Chapter

The Assassin in Decline

Martin Wiggins

in Journeymen in Murder

Published in print November 1991 | ISBN: 9780198112280
Published online October 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191670749 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198112280.003.0011
The Assassin in Decline

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In the period of nearly three decades between The Duchess of Malfi and the closure of the theatres in 1642, only one play made important and original use of the assassin: Thomas Middleton and William Rowley's The Changeling. It is a treatment very different from John Webster's. Beatrice and De Flores who are, if anything, even more central than Flamineo and Bosola: the murder of Beatrice's fiancé Piracquo is the subject of the play. But whereas Webster was interested in the human experience of being a hired murderer, this play deals with the situation of using one. There are only a few other substantial treatments of the assassin from the late Jacobean and Caroline period: Philip Massinger's The Duke of Milan and John Ford's 'Tis Pity She's a Whore. A number of plays recycled aspects of the characters of Webster's assassins. The gradual exclusion of hired murderers from these plays offers a context with which to best understand the decline of the stage assassin in the 1620s and 1630s.

Keywords: John Webster; Thomas Middleton; William Rowley; The Changeling; assassins; murder; plays; The Duke of Milan; 'Tis Pity She's a Whore; hired murderers

Chapter.  12668 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights)

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