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Journeymen in MurderThe Assassin in English Renaissance Drama$
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Martin Wiggins

Print publication date: 1991

Print ISBN-13: 9780198112280

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198112280.001.0001

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The Assassin in Decline

The Assassin in Decline

(p.183) 10 The Assassin in Decline
Journeymen in Murder

Martin Wiggins

Oxford University Press

In the period of nearly three decades between The Duchess of Malfi and the closure of the theatres in 1642, only one play made important and original use of the assassin: Thomas Middleton and William Rowley's The Changeling. It is a treatment very different from John Webster's. Beatrice and De Flores who are, if anything, even more central than Flamineo and Bosola: the murder of Beatrice's fiancé Piracquo is the subject of the play. But whereas Webster was interested in the human experience of being a hired murderer, this play deals with the situation of using one. There are only a few other substantial treatments of the assassin from the late Jacobean and Caroline period: Philip Massinger's The Duke of Milan and John Ford's 'Tis Pity She's a Whore. A number of plays recycled aspects of the characters of Webster's assassins. The gradual exclusion of hired murderers from these plays offers a context with which to best understand the decline of the stage assassin in the 1620s and 1630s.

Keywords:   John Webster, Thomas Middleton, William Rowley, The Changeling, assassins, murder, plays, The Duke of Milan, 'Tis Pity She's a Whore, hired murderers

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