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Marlowe's Works

Marlowe's Works
Massacre Woodcut

The Massacre at Paris

The Massacre at Paris

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History:

Interpretation:

Interpretation:

Plot:

Plot:

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References:

The Massacre at Paris

The Massacre at Paris

Plot Summary

Click on the scene number to read a more detailed overview of that scene.

Sc.I: The play opens with the pivotal wedding of the Huguenot Henry of Navarre to the French king's sister, Margaret of Valois, at Notre Dame. Originally arranged to try and heal the religious divisions, we instead see the distrust and malice between the three factions: the Queen Mother Catherine de Medici's malicious intent towards Navarre, and the Huguenots' severe distrust of the Catholic Guise faction.
Sc.II: The Duke of Guise confirms that Huguenot distrust as he sets in motion plots to murder both the old Queen of Navarre and Admiral Coligny, before launching into a soliloquy that outlines his Machiavellian aim to win the French crown for himself.
Sc.III: The plots quickly come to fruition as first the Queen of Navarre dies after the Apothecary presents her with poisoned gloves, and then Admiral Coligny is shot from a nearby window as he and others bear the Queen's body away.
Sc.IV: The royal family and Guise leaders plan the forthcoming massacre, after which Charles, King of France, goes to see the injured Admiral and offer his sympathies.
Sc.V: The Guisian nobles set the Massacre in progress with the murder of Admiral Coligny in his bed.
Sc.VI: The Massacre spreads through the city, as signified by this briefest of scenes in which Guise, Anjou and the rest charge across the stage crying for Huguenot blood.
Sc.VII: Guise murders a Huguenot preacher called Loreine.
Sc.VIII: Mountsorrell murders a Huguenot (another preacher?) called Seroune in his house.
Sc.IX: The Guisian nobles continue the massacre in Paris with the murder of three Huguenot scholars. Guise engages in some intellectual debate with the eminent French humanist, logician and mathematician, Petrus Ramus, before Anjou kills him in cold blood. The Catholic mob then search out the two tutors to Navarre and Condé. The Huguenot leaders run off to tell the king, leaving the scholars at the mercy of Guise, who kills them both.
Sc.X: Anjou, the King's younger brother and heir to the French throne who we have just seen murder Petrus Ramus in the previous scene, now accepts an offer of the crown of Poland.
Sc.XI: The action returns to the aftermath of the Massacre, with the body of Admiral Coligny being disposed of, and Guise worried about pockets of Huguenots who are apparently hiding in the woods. Catherine de Medici expresses concern that her son, King Charles IX, may be feeling guilty about the Massacre, and states her intention to deal with him.
Sc.XII: This brief scene shows Guise carrying out his threat to murder the Huguenots hiding in the woods.
Sc.XIII: With the Massacre finished, events take a further turn in favour of the Catholics as the guilt-racked King Charles IX dies. His mother can hardly wait to call his younger brother Anjou back from Poland to be crowned as King Henry III of France. Navarre meanwhile immediately recognises the danger this represents for him, and makes plans to escape the French court where he has been held since the Massacre.
Sc.XIV: Anjou is crowned as King Henry III of France, and his mother Catherine makes a great show of welcoming him, whilst behind his back making clear that she will continue to be the real power behind the throne. Guise is secretly raising an army with which to attack Navarre, and Catherine will use her sway to have Henry support this act of war.
Sc.XV: The Duchess of Guise is writing to her lover, Mugeroun, when her husband bursts in and discovers her infidelity, vowing revenge against him.
Sc.XVI: Navarre, escaped from the French court and back in his homeland, hears news that the French army organised by Guise, but led by Joyeux, has come to attack him.
Sc.XVII: A small step back in time finds King Henry III appointing his mignon Joyeux to lead the army that will march against Navarre, and then baiting the Duke of Guise about being cuckolded by another of his mignons, Mugeroun.
Sc.XVIII: News reaches Navarre on the battlefield that Joyeux is slain, signalling a Huguenot victory.
Sc.XIX: Mugeroun is murdered by a soldier hired by the Duke of Guise to revenge the mignon's affair with his wife. Subsequently, the King and Duke engage in a lengthy political negotiation in which Henry III tries to assert his authority and force Guise to disband his personal armies. The King distrusts the Duke's acquiescence, and he and Epernoun plot to escape Paris but murder Guise.
Sc.XX: Navarre hears news that Guise is taking arms against Henry III, and quickly resolves to offer a pact with the French King to use a joint military force to defeat Guise.
Sc.XXI: The Duke of Guise has been persuaded to attend the royal court at Blois, but three assassins hired by the King murder him. Henry shows the body to the Duke's son who is then imprisoned, and also instigates the murder of the Duke's brothers to minimise the risk of revenge. Henry informs his mother of the murder only after the act, and she is devastated at her son's actions.
Sc.XXII: Guise's brother, the Cardinal of Guise, is strangled to death by two of the murderers who killed the Duke.
Sc.XXIII: Dumaine has received news of his elder brother Guise's murder at the hands of the King. A Jacobin friar offers to kill Henry and provide the revenge he seeks.
Sc.XXIV: The two Kings of France and Navarre join forces to take on the Catholic League in Paris. Under the pretence of delivering a letter, the Jacobin friar gains access and stabs Henry III. Henry kills the friar in the struggle, but when it becomes clear that the King will not survive, he declares Navarre as heir to the French throne. The play ends with Navarre, now King Henry IV, vowing yet more revenge on the Catholic League.
 
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