Season 1 – Episode 5

Christopher Marlowe and the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre: Protestantism and the theatre of Catholic Violence

Ep. 5 The massacre at Paris with Amber Williamson

In 1593, Christopher Marlowe’s play The Massacre at Paris debuted on the London stage. Marlowe’s play is a fictionalized portrayal of the famous St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre of August 24, 1572.

The Massacre  saw the violent targeting of Protestants by the powerful Catholic interests of the Queen Mother, Catherine de Medici, the de Guise family, and even King Charles IX himself. All told, the massacre left 3,000 Protestants dead in the city of Paris and another 70,000 throughout France. As news of this violence spread, for Protestants,  it became a symbol for the inherent violence of their Catholic opponents and a reminder of the constant threat to their new religion from the old.

In this episode, Amber Williamson joins Hear the Voice and Prayer to discuss how Marlowe’s fiction helped to dramatize the dangers Protestants saw in the Catholic faith. The conversation reveals the significance of religious violence not only to the history of the Reformation, but also to the history of  imagination. 

Cover Page
Written or Published Around February 19, 2017
François Dubois, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons


Primary Sources

Christopher Marlowe. The Jew of Malta and The Massacre at Paris. ed.  H.S. Bennett. New York: Gordian Press, Inc,1931.

Secondary Sources

Carlos M. Eire. Reformations: The Early Modern World, 1450-1660. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2016.

N.M. Sutherland. The Massacre of St. Bartholomew and the European Conflict, 1559-1572

New York: Harper and Row Publishers, Inc, 1973.

Published by Hear the Voice and Prayer

How can we study belief? What are the longer term implications of religious change in society? These connected questions form the core of our course and our investigation of Early Modern Europe (c. 1450-1789). Indeed, the meaning of belief was the central issue of contention in Europe from the dawn of the Renaissance until the twilight of the eighteenth century and its Revolutions. The shattering of the Christian consensus and the rise of the empirical frame was a pathway cleared with the twin swords of Humanism’s cry of ad fontes and Luther’s injunction of sola fide. The route uncovered was a journey to the “Modern” in all its beauty and ugliness. Yet, stones lay upon this trail, rocky reminders whose pain and obstacle convey the irony that Europe’s greatest religious revolution resulted in the ultimate secularization of the continent and of the West in general. Still, secularization, caught as it is in a dialectic with Christianity, is a form of belief, and belief remains central. The effort to experience, define, and understand both acceptable and unacceptable beliefs will be our compass to map Europe’s Early Modern world, the world of unfolding Reformations. This course will consist of primary and secondary readings, lecture, classroom discussion, as well as multiple student writing assignments culminating in a final research based student podcast.

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