TOP GIRLS – “Everyone Loves A Happy Ending” (Griselda)

Another backgrounder on one of the historical figures who appear in Top Girls, British playwright Caryl Churchill’s award-winning drama.

Alumnae Theatre Company previously staged the play in our 3rd floor Studio space back in 1996.

The new production of Top Girls is directed by Alysa Golden, and will run on the Mainstage from January 18 – February 2, 2019.  Tickets are available at

Top Girls begins with the main character, Marlene, hosting an imaginary (?) dinner party to celebrate her promotion at work.  Her guests are five famously strong women from history – some real (Isabella Bird, Pope Joan, Lady Nijo); some fictional (Gret, Griselda).

Alumnae Theatre Company member Diane Forrest, a writer and editor, has profiled the guests who appear in the play – here’s her blog entry featuring the literary character Griselda, who is portrayed onstage by Jennifer Fahy:



Illustration of Griselda from from Mary Eliza Haweis’ book “Chaucer for Children” (1882)

Patient Griselda was already a popular figure in folklore when Bocccaccio first wrote down her story in the 14th century. Petrarch and Chaucer soon followed suit, and she’s since been the inspiration for numerous stories, novels, plays and operas.

In this medieval knee-slapper, Griselda is a young peasant woman, minding her own business, when a local marquis, urged to produce heirs by his subjects, decides to marry her. She dutifully produces a daughter and son. Both are snatched away by her husband, who claims the children must be executed because his subjects don’t fancy the possibility of a peasant’s child in charge. Eventually, the Marquis divorces her and sends her back to her humble status.

A few years later, the Marquis brings Griselda back to organize his wedding to a noblewoman. But when the supposed bride appears, he reveals that she is actually their long-lost daughter. Then the long-lost son pops up. The Marquis had sent both children away to test Griselda’s patience and obedience. Now that he’s reassured, the family gets back together and lives happily ever after.

Yeah, right.

Those who’ve made use of this rather sado-masochistic story usually equivocate by saying it’s just about patience and loyalty, and wives shouldn’t really have to behave like Griselda. Perhaps the writer who interpreted it best is the one who adapted it to contemporary times – as a horror story.

For more information on Griselda, see

 For more info on the cast of Alumnae Theatre Company’s new production of Top Girls (Jan 18 – Feb 2, 2019), please visit

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