Under siege by the armies of the giant barbarian, Holofernes, the Judean city is about to capitulate—and the people, and prophets, call out to the lovely, virginal Judith as their last hope of salvation. Their belief is that only she can gain audience with Holofernes and, when his attention is diverted by her charms, slay him. At first Judith refuses to believe that God has chosen her for this task, but when she learns that the army has defected, and the men of her people are resigned to defeat, she resolves to go, even refusing the help of Susannah, a prostitute who looks like her and who begs to undertake the mission in her place. At the camp of Holofernes, Judith is at first taunted by an aide who masquerades as his commander, but then the true Holofernes appears—and he proves to be not a barbarian at all, but a man among men to whom Judith finds herself surrendering without restraint. In the morning she fulfills her pledge and slays him, but when the leaders arrive and celebrate Judith for her Godly act, she tells them that she killed for love—to stop in time the memory of her ecstatic experience, and with the hope that she too would be executed in return. An angel appears and convinces Judith that she must yield to the wishes of the rabbis; to live, and to preserve the lie that she killed out of patriotism and religious fervor. Only thus can the beliefs of the people be preserved and the meaning of Judith's act perceived. So she consents to be a saint, overruling her heart and accepting the martyred role which history, and the men who construct it, have designed for her.
Successfully produced in London. A brilliant tour de force, rich in language and biting in its irony, which tells of the legendary confrontation between the beautiful Judith and the enemy commander, Holofernes, to whom she must sacrifice herself to save her people.