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ACT IV, SCENE i
ANANI [On the wall, accompanied by Jehoshue the priest.] When the Zealots learned of our warlike preparations and the citizens’ belligerent dispositions, they burned with anger, craving revenge. When I began to inspect our military units, making my dispositions as leader, they suddenly swooped on the city, abandoning the Temple, and attacked our unsuspecting citizenry. Whoever stood in their way was cut down. In her black robe wild Death ran through the city. I hastened to oppose my forces to the enemy. The citizens were superior in numbers, the Zealots were better armed. Eagerness supplied what was lacking for both sides: the citizens’ anger was better than weapons, the Zealots’ boldness better than numbers. The citizens thought there would be no place left them in the city if the Zealots prevailed, while the Zealots feared that if the citizens were to win there would be no punishment to which they would not be subjected. The two sides hurled stones at each other, fighting fiercely. Whenever someone turned his back on the enemy the warlike victor would use his sword to force him back to the fight. On both sides, bloody-mindedness led to the infliction of great injuries. Wounded citizens retreated to their home, while God’s Temple was the only place available for the brigands. It was completely bathed in blood. The Zealots fared better in their sally, but the citizens, well perceiving this and excited by anger, redoubled the number of their followers and challenged their enemies to a new fight. They exhorted each other, rebuking cowards. The people on our side, attacking the Zealots from the rear, cut off their line of retreat and they, unable to withstand the citizens’ onslaught, fled to the sacred precinct. The Zealots, having thus suffered a reverse, mistrusted the Temple’s outer perimeter and retired to its inner recesses, shutting the gate with full speed. I am displeased that they laid hands on the sacred portals. From above the enemies threw down missiles, although routed in the fight. I think it sinful to allow the blood-stained populace into the Temple, they should wash themselves in holy water first. We have six thousand men camped out in the portico; others are ordered to relieve these men in turn. [Enter Maneh.]
MAN. Oh, foulest traitor to your nation! Oh, the perfidious captain and perjured leader!
AN. Whom are you accusing of treason?
MAN. Has his fawning and cringing escaped your notice? His perjury in the Lord’s name? He wanted to be privy to the leading citizens’ counsels so as to betray their secrets to the Zealots.
AN. Who are you calling a traitor?
MAN. Jehochanan, that treacherous leader Jehochanan! When at your bidding he went into the Temple, in the secret recesses of which the Zealots passed their time, so that he might take part in their deliberations, this wretch did not play the even-minded arbiter urging peace, or win them over with his gentle words. Rather, disloyal to his oath, he excited their fierce minds with his complaints. Standing in their midst, he said with a cracked voice, “Men, why are we asleep? Why are we contriving delays? Anani burns with his malignant hatreds. Your band, unfamiliar with such rage, is marked for death. How many perils I have unhappily had to avoid, in order to reveal to you such secrets? Even though I have been an ambassador to you, it is a good thing that I am able to report to you about the High Priest’s crime. He proffers a false treaty so that he can exterminate you by his malicious arts. Very clever. Anani lays traps for you, threatening you with that gloriously livid face of his, working himself up into a frenzy of destruction against you — if God does not interpose His saving hand. You must find a remedy suitable for such an evil. Either stretch forth your suppliant hands as you are besieged, or call on outside help.” Happy at this announcement, this race, arrogant in its pride and ignorant of peace, is preparing for war and now is finding its way to Jerusalem with a large army. [Exit.]
AN. I wonder why news of these people escapes me, since I have faithful lookouts camped out on all the highways, exercising extreme vigilance. It is best to anticipate our enemies by softening these men’s hard hearts with friendly words. Let the city gate be closed. For I see that now it is better to address them from the walls. [Enter, below, Jacob bar Sosa, an Idumaean general, and his followers.]
Whence do you come? What is the meaning of this armed band? Against whom are you preparing war?
JEH. While many woes of the city are besetting us, this is the most unfair, that Fortune bestows all good things on the wicked. For if she were not favoring the Zealots, there is no way in which this Idumaean nation, kindred to our own, could be sent against our inviolate city with a warlike array, against the ashes of our ancestors and our altars. Thus you are encompassing war and those things which accompany war: slaughter, ruination, and the final destruction of this city. But this is a small, trivial matter. See what kind of people Fortune has bound you to in the doing of this great wrong. Whatever has ever belonged to the tribe of the abandoned and the damned, whatever has been scraped together from the dregs of our population by desire for revolution, arrogant luxury-seeking, impotent desire, and an unfortunate thirst for our blood, these are the man by whom your arms are enslaved. Is this not like a baleful portent and an unspeakable omen, that so many captains distinguished by virtue, that these fighting standards of yours, that men of such notable birth are helping the sordid offscouring of the world, such wicked men, and this against their own holy city and the tombs of their ancestors? Unless we misinterpret your murmurs, you seem to us to have heard something abut a compact, about a base treaty with Caesar, and so you have marched against us with these people. Oh, what outrageous, what impious plans of these rascals, mixing slander in with their cruel insults! They think that they could not otherwise incite noble men against us in their extreme evildoing, unless they concocted the disgraceful tale that we are trying to betray the city to the enemy. But to you, distinguished progeny of Judah, it is reasonable to cast the light of your intelligence higher and not to believe what this mob claims or what rumor fabricates. Rather you should evaluate things, weighing the arguments and the credibility of the witnesses. What new thing have we suffered? What recent evil oppresses us to that we now take wish to consign our city to the enemy’s yoke, we who have previously taken up arms with this intention, that the city henceforth not be compelled to tolerate foreign masters?
But they have another argument. Now we have begun to be afraid. Shattered by panic, exhausted by the killing, we are brooding about peacetime. And this is a foul crime, to think about peace as if things were as they should be, when everything is ablaze with the sword and arson. Galilee, lately put under the yoke, has unreasonably uplifted our enemies’ harsh dispositions. But we are not so dispirited and abject that we want to buy a little extra bit of life from the Romans at the cost of such wickedness. Rather, in order that the truth might finally emerge, say whether the people voted this by public decree or whether we leading men have negotiated with the enemy. If they accuse us, let them reveal who was our ambassador or spokesman regarding such a peace. Who has testified about this great evil? Show some documents. If any such evidence exists, what prevents us from being openly accused of wrongdoing? If there is not, why do they secretly spread rumors which they cannot prove? Soon they shall spring to arms to avoid being put on trial. Wearing armor, lying rumor prevails, as does bold madness. But sincere reasonableness and nourishing truth are wont to be associated with peace and quiet. Or suppose the blame for seeking such a peace falls on the people at large: then the Zealots must argue that it is necessary that the people assemble for such a deliberation. For there is no advantage in plotting a crime openly. Who can ever believe that what was done in broad daylight, in the very market place, would long escape you? These are the highly unconvincing fictions of scoundrels, who are only acting this way lest they be brought to book, who are scandalously mocking the threats of the law. See how all legality is now mistreated. The bonds of the law are broken. Violence holds sway over pillaging, and an insane blood-lust. In the middle of the market-place noblemen are snatched off to their death, and only torture, the prison cell and chains await good men. No family is without grief.
You may enter the city immediately, if you leave behind your weapons. And you may see how miserable is our nation, what atrocities it suffers. I shall not waste time describing the nefarious assaults of these most savage assassins. These are trifling matters. Their cruelty outmatches that of tyrants and raging barbarians, since they do not only dare outrage men and their fatherland. They scarcely hesitate to insult the Lord Himself and to lay violent hands on God. Altars are defiled, the sacred rites lie silent, and the holy Temple swims with waves of blood. What was recently a house of piety and peace is now dominated by the Furies and madness. This shrine, once famous among all the inhabitants of the world, is now trampled. But if you are here as champions of our metropolis, you should join us in avenging their crimes and deceits, since they invite you here as their protectors when they should fear you as avengers. But if this seems over-harsh, at least grant this. With your weapons set aside, come into the city as civilians, or rather as friends, and put out the sad fires of civil strife. This is fair, this is pious. If it does not suit you to sit as judges or punish them as our champions, then you should be neutral, separating yourselves from both sides, neither filling us with fear or those men with hope. Nor should you be amazed that this gate is closed to you. We are shutting out war, not you. Of our own will we urge you to enter without your weapons. Our gates lie open for unarmed men.
JAC. If any man is not yet ashamed that the innocent Zealots, whom they held shut up in the sacred Temple, are suffering from undeserved chains and the outrage of dire imprisonment, let today disabuse him of that error. For — oh, the wrongness of it! — they make speeches from the walls and here at the very threshold they exclude us from our forefathers’ rites. Rights of blood-ties, of kinship, of alliance count for nothing. Surround the gate with a strong band of men. Our enemies are approaching, and soon they will try to prepare a way into the city for the Roman soldiers. But we, although we are Idumaeans, are thrust away. We alone are rejected. Are we to think that they are speaking to us in earnest, when they appoint us as judges but refuse to accept us within the walls? The loyalty of these men is questionable, since they speak to us from the turrets and battlements of the walls. But they kept concealed from us the things they are now doing within the city. We shall be the judge of the injuries we have suffered — and soon we shall be the avengers, if we are brave men, if we are Idumaeans. So why are we delaying? Should we not break down the gates? Should we not carve a way for ourselves with our weapons, and rescue the prisoners from their bondage? Shall we allow these people, freed from the Temple, to be given over immediately to their enemies for punishment and, as so much good booty, to be dragged off to slavery at Rome? So come, forestall such a crime. Use your arms to rescue these poor fellows from prison. They committed the capital crime of wanting to defend their nation, repel the enemy, punish traitors, and remove domestic tyranny from the necks of their fellow citizens.
Thus with equal injury these people, who urge us to lay down our weapons and hold forth our our unarmed hands, lock us out and lock the Zealots in. They accuse these poor and helpless men whom they are barricading of seeking tyranny over others. Why should we be swept away by their lies? The matter itself speaks plainly. If these people you claim to be tyrants have done anything amiss, their greatest crime is that they do not allow traitors to exist in the city — the men whom you call noble and upright. The Zealots have spared you, who are complicit in this evil and to whom the charge of betraying the city is more fitting. But even if they decided to act more gently than is reasonable, it will be our duty to rescue the Temple and the city, and not only to oppose ourselves to the enemy, but also to root out domestic deceits and to wreak our vengeance on both. In the meantime, it behooves us to wait before the walls under arms, until either the Romans abandon their siege or the Zealots free their people from tyranny.
[Aside.] What are we doing? They forbid us to enter the city. Should we put up with such a great insult? But I fear the power of the Zealots’ leader, since they have not helped us as we tried to enter the city. It would shame us to return home without accomplishing our task, so now we must pitch camp in a safe place. Tomorrow in a council of war we shall decide what to do. ([Exit, leaving Anani and Jehoshue on the wall.] Let it rayne thunder and lighten and in the greatest thunder let a noise bee within the Temple, as breaking the barrs and opening the locks.)
AN. Behold, the sinking sun has bathed his head in the waters and the air thickens with gathering clouds. The sky is drenched with the rain’s great waters, and vengeful thunderbolts are hurled across the sky. How this downpour strikes the earth! The raging south wind gathers his boiling storms with their black wings. The heaven’s expanse glitters with blazing lightning, filling the sky with terrific peals of thunder. Flashing Olympus fulminates with his angry fires. See how each guard keeping his vigil on the wall fearfully abandons the ramparts, how flight scatters the amazed chief citizens. Such is the madness of the horribly storming sky.
Unless meaningless omens are deceiving my mind, the Father of the world, displaying His kindly face, will gird Himself with heaven’s threats and, as our avenger, will shatter the Romans’ proud spirits. Why does this storm strike fear into my heart? Though bitter Fate threatens us terribly, the Almighty will smite our enemy in their breasts, God will pierce their hearts with His wounding shafts, He will shatter the hateful darts of their bloody lances, mindful of the Covenant. He will blast the chariots of the mighty to ashes. God holds the wide world’s reins. The sun, who looks down on the lands from his brilliant post in the sky, is now covered with a cloud of wild rain, he puts on the black murk of pallid night. Flames fly before the sparkling lightning-bolt. The astonished earth quakes, fearfully acknowledging the presence of the Lord. The mountains’ rocks grow loose and dissolve in His presence, just as wax melts in the presence of burning fire.
JEH. Alas, I am doubtful about this great storm. Fortune is wont to give men premonitions of baleful calamities. The Ruler of heaven wraps the entire world in these billowing clouds. He gives us a light of warning with His great fires. I am ashamed, yes I am ashamed to have crucified the Son of the Thunderer on a falsified capital charge. Afterwards His Father lifted Him up to a heavenly seat among the beautiful company of angels and seated Him on His right hand, so that His Son might share His throne. The Levite, afterwards repentant, supervised the throwing of the rattling stones when that man underwent the first contest of the faith in his pure way and stood as a victim before our altars, so that by his death he might earn the martyr’s crown. Did not Christ foretell all these things? May God avert this cruel omen! [Exeunt.] Let here againe be thundering. [Enter Jacob bar Sosa and his men, below.]
JAC. How the night looms, now that daylight is gone! The moon denies her vague light to the heaven. The sky is concealed by these dreadful storms. How foully the sky bulges with clouds! The light-proclaiming owl does not croak with its hoarse voice, nor do the sinister screech-owls proclaim their dire omens. Now it happens that few guards keep vigil on the walls, while this raging storm strikes the blinded sky. Protected by the shield in his left hand, each of us can fit ladders to the unprotected walls. But what’s this? All of a sudden the city gates are being opened. [Jehochanan and his men appear on the wall. Sounds of heavy labor are heard from within.]
JEH. Let the doors of the Temple be broken, providing us with a way out. Released from our holy prison, let us hasten, having first killed the guards on the wall, to bring the Idumaeans into the city so that they might join forces with us. While the angry heaven thunders its violence, let your threatening hammers strike their hard blows, and with their iron let them bite into the resounding wood of the gate, so that the loud noise will escape the ears of the citizens. (<Let here bee noise of the Temple Gates broken down> and dead men cast over the walls and out of the Gates. [Enter Jehochanan and his followers from the gate.]) But what’s this? An armed band of soldiers is at hand.
JAC. Does the High Priest intend to besiege our camp? Draw your swords.
JEH. Who comes near? The Idumaean army approaches.
JEH. Your arrival is welcome.
JAC I shall never break my faith. What do you want me to do?
JEH. I suddenly attacked the guards and killed them. The way into the city is open for you.
JAC. Why are we not turning our hands against the city?
JEH. We must not attack rashly. With the garrison killed off, let us forcibly rescue our allies pent up in the holy shrine, so that they might join forces with us in our enterprise. Soon we shall attack our enemies with a blind assault. First let Anani the priest pay the price, and also his partner in crime Jehoshue. Let the both of them give up the ghost to the sword.
JAC. A faithful ally, I obey your order. ([Exeunt.] Heere after some noise of killing within the Cittye. Let Alkim leap over the Walls.)
ALK. See, at last the moon has left the sky empty, and its shining escort of stars has followed their leader. The returning dawn empurples the hazy sky. What manner of evil has suddenly beset the city during the night? This great shouting and the unknown crime being committed this night compel me to jump over the walls. Everywhere the sad groans of our citizens are sounding. Suddenly some grave uproar is oppressing the city. Would that the rosy day would reveal whatever evil has been freely committed under the cloak of black night! But who hastens here? [Enter Saboch.]
SAB. You Who rule heaven’s court by Your will, put an end to this foul murder of our citizens.
ALK. Tell me tonight’s sad misfortune.
SAB. When, thanks to the treachery of that depraved captain Jehochanan, the gate was opened for the Idumaeans, immediately they rushed to the Temple in order that the liberated Zealots could join ranks with them. The Temple guard put up a resistance, vainly offering battle. As soon as the fight was joined they were slaughtered, and the armed gang swept through the city. Men’s shouting and bugle calls started up. I climbed up to my rooftop, pricking up my ears. Behold, the Idumaeans’ treachery was then revealed: our enemies’ deceit became obvious. Everywhere was the lamentation of the citizens, the groans, the terror, and many bodies were strewn in the streets. The image of death loomed on all sides. Every kind of indignity could be seen. At the same time the sword, once polluted with this bloodshed, the dark night, and unhappy sorrow all struck at us. I saw them racing to Anani’s house and its entranceway besieged. His doors quickly yielded to the blows of a battering-ram and the interior of his house lay open when the doors gaped wide. The sun buries his head in a dark cloud, afraid to betray this night’s unspeakable crime. But what’s this? Alas, they are dragging the High Priest’s lifeless corpse. Anani lies slain. (Let the bodies of Anani and Jehoshue be layed on the stage. [Enter Jehochanan.])
JEH. Where is Anani’s sanctity now? Where is his loyalty, so sacrosanct? Where is that virtue of his, so praised? Now crow about your ancestral pedigree and the adulation of your fellow citizens. Now boast that you were once the champion of their liberty. Now, Jehoshue, stand on the ramparts and accuse us of being criminals, now denounce us as traitors for the benefit of newcomers. [Exit.]
SAB. Why, you of the Caucasus, do you steel your unfriendly mind and nourish a hard heart, nor in your cruelty allow yourself to be bent? Why are you afraid of crying, you cruel monster? Pour forth tears, unknown to you until now. Who can remain dry-eyed in the midst of such evils? Famous Anani lies, cruelly cut down, an aged priest who deserved a longer life. The unclean race of Abraham does not fear to lay hands on the Lord’s anointed. He stretched forth his suppliant hands and averted our angry God’s threats, making Him friendly to His people once more. Our High Priest did not obtain his life from these impious men. A feckless peasant holds office, a mockery of our great God. The amazed people bow to this fellow, dressed up in the holy vestments, and the man in whose sight the fierce gentile cringed, fearing to touch, on him his own fellow citizens have laid bloody hands.
ACT IV, SCENE ii
Let a Souldier carry Zachiarias a Nobleman over the stage.
ZACH. Where are you dragging me? Is the tyrant about to put the crown on our miseries with my murder? Does God elicit no sense of shame on earth? Abraham’s polluted offspring have no fear of the great Thunderer’s fires. [Exeunt. Enter Jiptach, whipping a citizen.]
JIP. Now we have full authority to pass judgment on crimes. Why are you whimpering? I shall load your back with lashes. When your body can no longer withstand torture, my cruel sword will open up your guts. [Exeunt. Enter Pudens, likewise prodding forward a victim.]
PUD. Stubborn captive, mulish, treacherous! Your limbs, flayed with the whips, make no impression on you, and no pain can provoke your tears. How much pleasure I derive from contemplating the various ways with which the torturer is having his fun with you! I shall hardly let you die — I shall take proper vengeance on you. [Exeunt. Enter Magassal, driving his victim.]
MAG. Now where are your cruel nation’s great threats? Why does no Roman soldier rescue you from me? I am not able to laugh enough. And so the torturer will grin when you feel his savage blows. I will skin all your backs with my whips. (Let diverse Souldiers whip in like sort diverse mutes; and after the Curtaines <be> drawen, let certain meane citizens representing the 72 seniors sitt in councell.)
ACT IV, SCENE iii
MANNEH, SABOCH, ALKIM, JEHOCHANAN, ZACHARIAS
MAN. Why do the insane Zealots compel us men of the lower sort to sit as jurors? To make seventy men pass judgment on such a case, which belongs by right to the senior tribes? There is no lawful authority in us. But our shameful fear makes us follow their orders. Our leading citizens are being dragged off to jail. What can we unfortunate commoners do? Alas, Jehochanan is dragging Zacharias, bound in chains, a man distinguished for his virtue and his wealth.
JEH. I say this man deserves to die, gentlemen of the jury, because he furtively sought to betray the city to the Romans and sent letters to Vespasian, saying that he should immediately occupy the city by force, and that the way into Jerusalem was open for him.
ZACH. Unjustly you say I deserve to die, I did not try to betray the city to our enemies. If you claim that I am guilty of treason, who is your witness? Where are these letters? What proofs are there of my crime? Who testified under oath? Explain my contrivances. Why am I, an innocent man, being destroyed without a fair trial? Is this the reward I get for having defended our city? Is this what Zacharias is known for? Do the jurymen see all my scars? As a brave man, did I risk my head in all those dangers so that a hostile gang of fellow-citizens could wound me with bald-faced slanders? How often did Jehochanan attempt to ensnare Josephus in his traps? What ambushes did he set for his general when he sought to be the sole ruler of that province? But I shall not talk about Galilee or general Josephus. How many leading citizens of this city did he cruelly enchain and butcher? Our citizen body is practically extinct because of all these murders, committed so that this depraved captain could plunder everything according to his whim and wield the scepter in this city with his own hand, the reward of this awful slaughter. ( [He is dragged off to the Temple.] When Zacharias hath spoken, let the seditious draw their swordes as sore offended.)
JEH. Restrain yourselves, soldiers. Let the judges cast their votes. I say this man betrayed his nation to our enemies. Why does it trouble you to punish such manifest wrongdoing? I demand, jurymen, that you cast your sentence. Openly state your opinion about this man.
SAB. Innocent. (And so the rest of the bench.)
MAN. I think this man’s accusation on a capital charge was unjust. (Then let the Souldiers make a great shout.) The Zealots’ outcry rises to heaven. My hair stands on end. They are stabbing Zacharias in the very Temple.
JEH. You have my verdict, more certain than your deliberations. Heave this rebel off the Temple roof down into the valley below. The power of judging was given to you so that traitors would pay the penalty, so why did you absolve this man who betrayed his nation? My soldiers, can you tolerate this unworthy misdeed? Chase the jurymen out of their benches. But I do not wish them to die, so that they may spread throughout the city and act as heralds, informing their fellow citizens of their servitude. ([Exeunt omnes, except for Arsimon and Jacob bar Sosa.] Let them be present at the former judgement.])
ARS. Oh glory of the Idumaean line, famous captain, I am troubled with uncertainty why you have been gulled and applaud this unspeakable crime with friendly hands. The Zealots are raging with their bloodstained weapons. Everywhere they are plundering their own people with a blind onrush. Recently you took up arms against our leaders, deceived into thinking that they would soon turn our capital Jerusalem over to the enemy, but there has been no evidence that they have acted contrary to law. I swear by God in Heaven, I say this against my will. Now these men are not bothering with robbery, they are plunging headlong into murder. All the shadows of the night cannot hide their crimes, nor has there been any discrimination of social class or station. They have savagely killed noble Antipas, born of the royal blood, also Sophas bar Raguel and Levias, belonging to the royal stock on both sides, as well as many other noblemen. The anxious populace is quaking with the greatest fear, as if the city’s final day has dawned. Nor has this ferocious gang rested content with throwing our leading citizens in prison. Thinking it insufficiently safe for our leaders just to be imprisoned in a dark cell, they immediately ordered these innocent men to be put to death on a trumped-up charge of treason. They thundered that their victims were enemies of freedom, so that by means of these deceits Jehochanan might pave his way to domination over the city and sate his lust for wicked plundering. The amazed populace does not dare take up arms, as they see so many of their leaders being executed.
Therefore, no matter how honeyed the words that pour forth from the Zealots’ mouths, should you not drive this pestilence from the city, girded as they are with bloodied swords? But perhaps the Zealots think that you will assume responsibility for this massacre. You swore your loyalty to them. I shall not denounce things that have already occurred. Just assume the responsibility for making an end of all these evils. If you are still angry that your entrance into the city was blocked, see how the authors of this misdeed have atoned with their blood. Anani lies dead. In one night virtually the whole population has been wiped out. The majority of your men repent themselves of this slaughter, when they are obliged to witness the cruel crimes of those who had previously invited you into the city. The Zealots make you principals in this matter because you tolerate their crimes. People will blame you for their misdeeds, since they see you unconcernedly witnessing all these atrocities. Since this slander about betraying the city has been exposed for what it is, and there is no threat from the Romans, you should now march your army back home, rejecting any intercourse with these evil people. At length purge yourselves of the crimes in which these rascals have involved you by fraud.
JAC. When I came here recently, summoned by the Zealots to defend God’s Temple with my armed hand, it scarcely entered my head that the priests would fall before the altar, victims themselves. I realize the extravagances of war’s insanity, but the awful rites of our jealous God have softened my soldiers’ fierce spirits. What greater evil could madness commit than to drench the Temple with consecrated blood? If anybody is attempting to betray the city to the Romans, let the leaders of the conspiracy pay the penalty for this crime. Our rage should hardly be inflicted on the common people.
ARS. So now you should remove your army from the city and free our citizens from their great fear of your violence.
JAC. In compliance with your request, I shall quickly seek Idumaea. ([Exeunt.] Let the Curtaines be drawne and Amittai and other Preists on the one side and diverse Princes on the other side sitting but no high Priests.)
AM. Venerable assembly of priests, were is Fate dragging us poor people? Ah, the tribunal is dripping with blood, the judge is made the butcher of good men. Law is meted out according to brute force. Criminality is profitable. The fierce sword plunders everything, working its violence. Virtue is afraid of punishment and is pleased to wound whatever is at hand. Evil’s bridle is loosened. Noble men are dragged off to prison. If anyone is compelled by fear to attempt a resistance, when he lacks the money to buy off his life he is stripped of his goods and immediately taken away to his death. A monstrous stupor has fallen on our gaping citizens. Many have been compelled to lay cruel hands on themselves. These people scarcely fear death, but are anguished at the thought of undergoing great torture before they die. Nobody dares grieve for the dead or hold public funeral services, for both the mourner and the mourned suffer the same fate. Behold, twelve thousand principal citizens have met a sudden end, and the people are virtually killed off by the slaughter. When the Zealots perceive that the people hate them for their crimes, they are not ashamed to hold mock trials, and now the market-place resounds with their libels. Death is the sole penalty for even the smallest offense, and infractions are punished indiscriminately. The very people who have hidden themselves for fear are killed by the Zealots as if they are dangerous enemies. Those who fawningly cling to them out of terror are done away with as if they are secret traitors.
Jehochanan makes his unhappy way here. He looks terrible with his threatening scowl. His expression is deeply pained, he is planning a wicked deed. And he holds Gurion in his grasp, a man who shines with virtue. [Enter Jehochanan, dragging Gurion. Niger of Peraita is brought in also.]
JEH. I say that this man is condemned to death, because as a rebel he betrayed the city to the enemy and armed the Romans for our destruction. [To himself.] What’s this? Their cheeks are wet with tears. They drag sighs from their breasts and hang their heads. Why are their faces drenched with doleful sobbing? The people can’t keep quiet about these killings which move them to tears. [Aloud.] If you cannot accept that the accused are dying according to our will, and will not hand down a verdict that this man deserves to die, we will put each and every one of you in the dock, and the sword will probe your gaping innards because you do not want to administer the law properly. By your death we shall teach the citizens how to manage trials. We order you to put this man on trial first, and him to plead his cause. Let Gurion be turned off the high wall and spatter the ground with his brains. Let Niger of Peraita die the same death.
NIG. Did I undergo such labors on behalf of our sacred city so that I might be put to death without accusation? Did the holy city see its enemies lying at Niger’s feet so that it might witness him overcome by harsh bondage? Did he unswervingly expose his breast to hostile missiles in order to undergo cruel punishment at home? See how my body is scarred with the wounds I received when I overcame our enemies with great slaughter. Is great courage accustomed to be penalized? But this death will not now be unwelcome. I shall make this single request of you, in whose power Fortune has placed me: let me not lie unburied. This is a small thing that I ask, such as does not trouble an enemy to grant his opponent.
JEH. I had made up my mind to grant you burial rights, if you had not asked me for a funeral. But since you are trying to extort burial from me with your pleas, the greedy dogs will gnaw your unburied corpse with their teeth.
Go to Act V of the Second Action