"Performing Massacre"


Mitsi E. "Performing Massacre". Gramma: Journal of Theory and Criticism [Internet]. 2018;24 (2017).


Christopher Marlowe's The Massacre at Paris, a play which probably dates from 1592 but has reached posterity in a mangled form, enacts the incorporation of religious and state politics in the theatre. Through a sequence of short scenes characterized by senseless brutality and black humor, Marlowe revisits one of the darkest episodes of French history, the Saint Bartholomew‘s Day Massacre, which took place on the 24th and 25thAugust 1572. Dramatizing the slaughter of thousands of Protestants by Catholics, the play not only reflects on the significance of massacre as a political term for an increasingly absolutist Renaissance Europe but also translates the violence of massacre into aesthetic form. Itself alien within the body of Marlowe’s dramatic works, The Massacre at Paris has rarely been performed after its Elizabethan successful performances at the Rose; this is not surprising given the state of the extant text and its dismissal by many critics as crude anti-Catholic propaganda. Yet, the Massacre's corrupt and incomplete form, political ambiguities and emphasis on theatrical violence have inspired two contemporary artists, the French director Guillaume Delaveau and the Austrian composer Wolfgang Mitterer, to rethink and revive it. Both Delaveau's Massacre à Paris, first performed at Toulouse in 2007 and Mitterer's experimental opera Massacre, composed in 2003 and performed in 2008 and 2010 in France, refer to recent wars and atrocities and rejoice in the irony of the play. This paper seeks to investigate the play's ability to convey political thought and provoke contemporary audiences by reading it together with Delaveau and Mitterer's adaptations. The challenge of reworking the Massacre for our age involves the question of the theatre's potential to expose the audience to the horror of history.

Publisher's Version