Mary Stuart (play)

Mary Stuart (play)

Mary Stuart (German: Maria Stuart), a play by Friedrich Schiller, depicts the last days of Mary, Queen of Scots. The play consists of five acts, each divided into several scenes. The play had its première in Weimar, Germany on 14 June 1800. The play formed the basis for Donizetti's opera Maria Stuarda (1834).


Plot summary

Mary Stuart is imprisoned in England - nominally for the murder of her husband Darnley, but actually due to her claim to the throne of England held by Queen Elizabeth I. While Mary's cousin, Elizabeth, hesitates over signing Mary's death sentence, Mary hopes for a reprieve.

After Mary finds out that Mortimer (created by Schiller), the nephew of her custodian, is on her side, she entrusts her life to him. Mortimer is supposed to give Robert Dudley, the Earl of Leicester a letter from Mary, in which she pleads for help. This is a delicate situation, for Leicester seems to support Queen Elizabeth.

After numerous requests, Mary finally gains the opportunity to meet Queen Elizabeth (something that, in reality, never happened). This meeting ends in an acrimonious argument, caused by Mary's unwillingness to submit entirely to Elizabeth's wish. The argument leads to the inevitable suspicion that the cause of reprieve will not succeed.

To complicate matters further, Mortimer plans to free Mary from the prison by force, a dramatized version of the unsuccessful Babington Plot, but when his attempt is found out he commits suicide.

Queen Elizabeth eventually persuades herself to sign Mary's death warrant. Elizabeth insists that her only reason for signing is the pressure from her own people to do so.

The signed warrant is handed to Queen Elizabeth's undersecretary Davison without any clear instructions on what to do with it. In the process, Elizabeth transfers the burden of responsibility to him, fully aware that he in turn will hand over the warrant to Lord Burleigh, and thus confirm Mary's death sentence.

Burleigh demands the signed document from Davison, who - despite his uncertainty - eventually hands it to him. As a result, Burleigh has Mary executed.

The play ends with Elizabeth blaming both Burleigh and Davison for Mary's death (banishing the former from court and having the latter imprisoned in the Tower), Lord Shrewsbury (who pleaded for mercy for Mary throughout the play) resigning his honors and Leicester leaving England for France. Elizabeth is left completely alone as the curtain falls.

Recent stage history

Mary Stuart, which holds a place in the opera repertory in Donizetti's version, can still hold the stage in its original -as demonstrated in its successful production, in Peter Oswald's new translation, in a run of July 14 through September 3, 2005 at the Donmar Warehouse directed by Phyllida Lloyd and starring Janet McTeer as Mary, Queen of Scots and Harriet Walter as Elizabeth of England; the production transferred to the Apollo Theatre in London’s West End, where it also played a sold-out engagement from October 7 to January 14, 2006. The production opened on Broadway on March 30, 2009 (previews), officially April 19, for a limited engagement through August 16.[1]It earned seven Tony Award nominations including Best Revival of a Play.

The L.A. Theatre Works mounted a production of the Peter Oswald translation in 2007 directed by Rosalind Ayres which was recorded on CD {ISBN 978-1580813754) and featured Alex Kingston as Mary, Jill Gascoine as Elizabeth, Martin Jarvis as Burleigh, Simon Templeman as Leicester, Ken Danziger as Paulet, W. Morgan Sheppard as Talbot, Christopher Neame as Davison, Shellagh Cullen as Hanna Kennedy and Seamus Dever as Mortimer.

Mortimer's on-stage suicide has had its dangers. On 6 December 2008, German actor Daniel Hoevels slit his neck while playing Mortimer in Mary Stuart.[2] His character's suicide scene was to feature a dull knife, which became damaged and was replaced by a sharp one. The Thalia Theater company had requested that the sharp one be dulled too, though this was "carelessly" disregarded.[3] The near-fatal knife was bought at a local store and reportedly still contained a price tag.

Important characters


External links

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