Play: I, Judas


Scene 1.

(A field outside Jerusalem. A solitary tree.)

(Enter JUDAS, carrying a chair which he places by tree. Over his shoulder a rope, which he loops over a branch of the tree, placing a noose around his neck.)

(Note: Judas is well-dressed, though his clothes have seen better days. Pince-nez spectacles on his nose. His speech is cultured. He is an intellectual.)

MAGDALENE (Shouts, off):

Stop.
STOP!

(She runs on.)

What the hell do you think you’re doing?

(Judas removes his specs, shields his eyes and peers at her.)

JUDAS:

Magdalene is it you? The woman with the jar of perfume?

MAGDALENE:

Never mind me. What d’ye think ye’re doing with that rope?

JUDAS:

What does it look like, woman? Man stands on a chair, loops  rope over a tree branch, puts a noose round his neck. I’m fixing to die, woman. Any fool can see that.

So leave me be, while I make my exit from this cruel world.

MAGDALENE:

But you can’t! What about the money?

JUDAS:

I won’t need it w here I’m going. I tried to give it back to the priests, but they wouldn’t have it.

MAGDALENE:

Not their filthy pieces of silver, you fool. Our money. You’re our treasurer, remember. Who’s going to feed the poor, if you’re not here to manage our finances?

(Judas takes the noose from round his neck and steps off the chair.)

JUDAS:

I’m dead, woman. Or would be, if you hadn’t come sticking your oar in. So let the dead bury their dead. The poor we have always with us. He said that, when you wasted all that expensive scent. Enough to feed a man and his family for a year, if we’d sold it. But he seemed to like it, which is why I began wondering about him.

MAGDALENE:

The man you betrayed with a kiss.

JUDAS:

And him whispering in my ear before the soldiers laid hands on him.

MAGDALENE:

Whispered? What?

JUDAS:

Oh yes, that’s stopped you in your tracks hasn’t it? Not so clever now, are you?

MAGDALENE:

What’d he whisper?

JUDAS:

(Loud stage whisper.)

“Let God’s will be done”.

MAGDALENE:

But that means.  .  .

JUDAS:

Worked it out, have you? Not so stupid as you look then, are you?

MAGDALENE:

“God’s will be done.”

(Judas gets back on chair, puts noose back around his neck.)

(Enter MALCHUS, a Roman soldier.)

MALCHUS:

‘Ere!
What’s going on?

JUDAS:

I, er.  . .

MAGDALENE:

He’s killing himself.

MALCHUS:

Is that true, mate?

JUDAS:

Well, if I didn’t keep getting interrupted. .  .

MALCHUS (Shouts):

Hey, sarge!

DECANUS (Off):

Wot?

MALCHUS:

Bloke here says he’s gonna top hisself. He’s not allowed to do that is he?

(Enter DECANUS, a Roman NCO – equivalent of a sergeant.)

DECANUS:

Not on my watch he can’t.

Come down off that chair, you!

JUDAS:

No way, José.

MAGDALENE:

God’s will be done.

DECANUS:

Never you mind about yer heathen God’s will! I’m a Decanus in the Roman occupying force and here and now the only will that counts is my will.

Pull him down offa that chair, soldier.

(Malchus pulls Judas off the chair who is almost throttled by the rope.)

JUDAS:

Khrkk!
Khrkk!

MAGDALENE:

Watch out! Can’t you see you’re strangling him?

MALCHUS:

I thought that was the idea.

(Judas pulls the rope over his head.)

JUDAS:

My idea, before she came along, trying to talk me out of it, and you, half strangling me in the name of Roman law and order.

(He climbs back on chair and puts noose back round his neck.)

So now, if you lot will just let me get on with it . . .

DECANUS:

Here, don’t I know you? With us in the garden, weren’t you? When we arrested that trouble maker.

MAGDALENE:

Betrayed him with a kiss.

MALCHUS:

Yeah sarge, and I got me ear cut off.

DECANUS:

Right.

MALCHUS:

And he sticks it back on, that troublemaker. Good as new it is. Reckon he must have been some kind of a healer.

MAGDALENE:

He was God’s only begotten son.

DECANUS:

Yes, that’s all very well. But just because this geezer  here’s in with the High Priest don’t mean he can go topping himself on the public highway.

JUDAS (Legalistically):

This is common land. As a Jew . . .

DECANUS:

As a Jew you’re subject to Roman law. And on this “common land” that means you’re subject to me. So come down of that chair, there’s a good chap, and run along somewhere else where yer not offending public decency.

MAGDALENE:

Like Golgotha, you mean.

DECANUS:

Absolutely not! That there’s a public execution space. Can’t have any Tom, Dick and .  .  .

MAGDALENE (helpfully):

Judas.

DECANUS:

Thank you, ma’am.

And Judas abusing a public facility whenever the spirit moves him.

Anyway, wodja want to top yerself for, anyway? Word was you were well rewarded.

JUDAS:

I tried to give it back, the money.

MALCHUS:

All that dosh!

JUDAS:

It wasn’t so much, a pittance. Thirty pieces! The price of a slave.

MALCHUS:

Yeah, well. A week’s wages for me, before deductions for uniform and food. Enough for a pissup. Better than a poke in the eye with a blunt stick.

JUDAS:

But they wouldn’t accept it. So I threw it down a well shaft.

(Enter CENTURION)

CENTURION:

Decanus, what’s going on here?

JUDAS & MAGDALENE (together):

I’m/He’s killing my/himself.

DECANUS:

I told him he couldn’t do that, guv, but he wouldn’t listen.

CENTURION:

Now come along, my man, take up your chair and walk. And you can’t leave that rope hanging over that branch. Someone might get hurt. Children play here, you know.

(Judas gets down off the chair.)

JUDAS (wearily):

Listen, I know my rights. You may be an occupying army, but . . .

(Decanus interrupts.)

DECANUS (to Centurion):

Guv . .  .

CENTURION:

What is it?

DECANUS:

He was with us in the garden, when we arrested that troublemaker.

CENTURION:

Was he, by Jupiter?

(To Judas.)

What’s your name and where d’ye come from, man?

JUDAS:

I am called Iscariot. I come from Kerioth. You better leave me be, or it’ll be the worse for you.

CENTURION:

Bloody Jews! Think you own the earth, you and your bloody Yahweh, don’t you? Well, if you don’t behave I’ll have you thrown in chains, Yahweh or no Yahweh. Got it?

DECANUS (to Centurion):

Guv . .   .

CENTURION (Testily):

Yes?

DECANUS:

I don’t think he’s from Kerioth, sir. I think his name has another meaning, Iscariot. I think it means he’s a . . .

(Whispers in the Centurion’s ear.)

CENTURION (Explodes):

What!

Have you searched him?

Any weapons, daggers, and so on?

DECANUS:

No sir, not yet.

CENTURION:

Well do it, man, do it now.

(He draws his sword.

(To Judas)

Don’t try anything, you. I’ve got a whole cohort of men . . .

(Judas bares his breast.)

JUDAS:

Stick it to me, sir. You can say I was killed resisting arrest. Better than a rope, perhaps. At least I won’t be damned for eternity, if I’m murdered by the oppressors.

DECANUS:

Frisk him, soldier. Pat him down for weapons. And be careful he don’t catch you off yer guard. If he’s a sicarius, he’s as bad as that Barabbas. Cut your throat soon as look at you, he would.

(Malchus obeys the order.)

JUDAS:

Don’t lump me together with that gangster. Calls himself a freedom fighter, but he’s really a bank robber. It’s the Sikrikim who will force you back home to Rome, out of this sacred land of Judah. Our daggers are sharp, and the streets of Jerusalem are strait and narrow. And dark at night. Don’t walk down them alone unless the moon’s full, Roman.

MALCHUS:

Beg to report, SIR, no weapons, SIR!

JUDAS:

So what’s it to be, my rope or your sword? Given the choice, I’d rather be in charge of my own destiny, even if it means eternal damnation. But if I die at your hands, I’ll be a martyr for the cause. What you might call a win-win scenario.

CENTURION:

So you admit it, you’re a daggerman, a Zealot.

JUDAS:

Oh dear, you Romans don’t really understand us, do you?

The Zealots want an uprising against your rule. The Sikrikim – Sicarii in your barbarous tongue – are making it impossible for you to rule, yes, with their curved sicae daggers. Thus it was that the High Priest collaborator, Jonathan, was assassinated. So must die all such traitors!

But I admit nothing. I am an Iscariot, from Kerioth.

And if it is not to be either my rope or your sword, then I demand to be taken before Pilate. Let him decide. He will not wash his hands of responsibility a second time.

CENTURION:

The Prefect, Pontius Pilatus, is it? You demand!? Why stop there? Why not the Emperor Tiberius himself? Or even Jupiter? He has vanquished your heathen Yahweh, after all.

Decanus!

DECANUS:

Sir!

CENTURION:

Go to this man’s house, search it for weapons, incriminating documents, whatever. And bring the evidence to the Prefecture. I’ll see you there.

DECANUS:

You heard the Centurion, soldier, on the double.

CENTURION:

(To Judas)

You, man, come with me. This mess needs a higher authority.

DECANUS:

(To Malchus)

What are you hanging around for, soldier?

MALCHUS:

(To Judas)

You couldn’t give me an ‘int where I might find that well you chucked the thirty pieces down, could you?

DECANUS:

On the double, I said, soldier!

MALCHUS:

Yes sir, sorry sir.

(Malchus and Decanus exit right, Centurion  and Judas exit left.)

MAGDALENE:

God’s will be done.

CURTAIN

Scene 2. Pilate’s residence

(Pilate lies on a couch, face down, stripped to the waist. He is
being given a massage by a pretty young Jewish boy.)

PILATE (Shouts):

Coryphaeus! I would hear some verse.

(An older boy appears. He is clad in a snow-white toga, a lamb’s-wool neck-scarf worn to protect his throat, with freshly-curled hair and a huge diamond ring on his finger. He perches himself on a tall stool at the stage centre. His name is ADONIS, Coryphaeus (reciter) his title. He clears his throat.)

ADONIS:

The Ars Amatoria of Publius Ovidius Naso.

(Pilate sits up and whirls on the boy, spilling a jar of oil as  he does so.)

PILATE:

No, Adon, no! Not bloody Ovid! I would hear some Catullus. That’s real poetry.

ADONIS:

As you will, sir. Shall it be Lesbia’s sparrow?

PILATE:

Yes, excellent.

(Adonis strikes a pose.)

ADONIS:

Passer, deliciae meae puellae,

quicum ludere, quem in sinu tenere,

cui primum digitum dare appetenti

et acris solet incitare morsus . . .

(Noises off, shouting etc. Adonis stops reciting.)

ADONIS:

Really, Pontius, I absolutely cannot perform with that racket going on.

(Centurion and Judas burst in. Judas is carrying the chair, the
rope looped over his shoulder.)

PILATE:

What is the meaning of this intrusion, Centurion? If you need to see me, you must make an appointment with my Secretarium and wait your turn.

CENTURION:

I’m sorry, sir, but we have a situation. This man . . .

PILATE:

He looks like a Jew.

CENTURION:

He is, sir.

PILATE:

Then take him to the Temple. Let the High Priest  deal with him. You know I’m not supposed to interfere in Hebrew affairs. I burnt my fingers over that – what was that trouble-maker’s name, boy?

(Adonis and Centurion speak together)

ADONIS:

Yeshua Ben Miriam, sir.

CENTURION:

Jesus, son of David, sir.

PILATE:

I never can get my head round these Jewish begats, genealogy through the female line, not the male like us and all civilised peoples.

Anyway, that Caiaphas got me in a real tangle
with this Yeshua/Jesus, whatever you call him. I had to send a special report to Rome about the affair, written for me by that Jewish scribe, Josephus.

Never again, boy. Take him away.

CENTURION

But this man claims the right to kill himself.
And I think he’s a sicarius.

PILATE:

(To Judas)

Is this true, man?

(To Centurion)

And you bring this man, a suspected assassin, into my tablinum, my private quarters?

JUDAS:

I am Iscariot. I come from Kerioth. I admit
nothing.

CENTURION:

He has been searched, sir. He has no weapons on him.

(More noise outside.)

(Enter Pilate’s woman, CLAUDIA PROCULA,
dragging Magdalene by the hand.)

CLAUDIA:

Darling, I think you need to see this woman.

(Pilate covers himself hastily with a towel, waving the
ladies away while turning his head away from them.)

PILATE:

My love, my love! Cannot you see that I am dishabille? Take her away while I get dressed. Then I shall hear her petition.

(Exit Claudia and Magdalene.)

(Pilate goes behind a screen to dress and speaks from
behind the screen.)

Now, Centurion. Tell me about your prisoner.

JUDAS (Angrily):

I am not a prisoner. I came here voluntarily.
In fact, I demanded to see you.

(Pilate comes out from behind the screen. He is
immaculately dressed, in a snow-white toga.)

PILATE:

Report, Centurion.

CENTURION:

SIR!

This man has been committing a public nuisance
by attempting to commit suicide.

SIR!

PILATE:

Where did this alleged public nuisance take place?

CENTURION:

On land known as the potter’s field.

SIR!

PILATE:

That will be all, Centurion. I will question this – er – gentleman. You may return to your men.

CENTURION:

Yes sir. Thank you sir.

(Exit Centurion)

(To Judas)

Pray take a seat, sir, if you please.

JUDAS:

Thank you, my lord Prefect, but I prefer to remain standing.

PILATE:

Very well. As you wish.

(Pilate lies down upon on a reclinium.)

Now do tell me, sir. What ails you so much in this life that you wish to quit it before the date and time ordained by the gods?

(Judas begins to protest.)

Or, in your case, my Jewish friend, by your
god, called I think – Jah . . .

JUDAS:

Yahweh, my lord.

PILATE:

Quite so, quite so. Yet to me, one god or
several gods, it’s all the same. Except that Tiberius Caesar, having acquired divinity from his father, the divine Augustus, is to be worshipped by all within his domains.

That goes for you and all in this land of Judea.

(He thinks for a moment.)

After which you were named, I think. Is that
not true?

JUDAS:

There have been many of my name in our history. To be so named is to be praised. My father was named Simon. He is a Zealot, being one who hears God, and obeys him. That is the meaning of his
name.

I have a friend of the same name, but he is nicknamed Cephas, which is to say a rock.

PILATE:

Your father a Zealot, hey? One who would
overthrow our Roman hegemony. And you, are you also a Zealot? My Centurion thought you were a daggerman. What do you call yourselves, the sicarii?

JUDAS:

The word in our language is Sikrikim. Would I
be so foolish as to admit to such a thing, to the Roman Prefect, no less? No doubt the soldiers outside the door would despatch me. Or send me to be crucified as they crucified my Lord.

PILATE:

We had a goodly chat before we handed him over to his own people to be condemned in the Temple court.

JUDAS:

But it was Romans who hammered in the nails.

PILATE:

A wandering artificer who forged them, and a
Jewish carpenter, perhaps even the condemned man’s own father, who made the cross. We all share some measure in the evils of this world, even you, Mister Sicarius.

JUDAS:

But we must accept the consequences of our
actions. I believe you were condemned from on high when your men carried the Legion banners, bearing the image of your so-called divine Augustus, into the holiest of holies, into our Temple.

The word in the street is that your actions
have not found favour with your emperor, that you are living on borrowed time, my lord Prefect.

That is why you are here, on the very edge of
your empire, instead of indulging yourself in the fleshpots of Rome.

(Pilate is momentarily discomfited by this, but he carries
on the discussion.)

PILATE:

Harumph!

But I’m still waiting to find out why you want to kill yourself.

JUDAS:

I wish to die because I have failed in my holy
mission.

PILATE:

But all have fallen short of the glory of God.
Is that not written in your own psalms? What makes your failure so special?

JUDAS (Barely able to suppress his weeping):

I loved that man! And I betrayed him!

PILATE:

With a kiss, it’s said. Kinky!

JUDAS:

It was a signal.

(He pulls the chair over to the side of where Pilate is
lying, and sits upon it, speaking directly into the Prefect’s face. Pilate recoils slightly and waves his hand before his face.)

PILATE:

Not so close, if you please, sir. I like garlic as much as the next man, but you Jews do tend to overdo it in your cooking.

JUDAS (Confiding in him):

Look! Our people were gaining strength throughout the land. The Zealots were planning an uprising. We – that is, they, the Sikrikim – were to act in removing the collaborators with Roman oppression.

There was even a dagger with your name on its blade, my lord Prefect.

On the very eve of the uprising, when my Lord
entered Jerusalem, the people strewed palms before his feet.

PILATE:

Yet before a week was past they were howling for his blood. I offered to let him go, but they chose Barabbas.

JUDAS:

That was the Temple rent-a-mob. And Barabbas was their creature. A bank-robber.

PILATE:

It never ceases to amaze me how schismatic you Jews are. You cannot even plan an uprising without squabbling among yourselves.
They say that wherever two Jews have a discussion –

JUDAS:

There will be three opposing opinions. Yes, I
know. It’s an old joke.

PILATE:

The old jokes are always the best. And Jews
tell the best ones.

(Voices off)

CLAUDIA’S VOICE:

Are you decent, my love?

(Enter Claudia and Magdalene.)

I’m sorry to have brought this young lady into
your private apartment, my love, but I think she has something important to say regarding this man here.

PILATE:

Really?

(To Magdalene)

Speak on, my dear.

JUDAS:

Do not heed her, my lord. She wishes to make me live out my life in shame. She was trying to prevent me –

MAGDALENE:

From killing yourself, yes. That would be a
mortal sin.

And you were not yourself.

(To Pilate)

Sir, he was upset. We all were. The way you
murdered our Lord –

PILATE:

It was a legal execution, carried out in
accordance with Judaic law. Your own high priests condemned him. My soldiers were merely rendering a service to them, as defined in our concordat with the indigenous authorities. It is our way, throughout the empire.

JUDAS:

It is a concordat that lines all the roads that lead to Rome with the rotting bodies of your victims, hanging on gibbets like carrion.

MAGDALENE:

It is written that all so hanged on a tree are
condemned to eternal damnation. Why do you wish to join them, my brother?

PILATE:

Yes, why, man? Life is for living, after all.
Who knows what tomorrow may bring? Didn’t your leader promise eternal life to all who followed him? Is it that you wish to follow him into the grave and redeem that promise?

JUDAS:

But I am damned already! Can’t you see that?
It is God’s will.

(He jumps up and grabs the chair, moves towards the exit)

Enough of this shilly-shallying! I will do it, whatever you say, woman, or you, Prefect. Not all your angels or armies shall prevent me. Nay, not even if you lock me up in your deepest dungeon.

(Pilate leaps to his feet, clenching his fists in rage. Then he controls himself.)

PILATE (Calmly):

That can be arranged.

(Shouts)

Guards!

(Guards come running.)

Take this idiot Jew away and lock him up. He must be kept under continual surveillance, 24/7. If any harm comes to him, you shall answer for it. Clear?

GUARDS (Chorus):

Sir! Yessir! Certainly sir!

(They grab Judas and drag him, kicking and struggling, to the exit. He shouts as they go.)

JUDAS:

God’s will be done! You cannot defy God. I will do it, believe me. I will.

PILATE:

We shall see.

(Guards and Judas exit. Pilate resumes his seat.)

Phew, that was tiring. These fractious Jews will wear me out, just see if they don’t.

(He shouts)

Boy! Bring me some wine. I’m parched.

CLAUDIA:

Was that quite wise, my love? You really need to control your temper. Remember my advice when you were contending with that other Jew, the leader of this Judas.

PILATE:

I remember only too well. You had a dream about him, told me to have nothing to do with him. As usual, I should have done as you advised. But what’s done is done.

But anyway. What would you have had me do? The
high priest, that Caiaphas, takes it upon himself to condemn a man by the witness of liars. But he cannot do it himself, oh no. As usual, it is the
occupying power has to do his dirty work for him. If I had not granted him his execution, he would have complained to Rome.

This place may not be the happiest posting in my career, but there are worst outposts of the empire. I could be freezing my butt off in Britannia, up on Hadrian’s wall, fighting off the Picts.

And you there, too, my love. No gossipy dinner
parties there.

CLAUDIA:

Perhaps if this lady –

(Pilate leaps to his feet and leads Magdalene to a seat beside him.)

PILATE:

Please forgive me, madam. That perishing Jew has caused me to forget my manners. Could I get you anything, a glass of wine, some sherbet perhaps? I have ice brought down from the high mountain and stored in my coolest cellar. On needs it, in this accursed climate.

MAGDALENE:

Thank you, no, my Lord.

But if I could be allowed to reason with your prisoner . . .

PILATE (Rubbing his chin, thoughtfully):

I’m not sure.

CLAUDIA:

What harm, my love? I did not hear you say he was to be kept incommunicado. She may be able to make him see sense.

PILATE:

But what if she fails to dissuade him. Was he not one of the Twelve, one of their leaders? What if they all take it into their heads to kill themselves? It could become an epidemic.

CLAUDIA:

All the more reason to let her try to stop it.

PILATE (Wearily):

Oh very well, my dear. I’m sure you know best.

(Magdalene kisses him on the cheek.)

MAGDALENE:

Oh thank you, my lord. I’ll make sure you
don’t regret it.

(He waves her away.)

PILATE:

I’m regretting it already.

(He shouts.)

Guard!

(Enter guard)

Take this lady to see our prisoner.

(To Claudia)

But have her searched by one of your maids, my dear. We don’t want her to smuggle in some means of killing himself, after all this fuss.

For such a leader to die in custody! You know how tongues will wag.

CLAUDIA:

(To Magdalene.)

Come along my dear.

(They exit)

CURTAIN

Scene 3. A catacombe

(A number of women apostles are present, among them: MARTHA and her sister MARY, JUNIA, PRISCILLA, EUODIA, SYNTYCHE, PHOEBE, NYMPHA, and CHLOE.)

MARTHA:

So it’s just us, the women.

PHOEBE:

Yes, where are the men?

CHLOE:

The twelve.

MARTHA:

Only eleven now.

MARY:

Judas, is it? I heard Pilate’s got him banged up. Seems to me there’s more to this than meets the eye. He’s still an apostle, whatever he’s done.

MARTHA:

Mary my dear, you always were a bit soft. How
can a traitor still be an apostle?

MARY:

Only the Master can chuck him out.

PHOEBE:

And the Master’s dead.

So what’s to be done? We can’t just sit here, waiting for the Temple death squad to come
beating down the door.

MARY:

Simon at least ought to be here. Master said
he’d be the rock he’d build upon.

MARTHA:

Cephas? Hah! Master was joking when he
nicknamed him the Rock. Rocky, more like. He denied the Master, three times I heard.

MARY:

He was there, wasn’t he, in the ante-chamber
where they were questioning the Master? He had to avoid getting arrested. I expect he’s lying low and’ll be back with us when the coast is clear.

PHOEBE:

They’ve all gone to ground.

MARY:

Not Judas, though. Call him a traitor if you like, but he’s out and about.

CHLOE:

Looking for a place to top himself, they say.

MARTHA:

And the Romans arrested him. Good riddance, I say. Romans should have let him die. Betraying our Lord with a kiss!
Disgusting!

(Noise off)

Who’s that, eh? Come into the light, will
you?

(Enter Magdalene with Claudia.)

Mary? I thought you’d gone back to Magdala.
You’d be safe there.

And who’s that with you?

Sit down here, love, whoever you are. You look
wore out.

CLAUDIA:

I am called Claudia Procula.

(She sits.)

MARTHA:

Pilate’s wife?

CLAUDIA:

“Uxor Pilati”? Nay, not I. I am his woman but
he does not own me, and I do not bear his name.

MARTHA:

(To Magdalene)

You must be mad, Mary, bringing her here. Were
you followed?

(To the others)

Gather your things together, ladies. We shall
need to find a new hiding place.

MAGDALENE:

Do not panic, my sisters. Madam Claudia is a
friend. She has taken me to see Judas.

MARTHA:

That traitor? What did he have to say for
himself? Nothing good, I’ll bet you.

MAGDALENE:

It seems the kiss was a signal. He could say
little more, with guards standing by, ears flapping. Only that he wants to die,
that he’s a failure.

MARTHA:

He got the Master killed, didn’t he? So his
plan succeeded.

MAGDALENE:

I don’t know. He seems very confused. He did
share something the Master whispered to him when he gave him that kiss.

ALL:

What was that!?

MAGDALENE:

“God’s will be done.”

MARY:

Perhaps he was just sharing that prayer the
Master taught us. You know:

“Thy Kingdom come.

 Thy will be done.”

Nothing mysterious about that.

CHLOE:

But for one man to kiss another upon his mouth, like a cuckoo in the nest, exchanging spit with each other. Yeuch! That is a betrayal of all propriety.

MARY:

Nay, my sister, did not Solomon himself write,
“Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth: for thy love is better than wine”?

PHOEBE:

And David also, who spoke of his dead lover,
Jonathan, “very pleasant hast thou been unto me: thy love to me was wonderful, passing the love of women”.

MARTHA:

Yes, that may have been all very well in those far off days. Did not that same David commit adultery with Bathsheba, even sending her husband Uriah to die in battle so he might possess her? Is that also an example we should follow, in that case?

MAGDALENE:

The Master spoke up for me when I was taken in
adultery. Like them Pharisees at that time, none of us is pure enough to cast a stone.

PHOEBE:

Our Master was descended from that same David.

MARY:

And he lay entwined at table with the disciple
whom he loved, remember.

MARTHA:

But we never saw them kiss. It is not our custom. I believe their love was chaste.

MARY:

We are in no position to judge. Even to consider the question is a demonstration of our modern prurience.

MARTHA:

Well, what more had Judas to say for himself,
apart from his wishing to die?

MAGDALENE:

You may ask him yourself, for he has come with
us to testify on what has been and what must be.

(Enter Judas, carrying a chair, the rope looped over his
shoulder.)

MARTHA:

That’s my bloody chair, you thief! I wondered who had taken it.

CURTAIN

Scene 4. Pilate’s tablinum

(He reclines, eating a grape from a bunch held by a boy.)

(Enter Claudia.)

PILATE:

Oh there you are, my dear. Did you know I let
my prisoner go, to kill himself or whatever else pleases his stiff-necked personality?

CLAUDIA:

Yes, I know. Indeed, we have met and spoken.

PILATE:

And is he still determined to end his life?

CLAUDIA:

He is.

PILATE:

Perhaps he is wiser than all of us. Sometimes I feel that the problem of life is finding good reasons not to commit suicide.

CLAUDIA:

Or to end your days fighting the Picts in Britannia.

PILATE:

It may come to that, if this turns out not well, and Tiberius lays the death of this lonely assassin at my door.

CLAUDIA:

There could be worse fates, my love. And they
say the British villas have under-floor heating.

PILATE:

(Shudders)

Brrr! I’m sure they need it.

CLAUDIA:

Will they allow me to come with you thence, my
love, not being your wife?

PILATE:

Who knows? If I go there in disgrace, it may be that I may take nothing with me, not even you, love of my life.

(Claudia thinks for a moment.)

CLAUDIA:

Then, perhaps, you might take me to wife. They
could not separate us then.

(Pilate is startled at this sudden change of heart.)

PILATE:

Would you do that, my love? I thought you swore never to become the property of any man.

CLAUDIA:

We shall see. Perhaps it may not come to that.

CURTAIL

Scene 5. The same field as in the opening scene

(Enter Judas, carrying the chair, with the rope still
looped over his shoulder. He carries it to the solitary tree, loops the rope over the branch, and puts the noose around his neck.)

(Enter Decanus and Malchus)

MALCHUS:

Oh it’s you again, eh? Really going to do it, are you?

JUDAS:

You cannot stop me.

MALCHUS:

Wouldn’t want to, mate. Our orders is to let you do whatever you want to do.

DECANUS:

We’re here just to see that there’s no breach of the peace.

MALCHUS:

So go ahead, mate. But don’t take too long, there’s a good guy, cos it’s getting near to my chow time.

(Judas prepares to jump off the chair. Then he hesitates.)

JUDAS:

I can’t do it with you standing there looking at me.

DECANUS:

Sorry, sir. We have to observe, see that all the proprieties are observed, so we can report to our Centurion accordingly. He will then advise the Prefect, who will no doubt report to Rome.

(Impatiently)

Now, get on with it, man.

MALCHUS:

‘Arf a mo, guv. I think we may have some bother after all. Look who’s coming.

(Enter Caiaphas, the high priest.)

DECANUS:

Excuse me, sir. I hope you’ve not come to interfere with this man’s wish to end his life.

CAIAPHUS:

It is forbidden in canon law.

DECANUS:

That’s as maybe, sir. But your law does not obtain outside the gates of your Temple. On this land, it is Roman law that governs what anyone may or may not do. And I am instructed that he has every right . . .

CAIAPHAS:

Yes yes. Perhaps it is just as well. It is
written that a sacrificial goat may be presented to the Lord, in atonement for all our sins. So it was in the time of Aaron, and so it may be today.

(To Judas.)

Proceed, man.

JUDAS:

Now wait a minute. Haven’t you anything to say to me? I threw your money down a well. Did you know that?

CAIAPHAS:

I heard something of the sort. A waste. But it
was a pittance, after all.

JUDAS:

So will you see me die?

CAIAPHAS:

It seems to be God’s will for you. Remember what I said at the trial, it is expedient that one man should die for his people. It was thought I spoke of your Master, but perhaps I was prescient,
speaking instead of your death in atonement for we who condemned him.

(Enter Martha and the other women.)

MARTHA (Shouts at Judas):

Get off my chair, you!

DECANUS:

Is that truly your chair, madam?

MARTHA:

It is. He must have taken it from my kitchen,
the thief.

DECANUS:

Well it shall be returned to you, as soon as
he has no further use for it.

MARTHA:

After he’s topped himself on it? I’d never be
comfortable sitting on it.

(To Judas.)

Give it back to me, my chair. Now.

DECANUS (To Malchus):

You better return it to her, soldier.

(Malchus pulls the chair away.)

FX: BLACKOUT AND CRASH OF THUNDER.

A tight spotlight is focussed on the face of Judas as he dies, his tongue protruding from his mouth.

CANTOR (sings in the darkness):

The door of death has closed.

The door of life is opened.

Oseh sholom bimromov, hu ya’aseh sholom olaynu, v’al kol yisroel; vimru Omein.

ALL:

The Peace of heaven, and life, be upon us, and upon all God’s people. Amen.

CANTOR:

The time of time is ended.

The time of no time has no beginning and no ending.

Oseh sholom bimromov, hu ya’aseh sholom olaynu, v’al kol yisroel; vimru Omein.

ALL:

The Peace of heaven, and life, be upon us, and upon all God’s people. Amen.

CANTOR:

There shall be no more darkness, no more light.

For darkness and light are one in the Lord.

Oseh sholom bimromov, hu ya’aseh sholom olaynu, v’al kol yisroel; vimru Omein.

ALL:

The Peace of heaven, and life, be upon us, and
upon all God’s people. Amen.

CANTOR:

The Lord has wiped away all tears.

And there shall be no more weeping.

Oseh sholom bimromov, hu ya’aseh sholom olaynu, v’al kol yisroel; vimru Omein.

ALL:

The Peace of heaven, and life, be upon us, and
upon all God’s people. Amen.

CANTOR:

Into your hands, oh Lord, we commit our spirit.

ALL:

And our spirit has rejoiced in God our saviour.

Oseh sholom bimromov, hu ya’aseh sholom olaynu, v’al kol yisroel; vimru Omein.

ALL:

The Peace of heaven, and life, be upon us, and upon all God’s people. Amen.

CURTAIN

THE END

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