The Marlowe Society

The Government Agent

The Government Agent

4. The English Agent in Paris

Marlowe made his mark with the Queen and her Government at the age of twenty, and he emerged as the new poet-dramatist of genius, "the Muse's Darling", at the age of twenty-three when he arrived in London. He was to continue his career in the Queen's service as a highly trusted secret agent, as we now know from further significant research published during 1996.

This career brought Marlowe into close contact with the Elizabethan court and gave him also first-hand insight into the political scene in some of the major courts of Europe. This is reflected in his political play about the turmoil in France, The Massacre at Paris, which has regrettably survived only in a mutilated edition of what must have been a great contemporary historical drama. Even in its much abbreviated form it is still worth performing.

Here is the speech spoken by the dying King Henri III of France after he has been stabbed by the Jacobin Friar who gained access to the king under the pretence of delivering a letter.

The English Agent, who has no words to speak, could have been Marlowe himself!

Enter the English Agent

Henry: Agent for England, send thy mistress word
What this detested Jacobin hath done.
Tell her, for all this, that I hope to live;
Which if I do, the papal monarch goes
To wrack, and th' antichristian kingdom falls.
These bloody hands shall tear his triple crown,
And fire accursed Rome about his ears;
I'll fire his crazed buildings, and enforce
The papal towers to kiss the lowly earth.
Navarre, give me thy hand: I here do swear
To ruinate that wicked Church of Rome,
That hatcheth up such bloody practices;
And here protest eternal love to thee,
And to the Queen of England specially,
Whom God hath bless'd for hating papistry.

The Massacre at Paris - Scene XXII, Lines 56-70

Henry dies because the dagger was poisoned, but here is shown making a pact of friendship with the King of Navarre, the leader of the Huguenots who suffered dreadful slaughter in the blood-bath of St. Bartholomew's Eve in 1572, when 3,000 men, women and even babes in arms were massacred by the Catholic faction. The river Seine ran red with blood!

This massacre is the title of Marlowe's play. He was eight years old when this happened, and Canterbury received an influx of Huguenot refugees to whom Queen Elizabeth granted asylum and gave them the Undercroft of the Cathedral to use for their worship. The feelings of horror that this massacre engendered are reflected in the passion expressed by Marlowe in this speech.