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:
  • Navarre:
  • My Mother poisoned here before my face:
  • O gracious God, what times are these?
  • O grant sweet God my days may end with hers,
  • That I with her may die and live again.
  • The Massacre at Paris, Scene III.21-4

The Massacre at Paris

The Massacre at Paris

Scene III

The Queen of Navarre is Murdered; Coligny is Shot

Location: Navarre's Quarters in Paris; A Paris Street

We now see the results of the Guise's murderous plots come quickly to fruition at a gathering of Huguenot royalty and leaders (Navarre, his new wife, his mother, the Prince of Condé, and Admiral Coligny). First the Queen of Navarre dies1 after the Apothecary presents her with the poisoned gloves, and then Coligny is shot2 as he and others bear her body away.

The drama is brief and the dialogue little more than functional. What little characterisation remains, hints at a rather weak Navarre. His reaction to his mother's death is understandably emotional, but there is more a sense of fatalistic helplessness than any angry statement of intended revenge: "O gracious God, what times are these? O grant sweet God my days may end with hers" (III.22-3). After Coligny is shot, Navarre again fails to come across as a charismatic leader; rather his first reaction is to run and tell the King (III.33-5).

However the extant text has been edited from the original, it still seems certain that Marlowe has telescoped events here to meet his dramatic needs. As noted, in reality the death of Joan of Navarre took place some two months before the wedding, whilst Coligny was shot four days after the wedding, and this relative chronology would have been clear to Marlowe from [Varamund]. The details of the method of each attack do however stick closely to the source material. [Varamund] describes the use of poisoned gloves: "Joane Queene of Navarre ... died in the court in Paris of a sodaine sicknesse, ... where as the suspition was great that she dyed of poison, and hir body being for that cause opened by the Phisitions, there were no tokens of poison espied. But shortely after, by the detection of one A.P. it hath ben founde that she was poisoned with a venomed smell of a payre of perfumed gloues, dressed by one Renat the Kings Apothicarie, an Italian...".

[Varamund] also describes Coligny being shot in the arm from the window of a house: "The Admirall ... moved the Kings privie Counsell the 22. of August, which was the fifte daye after the King of Nauarres marriage, and spent much time in that treatie. About noone, when he was in returning home from the Counsell,3 with a greate companie of noblemen and Gentlemen, beholde, a Harquebuzier4 out of a window of a house neere adioyning, shot ye Admiral with two bullets of leade through both the armes."

 
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