By 1600, the assassin needed no introduction to playgoers: allusions in early seventeenth-century plays tell us that he was a stock character, whose participation in murder plots could be taken for granted, and whose behaviour followed familiar patterns. That the assassin became an unfashionable character type in the later 1590s is a hypothesis; but it is a fact that he was used more sparingly and more sparely in new plays written in those years. However, the character did not simply dwindle out of existence in the early Jacobean period: instead, we see a remarkable revival of interest from about 1600. An unlikely driving force behind this recrudescence was the development of a taste for the new genre of tragicomedy. In the early seventeenth century, there emerged an interest (not confined to formal tragicomedies) in assassins who do not complete their mission. The individual form of murder which gave most scope for adaptation to tragicomedy was poisoning.
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