BIO: ELIZABETH CARY (1585-1639) Elizabeth Cary held the honor of being known as the first Englishwoman to write an original drama. At the urging of writer John Davies, Cary published The Tragedy of Mariam in 1613. Cary was also the first Englishwoman to write a tragedy and the first to write a history play, The History of the Life, Reign and Death of Edward II (ca. 1627). Cary's other works include various religious hymns, poems and translations from the languages of French, Spanish, Latin and Hebrew. Elizabeth Cary was the sole child born to Sir Laurence and Lady Elizabeth T anfield of Burford Priory, Oxford in 1585.
Her natural inclination for learning showed itself in early childhood despite her strict mother's attempts to thwart Elizabeth's intellectual development by reportedly forbidding her to read at night (to which Elizabeth began bribing servants for candles). In 1602 at age 17, Elizabeth was contracted to marry Sir Henry Cary so that the Tan fields would have aristocratic connections and the Cary's, an heiress. The couple lived apart for the first several years of their marriage while Henry fought in the Protestant wars against Spain and where he was captured in 1605 and imprisoned. At the demand of her mother-in-law Dame Katherine (Lady Paget), Elizabeth moved in with her husband's family in 1603. Here, Elizabeth endured cruelties similar to those imposed by her mother as Lady Paget forbade Elizabeth to read and locked her in her room. It is believed that Elizabeth began writing during this period as a substitute for reading.
Elizabeth had also participated in the literary circle of the countess of Pembroke and became acquainted with Sene can drama. Using the model of Roman tragedy, Elizabeth wrote and completed The Tragedy of Mariam between 1602-1604. It was also during this period that Elizabeth began to entertain an attraction to Catholicism to which her husband was radically opposed and a soldier against. This religious conflict did not seem to threaten the marriage in its early years, as upon her husband's return from war in 1609, the couple had their first of eleven children. Henry Cary was appointed Lord Deputy of Ireland in 1622, moving the couple to Dublin where their marriage suffered terrific stress due to religious differences and Henry's persecution of Irish Catholics.
Irreconcilable, the couple separated and Elizabeth returned to England in 1625. In 1626, Elizabeth professed her Catholicism and, when rumor reached the king, she was confined to her room for six weeks. In addition, her children were taken away and Henry withdrew financial support from his wife. While in poverty, Cary once again drew up her pen began to write works that would later be published. In 1627 the government intervened, forcing Henry to pay his wife's debts. The couple reconciled in 1631 with intervention from Queen Henrietta Maria.
Henry died in 1633 with Elizabeth following in 1639. Elizabeth's legacy was continued by her children of whom her son Lucius became the secretary of state for Charles I and her daughter Anne, a Benedictine nun, published the first biography about a woman writer, The Lady alk land: Her Life (ca. 1643-1650), about her mother -- a woman.