Why does Lizzie murder her father and stepmother, according to the play?
Sharon Pollock's play seeks to show the ways that Lizzie Borden was driven to her murderous acts by circumstance. It stages the ways her father was taking away her financial independence, the ways she was pressured as a woman into entering a marriage against her will and in spite of her economic privilege, and her father's physical abuse and murder of her beloved pet pigeons. These events, along with Lizzie's apparently deteriorating mental health, coalesce into the psychological backdrop for the murders. Pent in, marginalized, and disempowered, Lizzie seeks to find power in whatever way she can.
Why does Lizzie claim she would have liked to be like the Actress?
The Actress is a modern woman, one who works, makes her own money, and spends her nights drinking with the other company members. The Actress is not afraid to be who she wants to be and she does not obey social rules. Lizzie, on the other hand, was raised in a strict religious environment and thus all her life has been governed by strict rules. Lizzie never felt free because she could not reveal her true self, fearing destitution. Thus, Lizzie claims she would have liked to have lived the life of the Actress, liberated from the conventions of society.
In what ways is the play feminist?
While the play does not have a fully articulated politics of feminism, it certainly portrays the ways that Lizzie's struggle for independence and dignity stems from her disenfranchisement as a woman. She desperately wants to be able to control her own future, financially and personally, but she is denied the right to work, pressured to find a husband to support her, and regularly chastised for not being ladylike enough. In staging this friction, between Lizzie's desire for autonomy and a social world that denigrates such behavior, Pollock makes an indirect plea for equality between the sexes, an implicit suggestion that perhaps Lizzie might not have been driven to murder had she had the power to control her own life.
What is the meaning of the final moment?
At the end of the play, Lizzie's sister Emma asks Lizzie again if she killed their parents. The Actress, who just played Lizzie in the reenactment of that day, tells Lizzie that she did indeed kill her parents. In an unusual reversal, Lizzie suggests that it was the Actress who committed the deed, and the Actress looks down at the hatchet, and then out at the audience itself, marking the end of the play. This moment is left ambiguous, but it could be interpreted as suggesting that Lizzie sees her murderous deed as not originating simply with her, but with the society in which she was raised, that the responsibility for the crime is a more widely-shared responsibility.
How are Lizzie and her sister Emma different? How are they similar?
While Lizzie is headstrong and outspoken, Emma is meek and mild-mannered, seeking to recede when things do not go her way, rather than fight back. They share a certain resistance to their father's dominion, and both have had trouble fully integrating themselves with society life—neither have married—but where Emma is a survivor, trying to find ways to manage in spite of her dwindling independence, Lizzie is a fighter, fighting back and rebelling against her mistreatment.