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

Scenario Act III

  • Scene 1
    Compassion from the past

    Inside the jail Mary Dyer, isolated and alone, sinks. She weeps, seeking support in the memory of her long dead friend, Puritan dissenter Anne Hutchinson. Anne appears, a ghost or just Mary’s mind? but tough, humorous and sympathetic, looking into both past and future, and encouraging her friend in this present predicament .... Mary Dyer is resolved, Hutchinson vanishes (exits) and as Mary Dyer sits in Quaker silence, Winston enters, to “sit with her a while”, awaiting the dawn.
  • Scene 2
    Laughter in the present

    Next morning, Mary Dyer is alone in the cell. Winston and the jailer enter. They have come to prepare her for her walk to the gallows. Winston tries a final time to persuade to accept banishment rather than death, disclosing that he too is now an attender at a Quaker Meeting. She refuses, adamant that she must obey the leadings of her conscience and “the Will of God as shown her.” However, the scene is lightened by humour and laughter – recalling a variety of incidents from the Colony’s past. Then men leave her alone for a short period, before she is to be taken to the gallows.

    She retires to her corner bed, and prays. She can accept death or another reprieve, but asks the Lord how this will end? She is intense about the Quaker cause and freedom of conscience for the Colony’s residents. She prays that she has to know - what is to be the future? She repeatedly asks, as though she would want to be present in that future. She sinks. A filmy curtain down in front of the corner bed.
  • Scene 3
    Storm clouds swell

    We are now in that future. The scene opens in that cell, and mysteriously the corner bed is still there - with unmoving figure on it, opaquely hidden by filmy curtain spirit of Mary Dyer is present, to remain until the play’s final scene.

    The jailer read aloud from the letter he has sent Winston (who is also on stage, silent – but in resident garb and in another part of the Colony). Winston has resigned. Their remote communication, via their letters, is accompanied by an uneven procession of people across the stage, the voices and dark-clad figures criss-crossing slowly, more quickly, staggering even, colonists and Quakers. The jailor, reading from his letters, gives explanation of events after Mary Dyer’s death: the hanging of fourth and last Quaker Leddra, the protests even uprisings throughout many of the 30 towns, villages and hamlets, the arrests, beatings and jailings of Quakers and of the Colony’s own people, who evince sympathy. There are drums and screamings, comments on how Endecott and Norton are trapped, and besieged in their unrelenting persecutions.... the last figures exit, the jailor ends on a soliloquy.
  • Scene 4
    Powerful are powerless

    In the governor’s house, Endecott and Norton reflect on recent happenings, and convince themselves that they had to maintain opposition to the Quakers. Winston, now a Quaker, enters, summoned by Norton. Warned that despite his past exemplary service to the Colony, he would be arrested, he tries to explain his Quaker beliefs and the non-violence of Quaker protests. The Governor and Norton emphasise that the hangings have now stopped, but they need information. Norton seeks Winston’s co-operation as an informant. Winston refuses and angrily criticises them. When he continues, deploring the vicious Cart and Whip Act, he is threatened with banishment. In turn he warns them – about the ship in harbour, just arrived from Old England. Norton suspects Winston knows more and tries to question him, but an uprising breaks out outside, voices angry over what is believed Winston’s arrest. Winston exits as the militia arrive to break up the unruly gathering.
  • Scene 5
    Who are you, Sirs?

    Two men enter the Governor’s house, seeking audience, accompanied by Winston. One is William Dyer. The other, Dyer announces, is a messenger from the Royal Court in Old England. The ‘messenger’ does not remove his hat. He is recognised as a banished Quaker, Samuel Shattuck, and the hat is struck off in anger by Norton. Shattuck announces his authority – official messenger from the new King Charles II. The King instructs the Massachusetts Bay Colony to desist from jailing and hanging Quakers. Norton objects that freedom of conscience, as Quakers claim, brings error, error can bring down the state and the church. Winston in turn warns Norton that new ideas are abroad and there is a price to pay for Truth.

    Outside the protestors, believing Winston is arrested, again become unruly, and Winston exits to reassure the crowd, whose noise dies away. Dyer and Shattuck propose that Winston’s re-appointment as Governor’s Captain of Militia will help moves for peace. Endecott and Norton cannot take their proposal seriously, and refuse. There is stalemate. Winston returns. The three (Endecott, Norton and Shattuck) turn away from each other. Dyer remembers his wife’s death, her sacrifice being a prime mover to emergence of the King’s support and the Royal Command.

    Lights dim, spotlight on front of stage: Mary Dyer and the hanging squad of militia enter stage left, halt in centre stage. Her voice (off stage) is heard in the Quaker message that God’s presence is found in silence and stillness. Winston moves to front her. The drums roll. The squad moves slowly, deliberately, and exits. Final roll of drums.
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