Internet Shakespeare Editions


Elizabeth Cary

Elizabeth Cary's The History of the Life, Reign, and Death of Edward II is the first political history written by an Englishwoman. Cary, a remarkable woman who had many "firsts" amongst Englishwomen, also wrote the Tragedy of Mariam*, the first original play by an Englishwoman, and was the subject of the first biography of a female English author, which was written by her daughter.

Her Writings

By the time Cary was writing The History of the Life, Reign, and Death of Edward II there had been many studies of the life of Edward II, most of which largely ignored Queen Isabel. Cary's work, on the other hand, included a full, complex, and arguably feminist portrait of the Queen:

The Queen, who was guilty but in circumstance, and but an accessory to the intention, not the fact, tasted with a bitter time of repentance what it was but to be quoted in the margent of such a story; the several relations so variously expressed of their confessions that where the actors and consenters that so much as touched; especially since if it were in that cruel manner, as is by the major part agreed on, it was one of the most inhumane and barbarous acts that ever fell within the expression of all our English stories, fitter rather to be passed over in silence, than to be discoursed, since it both dishonoureth our nation, and is in the example so dangerous.


  1. A bloody tragedy

    The Tragedy of Miriam is a "closet" drama -- it was never intended to be acted on the stage, but to be read as the tragedies of Seneca were read. It concerns the complicated plottings of Herod the Great (not the Herod of the Bible) in gaining the Jewish crown by marrying Miriam, who was the daughter of the rightful king, and by murdering all those who had a better title to the crown. The play is set in the period when Antony was involved with the wars with Caesar.