“The Roses of Eyam” by Don Taylor

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“Roses of Eyam” Critical evaluation “The roses of Eyam” by Don Taylor is a play that describes 17th century Eyam where the plague broke out. The villagers then decide to quarantine themselves to stop the plague from spreading. Don Taylor’s play is based on an actual event. In my critical evaluation I will explore the relationship between Mompesson and Stanley and human behaviour in the face of adversity. At the very beginning of the play, the author gives the impression that Mompesson is very idealistic and has high expectations. “I’m grateful of course, but I did hope . . What London? Lesser men have done it. ” He had very high expectations and he had actually hoped for London. Mompesson felt that ten years of studying at Cambridge would be sufficient foe London. You can sense his disappointment and his attempt to mask it. Stanley was the last rector in Eyam and is still relatively indignant that he lost his job and his house. The first meeting between the two of them occurs when they meet at Emmot and Rowland’s engagement party on Sunday. Mompesson at first is fairly gracious asking Stanley to dine with him at the rectory.

But Stanley immediately rejects him “I left that house five years ago on the arms of the king’s soldiers. If I ever return to it, it won’t be as a guest. ” This remark by Stanley shows that he still feels resentful even after five years. He also very publicly rejects Mompesson’s offer. I believe he did this because he wanted to show the villagers that he wished to have nothing to do with Mompesson. I think the cool detachment they’re both displaying towards each other especially Stanley is caused primarily by two things; religion and politics. Mompesson is on the king’s side and Stanley is in opposition to the king.

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Stanley remarks “Oil and vinegar in the same jar won’t mix without a beating. ” What Stanley is essentially saying is that just as oil and vinegar cannot be united without hard work and effort to form into one mixture, Stanley is saying that he and Mompesson are too dissimilar to work together and it would take a very dramatic event to bring them to a position where they could co-operate and work together. I think the author is not only highlighting their differences but also to indicate that in the near future there will be an event so dramatic that it will cause them to join forces.

Further on in the play, a tailor receives a package of garments from London but little do they know that the clothes will end up causing a plague epidemic to ravage the village. At first only one of two people die and Mompesson is apprehensive that the plague will end up spreading everywhere. “I want to get him buried this afternoon. Wrap him up in the sheet he’s lying in and sew it up. ” This shows just how concerned Mompesson is that nobody touch his body or the clothes in case that they catch the plague themselves. He is also unsure at that instant whether it actually is the plague or not.

As the disease gets gradually worse and more people are dying, he tries to consult Stanley for help. “I chose to ask your help. . . I’m a stranger here, a young man. . . You are older – perhaps wiser than I am . . . Don’t look at me like that, people are dying who might have lived, and all I ask is your counsel. ” You can really start to sense his frustration at himself for being so inexperienced and his inability to cope. All he really wants in this situation is some help and guidance. However, Stanley is even unwilling to converse with him, never mind giving him guidance and support. Talking to you is unfair it opens wounds in my side which you are too young to know about . . . I’ve spent my life fighting against everything you stand for. ” Stanley does not like talking to Mompesson as it brings back memories; he also feels that everything he has worked for is gone. But as more and more people start to die, the situation starts to get desperate. At that moment Stanley has a revelation, he decides to work with Mompesson to stop the plague from getting out of the village. “So why not now? . . . (Dawning) with Mompesson . . . Together . . . Yes – together . . together. ” at this point in time he finally realises that in order to stop the spread of the diseases he must join forces with Mompesson. During this moment in the play they have both got over their initial antagonisms and are now working together as one. But during their course working together, they both have had their doubts about whether what they are doing is right or wrong. One example of this is when Mompesson does not know whether he should quarantine the village or not. “If we are right. Because if we do this we will condemn many people to death . . . t is easy to speak of figures, but when they’re dead in our hands. . . ” this shows that even though Mompesson is glad that he and Stanley have finally begun to work as one, he does not want the blood of hundreds of people on his hands. At that moment he is in essence at crossroads with his conscience. Stanley is also feeling insecure, but his doubts are about his motivation skills rather than people dying. “When I was young I could’ve done it. Then there was fire on my lips. Now my mouth has been closed for so long, I don’t know what will come out. Eloquence or ashes. I think by expressing Mompesson and Stanley’s doubts the author wanted to show the more vulnerable side of them to show that they are people as well. And that they would have had doubts and insecurities about themselves too. At the end of the play the few survivors; Mrs Copper, Frances Torre, George Mower, Unwin, Howe and Mary Firth. They are all compared to “refugees” or “survivors from a concentration camp” rather than villager’s who have survived a plague epidemic, this comparison is effective as it is a very visual comparison making us imagine their ragged and unkempt appearance.

They have been traumatised by the plague just as refugees would have been traumatised by war and death. But we can imagine the villager’s relief at knowing at last it is all over. Throughout the play we have witnessed Mompesson and Stanley’s initial antagonisms, seen them work together as one. But ultimately we have witnessed both of them decide that they are just too different from each other and departing to their separate ways again. “We did a great thing, Mompesson. I am sure in my own mind now. Many people died. Five-sixths were sacrificed. But we were right to act as we did . . . I can see nothing but the dead . . Our paths are by nature opposite. For a moment only they crossed. ” In conclusion, “The roses of Eyam” by Don Taylor is a very excellent play. Not only because it successfully makes a genuine event in some ways more real through powerful characters and stimulating drama. It also showed me how two people however different they may seem can come together and work as one in the face of death and adversity. This play also showed me how humane and kind people can be towards each other in the face of desperation and hardship. All these reasons are why to me “The roses of Eyam” by Don Talyor made a excellent play.

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“The Roses of Eyam” by Don Taylor. (2016, Dec 18). Retrieved from


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