The Widowing of Mrs. Holroyd
A Drama in Three Acts [ 1914 ]
By D. H. Lawrence
Cornell University, 2009, 136 pages
Large Print Edition
Genre: Classics, Drama
Reviewed by Israel Drazin - January 12, 2010
Lizzie Holroyd, who is smarter than her husband Charles, lives in a mining town. Charles works in the mine and Lizzie feels that she is living in hell.
Charles is a drunk. He abuses Lizzie, ignores his two children who are afraid of him, spends time after work in bars, consorts with whores and accuses his wife during a drunken fit of adultery only because he finds a man in his home, a man who carried him home from the bar. While his family hasn't enough to eat, he drinks away much of his wages and becomes fat. Charles and Lizzie are unable to communicate with each other. Lizzie has some inherited money, but does not leave Charles. She despises her husband, but cannot understand why she does not leave him.
D. H. Lawrence, a famous classical author, wrote his play with moving evocative dialogue. From time to time, a train whistle is heard in the background, as if to signal the need for Lizzie to get away.
A local man tries to persuade her to leave Charles. He wants to take her and the two children to Spain. She is 39 and he 34. She fights against showing the man emotion, but finally agrees to leave on Saturday, just a couple of days away.
But the next day Charles is killed in a mine accident.
Lizzie cries over his dead body. She thinks that she is being punished for her decision to leave him. She wanders if Charles brought about his own death because she did not properly care for him. While washing his corpse, she calls him over and over again "my dear." She tells the body of the man she previously despised, "You couldn't help it my dear, you couldn't help it…. I caused you hurt."
The play raises many questions for its audience. Why didn't Lizzie leave Charles? Is Lawrence saying that many women are like Lizzie? Why did she fight to repress her love for another man who was clearly more suitable as a husband and father to her children? How could Lizzie blame herself for the failed marriage and her misery during the marriage when the evidence is clear that her husband is to blame? Is this reaction normal? Do other widows act the same in one way or another?
Dr. Israel Drazin is the author of fifteen books, including a series of five volumes on the Aramaic translation of the Hebrew Bible, which he co-authors with Rabbi Dr. Stanley M. Wagner, and a series of four books on the twelfth century philosopher Moses Maimonides, the latest being Maimonides: Reason Above All, published by Gefen Publishing House, www.gefenpublishing.com. The Orthodox Union (OU) publishes daily samples of the Targum books on www.ouradio.org.