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The Tragedy of Mariam

3.19  ·  Rating details ·  445 Ratings  ·  27 Reviews
"Stephanie Hodgson-Wright's excellent edition of this important work is the most user-friendly available." -- Jacqueline Pearson, University of Manchester
Paperback, 200 pages
Published December 13th 2000 by Broadview Press Inc (first published 1613)
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(showing 1-30)
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Nov 10, 2009 rated it it was ok
Shelves: assigned-reading
This is believed to have been the first English play written by a woman that was actually published, which makes it Kind Of A Big Deal. Not that anyone should really feel obliged to read it unless they have to write a paper on it.

The problems I had with this play can be summed up into two main points, which I will illustrate here:
1 - A lot of the important action takes place before the play even starts. So Mariam is married to Herod, who's kind of a crazy bastard, and after he leaves his first
Nov 30, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: assigned-books
Fantastic play, really explores the expectations of femininity and how fitting those expectations too honestly, or breaking them secretly, impacts your life. Or death. It starts out with Mariam saying the line: "How oft have I with public voice run on?" But rotates around her silence. She says too much, yet not enough. Salome, her counter, says a lot but privately. To Herod, to Constabarus. What is a "closet drama?" Cary was a trailblazer as a convert to Catholicism during the reign of Cromwell ...more
May 09, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Lit nerds
Shelves: adults
This play was one of my favorite pieces of literature in college. It's got a modern (modern as in 1613) spin on the chorus, it's got men destroyed by the patriarchal society they perpetuate, it's got Salome, a bitch for the ages.
Rachel Holtzclaw
read for my women writers class
would not read again
John Dizon
Mar 07, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Elizabeth Cary’s closet drama, Tragedie of Mariam, and Ben Jonson’s dark satire, Volpone, are classic studies of frustration and aggression triggered by jealousy and greed. Mariam becomes a martyr figure and a role model for women in the Renaissance period during which it was written. Volpone, alternately, is a symbol of greed whose climactic downfall is the moral of Jonson’s story. Yet the parallels between the characters in both works give us timeless examples of the folly of displaced emotion ...more
Sep 23, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
As an undergraduate, I had to read this play for a course on Renaissance women writing, called "Shakespeare's Sisters". Now, currently in my second postgraduate course, it is on the list for "Women, Writing and Gender: Renaissance to Romanticism". Needless to say, this is a text women's studies cannot ignore, as it is thought to be the first play ever to be written by a woman and subsequently published.

As a historical text, is is very interesting, as it goes back to pre-Christian Judea that doe
Sep 18, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Oct 24, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: owned-books
For some reason, I particularly enjoy plays. The Tragedy of Mariam is a rather brief play, but the language and style measure up to a "good" play. It isn't as awe-inspiring or mesmerizing as Shakespeare's plays, but it is still worth the read, especially since it is the first play written by a woman.

One thing you will want to know prior to reading this play is that Cary takes an in media res approach. So, you must read the introduction provided by the editor. If you don't, you will be terribly
Feb 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
So everyone just hates her even though she didn't do anything apart from hate her husband from afar....
Mar 10, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: plays
Upon first reading this play I was extremely confused and had no idea what was going on. The characters are sometimes wishy-washy and frustrating, and it was written in large sweeping monologues where they try to give all the backstory and still have long musings for themselves. I gave this three stars and not two, however, because upon analyzing it in a class it got more interesting. Talking it out with others not only helped me understand what was happening; we also discussed the interesting r ...more
Taylor Saghy
Feb 18, 2016 rated it did not like it
Because this play was written as a closet drama, it can explore a let of gender issues that would have been too riské for the stage. However, it also means that it was written to be read, not performed, so when a character talks, it's usually a very lengthy, soliloquy like speech. In fact, some of the scenes are solely composed of one person's speech. I'm a huge Renaissance lit fan, but to be honest, this story kind of bored me, and actually reading it was very tedious. It is interesting though, ...more
Kind of a strange read, and one I wouldn't pick up on my own (thank you, yet again summer classes) but it is actually fairly interesting if you're looking for a play written by a woman.

The characters are fairly dynamic for what feels like a short play and Mariam's character is pretty interesting. While...all the women are pretty interesting actually.

Really, you should read this play and just talk about the different "types" of women you run into.
Jesse Zellmer
Nov 21, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: plays
Renaissance play that subverts gender roles through Mariam and un-piousness under the rule of a manipulative troglodyte. At the time it would have made the church shiver in its glass dogma booties. Now its good for research and historical context. Mariam is one of several plays about this sort of thing that I've had to read for class. Historically progressive while staying thoughtful and interesting today.
Michelle Waters
"But I did think, because I knew me chaste,
One virtue for a woman might suffice;
That mind for glory of our sex might stand
Wherein humility and chastity
Doth march with equal paces hand in hand,
But one, if single seen, who setteth by?
And I had singly one, but 'tis my joy
That I was ever innocent, though sour,
And therefore can they but my life destroy—
My soul is free from adversaries' power."

Sep 27, 2015 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dec 14, 2011 rated it liked it
This play is interesting because it is one of the first Renaissance tragedies to be published written by a woman, but I found it a little tedious to read. It is considered a "closet drama," not intended to be performed, so perhaps that is why I had a hard time envisioning it on stage. Regardless, the play is comprised ENTIRELY of lengthy, drawn-out soliloquies, so it can be a tough read.
Alix Long
Nov 10, 2016 rated it liked it
3.5 stars. Probably would have been 4 stars if the main action hadn't taken place before the start of the play! Felt a bit rushed as a lot happened in 24 hours. But it's pretty cool that this is a very feminist text, and it's also the first original play written by a woman :)
Feb 16, 2016 rated it really liked it
Since this is a closet drama, Cary had no need to appeal to audiences while writing and the lengthy monologues and soliloquies testify to this. But to have a drama from a female writer is such a rare treat and it's fascinating to see how she treats marriage and womanhood.
This play is going to be useful when I think about it in relation to any combination of these: Wyatt, Milton, Lanyer, Sidney, and Shakespeare's Othello. As I read Wroth...I'll probably add her to this list.
Jan 10, 2008 rated it it was ok
I studied this book for my Renaissance Drama class. It was pretty strange. Not as tragic as I imagined it to be, being a tragedy and all, I think only two people die... maybe three. I only vaguely understand what happened, due to the whole Renaissance part.
Aaron Thomas
A strange curiosity from the late Elizabethan period. This is heavily modeled on Senecan tragedy -- although Ramona Wray strangely does not mention him in her introductory material...
Apr 24, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: school, ebooks
Awesome feminist work, although I found a lot of the characters and scenarios were underused/underdeveloped.
Significant for being the first published drama in English by a woman, this play is otherwise underwhelming. Not particularly entertaining; despite its brevity, I found myself bored.
The Scarlet Pervygirl
May 21, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to read a Shakespeare play about women? no, I mean, really about women? because this tops that.
The Mighty Katara
Sep 26, 2015 rated it liked it
Honestly, this play has some of the best insults you will ever read. And the whole thing is very poetic and beautiful. 3.5 stars
Liane Christi Reale
rated it liked it
Oct 19, 2012
rated it it was amazing
Dec 08, 2009
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Mar 25, 2014
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Elizabeth Cary, Lady Falkland, nee Tanfield, was an English poet, translator, and dramatist. Precocious and studious, she was known from a young age for her learning and knowledge of languages.


The mirror of the world, a translation of Abraham Ortelius's Le mirroir du monde (1598)

The Tragedy of Mariam, the Fair Queen of Jewry (pub. 1613)

Reply of the most Illustrious Cardinal of Perron (1630)

More about Elizabeth Cary...

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“Move thy tongue,
For silence is a sign of discontent.”
“If once I loved you, greater is your debt;
For certain 'tis you deserved it not,
And undeserved love we soon forget...”
More quotes…