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Additional resources for The Literary Career and Legacy of Elizabeth Cary, 1613–1680
18. Although I agree with Catherine Belsey, The Subject of Tragedy: Identity and Difference in Renaissance Drama (London: Methuen, 1985), that Mariam is presented as “a uniﬁed, autonomous subject,” I disagree that Mariam gets herself killed because she “speaks her mind,” or that “the play as a whole seems to oscillate between endorsement and disapproval of Mariam’s deﬁance” (171–175). Lewalski points out what Belsey fails to consider: the characters and the chorus who criticize Mariam are themselves undercut by the play as a whole (198).
263–64). The lesson the play leaves us with is that the greatest “wisdom” is the knowledge that “all certainty,” all “undoubted truth,” ought to be suspect. 292) and its connections to Renaissance sonnet tradition? That we must beware deﬁnitive truths, whether the prescriptive truisms uttered by the chorus or the resounding closures reached by sonnets and couplets. Mariam learns that her beauty and virtue could not protect her from Herod’s jealousy and Salome’s deceit. Herod learns that his loving talk could no more force Mariam to return his love than his regal commands could restore her to life.
Pheroras wants Graphina to join him in a lovers’ dialogue like Romeo and Juliet, who express the inspirational thrill of falling in love by spontaneously composing a perfect Shakespearean sonnet together. Elizabethan poetry of courtship depends upon an answering response; similarly, Pheroras’s ﬁrst speech ends with a question and a plea that encourage Graphina to speak up: “Why speaks thou not, fair creature? 41–44). Like Elizabethan poets/lovers who are his literary (but not historical) predecessors, Pheroras needs to know that his mistress not only returns his love for her but is now prepared to act on her love for him.