The Assassin and his Employer
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.
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