History Lesson

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        Maria Danilovna Gamentova was a lady in waiting for Tsarista Yekaterina Alexeevna and a favourite mistress of Tsar Pytor Alexeyevich. To successfully fulfill these roles, Maria would have had refined control of Russian as well as the diplomacy to survive court life; her death, however suggests recklessness.

            The Hamiltons emigrated from Scotland to Russia during the reign of Ivan the Terrible (1547 – 1628). As Maria was executed in 1719, she was likely part of the third generation of Hamiltons born in Russia. With this in mind, I believe that she would have had some proficiency in English. However, as idioms do not translate, the monologue contains Russian proverbs translated directly to English. I chose not to use Cyrillic as it would present a barrier to the audience, taking away from the eloquence a royal courtesan should have.

            I interpreted Maria as a passionate, young woman struggling to convince herself that her life had been fulfilling. She had days to contemplate her execution so her monologue begins composed. However, when she claims that she is ‘clean’, she instinctually recoils from the lie. She tries to comfort herself by referencing the Tsar’s son, hinting at Russia’s historically relaxed abortion and homicide laws. She then tries to find solace in her love life and the fact that she knows the secrets of many important men. This only reminds her of the pain involved in sex as well as Ivan Mikhailovich Orlov, the man with whom she lived. When Orlov began a relationship with another woman, Maria tried to court him with gifts stolen from the Tsarista.

            The rumor, ‘Yekaterina eats wax to keep her skin pale’ was blamed on Maria. The ensuing questioning uncovered Maria’s thievery and triggered Pytor’s statement, “Maria gives birth to dead babies”. The monologue ends with the Tsar kissing her head before throwing it away. I felt that through font size, spacing and content I was relatively successful in unsettling the reader. At first I found it difficult to convey which statements Maria was repressing, however font size really helped to make it clearer.  

Mary HamiltonRead this story for FREE!