Christopher Marlowe (before 1564-1593) was an Elizabethan poet and playwright, historically connected with Shakespeare's work--until his mysterious assassination, Marlowe was England's most celebrated dramatist, a title Shakespeare then inherited. His play Massacre at Paris describes the horrific event known as the Saint Bartholomew's Day massacre (beginning on 23 August 1572), in which the ruling Catholic majority arranged the simultaneous assassination of the leaders of the dissenting Protestant (Huguenot) party. The surviving manuscript is most likely reconstructed from the memory of the play's actors, but nonetheless gives a glimpse into how deadly religious disagreement could become in early modern France. These scenes show the Catholic Duke of Guise's attempts to limit Huguenot survivors; attitudes toward "heretical" corpses; and concerns about inheritance of the French throne in this era of dramatic turmoil.
GUISE: My Lord of Anjoy, there are a hundred Protestants.
Which we have chased into the river rene,
That swim about and so preserve their lives:
How may we do? i fear me they will live.
DUMAINE: go place some men upon the bridge,
With bows and darts to shoot at them as they flee, 510
And sink them in the river as they swim.
GUISE: Tis well advice Dumaine, go see that it be done.
And in the meantime my Lord, could we devise
To get those pedants from the King Navarre,
that are tutors to him and the prince of Condy.
ANJOY. For that let me alone, Cousin stay you here,
And when you see me in, then follow hard.
He knocks, and enter the King of Navarre and Prince
of Condy, with their schoolmasters.
How now my Lords, how fare you? 521
NAVARRE: My Lord, they say that all the
Protestants are massacred.
ANJOY: I, so they are, but yet what remedy:
I have done what I could to stay this broil.
NAVARRE. But yet my Lord the report does run,
That you were one that made this Massacre.
AN: Who I, you are deceived, I rose but now.
ENTER GUISE. HENCE.
GUISE: Murder the Hugonets, take those pedants 530
NA: Thou traitor Guise, lay off thy bloody hands.
CONDY: Come let us go tell the King. Exeunt.
GUISE: Come sirs, I’ll whip you to death with my
Dagger’s point. He kills them.
AN: Away with them both. Exit Anjoy.
GUISE. And now sirs for this night let our fury stay.
Yet will we not that the Massacre shall end,
Gonzago posse you to Orleance,
Retes to Deep, Mountsorrell unto Roan,
and spare not one that you suspect of heresy. 540
And now stay that bell that to the devils Mattins rings.
. . .
Enter two with the Admirals body. sc. vii
1. Now sirra, what shall we do with the Admiral? 580
2. Why let us burn him for a heretic.
1. O no, his body will infect the fire, and the fire the
air, and so we shall be poisoned with him.
2. What shall we do then?
1. Let’s throw him into the river.
2. Oh it will corrupt the water, and the water the fish,
and by the fish ourselves when we eat them.
1. Then throw him into the ditch. 590
2. No, no, to decide all doubts, be ruled by me, let’s hang him here
upon this tree.
1. Agreed. They hang him.
Enter the Duke of Guise, and Queen Mother, and
GUISE: Now Madame, how like you our lusty
[B 5] Queen.
QUEEN: Believe me Guise he becomes the place so well,
As I could long before this have wished him there. 600
But come let’s walk aside, the air is not very sweet.
GUISE: No by my faith Madam.
Sire, take him away and throw him in some ditch.
carry away the dead body.
And now Madam as I understand,
There are a hundred Hugonets and more,
Which in the woods do horde their synagogue:
And daily meet about this time of day,
And thither will I to put them to the sword.
QU: Do so sweet Guise, let us delay no time, 610
For if these stragglers gather head again,
And disperse themselves throughout the Realm
It will be hard for us to work their deaths.
Be gone, delay no time sweet Guise.
GUISE: Madam I go as whirl-winds rage
before a storm. Exit Guise.
QU: My Lord of Loraine have you marked of late,
How Charles our son begins for to lament:
For the late nights work which my Lord of Guise 620
Did make in Paris amongst the Hugonites?
CARD: Madam, I have heard him solemnly vow,
With the rebellious King of Navarre,
For to revenge their deaths upon us all.
QU: I, but my Lord let me alone for that,
For Katherine must have her will in France:
As I do live, for surely he die.
And Henry then shall wear the diadem.
And if he grudge or cross his Mothers will,
I’ll disinherit him and all the rest: 630
For I’ll rule France, but they shall wear the crown:
And if they storm, I then may pull them down.
Come my Lord lets us go. Exeunt.