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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 and his Employer

The Assassin and his Employer

Chapter:
(p.62) 4 The Assassin and his Employer
Source:
Journeymen in Murder
Author(s):

Martin Wiggins

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198112280.003.0005

It follows from the circumstances of the assassin's birth into English drama, delivered out of the indirect language of prose sources, that, early on, his role was a secondary one. He has the function of an instrument in the schemes of a more important figure, who is usually either protagonist or antagonist in the play; his appearances tend to be confined to one or more episodes, and he does not initiate action himself, The role is, in short, a bit-part. One way of demonstrating this is to consider the typical length of an assassin's role. During the period 1587–1592, a leading male part could run to anything between 550 and 800 lines; a leading female role, between 200 and 350 lines. In contrast, most assassins' parts are tiny: Tremelio in Mucedorus speaks eleven lines, the two murderers in Henry VI, Part 2 have seven between them, and Abraham in Selimus has twenty-two. There are in fact three plays of this period which give assassins moderately large parts: King Leir, Arden of Faversham, and King John.

Keywords:   Mucedorus, King Leir, drama, assassins, role, plays, Selimus, Arden of Faversham, King John, murderers

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