Act 2, Scene 4: Things Money Can't Buy [Murdering Gavius]


Love and Sex in Pompeii

Roman sexuality in pagan times is perhaps hard to understand by a western society heavily influenced by Christian values. To a Roman, sex did not engender any kind of bond between two people. It guaranteed absolutely no obligation between one side and the other. In a Roman household sex was in plentiful supply. There were no limits on age, and also none on gender. The existence of slaves in the house naturally meant that, particularly the men, had access to sex whenever they felt like it.

In Rome, a woman had no legal identity other than as a man's daughter or wife, entirely subjected first to her father and then to her husband, who was entitled to beat her if he felt that she had overstepped her mark. Although women from good families were taught to read and write, the vast majority did not receive any formal education. They could not vote or take up any formal role such as magistrate or soldier, and were effectively confined to running the home and having children. Little better than a slave.

Often slaves were bound to a particular household not merely by ownership but also by loyalty and rejecting a man's advances could not only seen as disobedience, but as a betrayal. And as far as the law was concerned back then, sex with slaves or prostitutes was not adulterous - at least not for men.

The fact that a family might live under the same roof with slaves who had shared the bed with some of the other family members could lead to some seriously confusing lineage: after all, the children of the slaves might well be half sisters or brothers of the Roman children of the household. And despite the liberal attitude towards sex, secrecy and subtlety about it in the household, means the slave children may not even have known about their shared parentage with their Roman masters' children. And the law saw nothing wrong with that.

But although Rome was a tolerant society in law, too much unrestrained sexual activity was frowned upon by society. Being unrestrained was deemed a flaw in a man's character, making him disreputable. Self-control and inner discipline were the two most important virtues sought by all men.

The worst weakness ever to be discovered in a man was 'effeminacy', and in fact it was perhaps the worst insult known to Romans to be called effeminate. For an effeminate man had become weak, unrestrained and woman-like in the eyes of his fellow countrymen.

Main Dialogue

%HND% Curtain - open

%AMB% 0801 - Indoor Ambience (with slight Earthquake Tremors)

%LIG% Lights on (interior room)

Vesonia (whispering, off): "All right, this must be the right door."

Marcus (whispering, off): "And judging from the sounds, we're coming at exactly the right time."

Vinnie (whispering, off): "So, what's your plan, Vesonia?"

Vesonia (whispering, off): "We need to act quickly. On the count of three, we run in. You two are much heavier than I, so I'd say you tackle Gavius, and I take care of him while you hold him down."

Marcus (whispering, off): "Alright."

Vinnie (whispering, off): "Copy that."

Vesonia (whispering, off): "One, two, THREE!"

%ACT% Vesonia opens the door from the outside

%SND% 0802 - Door Blasts Open

%ACT% Marcus comes in first [7], followed by Vinnie

%ACT% Marcus runs around the slave to [3] and tackles the slave

Marcus: "You bastard!"

%ACT% Vinnie and Marcus pin him down in the middle between them

Vinnie: "You're not going anywhere!"

%ACT% Vesonia comes in [7], knife drawn, and runs forward stopping BEHIND the bed / between Vinnie and Marcus

Vesonia: "Haaaarrrrr!"

%ACT% Vesonia stabs "Gavius" in the back, killing him

%SND% 0803 - Slash
%SND% 0803 - Slave: "Hrggrmhmlmlmbblublublublublub."

%HND% Blood drips down the edge of the stage

Vesonia (out of breath): "That's for laying your filthy paws on my sister, you son of a bitch!"

%ACT% Marcus walks back in shock

Marcus (shocked): "He's dead! You ... you killed him!"

Vesonia: "Of course I did! What did you think I was going to do?"

%ACT% Vesonia removes the slave's body from her sister

%ACT% Marcus and Vinnie walk backwards in shock

Vesonia: "Welcome to reality, my friend."

%ACT% Aurelia struggles louder, crying into her gag

Vesonia: "By Hercules, sister, what did he do to you?"

%ACT% Vesonia throws the dead body off the stage

Vesonia: "Here, let me take this off for you ..."

%ACT% Vesonia removes the gag

Aurelia (crying): "I'm so sorry, sister! He made me do it, I didn't have a choice! Please forgive me!"

Vesonia: "What are you talking about? Gavius is dead now, everything will be fine!"

%SND% 0804 - Door Opens
%MUS% 0805 - Drama / Suspense

%ACT% Gavius enters [7], flanked by as many soldiers as we have

Gavius: "The reports of my death are wildly exaggerated."

Vinnie: "Shit ... it's a trap!"

Vesonia: "Gavius? How ... I don't even ..."

Gavius: "And this time we even caught you red-handed. Murdering an innocent slave - such a terrible thing to do."

%ACT% Vesonia starts at Gavius, but Marcus holds her back. The soldiers and Gavius point their swords at everyone. (Need to figure that out on stage. Ideally each soldier keeps one other guy in check.)

Vesonia: (snarling) "How did you know we were coming?"

Gavius: "Let's just say, a little bird told me."

%ACT% Gavius holds up a dead raven

Vesonia: "I hate you, Gavius! RARRRGH!"

%ACT% Vesonia jumps at Gavius, but is stopped by a soldier, who instantly immobilizes her, holding his sword against her throat from behind.

Gavius: "One more word and I'll have him slit your throat! Now drop your weapon ... Murderer!"

%ACT% Vesonia drops her knife

Gavius: "Very good."

Marcus: "Vesonia is not a murderer! You are! You killed her father for your own gain, while she was just desperate to save the life of her sister!"

Gavius: "Her father was a professional fraudster, just like herself and her pretty sister. What did she do to wrap you around her little finger? Did she shove her boobs in your face while telling you one of her heartbreaking fairytales about the tragic murder of her father?"

Vinnie: "She saved our lives!"

Gavius: "She needed you to get out of the arena, because she had just killed the caretaker of the Gladiatorial games. She slit Scipio's throat and let him bleed out like a pig. And apparently I was the next in line, all to get back her father's ill-gotten money."

Marcus: "No! That's not true! You're lying! You MUST be lying!"

Gavius: "I'm so sorry to burst your bubble. As you seem to be a decent, principled man, I think I'm going to let you live. I'm sure you'll fetch a good price at the slave auction. As for Vesonia, I'll have her executed in the arena before the sun sets. Have a nice day."

%ACT% Gavius turns and leaves [7], closely followed by the soldier holding Vesonia.

Marcus (desperate): "Vesonia? Please tell me he's lying! Please! Vesonia!"

%ACT% The door closes behind the last soldier

%SND% 0806 - Door Closes

%ACT% Marcus bangs against the door

Marcus (shouting): "Vesonia!"

Vinnie: "Stop it already, she's got a knife to her throat, she can't answer you!"

%ACT% Marcus turns around and walks towards Aurelia

Marcus: "But you can answer me, Aurelia! Is it true what Gavius said? Did Vesonia lie to me? Did She? I need to know the truth!"

%ACT% Aurelia tries to say something, but ends up just crying more.

%ACT% Marcus shakes Aurelia

Marcus: "Stop crying and talk to me!"

%ACT% Vinnie grabs Marcus by the shoulder, and pulls him away from Aurelia

Vinnie (angry): "Marcus! Get a grip, don't you see you're scaring the shit out of her?"

Marcus (snappy): "For the first time in years, I bring myself to trust a woman again, I even risk my life for her, and until five minutes ago, this felt like the craziest, happiest day of my life! Can't you imagine how I'm feeling now? I need to know the truth!"

Vinnie: "What you need is to shut the fuck up! Vesonia's just been sent to be executed, and the only thing you care about is your own self-pity!"

Marcus: "But ..."

Vinnie: "Just shut it! Alright?"

%ACT% Vinnie grabs Marcus, and gently but firmly turns him around, putting himself between Marcus and Aurelia.

Vinnie: "You will stay here, and think about WHY the girls don't like you when you talk to them like that, okay?"

%ACT% Marcus grunts, and turns away, pouting.

Marcus: "Fine."

%MUS% 0805 FADE
%MUS% 0807 - Sad Music

%ACT% Vinnie walks towards Aurelia

Vinnie (softly): "Hey, Aurelia. I'm sorry for that. We're all a little tense. You must be feeling terrible."

%ACT% Aurelia looks up at Vinnie

%ACT% Vinnie compassionately touches Aurelia on her shoulder

%ACT% Aurelia hugs Vinnie, and starts crying again.

%ACT% Vinnie strokes her head, trying to calm her down.

Vinnie: "Hey ... all is not lost yet. Maybe we can still get out of this alive. But we don't have much time."

Marcus (from across the room): "Yeah, when the volcano blows, we're history."

Vinnie (through his teeth): "Shut up!"

Vinnie (back to Aurelia): "Look, Aurelia, I really want to help you. But I can only do that if you're absolutely honest with me."

Aurelia (sobbing less): "It's my fault Gavius found out about you, and I promise, I will do everything I can to make up for it."

Vinnie: "Then please tell me, how did you really end up here?"

Aurelia: "What Gavius said is not the whole truth. We're a family of travelers. Mother died when we were born, and Father didn't have the heart to give us away. We moved from town to town, living off scraps. But because of our species, people were afraid of us. They thought we possessed the evil eye, or other kinds of witchcraft."

Vinnie: "Was that why Gavius was after your father?"

Aurelia: "Not quite... when we were old enough, father let us work as fortune tellers. He would give bribes to the gladiators at the arena, and let us do a little magic show, telling people which team to place their bid on - in return for a share of the prize when they won."

Vinnie: "But then Gavius found out about you rigging the fights?"

Aurelia: "No, he stupidly believed we really were psychic and made father an offer to buy us. When he refused, Gavius killed him. He wouldn't believe us when we confessed we couldn't predict the future. He locked me up, and put Vesonia in service of Scipio, at the Arena - threatening to abuse me if her predictions wouldn't improve."

Marcus: "So it's a fact. She's a liar, a criminal and possibly even a murderer. Unbelievable."

Aurelia (cold and bitter): "She's not a murderer! She didn't have a choice!"

%SND% 0808 - Loud Rumbling!
%SND% 0809 - Rise / Action
%SND% 0807 FADE

%FOG% A wave of fog from outside the window

%SND% 0809 (cont.) - The sound of little rocks falling, like hailstones

%ACT% Marcus jumps up and runs for the window

Aurelia: "What was that?"

Marcus: "Shit! Look at the column of ash above the volcano! It's starting to collapse!"

Vinnie: "That's not good. How much time do we have left?"

Marcus: "Three, maybe four hours before the final surge hits the city."

%ACT% Vinnie walks towards the door [7], starts examining it closely, fidgeting with the lock. He eventually takes out his credit card, and tries to open the lock with it.

Vinnie: "That means, if we run really fast, we might still be able catch up with Gavius."

Marcus: "No. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me."

Vinnie: "Marcus, lying to us was her only chance to survive! How can you be so heartless!"

Marcus: "I'm not heartless, I'm trying to keep my wits together."

Vinnie: "Yeah, first you screw her, then you dump her - very witty."

Marcus: "But..."

Vinnie: "The last word's not spoken about this. But let's get out of here first."

%ACT% Vinnie opens the door

Aurelia: "By Hercules, how did you do that?"

Vinnie: "There are things money can't buy. But for everything else, there's MASTERCARD!"

%ACT% Vinnie proudly holds up his plastic card

%ACT% Aurelia hugs Vinnie, and gives him a kiss

Aurelia: "I don't know what you just did, but you are a genius!"

Vinnie: "You can call me Vinnie. Let's get out of here while we still can. And you, Marcus. You can still pity yourself on the way. Let's go!"

%ACT% Vinnie and Aurelia leave [7]

Marcus (angry): "Go where? Vinnie? Vincent! JESUS CHRIST! Vincent!"

%ACT% Marcus runs after them.

%AMB% 0801 FADE
%MUS% 0808 FADE
%SND% 0809 FADE
%SND% 0810 Ending Music

%LIG% Lights out

%HND% Curtain - close