By Marianne Kesting
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408). There are some similarities between Mary Rose and Eleanora in Easter, in that both characters have an unworldly, childlike innocence, but, whereas Eleanora is unquestionably good, Mary Rose is more ambiguous. Though Simon talks about the holiness of her innocence, Mrs Morland describes her as ‘curiously young for her age – as if – you know how just a touch of frost may stop the growth of a plant and yet leave it blooming’ (Hollindale, p. 260). Mary Rose was originally played by Fay Compton, and, as Irving Wardle remarked in his 1972 review of a production of the play at the Shaw Theatre, her name is ‘for ever identiﬁed with the role’.
John’s relationship with the other woman petered out inconclusively, as did a visit he describes making to a brothel, which he left without having sex. Ian has a child by a young woman, but he gives her little support ﬁnancially or emotionally. Children are signifiers in the play of lack of commitment, in Ian’s case, or lost opportunities, in John’s. He and Mari were unable to have children, and this increased the gulf between them. The name Mari seems to be a reference to Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ – thus, by contrast, stressing Mari’s barrenness and ghostly malevolence.
Loss and the First World War were personally closely linked for Priestley. As a very young man he volunteered for active service and fought in the trenches throughout the war. Judith Cook comments that he ‘never recovered from his war experiences’, and quotes from his collection of essays entitled Margin Released: I felt, as indeed I still feel today and must go on feeling until I die, the open wound, never to be healed, of my generation’s fate, the best sorted out and then slaughtered, not by hard necessity but mainly by huge, murderous, public folly.