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ACT V, SCENE I
Fate is powerful, but fickle and slippery, constant only in her inconstancy. In the end, those whom she lifts on high she casts down. When I seemed to be the sole ruler of the city, Schimeon, born in Gerasa, joined to himself some jailbirds who had broken out of prison, people oppressed by their masters’ yokes or bankrupt wastrels who yearned for revolution. But the majority were men led on by the expectation of looting. By his evil arts he assembled a private army and fed them by banditry, pillage, and murder. He held command of the toparchy of Acrabatene, but, driven off by Anani, he fled in terror to the high mountain ridges. When chattering rumor revealed that Anani was dead, he swiftly took up arms and, with the help of his gang of vagabonds, struck great terror into the neighboring villages. Thus Fortune loves to mock our undertakings. Idumaea saw her towns captured and her inhabitants laid low with similar slaughter, and Schimeon came to pose a serious threat to the city. What does this man, an arrogant youth, not dare, he whose cheeks scarcely sprout a ruddy beard? He is accustomed to revolution, greedy for power. He has monstrous plans, as his lust for rule grants him no peace.
Immediately I feared for myself, lest by spinning his crafty schemes he might emerge as sole dictator in the city, puffed up by the huge success of his revolutionary activities. The evil seemed all the greater because of our domestic conflagration: I ordered Zacharias bar Amphical, a powerful officer in my army, to put out the fire. He fought without success and our men, repulsed, died by my enemy’s hand. But Zacharias hurries here, looking proud of himself. [Enter Zacharias bar Amphical, leading a woman under military escort.]
ZACH. Oh happy day, shining for us! How greatly has the heavenly company blessed Jehochanan!
JEH. What glad sound strikes my ears?
ZACH. We were defeated in open battle and forced to seek our safety in flight. We did not want to run war’s risks again: the defeat deeply stung our souls. Rather, we brooded about treacherous deceits and ambushes to avenge our loss. As a sailor on the boiling ocean reefs his sail during a terrible storm and, having been blown off course on an uncharted route, beats his way backward across the great unfriendly sea, seeking the Maeander’s shores, so I wandered through all the crannies of my ingenuity, trying to erase the unhappy stigma we acquired in the fight. While my downcast mind was burning to get revenge by some wile, oh happy fate, Schimeon’s wife and a small escort were making their way not far from where my men had set an ambush. We attacked her, unsuspecting. Her companions deserted their mistress, and when she was bereft of her servants the woman was unable to evade our clutches. Schimeon burns with love for her and will be greatly pained to have her kidnapped. This is not just the capture of a woman — you hold her husband, as it were, bound in chains, and our victory over this captive woman is all the greater. While her husband is afire to get his wife back, and is willing to ransom her at any cost, you may strike the peace treaty you desire.
JEH. Zacharias bar Amphical, great-hearted captain, always a faithful companion in arms to me, I cannot praise your industry enough. Soon you will win a reward worthy of your efforts. [To the woman.] Distinguished consort of such a general, why do you water your ruby cheeks with tears? Gladly I shall handle you with the greatest honor and the noblest of women will be your companions. Do not consider yourself a prisoner in my camp. [Exit the woman. Enter the robber chief.]
CH. (His hand bound up in a bloudy scarfe.) Oh the lamentable misdeed, the savage and terrible crime! What Heniochian, dwelling on a rough crag of the inhospitable Caucasus, or savage Procrustes, a terror to the land of Attica, has seen such an iniquity?
JEH. What barbaric outrage are you talking about?
CH. A large throng of famished citizens went out of the gates to gather olives, herbs, and whatever other foodstuffs the land has to offer. While they were boldly wandering about (for harsh famine oppressed them), Schimeon, driven by chagrin over his wife’s kidnapping, attacked them and practically scourged them to death. The flesh was stripped from their bones and their moribund innards were visible, these poor people’s hearts were broken with pain. Schimeon’s soldiers spared neither the weaker of sex or of age. The only thing lacking to his bestial rage was that he did not feed on the corpses of the dead. In the case of some people, he only cut off their right hands and ordered them to return to the city swiftly and announce the following to their fellow citizens. He has sworn by heaven’s great Judge that, unless they voluntarily give him back his wife, he will break down our walls and bring his army into the city, sowing murder everywhere. The innocent and the guilty will be laid low without discrimination.
JEH. Schimeon’s wrath knows no restraint. His strength grows daily. His simmering angry will burst forth in action. And here at home I am doubtful about the citizens’ fierce disposition.
ACT V, SCENE ii
SCHIM. Servile race of Abraham, arrogant, barbaric, fighting without physical strength but powerful in your treachery, you perfidious nation, wretched, ignorant of the art of war, unaccustomed to enslaving women, do you dare abduct Schimeon’s wife by your trickery? Schimeon, who lately forced you to turn tail? Unless she is immediately returned to my camp, I will make Jerusalem drunk with her citizens’ blood, her inhabitants will devour each others’ guts. Her ground will flood with a river of blood, on which I shall make her citizens’ corpses float. I shall make them eat their fathers’ corpses, snatched from the tomb. I shall make them gobble shit with their famine-hardened mouths. I will not give their bodies to greedy vultures for the plucking. That is too trifling. The son will be a tomb for his father, the father for his son, the wife for her husband. The city’s cinders will touch the stars in heaven and a dense cloud of smoke will hide the day. (Heere let a Proclamacon bee made.)
Let every man know that this is Schimeon’s announcement. Whatever debtor cannot put up with importunate creditors, the obstinate servant who sneers at his master’s authority, the wastrel son who has squandered his fortune and yearns for a revolution, whoever has cause to fear the law, the man accused of being an assassin, the thief, the murderer, the whoremonger, the adulterer who steals into other men’s beds, the man who refuses to live with equal justice for all, the perjurer, the counterfeiter, the arsonist, the burglar, the poisoner, if anyone is on trial for fraud, slander, or treason, the parricide, the matricide, the sacrilegious, let nobody fear any wrongdoing. Let him come to Schimeon’s camp for his safety. This noble captain will provide a refuge from your troubles and load you down with the gentiles’ abundant booty.
ACT V, SCENE iii
MAG. Our populace is agitated by a great commotion. It roars that Schimeon’s wife has been snatched by force, and everybody thinks this is an unworthy deed. Nor can they tolerate the captain’s great ire, in the belief that he will be their only source of fear. And Jehochanan is irritated about the woman’s abduction. He does not want to provoke Schimeon to a fight and is alarmed at this strength. He has ordered the woman to be returned, and takes pleasure in assuming responsibility for this act and mollifying the captain’s irate spirits. The leading citizens have been ordered to assemble in secret to consult about public matters. Concerned, they are dragging out the day in speechifying. But Cantor breathlessly approaches. [Enter Cantor.]
CANT. Now we have nothing to fear from Vespasian.
MAG. How can you tell me not to fear such a powerful enemy?
CANT. After the Fates took off Nero, putting an end to his wicked deeds, the Flavian was ready to suspend his fighting while the Italian power was off-balance in the absence of an emperor, until fortune gave Rome a new ruler. After rumor reported that Galba possessed the fasces of a Caesar, Vespasian desired to pay his respects to his new chief. But he was prevented by his military responsibilities and the fact that the sea was beset by winter storms. In the meantime, he was afraid lest his soldiers grow soft with idleness and that his shattered enemies would renew their strength and morale. He ordered his soldiers to arms. Straightway he climbed the hills of Idumaea (no region in this middle world is more notable for its palm trees). […] was destroyed in the fighting, Hebron was leveled to the ground, and Capharam was fired. Ten thousand men were put to the sword.
MAG. Why does Vespasian hesitate to lay siege to our walls?
CANT. He forbids his men to besiege the city, so that civil war will blaze all the more within its walls, and the people will kill themselves off by mutual murder, to the end that, when the city is exhausted by its wounds, it will easily surrender to the Romans and they can sport with our blood. But tell me the situation in the afflicted city.
MAG. Everywhere backs are swollen with scourging.
CANT. What woman is approaching under escort? Schimeon’s wife is being taken to her husband, and Zacharias bar Amphical is given to her as a guide. [Enter Zacharias and Pudens, leading Schimeon’s wife.]
ZACH. Why is your unhappy face so wet with tears? Why do you take so little care of your splendid garments? We are returning you to Schimeon’s camp. Be patient. Comb your hair and with your hand arrange your unkempt tresses. Soon you will be asleep in your husband’s sweet embrace.
PUD. When Schimeon sees his wife returned to him, he will relax the onrush of his raging mind, and we shall have peace for our plundering. (Then let a citizen or two run out on the stage.) Where are you hurrying, you treacherous villain? Everybody wants to betray David’s city to the enemy. The doleful sword will lay bear your disloyal guts. (Then let him kill him.)
ACT V, SCENE iv
AL. [Speaking to Jehochanan in his imagination.] Now cast wifely fidelity in my teeth. Now shun the mistreatment of captive women and deny the right of conquest to your victorious soldiers. If you are not now ashamed to have done violence to her person, you will expiate this sin with your blood. (Let a Citizen or two with bloudy heads runn out of the cittye, and a Souldier coursing them about the stage kill them.) What soldier comes here with a mincing gait? Unless my doubtful senses deceive me, this is Adiaden. [Enter Adiaden.]
AD. I serve a soldier in the court of Venus.
AL. Are these Venus’ weapons?
AD. My purpose is to deceive the ladies.
AL. Are you using deceit to make the pretty girls love you?
AD. No, so that I might play with the women as if I were one myself.
AL. As long as they think you’re a woman they won’t love you.
AD. I want debauchery, not romances.
AL. So why would you pretend to be a woman.
AD So I might easily worm my way into their company.
AL. Aren’t you ashamed to seduce them by fraud?
AD. That’s part of the fun. We make ourselves up as dainty ladies, and there is no kind of lascivious pleasure, no matter how base, on which wanton Venus places restraints. And boys are compelled to play the woman. We dissolve the barriers between the sexes.
AL. Do you expose yourself unarmed to the citizens’ weapons?
AD. I carry a sword secretly beneath my dress in order that I can stab unsuspecting men. My face pretends to be a woman, but my hand proves I am a man. These fripperies reek of peace, but the bloodshed shows that it is war. [Enter Jehuda, frantically.]
JEH. What good does it do to oppress the citizens, killing them for sport at our leisure? The Idumaean forces have attacked the Zealots, dispatching a great part of them to Hell. The others have been routed and occupied Grapte’s palace. But they mistrusted this place and immediately made a dash for the Temple. The townsmen are seeking aid against the Zealots. (Then let them runn away into the Cittye.).
ACT V, SCENE v
ALK. Unhappy city, stranger to peace, your internal enemy does not sufficiently oppress you at home unless an external one is harassing you at the same time. The wild Romans are raging through your fields, but Jehochanan is doing more harm right here. But most of all, Schimeon prowls here and there, not far from the city. And the Romans are conducting a massacre in all the outlying regions. Everywhere the farmer seeks his crops trampled by flying cavalry. In the city Jehochanan bloodies his savage hand, omitting no form of punishment, sporting with the blood of our citizens. Whoever happens to escape his cruelty is captured by Schimeon in the countryside and run through, for he is a tyrant even more barbaric than the other. Our citizens have tasted every manner of agony. There can be a cure for this evil, if you are able to repress Jehochanan’s ferocity by force. Schimeon alone can achieve this, for he is powerful in war and ennobled by his recent victory. To be sure, he is an ambitious man, arrogant and treacherous. I admit it. But the evil can be destroyed by this poison alone, and a man with a terminal disease fears no remedy. Such a calamity is extinguished by cautery. Our leading citizens have summoned this man by their messenger, so that he might aid them in their difficult straits and break the raging captain’s wildness. Mathias the priest reports this to them. The Zealots have taken refuge in Grapte’s palace. Although the city, in combination with the Idumaeans, has forced this, nevertheless our leaders fear their uncertain loyalty. [Enter Jiptach.]
JIP. The Romans are cleaving the sea with their oars.
ALK. What is the reason for their sudden departure?
JIP. When rumor with her blabbing mouth had spread far and wide the tale that the two previous emperors had been taken off by piteous fate, and that Vitellius Caesar’s hated standards had been set up in the Forum, the angry soldiers filled the whole camp with their grievances. They complained that the rules of subordination were being severely tested, if the power of creating such a disgraceful Caesar lay in arms or in suborned uprisings in the military camps. On the other hand, neither their spirits nor their loyalty could fail to support the Flavian, in view of his merits. Their murmurs spread far and wide and grew, just as in a forest a breeze first blows gently and lightly moves the leaves, but gathers strength and shakes the branches, and now finally the trees bend their necks reluctantly. But Vespasian quickly got wind of this movement and addressed his men:
“Fortune turns everything topsy-turvy, my comrades, and unlucky Rome always has something to complain about. Now she mourns, the subject of a bloodthirsty government. She blazes with internecine strife, at last familiar with civil war. The sun has not yet worked his way through the twelve signs of the zodiac, and already Fortune, that elusive goddess, has created three Caesars. Such a wrongful thing can scarcely ever be accomplished without bloodshed. Now that Otho has lost faith in himself, the arrogant victor — I do not know the fellow — is striving today for the rule of Italy. In the midst of such an upheaval, my soldiers, you should consider whether you are able to obey the court. Do you want to support the rule he has appropriated for himself, or do your noble minds crave praise? As your loyal comrade I shall join in your aspirations. I do not say these things because the imperial honor pertains to myself, nor do I seek the city’s friendly support as a candidate. I shall remain a commander, the subject of whatever ruler Fate gives Rome. The greater part of our work is done; our hands will be able to overthrown Jerusalem.”
The others remained silent, hesitant in their minds. Quickly Cerealis, the commander of the Fifth Legion, spoke as follows: “Oh Augustus, whom I shall never again call by your private name, why do you shun your destiny’s legitimate gifts? The whole world summons you, as does your virtue, praised by Jupiter himself. Now he craves to marry you to the empire in his temples, and he opens Rome’s gates to you. Now she deserves your trust, adorned by fresh cypress leaves, lifted up from the ground. Recognize that that prophet, inspired by the spirit’s sacred fire, did not idly predict the title of August for you, and at the gods’ behest have the courage to crown yourself with the laurel wreath. Caesar, do not spurn the will of your fellow-citizens, who are of a mind to obey your commands.”
Throughout the camps the soldiers agreed with him, and they praised Vespasian to the skies. A huge outcry arose. The Flavian tentatively accepted their oaths of loyalty with outstretched hand, and started to thank them with a modest demeanor. However, he was scarcely hailed with the title of Caesar when his soldiers compelled him to seek the throne by the sword. Tiberius, the governor of Egypt, was the first to support him. Straightway other leading Romans sent him crowns in the traditional way, and soon the army in Pannonia joined him, winning new victories, after having previously sided with Vitellius to no good end. Vitellius himself they trampled under their vengeful feet, while he was still belching from his stupendous bouts of drunken gluttony, and with angry hands they tossed him into the water of the Tiber. Vespasian quickly appointed his son Titus commander of this war; his parent gave him the fasces of authority. When the sun left the refuge of hospitable Pisces and returned to see the face of raging Ares, the Italian fleet, entrusted to the kindly winds, clove the sea, and Vespasian finally returned home.
ALK. Youthful ardor is very impulsive. Where is Schimeon?
JIPT. The victorious Idumaeans are lingering in our village. Their well-tried virtue is garnering new laurels. [A trumpet sounds.]
ALK. The trumpet call announces Schimeon’s arrival. The captain approaches, accompanied by Mathias. [Enter Schimeon, Mathias and Alkim.]
SCHIM. [To himself.] David’s city has elected to summon me so that I might use my forces to restrain Jehochanan the captain. Schimeon, you must now consider what is advantageous for you in this matter. If you ally yourself with the Zealots and betray the oath you have sworn to the leading citizens, you will immediately gain sole control of the city. Jehochanan is afraid of your forces. Let the city fathers draw you on reluctantly with their entreaties and grudgingly agree with the leader’s pleas. Thus you can easily break faith with the citizens.
MAT. You whom the leading citizens summon to leadership of the city, what unspoken thoughts are you pondering in your secret heart, anxiously burying your cares in your silent breast? They vie with one another to swear loyalty to you with their powerful right hands, and the citizens will heap every honor on you.
ALK. Great-spirited captain, excellent Schimeon, tracing your lineage from a noble stock and distinguished by glory in war, I shall not speak about how welcome your arrival is. You, the sole hope and support of this betrayed city, must fight to suppress the tyrant’s ferocity and free your fellow-citizens from their great fear of his forces.
SCHIM. Virtue rejoices in flying about freely. Great glory does not know how to be pent up in a city. She seeks to roam widely in the world, avid for praise and, among the things that can be done well, honor is not reserved exclusively for defending a town. Loyalty is a doubtful thing in a civil war, since the citizens mistrust each other. Nothing is safe for them, and so it behooves them to fear harm from everybody. Who can protect himself against each and every man? A known enemy is easily guarded against, but a domestic enemy lurks in his city’s bosom and is not believed to be such. What hope is left for me to govern this city? By you I was booted out and thrown into exile. To Schimeon alone it was forbidden to enter the city.
ALK. What can be more praiseworthy for a supreme commander than to shatter rebellious spirits in war? Of all those triumphs in which you have so widely distinguished yourself, only the honor of defending our city remains. It is obvious how much wasteful insanity has raged with its threats in the city. There are pools of blood in the streets, the cruel killing of our citizens is thought to be a game, and streams of gore flow in the Temple. The man responsible for your exile has paid a shameful penalty and atoned for his guilt with his own blood. Have pity on the house of Abraham, prostrated so long, and do not refuse this rule of the city we are offering you. Jerusalem hands over its reins into your hands.
SCHIM. Pain for this afflicted city moves me not a little, and finally the slaughter of your citizens convinces me. I shall protect God’s Temple with my arms, nor shall I allow Abraham’s seed to perish by a self-inflicted wound. Therefore I now claim the command for myself by right. I shall give my orders from Zion’s holy hills. I shall break Jehochanan’s wild spirits.
ACT V, SCENE vi
ALK. Where are the blind Fates whirling us in our naivety? Why does the Hebrew race take pleasure in deceiving itself with meaningless joy? Our spirits swell up even as ruin impends. The fickle mob thinks that its destiny is drawn to it, not it to its destiny, as when a sailor on the high seas, tethered by his life-line, is beating off a wind-battered cliff — he is deceived into thinking that the rock is being pulled towards him, not seeing that he is being pulled towards the unrelenting cliff. [Shouting offstage.]
Why does the city assault the heavens with this sudden outcry? Alas, I fear Schimeon’s depraved loyalty. What an arrogant answer he made to our leaders! When they begged him to aid our holy city, he refused the proffered command, although in the past a blind greed for power has always oppressed him. His virtue is such that it cannot be sufficiently fawned on by the Jews — he wants to be spoken of as a great captain throughout the world. But here comes Amittai the priest. [Enter Amittai.]
AM. How great a mass of injuries can our chosen people absorb? Oh God, mindful of the Covenant, how long will these roiling storms of war tear at our careworn hearts? If You desire to punish us, ah, do it all at once. Why are You reluctant to destroy the city in a single downfall? With Your fires consume Abraham’s hateful race. Hurl Your avenging flames across the whole sky, and in Your anger strip Olympus bare of its lightning.
ALK. What new thing is our protector doing in the city?
AM He has taken up arms and besieged the Zealots in the Temple.
ALK While these people are exhausting themselves with mutual slaughter, what prevents us citizens from hoping for better things?
AM. Even if the savage captains are injuring themselves with bitter fighting, their rage against the citizens does not abate. They are attacking each other and also the citizenry, but the majority of their violence is directed against the townsmen. [Shouting offstage.]
ALK. What huge outcry of the people is assaulting the heavens?
AM. On his arrival, the people crowded around Shimeon with great applause. He was immediately vested with power over our citizens, and the city looked to him alone for its orders. But he quickly broke his pledges and attacked both parties, those who invited him and those against whom he was summoned. The saving remedy is worse than death. Now we, who could scarcely tolerate a comparatively weak tyrant, have of our own free will invited a stronger one into the city. [Enter Saboch.]
SAB. A double faction had previously torn the city asunder. This was not trouble enough. A third has arisen. Eleazer, that bold boy swollen with pride, split off his own forces from the rest and took the Temple, on the pretext that he could not tolerate the things which Jehochanan did daily, although he himself scarcely held his bloodstained hands back from murder. Thus did greed for power and envy of the new tyrant goad him on. Since he had previously expelled the Romans from the city by himself, and above all since he was anxious for his own power, he immediately took the lead in breaking with the other two captains. Jehuda bar Chelcias and Schimeon bar Esron, and also mighty Ezechias bar Chobari joined his faction. Nor did Schimeon set aside his implacable hatred. Fierce-hearted Jacob bar Sosa and Schimeon bar Catha were his supporters. Captain Jehochanan occupied the outer court of the Temple. Schimeon hung threatening above Jehochanan’s neck, occupying the Upper City which overlooks the plains, lifting up its noble ridge and dominating the rest of the landscape. Furthermore, Schimeon was also allotted the Lower City, where the city occupies the depressed land and provides access to a sunken valley.
Eleazer’s band industriously denied Jehochanan’s men any rest, attacking them daily, and giving them no rest save when Eleazer’s forces went on a drinking binge (they often stumbled about drunkenly) or broke off the battle out of exhaustion. Since they occupied the higher position, Eleazer’s people easily had the better of Jehochanan’s in the fighting. But he in turn was overmastered by having a position unequal to Schimeon’s, although popular support was on his side. Jehochanan put up with this twofold fighting, daily dealing out and receiving injuries. On the other hand, since Schimeon had no cause to fear anybody occupying a higher position than himself, he was freer to fight as he wanted.
Missiles continually flew hither and thither, reaching to the very altars, so that the Temple itself was not free of bloodshed. Although, like so many wild beasts, they rushed headlong into every imaginable form of wrongdoing, they did not block access to the sacred altars for the townsmen or for strangers — whom they afterwards cruelly stabbed to death. A colossal terror overcame our old men and our women, amazed by so many domestic evils. They began to pray for the Romans, hoping for an external war that would free us from our massacre at home. Nor was there any hope of escape for those seeking it. They guarded all the roads. These robber barons squabbled among themselves and only agreed when it came to the killing of good men. [Exit. Enter Manneh.]
MAN. While the leaders have been fighting each other in turn, our warehouses, filled with grain such as many years could not consume, have caught fire. The granaries are glowing with fire, and they are destroying the sinews of our strength. What more could our enemies hope for from their foes? [Exit. Enter Gamala.]
GAM. Where can I find refuge? I am grievously wounded.
AM. Alas, who laid hands on you?
GAM. When I stood before the altars in my vestments, preparing the fillet and the salted first-fruits, and while the trembling sacrificial victim was filling the Temple with its loud bellowing, the treacherous captain Jehochanan drew a sword concealed in his garment and with a great onrush attacked the priests. His men followed their leader. They killed everything that stood in their way, a huge slaughter. They lie strewn together indiscriminately — the ox killed with reverence and the priest, or anyone else who wanted to propitiate God with offerings, impiously killed. [Exit Amittai.]
ALK. Amittai has departed. My sorrow is dumbfounded, unable to express itself. We should hide in our homes. ([Exit Gamala.] Let other Priests wounded runn out of the Temple and fall downe dead. [Enter Cantor.])
CANT. (Running over the stage.) Titus is coming! Titus is coming! Titus has occupied Caesarea, Caesarea! (Let som runn out of the Country into the Cittye, som out of the Cittye into the country, as men amazed. [They all run off in panic. Jehochanan enters from the Temple.]
JEH. Who dares prevent me from being sole ruler of the city, or to impose laws on my swords? Let Schimeon brag about the citizens’ wishes, cold steel has already given me command of the city. I do not care about the citizens’ love, I prefer them to fear me. A man does now know how to govern if he is afraid of unpopularity. [To his men.] Tear down their proud buildings, whatever home has a long view because of its eminence, whatever edifice is outstanding for its excellent workmanship. Let their ancestors’ tombs blaze with fire. Let the day be choked by a cloud of roiling smoke. Let the hateful realms of the Underworld be sought by black bloodshed. [Enter Schimeon and Eleazer.]
SCHIM. Jehochanan, thus Schimeon commands you. Do not linger in our holy city any more, nor claim jurisdiction over it.
JEH. Schimeon, thus captain Jehochanan commands you. Do not dream that this kingdom has been given you, nor seek to dictate the law to me by force.
EL Eleazer forbids you both to dominate the city. It is Eleazer’s lot to hold the key to it.
SCHIM. If you look for me, I shall be holding the Temple. Here I shall stay.
JEH. My place is in the Upper City.
EL. As victor I shall use my weapons to evict the both of you.
Go to Act I of the Third Action