THE FLOGGING


Cast:

Marcus Soldier with a cruel streak. Enjoys administering Roman Justice
Trellius Frustrated by being on punnishment detail in Jerusalem instead of fighting a glorious battle for Rome
Artos Educated man. Knows much about Jewish culture and customs
Bradus Milenius Centurian in charge of the three soldiers
(Scene: Three men enter stage right.)

MARCUS:
How can you be so stupid? To even suggest that the Jews have the only god...

ARTOS
I didn't say that I believed it. It's just that ...

TRELLIUS
Listen to the two of you! Gods! You (Points to Marcus) Listening to these stories our ancestors stole from the Greeks. Gods under every rock! And you (Points to Artos) listening to these Jewish fantsies of a god that they don't even know the name of!

ARTOS
It's not that they don't know the name it's that...

MARCUS
You're a mighty brave man tempting the god's in that way. You really should show them respect.


Transfer interrupted!

can I respect what doesn't exist?

MARCUS
Well the next time you march off to war, tell me you aren't going to call on Mars for protection. (Turning to Artos) How are you going to call a god with no name.

ARTOS
Look, I never said I honored their god. I just find it interesting thats all. I've listened to their teachers, and some of them are quite wise.

TRELLIUS
If they're so wise, why don't you ask them how we can get off this accursed punnishment detail. Whipping prisoners will never let us retire in comfort. There's no glory.

MARCUS
No glory maybe but...don't you ever get pleasure when you hear them scream?

ARTOS
That's sick!

MARCUS
That's power. Roman power!

TRELLIUS
Roman power Marcus? Laying open the backs of theives, common criminals is your idea of Roman power?

MARCUS
It's discipline that holds an empire together, Trellius. Without law and order it all falls apart.

TRELLIUS
I'm trained to fight the armies that would stand against us. You can stay in Jerusalem to be law and order. Beter still, leave it to the likes of Artos here, who wants to be a Jew.

ARTOS
Ah Trellius,you wouldn't understand. I merely take an interest in studying the people who's country we are occupying.

MARCUS
And what is wrong with obeying orders? I seek only to do as I am told, as a Roman soldier should. If I can be a tool of Roman justice well, I don't mind spilling the blood of lawbreakers. I'll end up back home if I do as I'm told.

ARTOS
If you accept where you are, you might find yourself actually enjoying yourself. This is not such a bad place to be. These people already have laws that keep them pretty much in line. Better here than trying to tame those Britons.

TRELLIUS
Well the weather is nicer here I understand. Very harsh winters there. But Marcus you'd enjoy it there. They say you can flog the hide off those animals and still they'll spit at you. Even you could get your fill of being Romes master of discipline.

MARCUS
I never said that this was my choice of duty. But duty it is, and I'll carry out my orders.

ARTOS
And meanwhile, satisfy those sadistic tendencies of yours.

TRELLIUS
Well speaking of orders, do either of you have any idea why we've been called at this time of morning? I mean who do they need us to flog this early? And why all three of us? How many have they got?

ARTOS
I think we're about to find out.
(Enter Centurian Bradus Millenius. The Three soldiers stand at attention and salute.)


THREE SOLDIERS
Hail Caesar!

MILENIUS
(Returns salute)
Are you three men ready? They'll be bringing the prisoner out in a short time.

TRELLIUS
Only one prisoner sir?

MILENIUS
That's right. Only one, a Jew. He's got the governors palace in an upraoar too.

MARCUS
Uproar! I'll show him an uproar . These Jews need to be shown how to behave like civilized people. If we stay firm with them, the rabble rousers will learn in time that it's no use to try to stir up dissention against Rome.

MILENIUS
This isn't one of the rabble rousers. In fact, Artos you should find this one quite interesting, being so interested in Jewish affairs.

ARTOS
Oh? Is it one of the political cases?

MILENIUS
Well, yes and no. It's an internal Jewish political affair. Actually more religious than political.

ARTOS
Well who is it?

MILENIUS
His name is Jesus. The Jews are trying to pressure the gov...

ARTOS
Jesus?! The Nazerene? There's been talk this past week ...

TRELLIUS
With all due respect sir, why are soldiers of Rome called to punnish crimes against Jewish law? Since when do they dictate to us who to flog?

MILENIUS
Well just between us, Pilate has been trying to send him back to Herod. He'd just as soon not deal with it himself. He says that the man has commited no crimes against Roman law, but the Sanhedrin have been putting some heavy pressure on him

MARCUS
And he's giving in to a bunch of old Jewish priests and scribes?

MILENIUS
I don't know. Somebody seemed to worry about Ceasar hearing that Pilate is against him. I don't know, I'm not paid to analyze politics. I'm to carry out my orders, and see to it that those below me carry out theirs.

MARCUS
Don't worry about me sir. I always carry out my orders. I don't care who it is, or what they've done.

MILENIUS
Be ready. I'll be back to give the official orders.
(Exits)


MARCOS
So Artos, what about this Jew? What's the name? Jonas?

ARTOS
No no it's Jesus. He's one of their teachers. Some say he's a prophet, others say that he teaches heresy against their religion.

TRELLIUS
Who cares about their religion? That's the trouble with Rome, we allow too much freedom. Do away with that temple, and crush these desert animals, and we'd have much less to worry about.

ARTOS
Ah but Trelius, this is how we are distinguished from the barbaric cultures. We allow our subject peoples a small measure of their own culture, and we have less to fear from them in terms of rebellion.

MARCUS
Never mind culture! You can't flog a man properly if you're worried about his culture, or how he prays or how many gods he worships! Get your mind right! Are you ready to make a Jew scream? Are you ready to open up a back?

ARTOS
Are you questioning my capability as a soldier Marcus? Because if you are, we can settle the matter right here and now.
(Steps toward Marcus)
TRELIUS
(Steps in between the two)
Whoa now you two! Artos. Artos. Nobody thinks you are not a good soldier, do they?
(looks at Marcus)
MARCUS
Of couse not. You're a fine soldier...maybe a bit analytical.

ARTOS
Well no one ever informed me that ignorance was a requirement for being a Roman soldier.

MARCUS
Ok, ok you're right, I'm sorry. Anyway let's cast lots for who gets the first crack at him.

ARTOS
Cast lots?

TRELIUS
It makes no difference to me. Artos?

MARCUS
Ah theres nothing like that first strike accross virgin flesh.
(Takes a few practice swings with the cat o' nine tails) You sure you don't want to toss for it?

ARTOS
No Marcus you may have the first swing. There is no shortage of criminals here. I get my share of ... (Shakes his head) virgin flesh.
(Centurian enters All three salute)
MILENIUS
Marcus, and Trelius, you two go prepare the flogging post. Artos will join you momentarily.
(Marcus and Trelius exit stage left)

ARTOS
Sir?

MILENIUS
Artos, what do you know about this man Jesus?

ARTOS
Like I said earlier, he's a teacher of the Jewish religion. Quite extraordinary I'm told.

MILENIUS
Extraordinary? In what way?

ARTOS
This is all hearsay of course. I've never seen him actually, but he evidently has taught in their temple with boldness that angers the Jewish establishment, and with such wisdom that they can never out debate him over matters of Jewish law.

MILENIUS
That's all you know of him?

ARTOS
As I said, it's all hearsay. They say that he speaks with the authority that only a god would posess. they say that...

MILENIUS
Yes yes I know that. What of the healings?

ARTOS
It's all hearsay. Some say it's mass hysteria, or simple tricks put over on simple beggars. Forgive my asking sir, but why are you asking these questions of me?

MILENIUS
I'm curious that's all. Do you think you are the only one in all of Romes Legions that's ever taken an interest in local events?

ARTOS
Forgive me sir but usually you are much more...how do I say... detatched. And now you just seem well very much concerned about a simple Jewish prisoner.

MILENIUS
My wife's brother is Centurian at the post in Capernaum. He told me a remarkable story. You see he had this favorite servant who had served him well. The servant was quite ill almost at his death when some of the local people told him of a great healer who was headed to town. He was already familiar with the work of this man; and the physicians had given up on healing this servant. I don't understand why, but he says that he knew in his very being that this man could heal his servant. He went out and met him outside of town. He was very discreet about it, as it wouln't do for a Roman Centurian to be seen asking for such help from a Jew. Well, my brother-in-law swears that this man spoke a word from over a mile away, and before he returned home his servant had risen from his death bed, and was healed of his sickness. The man's name was Jesus.

ARTOS
There are many such stories circulating in Jerusalem right now. I've studied these people for three years, and for the life of me, I can't understand why they are so bent on this mans destruction.

MILENIUS
My brother-in-law has talked of resigning his post to follow this man. Can you imagine that? I've warned him to keep such talk quiet. Well it looks now like there'll be no one left to follow.

ARTOS
Oh he'll heal up in a few months. He'll probably stay clear of Jerusalem though.

MILENIUS
I've received further orders. He's to be executed. Crucified.

(Artos just stares in disbelief)

MILENIUS
I can get you excused from this detail.

ARTOS
(Walks away to stage left)
No sir. I'm a soldier.
(Lights fade with Milenius standing alone)
(Lights up with milenius in the same position. The three soldiers enter from stage left. Trelius is holding circle of thorns)

TRELIUS
Come on Marcus, we're going to have a bit more fun with this one. You too Artos! What do you say.

ARTOS
I'll pass thank you.

TRELIUS
(Grabs Marcus' arm)
Marcus You'll enjoy this. The rest of the men are joining in with us.

MARCUS
(Jerks arm away, and just stares out into space.)
MILENIUS
Let him be.
(Trelius exits stage right)
(Marcus continues to stare into space. Artos and Milenius approach from either side.)
ARTOS
Marcus are you alright?

MARCUS
(Stares at his hands)
His blood got on me.

MILENIUS
What are you saying?

MARCUS
(Continues to stare at his hands)
His blood...

ARTOS
What about his blood?

MARCUS
It's on my hands!

ARTOS
(Puts hand on Marcus' shoulder)
It's on my hands too. Why are you so upset?

MARCUS
(Jerks away)
You don't understand! He didn't scream. I hit him as hard as I could. He opened up like ripe fruit, his blood splattered on me! He wouldn't scream.

ARTOS
We've had strong ones before. What's the problem? I've never seen you like this.

MARCUS
(Drops to his knees)
I hit him so hard that my shoulder nearly tore out of it's socket. I couldn't make him scream. After Trelius had finished, and they were leading him away, he looked me in the eyes. I tried to look away, but I couldn't. He looked at me and his blood was on me. Something in me wanted to explain that I was only doing my duty, that I was sorry. I tore his back to pieces, and he looked at me as if he knew me. I couldn't even close my eyes to stop looking at his face. He looked at me and I felt...I felt he looked at me with pity! With pity! We nearly flogged him to death, and he looked on me with pity. It's not right, something's wrong with this. He can't be real.

ARTOS
You've got to be imagining that. He was in no shape to pity anyone but himself.

MARCUS
I'm telling you it's just like I said. He had pity in his eyes. The blood was running down his body, and he had no fear in his eyes.
(Stands up faces Milenius)
I don't understand what's happening to me sir. I've always enjoyed this duty. I've flogged hundreds of prisoners. After all someone had to do it... I always derived pleasure from it.
(Looks down)
I don't think I can do this any more.
(Turns to Artos)
Didn't you see Artos? This one was different. This was wrong! Why did we do this?

ARTOS
Why? You spoke not an hour ago of duty, and Roman discipline.

MARCUS
He was no robber; no murderer. What laws of Rome did he break?

ARTOS
You know that we just carry out sentence. We don't pass it. The Jews themselves turned this man over.

MARCUS
You know these Jews Artos. Why? Why did they send him for such treatment?

ARTOS
I could stay here all day explaining and still you may not understand. I'm not sure I do. You should rest. You're over tired that's all.
(Walks toward stage right)
I've got to prepare for execution detail. You'll get over this with rest. Don't let this Jesus get to you my friend. He is only a Jew afterall, just a Man.
(Exits)

MARCUS
(Shouts after him)
Just a man? Are you certain Artos? Is he just a man?
(Drops to his knees and shouts to the sky)
What have I done?
(Turns to Milenius)
Is he just a man, Sir? With all respect sir, I cannot go on with this execution detail. If it means my punnishment then so be it.

MILENIUS
You need some rest, son. I can fill in for you at the execution. You go back to your quarters.

MARCUS
Thank you sir. I will make up for this.
(Stands up)


MILENIUS
Just be ready for your next shift.

MARCUS
(Turns to leave, takes three steps, stops and turns to face Milenius, but doesn't say anything.)
MILENIUS
(three second pause)
What is it Marcus?

MARCUS
Is he just a man?

MILENIUS
(Gives some thought before answering)
My brother in law would say no, he's not. But for myself, I'm afraid I have no answer. Go now and get rested.

MARCUS
(Exits stage right)
(Lights out)
(Stage is dark. Voice over reads Matthew 27:33-51. (Milenius is on the ground, rises to one knee as the light slowly fades in. SFX: shadow of cross falls accross him.)

MILENIUS
(Removes helmet, and lets it fall from his hand)
Surely this was the son of God.
(Lights fade)
© 1996 Robert J. Lee

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