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

Mary Dyer

Mary Dyer is about 50, slim and attractive in a sharp faced way; 5ft 6ins tall; frank, open, honest, eloquent with critical imagery, rational and fearless - no shrinking inward woman.

She was well educated, intelligent, displaying a sharp mind. She sits still or moves briskly, controlled in mind and actions. In repose, a softer beauty appears in the face. When talking with you, she looks straight, face still, and appears cool, even cold. She listens, hears, doesn't quickly react - you wonder IF your words have been heard, or if her gaze is with you but her mind, and thinking, is elsewhere, on something else. You realise, after several meetings, that what you see, you get. You ARE in the presence of deep hidden spirituality and personal integrity. It can be un-nerving to us 'ordinary' mortals, whose minds and thoughts and gaze are usually, too often, only half in the moment.

But it is also calming and relaxing - YOUR ego arises less, you don't HAVE to impress her she 'senses' you as you are. It is not a case of YOU liking or not liking her; you are not sure this person 'plays' for any of that.

She doesn't ask many questions - it could be disinterest, or not wishing to pry? She certainly has a sharp tongue and plenty of opinions. Yet she attracts out of you respect, consideration, affection - even love. OR ELSE, your ego can't stand her, can't accept this very unusual woman, and reacts strongly, ready to counter her. She was by now confident as a woman and one who had to show leadership - she was the equal of most men, if they chose to belabour the point.

She probably was not much for extrovert gestures or 'loose talk', probably not very exciting - pleasant, maybe. She was described, by one New England Puritan leader, a man of refinement, sensitiveness and integrity, as "a person of no mean extract or parentage, of an estate pretty plentiful, of a comely nature and countenance, of a piercing knowledge in many things, of a wonderful sweet and pleasant discourse."

She DOES have an amiable side, lighter touch, is very attracted to laughter and relaxation with family, in general conversation. When it is serious, however, this different side of her emerges, in a flash.

WAS she like this in her early 20's, when William Dyer met her in London and married her in St Martins in the Fields? Now, in the Year of Our Lord, 1660, sitting in Boston jail, awaiting her 'second' hanging, she is deep in the seriousness.

She has known much pain - and joy; the wonder of religious conversion - and its often infuriating certainty'. She has known the longings of being away from her young family for several years. She HAD returned, had spent time with them, but had been forced by "'leadings" and by what her conscience dictated, to come forward and protest. But now, she is also not sure - not of her overall course, but whether "God's Will" has already been done?

Perhaps He doesn't need her death? Perhaps she can accept that repeal of the cruel laws is on the way? Perhaps she CAN accept another banishment? HOW would she react, appear to others, discuss the situation? I would propose that there would still be a lot of silent ruminations, the outward face and features still, unmoving, then she would speak.

However, in view of this behaviour, when alone after her interrogation, her collapse into weeping would be very unexpected but very full; when she cries, she cries; in other moments of stress and pressure, she is still controlled, 'maybe an occasional jerky, telling gesture.

At the opening of the play, she has been through stress and pressure that few have encountered: she was seven months earlier, at her 'first hanging', taken to the gallows-tree platform, a mile from this jail. With blindfold on, hands and legs bound, she HEARD Stephenson and Robinson hang, then when expecting her own final drop, she was reprieved. EVEN THEN, she had to be forcibly removed from the platform, returned to jail, then tightly strapped on a horse and ejected from the town and Colony.

What were the development features, in her years from 27-50 ? After only a year or two in the Colony, she stood up publicly in support of Anne Hutchinson. She lived through the formation and growth of Newport, Rhode Island, from a frontier village to prominent town, at the side of her prospering husband William. She had borne and brought up borne five children, and two dead - one dying early, one deformed and borne dead. She had left her young family, - with relatives and friends - to go to Old England. She had stayed away five years and became a Quaker, those religious people who were "to the spiritual RIGHT of the Puritans".

She then returned, spiritually committed and capable of public evangelism, which she did. Her drive to "spread's God Truth" according to the Quakers had led to her being thrown out of New Haven on one occasion.

She has grown into a tough, strong and independent minded person - with a leaning to the mystical as suits her religion.

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