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ACT IV, SCENE i
Oh God, so tardy in our adversity, how long will You visit punishment on Your chosen people? Those who are spared by war's madness are oppressed by unspeakable famine. Did all our wounds look forward to this? Was this the hope of all our efforts? Father of the universe, if You are pleased by a protracted punishment, it has been visited on us sufficiently. Our eyes cannot weep in the face of these evils. In vain these grave calamities invite our pious tears. If a small source of sorrow is to be lamented, the extremities of ill fortune now oppress us. Insane famine burns through our innards, our gaping veins burn with pulsing blood, our bloodless bodies bristle in the absence of their humors. You would think that the Jews were ghosts, so black is their color. The madness of their bellies shrinks from no crime, a donkey's head sells for twenty minae. They carry weapons on their shoulders with the leather straps eaten away, they chew the sandals snatched from off their feet, whatever leather work their craftsman has fashioned. Greedily they devour hanks of rotten hay and pay four Attic talents for a small bit of it. For them cow dung is a delicacy and, like so many dogs, they lick up their own puke. Nothing is considered foul by their bellies.
Whatever they have to eat at home they gobble down in secret. No table, no light, no chair, lest somebody breaking in betimes should rip the half-chewed gobbet from their throat. The starveling masses indulge in every outrage, with piety thrown to the winds. In private homes fights break out daily, when somebody happens to sniff a trace of food. Nor do they believe that death necessarily means lack of food. When they see somebody give up the ghost, with greedy expressions they ransack his garment for a morsel, they batter down doors like so many drunkards. Several gangs break into the same house at once. Led on by their vain hope of finding some nourishment, if some household catches their eye, they suspect that by some manner of trickery gold is being hidden, and immediately bash down the doors. With weapons they attack the house, snatch the food, kill the householder. But if they find nothing inside, they still mistreat him, just as if he had something to eat hoarded away. They deny their victims the solace of death, and even commit outrages against men in their private parts, where pain is felt most keenly. And, alas, when a mother holds her babe to her breast to give it such, they stab through mother and infant alike, so that the mother pays the penalty for her loving effort. Wicked thief, why use a sword to join together people sufficiently bound by love? Albeit you mingle their blood, their souls have already been conjoined.
But the door is opening, three leading citizens are making a way for themselves with their swords. Their wives and children hurry along with them, companions in their flight. (The gates being broken open let the Princes with bloody swords in their hands break out, their wives and children following them. [Enter Manasche, Schimeon bar Anani, and Samai.])
MAN. My sword has carved a way through the thick crowd, and a Zealot night watchman lies cut down. Whoever resists me is added to the list of the friends of death, since we are attempting to save our wives and sweet children from these robbers' impious jaws, rescuing them by flight. The rage of our bellies impels us. Devastation, arson, ruination compels us to take this daring course. Where does necessity not drive us?
SCHIM. Oh sure solace of salvation in hard times, mighty Ruler of heaven's court, mercifully protect Your people underneath Your wings.
SAM. Why are we delaying our flight? Our angry enemy is at our back. Do we want to see our dear wives and our children, their father's sweet hope, cut down with the sword? Safety lies in flight. [Exeunt. Enter Alkim.]
ALK. Is there any hope remaining for me in my misery? Why put off my harsh fate? I can serve Caesar. Even if he horridly threatens me with death, at least he will kill me. You wretched piece of booty, do you fear joining a far-away race of slaves, or are you afraid of being captive freight on a galley? Now you have your punishment. It is preferable for you to be a slave far from home. Forget Jerusalem. If you fear your destiny and are terrified of death, remember that an even worse penalty is not being able to die, for death itself will be an end to your punishment. [Exit. Enter Zaccar.]
ZAC. Alas, I have dashed out of my house so that, being a father, I do not have to watch my son as my starving boy gives up the ghost. Half-alive, he hopefully dreams of food hovering in mid-air, moving his mouth in vain. Greedily he makes chewing motions, but instead of food he bites on deceptive air. Under the illusion that he is eating, he swallows. Farewell now, my son, farewell, solace of your father. I killed you with my own hands when in my misery I snatched a morsel of beef from your teeth. If you are praying for an avenger for this crime, famine, plunder and torture are inflicting sufficient vengeance on your father.
ACT IV, SCENE ii
A SMALL BOY, HIS MOTHER CHANNA
BOY Why, mother, do you snatch this morsel out of your son's jaws?
CHAN. Why are you accusing your mother? Famine seeps through my inmost bones, and this evil gives me no rest. Where am I not driven by my belly's madness? This horrible pestilence attacks me, flowing through all my veins.
BOY Mother, have pity!
CHAN. You wrap your tiny arms around my neck. In vain you mindlessly throw yourself into my embrace. Ah, why call me your mother, pitiable boy? Alas, the name of mother has perished. As long as nature ruled my heart I was a mother, but this rapacious famine has overturned the laws of nature, ordered these laws to keep their silence, mixed up everything, not knowing any furious limit to its evildoing. Is this a mother's heart? Woe for me! Where are parent's pious impulses? What kind of pangs did I suffer for nine months? Unhappy mother, will you let your child starve to death? Would that he had died on the day he was born! Hunger and piety fight within me. My child begs me, but hunger oppresses me more. It conquers with difficulty, but nonetheless it conquers. Shall I seem an impious mother? By your dutifulness you overcome your mother's evil impulses, my boy. Abandon life, mother, so that your child may live. But I have given life once already. His pleasure will be but trifling, if his mother dies before him. It has become a calamity for a person to live, not to die.
BOY I am dying of hunger.
CHAN. Would that you would die quickly! What good is there in dying a lingering death? Your end is at hand. If war's madness cannot butcher you, hunger will consume you and this will be an end to suffering. [Enter Miriam's maid.]
MAID What terrible storm is carrying me through the air? Ruler of heaven, quickly hide the sky in billowing clouds. Let the sun break off this day, tainted by sin, and sink his head in the ocean.
CHAN. Explain what great crime you are talking about.
MAID Does the holy offspring of our forefathers inhabit Jerusalem or Busiris, famous for his murderousness? Or the wicked race which dwells by the Caspian sea? Or is this the Danube, offering refuge to the wild Alani? This is a monstrosity undreamt-of by Procrustes. Oh, the terrible famine, the inanity which surpasses the famine, such as posterity will never believe! Oh, the woman's sad crime, horrible, barbaric. Oh, the mother's impious murder — and of her son! Oh, the unclean death! The baleful image hovers before my eyes. It will never cease assailing my mind.
CHAN. Has any mother ever been more sinful than me? Why is your mind so long uncertain? Describe the woman's unspeakable crime.
MAID Miriam, a rich widow of the common folk, who traces her ancestry to noble origins, fled her ancestral home and left her house in Peraea, since she feared the threat of the war, and trusted her life wholly to the city. Here she speedily transferred all of Fortunes gifts, the great wealth of her ancestors, her clothing, proudly dyed with vermillion, her artfully chased vases. When dire famine tortured her heart, her empty belly thought nothing shameful. She called out to mangy dogs, blind mice, and such sad fodder. Then, alas, her little boy, who suckled in vain at his mother's dry dugs, happened to cry out in his cradle. He was the sole consolation for his afflicted mother. Then she spoke sadly to her boy, sighing from deep within her breast, “Oh little son, what am I to do? War oppresses me, as do hunger and rapine. I shall save you from this evil. If the three Sisters keep on spinning your life's thread, the Romans threaten your neck with the yoke of slavery, your master's labor will bend your back. Famine, a worse thing than the yoke, will consume us, and the robbers will outdo even these threats. Take refuge far from this savagery, my child, in your mother's belly. This place is already familiar to you, do not fear it. It once nourished you when you were tiny. Here you will hide, quite safe. Give me back those limbs I gave to you. Now you are food for your mother. May you become a Fury to harass these robbers, and a lasting legend for posterity, as this is the only thing missing from the miseries of the Jews.”
Tears drenched her face. She groaned, soon her mind burned with madness, and she fell in a sudden stupor. A terrible sense of shame overcame her trembling cheeks. Wild impulses surged through her reeling mind. I wondered what threats her anguish portended. Soon she gazed at the little boy with a rolling eye, snatched him with a violent hand, and dragged him off. My trembling heart palpitated, since the mother seemed on the verge of some unspeakable crime. Alas, she quickly returned, carrying her son's sad remains. A sword protruded from a gruesome wound, her savage hand dripped with childish blood. Soon (oh, the ghastly outrage, so very horrible!) the mother carved her son into chunks. She set the head aside, the hands which had been entrusted to her care, the feet, lopped off from the legs. Boldly she transfixed the still-twitching limbs on a spit. Her veins throbbed and her frenzy brooked no delay. The fire stood still, trying to escape. Soon, as if excited by a greater impulse, it blazed up. The horrible sizzling bears witness to her crime.
CHAN. Woe's me, can there be any greater sin?
MAID After the fire unwillingly cooked off this wicked meal, the mother ate with her foul mouth. When this murderous dinner had sated her hunger, she set the remaining food aside for tomorrow. She hid the sinful meal in a secret place, trying to outwit the soldiers' rapacious hunger. But you are accomplishing nothing. Poor woman, eat all the food at a single sitting, do not think you are safe from famine because you have set back a portion. Vainly you try to hide your outrage A robber will discover your hoard, following his nose, and you will not be your son's only sepulcher. Do not try to deny the thieves their share. But why should I delay clearing off the ghastly table? [Exit.]
CHAN. Oh, the horrible crime, so grim, so bestial! Oh, city of David, can you support such a foul deed? Angry Father, hurl down Your avenging torches from all the sky, take revenge for this ungrateful sin with Your blood-reddened hand. But some soldiers are approaching, thanks to whose wildness holy Israel is in travail. They are sniffing out the wretched mother's dinner. ([Enter Alanus and Jonathas.] Let them fight togeather a litle for the meat.)
AL. Jonathas, I order you not to touch that food.
JON. Let cold steel be the judge. I care nothing for your threats. But in the meantime let's break in, so that they don't gobble down their food.
CHAN. The bars are loosened, the door's opening. [The curtain to Miriam's “house” opens, revealing the woman within.]
MIR. A chill of terror shoots through my trembling limbs. What limit is there to your robbery? Will no food remain safe from you?
JON. You horrible woman, why mock these soldiers to their face? If you do not yourself hand over the food you are hoarding, a dire sword will make you give up your hateful ghost.
MIR. Don't get your heart in an uproar, I've reserved a choice morsel for you. You'll have something to eat. No woman could take better care of you. I have prepared my very guts for you to eat. For your benefit, I, a mother, have not spared my son. (Then let her shew the head, an arme, one legg, and some part else roasted.) This was my meal, here is your share. Make sure I have not deceitfully hidden something away. This is one of the hands which pledged loyalty to me. Here is a foot, torn off its leg, and half a torso. And I saved the head just for you. This is a mother's son, this was my crime.
Oh dear son, sweet to me in your life, even sweeter in your death, you have been made into a meal for your mother, and you make this enemy my friend. He entered this house as a fierce homicide, he has been made a gentle fellow-banqueter. This famished man will have that which will put him in my debt, when he has gorged on your limbs. To this has hunger's necessity driven your mother. Absolve your mother of her guilt in this criminal deed.
[To the soldiers.] Why are you edging away? Why are your minds shuddering? I, the mother, set this table. Taste how sweet is my child's meet. I am not hungry, I am glutted, I know no hunger. My son has fed his mother sufficiently. See how shameful it is for you, if a woman has more courage than men in eating human flesh. I do not wish you to be more cowardly than a woman, nor to outdo a mother in piety. But if you would rather pretend to be virtuous, and will not have pity on my wound, if you reject my guest-offering, I myself shall make the sacrifice. The rest of my cooked child remains for me. (Let her draw the Curtaine.)
AL. Oh, the woman's horrible deed, at which posterity will wonder, even if perhaps it does not believe that anybody can eat human flesh! Nobody will treat himself to such a feast or, if he does, parents will spare their unhappy children. You, madwoman, are not afraid to devour your son with that murderous mouth of yours. I shall call you no more by the name of mother. You surpass the Hircanian tigers in your fury. A woman gave a Thracian tyrant his son to eat, but she did not herself cook and eat the boy. You will never fear the infamy of your wicked crime. Chew your son, ferocious mother, roast him on a reluctant fire. You possess the child you destroyed — don't be afraid!
JON. Why shed tears on your child's tiny limbs or bemoan your terrible lot in life, evil mother? You kiss your son, you who are planning on soon tearing at him with your atrocious teeth. Who can read about this without having his face contract in amazement?
ACT IV, SCENE iii
Coward, why hesitate to find a way to death? Do you not fear the shameful yoke? Do you want to lead a disgraceful life at Rome? The sword can enliven your tardy fate. Plunge the welcome steel deep within your breast. [He stabs himself and dies. Enter Saboch, a cup in his hand.]
SAB. Since I cannot sate my horrible hunger with food, I am greedily drinking his baleful hemlock. In my stomach the hemlock and the hunger are waging a war against each other. A cold sweat creeps over all my limbs. The poison is prevailing. My languid body shakes, I fall in a faint, I die. [He does so. Enter Alkim.]
ALK. Your lungs drag in exhausted breaths. Why deny yourself your ancestral tomb? This is no life we are leading, it has become death. Take yourself off to the sad sepulcher. It is sufficient for you to die in safety. Farewell, city. [Exit. Enter the Temple Warden.]
WARD. How long will this stubborn evil rage in the city, troubling our afflicted households with raging murder? This surfeit of death outnumbers our tombs, our tombs become burial-places for strangers. This murderous pestilence mixes fathers with children, husbands with wives, mothers with sons. No age or sex is exempt from destruction. More than seven hundred thousand dead lie on the ground, carried out the gates. The pits we dig are not sufficient for all the bodies. [Enter Schior, carrying a body.]
SCHI. A son, I carry my father's lifeless body. Accept your son's tears, a small deceptive act. My terror forbids me from mourning you openly. But I shall be your companion in death. I, the son, will share my father's fate. ([He dies.] Let corses be brought out of the Citty, but not in sheets such as have killed themselves, some halters about their necks, some a dagger sticking in them etc. Let them continue in burying, and let some fall downe dead that bring Corses.)
WARD. Why is this robber opening the son's side with his sword? Why is this soldier wounding a lifeless corpse? His cruel hand gropes in the exposed entrails to see if, while still alive, the man had swallowed gold with his greedy mouth, thinking it would be safely stored in his belly. Look at how they are devouring his shoes, gnawing them with their fierce teeth! (Let the seditious kill them that bury others and after open them.).
ACT IV, SCENE iv
TITUS [To his soldiers.]
Fellow Romans, we are scarcely waging war against human beings, but with beasts or with something that surpasses the beasts in savagery. For even if the beasts of the field prey on weaker animals, they abstain killing their own kind. You Jews surpass the inhumanity of rocks — that a mother should cut up her child and put him in a slow-cooking pot, so that she might consign kindred limbs to her murderous maw! Let them claim that their race is heaven-descended, that the fearful waters receded, that they walked through the ocean's waves with dry feet. Let them brag that the amazed sun stood stock-still in the sky until they routed their enemy in battle. Let them claim that they fought with the help of the angels of heaven, that they received food out of the sky, that the waters of the Jordan receded to their source. I would be willing to accept that that that man was snatched up to heaven in his chariot with miraculous fire — but not so that they grow so arrogant that they imagine they cannot be conquered by the Romans. I realize that in this war we are fighting against people who believe they cannot be defeated by any enemy's courage. They think they are heirs of the rivers, walkers-through of the sea, mere guests on this planet. They think that they can walk on air. Fire is afraid to harm them, water gushes out of wounds in arid rocks. Loaves of bread come a-flying out of the sky like so many hailstones. A dense cloud of birds covers the fields. The dead quit their graves and live again. What more can this blessed nation hope for? They claim to have fought against the gods, like so many giants. The penalty for this misdeed was as an emblem to them. The Jews say that heaven opened up and rained fire, that the ground opened and swallowed up many men.
But why waste time on these topics? For here they claim a dead thing, as meaningless as the shadows cast by the waves. Outside the Jews are flowers, inside they are ashes. I regard them as so many inhabitants of Hell and the Underworld, where piety does not exist. Parents do not know how to love their children, a mother does not feel any loving-kindness, nature does not move them. But I am talking about recent things. Their leaders claim that their ultimate ancestor was the murderer of a close relative. They call Abraham their father, the founder of their religion. They boast about this man's outstanding piety because he, a father, did not think that his son should be rescued, but brought him to the altar as a sacrificial victim. I do not condemn his loyalty to God, but I question his piety. Another Jew made a vow to sacrifice the first thing he encountered after he had successfully defeated his enemy in battle, and this father is said to have laid cruel hands on his daughter, because she had the misfortune to meet her father by accident. What manner of nation is this which attributes murderousness to religion, or calls infanticide by the name of sacrifice? What kind of god makes such a demand? What kind of priest makes such offerings? Oh, what an immoral city, which maintains such traditions! Wicked city, flee the sight of the sun, lest the daylight reveal your blemishes.
A man who had timidly swallowed gold in his refugee's stomach, seeking to cheat the Roman camp, was found out while by himself, trying in secret to purge his belly. The rumor of this reached our soldiers' ears. So the men immediately put up blockades on all the roads and my untrustworthy, stinking Arabs probed their quivering guts with their terrible swords (I shudder to mention the outrage of that savage nation). Now a twitching body cannot hit the ground before their unfeeling hands are plunged within, rifling the recesses of its belly. I call the gods to witness that this is not a Roman crime. In the sight of Whoever You are that rules the heaven, I disassociate myself from this outrage. As general, I now give issue this command to my soldiers: let nobody dare lay cruel hands on the Jews, but deal with them according to law. If a man dares hunt for gold by thrusting his greedy hand in somebody's still-trembling entrails, let him beheaded, and let no Arab dare follow my standard. There are two thousand ruffians who are guilty of this murderous crime, and who have profited from it. Let a careful judge share out their gains among the Jews, for this will console the rest for the unjust slaughter of their fellows. Let the rest of the Arab contingent be punished with banishment. [Enter Josephus, escorting some prominent Jewish refugees, of whom Manasche is the spokesman. At the same time, enter the soldier Ebutius.]
JOS. Exalted prince, world's great glory, on their knees these suppliants hold out their hands, pledging themselves, their wives and sweet children to you. They used to be honored leaders within the city. Help these poor people.
TIT. Let no chill fear strike your astonished heart. I have already learned of your hardships. But tell me how things stand in Jerusalem.
MAN. Those who have been spared by war's insanity, by devastation and rapine, are now beset by a killing famine. The madness of their bellies has no horror of foul nutrition, compelling nature's laws to hold their silence. The son coolly watches his father die after he has snatched away his food. The famished father cheats his son and wrests away his unidentifiable meal. But these are trifles. A savage mother has cut up her son's limbs, fixed them on spits, and cooked them in a pot. Seethed, he tosses about in the vessel, and the mother eats her own flesh with her sinful mouth. So in devising one crime she has committed two. She makes her own body her children's tomb.
TIT. Oh, the mother's wicked abomination, the horrible crime! I call on you gods, protectors of the pious, to witness that I never had any part in this outrage. These people refuse to enter into a peace on fair terms, nor does my mildness sweeten their belligerent spirits. How often have I freely promised to spare them, and protect them as subjects with my own hand! How many have died within the city?
MAN. Not far away in the city seven hundred thousand and five hundred men lie in their graves. In addition, Menache saw one hundred and fifteen thousand and eight hundred dead citizens of good family being carried out of a small gate. I shall not mention the corpses of powerful citizens laid low throughout the city by this ghastly pestilence, as food for the dogs. Any house you choose to mention has become a mortuary.
TIT. Oh, the stubborn insanity of their factious minds! Let anybody who has stolen gold out of men's intestines suffer the harshest punishment by the sword.
ER. [To himself.] What shall I do? If I keep quiet about my guilt, Titus will detect my fraud with that keen intelligence of his, even if I bury it deep within my breast. [Aloud.] Great prince, as a suppliant I grovel at your feet and appeal for your mercy. Forgive this miserable person. I have done evil. I have disemboweled citizens and probed for gold in their guts. I do not deny my crime.
TIT. Rascal, is your mad mind so greedy for gold that you grope through men's still-twitching guts? Soon you will be hot enough. You will be shut inside a furnace, where the fire can broil you. [Ebutius is dragged off.]
[To one of his officers.] You, minister to these people by giving them food, so that they can furiously down a meal with their parched mouths. But what's this? They are dying for joy in the sight of food. As they eat meat it sticks in their throats and they choke. The weak power of their teeth does them no good, so that the undigested food sticks in their craws, unable to find a way. Feeding them does them harm.
JOS. You should have first given them easily-digestible food, as if they were infants. Food mixed with this honey here will soothe their vitals. My skill has already taught me how to deal with starving men by mollifying those who are harsh of body, using such a juice. [Exeunt all but Titus. Enter Zacharias bar Amphical and some other Zealots.]
ZACH. Magnanimous general, worthy son of Caesar, our sense of shame has made us force our way out of the city, in order humbly to kiss your feet. We are Zealots, we freely confess it. Alas, we are ashamed to live in such a disgraceful city. Now, alas, it is accounted a small thing to plunder Jerusalem, as are theft, rapine, devastation, arson. This is an old thing. Behold, right and law are shattered, nor does our sinfulness stop there. A mother has cut her son into gobbets and eats her own flesh with her impious mouth. The Zealots themselves are stupefied. They cannot tolerate this monstrous deed and, hanging their heads, curse this mother. Our warlike band also prays to Fortune that we be given death. How can I say how miserable this spectacle is? Women lie dead in their beds. Bodies of old men fill the streets. Men in the prime of their lives stumble about half-dead, only the outline of a human being remains. They lose their strength. You can see the figure of a human body, but it will no longer perform its offices. And, alas, people rip the shrouds off the dead and mock their privy parts, using them to test the sharpness of their swords. Alas, I am ashamed to say this, I am ashamed. Nature and propriety are held in no honor. They deny death to the poor folk who beg for it, so that the famine might torment them all the more. But the dead are not without their vengeance. A living body cannot get revenge, but a dead one can. The putrid stench of so many unburied corpses fills our noses, while we brood on God, the Avenger of sin. The mind shudders at continuing to live in this abandoned city. Your clemency remains the sole refuge for us ruined folk.
TIT. You people should have no fear, even if you are Zealots. Nobody among my men will harm you. Henceforth I want you to follow my standards in battle. Soon my other ram will bash its way into the city. Let Jerusalem lie in total collapse.
Go to Act V of the Third Action