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More in this section 2012-13

The Tragedy of Mariam stars RHUL alumnus

Posted on 07/06/2013

A performance/workshop/installation/all-round extraordinary event in beautiful Burford next week will feature former Drama student Conor Short.

Conor is appearing in Elizabeth Cary’s The Tragedy of Mariam, the first original play written by a woman in English. The performance will take place on 12 June at 4.30 in St John’s church, where Elizabeth Cary (1585-1639), later Viscountess Falkland, got married. The Tragedy of Mariam is a remarkable play full of rattling good speeches for women (and several for men).

The play focusses on the final hours of Mariam, the second wife of Herod the Great (the one who ordered the massacre of the innocents). When news comes from Rome that Herod is dead his wife, her mother, Herod’s sister and his ex wife all start plotting, scheming and declaring their independence. The wonderful villainess, Salome, decides to be the first women to get herself a divorce – so she can marry an Arabian prince - and that’s where Conor comes in. He is playing Salome’s soon-to-be dumped husband, Constabarus. The real trouble starts, however, when everyone finds out Herod is not, after all, dead, but just about to arrive home.

Elizabeth Cary was a remarkable woman; she wrote at least two plays, she wrote histories, polemics, translations. She had eleven children. She separated from her husband when it was social death to do so and, as he wouldn’t pay her any maintenance, had to scrounge for food. She was disowned by her parents; put under house arrest by Charles I; and she kidnapped two of her own children in a custody battle. She was highly intelligent, well educated and an all round inspirational figure.

The Drama department at Royal Holloway produced the second ever recorded production of The Tragedy of Mariam in 1995 but as 2013 is the 400th anniversary of the publication of the play, it is an appropriate moment to revisit it and acknowledge its pioneering status. So if anyone is near Burford next Wednesday please come along and support this unique event.

Professor Liz Schafer has written an article for THE on the subject.


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