Evening. The end of three converging
roads to Rome. Three triumphal arches span them
where they debouch on a square at the gate of the
city. Looking north through the arches one can
see the campagna threaded by the three long dusty
tracks. On the east and west sides of the square
are long stone benches. An old beggar sits on
the east side of the square, his bowl at his feet.
Through the eastern arch a squad of Roman soldiers
tramps along escorting a batch of Christian prisoners
of both sexes and all ages, among them one Lavinia,
a goodlooking resolute young woman, apparently of
higher social standing than her fellow-prisoners.
A centurion, carrying his vinewood cudgel, trudges
alongside the squad, on its right, in command of it.
All are tired and dusty; but the soldiers are dogged
and indifferent, the Christians light-hearted and
determined to treat their hardships as a joke and
encourage one another.
A bugle is heard far behind on the
road, where the rest of the cohort is following.
Centurion (stopping) Halt!
Orders from the Captain. (They halt and wait).
Now then, you Christians, none of your larks.
The captain’s coming. Mind you behave yourselves.
No singing. Look respectful. Look serious,
if you’re capable of it. See that big building
over there? That’s the Coliseum. That’s
where you’ll be thrown to the lions or set to
fight the gladiators presently. Think of that;
and it’ll help you to behave properly before
the captain. (The Captain arrives). Attention!
Salute! (The soldiers salute).
A Christian (cheerfully) God bless you, Captain.
The centurion (scandalised) Silence!
The Captain, a patrician, handsome,
about thirty-five, very cold and distinguished, very
superior and authoritative, steps up on a stone seat
at the west side of the square, behind the centurion,
so as to dominate the others more effectually.
The captain. Centurion.
The centurion. (standing at attention and
The captain (speaking stiffly
and officially) You will remind your men, Centurion,
that we are now entering Rome. You will instruct
them that once inside the gates of Rome they are in
the presence of the Emperor. You will make them
understand that the lax discipline of the march cannot
be permitted here. You will instruct them to
shave every day, not every week. You will impress
on them particularly that there must be an end to the
profanity and blasphemy of singing Christian hymns
on the march. I have to reprimand you, Centurion,
for not only allowing this, but actually doing it
The centurion. The men march better,
The captain. No doubt.
For that reason an exception is made in the case of
the march called Onward Christian Soldiers. This
may be sung, except when marching through the forum
or within hearing of the Emperor’s palace; but
the words must be altered to “Throw them to
The Christians burst into shrieks
of uncontrollable laughter, to the great scandal of
Silen-n-n-n-nce! Where’s your behavior?
Is that the way to listen to an officer? (To the Captain)
That’s what we have to put up with from these
Christians every day, sir. They’re always
laughing and joking something scandalous. They’ve
no religion: that’s how it is.
Lavinia. But I think the
Captain meant us to laugh, Centurion. It was
find out how funny it is when you’re thrown to
the lions to-morrow. (To the Captain, who looks displeased)
Beg pardon, Sir. (To the Christians) Silennnnce!
The captain. You are
to instruct your men that all intimacy with Christian
prisoners must now cease. The men have fallen
into habits of dependence upon the prisoners, especially
the female prisoners, for cooking, repairs to uniforms,
writing letters, and advice in their private affairs.
In a Roman soldier such dependence is inadmissible.
Let me see no more of it whilst we are in the city.
Further, your orders are that in addressing Christian
prisoners, the manners and tone of your men must express
abhorrence and contempt. Any shortcoming in this
respect will be regarded as a breach of discipline.(He
turns to the prisoners) Prisoners.
Centurion (fiercely) Prisonerrrrrs!
The captain. I call
your attention, prisoners, to the fact that you may
be called on to appear in the Imperial Circus at any
time from tomorrow onwards according to the requirements
of the managers. I may inform you that as there
is a shortage of Christians just now, you may expect
to be called on very soon.
Lavinia. What will they do to us, Captain?
The captain. The women
will be conducted into the arena with the wild beasts
of the Imperial Menagerie, and will suffer the consequences.
The men, if of an age to bear arms, will be given
weapons to defend themselves, if they choose, against
the Imperial Gladiators.
Lavinia. Captain: is there no hope
that this cruel persecution
Centurion (shocked) Silence! Hold your tongue,
The captain (unmoved and
somewhat sardonic) Persecution is not a term applicable
to the acts of the Emperor. The Emperor is the
Defender of the Faith. In throwing you to the
lions he will be upholding the interests of religion
in Rome. If you were to throw him to the lions,
that would no doubt be persecution.
The Christians again laugh heartily.
Centurion (horrified) Silence, I tell you!
Keep silence there.
Did anyone ever hear the like of this?
Lavinia. Captain: there
will be nobody to appreciate your jokes when we are
The captain (unshaken in
his official delivery) I call the attention of the
female prisoner Lavinia to the fact that as the Emperor
is a divine personage, her imputation of cruelty is
not only treason, but sacrilege. I point out
to her further that there is no foundation for the
charge, as the Emperor does not desire that any prisoner
should suffer; nor can any Christian be harmed save
through his or her own obstinacy. All that is
necessary is to sacrifice to the gods: a simple
and convenient ceremony effected by dropping a pinch
of incense on the altar, after which the prisoner
is at once set free. Under such circumstances
you have only your own perverse folly to blame if
you suffer. I suggest to you that if you cannot
burn a morsel of incense as a matter of conviction,
you might at least do so as a matter of good taste,
to avoid shocking the religious convictions of your
fellow citizens. I am aware that these considerations
do not weigh with Christians; but it is my duty to
call your attention to them in order that you may
have no ground for complaining of your treatment,
or of accusing the Emperor of cruelty when he is showing
you the most signal clemency. Looked at from
this point of view, every Christian who has perished
in the arena has really committed suicide.
Lavinia. Captain: your
jokes are too grim. Do not think it is easy for
us to die. Our faith makes life far stronger and
more wonderful in us than when we walked in darkness
and had nothing to live for. Death is harder
for us than for you: the martyr’s agony
is as bitter as his triumph is glorious.
The captain (rather troubled,
addressing her personally and gravely) A martyr, Lavinia,
is a fool. Your death will prove nothing.
Lavinia. Then why kill me?
The captain. I mean
that truth, if there be any truth, needs no martyrs.
Lavinia. No; but my faith,
like your sword, needs testing. Can you test
your sword except by staking your life on it?
The captain (suddenly resuming
his official tone) I call the attention of the female
prisoner to the fact that Christians are not allowed
to draw the Emperor’s officers into arguments
and put questions to them for which the military regulations
provide no answer. (The Christians titter).
Lavinia. Captain: how can you?
The captain. I call
the female prisoner’s attention specially to
the fact that four comfortable homes have been offered
her by officers of this regiment, of which she can
have her choice the moment she chooses to sacrifice
as all well-bred Roman ladies do. I have no more
to say to the prisoners.
Centurion. Dismiss! But stay where
The captain. Centurion:
you will remain here with your men in charge of the
prisoners until the arrival of three Christian prisoners
in the custody of a cohort of the tenth legion.
Among these prisoners you will particularly identify
an armorer named Ferrovius, of dangerous character
and great personal strength, and a Greek tailor reputed
to be a sorcerer, by name Androcles. You will
add the three to your charge here and march them all
to the Coliseum, where you will deliver them into
the custody of the master of the gladiators and take
his receipt, countersigned by the keeper of the beasts
and the acting manager. You understand your instructions?
Centurion. Yes, Sir.
The captain. Dismiss.
(He throws off his air of parade, and descends down
from the perch. The Centurion seats on it and
prepares for a nap, whilst his men stand at ease.
The Christians sit down on the west side of the square,
glad to rest. Lavinia alone remains standing
to speak to the Captain).
Lavinia. Captain: is
this man who is to join us the famous Ferrovius, who
has made such wonderful conversions in the northern
The captain. Yes.
We are warned that he has the strength of an elephant
and the temper of a mad bull. Also that he is
stark mad. Not a model Christian, it would seem.
Lavinia. You need not fear
him if he is a Christian, Captain.
The captain (coldly) I shall
not fear him in any case, Lavinia.
Lavinia (her eyes dancing) How
brave of you, Captain!
The captain. You are
right: it was silly thing to say. (In a lower
tone, humane and urgent) Lavinia: do Christians
know how to love?
Lavinia (composedly) Yes, Captain:
they love even their enemies.
The captain. Is that easy?
Lavinia. Very easy, Captain,
when their enemies are as handsome as you.
The captain. Lavinia: you are
laughing at me.
Lavinia. At you, Captain! Impossible.
The captain. Then you
are flirting with me, which is worse. Don’t
Lavinia. But such a very handsome captain.
The captain. Incorrigible!
(Urgently) Listen to me. The men in that audience
tomorrow will be the vilest of voluptuaries: men
in whom the only passion excited by a beautiful woman
is a lust to see her tortured and torn shrieking limb
from limb. It is a crime to dignify that passion.
It is offering yourself for violation by the whole
rabble of the streets and the riff-raff of the court
at the same time. Why will you not choose rather
a kindly love and an honorable alliance?
Lavinia. They cannot violate
my soul. I alone can do that by sacrificing to
The captain. Sacrifice
then to the true God. What does his name matter?
We call him Jupiter. The Greeks call him Zeus.
Call him what you will as you drop the incense on
the altar flame: He will understand.
Lavinia. No. I couldn’t.
That is the strange thing, Captain, that a little
pinch of incense should make all that difference.
Religion is such a great thing that when I meet really
religious people we are friends at once, no matter
what name we give to the divine will that made us
and moves us. Oh, do you think that I, a woman,
would quarrel with you for sacrificing to a woman god
like Diana, if Diana meant to you what Christ means
to me? No: we should kneel side by side
before her altar like two children. But when
men who believe neither in my god nor in their own men
who do not know the meaning of the word religion when
these men drag me to the foot of an iron statue that
has become the symbol of the terror and darkness through
which they walk, of their cruelty and greed, of their
hatred of God and their oppression of man when
they ask me to pledge my soul before the people that
this hideous idol is God, and that all this wickedness
and falsehood is divine truth, I cannot do it, not
if they could put a thousand cruel deaths on me.
I tell you, it is physically impossible. Listen,
Captain: did you ever try to catch a mouse in
your hand? Once there was a dear little mouse
that used to come out and play on my table as I was
reading. I wanted to take him in my hand and
caress him; and sometimes he got among my books so
that he could not escape me when I stretched out my
hand. And I did stretch out my hand; but it always
came back in spite of me. I was not afraid of
him in my heart; but my hand refused: it is not
in the nature of my hand to touch a mouse. Well,
Captain, if I took a pinch of incense in my hand and
stretched it out over the altar fire, my hand would
come back. My body would be true to my faith even
if you could corrupt my mind. And all the time
I should believe more in Diana than my persecutors
have ever believed in anything. Can you understand
The captain (simply) Yes:
I understand that. But my hand would not come
back. The hand that holds the sword has been trained
not to come back from anything but victory.
Lavinia. Not even from death?
The captain. Least of all from death.
Lavinia. Then I must not
come back either. A woman has to be braver than
The captain. Prouder, you mean.
Lavinia (startled) Prouder! You call our
The captain. There
is no such thing as courage: there is only pride.
You Christians are the proudest devils on earth.
Lavinia (hurt) Pray God then
my pride may never become a false pride. (She turns
away as if she did not wish to continue the conversation,
but softens and says to him with a smile) Thank you
for trying to save me from death.
The captain. I knew
it was no use; but one tries in spite of one’s
Lavinia. Something stirs,
even in the iron breast of a Roman soldier!
The captain. It will
soon be iron again. I have seen many women die,
and forgotten them in a week.
Lavinia. Remember me for
a fortnight, handsome Captain. I shall be watching
The captain. From the
skies? Do not deceive yourself, Lavinia.
There is no future for you beyond the grave.
Lavinia. What does that
matter? Do you think I am only running away from
the terrors of life into the comfort of heaven?
If there were no future, or if the future were one
of torment, I should have to go just the same.
The hand of God is upon me.
The captain. Yes:
when all is said, we are both patricians, Lavinia,
and must die for our beliefs. Farewell. (He offers
her his hand. She takes it and presses it.
He walks away, trim and calm. She looks after
him for a moment, and cries a little as he disappears
through the eastern arch. A trumpet-call is heard
from the road through the western arch).
Centurion (waking up and rising)
Cohort of the tenth with prisoners. Two file
out with me to receive them. (He goes out through
the western arch, followed by four soldiers in two
Lentulus and Metellus come into
the square from the west side with a little retinue
of servants. Both are young courtiers, dressed
in the extremity of fashion. Lentulus is
slender, fair-haired, epicene. Metellus is manly,
compactly built, olive skinned, not a talker.
Lentulus. Christians, by Jove! Let’s
Metellus. Awful brutes.
If you knew as much about them as I do you wouldn’t
want to chaff them. Leave them to the lions.
Lentulus (indicating Lavinia,
who is still looking towards the arches after the
captain). That woman’s got a figure. (He
walks past her, staring at her invitingly, but she
is preoccupied and is not conscious of him).
Do you turn the other cheek when they kiss you?
Lavinia (starting) What?
LENTULus. Do you turn the other
cheek when they kiss you, fascinating Christian?
Lavinia. Don’t be
foolish. (To Metellus, who has remained on her right,
so that she is between them) Please don’t let
your friend behave like a cad before the soldiers.
How are they to respect and obey patricians if they
see them behaving like street boys? (Sharply
to Lentulus) Pull yourself together, man.
Hold your head up. Keep the corners of your mouth
firm; and treat me respectfully. What do you
take me for?
Lentulus (irresolutely) Look
here, you know: I you I
Lavinia. Stuff! Go
about your business. (She turns decisively away and
sits down with her comrades, leaving him disconcerted).
Metellus. You didn’t
get much out of that. I told you they were brutes.
Lentulus. Plucky little
filly! I suppose she thinks I care. (With an
air of indifference he strolls with Metellus to the
east side of the square, where they stand watching
the return of the Centurion through the western arch
with his men, escorting three prisoners: Ferrovius,
Androcles, and Spintho. Ferrovius is a powerful,
choleric man in the prime of life, with large nostrils,
staring eyes, and a thick neck: a man whose sensibilities
are keen and violent to the verge of madness.
Spintho is a debauchee, the wreck of a good-looking
man gone hopelessly to the bad. Androcles is
overwhelmed with grief, and is restraining his tears
with great difficulty).
The centurion (to Lavinia)
Here are some pals for you. This little bit is
Ferrovius that you talk so much about. (Ferrovius
turns on him threateningly. The Centurion holds
up his left forefinger in admonition). Now remember
that you’re a Christian, and that you’ve
got to return good for evil. (Ferrovius controls himself
convulsively; moves away from temptation to the east
side near Lentulus; clasps his hands in silent
prayer; and throws himself on his knees). That’s
the way to manage them, eh! This fine fellow
(indicating Androcles, who comes to his left, and
makes Lavinia a heartbroken salutation) is a sorcerer.
A Greek tailor, he is. A real sorcerer, too:
no mistake about it. The tenth marches with a
leopard at the head of the column. He made a
pet of the leopard; and now he’s crying at being
parted from it. (Androcles sniffs lamentably).
Ain’t you, old chap? Well, cheer up, we
march with a Billy goat (Androcles brightens up) that’s
killed two leopards and ate a turkey-cock. You
can have him for a pet if you like. (Androcles, quite
consoled, goes past the Centurion to Lavinia, and
sits down contentedly on the ground on her left).
This dirty dog (collaring Spintho) is a real Christian.
He mobs the temples, he does (at each accusation he
gives the neck of Spintho’s tunic a twist); he
goes smashing things mad drunk, he does; he steals
the gold vessels, he does; he assaults the priestesses,
he does pah! (He flings Spintho into the middle of
the group of prisoners). You’re the sort
that makes duty a pleasure, you are.
Spintho (gasping) That’s
it: strangle me. Kick me. Beat me.
Revile me. Our Lord was beaten and reviled.
That’s my way to heaven. Every martyr goes
to heaven, no matter what he’s done. That
is so, isn’t it, brother?
Centurion. Well, if you’re
going to heaven, I don’t want to go there.
I wouldn’t be seen with you.
Lentulus. Haw! Good!
(Indicating the kneeling Ferrovius). Is this
one of the turn-the-other-cheek gentlemen, Centurion?
Centurion. Yes, sir.
Lucky for you too, sir, if you want to take any liberties
Lentulus (to Ferrovius) You turn
the other cheek when you’re struck, I’m
Ferrovius (slowly turning his
great eyes on him) Yes, by the grace of God, I do,
Lentulus. Not that you’re
a coward, of course; but out of pure piety.
Ferrovius. I fear God more
than man; at least I try to.
Lentulus. Let’s see.
(He strikes him on the cheek. Androcles makes
a wild movement to rise and interfere; but Lavinia
holds him down, watching Ferrovius intently.
Ferrovius, without flinching, turns the other cheek.
Lentulus, rather out of countenance, titters
foolishly, and strikes him again feebly). You
know, I should feel ashamed if I let myself be struck
like that, and took it lying down. But then I’m
not a Christian: I’m a man. (Ferrovius
rises impressively and towers over him. Lentulus
becomes white with terror; and a shade of green flickers
in his cheek for a moment).
Ferrovius (with the calm of a
steam hammer) I have not always been faithful.
The first man who struck me as you have just struck
me was a stronger man than you: he hit me harder
than I expected. I was tempted and fell; and
it was then that I first tasted bitter shame.
I never had a happy moment after that until I had
knelt and asked his forgiveness by his bedside in the
hospital. (Putting his hands on Lentulus’s shoulders
with paternal weight). But now I have learnt
to resist with a strength that is not my own.
I am not ashamed now, nor angry.
Lentulus (uneasily) Er good
evening. (He tries to move away).
Ferrovius (gripping his shoulders)
Oh, do not harden your heart, young man. Come:
try for yourself whether our way is not better than
yours. I will now strike you on one cheek; and
you will turn the other and learn how much better
you will feel than if you gave way to the promptings
of anger. (He holds him with one hand and clenches
the other fist).
Lentulus. Centurion: I call on you
to protect me.
Centurion. You asked for
it, sir. It’s no business of ours.
You’ve had two whacks at him. Better pay
him a trifle and square it that way.
Lentulus. Yes, of course.
(To Ferrovius) It was only a bit of fun, I assure
you: I meant no harm. Here. (He proffers
a gold coin).
Ferrovius (taking it and throwing
it to the old beggar, who snatches it up eagerly,
and hobbles off to spend it) Give all thou hast to
the poor. Come, friend: courage! I may
hurt your body for a moment; but your soul will rejoice
in the victory of the spirit over the flesh. (He prepares
Androcles. Easy, Ferrovius,
easy: you broke the last man’s jaw.
Lentulus, with a moan of terror,
attempts to fly; but Ferrovius holds him ruthlessly.
Ferrovius. Yes; but I saved
his soul. What matters a broken jaw?
Lentulus. Don’t touch me, do you hear?
Ferrovius. The law will
throw me to the lions tomorrow: what worse could
it do were I to slay you? Pray for strength; and
it shall be given to you.
Lentulus. Let me go.
Your religion forbids you to strike me.
Ferrovius. On the contrary,
it commands me to strike you. How can you turn
the other cheek, if you are not first struck on the
Lentulus (almost in tears) But
I’m convinced already that what you said is
quite right. I apologize for striking you.
Ferrovius (greatly pleased) My
son: have I softened your heart? Has the
good seed fallen in a fruitful place? Are your
feet turning towards a better path?
Lentulus (abjectly) Yes, yes.
There’s a great deal in what you say.
Ferrovius (radiant) Join us.
Come to the lions. Come to suffering and death.
Lentulus (falling on his knees
and bursting into tears) Oh, help me. Mother!
Ferrovius. These tears will
water your soul and make it bring forth good fruit,
my son. God has greatly blessed my efforts at
conversion. Shall I tell you a miracle yes,
a miracle wrought by me in Cappadocia?
A young man just such a one as you, with
golden hair like yours scoffed at and struck
me as you scoffed at and struck me. I sat up
all night with that youth wrestling for his soul;
and in the morning not only was he a Christian, but
his hair was as white as snow. (Lentulus falls
in a dead faint). There, there: take him
away. The spirit has overwrought him, poor lad.
Carry him gently to his house; and leave the rest to
Centurion. Take him home.
(The servants, intimidated, hastily carry him out.
Metellus is about to follow when Ferrovius lays his
hand on his shoulder).
Ferrovius. You are his friend,
young man. You will see that he is taken safely
Metellus (with awestruck civility)
Certainly, sir. I shall do whatever you think
best. Most happy to have made your acquaintance,
I’m sure. You may depend on me. Good
Ferrovius (with unction) The
blessing of heaven upon you and him.
Metellus follows Lentulus.
The Centurion returns to his seat to resume his interrupted
nap. The deepest awe has settled on the spectators.
Ferrovius, with a long sigh of happiness, goes to
Lavinia, and offers her his hand.
Lavinia (taking it) So that is
how you convert people, Ferrovius.
Ferrovius. Yes: there
has been a blessing on my work in spite of my unworthiness
and my backslidings all through my wicked,
devilish temper. This man
Androcles (hastily) Don’t
slap me on the back, brother. She knows you mean
Ferrovius. How I wish I
were weak like our brother here! for then I should
perhaps be meek and gentle like him. And yet there
seems to be a special providence that makes my trials
less than his. I hear tales of the crowd scoffing
and casting stones and reviling the brethren; but
when I come, all this stops: my influence calms
the passions of the mob: they listen to me in
silence; and infidels are often converted by a straight
heart-to-heart talk with me. Every day I feel
happier, more confident. Every day lightens the
load of the great terror.
Lavinia. The great terror? What is
Ferrovius shakes his head and does
not answer. He sits down beside her on her left,
and buries his face in his hands in gloomy meditation.
Androcles. Well, you see,
sister, he’s never quite sure of himself.
Suppose at the last moment in the arena, with the
gladiators there to fight him, one of them was to say
anything to annoy him, he might forget himself and
lay that gladiator out.
Lavinia. That would be splendid.
Ferrovius (springing up in horror) What!
Androcles. Oh, sister!
Ferrovius. Splendid to betray
my master, like Peter! Splendid to act like any
common blackguard in the day of my proving! Woman:
you are no Christian. (He moves away from her to the
middle of the square, as if her neighborhood contaminated
Lavinia (laughing) You know,
Ferrovius, I am not always a Christian. I don’t
think anybody is. There are moments when I forget
all about it, and something comes out quite naturally,
as it did then.
Spintho. What does it matter?
If you die in the arena, you’ll be a martyr;
and all martyrs go to heaven, no matter what they have
done. That’s so, isn’t it, Ferrovius?
Ferrovius. Yes: that
is so, if we are faithful to the end.
Lavinia. I’m not so sure.
Spintho. Don’t say
that. That’s blasphemy. Don’t
say that, I tell you. We shall be saved, no matter
what we do.
Lavinia. Perhaps you men
will all go into heaven bravely and in triumph, with
your heads erect and golden trumpets sounding for
you. But I am sure I shall only be allowed to
squeeze myself in through a little crack in the gate
after a great deal of begging. I am not good
always: I have moments only.
Spintho. You’re talking
nonsense, woman. I tell you, martyrdom pays all
Androcles. Well, let us
hope so, brother, for your sake. You’ve
had a gay time, haven’t you? with your raids
on the temples. I can’t help thinking that
heaven will be very dull for a man of your temperament.
(Spintho snarls). Don’t be angry: I
say it only to console you in case you should die
in your bed tonight in the natural way. There’s
a lot of plague about.
Spintho (rising and running about
in abject terror) I never thought of that. O
Lord, spare me to be martyred. Oh, what a thought
to put into the mind of a brother! Oh, let me
be martyred today, now. I shall die in the night
and go to hell. You’re a sorcerer:
you’ve put death into my mind. Oh, curse
you, curse you! (He tries to seize Androcles by the
Ferrovius (holding him in a grip
of iron) What’s this, brother? Anger!
Violence! Raising your hand to a brother Christian!
Spintho. It’s easy
for you. You’re strong. Your nerves
are all right. But I’m full of disease.
(Ferrovius takes his hand from him with instinctive
disgust). I’ve drunk all my nerves away.
I shall have the horrors all night.
Androcles (sympathetic) Oh, don’t
take on so, brother. We’re all sinners.
Spintho (snivelling, trying to
feel consoled). Yes: I daresay if the truth
were known, you’re all as bad as I am.
Lavinia (contemptuously) Does that comfort
Ferrovius (sternly) Pray, man, pray.
Spintho. What’s the
good of praying? If we’re martyred we shall
go to heaven, shan’t we, whether we pray or not?
that? Not pray! (Seizing him again) Pray this
instant, you dog, you rotten hound, you slimy snake,
you beastly goat, or
Spintho. Yes: beat
me: kick me. I forgive you: mind that.
Ferrovius (spurning him with
loathing) Yah! (Spintho reels away and falls in front
Androcles (reaching out and catching
the skirt of Ferrovius’s tunic) Dear brother:
if you wouldn’t mind just for my sake
Androcles. Don’t call
him by the names of the animals. We’ve no
right to. I’ve had such friends in dogs.
A pet snake is the best of company. I was nursed
on goat’s milk. Is it fair to them to call
the like of him a dog or a snake or a goat?
Ferrovius. I only meant that they have no
Androcles (anxiously protesting)
Oh, believe me, they have. Just the same as you
and me. I really don’t think I could consent
to go to heaven if I thought there were to be no animals
there. Think of what they suffer here.
true. Yes: that is just. They will have
their share in heaven.
Spintho (who has picked himself
up and is sneaking past Ferrovius on his left, sneers
Ferrovius (turning on him fiercely)
What’s that you say?
Spintho (cornering). Nothing.
Ferrovius (clenching his fist) Do animals go
to heaven or not?
Spintho. I never said they didn’t.
Ferrovius (implacable) Do they or do they not?
Spintho. They do: they do. (Scrambling
out of Ferrovius’s reach).
Oh, curse you for frightening me!
A bugle call is heard.
Centurion (waking up) Tention!
Form as before. Now then, prisoners, up with
you and trot along spry. (The soldiers fall in.
The Christians rise).
A man with an ox goad comes running through the central
The ox Driver. Here, you soldiers!
clear out of the way for the
The centurion. Emperor! Where’s
the Emperor? You ain’t the
Emperor, are you?
The ox Driver.
It’s the menagerie service. My team of oxen
is drawing the new lion to the Coliseum. You
clear the road.
Centurion. What! Go
in after you in your dust, with half the town at the
heels of you and your lion! Not likely. We
The ox Driver.
The menagerie service is the Emperor’s personal
retinue. You clear out, I tell you.
Centurion. You tell me,
do you? Well, I’ll tell you something.
If the lion is menagerie service, the lion’s
dinner is menagerie service too. This (pointing
to the Christians) is the lion’s dinner.
So back with you to your bullocks double quick; and
learn your place. March. (The soldiers start).
Now then, you Christians, step out there.
Lavinia (marching) Come along,
the rest of the dinner. I shall be the olives
Another Christian (laughing) I shall be
Another. I shall be the fish.
Another. Ferrovius shall be the roast boar.
Ferrovius (heavily) I see the
joke. Yes, yes: I shall be the roast boar.
Ha! ha! (He laughs conscientiously and marches out
Androcles. I shall be the
mince pie. (Each announcement is received with a louder
laugh by all the rest as the joke catches on).
Centurion (scandalised) Silence!
Have some sense of your situation. Is this the
way for martyrs to behave? (To Spintho, who is quaking
and loitering) I know what you’ll be at
that dinner. You’ll be the emetic. (He
shoves him rudely along).
Spintho. It’s too dreadful: I’m
not fit to die.
Centurion. Fitter than you are to live,
They pass from the square westward.
The oxen, drawing a waggon with a great wooden cage
and the lion in it, arrive through the central arch.