By Sheila Hannon
Issue 15, Summer, 2006 pp. 22-26.
Mary Hamilton was perhaps the most notorious cross-dresser or ‘female-husband’ of her day. She lived in Somerset, among other places, and was the subject of scandal across the country for her habitual crime of marrying other women. Her story was preserved in the pages of an anonymous pamphlet by a famous contemporary novelist and dramatist. Through the story of Mary Hamilton, Sheila Hannon considers the rights and responsibilities of modern-day novelists and dramatists in their use of historical evidence. To what extent can writers take liberties with the historical record in the name of ‘dramatic license’, when much of the ‘historical evidence’ that remains is itself fiction?
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