Pilate's Wife

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Pontius Pilate was the Roman Governor of Judea during the time when Jesus was preaching and when he was arrested. His wife, Claudia Procula, is said to have sent him a message warning him to have nothing to do with Jesus, for she had had a troubling dream about him. The story is that he didn’t want the responsibility for condemning Jesus, whom he felt to be innocent, so he asked the Jewish crowd outside the Palace whether they wanted him to release Jesus, or Barabbas, who was a thief, it being the custom at Passover to release a prisoner. The crowd shouted for Barabbas, so Pilate is said to have sent for a bowl of water and symbolically washed his hands saying ‘I am innocent of the blood of this just man.’ Charlotte Brontë wrote a poem about Pilate’s Wife’s Dream which shows her hating her husband and dreaming of the crucifixion which makes her into a Christian believer.

Duffy presents the figure of Pilate’s wife as a bored Roman woman stuck in a foreign country with little to occupy her. She begins the poem with those famous hands, imagining them soft, like a woman’s from idleness, with pearly nails like shells from the sea of Galilee. The implication of his "camp hands that clapped for grapes" is clear. He is presented as effeminate and lacking in either masculinity or courage. The marriage is unhappy; his touch makes her flinch and she longs for "Rome, home, someone else."

As she and her maid try to prevent boredom by joining the crowd around Christ’s triumphal entry to Jerusalem, she trips and saves herself by grabbing an


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