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Judith - Act 3 Scene 2 Post by :mitchpowell Category :Plays Author :Arnold Bennett Date :May 2012 Read :1236

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Judith - Act 3 Scene 2

ACT III SCENE II

SCENE: _The same_.

(Charmis _is alone at the open gates. Glimpses are caught of the people beyond the gates_.)

TIME: _Afternoon of the same day_.


CHABRIS (_entering to Charmis, _at the gates_). They say there is now much water in Bethulia.

CHARMIS. Seeing that I have toiled mightily seven hours this day in charge of six score crazy carriers to carry water up from the wells! Would that Ozias had granted me a whip to sharpen their brains! And now Ozias hath left me in charge of the gates.

CHABRIS. Where is Ozias, and what does he do?

CHARMIS. He stands here beyond the gates to receive Judith and the women who have gone forth to meet her.

CHABRIS. What is the deed of Judith? (_The noise of an approaching procession is heard_. Charmis, _ignoring Chabris, _goes a little outside the gates to watch. Chabris _continues in a louder voice_.) The streets of the city are empty. I say the streets of the city are empty.

CHARMIS. Dodderer! The whole city is afoot on the hill-side, and all the Assyrians left alive are fled in panic into the East.

CHABRIS. Then I will return to my house and drink again. No! I will remain, and my eyes shall regard the women, as of old.

(_Enter through the gates a procession of women (including Rahel), _waving branches. At the end of the procession come Haggith _and Ingur, _and finally Judith, _with Achior _on one hand, and Ozias _on the other. Townspeople and soldiers, garlanded, follow the procession_.)

BALLET.

OZIAS (_to Judith). O daughter, blessed be thou above all the women of the earth. Thou art the exaltation of Jerusalem and the great glory of Israel, for the Lord hath directed thee to the cutting off of the head of the chief of our enemies, and thou hast revenged our ruin.

VOICES. So be it.

JUDITH. Holofernes came out of the mountains from the north, and his horsemen covered the hills; and he bragged that he would burn up the borders of Israel, and kill her young men with the sword, and make the virgins as a spoil. But the Almighty Lord hath disappointed the Assyrians by the hand of a woman; and my sandals ravished the eye of Holofernes, and my beauty took his mind prisoner, and the knife passed through his neck. Let all creatures serve the Lord!

VOICES. So be it!

OZIAS. Charmis, I appoint you to lead the people to the Temple, where are the banners of the Assyrians which we have captured this day, and each woman shall take a banner, and all shall return to this place before the house of the Lady Judith.

CHARMIS (_swollen with pride_). I obey, lord Ozias.

(_The procession begins to move away, L_. Haggith _displays her importance and bullies Ingur, _who accompanies her_.)

RAHEL (_to Chabris). What, grandad! You are abroad once more! (_She takes him with her like a disobedient child_.)

(_Exeunt, processionally, all except Judith, Ozias _and Achior.)

OZIAS (_to Achior). Thou goest not with the people?

JUDITH (_to Achior). Stay, I pray you, Achior.

OZIAS (_to Judith, _with growing excitement_). I wish to speak privily with the lady Judith, _now_!

JUDITH. Let us speak here.

OZIAS. Shall we not go into your house, you and I?

JUDITH. My house is not ready to receive you, Ozias.

OZIAS. Let it be so. But before Achior I will not speak.

JUDITH. Achior, go into my house, and do honour to my dwelling, and repose in it.

ACHIOR. Gladly, O lady! (_Exit into the house_.)

JUDITH. What is the urgency that oppresses you, Ozias, and why are you troubled in the hour of triumph?

OZIAS (_losing control of himself_). Who is the heathen Achior that you should prefer him and make your mouth sweet to him?

JUDITH. Leave Achior, and let us come at once to the matter that presses.

OZIAS. Oh! I will not speak smoothly for a pretence! Thou knowest that my jealousy smokes against Achior. Yea, and against Holofernes also.

JUDITH. But Holofernes is dead.

OZIAS. Before he went down to his place, didst thou not sin with him?

JUDITH. As the Lord liveth, my countenance deceived him to his destruction, yet did he not shame me.

OZIAS. Blessed be our God!

JUDITH. But how does this matter touch thee, and what is my virtue in thy regard?

OZIAS. Let Holofernes suffice thee, and drive not me also to death with the softness of thy voice. Art thou not aware that the soul of my soul burns for thee and will not wait--the more so since thou hast done a mighty deed and art proved a woman beyond all women?

JUDITH. Nay! I have done naught; but the Lord hath saved Israel by _thy hand.

OZIAS. What is this humbleness?

JUDITH. AS I came towards the city with Achior, the messenger from Jerusalem met us in the way, and he was full to bursting of the word of Ozias, and that Ozias had delivered Israel, and that what I did I did by thy device and at thy command. But the messenger in speaking knew not that he spoke to Judith, and I let him go.

OZIAS. Judith----

JUDITH. Yet it seems to me that thou wast ignorant of all that which I went out to do, and my plan was hidden from thee.

OZIAS (_powerfully persuasive_). Hearken to me, Judith. I swear it was for thee that I boasted. My aim was that thy mighty deed should gain preferment in Jerusalem. But thou art a woman and therefore preferment is not for thee. Yet now by reason of my boasting I shall be greatly advanced and lifted up, and in all Judea there will be none higher than me, and thus wilt thou also be advanced and lifted up.

JUDITH. I desire no preferment.

OZIAS. But I would have it in thy behalf; and my appetite is double. I rage for glory and dominion, and I rage also for thee. And I will offer thee glory and dominion, for I seek these things as a gift to thy beauty. And if I cannot lay them on thy lap my heel shall spurn mankind and I will tread it to dust. My desires are terrible; they will not be withstood; they consume me daily, but daily I am renewed. I am on fire, but by the fierceness of the fire I am strengthened. I was conceived for greatness and my mother bore me for mastery, and the huge earth shall shake with the terror of my commands.... And I am held between thy fingers.

JUDITH. I deny not thy greatness.

OZIAS. Surely thou canst not. For thou too art great. And my greatness yearns to thine.

JUDITH. Wilt thou listen?

OZIAS. I hear.

JUDITH. With this greatness of thine goes deceit and laxity of mind.

OZIAS. Yet when thou didst thy mighty deed didst thou not deceive cruelly?

JUDITH. I deceived not for myself, but for Israel; and my guile was for the glory of God. But thy heart is set only upon advancement and power, which is corruption.

OZIAS. Judith, canst thou not lift thy thoughts beyond good and evil, and canst thou not contemplate the marvellous greatness of man? I will abase myself before none but thee, and in my ear there is no commandment but thine; and all other decrees will I mock. I would have thee in marriage, and I would have no other but thee. Wilt thou take me to thee, and wilt thou yield thyself without fear to the terrible flame of my love? For thus shalt thou fulfil thyself and me. But give heed before thou answerest, and know that if thou turnest from me, I will make all the nations of the earth to tremble with my fury.

JUDITH. Thou art great also in thy loving.

OZIAS. Once thou didst love me.

JUDITH. Nay! I but looked upon thee in kindness. But now I will not go to thee in marriage.

OZIAS (_half admiring_). Thou art not then afraid of my wrath!

JUDITH. I am Judith.

OZIAS (_with a fresh access of violence_). Thou hungerest for Achior. Wouldst thou marry a heathen, thou a Hebrew woman?

JUDITH. And thou, if I had not accomplished the will of the Lord, and if thou hadst been carried to Babylon as thou saidst, wouldst thou not have denied the Most High and gone after other gods? But Achior believeth in our God, and this day will be joined into the house of Israel.

OZIAS (_savagely scornful_). What is Achior but a simpleton!

JUDITH. It may be. But I love him and he shall rule me ... for he came hither for a sign from the Lord.

OZIAS (_savagely resentful_). Oh! If I did not love thee, would I not undo thee!

JUDITH. Thou! Thou art Ozias, but I am she who cut off the head of a mightier than thou, even Holofernes in his tent. Go thy ways and fulfil greatness. As for me I will remain obediently in my house, and truth and righteousness shall reign in my house.

(_The procession returns, the women bearing the banners of the Assyrians_. Achior _enters from the house_.)

(Judith _is crowned with olives_.)

JUDITH. And now let the priests and the elders enter with me into my house, and Achior shall follow them, so that he may be received into Israel, and I will be betrothed to him with all the ceremonies of the law, for he came to me as a messenger from God. And when the marriage has been performed, I will submit myself to him as a wife to her husband.

HAGGITH. And let Ingur also be received into Israel, for he has repented of his idolatries. And he shall be my husband, yet shall he not rule me.

OZIAS. Brethren, hearken! This night I go to Jerusalem, for I am called to higher things, because I have delivered Israel. And I shall not return to this little city; but ye will have tidings of me in the years to come, and ye will say proudly to the strangers within your gates: He was a Bethulian and once he ruled over us.

JUDITH. The lord Ozias is called to greatness. Peace go with him.

ALL. So be it.

(CURTAIN.)


(THE END)
Arnold Bennett's play: Judith

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