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The Tragedy of Mariam

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Kristy Simonson

on 4 February 2014

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Transcript of The Tragedy of Mariam

The Tragedy of Mariam

The gender of early-modern male playwrights is rarely mentioned when interpreting the plays that they write. This is not the case with female-authored works, where it is often foregrounded. Do you think that knowing the gender of the author of
The Tragedy of Mariam
helps us with its analysis? Why or why not? To what extent does the early-modern playwright's gender (male or female) illuminate the meaning(s) of the drama he or she produces?
Does knowing the gender of the author of
The Tragedy of Mariam
help us with its analysis?
Knowing the author of
The Tragedy of Mariam
helps us with its analysis by offering insight into Elizabeth Cary's life and the personal experiences that influenced her play.

Elizabeth Cary
While knowing the gender of early-modern playwrights enriches our understanding of the drama they produce, is not a determining factor in fully understanding the meaning of their works.

Elizabeth Cary's Life
- Arranged marriage at age 17 to Sir Henry Cary
- Spent most of the first six years of marriage apart, and much time apart after that
- Raised the children alone while her husband worked his way up the ranks at court (had ten children in fourteen years)
- Had a growing affinity for the Catholic faith and eventually devoted herself to it, yet this outraged Henry, someone who persecuted Catholics
- Never came to a compromise about religion before he died in 1633
- Raised four of her daughters and two of her sons as Catholic
- Due to her relentless commitment to Catholicism and refusal to adhere to King Charles I's commands, she was threatened with imprisonment in the Tower in 1636 if she continued her behaviour
- Died in 1639 of unknown reasons (age 54)
The Tragedy of Mariam
believed to have been composed in 1606
“While viewing a play through the playwright’s life is often problematic, to do so in this case [
The Tragedy of Mariam
] allows insights not possible from other perspectives” (Beilin 62).
- Both isolated women
- Both in ill-matched marriages
- Within those marriages, both have authoritarian husbands who dominate even from afar
- Both have cold and unsympathetic families
- Mariam’s dilemma
-> "Considers both duty and individual need and reveal
Cary’s concern with the difficulties of dutiful obedience in the authoritarian structure of marriage, especially in matters of individual conscience” (Beilin 61).
- Mariam's death
-> “[Cary's] play, after four acts of rampant self-
assertion by the characters, ends in an affirmation of self-abnegation, making the protagonist a precursor of Christ’s self-sacrifice. We may further speculate that Cary’s own religious longing prompted her to give a female character such a role” (Beilin 63).
The Author in Mariam
The Author in Other Characters
- Herod is a form of Cary's husband, Henry
- Salome speaks for Cary's rebelliousness
- Graphina articulates Cary's ideas on obedience
- Chorus
->“The conflict between Mariam’s behaviour and
the conduct standards set by the chorus, which create a tension in the play, thus appear to refer to the anxiety Cary may have felt about writing in the face of social constrictions” (Corporaal 138).

The Author in
the Plot
To what extent does the early-modern playwright's gender illuminate the meaning(s) of the drama he or she produces?
"Overemphasis on biographical details in a reading of the play will impede any placement of the text in its literary context and fails to challenge its exclusion from the literary canon” (Corporaal 136).
Full transcript