COMMENTARY NOTES

spacerI.i In the often-imitated manner of a Senecan tragedy (Agamemnon, Thyestes), the play begins with the appearance of the ghost of Henry VIII from the Underworld. In some sense, like all such apparations of this kind, he presides over the action of the play as its evil genius. Much of what Henry says in this speech refers to a tale circulating among Catholics to the effect that Henry had seduced Anne Boleyn’s mother, so that Anne was simultaneously his daughter and his wife, and their daughter Elizabeth was the monstrous, Oedipus-like product of this incestuous union. One finds this in other Catholic plays, such as the anonymous 1612 Thomas Morus and the anonymus Roffensis (1618?), both produced at the English College at Rome. Fittingly enough, the ghost no doubt makes its appearance in front of Elizabeth’s palace at London.

spacer14 I. e., a second Henry consigned to Hell for his great sins, like Henry IV, who gained the throne by deposing and murdering Richard II.

spacer15 According to Geoffrey of Monmouth, the fifth the British king Vortigern gained the throne by murdering his predecessor Constans. Holinshed recounts how, in the century before Macbeth, Donwald murdered King Duff when “kindled in wrath by the words of his wife” in 967 A. D.

spacer17 According to one tradition, Herod II Boethus and Herod Philip I were brothers, who in turn married their niece Herodias.

spacer18 Ammon became enamoured with his half-sister Thamar, raped her, and was consequently put to death by her brother Absalom (II Samuel 13).

spacer42 Thomas Howard, fourth Duke of Norfolk, was executed for treason in 1572, for having schemed to marry Mary and restore Catholicism. In a passage at 508ff., Roulers seems to write as if he thought the marriage had actually been contracted.

spacer48 Henry’s two most famous Catholic victims, Thomas More and John Fisher, Bishop of Rochester.

spacer62 There is probably a pun intended here, since Elisa was a favorite Anglo-Latin synonym for Elizabeth.

spacerI.ii The setting is Elizabeth’s apartment in the palace. This scene is modeled on a standard Senecan dominus - satelles in which a tyrant’s inner nature is revealed in a dialogue with a subordinate. This has the effect, possibly unintended, of giving Leicester an unusually favorable characterization.

spacer172 Mary’s two principal agentws, Thomas Morgan and Charles Paget.

spacer181 Although Roulers was not as fond of loading his tragedy with snatches of Seneca as were some of his contemporaries, there are a few such instances. Here cf. Thyestes 203f.:

aut perdet aut peribit; in medio est scelus
positum occupanti.

spacer193 If Cavanius is a surname, from the context it would appear that this individual is a representative of some foreign Protestant group, but I cannot identify him. But is it possible that this word means simply “a Calvinist” (some French-speaking contemporaries spelled the reformer’s name Cauvin), possibly referring to George Buchanan, who accompanied the Earl of Moray to explain the Scottish Protestants’ case against Mary to an English commission at York, in 1568? (Buchanan is very likely alluded to at 533 below).

spacer212 Pomponne de Bellièvre, sent by Henri III as a special ambassador to plead Mary’s case with Elizabeth.

spacer239 Robert Beale, clerk of the Privy Council.

spacer259 Tullus Hostilius, the third king of Rome, angered Jupiter and was destroyed by a bolt of lightning.

spacer282ff. Meters: 282- 87: dactylic hexameters; 288 - 91 iambic dimeters; 292f.: dactylic hexameters; 294 - 6: greater Alcaics; 297f.: dactylic hexameters; 299 - 307: lesser Asclepiadics; 308 - 313: dactylic hexameters.

spacer294f. A patent echo of Horace, Odes I.xxxvii.1f.:

Nunc est bibendum, nunc pede libero
pulsanda tellus.

spacerII.i The setting is Mary’s chamber at Fotheringhay. Mary’s physician was Dominique Bourgoing. His journal (an edition was published in 1905) is an important historical source for her final days.

spacer342 Mary’s consort, and the father of her son, had been Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley. His assassination by an explosion at Kirk o’ the Field in 1567 set in motion a series of events which led to Mary’s deposition and exile.

spacer355 In 1566 Mary’s secretary David Riccio or Rizzio was killed in her sight, and his murderers restrained her person physically at a time she was carrying James, and this nearly produced a miscarriage.

spacer360 Mary’s illegitimate half-brother James Stuart, Earl of Moray, a Protestant who became Regent of Scotland after her deposition.

spacer368ff. A familiar Ciceronian trope: cf. (e. g.) In Verrem II.ii.lii.5: Nam me dies vox latera deficiant, si hoc nunc vociferari velim… (cf. also Pro Caelio xxix.6, De Finibus II.lxii.4, De Natura Deorum III.lxxxi.1, and Tusculan Disputations V.cii.9). Other writers use it too, such as Livy XXVIII.xli.16 and Seneca, De Beneficiis II.xii.4 and V.xvii.1.

spacer384 This probably refers to the York conference of 1568, in which Moray and his supporters set forth their case against Mary for the benefit of the English.

spacer395 The Roman First Triumvirate had been cemented by the marriage of Julius Caesar’s daughter to Pompey.

spacer396ff. After losing to Moray’s forces at the Battle of Langside in May 1568, Mary took refuge at Dundrennan Abbey in Galloway. The priest in question is presumably the abbot of the establishment.

spacer398 I. e., he advised her to sever her scandalous relationship with her new husband, James Hepburn, Earl of Bothwell, and she henceforth relied on the support of her leading supporter, James Hamilton, Duc de Châtellerault and Earl of Arran.

spacer402ff. Elizabeth is at least supposed to have sent Mary a ring with a pledge that, if Mary were ever in difficulty and send her back the ring, she would do her best to be of assistance.

spacer412ff. Three men who at various times had been responsible for Mary’s keeping: Sir Francis Knollys, a member of the Privy Council, George Talbot, Earl of Shrewbury, and her final jailor, Sir Amyas Paulet.

spacer508ff. Roulers appears to have imagined that the marriage with Norfolk had actually been contracted.

spacer533 Roulers is almost certainly alluding to George Buchanan’s 1571 De Maria Scotorum Regina (or its coordinated English translation) in which he set forth the case against Mary: above all else, that she had conspired with Bothwell to impede any meaningful inquiry into the murder of Lord Darnley, thereby acting contrary to Scottish law.

spacer546ff. This passage contains the most serious historical mistake (or misrepresentation) in the play. In October 1586 Mary was subjected to a formal trial, at which she was present and afforded the ability to speak in her own defense.
spacerDr. Anne McLaren suggests that Roulers conflates facts of her 1586 trial with her 1568 quasi-trial in which she had been tried by the English in absentia for the murder of Lord Darnley, in which no verdict had been handed down: see Gordon Donaldson, The First Trial of Mary, Queen of Scots (London, 1969).

spacer571ff. Meter: anapestic dimeters with a few interspersed Adonics.

spacer583 For Sisara being killed by a nail (not a club) at Mt. Tabor, cf. Judges 4:21.

spacer584 For the death of Eglon at the hands of Ehud, cf. Judges 3:22.

spacer585 He means Goliath (cf. I Samuel 17). The place-names cited below are the locales where these events occurred.

spacer586 Cf. Numbers 22ff.

spacer617 The last king of Judah, defeated and captured by Nebuchadnezzar II.

spacer628ff. The Earl of Moray was assassinated in 1568 by a member of the Hamilton famioy, and was replaced as Regent of Scotland by James Douglas, Earl of Morton. In 1572 he employed the aid of Engilsh artillery in taking Edinburgh Castle from the Catholics who were holding it.

spacerIII.i Sir Drue Drury, who shared Paulet’s responsibility for guarding Mary. The setting is outside Mary’s chamber at Fotheringhay.

spacer682 Mary’s agent Gilbert Gifford, who carried letters to and from Mary’s supporters in France, but played a double game and showed them to the English authorities. Thus she became enmeshed in the Babington conspiracy in such a way that the English could use this correspondence to destroy her.

spacer697f. Mary’s agents Thomas Morgan and Charles Paget, who have already been mentioned, and a third supporter, John Beaton, the Catholic Bishop of Glasgow. Sir Anthony Babington was the head of a group of Anglo-Catholics who aspired to free Mary and place her on the throne of England.

spacerIII.iii Thomas Sackville, Baron Buckhurst (subsequently Earl of Dorset and Lord Treasurer of England), here as a representative of the Privy Council.

spacerIII.iv The word interius at 748 suggests that this is meant to be played as an interior scene within Mary’s chamber (this raises the question whether the other chamber scenes in the play were also interior scenes). In the book, the initial speaker list is STUARTA, BEALIUS, AMIAS, but Beale has no speaking part — he could always be present as a mute characater — whereas Buckhurst does. I have rewritten it accordingly.

spacer752 Two previous Scotsmen held captive by the English, James I and Alexander Stuart, Duke of Albany, the second son of James II.

spacer761ff. According to various passages of ancient literature, Astraea, the Roman goddess of Justice, quit the earthin disgust. Cf., for example, Ovid, Metamorphoses I.149f.:

victa iacet pietas, et virgo caede madentis
ultima caelestum terras Astraea reliquit.

spacer826 Two rivers that flow through Northamtonshire, the county of Fotheringhay. The Antona was a river in Britain mentioned by Tacitus in the Agricola, of which William Camden in his description of that country, § 6 of the 1607 Britannia, was obliged to write:

Quis fluvius hic fuit Antona dixerit nemo. Lipsius nostrae aetatis Phoebus aut hanc nebulam dispulit, aut nubes me sane obduxit. Ad Northampton digitum intendit ille, et ego Antonam pro Aufona, ad quem sita Northamptona, in Tacitum subrepsisse opinor.

[“Now what river this Antona should be no man is able to tell. Lipsius, the very Phoebus of our age, hath either driven away this mist, or else verily a cloud hath dimmed mine eie sight. He pointeth with his finger to Northampton, and I am of opinion that this word Antona is closely crept into Tacitus insteed of Aufona, on which Northampton standeth.”]

Some antiquarians, such as the Rev. W. D. Sweeting, author of Northamptonshire Notes & Queries (Northampton, 1886) I.86, a have identified it as the Nen or Nene.

spacer854f. I do not know who Lodovicus (presumably Louis) is supposed to be. Alanus is Cardinal William Allen, the firebrand leader of the Anglo-Catholic movement.

spacer904 David’s wife Michol let him down through a window so he might escape Saul’s attempt to kill him (I Samuel 19:11 - 12).

spacer913ff. Meter: Sapphic stanzas.

spacerIV.i Setting: Mary’s chamber.

spacer981f. Evidently Roulers means Canute IV, nephew of Canute the great, who unsuccessfully attempted to conquer England and press his claim to the throne, and was then murdered in 1086. Richard is of course Richard II. (This Canute is rather obscure, and it is surprising that Edward II was not cited instead.)

spacer994ff. These rhetorical statements that a series of natural impossibilities (adunata) will occur before something happens are familiar in Senecan drama (Hercules Furens 373ff., Octavia 222ff., Thyestes 475ff.).

spacer997 Evidently, since the physician has refused to remove Mary’s veil, i. e. some sort of headpiece denoting her royal rank, Amyas now commands his own servants to do the same thing. The tholus (lit. “dome”) would therefore appear to be some kind of rounded framework supporting the veil.

spacer1004 Amyas is afraid that Mary has been burning incriminating documents.

spacer1010ff. Cf. Seneca, Phaedra 671ff.:

spacerMagne regnator deum,
tam lentus audis scelera? tam lentus vides?
et quando saeva fulmen emittes manu,
si nunc serenum est? omnis impulsus ruat
aether et atris nubibus condat diem.

spacer1020 The allusion is of course to the white cliffs of Dover.

spacer1022 Roulers appears to be thinking of the contemporary fire-throwing weapon used for naval warfare, called firepots.

spacer1063 Mary was beheaded on February 8, 1587.

spacer1073 Mary was a Guise by birth (her mother was Mary of Guise).

spacer1086 After his defeat at the second Battle of St. Albans in 1461 Henry VI and Queen Margaret took refuge in Scotland.

spacer1128 Thoas is the savage barbarian king who sacrifices innocent wayfarers in Euripides’ Iphigeneia in Tauris.

spacer1179ff. Meters: 1179 - 1222: lesser Asclepiadics; 1223 - 1145: second glyconics catalectic; 1246 - 1275: anapestic dimeters.

spacer1198f. I. e., the Babylonian Captivity and the troubles inflicted on David, particularly by Saul.

spacer1212 For the destruction of Jezebel cf. II Kings 9:30 - 37.

spacer1213 Herod’s gruesome end is blamed on his murder of Zachariah ben Berachia, father of John the Baptist (I do not know why Herod is identified by the patronymic Cissides).

spacer1215f. Belshazzar’s downfall was predicted by the handwriting on the wall (Daniel 5:1 - 31).

spacer1237 A man transformed into a wolf in mythology.

spacer1246 Cf. Vergil, Georgics I.37, nec tibi regnandi veniat tam dira cupido.

spacer1278 For Athalia killing the children of Ochozias, see II Kings 11.

spacerV.i The setting is again Mary’s chamber. The characters Henry Stanley, Earl of Derby, and Mary’s steward Melvin.

spacer1338 By tradition, the physical objects carried by the condemned belonged to the executioner.

spacerV.iv Mary is taken from her chamber and brought to the great hall at Fotheringhay, the site of the execution (Roulers calls it the theatrum).

spacerV.v The setting is the great hall. Even making liberal allowance for Roulers’ great capacity for producing weird Latinizations of English surnames, it is impossible to divine what Borumgus is supposed to be, and so in my translation I have let it stand. In history, the individual in question was Richard Fletcher, Dean of Peterborough.

spacer1441ff. Various remote and uncouth peoples of antiquity. For this rhetorical trope cf. Ps. - Seneca, Hercules Oetaeus 167ff.:

Compesce amoris impii flammas, precor,
nefasque quod non ulla tellus barbara
commisit umquam, non vagi campis Getae
nec inhospitalis Taurus aut sparsus Scythes;
expelle facinus mente castifica horridum
memorque matris metue concubitus novos.

spacer1446 The ogre Diomedes fed innocent victims to his horses.

spacer1449 A dweller in the barbaric land of Colchis on the Black Sea (the homeland of Medea).

spacer1469 I. e., England with its white rocks of Dover and Scotland with its outer islands.

spacerV.vii The setting is outside the great hall, arranged in such a way that the First Girl can look in through a chink in a wall or a partially open door.

spacer1494 There is of course a bit of intertexuality here, with the present text pointing to a memorable development in Seneca’s Thyestes. At the same time, there is a verbal resemblance to a second passage in the Senecan corpus, Hercules Oetaeus 1131ff.:

Converte, Titan clare, anhelantes equos,
emitte noctem: pereat hic mundo dies
quo morior, atra nube inhorrescat polus.

spacer1527 I. e., northern Europe, where Protestantism has taken root.

spacer1537f. I am not sure what Scottish king named Malcolm was imprisoned by the English (Malcolm III Canmore was killed while invading England — did Roulers know some tradition that captured in stead?) William I was taken prisoner by Henry II.

spacer1570 The illegitimate Moray is compared to Ismael, son of Abraham and his Egyptian concubine Agar. As such, he was not an heir to the Covenant.

spacer1571f. Since the idea of a snake trampling something underfoot is merely silly, I had originally hoped that Roulers’ literary reputation could be improved by translating draco as “dragon,” according to the theory that the imagery is heraldic: Moray’s dragon versus the rampant lion of the Stuart kings. But I find that Moray also affected the royal lion in his arms, thus:

So he seems to be no more than a common snake-in-the-grass.

spacer1574 Although a prediction of Elizabeth’s death and damnation (for she is the Jezebel in question — cf. 1210ff. above — and it should be remembered that the Biblical Jezebel was a woman with an unnatural craving for political power, not sex) is a satisfactory enough note on which to end this play, one wonders whether the original production featured a concluding choral Schlusswort, since the speaker list includes the Chorus as well as the two Girls.