December 12, 2003

Four Hundred Year Old Propaganda

Tudor dynasty threatrical propaganda. King Henri III Valois of France inspects the dead body of Henri of Guise. From Christopher Marlowe's second-rate Massacre at Paris:

KING. Oh this sweet sight is phisick to my soule,
Goe fetch his sonne for to beholde his death:
Surchargde with guilt of thousand massacres,
Mouns[t]er of Loraine sinke away to hell,
In just remembrance of those bloudy broyles,
To which thou didst alure me being alive:
And heere in presence of you all I sweare,
I nere was King of France untill this houre:
This is the traitor that hath spent my golde,
In making forraine warres and cruel broiles.
Did he not draw a sorte of English priestes
From Doway to the Seminary at Remes,
To hatch forth treason gainst their naturall Queene?
Did he not cause the King of Spaines huge fleete,
To threaten England and to menace me?
Did he not injure Mounser thats deceast?
Hath he not made me in the Popes defence,
To spend the treasure that should strength my land,
In civill broiles between Navarre and me?
Tush, to be short, he meant to make me Munke,
Or else to murder me, and so be King.
Let Christian princes that shall heare of this,
(As all the world shall know our Guise is dead)
Rest satisfed with this that heer I sweare,
Nere was there King of France so yoakt as I.

Needless to say, the Spanish Armada never menaced France. It is true that some of King Philip II Habsburg of Spain's servants were puzzled by Henri of Guise's failure to kill Henry III when he had the chance. As Philip II's general Alexander Farnese, Prince of Parma, is supposed to have said: "The Duke has forgotten the proverb, 'He who draws his sword against his Prince needs to throw away his scabbard.'"

Posted by DeLong at December 12, 2003 08:57 PM | TrackBack


You're right: how flat this is beside even the earliest Shakespeare. The repetition of the word "broils" is especially disappointing.

Posted by: Frank Wilhoit on December 13, 2003 07:00 AM


These old names tend to stick around. When the Gdansk shipyard was putting the boots to the Soviet system it was largely being kept in business by Ted Takeda (i.e. Prince Takeda-no-miya, son of the conqueror of Malaya and Singapore) supplying Mitsubishi ship parts on concessionary terms.

Oddly it was possible to have a beer with Ted and with Marie Hapsburg, the current Empress of Austria-Hungary, in the same room on the same day -- at the Tokyo Press Club.

Naturally I did. :-)

Posted by: David Lloyd-Jones on December 13, 2003 07:59 AM


Shakespeare hell Karl Rove does better than that. Unless my eyes deceive me Marlowe put the words in the mouth of Henri III Valois not Henri IV Bourbon. I think that (plausible deniability and protect the executive aside) there is little doubt of Heri III's complicity in the st Bartholemew's day massacre. It appears that Marlowe dared not accuse a king, even a French king, of sectarian mass murder. The spin is passing strange. My personal view is tha Henri duke of guises was Henri III's hatchet man and that Henri III never felt less a king than when he realised he would have to do his own dirty work.

Now what the Bush administration clearly needs is some hack poet. Hard to find these days (hard to find poets at all). William Cohen is a poet, but, alas, a bipartisan poet.

Posted by: Robert on December 13, 2003 09:44 AM


I disagree about Marlowe. Most of his things are defective as wholes, but he writes lots of great lines. Camparing anyone directly to Shakespeare is unfair.

Posted by: Zizka on December 13, 2003 11:09 AM


"Comparing anyone directly to Shakespeare is unfair."

Fairness, by all means. Let us have oceans of fairness.

Now: *precisely* how far down the scale must we go before fairness is acheived? Is there a maximum on the curve of fairness, or multiple maxima? Or is fairness a two-dimensional space, in merit and time? Would it be unfair to compare a modern writer in English directly to E. B. White?

Posted by: Frank Wilhoit on December 13, 2003 03:06 PM


You all know that Marlowe was, in fact, an agent of the Tudor intelligence service? The fullest treatment I know of is "The Reckoning" by Charles Nicoll, which tries to account for Marlowe's stabbing death in light of the ties he and his drinking companions had with the spy business.

Posted by: Jeffrey Kramer on December 13, 2003 10:01 PM


It's also unsafe to assume that the lines we have are really the lines Marlowe wrote. (He certainly could write better than that!) Publishers of the time often printed up garbled rip-offs based on the memories of actors who had walk-on parts in the plays. The most famous case is the First Quarto of Hamlet, where for example the 'To be or not to be' soliloquy begins:

To be or not to be, ay there's the point,
To die, to sleep, is that all? Ay all:
No, to sleep, to dream, ay marry there it goes.

Posted by: Jeffrey Kramer on December 13, 2003 10:15 PM


Yeah, Massacre at Paris is excerable, and is pro-Tudor hackwork masquerading as a play.

I suspect it's a combination of mis-remembered lines (look at Tamburlane for better examples that Marlowe could in fact write), and the fact it was being written to order.

I'm sold on the link between Kit Marlowe and Secretary Walshingham ... the speed of the inquest and the fact that arrest warrants for Marlowe were sent c/- Head of Counter-intelligence ...

Ian Whitchurch

Posted by: Ian WHitchurch on December 14, 2003 04:23 PM


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