Our Country’s Good

by

Timberlake Wertenbaker

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A convict in the penal colony. Unlike many of her fellow convicts, Mary went to school until she was ten. Because of this, she’s able to read, which sets her apart from many of the other people in the colony. As a result, Lieutenant Ralph Clark specifically seeks her out when he’s casting The Recruiting Officer, knowing she’ll be the best person to play the lead role. When he sees her at the audition, he isn’t disappointed, and immediately casts her. Shortly thereafter, Mary’s friend Dabby makes fun of her, saying she should sleep with Ralph because he’s clearly interested in her. However, Mary doesn’t like this joke, since Dabby encouraged her to sleep with a sailor on the convict ship on their way to the penal colony. Although this affair earned her more food, she still feels as if she can’t “wash the sin away.” Throughout the rehearsals, Mary helps her fellow convicts learn their lines and even lends Liz Morden a helping hand despite the fact that she—like everyone else—doesn’t like associating with her. What’s more, Mary ends up falling in love with Ralph, and they make love on the beach not long before the play’s opening night. It is partially because of her feelings for him that she discourages Dabby when she (Dabby) reveals that she’s going to run away in the commotion of the play’s final scene. Telling Dabby that Ralph will be held accountable for her disappearance, she and her fellow players convince her to stay.

Mary Brenham Quotes in Our Country’s Good

The Our Country’s Good quotes below are all either spoken by Mary Brenham or refer to Mary Brenham. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Punishment and Rehabilitation Theme Icon
).
Act One, Scene Six Quotes

In my own small way, in just a few hours, I have seen something change. I asked some of the convict women to read me some lines, these women who behave often no better than animals. And it seemed to me, as one or two—I’m not saying all of them, not at all—but one or two, saying those well-balanced lines […], they seemed to acquire a dignity, they seemed—they seemed to lose some of their corruption. There was one, Mary Brenham, she read so well, perhaps this play will keep her from selling herself to the first marine who offers her bread—

Page Number: 31
Explanation and Analysis:
Act One, Scene Eight Quotes

DABBY. You’re wasting time, girl, he’s ripe for the plucking. You can always tell with men, they begin to walk sideways. And if you don’t—

MARY. Don’t start. I listened to you once before.

DABBY. What would you have done without that lanky sailor drooling over you?

MARY. I would have been less of a whore.

DABBY. Listen, my darling, you’re only a virgin once. You can’t go to a man and say, I’m a virgin except for this one lover I had. After that, it doesn’t matter how many men go through you.

MARY. I’ll never wash the sin away.

DABBY. If God didn’t want women to be whores he shouldn’t have created men who pay for their bodies.

Related Characters: Mary Brenham (speaker), Dabby Bryant (speaker), Second Lieutenant Ralph Clark
Page Number: 39
Explanation and Analysis:
Act Two, Scene One Quotes

MARY. Liz, we’ve come to rehearse the play.

WISEHAMMER. Rehearse the play?

DUCKLING. The Lieutenant has gone to talk to the Governor. Harry said we could come see you.

MARY. The Lieutenant has asked me to stand in his place so we don’t lose time. We’ll start with the first scene between Melinda and Brazen.

WISEHAMMER. How can I play Captain Brazen in chains?

MARY. This is the theatre. We will believe you.

Page Number: 69
Explanation and Analysis:
Act Two, Scene Seven Quotes

DABBY. When dealing with men, always have a contract.

MARY. Love is a contract.

DABBY. Love is the barter of perishable goods. A man’s word for a woman’s body.

Related Characters: Mary Brenham (speaker), Dabby Bryant (speaker), Second Lieutenant Ralph Clark , John Wisehammer
Page Number: 85
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire Our Country’s Good LitChart as a printable PDF.
Our Country’s Good PDF

Mary Brenham Character Timeline in Our Country’s Good

The timeline below shows where the character Mary Brenham appears in Our Country’s Good. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act One, Scene Five
Theater, Liberation, and Unity Theme Icon
...see the skill,” Sideway says conspiratorially. At this point, two convicts named Dabby Bryant and Mary Brenham approach. Ralph has specifically requested to see Mary because he heard she can read.... (full context)
Punishment and Rehabilitation Theme Icon
Theater, Liberation, and Unity Theme Icon
...Ralph asks if she can read, she admits she can’t, though she assures him that Mary will teach her what to say. Ralph begrudgingly casts her as Rose, the cousin of... (full context)
Act One, Scene Six
Punishment and Rehabilitation Theme Icon
Theater, Liberation, and Unity Theme Icon
Love, Sex, and Power Theme Icon
...“seemed to acquire a dignity” and lost “some of their corruption.” In particular, he sings Mary’s praises, saying that she was a fantastic reader and hoping aloud that the play will... (full context)
Theater, Liberation, and Unity Theme Icon
One of the other officers mumbles that Mary will probably “sell herself” to Ralph instead of the “first marine who offers her bread,”... (full context)
Act One, Scene Eight
Love, Sex, and Power Theme Icon
Guilt, Regret, and Forgiveness Theme Icon
Dabby and Mary sit together trying to learn their lines. Despite Mary’s effort to get Dabby to concentrate,... (full context)
Punishment and Rehabilitation Theme Icon
Love, Sex, and Power Theme Icon
Guilt, Regret, and Forgiveness Theme Icon
Mary accuses Dabby of exploiting her on the convict ship, since she encouraged her to sleep... (full context)
Punishment and Rehabilitation Theme Icon
...of throats if I was you, Mr Hangman Ketch Freeman,” Liz spits, and Dabby and Mary join her in calling him names. Defending himself, Ketch says he was only curious about... (full context)
Act One, Scene Ten
Theater, Liberation, and Unity Theme Icon
While Mary copies lines from the play onto paper (since there aren’t enough scripts to go around),... (full context)
Act One, Scene Eleven
Punishment and Rehabilitation Theme Icon
Theater, Liberation, and Unity Theme Icon
...first rehearsal of The Recruiting Officer, Ralph gathers the convicts he’s casted, including Sideway, Wisehammer, Mary, Liz, Dabby, Duckling, and Ketch. As Ralph tries to begin, the prisoners insult Ketch because... (full context)
Punishment and Rehabilitation Theme Icon
Theater, Liberation, and Unity Theme Icon
Deciding to rehearse a scene with the female convicts, Ralph calls Liz and Mary to the front of the group and asks them to read for him. Liz has... (full context)
Act Two, Scene One
Punishment and Rehabilitation Theme Icon
Theater, Liberation, and Unity Theme Icon
Love, Sex, and Power Theme Icon
...Wisehammer informs Arscott that the sailor who sold him the fake compass “betrayed” him, Sideway, Mary, and Duckling appear and tell the chained convicts that they’ve come to continue the rehearsal.... (full context)
Act Two, Scene Five
Punishment and Rehabilitation Theme Icon
Theater, Liberation, and Unity Theme Icon
Turning to Mary, Ross orders her to lift her skirt to show her tattoo. Just as she’s about... (full context)
Act Two, Scene Seven
Theater, Liberation, and Unity Theme Icon
Love, Sex, and Power Theme Icon
After the Aboriginal Australian man leaves, Mary and Ralph rehearse in front of Dabby, Wisehammer, and Arscott. After a moment, they pause... (full context)
Love, Sex, and Power Theme Icon
...one “won’t make any sense to the convicts.” As Ralph reads it over, Wisehammer tells Mary that he would marry her, suggesting that they should live together when they’re free. “Think... (full context)
Theater, Liberation, and Unity Theme Icon
Love, Sex, and Power Theme Icon
Guilt, Regret, and Forgiveness Theme Icon
When the rehearsal resumes, Wisehammer approaches and kisses Mary. Seeing this, Ralph “angrily” interrupts, saying the script doesn’t indicate that they should kiss. He... (full context)
Punishment and Rehabilitation Theme Icon
Theater, Liberation, and Unity Theme Icon
Guilt, Regret, and Forgiveness Theme Icon
...unhappy with her role, eventually storming away as Ketch enters and begins to rehearse. However, Mary has a hard time doing a scene with him because she can’t stop thinking about... (full context)
Act Two, Scene Nine
Love, Sex, and Power Theme Icon
On the beach that night, Mary practices her lines by herself, rehearsing a love scene between her character and the play’s... (full context)
Act Two, Scene Eleven
Theater, Liberation, and Unity Theme Icon
Love, Sex, and Power Theme Icon
Governance and Justice Theme Icon
...this is not a dream at all.” When he leaves, the convicts pass him and Mary asks, “Are the savages coming to see the play as well?” Ketch explains that the... (full context)
Theater, Liberation, and Unity Theme Icon
Love, Sex, and Power Theme Icon
...she plans to run away in the commotion following the play’s final scene. “You can’t,” Mary says. “The Lieutenant will be blamed, I won’t let you.” However, Dabby tells her that... (full context)
Theater, Liberation, and Unity Theme Icon
Love, Sex, and Power Theme Icon
Guilt, Regret, and Forgiveness Theme Icon
...but Duckling insists, saying, “[Harry] liked to hear me say my lines.” Walking over to Mary, Ralph compliments her beauty, and she tells him she had a dream in which she... (full context)