SEE VIDEO OF THE COMPLETE PLAY AT http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RMennxBC83Q&feature=player_embedded
a play in two acts
1837 N. Alexandria Ave.
L.A, CA 90027
Tel: (323) 360-1469
The PLACE is the Roman province of Judea.
The TIME is between the death of John and the death of Jesus, around 33 C.E.
The CHARACTERS (In Order of Appearance.):
PILATE – Roman Governor of Judea
KLAUTUS – His Roman aide
HEROD – King of Judea
JUDAS – A young Judean
MARY – A Galilean housewife
JOSEPH – Her husband, a carpenter
JESUS – Their son, a popular religious speaker
PETER – His ardent disciple
Scenes 1, 3, 5, 7, and 9 take place in PILATE’S OFFICE in the Tower of Antonia overlooking Jerusalem.
An area DOWNSTAGE represents for Scene 2 : MARY’S KITCHEN in Capernaum; for Scenes 4 and 6 the STREETS OF JERUSALEM, for Scene 8, THE GARDEN OF GESTHEMANE, for Scene 9 AT THE FOOT OF THE CROSS.
The reader is advised that scenes overlap that is, the first dialogue of each scene is interlocked with the last lines of the scene before.
(PILATE’S OFFICE, high in the Tower of Antonia in Jerusalem. Day. The office is decorated in sleek “corporate modern.” There is a large executive desk, with a pile of scholarly books, bristling with bookmarks, plus an executive chair behind the desk and another chair for visitors. A tall pedestal holds a bust of Emperor Tiberius and a dish of salt for votive offerings (a pinch of the salt sprinkled before the bust to show loyalty to Rome.) . On the wall is a large and splendid relief of the fasces, the Roman Imperial symbol, a bundle of rods with an axe in the center, tightly bound together with thongs. There is an EXIT to an anteroom office for KLAUTUS, and another to PILATE’s private quarters. A window overlooks a forecourt and the city of Jerusalem.)
(AT RISE: PILATE, a dignified ambassador in a dark blue suit, stands at the window glowering at an assembly in his forecourt.)
PILATE (In rhythm with the crowd’s cry of “Give! Us! Her! Od!”): Bar-bar-i-ans! Bar-bar-i-ans! Bar-bar-i-ans!
(KLAUTUS, a handsome and athletic aide in blue blazer, ENTERS from the anteroom at full attention.)
KLAUTUS: (Clicks his heels.) Sir! Request permission to speak with the Governor, sir! (Clicks his heels.)
PILATE: Quiet, Klautus. I am attempting to listen to my mob.
KLAUTUS: (Clicks his heels.) Sir —
PILATE: Now, if I interpret their cries correctly, they are suffering from the delusion that their King Herod is here in our towering tower —
KLAUTUS: (Clicks his heels.) Sir —
PILATE: – whereas you know and I know that even an idiot like Herod would have the taste —
KLAUTUS: (Clicks his heels.) Sir —
PILATE: — Very well, not the taste, but at least the animal cowardice, to flee Jerusalem after that blood bath at his palace, last night.
KLAUTUS: (Clicks his heels.) Sir, Herod of Judea, by proclamation of Tiberius Caesar — Emperor of Rome and of the world — named native King of the conquered province of Judea, requests an immediate audience with Pontius Pilate, by proclamation of Tiberius Caesar — Emperor of Rome and of the world — named Roman Governor of the conquered province of Judea, sir! (Clicks his heels.)
PILATE: Herod? Up here? But how did he get through that swarm of his blood-thirsty subjects?
KLAUTUS: (Clicks his heels.) By a secret tunnel his father built into the tower, sir! (Clicks his heels.)
PILATE: A secret tunnel. The foundation of all good government. But by your impeccable little schedule, Klautus, isn’t it time for young Judas’ lesson in statecraft?
KLAUTUS: (Clicks his heels.) Young Judas is here also, sir. But King Herod insisted that his matter was urgent —
PILATE/KLAUTUS: — and he is the King —
KLAUTUS: — sir. (Clicks his heels.)
PILATE: Oooooh, that’s the trouble with backing these puppet potentates! I’ve told Tiberius that a hundred times. A fine young mind like Judas must wait while I do embassies with imbeciles. Very well, then. Usher the monarch in. Is he able to walk by himself?
KLAUTUS: (Clicks his heels.) Just barely, sir.
(KLAUTUS clicks his heels and would exit, but is almost bowled over as HEROD skitters IN, gibbering. HEROD is spoiled and plump, dressed in a quasi-military, over-decorated tunic suitable for reviewing troops. He runs to the bust of Tiberius and scatters salt frantically during the following speech.)
HEROD: Pilate, Pilate, save me, they want to kill me. Look, you know I’m loyal to Rome, look, see, I’m sprinkling salt before the Emperor, see? Hail, Caesar! You know I’m loyal, you know I love Rome, save me, they want to murder me, save me, save me, save me, save me, saaaaaave meeeeeee!
PILATE: (With meticulous disgust.) Klautus. Go and keep Judas from hearing his anointed king blubber.
KLAUTUS: (Clicks his heels.) Yes, sir. (Clicks heels and EXITS.)
HEROD: Pilate, please, you won’t let them —
PILATE: Hush, ninny! Wait until the children can’t hear. (PILATE checks to make sure KLAUTUS is out of hearing range.) Now! What is this idiocy I hear?
HEROD: It’s all true. I have been unforgivable. Forgive me.
(As PILATE speaks, KLAUTUS ENTERS briskly to PILATE’s side, clicks his heels, and opens a folder front which he displays such photos, headlines, reports, and clippings as PILATE requires to get names and facts correct.)
PILATE: Forgive? What difference will be made if I forgive? Will that bring back the popular holy man you-have killed, this, this – John? John, John the – Baptist? Forgive! Truly you are the superstitious chieftain of a superstitious rabble!
HEROD: Rabble! Yes, yes, they are a rabble! (At window Rabble, rabble, rabblerabblerabble! They want to kill me, make them be still, make them stop screeeeeeeeaining!
PILATE: You’ve killed a popular holy man. That is the popular reaction.
HEROD: But he preached — John preached against the Queen.
PILATE: That is why he was popular.
HEROD: He said we broke the law!
PILATE: I’ve read the law. You did.
HEROD: But that was a stupid native law.
PILATE: You were made King to keep the native laws.
HEROD: But my wife demanded his death, Pilate.
PILATE: But you ordered it, Herod.
HEROD: I know that it was wrong.
PILATE: That does not make it right.
HEROD: But, Pilate, you are a man, you will understand. She offered me her daughter. You’ve seen her daughter, the Princess Salome, you must have seen her, you know what she looked like, she was arrogant, irresistible.
PILATE: Is that why you had her killed after the prophet?
HEROD: No, no, no, it was because I knew I had done wrong. It was to atone for my crime.
PILATE: And what about the crime he was preaching against in the first place. That ludicrous local law you broke by – what was it? By marrying Herodias, your — what was the idiot taboo? Your brother’s wife?
HEROD: I have atoned for that crime, too, mighty Pilate. I had my wife put to death today.
(PILATE looks to KLAUTUS in disbelief. KLAUTUS nods, hands PILATE a last headline, lays down folder, clicks heels, salutes, and EXITS hastily to the anteroom.)
Please, please, please, I can’t offer you gold. I spent it all on my last coronation, please forgive me, make it all not have happened.
PILATE: Oooooooooooh, I wish I believed in a God I could blame this on. I know now why Rome does not allow us to interfere in local religious matters. For one thing, the mere sight of such ignorant evil must corrupt even the observer. For another, if we leave the followers of any religion alone, they will eventually destroy each other, and Rome will be rid of them. (Sprinkles a pinch of salt before the bust.) Hail, Caesar!
(HEROD has heard no word but “Rome,” sprinkles salt broadcast.)
HEROD: Rome! Yes, Rome! You are the hand of Rome. I will be safe if you say that Rome forgives me. And I will tear off one hundred of their heads for treason against Rome’s designated King!
PILATE: A hundred or one. Very well, have your magical formula. Your wish has come true. Yes, Herod, of course, Rome forgives you. I forgive you. I give you absolution. Rome is merciful. Rome forgives you. Go.
HEROD: Oh, thank you, Pilate. Thank you. You will see. I will be true to my word. A Herod never forgets. I will be good now for as long as I live.
(He EXITS, preening. PILATE moves to the window with HEROD’s photo from the file.)
PILATE: And I also forgive the mob of your own people, waiting below to tear you into shreds.
(PILATE displays the photo of HEROD to the crowd, tears it into bits and drops the bits out the window, then displays his thumbs held straight up in the air. Dramatically, he turns “thumbs down” and stands watching the scene in the forecourt below. )
(KLAUTUS ENTERS briskly, paying no attention to PILATE, takes a whisk-broom from a pocket and cleans up the scattered salt, closes the folder, takes it under his arm, then clicks his heels, makes a polite cough, and asks.)
KLAUTUS: Sir. Are you ready to see your Judas now?
PILATE: Am I ready, after that hopeless hysteric, for the chance to educate a clean young mind? Yes, Klautus, I am ready. Send him in. Close that window. Send the crowd away. Get someone to hose down the courtyard. We’re off schedule.
KLAUTUS: (Clicks his heels.) Yes, sir!
(PILATE sits at desk. KLAUTUS closes window, clicks his heels, and EXITS. JUDAS runs IN, a young man of KLAUTUS’ age, in inexpensive business suit and glasses, with briefcase. He is distraught.)
PILATE: Judas. So sorry you were kept waiting.
JUDAS: Haven’t you heard? The people have murdered Herod!
PILATE: Never mind, Judas; he died good.
JUDAS: But they’ve torn him to pieces in your courtyard!
PILATE: It’s good to see them get together on something.
JUDAS: But Herod was our King! You put him over us as King!
PILATE: Well, then we must get you another.
(JUDAS rushes to window. PILATE rises and speaks.)
Don’t touch that window!
(JUDAS freezes. He obeys PILATE’s commands in the next speech.)
Judas, the careers of kings rise and fall like fountains splashing in a philosopher’s garden. Now, having mentioned philosophy, tell me — sit down, open your case, take out your notes, close your case, open your notes, and tell me — what were we discussing yesterday?
JUDAS: You — you said that today we would inquire into the relationship between religion and money.
PILATE: Ah, yes, good. Now, let’s see. Hmmmm. Let’s begin with a hypothetical example. Let us say that you found yourself in a jungle, surrounded by ravenous cannibals. What would you do?
JUDAS (Gets pencil and takes notes.): I’m just an executive trainee. I don’t know.
PILATE: Of course you do. You are an intelligent boy. You would invent God. And quickly, too. You would convince those cannibals that God did not want them to eat you. And if that worked, you might go on, always using the authority of God, and create sweeping social reforms. You might persuade them to feed their poor, keep their cities clean, treat one another kindly and fairly. You might improve their culture in every way. It would have every surface form of civilization. But! You would still be surrounded by cannibals who believe there is a God. And the first time you failed them, they would eat you. Or if a challenger arose, they would choose between eating him or you. And if they encountered another tribe with another name for God, they would eat them A civilization based on a lie can go just so far. Do you see that? Are you listening to me?
JUDAS: Oh, yes. Yes, sir. I see it. I’ve seen it just now. I — I fail to see its relationship to —
(KLAUTUS ENTERS with a tray bearing refreshments, places it on desk, clicks his heels, and stands at attention.)
PILATE: Thank you, Klautus. Yes, Judas, go on. You fail to see its relationship to — ?
JUDAS: Nothing, sir. I had nothing to say.
(PILATE looks at JUDAS curiously, looks at KLAUTUS, looks back and forth between them, then says.)
PILATE: You may go, Klautus.
KLAUTUS: (Clicks his heels.) Yes, sir! (Clicks his heels and EXITS.)
PILATE: Now, Judas.
JUDAS: I understand what you are saying about the origin of — of God. Gods. I fail to see its relationship to money.
PILATE: Oh, come, now, think, Judas. In the same situation might you not as easily invent money, and pay the cannibals not to eat you? And, similarly, their society would expand until it encountered one that did not use the same money.
JUDAS: It’s — very difficult to talk with you about some things. We are taught, you see, that our God is — God. The one God.
PILATE: You were taught to save your money, too, and now it is worthless unless it is valued in Rome.
JUDAS: Yes. You’ve said you’ll take our God into your temples and give him a Roman name.
PILATE: And he will be popular, I’m sure. Gods of all nations find followings in Rome.
PILATE: And what, Judas?
JUDAS: And are all those gods lies?
PILATE: That would follow from our initial example, yes.
JUDAS: And all those nations?
PILATE: By extension, yes, that follows.
JUDAS: And is Rome —
PILATE: Go ahead, Judas, speak your mind.
JUDAS: Very well. Isn’t Rome a lie then, like any other nation? I ask in the spirit of philosophical inquiry, which you yourself have taught me, Pilate.
(NOTE: At this and other crucial times, KLAUTUS may be SEEN eavesdropping at the door of Pilate’s office. This NOTE will not be repeated.)
PILATE: What a joy is a mind that is not afraid of truth! Yes, Judas, of course Rome is a lie. It is the last necessary lie. But it is run by men who know the truth. You are training to be one of those men.
JUDAS: If that is so — if I am to know the truth you speak of, then — how is Rome different from any other nation? Lie? How is it better? How can a man like you give his life — and other lives — to it? It doesn’t seem better, merely stronger. It doesn’t seem to change anything. It didn’t stop the killings today!
PILATE: Rome did not do today’s killings, Judas. And, as for its superiority, watch! Klautus!
(KLAUTUS ENTERS much too quickly.)
KLAUTUS: Yes, sir? (Clicks heels.)
PILATE: Klautus, issue an edict. From this day, the Jews of Jerusalem may no longer execute death sentences, not by stoning nor decapitation nor in any other manner.
KLAUTUS: Yes, sir. (KLAUTUS clicks his heels and makes as if to go.)
PILATE: Oh, and Klautus —
KLAUTUS (Clicks heels.): Yes, sir?
PILATE: Also, from this day, office staff may not eavesdrop on conversations in the Governor’s office.
KLAUTUS (Clicks heels.): Yes, sir. Will that be all, sir? (Clicks heels.)
PILATE: It had better be.
(KLAUTUS salutes, clicks heels, and EXITS.)
There. I’ve been meaning to do that, anyway.
JUDAS: Certainly. I see. But what will you do to anyone who breaks the edict?
PILATE: Do? I don’t know. Kill them, probably.
JUDAS: You see? All right — Rome didn’t kill John and Herod —
PILATE: — or Salome or Herodias.
JUDAS: Yes, yes, of course, I know that, but — oooooooh —
PILATE: Judas, never hesitate. You have my word that, if nowhere else in the world, you may always speak freely here.
JUDAS: Very well. You say so. All right. Rome kills. Rome has killed millions. Rome got to be Rome by killing. You got Judea by war and killing.
PILATE: Judas! When Rome was invited in to save Judea from civil war, the fragments of your tribes were killing one another like idealistic jackals. Rome did not start the killing here. Rome has very nearly ended it. Look, you see this symbol every day: (PILATE indicates the fasces.) Do you know what it means?
JUDAS: It’s everywhere. It is the symbol of Roman power.
PILATE: It is the secret of that power. It is called the fasces. The word means “bound together.” Each of those rods was once the sceptre of one Italian tribe. They warred incessantly, until they bound themselves into one invincible corporate state– our Rome. Your twelve tribes were once bound together by King David, and Judea ruled the Mediterranean. But there was a terrible error in its organization: it was bound by belief in religious rigmarole. You’ve seen today what follows from all of that–superstitious squabbling and slavery.
(JUDAS indicates the bust of Tiberius.)
JUDAS: And are Romans any less superstitious slaves because you worship a man and call him God? Oh, I know, I know; I have that in my notes. (He opens his notebook and reads.) “Caesar saved Rome from tyranny under Pompey. Cassius saved Rome from tyranny under Julius Caesar. Marc Antony — for whom this very fortress tower was named, did you know that, Judas? — saved Rome from tyranny under Cassius. They would have gone on saving Rome from one another until there was no Rome left to save. But Octavian, when he saved us from tyranny under Marc Antony, had the sense to declare himself a god. No one, you see, could accuse god of tyranny — Wasn’t that clever? — The result is that, for sixty years, Rome has existed without the necessity for a major tyrannectomy.” (Closes notebook.) So — no one believes it?
PILATE: The second generation usually does.
JUDAS: So. Rome is a lie. Judea is a lie. You’re asking me — us– me — to give up one lie to accept another?
PILATE: I am asking mankind to discontinue defining itself as races and religions, classes and clans. Each such definition is a declaration of war. I am asking mankind to bind itself together into one world.
JUDAS: Oh, you’re right, you’re right, you’re right. There’s just the one way. Rome is the most powerful organizing force in the history of mankind. You must be right…
PILATE: Each man must bind himself to a family. Each family must bind itself to a tribe. Each tribe must bind itself to a nation. All nations must bind themselves together into Rome. But before that can come about, each man must first make himself free to choose. Judas, are your people giving you trouble because you were chosen to be trained for Rome?
JUDAS: My people? Trouble? Oh, no.
PILATE: No? Then you are unique.
JUDAS: Oh, well, certainly, some of my friends. Not the bright ones. And some old people. But most of my friends envy me. And my parents brag about me. Even our High Priest — Do you know our High Priest, Caiaphas?
PILATE: I know Caiaphas quite well. He was here just this morning, on his knees, to beg me to lend him his sacred Passover robes, so your people may celebrate their deliverance from bondage.
JUDAS: Yes. Well. Caiaphas says I’m doing the right thing. He says our religion has survived by changing with the times. Only —
PILATE: Ah, at last, an “only.” “Only” what, Judas?
JUDAS: Only, I don’t see how a religion can change and still function. You’ve told me, I have it here in my notebook (Opens notebook.) — that “religion gives form to a civilization.” (Closes notebook.) But–if the religion changes, then mustn’t the civilization collapse?
PILATE: Hasn’t it? But the collapsible civilizations last longest. Yours is proof of that. Caiaphas is right, Judas. The fragment of your religion that prevails will be the one that takes on the forms of Rome.
JUDAS: Pilate, everything you say is true. It’s logical, it’s irrefutable, it all makes sense up here in your tower. But there’s something left out of it, something you can feel in the streets.. I don’t know what. But there’s something without a name, something in the blood, in the beating of the heart, something that wants, that loves, that needs — a family, a nation, a race, a religion, a — name. The Rome you describe has no — how can I say it? — (He indicates the bust of Tiberius.) It has this head, but it has no heart.
PILATE: It has my heart, Judas. It has had it since I was a boy. Give it yours and it will have two hearts. Someday it may — it must — have the hearts of all the world.
JUDAS: But for all that, men still fight you, still fight Rome. Belief — belief is very strong. Men are willing to die for their beliefs.
PILATE: Men do not die for their beliefs. They die from them. Or if they live and will not abandon belief in the face of moral logic, they live crucified on their own contradictions. You will learn, all men will learn, that it doesn’t matter what people believe, as long as they all believe the same thing. When all nations are one, men will see that they never needed nations. When all monies are one, men will see that they never needed money. When all gods are one, men must see that they never needed gods. But to bring that about, each man must first bind himself to the strongest. I do, when I say, “Hail Caesar.” (PILATE sprinkles salt before the bust of Caesar.)
JUDAS: And I, when I say “Hail, Pilate.”
PILATE: Oh, my dear boy, no, not that, never that. Now, think – and speak again.
JUDAS: I was taught to say “Hail, Judea.” “Hail, Herod.” I no longer say those.
PILATE: And you cannot yet quite bring yourself to say “Hail, Caesar”?
JUDAS: No. No, I cannot.
(KLAUTUS ENTERS with an important- looking scroll and stands watching JUDAS and PILATE as they move to the window overlooking the town. PILATE opens the window as he speaks.)
PILATE: You have time, Judas. We are at peace in Judea now. The latest symbols of good and evil have killed each other. If we could peek through the roofs of those mud huts, we would see happy families preparing for their ritual holiday.
(MARY, a woman of about fifty, in a housedress and shawl, ENTERS the area that will be MARY’S KITCHEN. She is pursued by her husband, JOSEPH, a little older, in workingman’s soiled clothes. He restrains MARY.)
MARY: Barbarians! Barbarians! Barbarians!
JOSEPH: Mary, what are you doing?
PILATE: Here the war is over. Judea is part of Rome.
MARY: Jesus, the Romans have murdered John in Jerusalem, awake!
JUDAS: Oh, Pilate, I —
PILATE: Yes, Judas, you hope so?
JOSEPH: You’ll have the Romans on us.
JUDAS: — but I hope that I may hope so.
MARY: We have the Romans on us!
PILATE: Honest Judas!
(KLAUTUS taps PILATE on the shoulder, clicks heels, displays scroll, indicates watch, clicks heels. PILATE takes the scroll with delight.)
JOSEPH: Mary, be still.
PILATE: Come, let me show you the plans that have come from Rome!
MARY: Jesus, awake!
PILATE: The plans for the Pantheon!
JOSEPH: Let the boy rest!
PILATE: The temple of all the gods!
(PILATE and JUDAS EXIT. KLAUTUS takes the tray, clicks his heels, and FOLLOWS.)
(MARY’S KITCHEN. Day. Very inexpensive. Table, three chairs. EXIT to street. Another to bedroom. Another to garden. JOSEPH and MARY are quarreling.)
MARY: Rest? Let him rest? With John’s blood bursting open the gates of Jerusalem, for him?
JOSEPH: John was our relative, Mary. This house will be watched.
MARY: Is that how you want to live? As a Roman slave?
JOSEPH: We’re not slaves, Mary. The Romans treat us better than anybody ever did.
MARY: They take our lives. They take our way of life. They defile our temples. They break the Sabbath.
JOSEPH: Mary, the Romans rule seven countries in a row with seven different Sabbaths. If they didn’t break some of them, they’d never get anywhere.
MARY: They have turned you into a clown. You, a son of the Holy House of David!
JOSEPH: Oh, everyone’s from the house of David, Mary. It’s that long ago. Your family says it’s from the house of David, too.
JOSEPH: It doesn’t mean anything. Our kings haven’t been from the house of David for a long, long time. Herod wasn’t even Jewish!
MARY: And now the alien, usurping line is ended.
JOSEPH: Well, isn’t that what you wanted?
MARY: I want what you would want if the heart of our history had not been torn out of you. I want our leader, our law, our land God gave to us.
JOSEPH: That we took from the tribes of Canaanites, you mean.
MARY: God gave us victory over the Canaanites.
JOSEPH: And he gave the Egyptians, and the Babylonians, and the Persians, and the Greeks, victory over us. And he gave the Romans victory over them. Have you thought of that? Have you thought of this? If you’re right, why doesn’t the boy agree with you? He’s smarter than you. He’s smarter than anyone. He’s got people flocking to hear him wherever he goes. Why doesn’t he fight? Have you thought of that?
MARY: He has been waiting, waiting for the proper time. And that time is now, with John’s followers gathering in Jerusalem.
JOSEPH: John was crazy, Mary. Now, with our relative beheaded, now’s the time for us to go on our knees to the Romans for forgiveness.
MARY: You can say this to me on the very eve of Passover?
JOSEPH: If it is the eve of Passover. Nobody knows. Everywhere our people were slaves we brought back new ways. Our priests fight like dogs in the streets over what the old ways were.
MARY: And so a prophet comes, a prophet with divine insight, to renew and clarify it all, to reunite us.
JOSEPH: Look, have you thought of this? You’re always quoting scriptures at me, have you thought? If all the people that were left after the flood were Noah and his family, like the scripture says, then aren’t everybody alive now Jews? Have you thought of that?
MARY: What are you saying to me?
JOSEPH: Yes, I thought that would stop even you.
MARY: Stop me? Do you know what you just said? Does he speak even through you? Are you telling me that his mission will be not to our people alone, but to all mankind? His power over all?
JOSEPH: Oh, God, Mary, whose mission? Whose power?
MARY: Our prophet, Joseph. Our King.
JOSEPH: Mary, if there is anything our priests agree on, it’s that God has spoken to us for the last time. I don’t care how many lunatics chased him, most of our people didn’t recognize John as a prophet, much less as our — as — what you mustn’t say.
MARY: Not John. No. My son, God, my son!
JOSEPH: Don’t start that.
MARY: Look what he has done already! Half our people took Passover at Mount Gerazim. Who showed them their error, who taught them that Jerusalem was our one true holy place?
JOSEPH: My son, God, my son.
MARY: This year all the tribes assemble there. Some say three million.
JOSEPH: That’s all the Romans need, three million Jews. They’ll smell rebellion.
MARY: Already thousands follow him.
JOSEPH: Thousands followed John, Mary.
MARY: And they will be added to the followers of Jesus. It is in our blood. John, our cousin — my cousin, Elizabeth’s child, roused our nation against adulterers who defiled our holy house. Of course he failed. He died. But he has cleansed that house. Perhaps some other woman is meant to fill that house, to cleanse that throne, to be Queen Mother in Judea.
JOSEPH: Mary, listen to me. I am not much, but I am the master of this house, and you will listen to what I am saying to you now. You will not tell my son that he is the King. You will not tell him that. Do you hear me? I don’t understand half of what you two say to each other, I never have, but I am his father and I have my rights, and you will not say to him that he is King
MARY: I will not say it. I will not have to say it. He will say it for me. You will see. He will say it at last! Jesus! Jesus! Awake!
(JESUS ENTERS from the bedroom. He is thirtyish, dressed in nondescript “street people” clothes. He is tired now, and wary, but always intense and magnetic. He carries a small backpack.)
JESUS: I am awake, Mother. Father, rest.
JOSEPH: You talk to her, son. You’re the one that taught her to read.
MARY: You are going to Jerusalem!
JESUS: I am leaving my father’s house. I don’t know where I can go. Have you heard what has happened?
MARY: You know? (To JOSEPH.) You see? He knows!
JOSEPH: They’re screaming it in the streets. Of course he knows.
JESUS: John was alone. He sent his people to follow me. I knew it would happen.
JOSEPH: Everyone knew it would happen.
MARY: But not like my son.
JESUS: Many people said it.
MARY: But you knew, you saw, you foresaw.
JOSEPH: Mary —
JESUS: Mother, if I did, then must what I foresee now happen? If everything I feel must happen, must happen, then is there no hope?
MARY: There is no doubt.
JESUS: Isn’t there, Mother? (JESUS moves toward the Street door.)
MARY: Jesus! Don’t touch that door! Not unless you mean to follow the way to Jerusalem!
JESUS: Mother, I don’t know how much you know. I read you the scriptures, I tell you all that I can bear to tell, but you never seem to listen.
MARY: I listen. I know. You know I know. (MARY touches the amulet JESUS wears around his neck.) Look, you wear this symbol every day. Have you forgotten what it means?
JESUS: Have you ever known what it means?
MARY: It is the serpent that Moses raised high up in the wilderness, to draw the tribes together: the serpent bound to the sticks.
JESUS: To the cross, Mother.
MARY: The tribes had been scattered by a plague of serpents.
JESUS: And now they are scattered by a plague of prophets. Who must be raised above the tribes now, Mother?
MARY: One who has things within him that are within no other man.
JOSEPH: Mary, you’ll make yourself sick this way.
MARY: No other man, do you hear me, Jesus?
JESUS: Mother —
MARY: Do you hear what I say?
JESUS: I wonder if you know what you say.
MARY: No man!
JESUS: No man, Mother? No man?
MARY: No man but you!
JESUS: …..You don’t know.
MARY: Then tell me. Say it.
JESUS: Mother, if — a man — must take all the things that we have been taught, and somehow, in the world we live in, make them work for everyone —
MARY: He must first be placed very high, yes.
JESUS: That is not what I was going to say.
MARY: It was, it was, you needn’t hide it from me. Speak in parables elsewhere, but if nowhere else in the world, you know you may always speak freely here. Mayn’t I know the thought? Shouldn’t I know the thought? Didn’t I–?
JESUS: Yes, Mother? Didn’t you what? Plant the thought there?
MARY: Foresee it all? Was I not told? Was I not allowed to see?
JESUS: Told, Mother? Who told you?
MARY: Why, you did, Jesus. Who told you?
JESUS: What did I tell you? When did I tell you?
JOSEPH: Mary, leave the boy alone. You can see he’s not well.
MARY: He has been too much alone. The people call him. They call him to Jerusalem. (To JESUS.) Remember how we took you to Jerusalem? How you felt the call? Remember how we gave you to the temple?
JESUS: The temple. The temple. You sacrificed two doves. I felt something then.
MARY: You baffled the wise men in the temple for three days.
JESUS: Three days was all it took to baffle them. Our leaders! They knew no answers. And now I have debated from end to end of Judea, I have read racks of books, I have baffled the evil and the innocent and the insane, and no one could give me an answer.
MARY: You are the answer.
JOSEPH: Mary —
MARY: John said that you were the one.
JESUS: Mother —
JOSEPH: Mary, not John.
JESUS: John had read the same books.
JESUS: He saw what I saw.
JESUS: He did say that I was the one.
MARY: The one that we should follow!
MARY: The one to bring our people together.
JOSEPH: God, don’t bring our people together! They’ll fight.
JESUS: (To JOSEPH.) And they do, you see? They do follow me.
MARY: Of course they do. They see.
JESUS: So many — thousands —
MARY: Now millions.
JESUS: You don’t have any idea what it is like, to see a mountainside full of faces, lifted to you like blind flowers, to stand high above them and hear their cries —
MARY: Yes? Yes?
JESUS: Or to hear the silence — when you pause to take a breath–the silence that means they want you — they want more —
MARY: Oh, wondrous, wondrous!
JESUS: Is it? How much do you think I can give? How much do you think they need? Mother, how much, how much do you know?
MARY: I know what they all know, what they all see. I know that you are sent to take the — very highest place.
JESUS: How high, Mother, how high?
JOSEPH: If anyone overhears what you are about to say —
MARY: What? What are we about to say?
JOSEPH: No, don’t. Leave me out of this. I don’t want to know. I don’t want to see.
MARY: You see, Jesus? Your father sees it, too.
JOSEPH: I don’t.
MARY: Oh, yes, he does. Your father sees, Jesus. Your father knows.
JOSEPH: I don’t. I don’t.
JESUS: My father — is not in the — position that you seem to me to be referring to, and I could not take that — position if he was not before me — in that place.
MARY: Your father is not in that place. That place is for you.
JESUS: And my father?
MARY: Your father is waiting, waiting for you to claim that place!
JESUS: What place?
MARY: You know!
JESUS: But do you?
MARY: Yes, yes!
JESUS: Then say it!
MARY: I cannot!
MARY: Your father has forbidden me to say it!
JESUS: My father? My father? Do you know my father?
MARY: What are you saying?
JESUS: Oh, God, I have lost my way in a dream — and the way, if I find it, may lead me to a nightmare! I am mad!
MARY: Why would you say that?
JESUS: John was mad.
MARY: John was, too?
JESUS: And his mother, too, I think.
MARY: Oh? And why stop there? Was not Herod mad? And Salome? And Herodias? And those who have followed the one and condemned the other and slain the other two? Not mad, any and all of those? All, all, not mad?
JESUS: Yes! And you, who would send me out — as Elizabeth sent John, and Herodias sent Salome — we are all mad.
MARY: Then who is not? Your — father here, who thinks he can read our minds?
JOSEPH: I don’t. I can’t. I never said that. I don’t know what the two of you are talking about. I won’t be dragged into this craziness.
MARY: So! We are confirmed that we are mad. Then we will be for all the rest of our lives a family of mad people? Crazy people? Living in a mud hut, crazed, twisted, uncertain, forever asking.
MARY: Forever asking.
JESUS: And never answering?
MARY: Ask. Ask straight out and it shall be answered.
JESUS: I can’t. You know that I can’t. Or if you don’t know that I can’t, and why I can’t, then it is impossible all the more.
MARY: Then be mad. Whatever these thoughts are in your head, you cannot blame me for them. I do not even know what they are. I have merely been trying to follow your poor, mad, rambling thoughts, as I have always done, ever since you came up with these ideas, which have always haunted you, which you have felt ever since you were a little child, yes! Long before you can remember, you have had these ideas within you!
JESUS: You cannot know what ideas are within me, and expect them to make me happy!
MARY: They are a part of you!
JESUS: You sang these thoughts to me.
MARY: I wove into my songs the thoughts you spoke when first you learned to speak, the thoughts you seemed so certain of, so clear about. I received them from you, they came from your lips while you were still in the cradle, such thoughts! They seemed to come from — from you. They seemed then to give you peace, certainty, comfort, calm, those things you seem so to lack now; certainty, comfort, peace, purpose, calm —
JESUS: (To JOSEPH.) Father! Is that true? Did I say — strange things? Frightening things?
MARY: No! Brilliant things!
JOSEPH: I don’t know, son. Don’t ask me. I never heard.
MARY: He did not hear, he could not hear, he was not there, I was there, I alone, I know, I am the one who knows, the one who heard how soon, how strong, how clearly these thoughts came to one whom others saw as nothing but the son of a carpenter, a carpenter and the son of a carpenter!
JOSEPH: Mary, spare me that. At least, spare me that.
(JOSEPH makes as if to leave. JESUS rushes to embrace him.)
JESUS: I am his son! His son!
JESUS: Whose son, then?
MARY: Mine! Mine! My son, too, Jesus!
JESUS: You don’t know!
JOSEPH: Son, let me go.
JESUS: Father, no, don’t. Don’t be — unhappy, please. Please. There is one way. We should love everyone. We should love everyone.
MARY: Is that so? Do you know that? How do you know that? Who are you to tell us that?
(JESUS widens his embrace to include MARY.)
JESUS: Whether they are our father, or our mother, or not, we should love everyone, everyone. I cannot endure their pain, God. I can endure my pain, I can suffer it forever, but do not torture me with theirs. Everything in their world seems to offer them pain. I want nothing but for them to be happy. I cannot be happy unless they are happy, unless everyone is happy. And all that I see around me, in this house, in the streets, in the faces looking up to me, is pain!
(JOSEPH pulls away in embarrassment.)
JOSEPH: Son, don’t.
(MARY steps away from JESUS, sits with her back to him, croons.)
MARY: Who can make all men happy?
JESUS: God can.
MARY: (Croons.) God will send a prophet to make all men happy.
JESUS: It is written go.
MARY: Is it? Is it written, too?
JOSEPH: Mary, don’t start. Son, don’t let her do this to you.
MARY: (Croons.) And Herod tried to slay that prophet.
JESUS: People say that it is — that it was John.
MARY: (Croons.) People say that it was John. I have heard people say that. And I have heard what John said…
JESUS: Mother, we are speaking of horrible things. Why do you smile?
MARY: At my own thoughts, Jesus. My own private thoughts, which you cannot know — if people cannot know one another’s thoughts.
JESUS: Mother, people said that John was that prophet. And because they said it, Herod slew John.
MARY: Herod slew him that people said to be King of the Jews?
JESUS: Many people still say it.
MARY: Many people think that Herod slew the rightful King of the Jews?
JESUS: Yes. Herod is dead. John is dead. Let them rest.
MARY: So, the world is safe for the Romans?
MARY: The Romans think they are safe?
JESUS: They are.
MARY: Jesus, listen to me! The Romans think that they are safe!
JESUS: And they are! They are!
MARY: Oh, yes! For Herod has killed the King of the Jews. And the people have killed Herod. And now the Romans will kill the people.
JESUS: No, now the people are happy.
MARY: While they live.
JESUS: They live.
MARY: While the Romans say “Live.”
JESUS: There is always someone to say “Live” and someone to say “Die.”
MARY: Unless some higher power says “Stop killing.”
JESUS: There is only one power higher.
MARY: And does it not say anything of the sort? To anyone among us? Through anyone among us? I had hoped someday it might. Who can tell us? Who can tell us to fight? Or to stop fighting, if that is what is right? I knew a little boy who loved peace —
JESUS: And who has known none of it.
MARY: He lives in a land where it is unknown.
JESUS: He lives in a house where it is unknown.
MARY: In a house, in a land, in a world, in a universe where peace is unknown? Perhaps. Perhaps not. Who can tell us? Who will take it upon himself to tell us? Who can say whether there is any hope of peace in life? Or after life? Who can say? Who knows? I will go out into my garden and pray now, if I may. I will ask my god, who forbids me no questions. I will ask him: “Who can tell us our way, God? Who knows?” (MARY EXITS.)
JOSEPH: Jesus. Try not to be so hard on your mother. She was always like this, she has spells, she’s working herself up into one now. I know she gives you a hard time, but —
JESUS: She? She is no more than a wound that Israel bleeds through. She simply says aloud what the faces say, what your face says —
JOSEPH: No, son. Don’t say that. I’m happy the way things are.
JESUS: But she cannot, or she will not, say it all. And whatever devils I have baffled in the wilderness, only, only she can tell me if this trail blazed in my brain is a true vision, or old books bound together in the wrong order, or merely some ancient childhood echo of her pain-driven song.
JOSEPH: Son, don’t say this to me. I can’t help you.
JESUS: But I am afraid even to ask her what I would die to know, because she need do no more than look at me and say “Son, you are mad; that thought is madness,” and I would be lost. She holds my mind in her hands like a cat’s cradle and waves it in front of me, as if she could weave it straight, or fling it away, or —
JOSEPH: Son, why tell me these things? I can’t understand.
JESUS: — or tangle it, God, tangle it so that not even she could ever straighten it again. Oh, God in Heaven, if there is a way out of this tangle, tell me!
JOSEPH: Son, don’t do that!…..Son, does He? Does He really — speak to you?
JESUS: How would I know if He did? Do you see? How would I know if it was His voice, or hers, or my own? Not speech, God, but a sign! If I am to do what seems to have been laid on me, give me a sign to show me that I know the way!
(MARY rushes IN, flailing as if blinded. During the next speech, JESUS and JOSEPH try to aid her. She fights off JOSEPH and clings to JESUS, eventually dragging herself and JESUS to a kneeling position on the floor, facing each other.)
MARY: Jesus, my son, forgive me! I should have understood; I above all! Revelation! I understand what you have been trying to tell me! A lifetime has come clear! Everything illuminated! The way is straight! My son! You feel that you are the savior, prophesied of old to come and lead our people! Back to the old ways, the unity of the tribes! I know, I knew! But suddenly I seem to see that there is more! Jesus! My son! Can it be that I am blessed, that you are the illumination of even the eldest prophecy, that I was chosen to bring man life, that you are he? Are you, indeed, the son of God, God made man, God come in human form to save us? Suddenly, it seemed so to me. I admit it. I confess it. Am I alone in that thought? Am I insane? Oh, help me! Help me from this pain! Can I never be sure of anything again?
(PILATE ENTERS UPSTAGE in his OFFICE, dressed in a white suit, idle and bored. He picks up binoculars and wanders to the window.)
MARY: Tell me, only you can: is a person insane who thinks these thoughts?
(PILATE begins to scan the view from his window, not looking directly at the family scene.)
JESUS: No, oh, Mother, no. You are not. No, no. no.
MARY: Then you will go to Jerusalem? Through the gates of the holy city? You will bring this peace to the millions who are huddled there in anguish and uncertainty, with no hope or promise in this world but your word. Oh, powers of heaven, help me hold this joy. Go, my son, my blessed and blessing son, go to Jerusalem. Go and heal your people. Go and spread your word.
(KLAUTUS ENTERS office, holding pouch of mail, observes PILATE.)
Let me go now into my garden and pray. Let me go. Now that I know, I can bear to have you leave me, but I cannot bear to see you go.
(MARY EXITS into the garden. JESUS, with a look after her, and no look at JOSEPH, shoulders his bag and EXITS to the street, speaking as he crosses.)
JESUS: Oh, my father, and my father’s father, blessed be your name. You have told me where I come from. I know now where I am bound. (JESUS EXITS.)
KLAUTUS (Clicks heels.): Ahem. Sir. Would you care to go over the mail from Rome now?
JOSEPH: Oh, God, if you can hear us, if you care —
PILATE: Hmmmmm. On the whole, no, Klautus, I would not.
JOSEPH: I don’t ask you to tell me. I don’t ask you to show me.
PILATE: I would much prefer to stand at my window and overlook Jerusalem.
JOSEPH: But everything has passed out of my hands. I only ask you to save us. Save him. Save her.
PILATE: Look there! (In the booming rhythm of Greek theatre.) Down in the gaping mouth of the theater/ Andromache sorrows that her son must die/So the Greeks may survive to the seeds of Rome!
JOSEPH: Save all of us. (JOSEPH EXITS sadly to the bedroom.)
(PILATE’S OFFICE. Day. PILATE, idle and bored, is at his window in a white suit, scanning Jerusalem through binoculars. KLAUTUS, more or less ignored, stands waiting with a pouch of official-looking mail. PILATE “conducts” the city as he rhapsodizes.)
PILATE: Oh, I do love a tower, Klautus. One can see patterns so prettily from here. The raveled city reweaves itself out of its recent disorder. Merchants and pilgrims, streeling out of the wilderness, thread through our gates into the gently geometric tapestry of a holiday town. I really should have been an orchestral conductor! Look, over there one can see Herod’s palace, so unfortunately emptied now, and still. And beyond the walls, at the end of the way, stands Golgotha, mercifully free for the moment from its customary forest of crosses.
KLAUTUS (Clicks heels.): Yes, sir. And here is the diplomatic mail. (Clicks heels.)
PILATE: And spread out below at the very foundation of my tower is the swarming but ordered temple, where — hmm — some decorative snag has occurred in the familiar festival fabric of ritual. Oh, some poet, no doubt, peddling the always marketable tale of past glorifications and power to the people. But! Doing it harmlessly in his proper, traditional, ineffectual place. Indeed, indeed, I dearly love a tower. (PILATE turns and looks at KLAUTUS through the binoculars.) Oh, hello, Klautus. I didn’t hear you come in. Isn’t it time for Judas?
KLAUTUS: Judas is not here, sir. The mail is?
PILATE: He’s never late. I hope he isn’t ill.
KLAUTUS: I should imagine, sir , he would be one of the crowd around the temple, attending the new prophet. I’ll put the mail here if I may, sir. (KLAUTUS places the mail atop a pile of books on the desk.)
PILATE: Prophet? Are we with prophets again, already?
KLAUTUS: Yes, sir.
PILATE: Is that what the excitement is down there?
KLAUTUS: Yes, sir. The young man has expelled the money-changers from the temple, sir. You know, the ones who exchange Roman coins for the sacred coins with which the pilgrims may buy sacrificial animals?
PILATE: Oh, he’s in trouble. They don’t like interference with their temple. When first I came to Jerusalem, I erected statues of Caesar all around the grounds. Four hundred Jews stormed the temple because of some taboo against “graven images.”
KLAUTUS: Yes, sir. Maybe that’s why they don’t like our coins, sir.
PILATE: I ordered them to disperse or I would have their heads cut off.
KLAUTUS: Yes, sir. You showed strength, sir.
PILATE: Yes. So did they. They bared four hundred necks to my blade. I sent them home, took down my statues, and started studying their religion.
KLAUTUS: Well, sir, this one is not in trouble. They’re moving to him like — like —
PILATE: — pond scum?
KLAUTUS: Yes, sir! Look, they’re turning their backs on their priests.
PILATE: Yes, there’s old Caiaphas in his borrowed robes.
KLAUTUS: And they’re gathering around the prophet like — like —
PILATE: — flies around a camel’s rectum?
KLAUTUS: Yes, sir.
PILATE: That’s unkind, Klautus.
KLAUTUS: But, sir, they should by rights be stoning him!
PILATE: Why, I forbade them to.
KLAUTUS: Well, I know, sir, but if they had any spirit! He’s said he’d tear their temple down.
PILATE: He didn’t!
KLAUTUS: I was there, sir. I heard him. Then he said he’d rebuild it in three days.
PILATE: Oh, why is he doing this at Passover? Any other time I’d be home in Caesarea, regulating the impost tax on pomegranates. Hmmmm. Why is he doing this at Passover? Did you say “three days”?
KLAUTUS: Yes, sir.
PILATE: Three days. That echoes something from one of their earlier prophets. (PILATE goes for his books, sees mail.) Klautus, what is this on my books?
KLAUTUS: The mail from Rome, sir.
PILATE: Why is it on my books?
KLAUTUS: Well, sir, Judas is missing, and we did formerly utilize this hour to review your correspondence.
PILATE: I’m certain Judas is merely late, Klautus. And my studies of this province are at least as important as Rome’s senatorial conspiracies. Your father excepted, of course.
KLAUTUS: Of course, sir.
PILATE: So do something else with your diplomatic pouch. (PILATE tosses pouch to KLAUTUS, and dives into books, checking back and forth between marked passages.) Here, see? Three days. Yes, here it is: a symbol of resurrection in the book of — ah — Jonah! There, you see? Hmmm. Did this young man, by any chance, enter Jerusalem on a–white colt?
KLAUTUS: Why, yes. To a great crowd. Troops were called out.
PILATE: I knew those verses connected! (PILATE closes books.) We needn’t fear for the temple’s integrity, Klautus. He’s merely exploiting old prophecies, as John did. When you become governor of a province, rigorously memorize its religion. Not only will it afford you endless amusement; it will clarify much that is otherwise baffling in the behavior of the — recently Roman. But I should not have thought our Judas would be one to loiter on street corners, gawking at bugaboo stories — even if you are.
KLAUTUS: Possibly not, sir.
PILATE: You do not share my fondness for Judas, do you, Klautus?
KLAUTUS: Sir, it is not my place to —
PILATE: Oh, Klautus, talk to me as you used to. This tower is a Roman ship, marooned among your pond scum. Talk to me like a Roman.
KLAUTUS: Well, sir, since you ask me: no, I am not fond of these people.
PILATE: They have not had your advantages, Klautus: your faith in our holy mission, your awareness of the emperor’s divinity, your certainty that our forefathers were suckled by a giant she-wolf. Surely you can sympathize with those less fortunate?
KLAUTUS: Oh, yes, sir. I even think I understand why they follow these prophets. The young Jews are tired of being dominated by old men. They are looking for leadership, rebelling against the old order.
PILATE: Naturally. The old order promised them the world and, unlike Rome, it hasn’t delivered. But it is not the lie they are rebelling against; it is the truth. Most rebels are merely closet conformists, fighting to bring true the lies they were told in their cribs.
KLAUTUS: I can see that. That’s very interesting, sir.
PILATE: Yes, but it is not very relevant. Klautus, what do you think is the hardest task of a ruler?
KLAUTUS: You told me last week, sir: the education of the masses.
PILATE: Wrong! The masses are easy to educate. They believe each week whatever they are told. No, it is the intelligent who are hard to educate.
KLAUTUS: This is another one of your paradoxes, sir.
PILATE: The intelligent educate themselves so easily, so early. Their athletic intellects articulate sophistic sustentacula to rectify their cultural contraindications.
KLAUTUS: I’m not sure I understand, sir.
PILATE: No, that’s what I was saying. Look, you think I lavish too much time on Judas?
KLAUTUS: You are the governor, sir, and it is not my place to —
PILATE: That won’t do, Klautus! You must understand! A young man is a sensitive thing. He requires approval and appreciation, a great deal of appreciation and approval —
KLAUTUS: I am aware of that, sir.
PILATE: You may think that a young man’s main concerns are sex and sport, food and sleep, but you are wrong, Klautus, wrong! A young man’s main concern is morality. Young men want to be good, to make good. (KLAUTUS clicks his heels.) That is why they are obsessed with authority, with testing it, protesting it, they want an authority, someone to tell them the rules of the game of goodness. They want virtue’s prize, whether it is an athlete’s wreath, a merchant’s millions, a panjandrum’s power, or a hero’s grave! So! The best will be not the least, but the most, loyal to their past and people, most faithful to their first faith. They must be helped and eased out of their familial, fanatical, philosophical, patriotic bind! And brought to Rome!
KLAUTUS: Yes, sir! But what you’re really talking about is traitors, sir.
PILATE: Who will Romans be but traitors to every other nation? You know that I myself was born Spanish, and that I personally opened my city’s gates to the Romans.
KLAUTUS: Yes, sir. Of course, sir.
PILATE: Treason in the cause of Rome cannot be treason, can it?
KLAUTUS: No, sir, but —
KLAUTUS: These people aren’t even loyal within their faith, sir. Look how they’re behaving down there, deserting their lawful priests to follow this new prophet. I mean, to have a religion that irrational to start with —
PILATE: “Damned if they do —
KLAUTUS: — and then not even to follow it.
PILATE: — and damned if they don’t.” And what if I tell you, Klautus, that far from being irrational, they have been brilliant?
KLAUTUS: I don’t see how you can say that, sir. They have nothing of their own. Everything they have is from one of the countries where they’ve been slaves.
PILATE: No material culture, no.
KLAUTUS: And they’ve always been somebody’s slaves. You can’t deny that.
PILATE: Yet every empire that ever enslaved them has been nothing but a period in their history. How do you think they have maintained themselves as a nation, despite their defeats and dispersals?
KLAUTUS: I suppose, sir, nobody would mix with them.
PILATE: Besides that. They have made themselves a nation of the mind, something we are just learning to do. In these wormy books there is organizational genius. Their God, to begin with, is their God alone. They make no effort to proselytize others to his worship.
KLAUTUS: Then it’s no religion at all.
PILATE: Ah, but it makes them feel very special. What’s more, he has no face, no name, dwells in no idol or altar. He is with each of them always, everywhere, cannot be conquered or captured.
KLAUTUS: They probably just couldn’t defend a temple.
PILATE: Plus! They have a tradition of nonconformity —
KLAUTUS: Now that’s a paradox!
PILATE: — not official oracles like ours, but a tradition of inspired prophets. So that a Jew of any rank can get attention for a necessary idea by claiming to speak with God’s voice!
KLAUTUS: But any charlatan could fool them that way, sir.
PILATE: So you are listening. Good. But all this is child’s play, compared to their political masterstroke.
KLAUTUS: Political! What politics can they make out of a God that’s always defeated by other gods?
P ILATE: That’s it! Somewhere among their captivities, when they themselves grumbled, “Our God is overpowered,” some masterful mind conceived the seal on their covenant with him: they declared him the only, the one and only God.
KLAUTUS: Sir, that’s simple treason!
PILATE: You see how original? Their hardships are not triumphs for superior deities, but proof of the power of their – the — God!
KLAUTUS: But why would they keep on worshiping a God that does nothing but enslave them?
PILATE: Because they see their trials as punishment for some huge ancient offense. And if they can endure until their term of punishment is done, their God will break their bondage and lead them to their destiny!
KLAUTUS: What destiny?
PILATE: Oh, the usual, I suppose: world power.
KLAUTUS: But what was their offense?
PILATE: That’s what they’re always wrangling about!
KLAUTUS: Sir. I understand what you’re saying. Insofar as it can be understood. But it’s not a religion. It’s not politics. It’s madness. No sane man would countenance it for a minute. It’s a mass of — contradictions?
PILATE: Near enough.
KLAUTUS: And I don’t believe that they believe in it themselves!
PILATE: Klautus! You’re right! You’re brilliant! (KLAUTUS clicks his heels.) You’ve seen right to the core of it! We will win! They are historically weary of prophet after prophet, of promises, penances, and purges. Look, there, they’re following this new one to the mountainside now, to be blamed and blessed again. And fat Caiaphas stands fuming in his forecourt, ready to blast them when they return. You’re right! They must be ready to cast off their nameless, faceless God. He would have to come down among them in human form himself to regain them. We’re just in time. They are ready for a God in human form! (PILATE gleefully turns to the bust of Tiberius and, with a flourish, offers salt to it.) Hail, Caesar!
KLAUTUS: (Joining him.) Hail, Caesar! (Clicks his heels.)
PILATE: My boy, you’ll go far! Shall we convince Tiberius to declare himself the only god?
KLAUTUS: Sir! To take even an idea from these — these —
PILATE: — squabbling mudwasps?
KLAUTUS: If you say so, sir.
PILATE: Control your mind, Klautus; think of it as a conquered idea! Ah, this is what makes rulership exciting. Come, as a reward, I’ll neglect my studies, and look at your almighty mail!
KLAUTUS: Yes, sir! (Clicks his heels.) The letter that seemed to me to be the most important, I took the liberty of placing atop the stack, sir. It is an Imperial edict, bearing Caesar’s personal seal. It empowers you to appoint a new King of Judea from among the available candidates, if any. Or to let the kingship lapse forever, if you choose. (Clicks his heels.) That’s exciting!
PILATE: Oh, bore! Kings again. Why? When all kings are one, can’t men see that they never needed —
PILATE: Oh, if only there were some promising local like Judas who didn’t tie up his time doubting and debating. Have they grown up, or do they need a king? What do you think, Klautus?
KLAUTUS: I think, sir, that they have the Emperor in Rome!
PILATE: Yes, but have they the strength to bear some part of the burden of Rome?
KLAUTUS: Burden, sir?
(PETER, a smiling young man in “street people” clothes, ENTERS the STREET below, with a big bag of pamphlets. He looks for a suitable place and seats himself, pamphlets in hand.)
PILATE: Burden, sir. Oh, come, let us look at the answerable mail.
KLAUTUS: (Gathering mail.)Yes, sir.
(PETER sees someone coming and hops up, pamphlets in one hand, the other extended to shake hands.)
PILATE: Have they grown up?
(JUDAS ENTERS with briefcase, checking watch and looking behind him.)
PILATE: Have they?
JUDAS: Who is this man? (He stops and looks back.)
PILATE: Have they? Do they need a king?
(JUDAS shakes his head and starts forward on a course that will pass PETER. PILATE, shaking his head worriedly, EXITS, FOLLOWED by KLAUTUS.)
(A STREET in Jerusalem. Toward sunset. PETER, a bright-faced young man in street-people clothes, stands ONSTAGE ready to accost strangers and pass out pamphlets from a shoulderbag marked with JESUS’ cross-and-snake emblem. JUDAS is just walking toward him, mindful of him.)
JUDAS: Who is this man? Who is this man?
(PETER stops JUDAS with a handshake.)
PETER: I am called Peter.
JUDAS: Oh. No. Pardon me. I am called Judas. I am pleased to meet you. (JUDAS automatically sets down briefcase, digs in pocket for coin which he exchanges for a pamphlet.) I meant — that man speaking on the mountain back there, what is his name, where does he come from, not you.
PETER: He is from Nazareth, in Galilee.
JUDAS: You know him?
PETER: I follow him.
JUDAS: You see, when I was coming past here, just now, I was not really talking to you, or to anyone —
PETER: I know. I stand here, just beyond the crowd, and I wait for such as you, who need, perhaps, to talk with someone.
JUDAS: Aha. Then he always — as he was today?
PETER: I did not hear him speak today. I cannot always hear his words from here. I do not need to hear him so often anymore. His words, since first I met him, have gone on in me. It is enough for me to see that he goes on.
JUDAS: Yes, he is — a most effective speaker.
PETER: Is he? What does he say effectively?
JUDAS: Well, I cannot quote his words exactly.
PETER: I think you can. I think you will. I think you are another one of us.
JUDAS: I am a Jew and a Roman, if that is what you mean.
PETER: Oh, that and more. Judas, what did he say today?
JUDAS: Well, he said — It’s strange. I should remember. There was no murmuring in the crowd at all, I heard every word. But I was looking at the crowd, the way they all stood looking up at him, listening and smiling, and it seemed to right. They stopped breathing. They even stopped quarreling. I was watching them instead of him. That’s typical of me. I had to leave. I had an appointment. I’m late. He is — a most effective speaker. (JUDAS would leave.)
PETER: Judas. Dear brother. (PETER kisses JUDAS.)
JUDAS: Please. That is not a custom in my particular —
PETER: In your particular dark miserable loneliness. Oh, Judas, I shall pray for you tonight.
JUDAS: With him? I no longer pray! (JUDAS slaps pamphlet back into Peter’s hand.)
PETER: You will.
JUDAS: I am a Roman now.
PETER: Oh, we are all Romans. What has that to do with —
JUDAS: Everything. I don’t understand what. you’re talking about. Nothing. Everything. Everything. (JUDAS starts off.)
PETER: Judas, turn back!
JUDAS: (Stops, turns.)
What does that mean? How did you mean this?
PETER: Judas, do not see everything as hidden. Nothing is hidden.
JUDAS: I did not say that anything was — hidden.
PETER: Everything seems hidden at first, but we are here to make all clear at last —
JUDAS: We? You mean you and I? Or you are all here for me?
PETER: Judas, Judas.
JUDAS: If you want to be effective, you must not speak in riddles. That is why I left my faith, riddles and mysteries. That is the way of the sophists and Pharisees.
PETER: It is not I who speak riddles, Judas. Nothing is confusing.
JUDAS: It is. Stay away from me.
PETER: Oh, Judas. Why do you fight the love you feel inside?
JUDAS: Ha! It is not love that I feel inside. You are one of them, one of that — superstitious rabble.
PETER: I follow him. Is that superstition? He moved you. Are you rabble?
JUDAS: Stay where you are.
PETER: I know what you’re going through, Judas.
JUDAS: You don’t.
PETER: Then tell me, Judas. Tell me your thoughts. You want to, you know.
JUDAS: Speak my mind freely? That is what people say when they want to know your innermost secrets.
PETER: Oh, I wish I could.
JUDAS: You are so cool. So smooth. Have you done this before?
PETER: Done what?
JUDAS: Tried to bind loyal Roman citizens in this — web?
PETER: I don’ t know what you mean, Judas.
JUDAS: Oh, yes, you do.
PETER: First you are angry because I say I know your thoughts. Now you are angry because I say I don’t. I don’t understand you, Judas. What are you fighting? I told you, be a Roman.
JUDAS: What, and spy on them for you?
PETER: Oh, or spy on us for the Romans, if you are a spy. What do we do that anyone else does not do? What do any men do that others do not do?
JUDAS: Men do — terrible things. They make war, and they kill.
PETER: Oh, Judas, would you make war on me? Would you kill me? I hope not.
JUDAS: That was what it was!
PETER: What what was?
JUDAS: That was all it was. He spoke as if he would not, and could not.
JUDAS: I cannot remember what he said. I hope I will. I never realized before that all men seemed always to be — threatening me, trying to tell me what to do, to shape me into something. As if life were a war between every man and every other, and one must always — conquer or surrender. But he spoke — as if only to unwind my fears. He spoke as if he would do – could do – no violence.
PETER: Oh, I wish that I could speak like that!
JUDAS: Why? To lure me into what?
PETER: Not to lure you into anything.
JUDAS: And is he merely one of you who has learned the trick? What is he trying to draw me into?
PETER: Yourself, Judas, believe me. Nothing more.
JUDAS: Myself? But it is you I am afraid of.
JUDAS: Yes, yes, I know, I see. But there is something more that you are not telling me.
PETER: Nothing that I know of.
JUDAS: Yes. Perhaps that is why you are not telling me.
PETER: Or, Judas, perhaps it is something within yourself, something you have not put into words. (PETER extends a pamphlet which JUDAS almost takes, but at the last moment will not.)
JUDAS: No — Their way is better.
PETER: Whose way?
JUDAS: The Romans.
PETER: Oh, we were not talking about their way of doing anything. Why do you speak so much of the Romans?
JUDAS: Perhaps because they are — trying to lure me into Rome.
PETER: Oh! Are they?
JUDAS: You see? You are prying.
PETER: I am merely trying to understand you. Do you do things that cannot be known?
JUDAS: I? No, no, I do nothing wrong. I am a good boy. I am a good student. Everyone assures me. Everyone forgives me. Look, there’s a light in the tower! I’m late for an appointment right now, but I’m sure I’ll receive no more than a reprimand, and a kindly, tolerant pat on the shoulder, and a lot of admonitions about how he understands, and there’s time, and it can all wait — and smiles!
PETER: I will speak with you another time —
JUDAS: Oh, you’re just — You street people! You don’t understand anything that’s happening to you. You try to live your lives by images out of stories. Look, you’re born into the world, see? And everything in it already belongs to somebody else. And they tell you can work and earn some of it for yourself, but the truth is, they can take it all away anytime they want to pass a new law. And worse than that, they tell you you have choices to make, that you’re responsible for your life, that decision is the mark of a man. But the fact is that the .world is already split up into sides, and the only choice you really have — if you even have that — is which side you join. And the worst thing is that any side you join, you have to give up everything the other sides have to offer. No, that’s not the worst. The worst is that whichever side you do join, you’re automatically betraying all the other sides. No, worse, you’re born on a side, you’re born a traitor, even before you’re born you’re already a traitor to most of the people in the world.
PETER: Poor Judas.
JUDAS: But they don’t mean it to be that way. That’s the worst thing. They mean well, they’re just thinking of your good. Unless it’s all pretended, to get you on their side. But why would they do that, lie to get you on their side? Why would they want stupid people on their side? Unless they’re all of them after something different than they say they are. What are they after? The worst thing is that you can’t trust any of them really to tell you the truth because they’ve got so much at stake. Everything. They’ve got everything, so they’ve got everything at stake. The very worst thing of all is that unless you become one of them, you can never really know anything. And then it may be too late. You — people like you – you don’t know what you’re dealing with. What am I saying? What are you doing to me?
PETER: I am listening to you.
JUDAS: It’s as if even you were trying to teach me something.
PETER: Oh, I wish that I could!
JUDAS: At least I know that he is definitely trying to teach me something.
PETER: Oh, yes. He is the great teacher.
JUDAS: No, not him. I meant someone else.
PETER: It must be someone very fine if you can still think of him after hearing Jesus.
JUDAS: Stop! I don’t want to know another name. Say something else.
PETER: What should I say?
JUDAS: Anything. Say, “Hail Caesar!”
PETER: Hail, Caesar.
JUDAS: You don’t mean that.
PETER: Well, it’s just words —
JUDAS: It’s not! It’s more. It doesn’t have to be, it may not even mean to be. But words carry so much weight.
PETER: I said it because you asked me to.
JUDAS: If I don’t know his name, then there is nothing tied to what I have just gone through. I had a glimpse of something nameless and fine, and I can remember it. And I had a glimpse of what they are all trying to do.
JUDAS: Oh… The Romans.
PETER: Oh, yes, indeed, they are, but it is —
JUDAS: If there were no words…
PETER: Yes, maybe.
JUDAS: Maybe what
PETER: Oh, my dear Judas.
JUDAS: I don’t want to talk to you anymore.
PETER: I’m sorry.
JUDAS: I don’t want to know you or see you again.
PETER: It will be my loss.
JUDAS: I don’t want to know your name. Or his.
JUDAS: His! That man there on the mountain with the setting sun behind him! I want to forget what he said. And what we said! What I said!
PETER: Judas, you can’t. Believe me.
JUDAS: I don’t want to remember! I don’t want to infect you with the sickness and doubt that I have found within myself!
PETER: Are you sick?
JUDAS: I want to be. I’m going to be. I’m late. I don’t care. I’m sick. I’m sick of their towers!
(KLAUTUS ENTERS PILATE’s office, late at night, jacket off, sleeves up, suspenders down, and sits at PILATE’s desk, feet on desk, with coffee and a girlie magazine.)
I’m sick of their temples. Where’s a tavern? Is there a bar around here? I want to get drunk. I want to be as sick as I feel! (JUDAS takes money from his pocket, grabs pamphlets from PETER, throws money on ground, throws pamphlets on ground, reneges, takes one pamphlet, grabs his briefcase, and flees.)
PETER: Oh, Lord. I have been guilty of conceit. I thought I understood this young man’s heart. I thought he felt no more than the unworthiness and self-doubts I felt before you changed my name and claimed my heart.
JUDAS: (OFFSTAGE of office.) Hail, Caesar!
(JUDAS pounds on door and KLAUTUS hops up and exits to anteroom.)
PETER: (Kneeling to pick up money and pamphlets.) But he is more troubled. He is beaten and pursued by demons. I have failed.
KLAUTUS: (OFFSTAGE.) Judas! Shut up that racket!
JUDAS: (OFFSTAGE.) Hail, Klautus! I want to see Pilate! Hail, Pilate! I want to see him right now!
PETER: But if they are so troubled as all that — then how much more eager even than I will they not be to find your glowing peace?
KLAUTUS: (OFFSTAGE.) What are you doing here at this time of night?
JUDAS: (OFFSTAGE.) I want to see Pilate! I told you! I want to see him right now!-
PETER: He will come to you! They will all come to you!
KLAUTUS: (OFFSTAGE.) What are you up to? What time is it? Look at what time it is!
JUDAS: (OFFSTAGE.) I want to see Pilate, Klautus! Go get him! That’s what you do, isn’t it? Go get him?
PETER: There now. Now I am not even sorry that I made him ill! (PETER EXITS in the direction JUDAS came from.)
(PILATE’S OFFICE. Night. KLAUTUS’ coffee cup and girlie magazine on desk. KLAUTUS, in shirt-sleeves, and JUDAS, in drunken disarray, ENTER quarreling from anteroom.)
KLAUTUS: In case you don’t know it, you’re drunk! Get out of here! Come back tomorrow when you’re supposed to! Where were you today?
JUDAS: Never mind where I was! I’m here now! I’m late for today or I’m early for tomorrow, but I’m here!
KLATUS: All right. All right. All right. If you really want to see what you’re getting into, okay, I’ll get him; and then, oh boy, will you get it! (KLAUTUS crosses to PILATE’s quarters, indicating books as he passes desk.) He was up until all hours reading! Are you gonna catch hell! (KLAUTUS EXITS to PILATE’s quarters.) (OFFSTAGE.) Sir? Sir. Wake up, sir.
PILATE: (OFFSTAGE.) Huh? Klautus? What time is it?
KLAUTUS: (OFFSTAGE.) It’s after midnight, sir.
PILATE: (OFFSTAGE.) Are the Samaritans attacking?
KLAUTUS: (OFFSTAGE.) No, sir. Judas is here to see you, sir. Shall I send him away?
PILATE: (OFFSTAGE.) Huh? Judas? Is here? To see me?
KLAUTUS: (OFFSTAGE.) Yes, sir. Here’s your robe, sir.
(JUDAS hides beside desk. PILATE ENTERS, sleepy, in simple, elegant pajamas, FOLLOWED by KLAUTUS, who helps him into a robe. They do not see JUDAS.)
PILATE: Judas is here to see me?
KLAUTUS: Yes, sir.
PILATE: At this hour?
KLAUTUS: He said it was urgent, sir. Insisted it was urgent.
PILATE: And you let him in?
KLAUTUS: Well, sir, you are so fond of him, I thought I’d show him in.
PILATE: I will decide who is shown in around here, Klautus!
KLAUTUS: Yes, sir. I’ll gladly throw him out, sir!
PILATE: I will decide who is thrown out around here, Klautus! Show him in!
KLAUTUS: (Clicks his heels.) Yes, sir! (Starts off.)
KLAUTUS: (Clicks his heels.) Yes, sir!
PILATE: Judas is a most intelligent and inquiring young man, an asset to the empire, and he is welcome here at any time! Remember that!
KLAUTUS: (Clicks his heels.) Yes, sir!
(KLAUTUS stands awaiting orders.)
Oh, go. And don’t you click those heels at me again!
KLAUTUS: (Who was about to.) Yes, sir. No, sir.
(KLAUTUS EXITS to the anteroom. JUDAS stands up.)
JUDAS: Off with his heels!
PILATE: Judas! What in the world do you mean by —
(KLAUTUS pops back IN, reacts to JUDAS’ presence.)
PILATE: Ahem. How very good of you to come, Judas.
JUDAS: I know it’s late.(To KLAUTUS.) I know it’s late.
PILATE: It’s no such thing. It’s late when a person is tired or sleepy. I am neither. And you – do not look sleepy. Klautus, coffee.
KLAUTUS: Yes, sir. (EXITS.)
JUDAS: I wouldn’t have come —
PILATE: No, no, I’m glad you did. I wouldn’t have missed that look on Klautus’ face for —
JUDAS: – but I like to come here. It’s clean here. Do you know how clean it is here?
PILATE: Yes, it is clean. It’s cold, but it’s clean.
JUDAS: I am not clean. I’m troubled.
PILATE: Why, you do me a great honor to come to me at such a time. hope I can deserve it.
JUDAS: How could you deserve it?
PILATE: Why, by being able to help you.
JUDAS: I don’t think anyone can help me.
PILATE: Ah, well, then, what is it you would have of me?
JUDAS: Pilate, I am — deeply troubled.
(During PILATE’s next speech, KLAUTUS ENTERS, now in his jacket, with coffee service on tray. He sets tray on desk, notices his magazine and cup, and snaps to attention.)
PILATE: Ahem. I see that you are. Be assured I am indeed desirous of helping you, and that if I can do no more than merely listen to your troubles, then I will be glad to do merely that… You are free to go, Klautus!
KLAUTUS: Very well, sir! (KLAUTUS unthinkingly clicks his heels, grimaces, grabs cup and magazine, and FLEES.)
JUDAS: How did you know that merely listening might help me?
PILATE: (Involved with coffee.) Well —
JUDAS: Because that is what I felt.
PILATE: I see.
JUDAS: That merely to say it might help.
PILATE: Say what, Judas?
JUDAS: No, but tell me, how did you know that, that merely to say it
— if I could — might help, might be what I wanted?
PILATE: Well, that is often the way with troubles, especially young men’s troubles.
JUDAS: Then other men are like this?
PILATE: Well, of course I’m certain you have unique problems, but we are all alike in some ways.
JUDAS: Yes, that is what I felt, but that is what is so frightening.
PILATE: My dear — I was going to call you, “son,” but I have not that right, have I? Judas – Iscariot, is it not?
JUDAS: Yes. You remember my name.
PILATE: Why, Judas, of course, you are very important to me.
PILATE: Because you are bright, and eager, and what Rome needs.
JUDAS: Yes, yes,. but —
PILATE: And I like you, too, of course I do.
JUDAS: How did you know that that was what I was wondering?
PILATE: I talk of Rome so much one might think I had no human life.
JUDAS: Rome is not human?
PILATE: It is not human, it is a name for —
JUDAS: No, please, that is not an important point. I should go. shouldn’t have come.
PILATE: Judas, a man trained to think in terms of tens of thousands must sometimes seem cold by habit. Perhaps I should more consciously make friends with you.
JUDAS: For the good of Rome?
PILATE: It will be good for Rome.
JUDAS: And if it were not?
PILATE: I cannot think how it might not be.
JUDAS: I can’t either.
PILATE: My child —
JUDAS: It is just that my mind is open to all possibilities tonight.
PILATE: Yes, yes.
JUDAS: That bar. That line of men in that bar — all smiling. Smiling. Why do men smile and smile as if to reassure someone? Are they afraid? I am afraid. If they are as afraid of me as I am of them, then I am afraid of their fear of me, and my fear of their fear of — oooooh.
PILATE: Judas — perhaps it is time you had a wife.
JUDAS: Yes, perhaps it is.
PILATE: It is something of a — deep and philosophical nature that is troubling you?
JUDAS: I think so, yes.
PILATE: We do not live in our minds alone —
JUDAS: Where? What else?
PILATE: There are our bodies…
JUDAS: Yes, I have seen your plans for the body of Rome!
PILATE: No, no, I mean our own bodies. There are pleasures and frustrations of the body that can make a young man —
JUDAS: But there is more, there is more, you all speak as if there were more!
PILATE: I keep forgetting how very serious you are. Yes, of course, there is the spirit.
JUDAS: The spirit.
PILATE: That thing with which we make gods and art.
PILATE: Yes, we have spoken often of gods.
JUDAS: Not often enough.
PILATE: I seem to remember just recently —
JUDAS: I do not criticize you.
PILATE: .I do not think you do, no.
JUDAS: Am I forbidden to?
PILATE: Judas, no! Have I forbidden you any question? Have I been at fault in teaching you?
JUDAS: How can I know? Only you know what it is you are teaching me.
PILATE: I know what I know that I wish to share with you —
JUDAS: Then is there nothing in all that you have taught me that should have spared me this? I am in torment and I don’t even have the words to tell you so.
PILATE: And you are ashamed. You need not be ashamed of pain, Judas. There is nothing weak or wrong in feeling pain.
JUDAS: This pain is wrong! I know it. No one could be meant to feel this pain. I do not want to be torn between loyalties!
PILATE: Judas, are you so torn?
JUDAS: Shall I be tried before the prelates of Rome?
PILATE: Judas, do not make me your tormentor!
JUDAS: No, no, no, I know it isn’t you. Forgive me. No! You think asking for forgiveness savage.
PILATE: Not in the sense you mean. Of course I forgive you. You are in pain. I am your friend. I want to help your pain, to help you from your pain.
JUDAS: I am in pain because I don’t know what is right to do. I cannot endure that pain because it is with me always, everywhere, cannot be conquered. I don’t think anyone can endure that pain. I feel myself altering, dissolving into nothing but pain. ? I to be a creature made of pain? What good can that do — anyone?
PILATE: Judas, my son, forgive me, I should have understood; I above all. Believe me, I know what it is that you are suffering.
JUDAS: Then why aren’t you suffering? Oh, of course you are, you are suffering me!
PILATE: Judas, listen to me: you wish to do good?
JUDAS: If I know what it is.
Above and beyond all loyalties and all laws?
PILATE: What you are feeling — and be proud you feel it — is the moral pain.
JUDAS: Then others feel it?
PILATE: Oh, yes.
JUDAS: Everyone lives with this?
PILATE: No, no, most men settle for the first easy answer, the first system that will bind the single stars together into constellations for them, and give what is nameless a name. But all philosophers feel it.
JUDAS: And all governors?
PILATE: As I understand governing.
(JUDAS takes the Jesus pamphlet out of a pocket and displays it.)
JUDAS: And all holy men?
PILATE: If I understand you.
(JUDAS throws down the pamphlet.)
JUDAS: If we understand them.
PILATE: Judas, if I understand you, this is — too important to discuss tonight. Your mind and your body are overwrought.
JUDAS: And my spirit?
PILATE: Certainly, your spirit.
JUDAS: That which makes gods and art?
JUDAS: And kingdoms?
PILATE: I think it plays its part. (Calls.) Klautus!
(KLAUTUS ENTERS much too quickly, clicks his heels.)
KLAUTUS: Yes, sir?
PILATE: Oh, get out!
KLAUTUS: Yes, sir. (KLAUTUS almost clicks his heels, almost falls stopping himself, spins, and EXITS.)
JUDAS: And is the spirit — Is the spirit that which cries out to know what to do, to have its mind know what to tell its body to do?
PILATE: Yes, just that.
JUDAS: And if the spirit is ill?
PILATE: Then the mind is likely to feel ill, and the body.
JUDAS: And if the mind is ill?
PILATE: Then the spirit may be tried, and the body weakened.
JUDAS: And if the body is ill?
PILATE: Then, of course, the mind and spirit can be damaged.
JUDAS: What am I trying to say?
PILATE: Only that you do not know what to do!
PILATE: All men go through it, Judas!
JUDAS: When they come to Rome?
PILATE: When they come to any moment of decision.
JUDAS: But what moment of decision am I at?
PILATE: Only you know.
JUDAS: But can you see? That is what I need someone to tell me!
(JUDAS EXITS. PILATE would follow, but is stopped by KLAUTUS’ sudden RE-ENTRY.)
PILATE: Klautus! You — wolf’s cub!
(KLAUTUS goes immediately to clear coffee things. PILATE snatches up the pamphlet from the floor, stalks to window, stares out, finally turns and says.)
Tomorrow… tomorrow I want you to go into the streets and learn whatever you can about this new prophet. Is he speaking sedition against Rome? Does he recommend violent action against the established order? Has he criticized rulers openly?
(PETER APPEARS below, in a STREET, carrying MARY’s luggage, in addition to his bag and pamphlets. He sets the luggage down and prepares to hawk.)
Where does he come from? Who are his followers? How do they meet? What do they do — and say? And think and feel and want? How many are they? Are we never to be rid of them?… And– (PILATE drops the pamphlet onto KLAUTUS’ coffee tray.) — tell me at what time Judas Iscariot goes to them, and what passes between him and them.
KLAUTUS: Yes, sir! … Sir?
PILATE: What, Klautus?
KLAUTUS: And is he still to be admitted to you at all hours?
PILATE: What? Yes, certainly. As he chooses. The doors must be kept open. He may come or not, as he chooses. (PILATE is selecting an armload of books from his desk.)
(MARY ENTERS the STREET, in a traveling suit, carrying a smaller bag. She is agog at Jerusalem and moves to PETER’s side, as PETER begins to hawk pamphlets.)
PETER: All men are brothers!
PILATE: As he chooses. (PILATE begins to move toward his quarters.)
PETER: God is our Father in Heaven!
PILATE: As he chooses!
KLAUTUS: (Clicks his heels.) Yes, sir! (Clicks his heels.)
PETER: The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!
PILATE: Why will young men disturb the rest of Rome?
(PILATE EXITS to his quarters. KLAUTUS stands the briefest moment looking after PILATE, then EXITS to anteroom with the coffee things.)
END OF ACT I
(A STREET in Jerusalem. Day. PETER is hawking pamphlets. MARY is with him, in a traveling suit. MARY’s luggage is beside them.)
MARY: His kingdom is at hand, you say?
PETER: That’s right.
MARY: He has spoken of his kingdom, he has said this, where people can hear it, in the streets, openly?
PETER: Many times, many times.
MARY: All! And what does he seem to you to be trying to say?
PETER: I don’t know what you mean. I’ve told you what he has said. (Hawking pamphlets.) All men are brothers! The kingdom of Heaven is at hand!
PETER: I have told you his new commandments, and they are beautiful. (Hawking.) Love one another as you love yourselves! Do unto others as you would have them to unto you.
MARY: But the old commandments. “Honor thy father and thy mother.” He has said that?
PETER: Well, he says his new commandments supersede them.
MARY: But he has told you of his father?
PETER: His father in heaven, yes.
MARY: Ah! And what does that mean to you, his “father in heaven?”
PETER: Why, God, of course. (Hawking.) God is our father in heaven!
MARY: But does that not seem to you to — have a special meaning?
PETER: He speaks very simply. Do you mean that I am missing something?
MARY: No, no, no. I was — curious — to know — how far he had gone with you.
PETER: Oh, if his words are not clear to you, I am sure he will be glad to explain them. He always is. (Hawking.) Come and receive his message! (To MARY.) But surely you know his message. You must always have known.
MARY: His — message?
PETER: (Hawking.) His message of perfect peace!
MARY: Peace? He is preaching peace? I thought — some of you seem closer to him than the others.
PETER: We are not conceited. We stay beside him and take care of him. We don’t let it mean anything to us.
(KLAUTUS, in his slightly exaggerated idea of street-people garb, with sunglasses, ENTERS and crosses toward them.)
MARY: Ah! You mean that he belongs to everyone.
PETER: I do not think anyone belongs to anyone! (Handing pamphlet to KLAUTUS.) I think slaves should be made free!
(KLAUTUS registers this and goes to a corner with pamphlet. He takes out a little notebook and pen and jots notes.)
MARY: Some people do, though, belong to — all mankind.
PETER: That would be the most horrible slavery I could imagine.
MARY: You seem devoted to him, but — when someone asks you what you are, what do you tell them?
PETER: Why, I tell them I follow him. What else should I tell them?
MARY: Hush, here he comes. Don’t let him know what we’ve been saying.
PETER: But I’m sure he wouldn’t mind anything we’ve said.
MARY: There are things you obviously do not know. Jesus!
(JESUS ENTERS in conversation with JUDAS. JUDAS, too, is in his idea of appropriate street-people wear. KLAUTUS conceals himself.)
Jesus! I saw you on the mountain! In the multitude! I saw you speak!
JESUS: Mother! Mother! So much has happened! So much has changed. I am glad.. I am. Glad that you have come.
MARY: Oh, I had to. No matter how dangerous. I had to be here when you tell them.
JESUS: But it not dangerous, Mother. Not dangerous anymore.
MARY: Oh! Have your numbers grown so?
JESUS: Yes, yes, they have, but that is not what I meant. Here, Mother, meet my friends.
PETER: We’ve met.
JUDAS: Is this your mother?
JESUS: My mother, Mary. Mother, this is Judas, newly come to us.
MARY: There are so many, aren’t there? Thousands and thousands.
JUDAS: I am not, really, newly come to them.
PETER: You mean that you were always with us.
JUDAS: No, I meant that I am not really with you. I am glad to know you, and to learn from you, but I have — other commitments.
JESUS: Judas, we feel that you are one of us. You will always be welcome among us.
JUDAS: But – everyone is welcome with you, it seems.
JESUS: And so are you.
JUDAS: You mean that you extend citizenship in your kingdom to everyone?
JESUS: Yes, if you would state it so.
JESUS: The kingdom of God is open to all who will enter it.
MARY: All who will swear loyalty to it.
JUDAS: There are things I still don’t understand.
PETER: Jesus, your mother, too, has many questions for you.
MARY: No, no’, I was merely examining your followers. I was curious to see how much you have told them. I understand. You know I understand. You are gathering your forces, testing their loyalty, I understand.
JUDAS: There are questions I would like to ask. Sometime. When you have time.
JESUS: Judas, what is our time on earth for, but for one another? Let us sit here and talk. Peter. Take my mother with you and help her find a nice place to stay.
MARY: Oh, I must be here to see you begin.
JESUS: As you will. Yes. Yes, in fact, that will be good. Judas?
JUDAS: To start with, it seems you seldom speak unless you are questioned.
JESUS: That’s true.
JUDAS: As if you wish only to — help people, not to — make anything of them.
MARY: Oh, he can tell you anything.
JUDAS: Yes, it does seem you have an answer. Whatever anyone asks, you have an answer for.
JESUS: There is only one answer.
JUDAS: But what if someone could not ask the proper questions?
JESUS: But, Judas, what would be the proper questions?
MARY: You mean that each man must find them in his own dissatisfaction with the world.
JUDAS: I mean that, if someone came to you in trouble, and needed your help even to understand what was troubling him — could you help him?
MARY: Of course he could.
JESUS: I could try.
MARY: Because he knows!
JESUS: Because I want to infuse everyone — everyone, Mother — with the happiness and peace that I have found within myself.
JUDAS: I am troubled.
JESUS: I see that you are.
JUDAS: Am I — a part of this kingdom of heaven?
MARY: You are, if you will swear loyalty to it.
JESUS: The kingdom of heaven is within. We are all part of it.
JUDAS: But that seems to bring you such peace.
JESUS: That is the kingdom of heaven — peace.
JUDAS: Not war?
MARY: Not unless we are forced.
JESUS: No, not war. What has war to do with peace?
JUDAS: Is — is Pilate a part of this kingdom of heaven?
MARY: Ah, you are quick!
JESUS: Of course Pilate is.
JESUS: We are all — without exception — part of the kingdom of heaven – which is peace – which is within us.
JUDAS: I am not at peace.
MARY: Perhaps you have not understood. Oh, son, perhaps you are being too subtle.
JUDAS: I feel torn, torn between loyalties.
MARY: Ah, that is the problem, surely.
JESUS: No, it is no problem. There are no divisions. We are all one. What loyalties, Judas?
JUDAS: Loyalties to you and to — and to Caesar.
JESUS: There is no conflict there.
MARY: Oh? Oh?
JESUS: My kingdom is not of this earth.
MARY: Your kingdom? What is your kingdom?
JESUS: The kingdom of God.
MARY: The kingdom of God is your kingdom?
JESUS: It is the kingdom of all.
MARY: That is not what you said..
JESUS: Mother, it is long now since we talked, and much has happened. Come with me and let us talk now.
MARY: I cannot take you from the people who need you. See how they need you?
JESUS: Mother, there may be much that you do not understand.
MARY: I do not think so. Is it not said, “Honor thy father and they mother?”
JESUS: It has been said, many times.
MARY: Am I not your mother?
JESUS: Have I not honored you?
MARY: And is not God — our father?
JESUS: The father of everyone, yes, yes.
MARY: Your father?
MARY: And does Pilate honor your heavenly father?
JESUS: In his way, I think.
MARY: And Caesar? Looting our people, crushing us under the Roman yoke.
JESUS: You do not understand Caesar.
MARY: Then speak to us of him. Tell us of Caesar.
JESUS: I have nothing to do with Caesar.
MARY: Oh, no, for you wander free, you do not pay the taxes or heed the laws.
JESUS: Pay the taxes then, heed the laws. Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s. I have nothing to do with these matters. My father’s kingdom is beyond taxation and laws.
MARY: Are you not the son of the king of heaven?
JESUS: We are all —
MARY: Then should you not claim his kingdom?
JESUS: All of us. It belongs to all of us.
MARY: The kingdom of God? What god? Of Zeus? Of Capitoline Jupiter? Of the heathen gods they let men play on their stages right here in our holy city? The heathen gods they crowd into their temples? Into ours?
JESUS: Mother, I think you may be right about – one thing. There must be one God!
PETER: There is!
JUDAS: Yes, there must!
MARY: They say that you have defiled our temples, flinging men you call “disbelievers” out. Will you hesitate — why do you hesitate — to defile theirs?
JESUS: I found myself following out old scriptures. I entered Jerusalem between walls of smiling faces, like a calf going down a chute to slaughter. Smiling faces lined my way to the temple, and there I found a scene laid out for me. And like a doll among dolls in the plays you hate, Mother, I stood and shouted lines from broken books! They clutched their cages of doves and fled, and all the faces smiled, waiting for me to act out the next scene along the way. And among them, one fat face smiled in a secret way, one face that understood, one face that knew those broken books and knew the next scene, and even knew the last scene at the end of that way and still could smile! And I knew that way was wrong. That way is wrong, Mother. Those men were worshiping in their way, I had no right to burst in and tell them I knew more of God than they. I was no better than the factionalists squabbling on street corners, no better than the fat face of smiling Caiaphas! We have no right to break God up into one more little piece, one more little name. There is only one God!
MARY, JUDAS and PETER: Yes! Yes!
MARY: Yes, there is! And he is Caesar!
MARY: Then who is he?
JESUS: Do not ask, Mother, you cannot understand!
MARY: I have asked. (Points to JUDAS.) He has asked. The world is asking.
JESUS: Yes, Peter?
PETER: Can I help you, Lord?
MARY: Hear that? Lord!
JUDAS: Why do you call him “Lord?’
PETER: What else should I call him?
MARY: Jesus, there are prophecies, you know the prophecies, you have fulfilled so many of them, prophecies bound one alongside the other, all of them insisting there shall come a savior to our people, a lord over us, a king — I dare to say it! King of the Jews!
JESUS: Then perhaps there shall.
PETER: Many people say that you are he, Lord; you should know that.
JUDAS: They said that John was the prophet, that king.
MARY: John himself said that he was not.
JUDAS: His death may have been a terrible mistake.
MARY: No, his death emptied the royal house of Judea.
PETER: That was a tragedy.
JUDAS: No, it may have been good. Now there is only the royal house of Rome.
MARY: No. There is still the vacant throne of Judea.
JESUS: There are prophecies lined up beyond the prophecies you know. They are dark and secret and twisted and wise men struggle to unravel them. You have not read them as I have or tried to lay them straight. You do not know the way these prophecies twine, what they clutch at their center.
MARY: I do. I do.
JESUS: Then what?
MARY: You have made me afraid to say it.
JESUS: I am begging you to say it, to see if you do know.
MARY: All right. I know that you – have a glorious destiny.
JESUS: It may seem so.
MARY: I know — I know that you are he who is come king of the Jews to save us!
JESUS: You do not know the whole work of salvation.
MARY: We are oppressed.
JESUS: You are worse than that. You are oppressing. You are oppressing everyone who must lead you!
MARY: It is your burden and your destiny that oppress.
JESUS: You have read enough books to learn to express yourself. You have not read enough to understand one book.
MARY: Is this how you honor your mother?
JESUS: I honor you enough to speak the truth to you.
MARY: Not all. You hold some back. You hint at secrets and mysteries and you will not tell them. Look at your poor troubled disciples.
JESUS: They were not troubled.
MARY: They were, they were, you would not see. You have led them away from all they know. And now, having made them homeless vagabonds, now you tell us all it was just a little joke, a vacation, and now we can all go back to our bondage, and the vision of the kingdom was a dream.
JESUS: There is no truth in this.
MARY: Then what is truth? The truth is there are millions waiting for you to tell them: “Arise! Cast off your shackles! Follow me!” And “Lead us! Lead us!” is their cry, whatever they may say. And you lead them this far and no further. And they must find their way back home in the dark over ways your words have wiped out!
JESUS: Peter. Judas. Is this true?
PETER: Lord, I have no doubts of you, nor no complaints of your teaching. I am a better man for it, and happier forever.
JESUS: That is the very basis of all that I have said. Simply that. No more than that. Not to ask others for — sacrifice, but to find within yourself the seed of happiness.
MARY: A slave’s bliss. Teach the slaves to laugh and sing.
JESUS: If that is more than they have known before.
MARY: And how shall the world be run then?
JESUS: I know nothing of these matters.
JUDAS: Then who is to know? Who is to tell us? Rome?
MARY: There! You see?
JESUS: Judas — the kingdom of earth is like — like a man who has found a great jewel in a fish, a jewel that would serve him all his days. Yet with that jewel he goes and buys all the fish on the strand and tears them open, neither eating them nor selling them for gain, but looking again for the jewel he has already sold away. But I say to you: the kingdom of heaven is beyond doubt, for he who finds it, knows it, and is content.
JUDAS: I see. Then do you mean that we should stay as we are born?
MARY: And he who sees this kingdom of heaven go from him?
PETER: It does not go.
MARY: I thought that I had found it in my son. And now I know that I was wrong.
JESUS: Mother, you cannot find it in another. It is in you, only in you.
JUDAS: But — it seems to me that I have found it in you, my lord.
JESUS: I have helped you find it, Judas.
MARY: Find what? Peace? Is he at peace? (Points at PETER.) Is he? Are the multitudes, all asking “Why does he babble at us? When will he lead us? When will he tell us, ‘take back what is ours’?” Are they at peace? Are you, Jesus of Nazareth?
JESUS: I was.
MARY: Oh, yes, yes, yes, my son, you were. I have seen how, whenever you accept that glorious role, whenever you set one foot out on that way, you are at peace. Then and only then do your doubts cease, your burdens lift, your self-questionings no longer torture you, only when you accept that role.
JESUS: And I say to you that you do not know all of that role, or you would bite your tongue and spit it out before you speak. Mother, I have not forgotten what you sent me out to do. I have found something better. No. Listen. Pray with us —
(JESUS kneels. PETER and JUDAS kneel.)
Our father who art in heaven–
MARY: Which father? Abraham? Moses? Joseph the carpenter?
JESUS, JUDAS and PETER: Hallowed be they name —
MARY: Is it “Tiberius?”
JESUS, JUDAS, and PETER: Thy kingdom come –.
MARY: Oh, it has come, we are living in it.
JESUS, JUDAS, and PETER: Thy will be done —
MARY: It is being done while we dawdle here.
JESUS, JUDAS, and PETER: On earth as it is in heaven —
MARY: Come one, come all, hear Jesus, the Roman astrologer!
JESUS, JUDAS, and PETER: Give us this day our daily bread —
MARY: Beg Tiberius for the fruits of our own labor!
JESUS, JUDAS, and PETER: And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us —
MARY: Yes, if we don’t fight back, maybe they won’t kill us.
JESUS, JUDAS, and PETER: And lead us not into temptation —
MARY: He doesn’t have to, we are walking into it gladly!
JESUS, JUDAS, and PETER: But deliver us from evil —
MARY: Only he can, for he is the father of evil!
JESUS, JUDAS, and PETER: For thine is the kingdom —
JESUS, JUDAS, and PETER: And the power —
MARY: The sword!
JESUS, JUDAS, and PETER: And the glory —
MARY: All praise Tiberius!
JESUS, JUDAS, and PETER: Forever —
JESUS, JUDAS, and PETER: And ever —
MARY: And ever?
JESUS, JUDAS, and PETER: Amen.
MARY: Amen, amen, so be it. You tell us to suffer and die gladly, Jesus? And will you?
JESUS: Oh, God that forgave in Eden the mortal greed for too much knowledge. God that forgave in Cain his hatred of his brother’s way of worship. God that forbade the hand of Abraham to sacrifice his son. God that forestalled the murderers of Joseph and let him live to save his people. God that forgave all sins but the sin of Moses, who heard your clear command and disobeyed. God, poison me with her pain forever, yes, but forgive your daughter in her afflicted ignorance!
MARY: You dare say this to me, who taught you?
JESUS: Taught me? You do not know! I know now that you do not know.
MARY: I know the sound a crown makes when it falls on a marble floor is King! King! King! for all to hear!
JESUS: You speak of a crown on my head, when what I feel is nails in my hands!
MARY: You’re insane! I don’t know what you’re talking about! I know there is a world waiting! And I know that’s all I’m going to know because you won’t tell me anymore! I leave you to your disciples! It’s up to them to make you see the light!
JESUS: I have seen the light I want to see. I have seen it in their eyes when I speak of peace.
MARY: (Gathering her bags.) And do you see it now? Do you? Or do you see doubt and fear? Ask them, Jesus. Ask them if you are leaving them in the light. And you, men — if you care for him, tell him what is in your hearts. I know. It has always been in mine. I can say no more to you, Jesus. I leave you to your disciples. See if they are satisfied with what you have to say. (MARY EXITS.)
JESUS: Are you, Peter? Are you? Are you content?
PETER: I have said so. I can say no more.
JESUS: And you, Judas?
JUDAS: I hear the people talking in the streets, and I must say they say all this woman, your mother, has been saying. And some answer as you have answered, and some answer as Peter, and some —
JESUS: Yes, Judas?
JUDAS: And some are in themselves twisted and complex, and have no answer. The light you shed reveals only the darkness in them, and the demons that were hidden in it, and for such as them there seems no redemption.
JESUS: Redemption from what?
JUDAS: I don’t know. That is what I hoped you might tell me.
JESUS: Then I have failed you?
JUDAS: No, no, I didn’t mean that. If anything, I have failed you. Not for anything would I be without the things you have taught me, only —
JESUS: Only what, Judas? I need for you to speak.
JUDAS: Only — what shall I do from day to day? How shall I live my life? What of this world? It matters much to me to know that I am doing what I should do, fulfilling in my days some plan I know is right. Who can tell us what to do? I know that you have given us commandments: you say, “Love one another –“
JESUS: “Love one another, as you love yourselves.”
JUDAS: But what if love of one conflicts with love of another? My love is not infinite like yours. Who shall I choose? How shall I choose? I cannot take a single loaf of bread and feed a multitude as they say you can —
JESUS: Judas, no —
JUDAS: And even if you can’t, either, what can you do? What can anyone do? You say your kingdom is not of this earth, but this earth, here, now, is where we are. You’ve never needed anyone, you’ve never doubted yourself, you’ve never been torn into pieces between loyalties — but the rest of us — we need someone to show us the way.
JESUS: Judas — listen to me very carefully now. If I were to say to you that you must bear that anguish, and all the anguish that is in this world, and that I could give you only an example of peace within, show you no more than a way to endure all pain of mind and body and spirit that the world can offer — and yet go on to the end — then what would you say?
JUDAS: Then I would follow that way.
JESUS: And why?
JUDAS: For love of you.
JESUS: But I have not come that you should love me, but that you should love the word of God.
JUDAS: But I find it in you, Lord, only in you.
JESUS: Then I have gone too far, and not far enough. Is that the case?
JUDAS: I’m not sure what you mean.
JESUS: There is a way that I began —
JUDAS: Show us the way. If there is a way, show us. That is all I ask. Please.
PETER: I have been content with what I know. If there is more, I will be happy to know that, too.
JESUS: Everyone will be happy. They say they will. Everyone will be happy if they end of the way. And all I ever wanted was for everyone to be happy.
JUDAS: I do not see how we can be happy apart.
JESUS: We are not apart. We are bound together. We are all one. You are my father.
JUDAS: You are my king.
JESUS: Come to me. Tonight. We will be together. In a pleasant place. There are others following me, followers more than willing to ease the way — once I show them the signs that tell them – I am willing. We will be together. All will be revealed. All is well. Leave me alone now for a little while. Come to me again at suppertime.
(JESUS EXITS. PETER and JUDAS stand looking after JESUS.)
PETER: I’ve never seen him like this. I didn’t know that he could be like this. We should follow him.
JUDAS: No, he told us not to.
PETER: But I think he needs us.
(PETER and JUDAS continue talking as PILATE ENTERS his OFFICE, above, in casual clothes, from his quarters, carrying an armload of books. He sets the books on KLAUTUS’ desk and goes off to the anteroom. In a few moments, he re-enters from the anteroom with a tablet of official forms, and a rubber stamp.)
JUDAS: I have — something to do. Someone who’s been kind to me that I should tell goodbye. I should have done it before.
PETER: What do you think Jesus is going to tell us tonight?
JUDAS: I don’t know, Peter. But he said that we will be happy. He said that all will be made clear. Oh, don’t look sad. He promised. He promised, Peter, he promised.
(JUDAS kisses PETER and EXITS the opposite way from JESUS.)
(KLAUTUS emerges from hiding. PETER does not see KLAUTUS.)
PETER: Oh, Lord. What shall I do? Everything has changed for me. I will follow you. I will follow you.
(PETER EXITS, following JESUS. KLAUTUS stares after PETER, then turns and exits at a run in the same direction that JUDAS exited.)
(PILATE’S OFFICE. Evening. PILATE, at his desk in casual wear, is having a high old time looking up information in manuals, filling out several document forms, signing them, and rubber stamping them with an official seal. He whistles and smiles with self-satisfaction as he does so.)
(KLAUTUS, in his street clothes from the previous scene, ENTERS, rushed and out of breath, and stands watching PILATE for a short time before PILATE looks up.)
PILATE: I don’t talk to student publications.
KLAUTUS: It’s Klautus, sir.
PILATE: Oh, I thought those protestors cluttering my forecourt with their campfires had flung me an effigy of the prophet. Well, while I’ve been doing your work here, what have you accomplished? (PILATE continues to make out documents during this scene, as necessary.)
KLAUTUS: I have seen him, my lord.
PILATE: You have seen your lord?
KLAUTUS: No, sir. I have seen the streets. You are my lord.
PILATE: The streets, Klautus, are both our lords. But have you seen the new prophet?
KLAUTUS: I have, lord. Sir.
PILATE: Ah? And what does he say?
KLAUTUS: He says… many things, sir.
PILATE: Well, he must be gifted if he is so eloquent as to leave you dumb. All right, boy. Tell me what you remember, what struck you.
KLAUTUS: Well, he said… many things.
PILATE: But it was his manner of saying them?
KLAUTUS: Oh, yes! He spoke — better than beautifully. Almost as well as you, sir. I don’t think he’s dangerous, sir. He said all men are brothers.
PILATE: Did he, now?
KLAUTUS: And that we are all part of one kingdom.
PILATE: But what kingdom?
KLAUTUS: Only the Kingdom of God, sir.
PILATE: But what god?
KLAUTUS: He was not specific, sir.
PILATE: Good. And what does he seem to you to be trying to say?
KLAUTUS: Well, virtually nothing that was in any way whatsoever even remotely political, sir. He said pay taxes. He said obey the law.
PILATE: Did he, indeed?
KLAUTUS: He said not to think too much on this world.
PILATE: Ever-welcome advice. Go on.
KLAUTUS: And then he said, privately, in conversation with your Judas, he said — well — many things. There were two others there, a man called Peter, one of his very close ones. And a woman who was his mother.
PILATE: A mother. Go on.
KLAUTUS: His speech became confused. Judas was very troubled, like last night, asking many questions.
PILATE: You listened
KLAUTUS: You ordered me to.
PILATE: Last night?
PILATE: Go ahead, boy, I’m teasing you. I haven’t said a word since I was twenty that couldn’t be heard by all the world. Go on.
KLAUTUS: Well.., then there was some talk of a King of the Jews. They tried to make him say that he was the one.
PILATE: Ah, now we come to it.
KLAUTUS: But he did not. Even when they tried to make him say it.
PILATE: Poor man. And what else?
KLAUTUS: They talked some more, but that was all the sense I made of it.
PILATE: Good enough. And what do they say in the streets?
KLAUTUS: Much the same, sir. But with much quarreling among the different religions. I mean the different parts of the one religion. I mean — do you know what I mean?
P ILATE: So very well.
KLAUTUS: And rumors that he does miracles. And that he is the Son of God, like Caesar. I’m just telling you what I heard, sir. As you asked me to. Ordered me to.
(PILATE is having a great deal of fun with KLAUTUS, and caps it now by rising impressively from the desk, a document behind his back, and advancing on the frightened boy.)
PILATE: Treason! And heresy! And madness and civic unrest! (Suddenly lightly.) Goodness! I think it is time that we — what is it they call it? — oh, yes, that we “capture” this young man and “persecute” him. Here. (Hands document to KLAUTUS.)
Take this order. Go get the captain of the guard for me. Poor fool.
KLAUTUS: Who, sir? I? Or the captain of the guard?
(JUDAS, in his street clothes, ENTERS behind KLAUTUS.)
KLAUTUS: Judas is a poor fool?
PILATE: Out with you, boy!
(KLAUTUS clicks, salutes, spins and, almost bumping into JUDAS, EXITS.)
Judas. You are just in time. This evening it is I who require your help.
JUDAS: Pilate, I came to ask you to free me from your service.
PILATE: You are not in my service, Judas, but in my care. Do you wish to be free of my care?
JUDAS: I think I am not fit for the post you are training me for.
PILATE: I think you are most fit. I have work for you tonight.
JUDAS: Not tonight.
PILATE: The sooner the better, I think. This holy man — what’s his name?
JUDAS: I don’t know.
PILATE: I thought you might, Judas. You were with him today.
PILATE: That’s the one. The one the streets are full for.
JUDAS: What’s happened? Has he been harmed?
PILATE: Not yet. I want you to bring him to me. There are terrible rumors.
(PILATE offers a document. JUDAS ignores it.)
JUDAS: My lord, he has done nothing wrong. He couldn’t.
PILATE: I’m sure he hasn’t, Judas, but there are those who would wrong him. He has acquired a political aroma.
JUDAS: He doesn’t seek it. I swear he doesn’t.
PILATE: I know the type, Judas. I believe you. But there is no one single Herod now to “persecute heresy” —
JUDAS: He is not a heretic.
PILATE: I know. And I am not a persecutor. I thought this would please you. He has given twenty sects out there twenty reasons to murder him, and one of them is bound to do it. (Offers document.) I want you to bring him here.
JUDAS: (Retreating from document.) You thought it would please me to know he is in danger?
PILATE: No. To know that I want to help him.
JUDAS: You, help him?
PILATE: Certainly, help him. What do you think I would want to do to a poor misled lamb like that? (Offers document.) I’ll give you a regiment of the guard.
JUDAS: You can’t. I can’t.
PILATE: Judas, I can’t go after him myself; he’s said things that Rome might take seriously if I do. He can’t approach the tower alone; he’d be drawn and quartered. You’re one of the people, they know you; I want you to fetch him here for safety. (Offers document.)
JUDAS: Do you mean that?
PILATE: (Puts document on desk.) That and more. I am a student of your religion, Judas. It has, like all religions, a dark and secret side — which is about to be revealed if we don’t —
JUDAS: How do you know that?
PILATE: My dear boy, at the risk of frightening you, I have seen other religions reach this particular boiling point. A faith as ancient as yours accumulates a mass of mystic, cabalistic tradition known only to a select few —
JUDAS: Like yourself.
PILATE: Judas, that is one of the things we are trying to do away with.
JUDAS: Then tell me what you are talking about.
PILATE: I’d really rather not if I don’t have to, Judas!
(KLAUTUS ENTERS in full military garb, clicks heels.)
KLAUTUS: The captain of the guard is here, sir.
PILATE: Have him wait. Get out.
KLAUTUS: Yes, sir. (Clicks heels, EXITS.)
PILATE: Where were we?
JUDAS: Secrets. Secrets, spies, soldiers and secrets.
PILATE: Ah, yes. Well, it seems that your Jesus has, advertently or inadvertently, fulfilled in his public actions some old prophecies of your people. He has — oh — entered Jerusalem in a certain sort of procession, made those claims at the temple, etcetera, all of which leads to — one thing.
JUDAS: Yes, what? Where does it lead?
PILATE: Well, it relates to the coming of a hero, a savior of the people, presumably, in this case, their savior from Roman domination and the destruction of the true faith.
JUDAS: Oh, I’ve heard those prophecies all my life, we all know those prophecies.
PILATE: Yes. Well. Your High Priest, Caiaphas, has, like me, observed the young man’s rather — theatrical — assumption of this role, and assumes that — Jesus? — wishes to carry out the remainder of the — ritual, prophecy, drama, whatever one wants to call it. So! (Offers document.) I want you to bring him here.
JUDAS: But what is the — remainder of the ritual?
PILATE: It’s rather frightening, Judas, so let’s just — (Offers document.)
JUDAS: No more frightening than deception and spies and secrecy.
PILATE: Oh, you think not, do you? (Slaps document on desk.) Well, it seems there is a — sacrifice! involved.
PILATE: Yes, yes, I’m sorry to frighten you: a — sacred execution, a human — redeeming lamb, to be slain at the same time as the Passover lamb. Nothing whatsoever to do with your reputable religion. Something distilled in — wilderness asylums — from hunger-visions, and acquired Eastern legends, and vagaries in the books you call Exodus, and Hosea, and Isaiah, and Zechariah. Apparently, our Roman custom of crucifixion perfectly fulfills the — pseudo-scriptural specifications.
JUDAS: A sacrifice? And tomorrow?
PILATE: Yes. I told you it was not pretty.
JUDAS: Then — that was what he was talking about — revealing tonight?
PILATE: Oh. So he is aware of it?
JUDAS: I don’t know that. Not for certain.
PILATE: Well, let me help you. Has he had himself — anointed?
JUDAS: Anointed? The other day a woman poured some expensive ointment over him. We all thought it was foolishness, but he said — he said — he said… “I will not be among you long.”
PILATE: The word for this savior is “Messiah.” In Greek, “Christos.” Both words mean: “anointed.”
JUDAS: I still don’t know — for certain — if he means to do — what you said.
PILATE: Well, if he does, Judas, it would put Caiaphas in a position to do untold annoyance under the guise — or for all I know with the sincere intention — of reuniting the factions of Judaism and — cause a great deal of trouble.
JUDAS: For Rome?
PILATE: Oh, for everyone, Judas! Rebellion. Riots. Ugly arrests. The execution of the unbelieving. The restoration in a modern metropolitan environment of totally unsuitable agricultural religious rites. The confusion and subjugation of the people under a degraded regime that cannot possibly fill their needs.
JUDAS: Their spiritual needs.
PILATE: Their spiritual needs, their bodily needs, their hearts, their brains, their bellies! Oh, Plato, when did the mind and body become so separated that they require separate saviors? Oh, come, Judas, let us have a little humor about this. I’ve seen it happen, time after time; I’m sick of it, I’m tired of it, I can look it in the face. I can turn my back on it. But this once, I thought I might interfere.
JUDAS: And what will you do then? Kill Caiaphas?
PILATE: Kill your High Priest? Because our dominance drove him to desperation? Good heavens, no! Caiaphas – the priests – the populace – the entire ages-old apparatus of genuine, reputable Judaism — is a mere cat’s paw in your ingenious Jesus’ game. Haven’t I made it clear to you that he’s using their despair and the current enforced degeneration of their culture to make them seem responsible for his insanity?… But never mind. You — you and I — we — will persuade him to our side! (Offers document.)
JUDAS: He is against all factions.
PILATE: I am against all factions, too, including his.
JUDAS: He will never preach your religion.
PILATE: (Slapping document down on desk.) Oh, let him preach what he will. We don’t care what religious games the people play, as long as they don’t play them in the traffic. All we can say, as you stagger out of your various temples and tabernacles, is “Here! Here is law and order, clean and wholesome!” We simply don’t want men torn between conflicting kingdoms.
JUDAS: The kingdoms of this earth.
PILATE: The only ones there are, Judas! Where else shall goodness or evil manifest themselves but in the affairs of men? Let me tell you something: there are no gods, Judas, no ghosts. The only consciousness in the cosmos is the men and women who are alive right now. The universe will be as sane or insane as we are.
JUDAS: You all keep telling me that what I feel, this wreckage and confusion, is all within me. And you all seem to think that that will make me feel better!
PILATE: It is within any man who lives in division from others, Judas. Here, look, hold up your palm to mine.
(They hold their hands up, palms pressed together.)
Look! See? You are here. I am here. You are a man, I am a man. We are alike, but different. There are some things we both need: food, clothing, shelter, water, mates, a place to feed our waste, words to speak of sensible matters, roads and rules to help us about our business — The other things, the things that are within a man — that is his own private kingdom.
JUDAS: (Withdraws his hand.) But there are other things that people need.
PILATE: Yes, yes, gods, art, we have spoken often of those things —
JUDAS: Don’t treat me like a child, Pilate. And don’t smile at me! We are not speaking here of gods and art. We are speaking of terrible things. There are other things men seem to need to do. They kill and rob. They lie and they torture. They quarrel in their senates and their streets. They will agree to anything to win others to their causes. They plot, they deceive, they use others for their ends, they seduce, and — and they sacrifice.
PILATE: Yes, Judas. Yes. We all have those things within us. You have them. I have them. We simply don’t do them. Unless reason fails.
JUDAS: And if reason fails — ?
PILATE: If reason fails, then perhaps it is reason’s fault, yes.
JUDAS: That is not what I was going to say. Don’t talk philosophy at me. If reason fails, what do we do?
PILATE: We fight and survive! Or we turn the other cheek and perish.
JUDAS: He said that: “Turn the other cheek.”
PILATE: I know. I have his sayings on my desk.
JUDAS: He says that we must turn the other cheek.
PILATE: Then why is he committing this heartless act of war against Rome?
JUDAS: Perhaps because Rome is a mere — totalitarianism.
PILATE: Judas. What will be the difference between totalitarianism and one world?
(JUDAS turns away, walks to the window, walks back to the desk, fingers the official documents.)
JUDAS: You want me to bring this man to you?
PILATE: Please. (Offers document.)
JUDAS: For Rome’s sake.
PILATE: For Rome’s safety and protection. You’re making this much too significant, Judas. Let me save him for you. It is of less than no importance to me. I merely hoped to show you that, with Rome, it can be done.
JUDAS: I think you may be right — about one thing: about what he means to do.(Takes document from PILATE.) I will bring him to you. I have to trust someone.
PILATE: Is there any reason why you should not trust me?
JUDAS: No. No, none at all. I may have been very foolish.
PILATE: Judas. I am aware that this man is very strong and — very moving to his followers.
JUDAS: Yes. Yes, he is that.
PILATE: I am not asking you to choose between him and — anything.
JUDAS: I know you do not mean to. Everyone tells me I do not have to make a choice. But everyone who tells me that has already chosen.
PILATE: Let us help him choose to live, and — make a better world.
JUDAS: I am tired. You have given me my orders.
PILATE: I have asked you.
JUDAS: You have asked me. He has asked me to supper. I will show your soldiers the place. I will – kiss him – to show he is the one.
PILATE: Is that a custom among them?
PILATE: Very well. Oh, and, Judas —
PILATE: By all means, let him know what we are doing. (PILATE hands JUDAS another
document.) Tell him the guards are under his command.
JUDAS: I will tell him — what I was told. He said today that you are — of the Kingdom of Heaven.
(JESUS ENTERS below, in a moonlit GARDEN.)
PILATE: I will not presume on that.
JUDAS: He said you serve him, in your way.
PILATE: I hope I serve life and order.
JUDAS: Pilate —
(JUDAS holds out his hand to PILATE. KLAUTUS ENTERS, clicks his heels. JUDAS withdraws his hand.)
May I go now?
PETER: (OFFSTAGE; below.)Jesus! Jesus!
(PILATE sticks other documents from the desk into KLAUTUS’ hand, then changes his mind and plucks one out.)
Come, I’ll take you to the captain of the guards.
(PILATE and JUDAS EXIT together. KLAUTUS clicks his heels and FOLLOWS.)
(A GARDEN outside a private home. JESUS is present. He is benign, calm, smiling.)
PETER: (OFFSTAGE.) Jesus!
(JESUS turns toward the voice.)
JESUS: Here, Peter. Here in the garden.
(PETER ENTERS, obviously distraught.)
PETER: Lord, wait, I want to talk to you.
JESUS: Wait, Peter. We must wait for Judas.
PETER: But that’s what I want to talk to you about, is what you meant about Judas. None of us understand.
JESUS: Not yet, Peter. No, not yet.
(JUDAS ENTERS, dressed as in the previous scene.)
JUDAS: Peter, there you are. Leave him alone, please.
(JESUS moves serenely away from them.)
PETER: But what does he mean? What was he saying in there? Why does he have us celebrating Passover a day early?
JUDAS: There isn’t time, Peter, you’ll understand.
PETER: But it was crazy! “Drink my blood?” “Eat my body?” “This is the last time we will be together?” What is he saying?
JUDAS: He may not know what he’s saying, Peter. All right?
PETER: He said you’d betray him. You work for the Romans.
JUDAS: We all work for the Romans, if we work.
PETER: I won’t listen to you. Lord, what has Judas done to you?
JESUS: Be at peace. Be at peace.
PETER: But – some of the things you said in there. You scared me.
JUDAS: Peter, don’t.
PETER: I want to ask him about the things he said!
JESUS: There is no need to ask, Peter. All will be revealed. Judas?
JUDAS: Yes, Lord.
JESUS: All that you told me earlier? For tonight?
JUDAS: Yes, Lord.
PETER: What? What about tonight?
JESUS: No, no, all will be revealed. We will do as you said, Judas.
JUDAS: Yes, please.
PETER: Am I to know nothing, Lord?
JESUS: Everyone will know everything. Every step of the way. Now listen quietly, I may never speak with you again. No, listen. We will do now what I set out to do. When I said that all would be revealed, I did not mean that I would tell you. You will see. Each of us has a part he must play out tonight, and tomorrow, and — however long it lasts.
PETER: Well, of course, Lord, whatever you say.
JESUS: I have told you one of you will betray me.
JUDAS: Lord —
JESUS: I have told you which one.
PETER: But Judas has sworn that he will not. Is he lying?
JUDAS: Oh, never mind, Peter.
JESUS: I know, I know, I know much more than I can tell you now. You will be shown.
JUDAS: Lord, forgive me if I speak. I would not claim to know more than you, but if there are some things that you have not experienced that I have —
JESUS: I have experienced all I came for. All but the last.
JUDAS: Of course, Lord.
PETER: And I, Lord?
JESUS: Ah, yes, you. You will deny me, Peter.
JESUS: Peter, not even if I say you will?
PETER: You are telling me to deny you?
JESUS: No. I am only saying that you will. Three times you will deny me, as in the prophecy.
PETER: But I won’t.
JESUS: Peter — if you do not, then I am a false prophet.
PETER: I cannot answer such a thing as that.
JESUS: I know. Trust me that I know. Remember: (To JUDAS.) you will betray me; (To PETER.) you will deny me. Three times. Judas, you will be offered a reward.
JUDAS: They pay me at the tower, Lord, how else could I live? But — a reward!
JESUS: No, another will reward you. The price — the price of a slave – was set long ago.
JUDAS: Reward, what a word!
JESUS: Sh. Judas, I want to go and pray now. No, alone. I will go out in the garden, if I may, and pray, alone, then you will come and we will do as I said. May I? Have the time to go and pray?
JUDAS: Whatever you say, Lord, always.
JESUS: Not so long. Oh, not nearly so long. Let me go now. I will not be long. And, Peter —
PETER: Yes, Lord.
JESUS: Peter. Judas. You are like two caged doves, fretting and moaning to be free. Do not be afraid. I am not here to bring you pain. You will be happy. You will be with me. Yes, you will be with me someday. I go before you, to prepare for you. You will follow me. This is not the end. You will all follow me. I go before you, but I only go to prepare rooms for you, in my father’s house. (JESUS EXITS into the depths of the garden.)
PETER: What are you up to? How will you betray him?
JUDAS: He has misunderstood.
PETER: If he says I will deny him, then he has.
JUDAS: Oh, or you have, or I have. Don’t worry. I promise you, everything will be made clear.
PETER: He said that.
JUDAS: And I say it. God, now I know how they feel. It will be all right, Peter, you will know.
PETER: I know that I will never doubt him.
JUDAS: Ooooh, if you are never to doubt him, then I must betray him and you must deny him. Now think about that and let us go protect him.
PETER: Who do you think you are to start giving orders to the rest of us?
JUDAS: I? I am the wisest person in the world, Peter. Because they know everything and I know them. Oh, come. Let’s get the others and go look after him.
(JUDAS exits the opposite way from JESUS.).
(Above, KLAUTUS, in black tie, enters PILATE’s office and goes straight through into PILATE’s private chambers.)
KLAUTUS: Oh, Lord, please take away this task that you have laid upon me. (KLAUTUS EXITS into PILATE’s chambers.)
PETER: Oh, Lord, please take away this task that you have laid upon me.
PILATE: (OFFSTAGE.) What?
PETER: No. You named me “Peter.” “Petrus.” “Stone.”
(PILATE, in faultless evening wear, storms out of his quarters, followed by KLAUTUS.)
PILATE: I am experiencing great difficulty in believing what you are telling me, Klautus.
PETER: You said that you would build your church upon me.
KLAUTUS: It is what I am told, sir.
PETER: Your will be done!
PILATE: My guard took Jesus by violence?
PETER: In this, and in all things, your will –
KLAUTUS: His followers fought them, sir.
PETER: Your will —
(KLAUTUS busies himself wheeling on a cart laden with a splendid service for wine and fruit.)
PILATE: I placed that guard under his orders!
PETER: Your will, by me, by everyone, be done.
(PETER EXITS in the same direction as JUDAS.)
(PILATE’S OFFICE. Night. PILATE and KLAUTUS are present in flawless evening wear. PILATE wears a ribbon with some orders. KLAUTUS is arranging wine and fruit on a cart, suitable for the highest level of reception.)
KLAUTUS: Yes, sir. He commanded the fight to stop, sir.
PILATE: Oh, he did, did he? And then they brought him here?
KLAUTUS: No, sir. He ordered the guard to take him to Caiaphas, sir.
PILATE: He has not been before Caiaphas? At this time of night?
KLAUTUS: Not only Caiaphas, but the whole college of priests, sir.
PILATE: It’s called the Sanhedrin.
PILATE: Through the streets. Before the Sanhedrin. Before a great crowd, no doubt.
KLAUTUS: So I am told.
PILATE: Caiaphas, of course, made sure the crowd heard all the allegations against the young man?
KLAUTUS: It would seem so. Sir.
PILATE: And what state is our pitiful victim in now?
KLAUTUS: He told the guard to bind him, sir.
PILATE: I have no doubt whatsoever that they obeyed.
KLAUTUS: They are good Roman soldiers, sir.
PILATE: Therefore! Instead of a quiet troop of discreet soldiers and one endangered holy man, I have, out in my courtyard — ?
KLAUTUS: A great crowd of religious persons, soldiers holding them back, quite a large percentage of the common folk, and a few of his followers, sir.
PILATE: Oh God, he’s going to win, he’s going to win, he’ll thrust that cross into Golgotha like a conqueror’s claiming sword!
KLAUTUS: Yes, sir.
PILATE: Oh, shut up! Bring him in!
KLAUTUS: Did you want your Judas as well, sir?
PILATE: No, I’ll apologize to him later. Leave the soldiers outside. Leave the priests outside. Barricade the palace from the people and let the disciples wait. Show the damned brilliant nuisance in.
(Since KLAUTUS stands unmoving.)
Well, show him in.
KLAUTUS: Sir —
PILATE: More surprises?
KLAUTUS: Sir….you do not intend to harm him, sir?
PILATE: Not unless he has arranged it unavoidably. Get out
(KLAUTUS EXITS so fast we hear just a trailing “Yes, sir!”)
Maybe Herod couldn’t help killing John.
(KLAUTUS RETURNS with JESUS. JESUS’ hands are bound before him with a rope.)
KLAUTUS: The prophet Jesus, sir.
PILATE: Get out, boy. Leave us alone. And by that I mean “alone.” Go to all the little spyholes that you and the others have dug and drag them away. Or by my name, someone will be crucified tomorrow. Do you hear me?
KLAUTUS: (Clicks his heels.) Yes, sir. (He EXITS.)
PILATE: Forgive me for just one moment. I have to check every nook and cranny of this torture chamber. I think they must have planted coiled tubes so they can cluster in the basement and overhear great matters. As if great matters were different from their own lives, no? As if we were some sort of superior creature. Oh, here, let me take those ropes off of you.
(JESUS turns away.)
How could you do such a thing? I am surprised at you. You have been in those streets all your life, you know what those people are, how they will take this. Of course you do. You have had to speak to them in parables and poetry. Let me unbind you and offer an understanding hand in friendship.
(JESUS turns away.)
Well, I don’t blame you. You know what you’re about. I must say, you might have made this easier on me. That rope may have made a great hit with your followers and foes, but I will hear about it from Rome, believe me. Won’t you sit down? Here is wine, and fruit, and water. I should have you served, but I do wish to speak with you privately, so I must ask you to refresh yourself.
(JESUS turns away.)
No? Oh. God, I see I must reassure you. You are not a captive. You are not brought here to be persecuted. This is not your torture chamber, it is mine. You heard those people in the streets? They’ve been out there, some of them for days, demanding that I do to you what they no doubt believe I am now doing.
Had I not offered you my protection, they would, believe me, be doing it to you themselves. They have been besieging me, beseeching me, in ever-growing numbers, to get rid of you.
And the motives, the variety of motives:
Some say you are a terrorist, threatening to tear the temple down. And the penalty for terrorism is death.
Some say you are a magician, raising the dead. And the penalty for the practice of magic is death.
Some say you are a diabolist, communing with the demons they believe you can cast out. And the penalty for diabolism is death.
Some say you are sacrilegious, interfering with the Passover rites. And the penalty for sacrilege is death.
Some say you are seditious against the Sanhedrin, flouting the Sabbath laws. And the penalty for such sedition is death.
Some say you are an idolater, claiming to be the object of worship. And the penalty for idolatry is death.
Some say you have made yourself a Gentile by your heresies, and the penalty for a Gentile setting foot in the inner temple grounds is death.
Some say you are a traitor to Rome, proclaiming yourself the rightful King of the Jews. And the penalty for treason against Rome is death.
And some say you are guiltless, guileless, glorious, innocent, that you are the Messiah, Savior, King. And the confirmation of that claim must be your ritual, prophesied, sacramental, sacrificial death.
How have you kept yourself hidden for so long? Look what you have aroused now that you have come out into the open. You are a man of particular, spectacular power. You are what we dream of finding, of rewarding, a fine and vibrant mind, a dynamic personality, a brilliant command of language. I have been reading your sayings, your “Logia,” they are poetry.
The ability to survive — and this alone would mark you as exceptional — the ability to survive intellectually, when you have obviously had every corner of that beautiful brain crammed to bursting with the most noxious drivel that centuries of foaming visionaries could hand down to you in a form as involved, as thoroughly mangled and obscured, as their own self-doubting, delirious visions of the world…
You are welcome here, here in the home of clarity and light. Rome — the world — your own people, if you see them as such– need you. Look how you can reach them, look how they respond to you. Can you doubt that if you told them the truth — the truth you must know to know how to manipulate them so — that they would begin, with your help, with the help of Rome, to inch themselves — Yes, and Rome, too, for Rome has never pretended to perfection — toward something better?
It is not unthinkable that you should have the throne of Judea, Jesus, Christ. Surely, a people are better regulated by one who knows their cradle-songs. We can offer them, at best, an alien enlightenment. You can guide them through a familiar darkness to it.
(JESUS turns away.)
It is not politics that entrances you? Then let us send you to academies in Rome, where you may, for the first time, encounter minds the equals of your own. You have been bred in such deprivation, with only the usual holy books of the usual true faith. It will amaze you what you will find in Rome. How you will read and see yourself mirrored in the martyrs of a million tiny sects. But not completely mirrored, for you will step out of that dreary peasant-dance and instead contribute to the greater order of mankind, not threaten even its remnants.
Or would you prefer to be sent out beyond Judea, to new territory? Rome is expanding, it will be one world, a Roman world. And you can help to make that happen, help innocent, well-meaning men to avoid the mistake that I hope I am helping you avoid —
(JESUS turns away.)
Jesus, please rest. Look at me, I am throwing too much at you at once. I forget you are a simple man, overlearned in one area perhaps, perhaps not even aware of the magnitude of opportunity.
Or perhaps you are.
What are you thinking, Jesus? What are you thinking? The workings of the mind are never simple. You think perhaps that it is enough merely to stand and speak the truth to simple people and they will understand and arise and make man better? You wonder why we Romans do not simply stand and do that? But you hear out there on the street what they do when it is simply spoken to them.
And are we so sure we even know the truth yet? If we did, then would not everything be working perfectly, properly, as perfectly as your plan to have yourself extinguished seems to be working out? Perhaps you know some one additional thing which, added to the immense awareness of Rome, could bring a perfect world about. With all the power of Rome behind you.
Jesus, the truth may be simple, but the people are not. They are not individuals out there, waving their hands and crying “Vengeance! They are each of them, like you, cells in a honeyhive of superstition. They are not young, they were never young. They were born as old as whatever swamp of a civilization they were born into. Every available convolution of their brains was stuffed at birth with the• endlessly self-defeating presuppositions of cultures which have been, in all the experience of Rome, either bands of murderers waving God’s name on a banner, or else sobbing slave-pools, wailing their celestial superiority to their terrestrial torment, living in slavery, passing their young on into slavery, not even hesitating to have young: animals, worms, bugs, vegetables, toads! Is it for them you are willing to sacrifice yourself?
(JESUS turns away.)
They need not be like that. Don’t let me make you think they must. I have seen — besides these horrors — I have seen light come into the eyes of men. You have seen it, too, you stir. Yes, I have seen, right here in this office, I have seen a heart open, a mind take fire, the concepts of beauty and truth kindled in a consciousness that had known only fear and dread. And you can do that, too, you can bring that about. The end of sorrow, the end of suffering, the end of sacrifice — yes, that moves you, I can see it does — the end of all insane exigencies —
(JESUS turns away.)
But not by turning away from me!
Let me say one more thing to you. If you are afraid you have been too poisoned, too tainted, to change your ways and work in a world of men, do not think so. You can be saved. I know it is hard. I have seen men shake off superstition and succumb to it again and again.
It is woven into your nursery rhymes, beaten into you by your father, whined into you by your mother — oh yes, you know about that, don’t you? But it is not by supernatural powers that I know it, it is from simple experience, in all countries, it has always been the same.
But not for all of us. Don’t despair, we survive, we survive, without faith or hope we find a way, we few, to bear all the anguish that is in this world and yet go on.
(JESUS turns away.)
What was it? What did I say? I’ve made it seem too hard. But look what you’ve borne already, Jesus, and from your own will. Now turn that will to something harder, yes, harder than martyrdom, I admit it, but with hope at the end, not this dreary descent into primeval muck!
(JESUS turns away. PILATE grabs him and twirls him back around.)
Don’t turn away from me! I beg you! Let me help you! As you have helped others, let me help you!
(JESUS disengages himself and walks a few steps away.)
Is it that you think you have set in motion something that cannot be stopped? That may well be, Jesus, that may well be. What schemes, what schemes have you rigged, as you rigged your entry into Jerusalem and your other fulfillments of your cult’s eschatology? And cleverly too, for even with my interest in your faith, it took me until tonight to see what Caiaphas perceived at once.
Oh, yes, he saw, he understood, he is ready to have you sacrificed now. Unless you publicly deny what you have never publicly claimed — unless you did it at that trial tonight — that you are King of the Jews, then it is my hands, not yours, that are tied. I must release you to the military police, and they will raise you on your cross. Yes! Like the serpent that drew the tribes together in the wilderness! Every law and lariat, every slurping mouthful of legalisms and spit, is ready to send you reeling to’ your glorious end. Then my only concern will be to make it seem Caiaphas’ fault, and his to make it seem mine, and you will be forgotten in our libraries of litigation.
But perhaps that is what you wish for most, never even to have been, the Oriental immortality of oblivion. Well, if all you want is to have it over, then there it is, out there, you may die as effortlessly as you have lived, and with even more pain!
Perhaps you’re right! Perhaps you should be crucified! Perhaps you should be elevated above the earth where the common people root for solutions! Maybe you’re what’s wrong with the earth!
Jesus, this is not belief! This is beyond belief! Do you think we want your suicide? Do you think we need that? Do you think anyone wants your death but you? Do you think we taught those soldiers to obey, to have them march you to Golgotha? Do you think we taught them to follow, to have them follow you? Do you think your suffering is what we have thought, taught, fought, killed and built for? You are wrong, Jesus, wrong!
Civilizations are not labored over for the likes of you and me, elevated on our crosses and our towers. Wars are fought for the mind of Judas, philosophies founded for the peace of mind of Judas. Religions are permitted, allowances made, mythologies propounded, not that you or I may win or lose, but only so that Judas may rise each morning knowing who he is, and what his day’s work on that day must be!
Jesus. The truths they tell against you are lies to kill you. Lie that you might live to tell the truth. Say you are not King of the Jews, and live to be. Say you are not the son of God, and live to teach us that we all are. Say you are not the enemy of Rome, and live to help destroy Rome — and rebuild it!
Do you think you are alone up here? I know what you’re doing — and for love of whom. But we who sacrifice ourselves to systems we don’t believe in merely to secure the happiness of others — we may be doing nothing but creating our own destroyers.
I, above all –(Laughs.)– above all! I understand you feel you must sacrifice yourself. But those feelings are not your own thoughts — and these thoughts are not, perhaps, my own feelings — But I do, in spite of all the factual evidence against it, I do devoutly, believe that man can live without faith!
(JESUS turns and looks at PILATE.)
I — I know that sounds like a schoolboy paradox. I — I know it sounds as if I am asking you, and Judas, and all the world, to live without faith when I, in fact, have — have always had it myself — but — but — but — but — but…
Klautus! Wherever you are! Send Judas in! (To JESUS.) Show him how you are determined.
(JUDAS ENTERS, dressed as in the previous scene.)
Judas. Can this be the man you follow?
JUDAS: This is — Jesus. Called the Christ.
PILATE: Very well. You tell him, Judas. Tell him what is waiting for him out there.
JUDAS: The world, Lord. The world. Everything you said has come true. I did not think that it was possible. Even Peter has denied you. As you predicted, three times at the very door of your trial, he has denied. And he will not tell me if he did it to make it all come true — or — or if he meant it. That’s wrong of him, isn’t it? He should tell me. You said it would all be made clear. Mustn’t he tell me? Mustn’t you? Mustn’t someone? Please, only tell me. Haven’t I at least that right, that I should know?
PILATE: Judas. Judas.
JUDAS: And Caiaphas. Caiaphas held me back and gave me money, he had it counted out, the price of a slave, as you predicted, and he thanked me. He thanked me.
JUDAS: And I threw it back at him, the bag broke, the money clanged all over the floor. And the High Priest of my people looked at me and smiled, smiled, smiled! As if he knew what I was going to do!
JUDAS: You threw the money out of the temple. I threw the money back in. Does that mean something? Does that fulfill a prophecy? What have you involved me in?
PILATE: Judas, please stop this.
JUDAS: Because I never meant for one minute to betray you. You know that. But if it all is to come true, then I must, mustn’t I? Mustn’t I? But if I do, then I have fulfilled your prophecy. And if I have fulfilled your prophecy, then I haven’t betrayed you. Have I? Or have I? Is that — is this — all that you wanted me for?
PILATE: Jesus, See what you reduce them to? Speak, help him. Tell him. Not me. I will leave him with you. Shall I leave you?
JUDAS: All has been made clear. All has been made clear. I am so many things at once. (To PILATE.) I am a loyal Roman, according to you. I am a loyal Jew, according to Caiaphas. I am a loyal — Christian — according to him. So why do I feel that I am betraying you all?
PILATE: Judas, you are descending into an animal state.
JUDAS: What animal state? Rome?
PILATE: Judas. Go. Rest yourself. No. Wait. Jesus, there is an alternative. State your unpolitical nature, and I will build you a temple of your own, where you can teach as you will. As a scholar of your faith, which you must certainly have had to be to pull this off, you can lead these people in a way they will be led. You may create the religion that Rome needs, as Rome realizes men must have religion, even the best men. Be, not the head, but the heart of Rome. These people care for nothing but prophecies and rituals, the surface of religion. You can make that surface work for them.
JUDAS: Yes, and for Rome, too. Say yes, Jesus, say yes.
PILATE: Once you are free, this becomes a civil matter. They will kill you.
JUDAS: That was the prophecy.
PILATE: I am bound by that law.
JUDAS: And by that prophecy.
PILATE: Jesus, one last plea! If you do this thing, you will be setting an example of saintly self-sacrifice. Your followers will follow you, but what they will follow is your example. They will die for a way of life, they will fight for peace, they will kill for unity. The best will be sacrificed to the worst for however long your name lasts. The bright, the passionate, the passionately moral, the likes of Judas, will follow you, indeed, every step of your way. Sacrifice your sacrifice. Fail yourself. Defeat me. (PILATE kneels before JESUS.) But give Judas what he most needs.
JESUS: Our Father which art in Heaven —
JUDAS: Yea, not here, no one here.
JESUS: Hallowed be thy name —
JUDAS: Which we can never know.
JESUS: Thy Kingdom come —
JUDAS: It’s here, within us.
JESUS: Thy will be done —
JUDAS: We are doing it. The deaths, the betrayals, the pain, they have a purpose!
JESUS: On Earth as it is in Heaven —
JUDAS: Yes, without thought, without quarrels, effortlessly, as the stars move, yea, yea, yes!
(PILATE watches this ritual in growing horror. HE stands and backs away from it.)
JESUS: Give us this day our daily bread —
JUDAS: If he does, then we know he wants us to live, yes!
JESUS: And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us —
JUDAS: If he punishes us, then we know we have done wrong!
JESUS: And lead us not into temptation —
JUDAS: He can’t! Everything that happens is his will!
JESUS: And deliver us from evil —
JUDAS: If he is all, then there is no evil!
JESUS: For thine is the Kingdom —
JUDAS: No man can rule it!
JESUS: And the power —
JUDAS: No man deserves it!
JESUS: And the glory —
JUDAS: No man can endure it!
JESUS: Forever —
JESUS: And ever —
JUDAS: And ever!
JUDAS: Amen, amen, so be it, amen, amen!
KLAUTUS: (ENTERS at once, clicks heels.) Yes, sir!
PILATE: Get them out of this office! Get him out of this office! Drain this sewage from my tower! Open the doors, set him free! He is a free man! He is an intelligent disease!
KLAUTUS: (Moves to JESUS.) Yes, sir!
PILATE: Have the soldiers whip him on the steps. See if that will satisfy the people. But get him out. Get him out of this tower. Unbind him. Relieve my presence of this suffering mud!
(KLAUTUS unbinds JESUS and drops the rope on the floor. KLAUTUS leads JESUS OUT.)
Judas, go. Or stay, as you choose. I will not pretend to give you orders. Come tomorrow, if you will. At the usual time. Nothing has changed. Or stay and talk tonight…? As you choose.
JUDAS: (Takes up JESUS’ rope.) I will follow him. He said you served him in your way. His prophecy was true. Your prophecy is true, too. I will follow him.
(JUDAS EXITS with rope. KLAUTUS ENTERS timidly, stands by.)
PILATE: There is water here to wash my hands?
(KLAUTUS takes a bowl and pitcher from the cart, pours water over PILATE’s hands into the bowl. PILATE washes his hands.)
It is such a simple dream we wish to bring to the world, really: a dream of order.
KLAUTUS: You don’t mean dreams like when you’re asleep, sir?
PILATE: Those who dream so in their sleep are blessed.
KLAUTUS: Blessed by whom, sir?
PILATE: By whoever blesses. But in every sleeping head out there are different dreams — dramas of redemption and revenge. And these dreams are very dear to people.
KLAUTUS: As order is to you, sir?
PILATE: Yes. Yes. As order is to me.
(KLAUTUS hands him a napkin. PILATE dries his hands. KLAUTUS removes the bowl, pitcher, and towel.)
The savage was filthy, as usual.
(KLAUTUS completes his tasks quietly, then speaks.)
PILATE: What is it, Klautus?
KLAUTUS: May I go now, sir?
PILATE: What? Oh, yes, of course. You want to go and watch the suicide.
KLAUTUS: Suicide, sir?
PILATE: You want to go see Jesus’ crucifixion?
KLAUTUS: Oh, then it was him you meant to have crucified. I thought you meant me.
PILATE: You? Whatever in a rational universe for?
KLAUTUS: I listened, sir.
PILATE: Ah. And did you understand?
KLAUTUS: Not much, sir. He refused everything?
PILATE: He said nothing. To me.
KLAUTUS: Oh. I thought he might have whispered something.
PILATE: He’ll be screaming something soon. You can go out and hear that if you want to.
KLAUTUS: Out there? No, sir . I don’t want to be out there among those people.
PILATE: They are our people, Klautus.
(MARY ENTERS below, at the foot of the cross.)
KLAUTUS: Our people, sir? They aren’t even — their kings are slaves, and they sell us their people for slaves. Our people! They killed John, and they’ll kill Jesus, too, won’t they?
MARY: Oh, God, forgive me, I’ve murdered my son!
PILATE: But we kill people, Klautus, often.
(PETER ENTERS below, to MARY.)
KLAUTUS: Only those who go against the order, sir.
PETER: Oh, no, none of us has done anything wrong.
PILATE: You are very fond of our “order, sir ,” aren’t you, Klautus?
MARY: It was you! You all helped him in this madness!
KLAUTUS: Sir, any doubts I ever had about it — not that I ever had any.
PETER: Oh, I thought that, too, I did, but now I see. We are not guilty.
PILATE: Of course not, of course not.
MARY: Of course not, of course not.
KLAUTUS: I mean, I feel free to talk to you, sir, because I have heard you say things — well — analyzing Rome.
PETER: But you know that. You must have always known.
PILATE: I do not criticize Rome, Klautus.
MARY: I do not blame you.
KLAUTUS: Oh, no, sir, of course not! Why would you? I understand exactly what you’ve been doing. All those things I heard you say? Like that Rome is a lie, or there are no gods, or that you wanted to help destroy Rome? I realize now what you were doing. You were testing Judas, testing Jesus, testing me. You were giving them rope, stringing them along, giving them every possible chance. And now you’ve caught them, you’ve got them right where you want them!
(KLAUTUS produces an unsealed letter from his pocket.)
Look, I’ve already written a letter to my father, telling him that I was completely wrong to have suspected you of treason. I know you want a Roman world, like you said to Jesus, I know that’s the part you meant. You know exactly what you’re doing. I just meant that, if I ever had been stupid enough to have any doubts about Rome, exactly as it is, or to feel sentimental about any of these — savage cannibals — well, what I’ve seen here, what I’ve learned from you, has completely convinced me how very fortunate we are to be Romans under Caesar!
PETER: We were all blessed to assist him!
PILATE: (Satirically.) Hail, Caesar.
MARY: Blessed to assist him?
KLAUTUS: Hail, Caesar!
PETER: Yes, praise Jesus! Praise his immortal name!
(KLAUTUS strides to Caesar’s statue, takes a pinch of salt, turns toward PILATE.)
KLAUTUS: Won’t you join me, sir?
PETER: Won’t you join us, Mother?
(PILATE starts slowly toward the altar.)
Come and tell us what you know!
MARY: I know — I thought I knew — he had a glorious destiny.
PILATE: (At altar, sprinkles salt.) Hail, Caesar.
MARY: But — praise his immortal name?
KLAUTUS: (Fervently.) Hail, Caesar!
PETER: (Fervently.) Praise Jesus!
PILATE: Klautus, when someone asks you what you are, what do you tell them?
MARY: Tell me, tell me, help me understand.
PETER: Ma’ am?
PILATE: What do you say when someone asks you what you are?
PETER: Oh, I see. Of course, you’re testing me.
KLAUTUS: Well, of course, sir, I say I have the honor to be the first assistant to Pontius Pilate, by proclamation of Tiberius Caesar —
PILATE: Deeper than that.
KLAUTUS: Well, 1 am the son of the Senator and Tribune, Marcellus —
PILATE: Deeper than that.
KLAUTUS: Well, I am a young man — ?
KLAUTUS: Oh, I see, sir. Yes, sir. You’re testing me again. You won’t get me to say anything wrong.
PETER: You won’t get me to say anything wrong.
KLAUTUS: I am a Roman.
PETER: I am a Christian.
MARY: But what does that mean to you?
PETER: Oh, that is for you to tell us. Come away from this terrible place and tell us. Tell us what you know you always knew.
MARY: Knew? Yes, yes, I always knew. I knew, I always knew, and now I can say it, mayn’t I? I always knew he had a glorious destiny! It was written, it was foreseen, it was long prophesied! Why, even at his birth, the angels sang!
(PETER leads MARY away and OFF.)
PILATE: You are — a Roman?
KLAUTUS: (Clicks his heels.) Yes, sir!
PILATE: The best product of Rome?
KLAUTUS: That is not for me to say, sir.
PILATE: Always and eternally a Roman?
KLAUTUS: (Clicks his heels.) Yes, sir!
PILATE: Right or wrong?
KLAUTUS: (Clicks his heels.) Yes, sir!
PILATE: In peace or war?
KLAUTUS: (Clicks his heels.) Yes, sir!
PILATE: Life or death?
KLAUTUS: (Clicks his heels.) Yes, sir!
PILATE: You believe in Rome?
KLAUTUS: (Clicks his heels.) Yes, sir!
PILATE: Barbarian, leave me to my sleep, barbarian! (PILATE starts to exit.)
KLAUTUS: Sir, I —
PILATE: (Turns back and slaps KLAUTUS.) Barbarian! Barbarian! Barbarian! (PILATE storms AWAY to his quarters.).
(KLAUTUS looks at the letter still in his hand, looks after PILATE, then slowly and deliberately tears the letter to shreds, drops the shreds on the altar, says) Hell hath no fury like a Roman scorned.(salutes Caesar, and EXITS to his anteroom.)
END OF Scene 9
End of ACT II
END OF “JUDAS”