The False Dmitry and James the Old Pretender: Mary Pix’s The Czar of Muscovy
The British dramatist Mary Pix’s (1666–1709) play The Czar of Muscovy (1701) has received limited and inconsistent critical attention compared to her other plays. This paper offers a fresh analysis of the play, which depicts the rule of the Russian pretender Dmitry Ivanovic, which lasted from 1605 to 1606 when he was killed in an uprising. The reading centralizes the history of false Dmitry during the Time of Troubles and his dramatic role as a figurative representation of the English Catholic pretender James Edward Francis Stuart (James the Old Pretender). Pix manipulates the public and private image of the False Dmitry (called Demetrius in the play) to undermine the Catholic pretender James’ claim to the English throne. This can be seen through a comparison of their public image and similar biographical details. Demetrius’ private image displays his tyranny and effeminacy, which are exposed through his treatment of the key women in his life: Queen Marina, his supposed mother Empress Sophia, and his captive Zarriana. In their own ways, the three women help him to reach the throne only to destroy him. Their dramatization as powerful agents who face oppression and achieve triumph is a message to Pix’s female audience to emulate the female characters and prevent the restoration of the pretender. Thus, Russian history emerges as a dynamic and unifying force that transcends time and geography.
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