Joseph – A Saga of Zeal and Betrayal

By Judit Catan.


The play principally follows the Biblical story but condenses and dramatises selected aspects. Act 1 sets the scene of conflict between Joseph and his brothers, depicts Joseph as the dreamer and shows Jacob wisely advising Joseph to be discreet about his dreams.

Then outlined is the plot to kill Joseph. We then see the brothers devising a cover up and selling Joseph to the Ishmaelites. Then still within this act we see Jacob’s mourning and how the real comforters are the daughters whereas his sons are impatient with him.

Then Joseph’s new life in Egypt is introduced; his fast rise to high position and his clash with the seductive Potiphar’s wife who has him thrown into prison when she is unsuccessful.

We then see Joseph in prison in conversation with the slightly clown like cupbearer and baker who are finally instrumental in his release.

Pharaoh distress at his dreams is depicted in song, and the bankruptcy of his magicians also shown in song, gives rise to Joseph’s fast restoration from prison into the high honour of becoming Pharaoh’s famine manager.

Then we visit Joseph’s series of altercations with his brothers; followed by his punitive dealings with them, his compunction and rising compassion at their plight which leads to the final reconciliation between Joseph and his brothers when he reveals to them his true identity.

The play ends with Jacob’s arrival in Egypt to participate in and benefit by his son’s honourable position which brings about the restoration of the whole family.


The play is treated lightly through song and the many short scenes within each act. Where dialogue occurs among the brothers – as when they plot against Joseph, or when they are thrown into prison in Egypt, it tends to be modern in style, highlighting the motives behind what they say in a modern and light tone. The same approach is taken in dialogues seen amongst servants, and the cupbearer and baker as they talk among themselves and with Joseph. More formal language is used when Joseph is talking to his masters or servants.

In order to condense what otherwise would be too long a play, I use songs to tell some parts of the story instead of dramatising them. Some narration is used for the same reason.

In the Biblical story, Joseph has 23 sisters. I have introduced four minor female characters as his sisters. Together with the better known Dena, they form the group of faithful mourners by Jacob’s side. In his song ‘Time to Forgive’ we see Joseph more emotional and enjoy the more lamentful tune true to the Jewish tradition. I have also decided to depict Jacob as a Diaspora Jew for humorous effect.

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