thick
With muddy gore.---
But here, they bring him.

(ENTER Longinus with soldiers bringing Jesus; they laugh and jeer at the prisoner. Pilate starts from his seat. Spurius remains unmoved, somewhat contemptuous)
What thing is this?
What mean these thorns? This travesty of kingship?
This counterfeited royalty? This atrocity?
I took no part therein. The soldiers claimed
You left the penalty at their discretion.
Wherefore complain?
The men at least have done their duty well.
‘Twas more than I commanded.
If still there lurks some human tenderness
Within yon wolfish pack, their cruel hearts
Must soften to behold this living woe.
I’ll play upon the chance. Admit the Jews.

(Jews rush in howling for the cross; but at the sight of Jesus words die on their lips; a gasp; a shriek; a moment’s deep silence. Pilate notes the effect.)
Behold the man!
I bring him forth that you may see the fruits
Of his correction. I find no further cause
For chastisement. Behold the man!

(SILENCE gradually broken by a mumble originating from the group around Caiphas)
We’re not satisfied! This man deserves to die.
The cross! The cross! Let him be crucified.
What hearts have ye so reprobate, so cruel,
That can behold this bruised humanity,
These running sores, this bleeding flesh,
Yet clamour for his death?
Away with him! To Calvary! Crucify him!
Take him to yourselves if you desire his death
For I adjudge him guilty of no crime.
We have a law encumbent on all Jews
Denouncing blasphemy with direst threats.
This man deserves to die since he affirmed
Himself to be the Son of the All-Holy.
The son of god?
Thee years he’s aped the prophets and deceived
The people with fantastic lies.
Last night accused of blasphemy most vile
He dared repeat it, claiming as his right
An equal share of glory with the Highest.
(aside) King, healer, prophet, son of god,
Why have these gilded titles been construed
As brands of infamy? (To Jesus) Whence art thou?
His prating tongue is tied in silence now,
Which often boasted of divinity.
He stirs up the country! He blasphemes!
He preaches against Rome!
Crucify him, crucify him!
Dost thou not hear what testimonies grave
They bring against thee? Whence art thou?

(Jesus remains silent)
Thou makest no reply. Know you not
That in my hands abides the sovereign power
To save thee or to have thee crucified?
Thou wouldst have no power over me
If it were not given from above.
The man’s a lunatic! The power of Rome alone counts in this court.
Crucify him! Away with him!
Reflect on what you ask lest afterwards
Repentance follow closely upon the deed.
Restrain your haste; send messengers to Rome.
This man has promised great things to your race.
Shall I destroy your king and by this blow
Cut off your brightest hopes?
He’s not our king. Crucify him!
If thou release this man it will be proof
Thou art not Caesar’s friend. Imposter kings
Are enemies of Caesar and of Rome.
Release this man and thou by one false step
Hast snubbed the Jews and earned Tiberius’s wrath.
(weakly) Shall I then crucify your king?
He’s not our king. We have no king but Caesar.
We have no king but Caesar.!
Your eloquence is wasted on this mob.

O stiff-necked people, bent on wickedness!
Bring me a scroll and pen. I countersign the sentence you demand
That ere the sun goes down the prisoner be crucified,
On Golgotha, nailed to a Roman cross.
My hands I wash untainted of his blood.
Go, soldiers, take him hence, prepare
The instruments which Roman custom needs.

(EXEUNT Jews, Jesus, and some soldiers)
Longinus, you
Shall oversee the conduct of this deed.
Report when it is finished.

(EXIT Longinus)

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