Introduction: Assassination or Murder?

This short section is taken from the homily on Judith written by Ælfric. As with the main editions you will need an Adobe Acrobat Reader to see the texts. If you do not have one of these you can simply download one for free from the Adobe site (get 3.x or higher).

The text chosen relates the details of Judith's assassination of Holofernes whilst he is sleeping. Yet the question that needs to be asked is whether this is in fact an assassination - the killing of a head of state - or a callous case of seduction, guile, and murder.

The story so far...

Holofernes has led a successful campaign against various nations, subjugating them to the will of his lord, Nabochodnosor, and continuing the policy of Hellenistic oppression. Unlike modern-day 'ethnic cleansing' this was not a policy of destroy or drive-out, but was aimed at bending the will of the oppressed people to accepting Nabochodnosor as their overlord, and abandoning their religions in order to worship the ancient Greek gods. Needless to say, to the righteous Jews, this last part was unacceptable.

Holofernes's campaigns are entirely successful until he comes to the Jewish city of Bethulia. He sets about besieging the city, cutting off its supplies and driving the population to despair. However, one Bethulian, the beautiful widow Judith, resolves to save the city. Along with her servant she leaves the fortress and goes straight to Holofernes's camp masquerading as a traitor...

Using the contents menu on the left you will be able to load in the appropriate excerpt from Judith (ll. 238-266). In the lower window appropriate notes will appear, as will a full glossary (not just relating to the extract here but to the full edition). This should help you in your translation of the piece.

Stuart Lee (the Editor)