The Marlowe Society

Marlowe's Works

Marlowe's Works
Massacre Woodcut

The Massacre at Paris

The Massacre at Paris









The Massacre at Paris

The Massacre at Paris
The Rose Theatre
A sketch of the Rose Theatre, where the The Massacre at Paris may have been debuted by Lord Stange's Men in January 15938.

Stage History

1. Lord Strange's Men at The Rose (January 1593)

As noted in the section on dating the play, the first production of The Massacre at Paris would appear to be one marked "ne"(w?) in Henslowe's Diary1 for January 1593 which records the takings at The Rose for a performance by Lord Strange's Men, most likely with Edward Alleyn in the cast:

  ne-    Rd at the tragedy of the gvyes 30 . . . . . . . .   iij li xiiij s

Since the preceding entry for "titus"; (almost certainly the lost play Titus & Vespasian rather than Titus Andronicus) is dated "25 Jenewaye 1593", and the following for "mandevell" (another lost play Sir John Mandeville) is dated "31 of Janewarye", it seems certain that the "30" in this entry is indicating 30th January 1593, which was a Tuesday.2

This was a bad time for the theatres, with an extended and serious outbreak of the plague forcing them to close for the majority of the two year period between June 1592 and May 1594. Henslowe records no performance after 22nd June 1592 until a brief respite occurred with the cold of mid-winter, The Rose re-opening on 29th December. But a renewed outbreak triggered "an order from the Privy Council on 28th January [1593] for the suppression of all assemblies for the purposes of amusement within seven miles of London".3 Either news was slow to travel, or Henslowe managed to slip in two more performances on 30th and 31st January before closing, the first of these the debut of The Massacre. There was a similar respite the following winter between 27th December 1593 and 6th February 1594, during which time there is no record of The Massacre being played, before the plague finally abated and normal performances resumed on Bankside from 3rd June 1594.

Edward Alleyn (1566-1626)
Edward Alleyn (1566-1626)
Henslowe's son-in-law and business partner was also lead actor and head of The Admiral's Men.

The takings of three pounds and fourteen shillings are the highest recorded in Henslowe's Diary for any of the 26 performances in that brief period (29th December 1592 to 31st January 1593), with only three other performances taking in three pounds or more: "Mvlomulluco" (£3 10s on 29th December, most probably a lost play Muly Mullocco), "Joronymo" (£3 8s on 30th December, almost certainly Kyd's Spanish Tragedy) and another of Marlowe's plays, "the Jew" (£3 exactly on 18th January).

2. The Admiral's Men at The Rose (1594)

When The Rose re-opened for normal business in June 1594, the two year plague closure had brought about some reorganisation in the playing companies. After an uncertain partnership with Lord Stange's Men, The Admiral's Men now "reconstituted themselves as an independent company with [Edward] Alleyn at its head."4 Alleyn had married Henslowe's step-daughter in October 1592, and the two men now formed a close business relationship, with the Admiral's Men becoming the pre-eminent company at The Rose hereafter.

The events in Deptford had occurred almost exactly one year earlier, but what seems to be Marlowe's final play had been seen just once at The Rose. Marlowe's stabbing may have been old news, but there was clearly demand for what was virtually a new play, perhaps helped by events on the other side of the channel where Navarre had controversially converted to Catholicism and finally been crowned King Henry IV of France on 27th February 1594. Marlowe's play was put on virtually every week during the summer, with two further performances in September, as Henslowe's Diary records5:

19 of June 1594 Rd at the Gwies . . . . . . . . liiij s (£2 14s 0d)
25 of June 1594 Rd at the masacer . . . . . . . . xxxvj s (£1 16s 0d)
3 of Julye 1594 Rd at the masacer . . . . . . . . xxxj s (£1 11s 0d)
8 of Julye 1594 Rd at the masacer . . . . . . . . xxvij s (£1 7s 0d)
16 of Julye 1594 Rd at the masacer . . . . . . . . xxxj s (£1 11s 0d)
27 of Julye 1594 Rd at the masacar . . . . . . . . xxij s (£1 2s 0d)
8 of aguste 1594 Rd at the masacare . . . . . . . . xxiij s vj d (£1 3s 6d)
17 of aguste 1594 Rd at the masacar . . . . . . . . xxs (£1 0s 0d)
7 of septmb3 1594 Rd at masacar . . . . . . . . xvij s vj d (17s 6d)
25 of septmb3 1594 Rd at the masacar . . . . . . . . xiiij s (14s 0d)

A steady decline in attendance can be assumed from the gradual decline in takings, and no more is heard of the play for over 4 years.

3. Rose Revivals? (1598 and 1601)

After 5th November 1597, Henslowe ceases to record the plays being performed, instead only recording the weekly receipts that presumably were his share of the takings. However he still recorded in detail various transactions relating to specific plays, including payments to authors, as well as loans and payments for (work on) props and costumes. In this way we can see a likely revival of the play towards the end of 1598 when William Bird (alias Borne) is given money to buy stockings and embroider a hat, both to be worn by the Duke of Guise6:

Lent unto wm Borne the 19 of novemb3 1598
vpon a long taney clocke [cloak] of clothe the some
of xijs wch he sayd yt was to Imbrader his hatte
for the gwisse
} xij s
lent wm birde ales borne the 27 of novemb3 [1598] to bye
a payer of sylke stockens to playe the gwisse in
} xx s
lent wm borne to bye his stockens for the gwisse } xx s

Similar outlay for costumes can be found three years later in 1601 when it seems the play is once again being performed7:

Lent vnto wm Jube the 3 of novemb3 1601 to
bye stamell cllath for A clocke for the gwisse
the some of . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
} iij li
Lent vnto the company to lend
the littell tayller to bye fuschen and
lynynge for the clockes for the masaker
of france the some of . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
} xxx s
Lent vnto the company the 8 of novemb3 1601 to
paye vnto the littell tayller vpon his bell for
mackeynge of sewte for the gwesse the some of
} xx s
Lent vnto the companye the 13 of novmb3 1601
paye the littell tayller Radford vpon his bill
for the gwisse the some of . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
} xx s
pd at the apoyntmente of the company vnto
the littell tayller in fulle payment of his Bille
for the gwisse the 26 of novmb3 1601 some
} xxiiij s 6d

The final entry in the Diary relating to the play sees Henslowe purchasing the playbook from Alleyn at the start of 1602 along with two others for the sum of six pounds in total8:

pd at the Apoyntmente of the companye the
18 of Janewary 1601 [i.e. 1602] vnto EAlleyn for iij boockes
wch wer played called the french docter the
massaker of france & the nvtte the some of
} vj li

4. Modern Productions

Given the state of the extant text, it is perhaps not surprising that there have been relatively few attempts to stage The Massacre at Paris since the original playbook was lost to posterity.

The same subject matter spawned a couple of plays in the late seventeenth century, The Duke of Guise by John Dryden and Nathaniel Lee in 1682, and Massacre of Paris, a solo effort by Lee seven years later. But neither are in any way related or indebted to Marlowe's play.9

Some modern directors have, however, risen to the challenge of staging the play, and a few well known actors have braved the Massacre. The famous English film actor Gary Oldman made his stage debut at the age of 20 in a Glasgow Citizen's Theatre Company production of the play in 1981, whilst Lindsay Duncan joined the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1985 and one of her first roles was in two performances of The Massacre at Paris played at The Other Place, Stratford, in October of that year.

Some productions adhere to the extant play text, while others adapt the shell it provides and take the opportunity to write substantial additional new material. Jeff Dailey, who directed a production in New York in 1999 re-ordered some scenes, but stuck to the extant text with the addition of the Collier Leaf lines. In contrast, young playwrights Tommy Murphy (for an ATYP production in Sydney in 2001) and Alex Johnston (for a 2002 Bedrock Theatre Company production in Dublin) took the opportunity to add their own material to Marlowe's play.

Even in its abridged and reported state, the play does retain some strong Marlovian speeches such as that of the Guise in Scene II, and for this reason The Massacre at Paris perhaps gets aired most at reading sessions. The play was the subject of one of the Globe Theatre's excellent Read Not Dead sessions in September 2011, where a two hour seminar was followed by a full reading of the play.

The 450th anniversary of Marlowe's birth in 2014 did however trigger quite a revival. The Fourth Monkey Theatre Company in conjunction with the Marlowe Theatre in Canterbury staged three Marlowe plays in March, including a production of The Massacre at Paris on two nights in the atmospheric surrounds of Canterbury Cathedral Crypt. In the same month, The Dolphin's Back company presented a highly acclaimed and innovative staging of the play directed by James Wallace running for 3 weeks at the historic Rose theatre on Bankside, the exact same site where the play likely made its original debut 421 years earlier. Indeed this production was such a success (selling out most performances) that it returned for a second run in October 2014.

A list of modern productions of The Massacre at Paris can be found in the Web Links section.

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