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Page 13 of 16
Act Two

Scene 3 (cont'd)

One thing more—
I cannot bear to see these lusting Jews
Imbibe their bloody potion unalloyed.
Their fiendish pleasure I shall lessen.
Inscribe as title for the cross:
"Jesus of Nazareth; King of the Jews,"
In Latin, Greek and Hebrew, that all men
May learn how Pilate deals with Jewish kings.
This farce needs but a single complement
To harmonise the scene. A king requires
The presence and devotion of his court.
Why not enthrone on either side of him
That pair of cut-throat robbers who are judged
Deserving of the cross?
Let it be done.
You, Barca, will attend their punishment.

(EXIT Barca)
(Rising and moving to the rampart)
Affix this title, Spurius, to the cross.
If any take offence at its design,
Inform him it was Pilate so decreed.
I shall not fail to paint the deed as yours.

(EXIT Spurius)
The die is cast! ‘Twas not so terrible
As phantom-haunted conscience portrayed.

(Claudia who for some time has been secretly watching rushes in)
What brings you here?
O foolish man! Our fate is sealed!
I cannot brook your meddling in the court.
This business was not meant for woman’s eyes.
‘Twas wrong of you to come.
Is not a wife In duty bound to share her husband’s load?
Stand fast with him beneath the yoke of fate?
Support his throbbing head, and at his side
Relieve the chafing harness of his task?
For is one trace-horse stumble, both must fail.
Speak not of stumbling.
Yes, I must.
Our lives from this day are fallen hopes,
Mere withered expectations, blighted years.
What choice was there? I had to save myself.
Can man be blamed for acts that are not free
But wrung from him by circumstance?
You knew the man was just, and you'd promised me
To save him from malignity.
He gave no proof; adduced no witnesses;
Was silent when accused of treachery.
What proof had they against his innocence?
Did not his slandered silence give them the lie?
He was condemned by empty shibboleths.
Be calm, dear Claudia.
Your mind is overwrought
And prey to vain imaginings.
The deed is done for Rome;
Its consequences Rome will have to bear.
Between ourselves let silence pall its name.
But how can we be deaf to conscience’s voice
Which cries aloud that you have stained yourself??
What silence can you hedge about your ears
When every tongue will be unleashed in hate
To tell the tale from father to son
That Pilate was a murderer?

(ENTER Bemba)
The lady, sir, I missed her from her chamber
And feared she might have come to harm.
She’s been unwell.
What further sickness has afflicted her?
She cried your name in terror in her sleep
And often through the day she moaned for you,
And fearful sobbing wrenched her heart with pain.
The dream! The dream! It echoes in my soul!
Dear Claudia, let Bemba take thee back.
Be restful through the day. I must remain
Till peace enfolds the city in her lap.
(outside effects)
The air grows chill and dark. Make no delay.
Good Bemba, soothe your mistress with such arts
As women use to ease each other’s woe.
Farewell, my dear; ‘tis folly to be sad
If passing clouds obscure the golden light.
These clouds that stamp across the noonday sun
Are nature’s black-robed squadrons summoned forth
To plunge the earth in hostile darkness.
Come, Bemba, lead me hence- -
I cannot abide this slaughterhouse.

(EXEUNT Claudia attended by Bemba)
Is this my recompense? Does laggard fate
Not stay her hand one day? Must I endure
Instead of love which fused our hearts in one
To hear those lips speak hatred? Why must night
Eclipse the zenith sun and cast deep shades
Adown my soul’s deserted corridors?

(First rumblings of thunder)
The darkness closes in; and swirling mist
Invades with choking blackness all the air.
Ho there! Bring torches
To chase this dismal gloom.

(More thunder. ENTER Marcus with torches)
Heaven protect us!

(Background ‘terror’ music with peels of thunder)
What does Artemius? Cannot his art
Assuage the angry gods?
The seer has fled
Behind closed doors since noon.
Useless his craft; his words speak nothing sane.
Apollo! The heavens concentrate
Their elemental fury in this blast.
Unparalleled Such anarchy in nature. But behold!
What new horror is it?
A light amid the gloom
Toward Calvary. A ghostly light
Encircles Golgotha.
What mystery Commands this privilege, that banished light
Should linger on mid death and wickedness?
‘Tis nature’s dissolution, or the Power
That rules the world is overcome.
New life or final doom
Must issue from this mortal agony.
Does HE command these riotous elements
As ministers of vengeance? Stop, ye Powers!
Fling not at me your firebrands. Seek out those
Whom self-confessed guilt marks out for pain.
O sir, lose not your fortitude. Be calm.
What calm for one who feels himself outlawed
And hunted down by superhuman powers??
Yet, I’ll show brave, defiant, undismayed
The world shall not say Pilate played the coward
In a thunderstorm. Give me a sword.

(EXEUNT Pilate and Marcus)

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