The Master and Margarita

The Master and Margarita

Pontius Pilate Character Analysis

Pontius Pilate is the fifth procurator of Judea and the subject of the master’s novel. His story represents the counterpoint narrative to the main action in Moscow, and centers on his decision to approve the execution of Yeshua Ha-Nozri in the city of Yershalaim. Pilate holds a high-pressured position of authority and can’t be seen to show weakness. That said, Yeshua’s unique character based on compassion and empathy intrigues him, ultimately increasing its hold over him more and more as time goes on. Sensing that he has made a mistake in allowing Yeshua to die, Pilate tries to atone by killing Judas of Kiriath, the man who set up Yeshua’s arrest. But this doesn’t bring him any true resolution, and Pilate spends two thousand years in a kind of limbo, looking up at the moon with his faithful dog, Banga, by his side. Pilate longs to be with Yeshua and for his decision approve the execution to be undone. Pilate is eventually set free, when the master is encouraged by Woland to complete his novel by granting Pilate his liberty. At this, the dazed Pilate follows his dog up a moonlit path and is reunited with Yeshua. Pilate, then, represents human authority as a counterpoint to Yeshua’s godly authority—his millennial torture comes from the realization that the second is more meaningful than the first.

Pontius Pilate Quotes in The Master and Margarita

The The Master and Margarita quotes below are all either spoken by Pontius Pilate or refer to Pontius Pilate. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Courage and Cowardice Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Penguin Random House edition of The Master and Margarita published in 1965.
Chapter 2 Quotes

‘And now tell me, why is it that you use me words “good people” all

the time? Do you call everyone that, or what?’

‘Everyone,’ the prisoner replied. There are no evil people in the world.’

‘The first I hear of it,’ Pilate said, grinning. ‘But perhaps I know too little of life! ...

Related Characters: Pontius Pilate (speaker), Yeshua Ha-Nozri (speaker)
Page Number: 27
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation long mobile

Unlock explanations and citation info for this and every other The Master and Margarita quote.

Plus so much more...

Get LitCharts A+
Already a LitCharts A+ member? Sign in!
Chapter 16 Quotes

Yeshua tore himself away from the sponge, and trying to make his voice sound gentle and persuasive, but not succeeding, he begged the executioner hoarsely:

‘Give him a drink.’

It was growing ever darker. The storm cloud had already poured across half the sky, aiming towards Yershalaim, boiling white clouds raced ahead of the storm cloud suffused with black moisture and fire. There was a flash and a thunderclap right over the hill. The executioner removed the sponge from the spear.

‘Praise the magnanimous hegemon!’ he whispered solemnly, and gently pricked Yeshua in the heart. He twitched and whispered:

‘Hegemon...’

Related Characters: Yeshua Ha-Nozri (speaker), Pontius Pilate
Page Number: 181
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
Chapter 24 Quotes

‘But tell me, why does Margarita call you a master?’ asked Woland. The man smiled and said:

‘That is an excusable weakness. She has too high an opinion of a novel

I wrote.’

‘What is this novel about?’

‘It is a novel about Pontius Pilate.’ Here again the tongues of the candles swayed and leaped, the dishes on the table clattered, Woland burst into thunderous laughter, but neither frightened nor surprised anyone. Behemoth applauded for some reason.

‘About what? About what? About whom?’ said Woland, ceasing to laugh.

‘And that - now? It’s stupendous! Couldn’t you have found some other subject? Let me see it.’ Woland held out his hand, palm up.

‘Unfortunately, I cannot do that,’ replied the master, ‘because I burned it in the stove.’

‘Forgive me, but I don’t believe you,’ Woland replied, ‘that cannot be: manuscripts don’t burn.’ He turned to Behemoth and said, ‘Come on. Behemoth, let’s have the novel.’

The cat instantly jumped off the chair, and everyone saw that he had been sitting on a thick stack of manuscripts. With a bow, the cat gave the top copy to Woland. Margarita trembled and cried out, again shaken to the point of tears:

‘It’s here, the manuscript! It’s here!’ She dashed to Woland and added in admiration:

‘All-powerful! All-powerful!’

Related Characters: Woland (speaker), Margarita (speaker), The Master (speaker), Pontius Pilate, Behemoth
Page Number: 286-287
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
Chapter 26 Quotes

He walked in the company of Banga, and beside him walked the wandering philosopher. They were arguing about something very complex and important, and neither of them could refute the other. They did not agree with each other in anything, and that made their argument especially interesting and endless. It went without saying that today’s execution proved to be a sheer misunderstanding: here this philosopher, who had thought up such an incredibly absurd thing as that all men are good, was walking beside him, therefore he was alive. And, of course, it would be terrible even to think that one could execute such a man. There had been no execution! No execution! That was the loveliness of this journey up the stairway of the moon.

There was as much free time as they needed, and the storm would come only towards evening, and cowardice was undoubtedly one of the most terrible vices. Thus spoke Yeshua Ha-Nozri. No, philosopher, I disagree with you: it is the most terrible vice!

Related Characters: Pontius Pilate, Yeshua Ha-Nozri, Banga
Related Symbols: The Moon/Moonlight
Page Number: 319
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
Chapter 32 Quotes

Here Woland turned to the master and said:

‘Well, now you can finish your novel with one phrase!’

The master seemed to have been expecting this, as he stood motionless and looked at the seated procurator. He cupped his hands to his mouth and cried out so that the echo leaped over the unpeopled and unforested mountains:

‘You’re free! You’re free! He is waiting for you!’

The mountains turned the master’s voice to thunder, and by this same thunder they were destroyed. The accursed rocky walls collapsed. Only the platform with the stone armchair remained. Over the black abyss into which the walls had gone, a boundless city lit up, dominated by gleaming idols above a garden grown luxuriously over many thousands of moons. The path of moonlight so long awaited by the procurator stretched right to this garden, and the first to rush down it was the sharp-eared dog. The man in the white cloak with blood-red lining rose from the armchair and shouted something in a hoarse, cracked voice. It was impossible to tell whether he was weeping or laughing, or what he shouted. It could only be seen that, following his faithful guardian, he, too, rushed headlong down the path of moonlight.

Related Characters: Woland (speaker), The Master (speaker), Pontius Pilate, Banga
Related Symbols: The Moon/Moonlight
Page Number: 382
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile

‘Listen to the stillness,’ Margarita said to the master, and the sand rustled under her bare feet, ‘listen and enjoy what you were not given in life — peace. Look, there ahead is your eternal home, which you have been given as a reward. I can already see the Venetian window and the twisting vine, it climbs right up to the roof. Here is your home, your eternal home. I know that in the evenings you will be visited by those you love, those who interest you and who will never trouble you. They will play for you, they will sing for you, you will see what light is in the room when the candles are burning. You will fall asleep, having put on your greasy and eternal nightcap, you will fall asleep with a smile on your lips. Sleep will strengthen you, you will reason wisely. And you will no longer be able to drive me away. I will watch over your sleep.’

Thus spoke Margarita, walking with the master to their eternal home, and it seemed to the master that Margarita’s words flowed in the same way as the stream they had left behind flowed and whispered, and the master’s memory, the master’s anxious, needled memory began to fade. Someone was setting the master free, as he himself had just set free the hero he had created. This hero had gone into the abyss, gone irrevocably, the son of the astrologer-king, forgiven on the eve of Sunday, the cruel fifth procurator of Judea, the equestrian Pontius Pilate.

Related Characters: Margarita (speaker), The Master, Pontius Pilate
Related Symbols: The Moon/Moonlight
Page Number: 384
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
Get the entire The Master and Margarita LitChart as a printable PDF.
The master and margarita.pdf.medium

Pontius Pilate Character Timeline in The Master and Margarita

The timeline below shows where the character Pontius Pilate appears in The Master and Margarita. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 2. Pontius Pilate
Courage and Cowardice Theme Icon
...of Herod in Yershalaim, approximately two millennia ago. It is the eve of Passover. Pontius Pilate, the procurator of Judea, has been suffering from a headache all day which seems to... (full context)
Courage and Cowardice Theme Icon
Love and Hope Theme Icon
...authority who had been meant to confirm the sentence had refused and sent Yeshua to Pilate for the final decision. (full context)
Courage and Cowardice Theme Icon
The Ambiguity of Good and Evil Theme Icon
The Danger and Absurdity of Soviet Society Theme Icon
...cloth and looking like he has been recently beaten, tries to deny the charge, addressing Pilate as “good man.” Taking offence at Yeshua’s apparent lack of respect for his authority, Pilate... (full context)
Courage and Cowardice Theme Icon
Love and Hope Theme Icon
Pilate interrogates Yeshua. The latter claims to be “alone in the world” and to have no... (full context)
Courage and Cowardice Theme Icon
Art and Authenticity Theme Icon
The Ambiguity of Good and Evil Theme Icon
The Danger and Absurdity of Soviet Society Theme Icon
Pilate asks Yeshua to state accurately what he did say about the temple. Yeshua replies: “I... (full context)
Courage and Cowardice Theme Icon
The Ambiguity of Good and Evil Theme Icon
To Pilate’s shock, Yeshua tells him that that he, Pilate, has an insufferable headache and would rather... (full context)
The Ambiguity of Good and Evil Theme Icon
The Danger and Absurdity of Soviet Society Theme Icon
Pilate orders Yeshua’s hands to be unbound. He suspects Yeshua of being a “physician,” which the... (full context)
Courage and Cowardice Theme Icon
The Ambiguity of Good and Evil Theme Icon
Love and Hope Theme Icon
Pilate suggests that Ratslayer is a counter-example to Yeshua’s theory, but Yeshua says that Ratslayer’s cruelty... (full context)
Courage and Cowardice Theme Icon
The Ambiguity of Good and Evil Theme Icon
Just then, a swallow lands nearby. Pilate asks his secretary if Yeshua is accused of anything else. Reading Yeshua’s other charge, Pilate... (full context)
Courage and Cowardice Theme Icon
The Ambiguity of Good and Evil Theme Icon
Love and Hope Theme Icon
The Danger and Absurdity of Soviet Society Theme Icon
Gathering himself together, Pilate asks Yeshua if it is true that he has said anything bad about the emperor,... (full context)
Courage and Cowardice Theme Icon
The Ambiguity of Good and Evil Theme Icon
The Danger and Absurdity of Soviet Society Theme Icon
Pilate angrily insists on Tiberius’ ultimate authority, shouting that the “kingdom of truth” will never come.... (full context)
Courage and Cowardice Theme Icon
The Ambiguity of Good and Evil Theme Icon
With Yeshua gone, Pilate is visited by Joseph Kaifa, the high priest of the Jews. In honor of the... (full context)
Courage and Cowardice Theme Icon
Art and Authenticity Theme Icon
The Ambiguity of Good and Evil Theme Icon
Pilate apologizes to Joseph Kaifa for getting “carried away.” With their entourage in tow, they head... (full context)
Courage and Cowardice Theme Icon
The Ambiguity of Good and Evil Theme Icon
The Danger and Absurdity of Soviet Society Theme Icon
At the stadium, Pilate climbs the stand and addresses the crowd. He names the four criminals who are set... (full context)
Chapter 6. Schizophrenia, as was Said
Courage and Cowardice Theme Icon
Art and Authenticity Theme Icon
The Danger and Absurdity of Soviet Society Theme Icon
...knew about Berlioz’s death before it happened, and that he had spoken personally with Pontius Pilate. Ivan, sensing that the others think his story is crazy, insists on making a phone... (full context)
Chapter 8. The Combat Between the Professor and the Poet
Courage and Cowardice Theme Icon
The Danger and Absurdity of Soviet Society Theme Icon
...he could violently resist his situation; take up his account of the professor and Pontius Pilate again; or “withdraw into proud silence.” He chooses the third option. (full context)
Art and Authenticity Theme Icon
The Ambiguity of Good and Evil Theme Icon
...the day before, once again mentioning that the strange professor he encountered had seen Pontius Pilate in person. Ivan explains that the professor had mentioned “sunflower oil” well before Berlioz had... (full context)
Courage and Cowardice Theme Icon
...“rides the tram all by himself.” He reiterates that the professor was “personally on Pontius Pilate’s balcony.” (full context)
Art and Authenticity Theme Icon
Love and Hope Theme Icon
...the police to catch the professor. Dr. Stravinsky tells him not to think about Pontius Pilate too much. He reassures Ivan that staying in the clinic is the right thing to... (full context)
Chapter 13. The Hero Enters
Courage and Cowardice Theme Icon
The Danger and Absurdity of Soviet Society Theme Icon
...him what caused him to be committed to the clinic. At the mention of Pontius Pilate, the guest is astonished at the “staggering coincidence.” He listens patiently to Ivan’s story, not... (full context)
Courage and Cowardice Theme Icon
Art and Authenticity Theme Icon
The Ambiguity of Good and Evil Theme Icon
Love and Hope Theme Icon
The Danger and Absurdity of Soviet Society Theme Icon
...of them are in the clinic for the same reason: “namely, on account of Pontius Pilate.” A year ago, he explains, he wrote a novel about Pilate; when Ivan asks him... (full context)
Art and Authenticity Theme Icon
...“state bond” and decided to leave his museum work and write a novel about Pontius Pilate. The writing was going well, and he already knew that the last words of the... (full context)
Courage and Cowardice Theme Icon
Art and Authenticity Theme Icon
The Ambiguity of Good and Evil Theme Icon
Love and Hope Theme Icon
...believing that he is mad. Despite Ivan’s requests to hear what happened to Yeshua and Pilate, the master decides it is time to leave Ivan’s room, and promptly disappears. (full context)
Chapter 16. The Execution
Courage and Cowardice Theme Icon
The Ambiguity of Good and Evil Theme Icon
...sponge from the spear and “gently pricks” Yeshua in the heart, saying “praise the magnanimous hegemon!” Yeshua dies, whispering only “Hegemon.” The storm arrives over the mountain, filling the sky with... (full context)
Chapter 24. The Extraction of the Master
Courage and Cowardice Theme Icon
Art and Authenticity Theme Icon
The Danger and Absurdity of Soviet Society Theme Icon
...Woland asks why Margarita calls him “the master,” the master tells Woland about his Pontius Pilate novel. Woland bursts into laughter, asking to see the novel. The master explains that he... (full context)
Chapter 25. How the Procurator Tried to Save Judas of Kiriath
Courage and Cowardice Theme Icon
The Ambiguity of Good and Evil Theme Icon
...the otherwise “pitch darkness.” The storm develops into a hurricane, wrecking the palace gardens. Pontius Pilate lies on the couch, drinking wine and growing impatient.  (full context)
Courage and Cowardice Theme Icon
The Ambiguity of Good and Evil Theme Icon
The Danger and Absurdity of Soviet Society Theme Icon
...who was present at the execution now comes in. He is Aphranius, the head of Pilate’s secret police. The procurator makes his servants fetch dry clothes and hot food for Aphranius,... (full context)
Courage and Cowardice Theme Icon
The Ambiguity of Good and Evil Theme Icon
Pilate complains about Yershalaim: “there’s no more hopeless place on earth […] I get sick every... (full context)
Courage and Cowardice Theme Icon
The Ambiguity of Good and Evil Theme Icon
Pilate asks Aphranius about the execution. Aphranius explains that Yeshua had refused the offer of water;... (full context)
Courage and Cowardice Theme Icon
Pilate requests that Aphranius bury Yeshua’s body, along with the other executed men, in a secret... (full context)
Courage and Cowardice Theme Icon
The Ambiguity of Good and Evil Theme Icon
...a very great scandal.” Aphranius points out that it will be difficult to pull off. Pilate insists that he has a “presentiment” Judas is certain to be killed that evening. Aphranius:... (full context)
Chapter 26. The Burial
Courage and Cowardice Theme Icon
As twilight comes on, Pontius Pilate’s headache returns slightly. He thinks to himself that he has “lost something irretrievably,” but tries... (full context)
The Ambiguity of Good and Evil Theme Icon
Back at the palace, Pontius Pilate has his bed moved into the moonlight on the balcony. He tries restlessly to fall... (full context)
Courage and Cowardice Theme Icon
The Ambiguity of Good and Evil Theme Icon
Pilate sinks into a blissful dream. In this dream, he walks up towards the moon accompanied... (full context)
Courage and Cowardice Theme Icon
The Ambiguity of Good and Evil Theme Icon
Pilate, sobbing in his sleep, promises to Yeshua that he will throw away his career just... (full context)
Courage and Cowardice Theme Icon
The Ambiguity of Good and Evil Theme Icon
Pilate is woken abruptly by the arrival of Ratslayer, who informs him that Aphranius has come... (full context)
Courage and Cowardice Theme Icon
The Ambiguity of Good and Evil Theme Icon
...yet found Judas’s body but assumes that he would have been killed out of town. Pilate wonders how a believer could be lured out of the city on the night of... (full context)
Courage and Cowardice Theme Icon
The Ambiguity of Good and Evil Theme Icon
...adds that no one at Kaifa’s palace will admit to paying Judas any money, which Pilate suggests will make it “much harder to find the killers.” Pilate says that Judas’ death... (full context)
Courage and Cowardice Theme Icon
The Ambiguity of Good and Evil Theme Icon
Pilate says he “needed to see this Matthew Levi,” not realizing that Aphranius has brought Levi... (full context)
Courage and Cowardice Theme Icon
The Ambiguity of Good and Evil Theme Icon
Once Aphranius is gone, Matthew Levi is brought in to see Pilate. He is muddy and disheveled, wavering on his feet. Refusing a chair, Levi sits on... (full context)
Courage and Cowardice Theme Icon
The Ambiguity of Good and Evil Theme Icon
Pilate orders Levi to show him the parchment scrolls on which he has written about Yeshua.... (full context)
Courage and Cowardice Theme Icon
The Ambiguity of Good and Evil Theme Icon
The Danger and Absurdity of Soviet Society Theme Icon
Pilate offers Levi work in the great library at Caesarea, which Levi rejects. Pilate then offers... (full context)
Courage and Cowardice Theme Icon
The Ambiguity of Good and Evil Theme Icon
Levi gets up suddenly and leans over Pilate’s table, stating that he is going to “kill a man in Yershalaim.” Levi says he... (full context)
Chapter 30. It’s Time! It’s Time!
The Ambiguity of Good and Evil Theme Icon
Love and Hope Theme Icon
...a bottle of wine from Woland, which he says is the same wine that Pontius Pilate drank. They drink a toast to Woland’s health. Immediately, Margarita collapses; as the master too... (full context)
Courage and Cowardice Theme Icon
Art and Authenticity Theme Icon
The Ambiguity of Good and Evil Theme Icon
...wants to write “something else.” The master tells Ivan to write a sequel to the Pilate novel, which he himself won’t do. (full context)
Chapter 32. Forgiveness and Eternal Refuge
Courage and Cowardice Theme Icon
The Ambiguity of Good and Evil Theme Icon
...moon sits a dark dog. Woland explains to the master that the man is Pontius Pilate (with Banga). (full context)
Courage and Cowardice Theme Icon
Art and Authenticity Theme Icon
The Ambiguity of Good and Evil Theme Icon
Love and Hope Theme Icon
Woland tells the master that “your novel has been read” but “it is not finished.” Pilate has been on this platform for two thousand years, tormented by insomnia and with just... (full context)
Courage and Cowardice Theme Icon
The Ambiguity of Good and Evil Theme Icon
Woland explains that Pilate constantly repeats himself, saying that the moon gives him no peace, and that when he... (full context)
Courage and Cowardice Theme Icon
Art and Authenticity Theme Icon
Margarita screams at Woland to let Pilate go. Woland laughs, causes stones to tumble down the mountains. He turns to the master... (full context)
Courage and Cowardice Theme Icon
Art and Authenticity Theme Icon
The Ambiguity of Good and Evil Theme Icon
Love and Hope Theme Icon
...path of moonlight reveals itself. Banga runs down the path, followed by the amazed Pontius Pilate. Woland turns to the master to discuss his fate; the master mistakenly thinks he has... (full context)
Courage and Cowardice Theme Icon
The Ambiguity of Good and Evil Theme Icon
Love and Hope Theme Icon
...watch over him. The master senses himself being set free, just as he had freed Pilate(full context)
Epilogue
Courage and Cowardice Theme Icon
The Ambiguity of Good and Evil Theme Icon
...dreams of the execution at Yershalaim, but once he is given his medicine, he imagines Pilate walking towards the moon with Yeshua Ha-Nozri. (full context)
Courage and Cowardice Theme Icon
The Ambiguity of Good and Evil Theme Icon
In this dream, Pilate implores Yeshua to tell him that the execution never happened. Yeshua promises that it didn’t.... (full context)