Women's Writes - Works

Women's Writes

Well-behaved women seldom make history.
— Laurel Thatcher Ulrich

Day 16

Today I give you a play. This play is written as part of my ongoing Women of the Bible series. It have been focusing on the women of the Old Testament, and this play, The Voice of a Woman, is about the daughter of Jacob. Most people are aware of Jacob as the man who worked fourteen years to earn the wife he wanted, battled an angel, and gave a coat of many colors to his son Joseph. But most people are not aware of Dinah, the daughter of Jacob. In fact, when I discussed this play with a friend of mine, told her what I was writing, she denied that any such story existed. Most of the plays I’ve written in this series are met with the same disbelief. “Nope, no such story. I’ve read the Bible, and I never saw it. So not there.” If you doubt my veracity once reading this story, go get your Bible off the shelf, blow off the dust, and open it to Genesis 34. I think you’ll find…well, the story of a woman, and how the world responded to her in the brief time they bothered to notice her.


A metaphor in one act


DINAH:                                  a young woman of the tribe of Jacob
SHECHEM:                         a prince of Canaan
JACOB:                                the elderly patriarch of Israel
SIMEON:                              a son of Jacob
LEVI:                                     a son of Jacob
REUBEN:                             a son of Jacob
JUDAH:                                a son of Jacob
HAMOR THE HIVITE:        prince of Shalem, father of Shechem
TOWNSMEN:                        members of the tribe of Hamor
GIRLS:                                   young women who are members of the tribe of Hamor

TIME : About 1000 B.C.

PLACE: Shalem, city of Shechem in the land of Canaan.    

SETTING:      Jacob’s campsite. On one side of the stage, a tent flap leads to the area offstage. A small stone altar has been erected near the entrance to the tent. Across from the tent there is a small stone well.  

AT RISE:        JACOB is kneeling in front of the altar, praying. Two of the GIRLS of Shalem come to the well with their pitchers. A couple of the town BOYS drift in. They flirt with the GIRLS. DINAH comes out of the tent carrying a pitcher and moves to the well. The other GIRLS watch as she moves around to the other side, and dips her pitcher in the well.

SHECHEM enters, comes to the girls around the well, and walks around checking them out. They strike poses and flirt with him as he puts his hand on one’s shoulder, throws his arm casually around another one’s waist, moving lightly past them as though examining meat in a market. He comes at last to DINAH, who does not strike a pose and casts her eyes downward and away from him. He stops and takes her chin, forcing her to look at him.)

SHECHEM: A new maiden graces our well. What is your name, child?

(DINAH doesn’t answer. She keeps her eyes averted, not looking him in the face.)

SHECHEM: Who is your father? Is he new to Canaan?

LOCAL BOY: Her name is Dinah. She’s from the tribe of Jacob.

SHECHEM: Ah, Dinah. You’re not one of us, then?

(DINAH still doesn’t speak. She moves away from SHECHEM, and picks up her pitcher from the ground. She begins to head back toward Jacob’s tent, but SHECHEM steps in front of her and takes the pitcher. She moves a couple of steps back and stands with head bowed, not looking at him.)

SHECHEM: Dinah. Come, stop with me a minute.

(The other GIRLS, disappointed, begin filling their pitchers. SHECHEM puts puts his arm around Dinah’s shoulders; she stands still, not moving away from him or toward him.  The other GIRLS leave one by one as they get their pitchers filled. The BOYS drift out behind them. SHECHEM embraces DINAH. She does not return the embrace.)

SHECHEM: Don’t be afraid, Dinah. Come, lay with me.

(DINAH moves slightly away from him. SHECHEM pulls her close. She turns, but he grabs her around the waist and holds her so she can’t move away. She goes limp and he lifts her and carries her off stage. JACOB ends his prayer, rises from his position in front of the altar, and enters his tent.)

(The well is removed. SHECHEM re-enters carrying DINAH, lays her on the ground, and lays over her. He kisses her and caresses her. He speaks to her kindly and lovingly. She does not respond but he doesn’t seem to notice as he continues to kiss her with increasing passion. He lies beside her and falls asleep, his arm draped over her. She lies silently, not sleeping, but not moving.)

(HAMOR THE HIVITE enters and sees SHECHEM with DINAH. He wakes him up and pulls him to his feet. DINAH rises to a sitting position and wraps her arms around her legs. She does not look at the men, but listens to what they are saying as they speak about her.)

HAMOR: Who is this girl? What have you done?

SHECHEM: Her name is Dinah. She is a daughter of Jacob.

HAMOR: A daughter of Jacob? Jacob is a stranger in our town; we have offered him hospitality, and now you’ve lain with his daughter?

SHECHEM: I love her, father.

HAMOR: She is a lovely girl. But you have violated our vows of friendship by your actions. He trusted me when I said they would be safe living in our town.

SHECHEM: I love the daughter of Jacob, and I must have her. Father, get me this damsel for a wife. I am willing to pay any bride price.

HAMOR: We will call on Jacob in the morning. We will discuss terms that will make the marriage agreeable to him.

(HAMOR puts his hand down to DINAH and helps her to her feet. She rises, and stands in front of him, head bowed as though in respect.)

HAMOR: Come, child. You will stay with us tonight. In the morning, we will visit your father, and I will make him an offer for your hand. If my son wishes to have you for a wife, you will be his.

(The three exit. The GIRLS from the town enter and cross toward the other side of the stage, whispering and giggling. SIMEON, LEVI, and JUDAH enter from the other side. The girls giggle and run off.)

SIMEON: Did you see that?

LEVI: The entire town mocks us.

JUDAH: We have become a laughingstock. We cannot hold our heads up in this town.

SIMEON: We must have vengeance on the man who defiled our sister.

LEVI: Has Father heard?

JUDAH: He has. Jacob has been unable to leave his tent all morning for shame.

LEVI: The honor of Israel is besmirched with the stench of this foul deed.

SIMEON: Shechem has brought folly upon us by doing this thing that should not have been done.

(JACOB comes out of the tent, walking heavily. He kneels in front of the altar and prays, his gray head bowed in sorrow.)

SIMEON: Look, there he is now. See how he grieves.

JUDAH: His heart is truly heavy today. He has lost a daughter. She has been ruined.

LEVI: No man will marry her now. She is damaged goods.

JUDAH: She will be a burden on us, with no husband to take care of her.

LEVI: Our father has been robbed of his rightful property by the son of Hamor. These people have no honor. They are barbarians.

JUDAH: We are strangers in this town; perhaps they are unfamiliar with our customs.

LEVI: Our customs? Because we value our daughters too much to allow them to be taken by any man who desires them? This behavior is worthy of the beasts of the field, and is not fit behavior for a man.

SIMEON: Come, brothers, let us plan our vengeance. We cannot let this folly stand.

(The brothers exit as HAMOR and SHECHEM enter, DINAH walking silently behind. They approach JACOB, who rises. DINAH kneels in front of her father, bowing her head. JACOB reaches down his hand and helps her to her feet without looking at her. He turns his back on her as he speaks to HAMOR. SHECHEM and DINAH remain off to one side, SHECHEM with his arm across Dinah’s shoulders.)

HAMOR: (bows.) My friend.

JACOB: (bows) My host. Forgive me, my heart is heavy this morning.

HAMOR: My son is in love with your daughter. His soul longs for her.

JACOB: My daughter? She lives for me no more. She has been spoiled.

HAMOR: Shechem longs for Dinah, and I pray you give her to him as wife. We will be happy to pay the bride price.

JACOB: He wishes to marry Dinah?

HAMOR: I pray, allow my son to take your daughter as a wife.

JACOB: We are strangers in your land; we wish to keep our peace among you.


HAMOR: Make marriages with us, give your daughters to us, and take our daughters to you. And you shall dwell with us and share our land. Dwell and trade with us, and we shall all share our possessions.

LEVI: Our sister has been defiled; your son has created folly by lying with Jacob’s daughter. This is a thing he should not have done.

SHECHEM: I would call you brother.

LEVI: I am no brother of yours.

SHECHEM: Let me find grace in your eyes.

LEVI: You will find no grace here.

SHECHEM: What you ask of me I will give. Whatever the bride price you may ask, it will not be too much. I will give all you ask me; just give me your sister as my wife.

SIMEON: (To Jacob) We cannot do this thing.

JACOB: Son, do not be a hothead. The young man wishes to accommodate our law and our custom; he is prepared to do his duty and marry the woman he has ruined.

SIMEON: Father, we cannot give our sister to one who is uncircumcised.

LEVI: Yes, Father. If we gave our sister over to one uncircumcised, reproach would be ours. The curse of the Lord would be upon us. 

SHECHEM: If circumcision is what is required of me, I will gladly undertake it.

LEVI: This is the only way in which we could consent to this…if you will become as we are.

SIMEON: Let every male among you be circumcised.

LEVI: All the men of your town, all the boys, both slave and free.

SIMEON: If all the men of your town are circumcised, we will give our sisters and daughters to you, and we will take your daughters to us.

LEVI: We will dwell among you, and become as one people. We will share your land, and we will share our possessions.

SIMEON: If you wish to address us as brother, this is what you must do. If you do not, we will take our sisters, and take our daughters, and be gone from this town.

HAMOR: What you ask is difficult. For me, for my son, we are willing. We will be circumcised, we will have our slaves circumcised…but to ask this of all the males…

LEVI: All the males…or Dinah stays with us.

SHECHEM: I find your conditions reasonable. We will arrange the circumcisions, then you shall name your bride price, and I will claim my wife.

JACOB: It is decided, then. We will dwell in peace among you, and our daughters shall be yours to wife; your daughters shall marry our sons. We will share our lands, our animals, and we shall share our God.

(JONAH bows to HAMOR, then exits into the tent, without looking at DINAH. HAMOR and SHECHEM depart, taking DINAH.

JUDAH: Well done, brothers. We have restored the honor of our family, and our sister is provided for.

LEVI: The dishonor done to us this day cannot stand. Shechem shall never marry our sister.

REUBEN: No, Levi. It is done. He has done his lawful duty by her, and is willing to pay the price we name. He will restore her honor.

SIMEON: My brothers, this Canaanite has sinned against God and against our father. He has defiled our sister and sullied our name. He mocks us.  

LEVI: Jacob must be avenged. God must be mollified. There can be no peace in the land unless we act to restore our family’s honor.

JUDAH: My brother, do not be rash. Rein in your temper lest it get the better of you.

REUBEN: Our father is well pleased with the arrangement. There is no shame in our sister’s betrothal.

JUDAH: She has made a good match. After all, Shechem is a prince.

LEVI: A Canaanite prince!

(SIMEON lays his hand on Levi’s arm; a look passes between them.)

SIMEON: Levi, our brothers are right. We can rest contented once the man who defiled our sister makes her his wife.

LEVI: I suppose you’re right. I will pray to God to help me restrain my temper.

REUBEN: Then it is settled.

(The brothers move offstage. One of the town BOYS enters, hanging signs saying “Town Meeting tonight. All males must attend, by order of Hamor”.)

LOCAL BOY: Pay heed, all who reside in Shalem! This evening, Hamor, our prince, will be heard!

(Two TOWNSMEN enter; LEVI and SIMEON sneak in and remain hidden, listening.)

TOWNSMAN 1: This meeting bodes ill, I fear.

TOWNSMAN 2: I have heard rumors of discontent all day.

TOWNSMAN 1: The word is that the strangers among us are preparing to rise up against us, and take our lands. We must prepare ourselves.

TOWNSMAN 2: They are a small band, and vastly outnumbered. Our men are brave and we will not be easily defeated.

TOWNSMAN 1: Still, I have heard reports that their god is powerful.

TOWNSMAN 2: Surely Baal will not fail us in our hour of need; I am not scared of a bunch of ignorant herders.

TOWNSMAN 1: Shh. Our prince approaches.

(HAMOR and SHECHEM enter; the men stand bow their heads as he speaks.)

HAMOR: My friends, I have come today to announce the betrothal of my son, Shechem, to the daughter of Jacob. With this marriage, we will cement the friendship between our tribes.

TOWNSMEN: (together) Hear, hear! All hail Hamor, wise prince of Shalem!

(HAMOR raises his hand; the men fall quiet.)

HAMOR: As a condition of the betrothal, the sons of Jacob have requested that we become as they are. It is their request that, before we call them brother, we all undergo the ritual of circumcision.

TOWNSMAN 1: Who all is to undergo circumcision?

HAMOR: All the males of Shalem, man and boy, slave and free.

TOWNSMAN 2: All males? Not just the house of Hamor?

HAMOR: The agreement was that all males would be circumcised.

TOWNSMAN 1: What if we should refuse?

HAMOR: Do not be hasty, my friends. These men reside peaceably among us; we have welcomed them as friends. The land is big enough. We shall take wives from among their daughters, and we shall give them our daughters as their wives.

TOWNSMAN 1: We have no problem with the tribe of Jacob living among us; but why must we be circumcised?

HAMOR: When this has been accomplished, will not the beasts of their fields swell the ranks of our herds? Shall not their gold and their women be ours? We shall enrich our tribe, and the tribe of our neighbors who wish us no harm. Their seed shall mingle with ours, and our offspring shall outnumber the stars in the heavens.

TOWNSMAN 2: We outnumber the sons of Jacob. Why should we agree to their conditions? Let us just advance upon them, lay our swords upon their necks, and then their cattle, their gold, and their daughters would be rightfully ours.

HAMOR: My friend, such an action would be without honor.

TOWNSMEN 1: You are sure they will honor their agreement?

HAMOR: My friend Jacob is an honorable man. He will keep his word.

TOWNSMAN 2: For all to be circumcised seems unnecessary. I already have a wife, and she is good and strong. I have no need of the daughters of Jacob.

HAMOR: Surely we cannot expect him to give his daughter to Shechem if we are unwilling to fulfill a simple request.

TOWNSMAN 1: This is not such a simple request, what you ask of us.

TOWNSMAN 2: I am not prepared to accept the terms. Jacob may keep his daughters, his flocks, and his gold. I will keep what is mine.

HAMOR: This marriage is more than just a pleasure for my son; it is an opportunity for us all.

TOWNSMAN 1: I have no beef with Jacob, or any of his people, but I will not submit to this request.

TOWNSMAN 2: To ask this of the house of Hamor is reasonable if it is to preserve their law; to require it of the entire town is not. I also will not agree, nor will I subject my sons or my slaves to their demand.

(SHECHEM turns. HAMOR gives his son a kindly look, then addresses the townsmen.)

HAMOR: To refuse this act will be regarded as an act of treason against your king. The penalty for treason is death by stoning.

(The TOWNSMEN huddle, whispering. HAMOR waits. SHECHEM observes the TOWNSMEN. The men come to a decision, break out of the huddle, and address HAMOR.)

TOWNSMAN 1: We hear his god is powerful, that he has laid waste entire cities. We think we should agree.

HAMOR: Then it is decided. Tomorrow, all the men will submit themselves to the ritual of circumcision.  

(SIMEON and LEVI give each other a sign of victory; they exit without being seen. The TOWNSMEN exit.)

HAMOR: My son, it is done. The daughter of Jacob shall soon be your wife.

SHECHEM: Father, I am grateful. I am humbled by her beauty, and I will be a good husband to her and a good son to Jacob.

(HAMOR and SHECHEM exit; SIMEON and LEVI enter.)

SIMEON: Success! Brother, they are ours.

LEVI: We will show the world that you don’t mess with the daughters of Jacob, or with the god of Abraham.

SIMEON Tomorrow, my brother?

LEVI: Tomorrow.

(The brothers clasp hands in a ritualistic hand clasp, an unspoken vow cemented between them. They exit. The lights dim. When the lights come back up, the TOWNSMEN are lying on blankets, doubled up in pain. DINAH moves between HAMOR and SHECHEM, wiping their foreheads with water from a bowl she carries. HAMOR takes her hand, and she kneels beside him for a minute, as he puts her hand to his lips and kisses it gently. She rises, and moves to minister to SHECHEM.)

(The lights fade to indicate the passing of time; they come up on the same scene; DINAH is beside SHECHEM wiping his brow; SIMEON and LEVI enter, swords drawn. She doesn’t look up as they move toward the townsmen still doubled over on their blanket.)

(The brothers reach down, grab the hair of one of the men, expose their neck, and cut their throats with the edge of their swords. The men die without making a sound.)

(DINAH stands when her brothers approach SHECHEM and HAMOR and places herself between her brothers and the two men on the blankets. She spreads her arms as though to hid SHECHEM from their view. LEVI shoves her aside and kneels beside SHECHEM, his knee on the other man’s chest. DINAH grabs his arm but he pushes her off. SIMEON grabs her and moves her aside; she continues to grab at their arms without success. SIMEON stands over HAMOR.)

SIMEON: The men of your town are all dead. You are the only ones left.

LEVI: We could not let dishonor against our father go unavenged.

SIMEON: We could not give you our sister. We must clear the reputation of the house of Jacob. You have sinned against our god.

LEVI: You will never call me brother.

(The brothers dispatch the two men; DINAH kneels on the ground before SHECHEM. She gathers him in her arms as he dies, then she collapses across the body of her betrothed; her future is bleak. SIMEON pulls DINAH from the dead man; he lifts her, drapes her over his shoulder, and the two men exit. The lights fade.)

(When the lights come back up, the stage is empty except for DINAH, seated in front of the tent flap, her arms wrapped around her knees. She rocks gently back and forth. Her hair is disheveled and her dress is covered with blood. JACOB enters through the tent flap and kneels at the altar to pray, not looking at DINAH. She doesn’t look at him but stares vacantly into space as she rocks.)

(REUBEN and JUDAH enter and cross to JUDAH. They lay their hands on his shoulders and he stands.)

REUBEN: Father, we returned from the fields as soon as we heard.

JUDAH: Where are my brothers? What have they done?

JACOB: Your brothers have returned to the city; I hear they are collecting the women and the girls to bring back to camp.

REUBEN: You look tired, father.

JACOB: My sons have left me in despair. Their sister sinks to madness; I fear I shall soon follow.

JUDAH: What is to become of Dinah now? No man will take her to wife; she is not fit to be married.

JACOB: Perhaps there will be an old widower who will need someone to look after his sons. Perhaps he would overlook her filth, and agree to accept her as a bride.

REUBEN: Quiet, father. Our brothers approach.

(SIMEON and LEVI enter carrying necklaces and fine fabrics that they collected from the mourning town.)

LEVI: Father! We have avenged your good name!

SIMEON: The spoils of war are ours! The women and children rest quietly.

LEVI: We will allow them a period of mourning for their menfolk before we select those we wish to keep.

JACOB: My sons, my sons, what have you done? My heart is heavy with grief.

SIMEON: But, father! We thought you would want to avenge the terrible crime that was committed against your house.

JACOB: The thing was settled. Your sister was to be married to the man who ruined her, as provided for in our law. He would have restored our name, and I would have retained my honor.

LEVI: No, father. It would have brought dishonor to our house, and dishonor to the god of Israel.

REUBEN: You pledged to me you would not do this terrible deed.

SIMEON: I prayed, and the lord gave me strength. He showed me what I must do.

JACOB: Perhaps that was not the lord you were listening to, but the wicked urgings of your own black heart.

LEVI: Father, we thought you would be pleased.

JACOB: You have sore troubled me, and made my name stink among the citizens of the land. We are few, and they are many. They will rise up against us, bring armies together against me, and they shall slay me. I shall be destroyed, and my house.

SIMEON: Should we have allowed this Canaanite to deal with our sister as a harlot?

LEVI: Our god will protect us against the armies of our enemies.

JACOB: I pray you are correct. I fear my word will become as dust in the ears of those with whom I trade. This violation of a sacred trust will make me a pariah, make my name as dirt.

LEVI: Father, God will see to you, and will lead us to victory against those who would deal unjustly with us.

REUBEN: Come, father, it grows late. You are tired. You must get rest.

(REUBEN leads JACOB into the tent, the other boys behind. DINAH remains seated in front of the tent flap, rocking like one mad. She stares straight ahead, her eyes unseeing, as the lights fade.)

(When the lights come back up, DINAH is seated where she was, still rocking; JACOB kneels at the altar, praying. He lifts his head upward as though listening to an unheard voice. He sits in rapt attention, then rises.)

JACOB: Reuben! Judah!

(REUBEN and JUDAH enter.)

JACOB: I have heard the voice of God. He has let me know his wishes.

JUDAH: Are we to leave, father?

JACOB: We will leave this very day. We are to travel to Luz and build an altar to God.

REUBEN: We must begin preparing the women and children.  

JACOB: God has given me wonderful tidings. He has instructed us to be fruitful and multiply and fill the land. He will make a company of nations of my tribe; my sons will be fathers to kings. And he has promised me the land he gave Abraham and Isaac. He has promised it to me, and to my seed.

JUDAH: We must follow the wishes of God.

JACOB: He will clear the land of those who now sow the fields and harvest the crops, and he will fill the land with the fruit of my loins. We shall be a great nation.

JUDAH: This is glad tidings indeed.

JACOB: Come, my sons. The day grows late. We must pack our animals and depart before sundown.

(The men exit through the tent. DINAH collapses in a heap. The lights fade.)