- How now my Lord? Faith this is more than need,
- Am I to be thus jested at and scorn'd?
- 'Tis more than kingly or imperious.
- And sure if all the proudest kings beside
- In Christendom, should bear me such derision,
- They should know how I scorn'd them and their mocks.
- The Massacre at Paris, Scene XVII.15-20
The Massacre at Paris
Henry Baits the Cuckolded Guise
Location: The French Court
With an apparent small step back in time,1 we now find King Henry III appointing his mignon Joyeux to lead the army that will march against Navarre. After dispatching his new general, the king is in mischievous mood, baiting the Duke of Guise about being cuckolded by another of his mignons, Mugeroun.
Henry is reluctant to let Joyeux put himself in such a dangerous postion, since "my love to thee can hardly suffer / Regarding still the danger of thy life" (XVII.5-6). But as Joyeux has requested the commission, Henry agrees. After Guise too has bid the general farewell, the king perhaps upset by the departure of his friend, turns somewhat spitefully on the Duke and jokes that he and his wife "Do both salute our lovely minions" (XVII.11), meaning that Guise has just bid farewell to Joyeux, whilst his wife has "salute[d]" her lover Mugeroun. Henry makes clear the meaning of his innuendo by "mak[ing] horns" to indicate a cuckold, whilst also referring to "the letter ... / Which your wife writ to my dear minion, / and her chosen friend" (XVII.12-14).2
Guise is predictably furious at being humiliated in front of the court in such unregal fashion: "Am I to be thus jested at and scorn'd? / 'Tis more than kingly or imperious" (XVII.16-17). He responds in kind by mocking the King's mignons: "I love your Minions? Dote on them yourself! / I know none else but holds them in disgrace" (XVII.21-22). Enraged, he goes on to repeat the threat made in his wife's chamber that he will kill Mugeroun in revenge ("That villain for whom I bear this deep disgrace, ... / Shall buy that strumpet's favour with his blood"> - XVII.24-26) and departs with an oath in French, "Par la mort dieu, il mourra!" (XVII.28).3
Epernoun is worried for his friend, noting that Guise's "oaths are seldom spent in vain" (XVII.31). No sooner has Guise stormed out, than Mugeroun enters, but fortunately has missed the incensed Duke.4 Henry explains why the Duke is out for revenge,5 but Mugeroun brashly indicates that he is not scared, and will "live till [Guise] be dead" (XVII.37). What's more, he wants to have it out with the Duke, and sets off to find and confront him. Henry, conscious that it was his jesting that inflamed Guise, is now worried, and nervously implores Epernoun, "Let's go seek the Duke and make them friends" (XVII.45).
- Note 1: Navarre has already heard rumoured news of Joyeux's appointment in the previous scene, at which point the French army were reported to be already "com[ing] from France with speed". We might expect Joyeux to have been appointed before the army began to march and to travel with them. There is nothing to stop Marlowe flitting back in time for dramatic reasons to show the appointment, for example to provide the link between the two mignons Joyeux and Mugernoun being "salute[d]" by Guise (XVII.11). But there are other hints at a badly reported text in this scene that makes us suspicious. Back to Text
- Note 2: Again there is a suspicion that action has been cut. [Oliver] notes (p.137) that it is feasible that "the King has somehow heard of the letter intercepted by Guise", perhaps from Mugeroun, but equally we might imagine a little more dramatic continuity in the full original text. Back to Text
- Note 3: Literally, "By the death of God, he shall die". Back to Text
- Note 4: Perhaps they exit and enter by separate doors? Back to Text
- Note 5: So in fact Henry cannot have learned about the letter from Mugeroun. Back to Text