Home / Events / Marlowe’s ‘THE MASSACRE AT PARIS’ performed in London for first time in 400 years

Marlowe’s ‘THE MASSACRE AT PARIS’ performed in London for first time in 400 years

THE MASSACRE AT PARIS  by Christopher Marlowe

For the first time in 400 years, Christopher Marlowe’s last play will be performed in London at The Rose Playhouse.

The Rose Playhouse
The Rose Playhouse

Marlowe’s extraordinary, brutal, and incendiary last play will return to the exact location it was first performed in January 1593, (just four months before the playwright’s untimely death).

The precursor to the more famous Globe, The Rose Playhouse was the first bankside theatre but it had a short life. Built in 1587 by businessman and property developer Philip Henslowe, it fell out of use by 1603 and much of the structure was torn down and reused. Overtime the land was built upon and the area urbanized. It was only when an office block was demolished in 1989 that the Museum of London rediscovered the remains of the Theatre building below. Since then the site has been subject to huge preservation program, supported by English Heritage and Lottery Funding.

Today, The Rose Playhouse is an indoor archaeological site, close to Shakespeare’s Globe. Red rope lights around the site indicate the size of the original theatre, its courtyard or pit and the position of its two stages.

Christopher Marlowe was an English dramatist, poet and translator of the Elizabethan era. He and one-time room-mate Thomas Kyd were the leading writers of tragedies at the Rose and of their time, and a huge influence on the young Shakespeare. He is known for his magnificent blank verse, his overreaching protagonists, and his own mysterious and untimely death.

The Massacre at Paris

Marlowe's writing of The Massacre at Paris (1593). Reproduced from Folger Shakespeare Library Ms.J.b. 8
Marlowe’s writing of The Massacre at Paris (1593). Reproduced from Folger Shakespeare Library Ms.J.b. 8

The play premiered at the Rose Playhouse in January of 1593 and is described as a retelling of the French Wars of Religion, beginning with the marriage of the catholic sister of Charles IX of France to the protestant Henry, King of Navarre, a marriage promising religious peace – a peace that is destroyed by the scheming Queen Mother, Catherine de Medici, in league with the villainous Duke of Guise, the ultimate Marlovian over-reacher.

At breakneck speed, we are shown the cold, careful planning of mass-murder, the shocking events of the notorious St Bartholomew’s Day Massacre in Paris, where thousands of protestants were butchered in the streets on 23 Aug 1572, then Navarre’s flight, Charles’ death, and the accession to the French throne of his flamboyant, homosexual brother, Henry III, up to his murder in 1589, which left protestant Henry of Navarre as the new King of France. The play itself has a murky history. The one surviving but undated edition was once dismissed as a corrupt ‘memorial’ version, although modern scholarship argues that its speed and unusually full stage directions suggest that this is in reality a record of the script as it was actually performed.

Produced by Gene David Kirk for The Dolphin’s Back and directed by The Globe’s James Wallace, Massacre at Paris runs from 11th to the 29th March 2014. You can purchase tickets from the box office 020 7621 9565 or online through The Rose Playhouse website

Full £12 / Cons £10 (Friends of The Rose, OAP, Student or Equity. £9 Southwark Residence)

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