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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 Origins of the Stage Assassin II: 1587–1592

The Origins of the Stage Assassin II: 1587–1592

(p.44) 3 The Origins of the Stage Assassin II: 1587–1592
Journeymen in Murder

Martin Wiggins

Oxford University Press

From the first two-thirds of Elizabeth's reign, Cambises and Fedele and Fortunio are the only surviving plays for the popular stage that include assassins. In the years after The Spanish Tragedy, however, the type mushroomed: we have no fewer than seventeen plays with assassins from the period 1587–1592. No narrative source is known for The Spanish Tragedy, and the same is true of Mucedorus. For a third play, The Massacre at Paris, the source material we have is probably incomplete. Christopher Marlowe drew the events from recent French history. A play requires more detail from moment to moment than the sources were able to supply. Both the account of the murder of Thomas Ardern in Holinshed's Chronicles and Cinthio's novella about King Astatio, staged as Arden of Faversham and James IV respectively, include series of failed murder attempts, and assassins who doggedly persist until they fulfil their contracts.

Keywords:   Cambises, plays, The Spanish Tragedy, The Massacre of Paris, Christopher Marlowe, James IV, murder, Mucedorus, Fedele and Fortunio, Thomas Ardern

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