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Massacre Woodcut

The Massacre at Paris

The Massacre at Paris

History:

History:

Interpretation:

Interpretation:

Plot:

Plot:

References:

References:
  • Guise:
  • The Admiral,
  • Chief standard bearer to the Lutherans,
  • Shall in the entrance of this Massacre,
  • Be murdered in his bed.
  • The Massacre at Paris, Scene V.10-13

The Massacre at Paris

The Massacre at Paris

Scene V

Admiral Coligny is Murdered in his Bed

Location: The Streets of Paris and Admiral Coligny's Lodging

The Guisians are about to set the Massacre in progress with the murder of Admiral Coligny1 in his bed, but first we find the Duke of Guise rousing his cohorts "to kill all that you suspect of heresy" (V.3). The group comprises Dumaine (the Duke's brother), Gonzago and Retes (Catholic noblemen and military commanders in the French Wars of Religion), and perhaps most interestingly the Duke of Anjou, the younger brother of King Charles who he would succeed as Henry III. As king, Anjou will increasingly become the enemy of Guise, and will ultimately murder the Duke in the latter part of the play. It might have been interesting in the full play to see his character develop as he is driven to this desperate climax.

The nobles swear allegiance and head off to the house where the Admiral is recuperating. Gonzago takes a group of soldiers off to "beset his house, that not a man may live" (V.15). The rest are left on the main stage to guard the outside of the Admiral's house in "the lane", to "slay his servants that shall issue out" (V.25). Anjou reveals the treacherous truth about the guard the king provided for Coligny. Gonzago's mob enter the Admiral's bedroom (presumably on the upper stage or balcony) where they threaten and taunt the Admiral: in response to his begging to be allowed one last prayer, Gonzago replies: "Then pray unto our lady; kiss the cross" (V.28). He then quickly stabs the Admiral to death, before throwing the body down onto the street.2

Anjou fears the possibility of someone else standing in for the Admiral, but Guise identifies the corpse3: "I know him by his look" (V.35), and by the gunshot wound in the arm of course.4 The dead Admiral is slurred and his body abused: "The Duke of Guise stamps on thy lifeless bulk!" (V.41) whilst Anjou orders the mob to "cut off his head and hands / And send them for a present to the Pope" (V.42-3), and then "drag his corse, / And he that living hated so the Cross, / Shall, being dead, be hang'd thereon in chains." (V.45-7).5 The nobles swear their murderous intentions once more, before Mountsorrell is dispatched to "shoot the ordinance off" (V.53), "then toll the bell" (V.55) to signal the start of the massacre.

  • Note 1: See the historical summary of the murder of Admiral Coligny. Back to Text
  • Note 2: It would be interesting to know how that would have been simulated on the Rose's stage. Back to Text
  • Note 3: This would again to be sourced from [Varamund] who states "by reason of the wound in his head, and his face couered with bloud they could not well discerne him, the Duke of Guise kneeled down on the ground and wiped him with a napkin and sayde, now I know him, it is he." Back to Text
  • Note 4: A repeat of the phrase "Chief standard-bearer to the Lutherans" here (line V.39) from earlier in this same scene (line V.11) hints at the reported nature of the text. Back to Text
  • Note 5: Again this is very close to [Varamund]: "Then a certaine Italian of Gonzagues band, cut off the Admirals head, & sent it preservued with spices to Rome to the Pope and the Cardinall of Loreine. Other cut off his hands, other his secret partes. Then the common laborers and rascalles three days together dragged the deade bodie thus mangled and berayed with bloude and filth, through the streates, and afterward drewe it out of the towne to the common gallowes, and hanged it vp with a rope by the feete." Back to Text
 
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