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Mother's Daughter

Mother's Daughter

By Kate Hennig
Subjects: Women Writers, Community Theatre Picks, Large Cast, Political Theatre, Ontario Playwrights, Biography, History
Casting: 6 f, 1 m
Duration: 120 minutes
Imprint: Playwrights Canada Press
Paperback : 9780369100115, 124 pages, June 2019
Ebook (EPUB) : 9780369100139, 124 pages, June 2019
Ebook (PDF) : 9780369100122, 124 pages, June 2019


Christmas Present

At table. Mary sits at the seat of power. She is anxious and not well. To her right is a gift box. Bess enters.

Bess: Your Majesty.

Mary: Shut up.

Bess: I respect you. I want to show it.

Mary: Siddown.

A moment. The sisters assess each other.

Bess: How are things with Philip?

Mary: He sent a proxy to our engagement party.

Bess: Oh. Darn.

Mary: And his father sent me a present.

Mary shows Bess the pendant brooch.

Sorta hoped he’d do the shopping / himself.

Bess: Oooo, a pearl. A really big pearl.

A long silence while Mary continues to look at Bess. Bess feels this.

Mary: Do you trust me?

Bess: With what?

Mary: Talk to me. About the rift. Between us.

Bess: (a little too defensive) What have you found out?

Mary: Good Lord: what are you hiding?!

An impasse.

Bess: (the rift) Okay. Like. Politically?

Mary: Let’s start with religion.

Bess: Well .  .  . I don’t see us as being that divided. I mean, I come to mass with you every day.

Mary: Do you keep your fingers crossed?

Bess: What do you mean by that?

A moment.

Mary: Where do you think God is?

Bess: In England?

Mary: If God was a part of your body, what part would God be?

Bess: I think .  .  . my mind.

Well .  .  .  ?

Is there a right answer?

Mary: No.

Bess: My mind, then. Where do you think?

Mary: My heart.

Bess: Oh.

Both, right?

Mary: The heart is more sentimental than the mind. More emotional. More .  .  . out of control.

Bess: I never thought of it that way.

Mary: You don’t believe in the old traditions, do you?

Bess: These questions are weird.

Mary: Don’t! equivocate!

Bess: Okay! Why do you want to know?

Mary: Because .  .  . it’s the only way out.

Bess: Of what.

Mary: If you believe one thing, and I believe another thing, one of us has to change what they believe: one of us has to convert.

Bess: Or what?

Mary: Or you and I will never have peace. Our country will never integrate again.

Bess looks at Mary without giving anything away.

Simon says I should worry about you.

Bess: Oh, I’m all right. I had that little cold last week, that’s all — 

Mary: Bess. Worry about you.

Bess: Oh. Like that kind of worry.

Mary: My engagement to Spain has pissed off the French.

Bess: You had to know that would happen.

Mary: The French are pushing me to marry / Edward — 

Bess: Edward Courtenay.

Mary: Uhuh. It would be an .  .  . impressive strategy, don’t you think? One that you might choose.

Bess: He is the great-grandson of a king.

Mary: You like him, don’t you.

Bess: I think he’s cute.

Mary: I’ve heard.

Bess: What?

Mary: That the French are backing a plan to put you and Courtenay on the throne.

Bess: Together?

Mary: Married.

Bess: On your throne?

Mary: That’s the one.

Bess: You know how I feel about rumours.

Mary: I’ve taken action against him.

Bess: Oh?

Mary: Courtenay’s in custody.

Bess: Oh. Is he.

Mary: We’re questioning him now.

Bess: What do you think he’ll say?

Mary: Everything. I don’t suppose he wants another fifteen years in the Tower.

Bess: I don’t suppose.

Mary: What do you think he’ll say about you?

Bess: There’s nothing to say.

Mary: Off the record.

Bess: I don’t speak off the record. You taught me that.

Mary: I did. Which only complicates the picture.

Bess: How?

Mary: I can’t trust you!

Bess: That’s not / fair.

Mary: You’ve done it before, Bess! With Thom? To Eddie?

(asking the question) Are you going to marry Edward Courtenay and try to take the throne from / me?

Bess: You’d rather I was married off to some lonely European three times my age and sent to Lower / Slobbovia!

Mary: Oh, for Pete’s sake: answer me honestly for / once!

Bess: (answering honestly) Okay. Your ideas are ridiculous: you can’t put the country in reverse; it won’t work.

I’m just being prudent. You give me no / choice.

Mary: Don’t do this. Don’t do this. God, you are just like your moth/er.

Bess: I am / not!!

Mary: You look just like her. You’re about the same age now as she was / when — [Anne came on the scene with Henry].

Bess: I can’t help looking like my / mother.

Mary: Forgive me for all the hatred you stir in my / heart.

Bess: Hate me! Go on then! Hate / me!

Mary: I want you to go. Go.

Bess: No.

Mary: go! So I / don’t — 

Bess: I can believe what you believe. I can believe anything.

Mary: See, your heart can’t possibly do that. It would just be changing your mind.

Bess: Don’t send me away, Mary. Don’t. Don’t send me / away!

Mary: You’ll do anything to get what you / want!

Bess: I can’t help being more determined than you. I was born this way. I can’t help being the talented sister.

Mary reels.

Mary: You’ll kill me, won’t you. You won’t even / blink.

Bess: Don’t ask those / questions.

Mary: Jesus. I have helped / you!

Bess: You promised Father.

Mary: And what? Oh, I get it. That’s why you promise nothing. That’s why you are faithful to no one. That’s why you have no religion: you make no choices; you sit on the fence, because / then — 

Bess: Then no one gets hurt.

Mary: I am someone! If you kill me it will hurt!

Bess: Never. I would never do that, Mary. You have to believe me.

Mary: But if I just happen to die as a result of one of your plots, then .  .  .

Bess: We are after the same thing.

Mary: no!

Bess: Yes. And you don’t have what it takes. You may have inherited the right to rule, but you simply don’t have the talent.

Mary: It doesn’t take talent to draft legislation and have you killed!

Bess: Do it then. Don’t just threaten it! Let’s see you do / it!

Mary: Damn / you!

Bess: No, damn you!

Mary: One of us will be damned. It’s inevitable. One of us will be damned by the other’s indoctrination. Because there is a chasm between us that will never be bridged. Because I can’t trust you. And you won’t trust me.

An impasse.

Bess: I’m sorry, Mary.

Mary: For what.

Bess: For being the one who’ll win.

Mary: Fuck you.

Mary makes up her mind to proceed.


Mary hands Bess the gift box.

I was saving it for Christmas.

Bess: Don’t send me away. I don’t have anyone anymore.

Mary: Just! Take it! Take it with you. Put it in your stocking at Hatfield.

Bess: You think you can hurt me?

Mary: Go!

Bess: No!

Another impasse.

I can hurt you more. You have to kill Jane Grey!

Mary: I don’t. I don’t.

Bess: She’ll never convert. Her faith is in her heart. Just like yours. You have to kill that sentimental heart. You have no choice!

Bess opens the box and takes out a small silver crucifix. She looks at it. Looks at Mary. She makes the sign of the cross, then kisses the crucifix.


In this stunning third part to Kate Hennig’s powerful Queenmaker series, England’s first queen regnant finds herself fighting xenophobia, religious nationalism, and strained familial bonds in the power struggle that dubs her Bloody Mary.

Upon the death of King Edward VI, the thirty-eight-year-old princess Mary—daughter of Henry VIII and Katherine of Aragon—wrests the throne from Edward’s deemed heir. But Mary’s mother appears from the vaults of memory, and adamantly questions the motives of Mary’s cousin Jane and her half-sister Bess, despite Mary’s affection for them both. As the kingdom splits along Roman Catholic and Protestant lines, Mary walks a gauntlet of squabbling ethics and politics, and is forced to make some tough decisions. Should she execute her opponents before it’s too late, the way her father did? Should she scramble to find a husband who can give her a rightful heir? And can she trust her mother, her sister, or even herself?


“Hennig upends the usual narrative of patriarchal bloodlines by giving voice to some of the era’s intrepid women. ” —Debbie Fein-Goldbach, NOW Magazine

“Hennig’s genius lies in taking us on a historical journey with the added bliss of some sharp right—and left—turns of her own devising. ” —Laurie Fyffe, Capital Critics’ Circle

“It’s thrilling to observe Hennig’s writerly voice develop in real time through this series. ” —Toronto Star