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Book Title: Massacre at Paris|
The author of the book: Christopher Marlowe
Edition: Kessinger Publishing
Date of issue: June 1st 2004
ISBN 13: 9781419133114
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 848 KB
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Reader ratings: 5.6
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This play is the redheaded stepchild of the Marlowe canon, and with good reason. For one thing, it is the runt of the litter, only half as long as its big brothers Tamburlaine I and II, The Jew of Malta, and Edward II. It is not nearly as eloquent as its siblings either, for it only sports one bang-up villainous speech (by the Duke de Guise), and even this speech lacks the rhetorical finish of the grand speeches of the other plays.
All this leads the critics to suspect, in addition to being abridged, that Massacre is a “reported text” or “memorial reconstruction,” that is, a copy generated by an opportunistic publisher who, lacking an official text, hires a number of actors who have performed in the play to recall its words from memory. Since the star actors rarely participated in such a venture, the principal speeches were more likely than others to be mangled and truncated. (This is the process by which the beginning of Hamlet's soliloquy “Oh what a rogue and peasant slave am I!” was transformed, in the “bad quarto” of 1603, into “Oh what a dunghill idiot slave am I!” I could give you the complete text of “To be or not to be” too, but I don't want to make you sad.)
So if the only text we have is half its original length, deprived of almost all of its best lines, why read it? Because, in its cynical, amoral, Machiavellian attitude, it is distinctively Marlowe, and it is based on a characteristically Marlovian event: the self-righteously motivated slaughter of the French Huguenots by the French Catholics during “The Massacre of St. Bartholomew.” The prospect of all these hypocritical Christians espousing their sincere belief in Jesus Christ and the saints and then hacking and shooting and poisoning their fellow Christians to death obviously fills the free-thinker Marlowe with wicked delight, giving him many opportunities, great and small, for death's head humor.
In addition, I believe that the lack of big showy speeches in Massacre may be intentional, that Marlowe may have restrained his great gift for rhetorical effect in a calculated search for a spare, realistic style, suitable to historical subjects. Massacre is a small station along the road to the spacious, densely populated but sparsely furnished inn that is Marlowe's Edward II.
(Also, consider this tantalizing possibility. The play deals with nearly contemporary events, concluding with the murder of Henry III in 1589. At the very end of the play, the new French monarch summons an "English Agent" and gives him a message to deliver to the English King. Marlowe is rumored to have been a member of Francis Walsingham's secret service, and is known to have traveled the continent during this period. Could it be that sly Kit Marlowe included himself as a character in his own play?)
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