Beliefs Of Virtue Versus One 's Conduct

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Beliefs of Virtue Versus One’s Conduct in Elizabeth Carey’s The Tragedie of Mariam
Between the years 1602 and 1604 Elizabeth Carey is believed to have written her closet play The Tragedie of Mariam. Herod, Mariam’s husband, was believed to be dead at the beginning of the play, and so the characters experience a newfound freedom from his tyranny. From this, we see how characters understand the idea of virtue in different ways. I am going to focus on two characters, Mariam and Constabarus, in order to demonstrate how Carey creates a world in which being consistently virtuous or ethical in conduct is impossible because of their personal interests. Mariam’s privilege allows her to realize her own female agency in freedom from Herod, but
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By referencing her privilege and her servants in a tone of contempt Mariam demonstrates a lack of appreciation for their service to her, as well as suggesting that she does not fully realize the privilege she holds in this world. Mariam reproduces classism by saying that in the hierarchical order of things, she is above Salome. Furthermore, Mariam was vengeful the last time she speaks for herself in the play. In Act 4, Scene 8, Mariam meets Doris, Herod’s first wife, who proceeds to cast a curse upon Mariam and her children. In response, Mariam chooses to cast the same curse back onto Doris instead of disregarding Doris’ words or choosing to act kindly. Mariam illustrates her lack of humility and compassion for those who she deems unworthy of respect. Mariam does not understand Doris’ anger or the experiences that she has gone through after being divorced from Herod. Moreover, Nuntio, Herod’s messenger, reported that moments before her death, she “…smiled, a dutiful, though scornful smile” (5.1.53). This last example illustrates Mariam’s lack of growth throughout the play. Mariam begins and ends the play filled with pride. Mariam lived in a traditional non-Catholic setting, but her pride as seen through Carey’s perspective was sinful. I believe this privilege in turn affected Mariam’s decision in choosing not to reconcile with Herod later on.
Mariam chooses death over life with the tyrant Herod, and her demonstration of female agency
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