The Assassin and his Employer

Martin Wiggins

in Journeymen in Murder

Published in print November 1991 | ISBN: 9780198112280
Published online October 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191670749 | DOI:
The Assassin and his Employer

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  • Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights)


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It follows from the circumstances of the assassin's birth into English drama, delivered out of the indirect language of prose sources, that, early on, his role was a secondary one. He has the function of an instrument in the schemes of a more important figure, who is usually either protagonist or antagonist in the play; his appearances tend to be confined to one or more episodes, and he does not initiate action himself, The role is, in short, a bit-part. One way of demonstrating this is to consider the typical length of an assassin's role. During the period 1587–1592, a leading male part could run to anything between 550 and 800 lines; a leading female role, between 200 and 350 lines. In contrast, most assassins' parts are tiny: Tremelio in Mucedorus speaks eleven lines, the two murderers in Henry VI, Part 2 have seven between them, and Abraham in Selimus has twenty-two. There are in fact three plays of this period which give assassins moderately large parts: King Leir, Arden of Faversham, and King John.

Keywords: Mucedorus; King Leir; drama; assassins; role; plays; Selimus; Arden of Faversham; King John; murderers

Chapter.  9475 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights)

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