1. The present tragedy shares with Jean de Bordes’ Maria Stuarta Tragoedia the distinction of being the first dramatization of the final days and execution of Mary Queen of Scots. It was written by Adrien de Roulers of Lille, Professor of Poetry at Marchiennes College of the University of Douai, where it was performed on September 1, 1589. In a dedicatory epistle preceding the printed edition, addressed to his patron Antoine de Blondel, Baron de Cuincy, Roulers wrote:
Quod nobis in more est, vir nobilissime, litteratae iuventuti accuratius formandae vocis studio dare quotannis, id nuper ad Idus Septembris in Mariae Stuartae Scotorum reginae tragico martyrii argumento peregimus.
[“As is our annual custom, noble sir, because of our enthusiasm for improving our students’ diction, on September 1we recently presented a play having for its subject the martyrdom of Mary Queen of Scots.”]
This looks problematic, since the book’s title page states that the play was exhibita ludis Remigialibus a iuventute gymnasii Marcianensis, and St. Remy’s Day is October 1. In introducing his 1906 edition (p. vi), Roman Woerner explained the discrepancy by pointing out that October 1 marked the beginning of the academic year at Paris, whereas at Douai it started on September 1, so that “St. Remy’s Day” seems to hvae been a local façon de parler indicating the start of the school year.
2. As one would only expect, this play presents an entirely sympathetic portrait of Mary, as a pious and at least near-saintly victim of Protestant injustice and cruelty, and can be categorized as one of those Catholic “martyr plays,” like the ones produced at the English College at Rome and already included in The Philological Museum, Roffensis, Thomas Cantuariensis, and Thomas Morus. But it would have been impossible to produce Stuarta at a Jesuit establishment, because of the Order’s aversion to the inclusion of female parts in plays (discussed here). In most respects, it cleaves fairly closely to the historical facts of Mary’s execution and the events that immediately preceded it, but in one important respect Roulers seems to have been willing to introduce a glaring falisificaiton in the interest of further blackening the reputation of Elizabeth’s government: a claim that Mary was condemned without having been given the opportunity to defend herself in a court of law (cf. 546ff,).
3. Stuarta was originally printed at Douai in 1593. According to Woerner, only two copies are extant, one owned by the Bibliothèque Municipale de Douai, and the other by the Herzog August Bibliothek, Wolfenbüttel. The play was published by Roman Woerner under the title Adrianus Roulerius, Stuarta Tragoedia (Band 17 in the Latinische Litteraturdenkmäler des XV u. XVI Jahrhunderts series, Berlin, 1906), which presents a text that is not much more than a transcript of the original publication. This is prefaced by a useful introduction, but is unaccompanied by a translation and is not annotated. It therefore appears that there is room for a modern edition containing these features.
4. In the printed text there are occasional speaker-lists indicating the speaking characters currently on stage, which have the effect of articulating each Act into a series of distinct scenes, even if these are not identified and numbered as such. Roulers’ intentions are nevertheless so clear that it is not hard to imagine that his original text had numbered scenes, so that it seems a good idea to restore them. The reader must understand that when, as was the custom in academic drama of the time, the five Acts of the play are subdivided into numbered scenes, each such scene, prefaced by a list of the speaking parts in it, is precipitated either by a change in the grouping of characters or when the stage is momentarily cleared. As such, these scene-divisions often serve as a rather imperfect means of indicating entrances and exits, and no discontinuity of time or place is necessarily implied.