The massacre of St Bartholomew on the English stage: Chapman, Marlowe, and the Duke of Guise

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Abstract

This article considers a passage in George Chapman's The Revenge of Bussy D'Ambois in which the hero of the play defends his patron, the Duke of Guise, for his participation in the St Bartholomew's Day Massacre. Investigating why Chapman would have his protagonist make such a controversial utterance, it argues that he was responding to earlier reports of the same period in news-books, pamphlets, Marlowe's Massacre at Paris and his own earlier tragedy Bussy D'Ambois. It is suggested that the faction of Clermont and the Guise consistently voices opinions that might be understood in light of Andrew Hadfield's description of literary republicanism. Therefore, Chapman's reminder to the audience is part of an ongoing attempt to construct a double vision of the Guise: from one perspective he is an admirable character who virtuously resists a tyrannical monarch, but on the other hand echoes of his villainous reputation remain, as a defensive strategy on Chapman's part, to prevent him clashing with censors over the political opinions expressed by this character. Finally, the article suggests that this play constitutes a cautionary warning to Prince Henry not to heed the pro-war voices urging him to attack Catholic Europe.

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