Sequence 1 (At The Foot Of The Cross)

THE EVANGELIST: And when they were come to the place which is called Calvary, there they crucified him, and the robbers, one on the right hand and the other on the left.

1ST SOLDIER: Whew!… well, that’s two of ’em.

2ND SOLDIER: That Gestas is a sturdy rogue. We had to break his fingers to make him open his fists.

3RD SOLDIER: Yes—he put up a stiff fight. You’ll have a black eye, Corvus.

(Laughter)

1ST SOLDIER(vindictively): He’ll ache for it. We strung him out tight as a bowstring.

2ND SOLDIER: Come on, come on, let’s have the next … got him stripped?

3RD SOLDIER: Yes. Here you are.

4TH SOLDIER: This one won’t give trouble.

3RD SOLDIER: Dunno about that. He wouldn’t drink the myrrh and vinegar.

1ST SOLDIER: Why not?

3RD SOLDIER: Said he wanted to keep his head clear.

1ST SOLDIER: If he thinks he can make a get-away——

4TH SOLDIER: Ah! he’s only crazy. (Persuasively) Here, my lad—don’t be obstinate. Drink it. It’ll deaden you like. You won’t feel so much.… No?… Well, if you won’t you won’t.… You’re a queer one, ain’t you?… Come on, then, get down to it.

1ST SOLDIER(whose teiwper has been soured by the black eye): Kick his feet from under him.

2ND SOLDIER: No need. He’s down … Take the feet, Corvus.

1ST SOLDIER: Stretch your legs. I’ll give you king of the Jews.

2ND SOLDIER: Hand me the mallet.

JESUS: Father, forgive them. They don’t know what they are doing.

(His voice breaks off in a sharp gasp as the mallet falls. Fade out on the dull thud of the hammering)

Sequence 2 (The High Priest’s House)

NICODEMUS: Is your mind at ease about this matter, my Lord Caiaphas?

CAIAPHAS: Why not, Nicodemus?

NICODEMUS: I will not argue with you about the person of Jesus. His attitude at his trial has shaken me. I was ready to believe him a great teacher, a great prophet, perhaps the Messiah. I can do so no longer. He has claimed to be the Son of God—not in a figure, but literally—the right hand of the power and equal partner in the glory. That is either an appalling blasphemy, or else a truth so appalling that it will not bear thinking of.

CAIAPHAS: Are you saying that it might be truth?

NICODEMUS: I dare not. For in that case, what have we done? We have conspired in some unimaginable manner to judge and murder God.

CAIAPHAS: Just so. You have only to state the case to expose its absurdity. God is one, and God is spirit. Do you think there is a host of gods and half-gods walking the earth, and subject to human fraility, as in the disgusting fables of the heathen?

NICODEMUS: No.

CAIAPHAS: Then what have you to object to? Or you, Joseph of Arimathaea?

JOSEPH: Not the deed so much as the manner of it. Was it necessary, most Venerable, to lick the feet of Rome in public? admit the sovereignty of Caesar?

NICODEMUS: Was it wise to threaten Pilate with the Emperor? The power you invoked against Rome was still Rome.

JOSEPH: There is but one way with Rome—to slam the door against her; for let her squeeze in so much as a finger, and she will follow with the whole arm, till Jewry is no longer Jewry.

CAIAPHAS: Joseph and Nicodemus, let me tell you something. Jewry has gone for ever. The day of small nations is past. This is the age of empire. Consider. All through our history we have tried to slam that door. Jewry was to be a garden enclosed—a chosen race, a peculiar people. But the door was opened. By whom?

NICODEMUS: In the strife between the sons of Alexander, when Hyrcanus appealed to Rome.

CAIAPHAS: True. That strife brought us Herod the Great—the creature of Rome, who for thirty years held Jewry together in his gauntlet of iron. And when he died, what? New strife,—and the partition of Israel, with Pilate the Roman made Governor of Judaea. Under Herod a tributary nation; after Herod, three tributary provinces. With every Jewish quarrel, Rome takes another stride. One stride—two strides—the third will be the last.… I have killed this Jesus who would have made more faction; but for one pretender crucified, fifty will arise.… One day, the Zealots will revolt and the sword will be drawn against Caesar. Then the ring of fire and steel will close about Jerusalem; then the dead will lie thick in the streets, and the tramp of the Legions will be heard in the inner Sanctuary of the Temple. I, Caiaphas, prophesy.

Article continues below

JOSEPH(impressed): What would you have us do?

CAIAPHAS: Accept the inevitable. Adapt yourselves to Rome. It is the curse of our people that we cannot learn to live as citizens of a larger unit. We can neither rule nor be ruled; for such the new order has no place. Make terms with the future while you may, lest in all the world there be found no place where a Jew may set foot.

JOSEPH: Strange. You echo the prophecies of Jesus. But he, I think, would have enlarged the boundaries of Israel to take in all the world. “They shall come,” he said, “from east and west and sit down in the Kingdom of God.” Samaritans, Romans, Greeks—he received them all.… Is it possible that he saw what you see, and would have chosen to fling the door wide open? Not to exclude, but to include? Not to lose Israel in Rome, but to bring Rome into the fold of Israel?

NICODEMUS(shocked): Impossible! Israel can have no dealings with the Gentiles. He must have been mad to imagine——

CAIAPHAS(drily): Quite mad. It is the duty of statesmen to destroy the madness which we call imagination. It is dangerous. It breeds dissension. Peace, order, security—that is Rome’s offer—at Rome’s price.

JOSEPH(gloomily): We have rejected the way of Jesus. I suppose we must now take yours.

CAIAPHAS: You will reject me too, I think.… Be content, Jesus, my enemy. Caiaphas also will have lived in vain.

Sequence 3 (At The Foot Of The Cross)

(Excited CROWD-noise, out of which VOICES emerge)

VOICES: Who was going to destroy the Temple and build it in three days?… Looks as though the Temple ’ud see you out!… Come to that, why don’t you destroy the cross?… Split the wood, melt the iron … that’s nothing to a fellow who can overthrow the Temple.… Go to it, miracle-man!… Show us your power, Jesus of Nazareth.…

MARY MAGDALEN: Is it nothing to you, all you that pass by? What has he done to you that you should treat him like this?

VOICES: He said he was the Messiah.… King of Israel.… Son of David … greater than Solomon.… Does Israel get her kings from the carpenter’s shop?… or out of the common gaol?… Will you reign from the gibbet, King of the Jews?

MARY MAGDALEN: He would have made you citizens of the Kingdom of God—and you have given him a crown of thorns.

VOICES: Where are all his mighty works now?… He saved others, but he can’t save himself.… Come on, charlatan, heal your own wounds.… If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross.

MARY MAGDALEN: He gave power to your hands and strength to your feet—and you have nailed his hands and feet to the cross.

VOICES: Are you hungry, are you thirsty, Jesus of Nazareth?… Where’s the water you talked about?… Where’s the never-failing bread?… Nothing up your sleeve now, conjurer? (Laughter) Loaves and fishes! Loaves and fishes!

Article continues below

MARY MAGDALEN: He fed you with the bread of heaven and the water of life freely—and you have given him inegar to drink.

VOICES: Charlatan!… Sorcerer!… deceiver!… boaster!

MARY MAGDALEN: John—can’t we get closer? It will be some comfort to him to have us near.

JOHN: I don’t know if the soldiers will let us through. But we can ask them.

(CROWDbackground)

CENTURION: Pass along, there! pass along, please!… Now then, my lad, stand back—you can’t come any closer.

JOHN: Pray, good Centurion, let us pass. We are friends of Jesus of Nazareth.

CENTURION: Then you’d best steer clear of trouble. Take those women away. It’s no place for them.

MARY VIRGIN: Sir, I am his mother. I implore you, let me go to him.

CENTURION: Sorry, ma’am. Can’t be done.… Corvus! Keep those people moving!… Now just you go home quietly.

MARY MAGDALEN: Marcellus—do you know me?

CENTURION: No, my girl. Never saw you in my life.

MARY MAGDALEN: Has grief so changed my face?… Quick, you Maries, pull off my veil, unpin my hair!… Look again, Marcellus! Is there another woman in Jerusalem with red hair like mine?

CENTURION: Mary of Magdala!

SOLDIERS: Mary!… Mary of Magdala!… Where have you been all this time, Magdalen?

MARY MAGDALEN: By the feet that danced for you, by the voice that sang for you, by the beauty that delighted you—Marcellus, let me pass!

MARCELLUS: Beauty? that’s for living men. What is this dying gallows bird to you?

MARY MAGDALEN: He is my life, and you have killed him.…

(TheSOLDIERSlaugh)

Think what you like—laugh if you will—but for old sake’s sake, let Mary of Magdala pass.

1ST SOLDIER: Oh, no, you don’t, my lass!

2ND SOLDIER: Not without paying.

3RD SOLDIER: Sing us one of the old songs, Mary!

SOLDIERS: That’s right!… Give us a tune.… Sing, girl, sing!… Make us laugh, make us cry, Mary Magdalen!

MARY MAGDALENE (distracted): My songs?… I have forgotten them all.… Wait.… Wait.… I will try.… What will you have, lads? “Roses of Sharon”? “Dinah Dear”? “Home Again”?

SOLDIER: (applauding): “Home Again”! “Home Again”!… S’sh! (As MARY sings, SOLDIERS and CROWD listen quietly)

MARY MAGDALEN(sings):

Soldier, soldier, why will you roam?

The flowers grow white in the hills at home,

Where the little brown brook runs down to the sea—

Come again, home again, love, to me.

(Here the SOLDIERS join in the chorus)

Pick up your feet for the last long leagues,

No more pack-drill, no more fatigues,

No more roll-call, no more bugle-call,

Company halt! and stand at ease.

Sunlight, starlight, twilight and dawn,

The door unbarred, and the latch undrawn

Waiting for the lad that I——

(She breaks down)

I can’t go on.

CENTURION: All right, Mary.… Let her through, lads … and the mother and the friend.… That’ll do.… No more.… Keep back, there.… Move along, now, move along.… Yes, Publius?

4TH SOLDIER: The prisoners’ clothes, Centurion.

CENTURION: Oh, yes. They’re your perquisite. Take ’em and share ’em out evenly.

SOLDIERS: Three pair of sandals.… Four into three won’t go.… We ought to have had Barabbas to make it square.… Who wants a cloak?… Me!… me!… You can’t both ’ave it.… Nah, then, don’t grab.… Fifty-fifty.… Tear it at the seam.… This tunic’s full of ’oles.… Gestas, you mean thief! Why didn’t you put on something decent?

GESTAS: May it rot your flesh, Roman dog. I wish it were steeped in vitriol.… Curse these filthy flies!

Article continues below

1ST SOLDIER: Temper, temper!…

SOLDIERS: Ah! here’s a nice bit of stuff—the Nazarene came from a good home.… Fair shares! fair shares!

4TH SOLDIER: ’Ere, wait a bit! It’s a shame to tear it up. It’s a lovely piece of wool and woven right through without a seam.

2ND SOLDIER: Toss for it, then.

3RD SOLDIER: Anybody got the dice?

1ST SOLDIER: Here you are.

2ND SOLDIER: Luck, Lady Venus.… (throws dice: laughter) Hades! I’ve thrown the dog. Here, Publius.…

(The dice rattle again)

3RD SOLDIER(humming to himself): “Pick up your feet for the last long leagues …”

MARY VIRGIN: Jesus, my son, I am here—Mary, the Mother who loves you. The pain is sore, my darling, but it will pass.

MARY MAGDALEN: Jesus, Rabboni, I am here—Mary the sinner who loves you. Kneeling at the feet that I once washed with my tears. I will kiss them very lightly, for fear the touch should hurt you.

JOHN: Jesus, my lord, I am here—John bar-Zebedee, the friend who loves you. We ran away from you, Master. We refused the cup and the baptism, not knowing what we asked, and the places on your right hand and on your left have been given to these two thieves.

MARY MAGDALEN: Oh, look and see if there is any sorrow like this! The Master and King and Christ of Israel—crucified like a common felon!

GESTAS: Hold your tongue, blast you! Ain’t hell’s pains bad enough without all that caterwauling?—Tell ’em to shut up—d’ye hear!

DYSMAS: Aw, Gestas, leave him be. There’s no ’arm in him. You and me was askin’ for it. Broke the law and got what was comin’ to us. But this pore blighter ain’t done nothing. (whimpering) Gawd! I got the cramps something cruel!

GESTAS: Christ and king—arr’h! a ruddy fine mess you’re in, ain’t you, with all your cant and pi-jaw? Slobbering about forgiving your enemies—I’d tear the throats out of the whole pack of ’em—and I’d start with you, you son of a dog!

DYSMAS: He’s loony, that’s all. Let ’im think he’s Goddamighty, if it makes him feel any beter.… You’re all right, mate, ain’t you? Of course you are. This ’ere’s just a bad dream. One o’ these days you’ll come out in a cloud of glory and astonish ’em all.…

GESTAS: T’chah!

DYSMAS: There! he’s smiling. He likes being talked to that way.… (in a deeply respectful tone, humouring this harmless lunacy) Sir, you’ll remember me, won’t you, when you come into your kingdom?

JESUS: Indeed and indeed I tell you—today you shall be with me in Paradise.

DYSMAS(after an astonished pause and in a changed tone): You’re not mad!… You’re … I don’t know what you are!… Don’t look at me like that.… I been bad—bad all through—you don’t know how bad.… Yes, you do; you know everything.… Near Jordan, I was born, near Jordan, and the water cool to the feet.… It’s a long way, but you won’t leave me.… Stay with us, Jesus, stay with us on the cross—go on looking at me.… I’m sorry—that’s selfish … keeping your head upright—like red-hot pincers in your neck.… Give me the pain—it’s all I’m fit for—but I think it’s you that’s bearing mine—somehow. I’m all muddled … and the water is cool to the feet.

(His voice dies away into a kind of muttering which sounds like delirium)

Article continues below

Sequence 4 (The Roman Barracks)

CHILIARCH: Well, Bassus, what is it? another chit?

ADJUTANT: Programme of the regimental sports, sir.

CHILIARCH: Oh, yes. I want to see that.

ADJUTANT: And by the way, sir—isn’t it about time we relieved those chaps on Gallows Hill?

CHILIARCH: Eh? Oh! Yes. How long have they been on duty?

ADJUTANT: Since 6 a.m., sir.

CHILIARCH: H’m. Have we got a centurion we can send? Who is there?

ADJUTANT: Well, sir—there’s old Proclus.

CHILIARCH: Proclus?

ADJUTANT: From Capernaum, sir. Attached for special duty during the Feast. Very reliable man, sir.

CHILIARCH: Right. Send him in.

ADJUTANT: Yes, sir. (At door) Orderly! Tell the Centurion Proclus he’s wanted by the Chiliarch. (Returning) The boxing-match should be pretty good, sir. I’d lay a few sesterces on Tiger Balbus.

CHILIARCH: Plenty of punch, but no style. Pompilius will beat him on points if he goes six rounds.… I see you’ve put Favonius down as a heavy-weight. I should have thought—ah yes!—this is Proclus, isn’t it?… Centurion, I want you to take four men along to Gallows Hill to relieve Marcellus and his bunch. Keep the crowd moving—and see that the followers of this Jesus don’t make a disturbance.

PROCLUS(startled out of his military propriety): Gallows Hill, sir—I—I—I—(recovering himself, in a stifled voice) Very good, sir.

CHILIARCH: What’s the matter, Centurioni? You look as if you didn’t like the job.

PROCLUS: Beg pardon, sir. You see, sir—I know the man.

CHILIARCH: What man? Jesus of Nazareth?

PROCLUS: Yes, sir. He was very decent to me, sir. Cured my batman.

CHILIARCH: (rather taken aback): I see.… I’m afraid there’s no one else available.…

PROCLUS: I quite understand, sir.

CHILIARCH: Old legionary, aren’t you?

PROCLUS: Yes, sir. Forty years service, sir. Drafted to the sixth. Seconded to King Herod’s Guards, sir—seven years. Fifteen years active service in Germany. Remained on as a veteran. Ten years regionary in Galilee, sir.

CHILIARCH: Good record.… Well, Centurion, it’s bad luck—but duty’s duty, isn’t it?

PROCLUS: Yes, sir. Sorry I forgot myself, sir.

CHILIARCH: By the way—the bodies are to be off the cross before sundown, because of the Jews’ sabbath. If they’re not dead by then, put ’em out.… All right, Centurion, carry on.… Damn it, Bassus, I hate ticking off these veterans. Forty years service. Old enough to be my grandfather.

ADJUTANT: Yes, sir.… Queer thing—that Jewish prophet—making an impression on an old tough like that.

CHILIARCH: Extraordinary.… Well, well! what were we saying? Oh, yes—the heavy-weight contest.…

Sequence 5 (At The Foot Of The Cross)

CALPURNIA: What’s the time, Flavius?

FLAVIUS: It must be close on noon.

CALPURNIA: (yawning): This is a very slow entertainment.

GLAUCUS: It’s not meant to be quick.

PHOEBE: These coarse peasants don’t feel things as we should. How long does it take as a rule?

GLAUCUS: Sometimes they linger on for three days.

CALPURNIA: That’s absurd! We can’t wait all that time.

GLAUCUS: Your man won’t last so long. Three hours, more likely.

FLAVIUS: The god will die, then?

GLAUCUS: The god is dying. He has the marks upon him—the pinched nostrils and hollow face, sunken about the temples, and the skin dry and dusky like parchment. The countenance of death, as old Hippocrates taught.

PHOEBE: I can’t see properly. It’s coming over very dark.

CALPURNIA: The colour’s gone out of everything—it reminds me of the day of the great eclipse.

FLAVIUS: It’s a sort of blight, I think.

Article continues below

GLAUCUS: Perhaps the gods are angry after all.

FLAVIUS: Hadn’t we better get home? We’ve seen all there is to see. The soldiers are looking at the sky and muttering.…

(Rattle of dice)

1ST SOLDIER: Publius, you owe me fivepence.… What’s happening to the weather? I can scarcely see the pips on the dice.

2ND SOLDIER: Better chuck the game.… How much longer are we going to stick here? I’m getting damned hungry.

4TH SOLDIER: What’s it going to do? rain?

1ST SOLDIER: I wish it would. Stifling hot, and not a breath of wind.… I hate this beastly climate.

2ND SOLDIER: Better down here than up there. It’s taken the kick out of Gestas, even.… Is the Nazarene dead?

3RD SOLDIER: Going home fast, I fancy.… I wish the relief would come.…

MARY MAGDALEN(whispering): John, John—is it the darkness? or is there a change in his face?

JOHN: Yes, Mary—there is a change.

MARY VIRGIN: My son is dying.

MARY MAGDALEN: The whole world is dying. He is going out into the night and has taken the sunlight with him. He is so far, so far that our voices cannot reach him. O love, O love—will you not come again?…

MARY VIRGIN: Hush, he is trying to speak.

JESUS: Mother!

MARY VIRGIN: Yes, dear?

JESUS: Let John be a son to you now.… John—she is your mother.

JOHN: Yes, Master. I will take care of her. I promise.

MARY VIRGIN: And I will love him as though he were my own.

MARY MAGDALEN: He is dying.… I could not believe it. But he is dying.

(Pause)

JOHN: It grows darker and darker.… All the people are drifting away.… Soon there will be only the soldiers and ourselves.… When everything else has perished, love and duty still keep watch.…

(Silence. Then, from a great distance, the sound of a small troop of men marching. It comes nearer and nearer till it reaches the foot of the cross)

PROCLUS: Squad, halt!

(MARCELLUSsteps forward to meet him and the twoCENTURIONSperform the usual movements for changing the guard)

MARCELLUS: Proclus?

PROCLUS: Yes.

MARCELLUS: I am glad you have come.… Squad, ‘shun … by the left, march!

(The first quaternion moves off. The tramp of their departing feet recedes to an infinite distance)

THE EVANGELIST: And there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice:—

JESUS: Eloi, eloi, lama sabachthani!

1ST SOLDIER: Gods! what was that?

2ND SOLDIER: It startled me.

3RD SOLDIER: It was the Nazarene.

4TH SOLDIER: I thought he was dead.

PROCLUS: What did he say?

1ST SOLDIER: I don’t know, Centurion—he spoke Hebrew.

2ND SOLDIER: He called on Elias for help.

PROCLUS: Elias?

2ND SOLDIER: He’s a national hero, or a demi-god of some kind, I think. Ask the young man there, he’s a Jew.

PROCLUS: Young man, what did your master say?

JOHN: He said: “My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?”—What horror could wring that cry out of him? He was always one with God.

PROCLUS: (worried): If there was anything I could do—consistent with my duty, that is——

JESUS: I am thirsty.

PROCLUS: Have we any water?

2ND SOLDIER: Ah! let be. Perhaps Elias will come to help him.

1ST SOLDIER: There’s some vinegar here in the jug, Centurion.

PROCLUS: Better still.… Dip a cloth in it, and hold it to his mouth.

1ST SOLDIER: I can’t reach so far.

PROCLUS: Put it on the end of my cane.… It’s so dark, I can hardly see his face.… Is he taking it?

1ST SOLDIER: I can’t tell.… I think he’s going.…

Sequence 6 (The Governor’s Palace)

PILATE: Claudia, Claudia, tell me—what was this dream of yours?

Article continues below

CLAUDIA: I was in a ship at sea, voyaging among the islands of the Aegean. At first the weather seemed calm and sunny—but presently, the sky darkened—and the sea began to toss with the wind.…

(Wind and waves)

Then, out of the east, there came a cry, strange and piercing.… (Voice, in a thin wail:

“Pan ho megas tethneke——

Pan ho megas tethneke——”)

and I said to the captain, “What do they cry?” And he answered, “Great Pan is dead.” And I asked him, “How can God die?” And he answered, “Don’t you remember?” They crucified him. He suffered under Pontius Pilate.”

(Murmur of voices, starting almost in a whisper)

Then all the people in the ship turned their faces to me and said: “Pontius Pilate”.…

(Voices, some speaking, some chanting, some muttering, mingled with sung fragments of Greek and Latin liturgies, weaving and crossing one another: “Pontius Pilate.… Pontius Pilate … he suffered under Pontius Pilate … crucified, dead and buried … sub Pontio Pilato … Pilato … he suffered … suffered … under Pontius Pilate … under Pontius Pilate.…)

… in all tongues and all voices … even the little children with their mothers.…

(Children’s voices: “Suffered under Pontius Pilate … sub Pontio Pilato … crucifie sous Ponce Pilate … gekreuzigt unter Pontius Pilatus … and other languages, mingling with the adult voices: then fade it all out)

… your name, husband, your name continually—“he suffered under Pontius Pilate”.

PILATE: The gods avert the omen.

CLAUDIA: This day is like my dream, Caius—this darkness at mid-noon.… Hark! What was that?

PILATE: Nothing, Claudia … there is nothing to hear.… Come away from the window.

Sequence 7 (At The Foot Of The Cross)

THE EVANGELIST: And when he had received the vinegar, Jesus cried with a loud voice:

JESUS: (loudly): It is accomplished! (softly) Father, into Thy hands I commend my spirit.

THE EVANGELIST: And he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost.

(Earthquake)

And the earth did quake, and the vail of the Temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom. And when the Centurion, and they that were with him, saw this, they were afraid.

(Earthquake repeated, and dying away. Pause)

Sequence 8 (At The Foot Of The Cross)

BALTHAZAR: Centurion!

PROCLUS: Sir?

BALTHAZAR: For whom are these gallows erected?

PROCLUS: Why, don’t you know?… I see by your complexion you are a foreigner.… Two of the men are robbers. And the third is Jesus of Nazareth, whom they called the King of the Jews.

BALTHAZAR: Jesus, King of the Jews. Then the stars have led me aright—and I have found him as my dream foretold, by the tall tree on the hill.… I think I recognise you, Centurion, though it is thirty years and more since we met.

PROCLUS: Indeed, sir? Where was that?

BALTHAZAR: At the court of King Herod.

PROCLUS: I remember. You are Balthazar, King of Ethiopia.

BALTHAZAR: I am. And there is the child that was born King of the Jews, at whose coming the great star shone.

PROCLUS: (astonished): Is that he?… Herod told me to slay him and I refused. But you see they have killed him at last—and here I stand.… Son of God he called himself—and so I believe he was.

BALTHAZAR: King of the Jews; king of the world; king of Heaven. So it was written; so it will be.

PROCLUS: As he died, the darkness lifted. It is very strange.

1ST SOLDIER: Excuse me, Centurion.

PROCLUS: Yes?

1ST SOLDIER: A Jew called Joseph of Arimathaea is here, with an order from the Governor. He is to have the body of the Nazarene for burial. And you said that all the men were to be taken down tonight, so we broke the legs of the two robbers to finish them off, but as Jesus was dead already we left him as he was.

Article continues below

PROCLUS: Quite right.

1ST SOLDIER: Yes, Centurion. But that young woman is hysterical and clinging to his knees——

PROCLUS: I’ll come.… Good evening, sir. You are Joseph of Arimathaea, I take it. Very good.… Now, my girl, I’m sorry—you don’t want him left hanging there, do you? We’re going to take him down, and this kind gentleman will see him properly done by.

MARY MAGDALEN: Go away—don’t touch him! He’s not dead! Jesus! Lord! Master! Speak again! Tell them you are alive!

JOHN: Mary, Mary!

PROCLUS: Are you sure he is dead, you men?

2ND SOLDIER: He’s dead enough, Centurion. But a spearthrust will make sure. There!

PROCLUS: (angrily): What did you want to do that for?

MARY MAGDALEN: Oh! what have you done! He is living! See how the blood runs down.

PROCLUS: No, my poor lass! If he were living, the blood would leap—but this creeps dark and sluggish, clotting as it falls. He broke his heart, I think, in that last cry.… Excuse me, ma’am, but we must do our job—can you do anything with her?

MARY VIRGIN: Mary, my dear—come to me. There, there!… You will handle my son gently, Centurion?

PROCLUS: We will, ma’am. You are a brave woman.

JOHN: Mary—let me tell you a thing that he once said to us.… Are you listening?… He said, “The Son of Man is only a week-end guest in the house of death. On the third day he will rise and go.”

JOSEPH: Did he say that indeed?

JOHN: He did, sir. I do not know what he meant.

PROCLUS: Carefully, men, carefully.… Lower him by the knees and shoulders.… Have you the winding-sheet ready?

MARY VIRGIN: Give me my son into my arms.… I know you, King Balthazar. These are the baby hands that closed upon your gift of myrrh. This is the fair young head, crowned once with gold by Melchior, but now with thorns to be a king of sorrows. The third gift is yet to come.

JOHN: What was that third gift, Mother?

MARY VIRGIN: Frankincense.

THE EVANGELIST: Now in the place where he was crucified, there was a garden; and in the garden a new sepulchre, wherein was never man yet laid. There laid they Jesus; and they rolled a great stone to the door of the sepulchre. And the sabbath drew on. And the Chief Priests and Pharisees came together to Pilate.

Scene III (The Governor’s Palace)

PILATE: (abruptly): Yes, Caiaphas. What is it now?

CAIAPHAS: Excellency, that lying charlatan Jesus of Nazareth——

PILATE: I want to hear nothing more about Jesus of Nazareth.

CAIAPHAS: Something has just come to our knowledge. During his lifetime, it seems, he boasted that if he were killed, he would rise again on the third day. It is surely advisable that the tomb should be carefully guarded. Otherwise, some of his followers may steal the body and give out that he has risen from the dead—thus starting a new superstition, infinitely more damaging than the first.

PILATE: Well?

CAIAPHAS: I suggest that you order sentries to be posted.

PILATE: It has nothing to do with me.

CAIAPHAS: The bodies of criminals are Roman property.

PILATE: A member of your Sanhedrim applied to me for the custody of this particular body. I was happy to oblige him. The thing has now become a Jewish affair. Rome is not concerned.

CAIAPHAS: Excellency——

PILATE: You have your own guards. Take whatever precautions you think fit.… Slave! show these gentlemen out.

(A party ofSOLDIERSpasses in the distance, singing)

… “No more pack-drill, no more fatigues,

Article continues below

No more roll-call, no more bugle-call.…”

THE EVANGELIST: So they went, and made the sepulchre sure, sealing the stone and setting a watch.

Secular and sacred themes alike have been sketched by Dorothy L. Sayers’ piquant pen. Her writings have won her a measure of distinction as a dilettante Anglican theologian, although her religious conceptions and writings have sometimes been highly provocative. Twelve plays on the life of Christ, written for British Broadcasting Corporation in the colloquial language of England, stimulated wide debate. The eleventh play, “King of Sorrows,” from which the scene “Calvary Hill” is selected (and reprinted by permission from The Man Born to be King, copyright 1943 by Dorothy L. Sayers), caused even supporters to flinch and shrink from the Crucifixion scene. But the BBC’s director of religious broadcasting confided that Miss Sayers’ work had “forced many of us to the grim task of considering afresh the awe-ful implications of the two words incarnatusest.”

Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.

Our digital archives are a work in progress. Let us know if corrections need to be made.

Issue: