Kylee betrayal between characters, and represents a theme of

Kylee WongProfessor EmrichENL 3November 27, 2017Mariam’s Voice Was Too Powerful In a time and place in which women were encouraged to conform to the classical “chaste, silent, and obedient” model of femininity, supporting independent thought in women was seen as potentially transgressive. In 1613, Elizabeth Cary addresses this topic in her play, The Tragedy of Mariam. The author shapes a complex network of deceit and betrayal between characters, and represents a theme of women’s voice. Mariam, the Queen of the Jews, was incredibly unrestrained when expressing her ideas. Mariam’s development can be seen through four significant moments: her processing the news of Herod’s death, her reaction when she discovers that Herod is alive, her first conversation with Herod after his return, and her soliloquy shortly before her execution. With Mariam dead and the other outspoken women of the play still alive, it is clear that women’s voice can be powerful. In Mariam’s case, her voice was too powerful, and ultimately led her to her downfall. As the Queen of the Jews, Mariam naturally entails so much power because of her high position in social structure. The play opens with Mariam expressing her anger towards her husband and King of the Jews, Herod, while also addressing the theme of women’s voice,   “How oft have I with public voice run on” (1.1.1). The first line of the play immediately serves as an attention grabber to the audience with Mariam addressing the frequency of a woman’s public voice. Mariam is also performing a throughout the first act of the play, which further strengthens her role as an unrestrained woman. Mariam continues to express her true feelings about her husband now that she believes he is dead, “When Herod lived, that now is done to death, / Oft have I wished that I from him were free, / Oft have I wished that he might lose his breath / Oft have I wishe his carcass dead to see,” (1. 1. 14-18). In lines 15-18, Mariam’s anaphora of “oft have I wished” is followed by a series of bad things she would like to see happen to Herod, suggesting she hates her husband. Here we can see that Mariam is completely unrestrained and is free from the chains of marriage. She is also able to construct her own resolution of breaking away by articulating her numerous thoughts. Having achieved control of herself by establishing her position toward Herod, Mariam can control her reaction in her later reunion with him after she discovers he is still alive. When Sohemus, Herod’s counselor, informs Mariam of Herod’s imminent return, she responds with dismay, and Sohemus replies, “Be not impatient, madam; but be mild / His love to you again will soon be bred” (3.3.13-14). He reminds her of her duty both as Herod’s subject and his wife. Mariam replies decisively: “I will not to his love be reconciled; / with solemn vows I have forsworn his bed” (3.3.15-16). When Sohemus says Mariam must break those vows, she refuses, insisting: “I’ll rather break / the heart of Mariam. Cursed is my fate. / But speak no more to me; in vain ye speak / To live with him I so profoundly hate” (3.3.17-20).In the beginning of the play, the readers can only assume that Mariam hates Herod. However in this quote, Mariam clearly proclaims her hatred towards her husband. Mariam also clearly states that her fate is “cursed” which may suggest that she is aware of the potential consequences of her decisions. Sohemus also predicts Mariam’s downfall, “Unbridled speech is Mariam’s worst disgrace, / And will endanger her without desert,” (3. 3. 65-66). Sohemus foreshadows Mariam’s death by warning Mariam that her outspokenness will lead to great consequences. Disavowing his eager welcome, Mariam maintains her accusation that he has killed her brother and refuses to soften when he requests, “Yet smile, my dearest Mariam, do but smile,” to which she responds, “I cannot frame disguise, nor never taught / My face a look dissenting from my thought” (4.3.143, 144-45).  Resolved in the validity of her “thoughts” revealed in the opening monologue, Mariam refuses to feign a response that will be more palatable to Herod, as she has now the strength to maintain her position and resist Herod’s command that she relent.In the end Sohemus’s prediction was correct, Mariam dies and proclaims her relationship to Herod, “That Herod’s love could not from me be drawn. / But now, though out of time, I plainly see / It could be drawn, though never drawn from me,” (4. 8. 32-34). There are multiple interpretations of Mariam’s death, but it is clear that Mariam never truly loved her husband Herod. By stating that Herod’s love “could be drawn,” Mariam is realizing that Herod is generally a lovable person and isn’t as evil as she proclaimed him to be in the beginning. Although Herod is a lovable person, Mariam states that her love for him could “never be drawn” from her. Mariam is using pathos to credit Herod for not being as terrible as she thought he was, but Mariam is discrediting herself for not having any love for him. This reading could potentially explicate that Mariam regrets not loving Herod. If Mariam had loved Herod in the first place and never proclaimed her hatred towards Herod, Mariam may have been able to live. In a play that involves hardly any action, it is clear that Mariam’s choice of words had a great impact on her live. Nothing stopped Mariam from speaking her mind regardless of the fact that society did not approve of outspoken women. The play begins with her at her highest point in the play, but as the play progressed she came closer to the gentleman of death. In the end, her fearless voice led her to her death. Although male characters achieve power through speech by defending themselves against various types of attacks, only women engage in the initial act of monologue, in which they address their thoughts to no one but themselves and are presented as “sola” on stage.  This suggests, again, that women are constructed in this play as generally pro-active, whereas men are constructed as generally re-active. Although Cary champions the success of the speeches of women for most of the play, then, the silencing of Mariam suggests that the ultimate goal for women may finally be a balance between effrontery and reticence.


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