The Tragedy Of Mariam Analysis

Great Essays
The figure of Mariam in Elizabeth Cary's The Tragedy of Mariam has been of tremendous interest to feminist critics who view her as a character embodying the contradictions of female identity in patriarchal culture. The play exposes this culture as conflicted in itself because of contradictory ideas about the proper "performance" of femininity which not only sever the female subject, but also create irreconcilable dilemmas for males. Mariam must choose between speaking as her own "inner" voice dictates, or conforming to the demands of a masculine culture that insists upon females being silent and obedient to the males who control them, in Mariam's case, Herod, her husband. She strives for an integrity of body and mind: to have both under the …show more content…
I hope to employ this metaphor of dismemberment to enhance a critique of the competing discourses and the ensuing psychic severing and the failure/death of Mariam. Mariam is not the only victim of competing discourses: in fact, the men themselves become caught in a destructive and "dismembering" game of definitions and contradictory ideology: each one has a slightly different method of discursively decapitating the female, but ultimately the failure to re-draw or reconstruct women as possessors of an autonomous will or agency will undermine their goals also. For example, Constabarus cannot overcome his misogynistic mistrust except by death; the ever moralistic Chorus is rendered answer-less in the final scene, unable to explain the "moral" of the play; and Herod is driven to murder and madness because of his obsession with Mariam's body. These contradictions, coupled with the imagery of psychic, physical, and social dismemberment and destruction make the very plot and theme of the play "deconstruct." Here I somewhat disagree with such authorities as Margaret W. Ferguson who sees both a "radical attack on the Renaissance concept of the wife as 'property' of her husband" and a tendency for the …show more content…
Pessimistically, albeit perhaps without intent, in the end they do not examine themselves but rather retreat into vagaries and confusion, relying on "ordination" to explain what they have been implicated in, and agents of, all along. Like Constabarus' escape, Mariam's martyrdom, Herod's guilty longing for punishment, the Chorus also abandons its initial function in the work as social pundits, revealing the point at which this narrative cannot sustain its critique of the discourse of femininity in male ideology. It can reveal the contradiction and the destructiveness of "severing" but it cannot find a coherent way to revise or remedy these conflicts through language or representation-it dismembers without

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