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:
  • Guise:
  • Being animated by religious zeal,
  • I mean to muster all the power I can,
  • To overthrow those factious Puritans;
  • And know, the Pope will sell his triple crown,
  • I, and the catholic Philip King of Spain,
  • Ere I shall want, will cause his Indians,
  • To rip the golden bowels of America.
  • Navarre that cloaks them underneath his wings,
  • Shall feel the house of Lorraine is his foe.
  • Your highness need not fear mine armies force,
  • 'Tis for your safety and your enemies wrack.
  • The Massacre at Paris, Scene XIX.44-54

The Massacre at Paris

The Massacre at Paris

Scene XIX

Mugeroun is Shot; Guise's Military Threat

Location: Paris

This scene is divided into two distinct parts. First Mugeroun is murdered1 by a soldier hired by the Duke of Guise to revenge the mignon's affair with his wife.2 The second part involves a relatively lengthy (for this extant reported text, at least) political negotiation in which Henry III tries to assert his authority and force Guise to disband his personal armies by which the King feels threatened. Despite the Duke's apparent acquiescence, the King distrusts his intentions and somewhat desperately hatches a plot to escape Paris but murder Guise.

Mugeroun is Murdered

Guise has once again hired an assassin to do his dirty work for him, as with Marlowe's portrayal of the Joan of Navarre poisoning and the initial shooting of Admiral Coligny. A soldier armed with a musket lies in wait for Mugeroun, railing against the mignon's cuckolding of Guise as he does so. He uses some less than subtle sexual innuendo3 to argue the immorality of Mugeroun's affair with the Duchess and justify his imminent act of murder "to keep you out" of her (XIX.10). Mugeroun appears and the soldier "shoots at him and kills him" (XIX.12.1 SD), whereupon Guise pays him off. As well as avenging his wife's lover, Guise also sees this as some revenge against Henry, who had earlier baited him as a cuckold. He refers to Mugeroun as "the King's delight, and Guise's scorn" (XIX.14) and lays down a challenge to "Revenge it, Henry, as thou list or dare; / I did it only in despite of thee" (XIX.15-16). Although Guise has no political motivation to fight against the King (they are both catholic, and carried out the massacre together), Marlowe has created an enmity fuelled by the fallout from this more domestic matter.

The Threat of Guise

No sooner has Guise laid down this challenge, than the king and another of his mignons Epernoun arrive to take issue with the Guise for "gather[ing] a power of men" (XIX.18).4 The Duke explains that he maintains an army "for the Gospel sake" (XIX.22). He is "an enemy of the Bourbonites" (i.e. Navarre and the Huguenots - XIX.32). "Being more animated by religious zeal, / I mean to muster all the power I can / To overthrow those sectious Puritans" (XIX.44-46). "You Highness needs not fear mine army's force: / 'Tis for your safety, and your enemies' wrack" (XIX.53-54).

Epernoun voices the royal suspicions, that Guise has raised an army "for the Pope's sake, and thine own benefit" (XIX.23), and that it is being paid for by "The Pope and King of Spain [who] are thy good friends" (XIX.39). The exchange quickly becomes bad tempered: Epernoun "challenges [Guise] for treason in the cause" (XIX.26), to which the Duke responds with a characteristic threat of violence: "were not His Highness here, / Thou shouldst perceive the Duke of Guise is moved" (XIX.27-28). Henry tries to maintain an aura of authority: "Be patient Guise, ... / Lest thou perceive the King of France be mov'd" (XIX.29-30).

But soon the king loses patience, and somewhat desperately resorts to sarcasm: "Guise, wear our crown, and be thou King of France, / And as Dictator make or war or peace, / Whilst I cry placet5 like a Senator" (XIX.55-57). He issues a stark order to Guise: "Dismiss thy camp or else by our Edict, / Be thou proclaimed a traitor throughout France" (XIX.59-60). The Duke switches to a policy of compliance, obsequiously indicating he will comply: "My Lord, in token of my true humility, / And simple meaning to your Majesty, / I kiss Your Grace's hand, and take my leave, / Intending to dislodge my camp with speed" (XIX.62-65). But the audience is left in no doubt as to his real intentions via an aside in which decides he "must dissemble" (XIX.61).

Epernoun is not fooled though, and after the Duke has departed tells the King about Guise's popularity and effective control of the capital, "with what a pomp he enter'd Paris / And how the Citizens with gifts and shows / Did entertain him / And promised to be at his command" (XIX.67-71). Henry is becoming more fearful that the Guise "means treason ... to our state" (XIX.76), paranoid that his "council ... are false" (XIX.80).6 He therefore formally discharges his council, and vows to "Epernoun, I will be rul'd by thee" (XIX.81). Marlowe has Epernoun suggest that the Guise be murdered, advising that "it would be good the Guise were made away, / And so to quite Your Grace of all suspect" (XIX.83-84). The King is flustered ("though I seem mild and calm, / Think not but I am tragical within" XIX.88-89) but decides to secretly escape Paris in fear of his life, and head to the royal palace at Blois. He has not given up, but has settled on the desperate measure of getting rid of the Duke, "as I live, so sure the Guise shall die!" (XIX.94).

  • Note 1: As noted against Scene XV, Marquis de Saint Mégrin who had an affair with the Duchess of Guise was allegedly murdered by the Guise's brothers in 1581. See the historical summary of Henry III's mignons. Back to Text
  • Note 2: The section of the play text portraying the soldier killing Mugeroun is of course of especial interest due to the extant Collier Leaf, which (if genuine) shows the far fuller and much superior version of the text that Marlowe originally wrote. Back to Text
  • Note 3: "Us[ing] a counterfeit key to [Guise's] privy-chamber door", "put[ting] in that which displease [Guise]", "set[ting] up your standing where you should not", and "till[ing] the ground that [Guise] himself should occupy" (XIX.2-7). Back to Text
  • Note 4: Indeed the relationship between Henry and Guise began to fall apart after the Battle of Coutras late in 1587, as the King passed Joyeuse's title to Epernoun rather than Guise, and the King's attempt to forcibly take control of the Guise stronghold that was Paris failed. See a historical summary of this period. Back to Text
  • Note 5: A Latin phrase meaning "It pleases (me)". [Oliver] notes that it was "a form of assent, when voting in an assembly, that was perhaps known to Marlowe through University practice also" - p.143. Back to Text
  • Note 6: After the humiliating Edict of Union forced upon him by his mother, Henry III tried to organise a reprisal from Blois in September 1588, but the majority of the Estates-General supported the Catholic League. See a historical summary of Guise's demise. Back to Text
 
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