David and Bathsheba

BATHSHEBA: Who's there?

NATHAN: Nathan the Prophet. I've been summoned to see David the King. This had better be something important.

BATHSHEBA: It is. Thank you for coming, Nathan. It was me that sent for you.

NATHAN: So, you must be Queen Bathsheba.

BATHSHEBA: Yes, that's right.

NATHAN: Formerly the wife of Uriah the Hittite.


NATHAN: Nice progression. From soldier's wife to Queen of Israel, all thanks to a pretty face.


BATHSHEBA: People warned me that you were outspoken.

NATHAN: Did they.

BATHSHEBA: In fact David calls you the rudest man in Israel.

NATHAN: I don't pay him any particular respect because he's King, if that's what you mean. I don't hold with kings. In the old days Israel was led by prophets and judges, not by kings. Kings, pharaohs and emperors are for the other nations, not for Israel.

BATHSHEBA: But David is no ordinary King. He's God's favourite.

NATHAN: So he likes to think.

BATHSHEBA: And he always follows the advice of his prophet Nathan.

NATHAN: No he doesn't. And I'm not his prophet. I'm God's prophet.

BATHSHEBA: All right. But he listens to you. He may call you the rudest man in the kingdom, but he also calls you the wisest.


BATHSHEBA: He also calls you his oldest friend. And now he needs your help. We both need your help.

NATHAN: Then you'd better tell me what's the matter, hadn't you?

BATHSHEBA: All right. Our firstborn baby is sick, in fact I think it's going to die, and David seems to be out of his mind with despair. For seven days he hasn't eaten or slept: he's been lying on the earth beseeching God to spare the child's life, and the whole kingdom has come to a standstill.

NATHAN: What do you mean, come to a standstill? Doesn't he have any deputies?

BATHSHEBA: Yes, he has deputies. But he also has enemies, and they're just waiting for any sign of weakness. My first husband Uriah fought in the wars against the Syrians and the Ammonites, so I know something about it. At the moment they're keeping their distance, but if word reaches them about David's state of mind, they'll be knocking down the gates within a fortnight.

NATHAN: Pah. What do I care about wars? What do I care about kingdoms and territories? Why do you think I live in the desert, on locusts and wild honey? Wars and kingdoms are nothing to do with me. When the nation of Israel lived in Egypt, and when they spent forty years in the wilderness, they were homeless and stateless, just as I am, but they were still a nation as long as they remembered their faith in God. Don't talk politics to me, woman. That's none of my concern. And don't try to be so grown-up. What are you, twenty-five?

BATHSHEBA: Twenty-four.

NATHAN: The man's an idiot. No wonder he's acting deranged.

BATHSHEBA: Then what about your friendship? If you hear of a friend in distress, don't you want to help him?

NATHAN: Aren't you his best friend now? Can't you comfort him?

BATHSHEBA: I've tried, but I think I'm part of the problem.

NATHAN: You mean he doesn't love you any more? He's got tired of you already?

BATHSHEBA: No, he still loves me. But that's part of the problem too.

NATHAN: Well, I still don't understand what the problem is. Why all this fuss just because a baby's dying?

BATHSHEBA: You horrible man!

NATHAN: Aha! Now we're getting somewhere.

BATHSHEBA: You really are insensitive, aren't you?

NATHAN: I beg your pardon, but let's take a look at the facts, Queen Bathsheba. David's a grownup. He's had other wives and other babies: lots of them. He knows how to take advantage of the fact that he's a king, in case you weren't aware of it. To put it bluntly, he's bedded a whole lot of pretty women in his time. You think you're something special, but you're just the latest. He's also got quite a few of these ladies pregnant, and he knows full well that the babies sometimes die. So why all the fuss this time?

BATHSHEBA: Because the baby's got my eyes.

NATHAN: Oh, right. It's got your eyes

BATHSHEBA: And he loves me more than any of the others. More than all of the others put together. So he loves this baby more than any of the other babies, too.


BATHSHEBA: But he also thinks our love is a sin, and the baby is the fruit of that sin.

NATHAN: Does he? That's interesting. Why?

BATHSHEBA: That's why I can't comfort him. He thinks we're being punished.

NATHAN: And why would he think that?

BATHSHEBA: You mustn't tell anyone.

NATHAN: Oh, just get on with it.

BATHSHEBA: It's because we slept together before we were married. Before my husband died. When I was still married to Uriah the Hittite.



NATHAN: So, tell me about your husband, then: tell me about Uriah the Hittite.

BATHSHEBA: He was sweet. He was the sweetest, kindest man I ever met. I know he was a soldier, so he must have had another side to him. He must have been tough at times. He told me he'd killed people. But he never said a harsh word to me, and if I wanted something, all I had to do was ask.

NATHAN: But he was too old for you.

BATHSHEBA: He was younger than David.

NATHAN: Ah, but he wasn't as powerful or famous.

BATHSHEBA: What, you think I wanted the power and fame? I don't even like being Queen! Everybody staring at me the whole time - and the other wives all hate me.

NATHAN: Oh, you were made to be stared at.

BATHSHEBA: Well, all I can tell you is that I was happy with Uriah, or at least I thought I was. I even thought I was in love with him. But then I found out I didn't have the first idea about love. Nothing I believed in was real. I'd been living in a world of shadows. I was empty, and suddenly love filled me up. I was lost, and suddenly I found my way. I was in darkness, and suddenly there was light. A voice called me, and I had to answer.

NATHAN: Be quiet, girl. That's not love you're describing. That's God.

BATHSHEBA: Then it was God. Is that how you feel when he speaks to you?

NATHAN: You shouldn't have those feelings about another human being.

BATHSHEBA: But if you do have those feelings, how can you deny them?

NATHAN: Be quiet. You'd better fetch your husband.

BATHSHEBA: But he's dead.

NATHAN: Not Uriah, child. I mean, you'd better fetch your husband David.

BATHSHEBA: Oh yes. But what if he won't come out?

NATHAN: He'll come, when you tell him it's me.

[Bathsheba goes out.]

NATHAN: What a waste of time this is. David knows himself whether he's sinned or not, and he also knows whether he's being punished for that sin. I don't know God's mind any better than he does. Unless he's stopped listening to God, and started listening to this girl instead. Which is entirely plausible. I could almost stop listening to God myself, when I look into that face of hers. Oh come on God, what were you playing at, to make our hearts so weak and our passions so strong? What did you think was going to happen? It was asking for trouble, wasn't it?


And on top of everything else, I've tramped all the way here, and nobody's offered me a sip to drink or a scrap to eat. I don't call that hospitality.

[Enter David]

Ah, my sovereign liege.

DAVID: Nathan. What are you doing here?

NATHAN: Bathsheba called me.

DAVID: What for?

NATHAN: She was concerned that you were beside yourself with grief and worry, and you'd been lying on the floor without eating or sleeping for seven days and seven nights, begging for mercy from God, and in the meantime the whole kingdom was grinding to a halt.

DAVID: Nonsense. I have able deputies who can keep the kingdom going for a few days.

NATHAN: Precisely what I said.

DAVID: In any case you're the last person to be concerned about how the kingdom is being run.

NATHAN: I said that too.

DAVID: You don't even like the kingdom. You don't even like me being king.

NATHAN: Correct again. What have you done with Bathsheba?

DAVID: She's staying to watch the baby.

NATHAN: And how is the baby?

DAVID: Dying.


DAVID: Nathan, I don't know what I'm to do. He has his mother's eyes.

NATHAN: You mean the baby has Bathsheba's eyes.

DAVID: Yes. The first time I looked into them my bowels turned to water.

NATHAN: You mean Bathsheba's eyes, or the baby's?

DAVID: Both of them. The first time Bathsheba looked at me, and the first time her baby opened its eyes. It was just the same. And now that baby's going to die because of me, because of how I acted - because I wouldn't fight against myself even though I knew it was a sin. I'm being torn in half, Nathan. God is on one side and love is on the other. A great wound is opening up in the middle of me, and they're pulling me apart.

NATHAN: And you thought if you lay on the ground for long enough, God might relent and stop pulling on his side.

DAVID: I didn't know what else to do.

NATHAN: I don't know much about God, David, any more than you do, but I don't think he's generally impressed by melodramatic displays of self-abasement.



NATHAN: I still don't quite get it. So you slept with Bathsheba while she was still married to Uriah the Hittite. So what? It's a sin, all right, but you've done worse. Why all the fuss this time?

DAVID: That isn't the whole story.

NATHAN: Then Bathsheba didn't tell me everything?

DAVID: Bathsheba doesn't know everything.

NATHAN: Then perhaps you'd better tell me the bit she doesn't know.

DAVID: All right. Uriah the Hittite was away at war. I went up onto the palace roof to take the air, and from the roof I saw a woman bathing herself.

NATHAN: You mean she'd just finished her period, and she was purifying herself.


NATHAN: And of course she was naked.

DAVID: Yes. I saw her by the light of the moon.

NATHAN: And being the man you are, you immediately wanted to have sex with her.

DAVID: Yes. I'd be a liar if I said no. But it was more than that, Nathan. I've seen plenty of naked women before. This time it was different. A dove of fire came to roost in my heart.

NATHAN: Oh, forget your harp and your poetry, David. Tell me in plain words.

DAVID: There aren't any plain words for this.

NATHAN: You fool.

DAVID: I found out who she was, and sent for her: just to talk to her, just to have her in the same room with me for a little while. That was all I intended. I'd already found out that she was married. But as soon as our eyes met, everything changed again. It was the same for her. She felt the same as I did. There was nothing we could do.

NATHAN: Of course there was something you could do. Don't pretend you were helpless.

DAVID: We couldn't not be in love. We could have refused to sleep together.

NATHAN: But of course you didn't.

DAVID: No, we didn't.

NATHAN: And then she got pregnant.

DAVID: Yes, then she got pregnant. But this is the bad part, Nathan. I called Uriah back from the wars. I wanted him to sleep with her, because then the baby could be passed off as his. But Uriah... He was the sweetest and most upright man in existence.

NATHAN: That's what Bathsheba said.

DAVID: I can see him now with his ears sticking out. The sweetest, the most upright, the most stubborn, and the most stupid. He wouldn't sleep with his own wife. He slept outside my door. He said if he wasn't out there fighting, then it was his duty to defend me at home. I found him there when I got up the next day. So the next night I got him drunk, and I got the dancing-girls in, and I had them sitting in his lap and teasing him, until he was so flustered and confused he didn't know what was happening. He was scarlet. He had an erection bigger than his sword. He was ready to burst like a grape. But he still wouldn't go home to Bathsheba: he slept outside my door again, out of his stupid sense of duty. Oh, Nathan, he was a purer soul than either me or Bathsheba: it makes me ashamed to think of him.

NATHAN: So it should.

DAVID: So then I sent him back to the wars. This is the worst bit. I told them to put him in the front of the battle, where the fighting was fiercest, then withdraw and leave him there alone. Bathsheba doesn't know this. They did it, and he was killed. I can see him now, in my mind's eye: trying his best, wondering how he's lost touch with the others, being cut down. So then, because she was a widow, I could marry her, and that's what I did. There, now you know it all. And for this sin our baby is dying.

NATHAN: Would you like to hear a story?

DAVID: What? No, I don't want to hear a story.

NATHAN: There were two men in one city: one rich, and the other poor.

DAVID: Nathan, have you lost your mind? I said I don't want to hear a story.

NATHAN: Listen to me, David. The rich man had many flocks and herds, but the poor man had nothing except one little ewe, which he'd raised by hand since its birth. It grew up with his children, it ate from his plate and drank from his cup, it slept in his bed, and to him it was like a daughter. Then one day a traveller came to visit the rich man, and of course the traveller must be given meat after his journey; but the rich man didn't want to slaughter any of his own flock; so he took the poor man's little ewe, which he loved, and cut its throat and cooked it and dressed it and gave it for meat to the traveller. What do you think of that?

DAVID: Is this a true story? If you tell me who that rich man is, I'll find him and punish him. I'll take away his flocks and give them to the poor man.

NATHAN: You're the rich man, David. Uriah is the poor man.

DAVID: What are you talking about?

NATHAN: Uriah had one thing that he cherished, and you took it away from him. Your sin wasn't arranging for him to be killed in battle. He was a soldier, and he could have been killed in battle any time. Your sin was selfishness.


DAVID: I see. So what am I to do?

NATHAN: I don't think there's anything you can do, except learn your lesson.

DAVID: So you think the baby will die?

NATHAN: David, if you try to build your happiness on someone else's misery, there's a price to be paid. But that price isn't the life of a baby. It's a price you pay in your heart.

[Enter Bathsheba.]


DAVID: Don't tell me. I can see it in your face. The baby died.

BATHSHEBA: Yes. Just now.


DAVID: Right.

BATHSHEBA: What are you going to do?

DAVID: I'm going to kiss the baby goodbye. Then I'm going to have a wash and change my clothes. Then I'm going to the temple to give thanks to God. And then I'm going to have something to eat.

BATHSHEBA: David, I don't understand. While our baby was alive you lay on the ground for seven days refusing food and beseeching God for mercy. Now the baby's dead, and you're going to give thanks and have something to eat. Why are you acting like this? Don't you care?

DAVID: You know I do, Bathsheba. The baby had your eyes.

BATHSHEBA: Then explain it to me.

DAVID: Bathsheba, while the child was sick I fasted and I wept, because I thought, who knows whether God will be merciful? But now he's dead, why should I fast and weep? Will it bring him back again? No, it won't. I shall go to him, but he won't return to me. So, let us thank God that we are still alive, and we have each other, and our lives are full of blessings.

BATHSHEBA: Yes. You're right.

[David and Bathsheba go out]

NATHAN: Well done, David. You're not quite as stupid as I thought you were. [To the audience.] Now let us all remember to accept the things that cannot be helped, and to give thanks for all the good things in our lives: for those are two of the keys to the kingdom of God.

[He produces a piece of paper from his pocket, unfolds it and reads from it.]

Moreover, David loved Bathsheba all the days of his life, and by her he begat Solomon, the most glorious of all the kings of Israel.

And Solomon begat Roboam; and Roboam begat Abia; and Abia begat Asa;

And Asa begat Josaphat; and Josaphat begat Joram; and Joram begat Ozias;

And Ozias begat Joatham; and Joatham begat Achaz; and Achaz begat Ezekias;

And Ezekias begat Manasses; and Manasses begat Amon; and Amon begat Josias;

And Josias begat Jechonias;

And Jechonias begat Salathiel; and Salathiel begat Zorobabel;

And Zorobabel begat Abiud; and Abiud begat Eliakim; and Eliakim begat Azor;

And Azor begat Sadoc; and Sadoc begat Achim; and Achim begat Eliud;

And Eliud begat Eleazar; and Eleazar begat Matthan; and Matthan begat Jacob;

And Jacob begat Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called the Christ.

[He refolds the paper, puts it away and goes out.]