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Full Online Book HomePlaysJudith - Act 2 Scene 3
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Judith - Act 2 Scene 3 Post by :kristisayles Category :Plays Author :Arnold Bennett Date :May 2012 Read :1365

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Judith - Act 2 Scene 3

ACT II SCENE III

SCENE: _The same_.

TIME: _The same night_.

(_Wine and food are set by the couch_.)

(_A lamp is burning_.)


BAGOAS (_at back entrance to tent, calling to people off_). To your beds, all of you. Let none remain. (_He stands a moment at the entrance; a few distant shouts are heard; then silence_. Bagoas _comes within the tent towards the couch. To Holofernes.) The waiters are gone, Prince. There is no one left to disturb the night.

HOLOFERNES. Hast thou seen her?

BAGOAS (_after a pause_). No, prince.

HOLOFERNES. But didst thou look?

BAGOAS. I looked, O illustrious.

HOLOFERNES. Is there moonlight?

BAGOAS. The moon is clouded, highness.

HOLOFERNES. Give me wine. (Bagoas _obeys_.) Bagoas!

BAGOAS. Prince?

(_The hangings of the tent R., balloon inwards a little_.)

HOLOFERNES (_looking behind him sharply, spilling some wine_). The wind is rising.

BAGOAS. It is but a night breeze.

HOLOFERNES (_as he drinks gloomily_). Bagoas, she has escaped back to her own people.

BAGOAS (_aside_). I would she had, the jade! (_To Holofernes.) Prince, she cannot escape. Every path from the valley is guarded.

HOLOFERNES. What guard could restrain such a woman?

BAGOAS. Ah! Prince! What guard could restrain her?

HOLOFERNES. Dost thou echo me?

BAGOAS. I humbly think the thought of his highness.

HOLOFERNES. Do thy thinking outside.

(Bagoas _bows and moves towards the entrance_. Judith _is standing there. The two look at each other for a moment_.)

BAGOAS (_with a gesture, indicating Judith). Highness!

HOLOFERNES (_Jumping up. To Bagoas). Begone to thy post!

(Judith _glides in silently_. Bagoas _goes out. They pass by each other without a word or a salutation, but mutually scrutinizing_.)

JUDITH. The great feast of the captains is over?

HOLOFERNES. The captains are departed, drunken with wine and their pride. But thy feast and my feast is not begun. (_Points to the repast_.)

JUDITH (_enigmatically_.) I am here.

HOLOFERNES (_ecstatic_.) Art thou in truth here, or do my eyes behold that which is not?

JUDITH. Did I not say that I should come in the night?

HOLOFERNES. Yea, I trusted thee. I trusted thee so much that at the feast of the captains I commanded that all my hosts shall attack Bethulia, with bow, and sling, and spear, at sunrise, and also I gave the word of Holofernes for a pledge that naught in the heavens or on the earth should resist the onset of the Assyrians; for some among them feared the word of Achior which they had heard.

JUDITH. You have not done this thing?

HOLOFERNES. I have done it.

JUDITH. Would you forestall God, and would you speak the decrees of God before they are uttered?

HOLOFERNES. Thou saidst thou wouldst pray to thy god this night and that he would tell thee when the Israelites in Bethulia had committed their sin, and that thou wouldst come to me to proclaim the hour of my triumph.

JUDITH. I said: I will pray to God and _mayhap he will tell me.

HOLOFERNES. Thou hast prayed, and thy god hath not answered?

JUDITH. He has not answered.

HOLOFERNES (_with bravado_). He is no god, then, thy god. Let us drink.

JUDITH (_as Holofernes _moves towards her, solemnly_). Touch not your handmaid, and touch not the goblet. (_She goes to the skins, R_.)

HOLOFERNES (_following Judith _gently_). Thou art offended.

JUDITH. Stand afar off, Holofernes, and meddle not with her that communes with the Most High.

(Judith _kneels_. Holofernes _goes in the direction of the couch. Silence_. Bagoas _has been seen once or twice in the porch of the tent, his back turned. He has now gone again. Two half-veiled Assyrian women appear through the hangings, R., and watch a moment, then vanish_. Judith _slowly rises_.)

HOLOFERNES. What has befallen thee?

JUDITH. It has befallen me that this moment the God of Israel has spoken and my ear has heard his command. (_Approaching Holofernes.)

HOLOFERNES. What saith thy god?

JUDITH. My ear has heard that the Israelites in Bethulia have committed their sin, and at sunrise the Assyrians shall assault Bethulia and none shall withstand them.

HOLOFERNES. A miracle!

JUDITH. A miracle in thy tent, O great warrior!

HOLOFERNES. To-morrow is appointed to be the day of my triumph.

JUDITH (_moved_). Yea, it is so.

HOLOFERNES (_gratefully_). Hear me, Judith. Thy god shall be my god.

JUDITH. In truth thou art set apart to be his. HOLOFERNES (_close to her_). Thy body trembles.

JUDITH (_smiling_). Thinkst thou then that I was not afraid for thee? But my fear is gone from me, for now I know thy fate and the decree of heaven concerning thee.

HOLOFERNES (_aside_). To-morrow is appointed for my triumph, but this night also shall I exult. (_To Judith.) Let us eat and drink together, for we are alone in the night, and thou hast promised.

JUDITH (_gaily_). Let us feast.

HOLOFERNES (_animated by her responsive tone_). Take off thy tunic; thou art in thy own house. Let Holofernes be thy tire-woman. (_Approaching her_.)

JUDITH. No! (_Moving from him to the further side of the couch_.) But he shall be my slave to serve me. Pour out the wine, great slave.

(_While Holofernes _cheerfully obeys_, Judith _takes the knife from her garments and places it behind the couch. Then, as he stands with the wine, gazing at her and separated from her only by the couch, she slowly removes her tunic and appears in indoor attire. She comes towards him and takes the wine from him and drinks_.)

HOLOFERNES. I feared that in the strictness of thy Hebrew scruples thou wouldst not drink of my wine.

JUDITH. I will drink again. (_She does so_.)

HOLOFERNES _(taking the goblet and drinking). Dost thou verily know thy power and thy dominion, Judith?

JUDITH (_simply_). Yes, I know it now better than thou.

HOLOFERNES. Thou dost not. For I am mad for thee, and thou hast set thy seal upon me for evermore. My heart cannot hold thee, for thou hast filled it to overflowing, and all men see that my heart is full of thee and runneth over. Yea, I have a hundred and two and thirty thousand that bow themselves at my feet and that live and die by my glance. And I am at _thy feet and thy glance is my joy and my sorrow according to thy whim. Judith, I entreat thee, command me something. For whatever thou command me, that will I execute. And be not afraid in thy command, for my power is very great and there is none like it save only my lord Nebuchadnezzar's.

JUDITH (_tenderly_). I command thee that thou be happy. For thy captive has no other desire.

HOLOFERNES. Say not my captive. For it is I that am thy prisoner. And I will set thee on my throne, and in my great boldness I will dare to sit beside thee. But thou shalt reign. And we will live together in Assyria long years.

JUDITH (_changing her mood_). There is no requisition in the grave whether you have lived ten or an hundred or a thousand years. But the God of Israel is a shield.

HOLOFERNES (_eagerly_). And I have told thee that thy god shall be my god; but in secret, because of that which I owe to King Nebuchadnezzar. Yet shall the whole earth know that thou, Judith, alone art my god.

JUDITH. But thou hast other wives.

HOLOFERNES. No!

JUDITH. Yes! It has been whispered to me that thou hast many wives, and concubines without number.

HOLOFERNES. It is a lie. For from this night I have put away from me all women but thee, and there is not one among them to compare with thee. (_Appealingly_). And since the judgment of heaven hath done a miracle by thee in the tent of Holofernes this night, wilt thou deny, O tenderness! that thou hast been divinely appointed to me, and I to thee?

JUDITH. I will not deny that the Lord is in this thing. And for thy comfort I will tell thee that which thou knowest not.

HOLOFERNES (_expectant_). Tell me.

JUDITH. Before I escaped from Bethulia, as I lay on my bed, a vision came to me, and it was the vision of Holofernes in the likeness of his majesty and his might. And I saw the vision by my bed, and so it was that I came down into the valley.... (_Softly_.) And wouldst thou that I should have uttered this secret to any but thee!

HOLOFERNES (_full of emotion_). I will kiss thy lips, and thou art mine, O fragrance!

JUDITH. Kiss my lips.

(Holofernes _kisses her, and then in an excess of feeling stumbles backward_.)

(_A half-veiled Assyrian woman appears at the opening R., and watches_. Bagoas, _in the porch of the tent, turns and sees her, and dashes at her with a weapon. Both disappear through the opening, R._)

JUDITH (_moving with stealth towards the hidden knife, comfortingly_). O mighty child, where is thy strength, and where is thy terribleness? Rest thee a moment on the couch, and thy soul's captive will tend thee.

(Holofernes _drops on the couch, and Judith _caresses him_.)

HOLOFERNES (_murmuring_). My great joy has overthrown me.

(Judith, _seizing the knife and leaning over Holofernes, _kills him while she is still caressing_.)

JUDITH (_as she uses the knife; murmuring_). Thou that wouldst go against the pleasure of the Most High! Thou that wouldst defile Judea! Thou that hast dishonoured with thy kiss the widow of Manasses! Thou that hast compelled me to guile and deceit and much lying so that I might perform the will of God! The grave shall be thy house!

(_Enter Haggith, _L_.)

JUDITH (_turning to Haggith, _firmly and impressively_). I have done that which I had to do, and the power of Assyria is fallen. (_Pointing_.) Take the head by the beard, and put it in thy sack, and let us depart.


(CURTAIN.)

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