- Mary Said What She Said
For Rose Cobbe
The play premiered in Paris on May 22, 2019, at Espace Cardin (Théâtre de la Ville), in a production directed by Robert Wilson, and performed by Isabelle Huppert. Music by Ludovico Einaudi and costumes by Jacques Reynaud.
1.) Mary said what she said because my husband’s father, Henri II of France, got her mother, Lady Fleming, with child. He was king and no king was ever a free man. He had eyes in the back of his head, but of these two eyes, only one was beautiful, Diane de Poitiers. The queen, the evil eye, Catherine de Medici, was as outraged as the beautiful Diane de Poitiers that Mary’s mother did talk so, did boast so. And so they sent Mary’s mother home. Let Scotland shut her up, they said. Let Scotland be her lying in. Let him fill her there. If you ever bed a king, keep it to yourself. Mary did not weep, but I did, I wept. The king gave me pearls and told me to wash them in the sea, knotted strand by knotted strand. I am no stranger to the sea. I have smelled it and seen it and tasted it. I have even been delivered up to safety by the sea. But the only salt water that has ever washed my hands or my pearls, wherever they be now, came from my own two eyes.
2.) Father of France, farewell. He died of a splinter in his eye. Death sneaked into his body’s mighty fortress like a bird come over the rampart, a little thing not singing. My father died of grief and this royal grief made me queen. My mother became sick at sea easily. My mother took me, the girl queen of Scotland, to France. She was so tall I thought men carried her before me, like a statue. But then I never saw her again. I was in France where Henry the Eighth kept no table. He wanted to feed me to England. My mother snatched me from England’s kitchen. Arm yourself with patience, she said. And then someone tried to poison my pears. Memory, open my heart. Let the past part my lips. The stars never lie. But how we misread them, bright drop after bright drop in the sea of night. [End Page 106]
3.) We had begun our journey on the wrong day, that day I was received in Rouen with my mother. It was not the right day, and because of that mistake their birds, a gift to me, all died. They carried us in procession and set us down near the cathedral in a square filled with grass and grown up from this floor were tiny dwellings of straw. This was a village brought all the way from the other side of the horizon, from Brazil. The savages were dressed in helmets of feathers and themselves looked like their huts from Brazil. It had been bread day the day before and the air was still sweet and the morning wind brought such a burning sweetness. The savages were frightened of the bears and the people of the savages and my mother of the feast. (I never saw her again.) Brought with as much care as gold, the birds from Brazil that had been alive the day before were living no longer. They hunted out a witch and burned four of them. They burned the village from Brazil and converted those of the savages that would, and burned those that would not. And all because it had not been an auspicious day. The priests prevailed upon the people nevertheless to pray for me and never to cease to love me. But it had been the wrong day for this love.
4.) Once upon a time I was so white the poets went mad. I was white, white and smooth and flawless. They went mad, I was so fair. They couldn’t believe it. They said so. I was just-fallen snow to this one and worked alabaster to that one. I can’t remember all the flattery. Star...