Massacre at Paris: A Play

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9781479275892: Massacre at Paris: A Play

There is however much of historical interest here. The play is virtually unique in addressing contemporary European history, and indeed a sensitive political situation on England's own doorstep. The St. Bartholomew's Day massacre, instigated by the French royal rulers and Catholic nobles (including the Duke of Guise) saw the systematic murder and execution of thousands of protestant Huguenots in the French capital in August 1572. Many of the Huguenot leadership were in Paris for the wedding of their leader, Henry of Navarre, to the French King's sister Margaret. With the notable exceptions of Navarre and the Prince of Condé, virtually all the Huguenot nobles present were exterminated along with a large number of ordinary protestants living in Paris, including scholars, preachers, clergymen, and all manner of ordinary men, women and children. It was a horrific act of mass murder that shocked the world, especially neighbouring protestant countries such as England and the Netherlands. The terror was more acute due to a good number of Englishmen in Paris who witnessed the butchery first hand, including the Queen's Ambassador Sir Francis Walsingham, and Sir Philip Sidney. The massacre occupies the first half of the play, before Marlowe brings the story of the French Wars of Religion up to date through the reign of Henry III. Indeed the climax of this play, most likely written in 1592, covers some very recent history indeed: the murder of the Duke of Guise and his brother the Cardinal of Guise in December 1588, and the subsequent murder in turn of Henry III by a Dominican friar, Jacques Clément, in August 1589. This latest cycle of religious and political assassinations left Henry of Navarre as King Henry IV of France, although it would take another four years and the new King's conversion to Catholicism before he could be crowned. To this close proximity in both geography and time is added the tantalising albeit silent appearance of an "English Agent" in the final scene, summoned by Henry III to take a message to Elizabeth, Queen of England. Marlowe's involvement, at least in a minor way, in the Elizabethan secret service is strongly suspected from various incidents documented in the records. He appears to have been in Rheims during his university days, and there is even a possible sighting of a 'Mr Marlin' carrying messages from the English forces in Rouen as late as March 1592. Could Marlowe's dramatisation of the English Agent be based on his own personal experience as a government agent? Another intriguing artefact associated with this play is the so-called 'Collier Leaf', a single manuscript sheet on which is penned a part scene from the play where a soldier hired by Guise shoots Mugeroun with a musket. The manuscript provides a much fuller version of the play text, and, if genuine, offers a brief sight of Marlowe's original play. The manuscript was discovered in the mid 1820's by John Payne Collier, who unfortunately is notorious for a string of literary forgeries. Despite this, a number of eminent scholars have argued for its authenticity, which raises an even more exciting question: is the manuscript in Marlowe's own hand? This Marlowe Society overview of the play attempts to provide answers to those questions. It also offers a scene by scene synopsis of the play together with pen pictures of each character. Given the contemporary nature of the subject matter, the play is placed in context through an outline of the main events and protagonists in the French Wars of Religion.

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About the Author:

Christopher Marlowe (26 February 1564 (baptised) – 30 May 1593) was an English dramatist, poet and translator of the Elizabethan era. Marlowe was the foremost Elizabethan tragedian until his mysterious early death. Marlowe greatly influenced William Shakespeare, who was born in the same year as Marlowe and who rose to become the eminent Elizabethan playwright after Marlowe's death. Marlowe's plays are known for the use of blank verse, and their overreaching protagonists. A warrant was issued for Marlowe's arrest on 18 May 1593. No reason for it was given, though it was thought to be connected to allegations of blasphemy—a manuscript believed to have been written by Marlowe was said to contain "vile heretical conceipts". On 20 May he was brought to the court to attend upon the Privy Council for questioning. There is no record of their having met that day, however, and he was commanded to attend upon them each day thereafter until "licensed to the contrary." Ten days later, he was stabbed to death by Ingram Frizer. Whether the stabbing was connected to his arrest has never been resolved

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Book by Marlowe Christopher

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