Androcles and the Lion
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
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
THE CAPTAIN. Centurion.
THE CENTURION. (standing at attention and saluting) Sir?
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