The Marlowe Society

Marlowe's Works

Marlowe's Works
Massacre Woodcut

The Massacre at Paris

The Massacre at Paris

History:

History:

Interpretation:

Interpretation:

Plot:

Plot:

References:

References:

The Massacre at Paris

The Massacre at Paris

Sources: Overview of Historical Material

Although Marlowe's play concerns recent events in French history that the author may have had some loose second-hand knowledge of, it is clear that much of the historical detail that he dramatises comes from contemporary and detailed documentary sources. Paul H. Kocher undertook some meticulous research in the 1940's, and his two definitive articles on the subject identified two distinct sources:

  • [Kocher-Hotman] (1941) analyses the source material available on the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre itself, and demonstrates that [Varamund] is the primary (perhaps only) source;
  • [Kocher-Pamphlets] (1947) considers the contemporary news pamphlets available to Marlowe that might have provided source material for the subsequent episodes in French history dramatised in the second half of the play.

The historical events that Marlowe dramatises can be grouped under those two headings as follows:

Massacre Scenes (all August 1572):

  • The wedding of the Huguenot Henry of Navarre to Margaret of Valois, daughter of Catherine de Medici and sister of the French King, Charles IX (Scene I);
  • The death of Joan of Navarre, Henry's mother (Scenes II and III);
  • The failed shooting of Admiral Coligny (Scenes II and III);
  • The planning of the St Bartholomew's Day Massacre (Scene IV);
  • The murder of Admiral Coligny and the start of the Massacre (Scene V)
  • The massacre of Huguenots in Paris (Scenes VI, VII, VIII, IX, and XII)
  • The hanging of Coligny's body (Scene XI).

Post-Massacre Scenes:

  • Anjou accepts the crown King of Poland (1573 - Scene X);
  • Charles IX dies (May 1574 - Scene XIII);
  • The coronation of Anjou as Henry III (February 1575 - Scene XIV)
  • Guise revenges his cuckolding (1581 - Scenes XV, XVII and XIX)
  • The Battle of Coutras and death of Joyeux (October 1587 - Scenes XVI, XVIII)
  • Henry III and Guise clash (May 1588 - XIX);
  • The murder of the Duke and Cardinal of Guise (December 1588 - Scenes XXI, XXII);
  • The assassination of Henry III by Friar Jacques Clément (August 1589 - Scenes XXIII, XXIV).
 
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