A dramatisation of the story surrounding the death by hanging of the Quaker Mary Dyer in 1660

Foreword: What possibly happened

  History is a distillation of rumour
– Carlyle

The past is a huge library that has burnt down
– C S Lewis

This drama of New England’s beginnings is not factual history, but in this Play, “She Died Twice”, there are facts interwoven. It is an exploration of ‘what possibly happened’ behind the scenes, when church and civil authority in the township of Boston met the Quakers – particular Mary Dyer

The Play recounts how this extraordinary woman was reprieved from the gallows, late in 1559, on Boston’s Commons, with the rope around her neck. Seven months later she returned to Boston from her banishment, this time to be hanged

Most of the characters lived in this time and could have been involved in the events recounted here, in this Play. Governor Endecott, stern and honourable soldier and pioneer of 1628, for instance, is reported as having interrogated several Quakers, behind the scenes, before one was banished and another hanged. What was he seeking?

Husband William Dyer, the heavy Rev John Norton, Governor Winthrop the Younger of Connecticut, and the Quaker (and ‘royal messenger’) Samuel Shattuck were all involved in one or more of the different dimensions of this struggle – religious, theological, spiritual, moral, political, practical – and mentioned historically.

The worthy ‘Captain Winston’ is an amalgam of several sympathisers of Quakers who placed themselves in the quandary: be open or keep quiet? The jailor’s ‘second’ is a creation, of an ordinary, worthy man.

Characterisations displayed here are based on observations and glimpses made and published by several sources at the time. Striking quotations from those days are used briefly, mostly word for word. All other dialogue arises from the author’s inner eye and ear of imagination (Factual description and character imagination blend in the ‘profiles’ of each character also available on this site)

It has been said that the Quakers of the 1650’s in the Colonies added little to the definitions of liberty of conscience, and freedom to worship, but that they helped to achieve them. Lives were lost in the turbulence, but religious freedoms began to arise, as the struggles took place, in Boston, in those years 1656-61

NB: “She Died Twice” is a Play, and its dramatic title encompasses dramatic licence – let no ‘purist’ take me to task over-nicely about the ‘accuracy’ of the title!

Brian Jarvis 2003
The Play was written in the early 1990’s

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