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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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Assassins Outside Drama

Assassins Outside Drama

(p.9) 1 Assassins Outside Drama
Journeymen in Murder

Martin Wiggins

Oxford University Press

Since time immemorial, the rich and powerful have used others to do their killing. Sixteenth-century Europe was no exception. It was in Spain and Italy that the hiring of assassins was most established, and where such men were able to escape justice because even without the sanction of law there was still the sanction of tradition, evident in the almost blasé tones in which the hiring of murderers was sometimes discussed. Assassins were not regarded as a peculiarly un-English type of criminal; England was a violent society, and there was no need to invoke foreign influence to account for paid assassinations. It was not only the upper classes who employed other men to kill for them; a number of middle-class property disputes and sexual disagreements escalated to murder by a hired third party. Rightly or wrongly, the hired assassin had a high public profile in the later sixteenth century. In the prose fiction of the time, however, such characters, when they appear, receive somewhat exiguous treatment.

Keywords:   Europe, assassins, murder, England, fiction, justice, murderers, property disputes, sexual disagreements, Italy

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