Garbled Martyrdom in Christopher Marlowe's The Massacre at Paris


In lieu of an abstract, the first paragraph of the essay follows:

The images of the St. Bartholomew's day massacres of 1572 continue to shock, even in a twentieth century familiar with the atrocities of Nazi Germany, the Khmer Rouge, and the Bosnian Serbs, and even in a Foucauldian academic discussion concerned with the politics of torture and physical trauma. In contemporary reports of the massacre, Catholics gather Protestant infants in a large basket and throw them into a Seine overflowing with corpses.1 A reowned Protestant beauty, already wounded and struggling amidst the same bodies, desperately clings for safety to the pillars of a bridge, only to be stoned to death by the mob overhead; her hair becomes entangled in the bridge's foundations and her body floats there, rotting, for days.2 The killing spree which began in the sultry August streets of Paris and radiated throughout the urban centers of France horrified even those accustomed to fierce religious conflict. This slaughter differed significantly from the spectacle of burning heretics, the bone-crushing terrors of the Inquisition, and even the illegal execution of prisoners of war. Here, a king sanctioned the mass execution of the nobles who, weeks and even days before, had been his boon companions and confidants; here, individuals took up instruments of everyday domestic life to bludgeon, stab, and drown their neighbors;3 here, Protestant lawyers, doctors, merchants, city officials-men of wealth and power-were herded by the hundreds into halls where they watched bands of local butchers kill their friends and families with the same axes that had long prepared their daily meat.4 Here, so it was reported, Catholic children gleefully slaughtered Protestant babies.5

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