While writing the play, I was called for jury duty. Every day I’d report in and I’d move round to the different floors, looking for rape cases in progress. Usually there were one or two. The sex crimes officer is the modern equivalent of the notary in Artemisia’s time. He takes the victim’s testimony in private and then presents her often disturbing, personal, and graphic description in the public courtroom, which he reads in a monotone, expressionless voice. I realized most date rapes have no witness, both now and four hundred years ago. The victim’s case rests on character and credible narrative. Just as the lawyers have to create a believable story with very little evidence to convince the jury, I had to sift through contradictory testimonies to create a plausible story of Artemisia’s entanglement with Agostino.
I went to Rome and visited the prison where Artemisia’s alleged rapist Agostino Tassi was eventually incarcerated. Because it was a Sunday, the jail, now a museum, was closed. The guard agreed to let me in, on condition that my son and husband wait outside. He closed the heavy wooden door and took me upstairs to show me the jail cells and various instruments of torture. While alone in one of the cells, he pressed me up against the wall. I quickly pushed him aside and made my way back downstairs. ( I was nearly twice his height) and started banging on the heavy wooden door. For a moment the past and present had collided. I was happy to see the faces of my son and husband waiting in the street.