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:
  • Dumaine:
  • Sweet Duke of Guise our prop to lean upon,
  • Now thou art dead, here is no stay for us.
  • I am thy brother, and I'll revenge thy death,
  • And root Valois's line from forth of France,
  • And beat proud Bourbon to his native home,
  • That basely seeks to join with such a King,
  • Whose murderous thoughts will be his overthrow
  • The Massacre at Paris, Scene XXIII.4-10

The Massacre at Paris

The Massacre at Paris

Scene XXIII

The Friar Offers His Services to Dumaine

Location: Orleans

News of Guise's murder at the hands of the King has reached Dumaine in Orleans,1 and he vows revenge. A Jacobin Friar comes forward and offers to provide exactly that by murdering Henry. The Duke and friar head off stage to discuss the details.

Duke Dumaine enters the stage with a letter that brings the news that his elder brother has been murdered by Henry III. He is distraught, and can only think of revenge, but the death of Henry alone "cannot satisfy" (XXIII.3): he is also aware of Navarre's plan to come to Henry's aid, and vows to "beat proud Bourbon to his native home" (XXIII.8).

There might have been some dramatic tension here, as in the earlier scene King Henry also dispatched the Captain of his Guard to organise the murder of Dumaine in Orleans. The subsequent entry of the mysterious friar could have engendered an air of suspense in the audience, who would be unsure if he was in fact a murderer. However, the text quickly removes that possibility. Dumaine makes clear he is aware of the plot involving the governor of Orleans "that I with speed should have been put to death" (XXIII.12), and adds "But that's prevented" (XXIII.13). He might here be indicating that he has already foiled that plot, or is perhaps saying that his own planned revenge to kill Henry will remove that threat.

The friar brings further news that Dumaine's other brother, the Cardinal, "by the King's consent is lately / strangled unto death" (XXIII.17-18). Unaware of this,2 Dumaine is plunged deeper into despair and wants to raise an army immediately to wage war and "assuage the tyrant's pride" (XXIII.22). But the Jacobin friar3 comes with another proposal and offers instead to murder the king himself "for my conscience' sake" (XXIII.24). He has "been a great sinner in my days, and / The deed is meritorious" (XXIII.27-28).4 The friar will not reveal how he will get the opportunity to assassinate the king, but Dumaine is very interested and leads him off stage to discuss the plot in more detail.

  • Note 1: As noted in Scene XXI, the Duke of Mayenne was probably in Lyons at this time according to Marlowe's sources. Back to Text
  • Note 2: The Cardinal was killed a day after Guise in real life, which might explain the later arrival of this news. Back to Text
  • Note 3: The friar's name was Jacques Clément. In France the Dominican Order were known as Jacobins because their first convent in Paris was built near the church of Saint Jacques. The Dominicans were a Catholic religious order specifically founded to combat heresy. Back to Text
  • Note 4: [Oliver] notes that "Protestant propaganda, such as was found in Marlowe's probable sources, constantly alleged that this was the approved Catholic attitude to the murder of opponents" - p.157. Back to Text
 
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