Sunday, December 28, 2008

On de Vere: a question for Daryl Pinksen, author of Marlowe's Ghost

Q: Daryl, in your extensive research that went into writing Marlowe's Ghost, certainly you formulated some opinions regarding Edward de Vere, 17th earl of Oxford. What do you make of the theory that de Vere authored the works we attribute to Shakespeare, clearly the most popular of the alternate authorship theories?

Daryl: You're right, Carlo, Edward de Vere is by far the most popular of the alternative Shakespeare candidates, but he wasn't the first. In the 19th century Francis Bacon was the go-to-guy, but that movement seems to have exhausted itself due to its heavy reliance on cryptography, an approach that's been largely discredited. The mantle then settled on the Oxford movement, which gained prominence in the first half of the 20th century and still holds sway. The Marlowe movement, latecomers to the party, didn't get off the ground until Calvin Hoffman's 1955 The Murder of the Man Who was "Shakespeare", so we had some catching up to do. As you would expect, I believe that Marlowe will eventually replace Oxford as the focal point of Shakespeare skepticism. Here's why.

The Oxford claim is based on his education, extensive travel, access to (and participation in) court intrigue - all weaknesses in the Stratford case. Add to this the fact that he was spoken of as a poet and playwright in contemporary documents, who, like many other aristocrats, kept some of his work hidden from the braying masses. He was also credited with having a countenance that "shakes speares," a military metaphor stretching back to Greek hoplite warfare. To their credit, the Oxford case relies much less on cryptography than the Bacon claim. Instead, books about Oxford's claim to Shakespeare's works point to a vast number of similarities between Oxford's biography and events in the Shakespeare plays and sonnets.

But the problem with mining the Shakespeare canon for biographical linkages to Oxford, or any other candidate for that matter, is the extraordinary breadth of the author's creation. The complete works of Shakespeare comprise an entire world of experience. Stephen Greenblatt and Michael Wood have written exhaustively about the biographical connections in the works to the Stratford man: the many instances of Warwickshire words, family and place names, the references to gloves, leather goods and epaulettes, references to grain and harvesting, loans and debt, the actor's life, the agony of separation from family, the death of Hamnet, the complex relationship with Anne, etc. It all sounds incontrovertible. But read Brenda James's book on Sir Henry Neville, or any of the various books promoting de Vere, and you are presented with equally compelling cases employing the same general argument.

Rodney Bolt's tongue-in-cheek biography of Christopher Marlowe, History Play, brilliantly illustrated the folly of relying solely on this approach. Bolt lists Canterbury references in the Shakespeare canon - names, words, family names, places - as evidence of Marlowe's authorship of the plays. He applies the loose rules of Shakespearean (and Oxfordian) biography instead to Marlowe and constructs an equally convincing case. But Bolt never lets his reader forget where he stands - he's playing with the Shakespeare canon. It's a devastating indictment of New Historicism-based biographical reaching.

The case for Shakespeare is weak, but the case for Oxford is even weaker. Oxford made no attempt to hide the fact that he wrote poetry and plays from his peers. Accounts make him seem quite proud, and yet the writing that has survived in his name (the work of a mature, educated man) is clearly that of an amateur. Yet Oxfordians would have us believe that at the same time he allowed middling poesy to circulate in his name, he deliberately withheld his name from benign works of pure genius. To what end? This is a “dead in its tracks” argument. There is no getting past it.

Marlowe, on the other hand, wrote plays and poetry in the years preceding the 1593 Deptford incident which are indistinguishable from the early Shakespeare works. This is the consensus of more than a century of mainstream scholarship. If William Shakespeare did act as a front for some writer who needed to hide, and this is a big if, there really is only one credible candidate - Christopher Marlowe.

© The Marlowe-Shakespeare Connection, December 2008  Emmerich Shakespeare
Click here to reach Daryl Pinksen's website.

Click here for "The Case Against Oxford as Shakespeare," a compilation of some of this blog's articles on the Oxford theory. Emmerich Anonymous film trailer
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Sunday, December 21, 2008

On de Vere: a question for Samuel Blumenfeld, author of The Marlowe-Shakespeare Connection

Q: Sam, in your extensive research that went into writing The Marlowe-Shakespeare Connection, certainly you formulated some opinions regarding Edward de Vere, 17th earl of Oxford. Oxfordians, those who promote the theory that de Vere authored the works we attribute to Shakespeare, are a rather large bunch. What's your take on all this?

Sam: It does not take much analysis of the historical data to show that the Oxfordian thesis is quite untenable.

First, the dates are against them. De Vere was born in 1550, which means that if he started writing the plays and poems at age 18, he would have produced his first work in 1568. No scholar believes that anything in the First Folio was written that far back.

Both Marlowe and Shakespeare were born in 1564, and we know that Marlowe started writing while at Cambridge University, late 1580 to 1587. He may have even started writing his translations of Ovid and his play, Dido, Queen of Carthage, while still at the King’s School in Canterbury. In addition, de Vere died in 1604 and his last years were lived in illness and seclusion, before many of the great plays are believed to have been written. Shakespeare died in 1616 saying nothing about plays or poems in his will, and we believe that Marlowe died after 1623 when the First Folio was published. There is good reason to believe that Marlowe did some of the editing of the plays chosen to be in the Folio painstakingly gathered by his executor and friend Edward Blount.

Second, there is the problem of de Vere the person. He was not a literary genius by a long shot. Twenty poems that he wrote in his youth are the only examples we have of the man’s literary talent. C. S. Lewis said of Oxford’s poetry: “Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford, shows here and there, a faint talent, but is for the most part undistinguished and verbose.” So there is no evidence that he had that supreme literary genius that we recognize in the works under the name Shakespeare. He left no indication of any kind that he was capable of writing the 36 plays in the First Folio or that he had the time or inclination to do so. He was a dilettante.

I think the lack of genius is the most important critique we can make of the man. Such genius is not common, and when it appears it makes waves. That is why the plays are still produced today and characters like Hamlet, King Lear, Macbeth, etc. seem to have as much reality as living historical figures. The plays are a product of an extraordinary mind, and we know Marlowe was an extraordinary talent. No one can dispute that.

Finally, Oxford had no compelling reason to deny that he wrote the greatest dramas in English literary history. Marlowe, however, had the most compelling reason of all to hide his identity: he was supposed to be dead!

Why are there so many Oxfordians? It has a lot to do with the influence of Looney’s book published in 1920 and subsequent books on Oxford, the latest written as recently as 2005. Also, they all believed that Marlowe had been killed at Deptford in 1593, so that left only Oxford and Bacon in the running. Hoffman’s book, published in 1955, was the first to advance the thesis that Marlowe was not killed at Deptford and was the subject of a faked death. It initiated the development of a Marlovian movement which has grown somewhat slowly since then. Mike Rubbo’s film documented the movement right up to the present.

I’ve spoken to Oxfordians, and there is a cult-like groupthink among them. They have lived so long with Oxford, that to change their minds will require the kind of evidence they can’t deny. But I think it will take time for my book and Pinksen’s book to make their full impact on the authorship field of contention.

But what both Marlovians and Oxfordians have in common is an unshakable belief that the actor-businessman William Shakespeare was not the author of the works attributed to him.

© The Marlowe-Shakespeare Connection, December 2008

Samuel Blumenfeld, a World War II veteran of the Italian campaign, has authored more than ten books. His latest, The Marlowe-Shakespeare Connection: A New Study of the Authorship Question, was published by McFarland. He is a former editor in the New York book publishing industry and has lectured widely. His writings have appeared in such diverse publications as Esquire, Reason, Education Digest, Vital Speeches of the Day, Boston, and many others. He is a regular contributor to MSC.  Emmerich

See Sam on YouTube addressing the authorship controversy.

Click here for Daryl Pinksen's December 28, 2008, posting on de Vere.

Click here for the blog's home page and recent content.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Marlowe in Munich: a question for Bastian Conrad

We caught up with Bastian Conrad,who runs an excellent Marlovian site based in Munich, Germany. He is a retired professor of neurology and former chair of the Clinical Department of Neurology of the Technical University of Munich, Bavaria. Prior to this, he served as head of the Department of Clinical Neurophysiology at the Univesity of Göttingen. Bastian is the author of several books on neurological topics.

Q: Bastian, thanks for joining us. What prompted you to create a Marlovian website?

Bastian: Well, I've been interested in the authorship question since I was fourteen, when my father read out of Calvin Hoffman's book to me and my sisters. During my career, there was not enough time to cultivate this hobby, but now in my retirement I enjoy studying, writing, and reflecting about unsolved questions.

I created the website for many reasons. One, the Marlowe theory is an absolutely exciting and fascinating story. Two, there is almost no knowledge in German-speaking countries about Marlowe, and I estimate one percent has ever heard of his name. Compare this to Shakespeare! Three, the reason why people cannot accept a real conspiracy theory is that they have not the time to deal with so many facts, arguments, and plausibilities; and hopefully I could facilitate the gathering of information for people. Four, today's altered possibilities of getting access to all existing sources via the new media (especially the Internet) will change the attitude and approaches toward the authorship problem in younger generations; they will see the problem with a fresh, unprejudiced eye, and it's thrilling that my website could be a conduit of data for them. And five, I did not want to write more books on brains and brain research, but figured it would be exciting to learn how to handle a website by myself, having some fun with computers, etc.

Q: And so it's been a long time since your father first read to you from Calvin Hoffman's The Murder of the Man Who Was "Shakespeare." Where do you stand on Calvin Hoffman's theory today?

Bastian: As you know, Carlo, Calvin Hoffman wasn't the first to argue for Marlowe. In 1819/20, William Taylor of Norwich (later identified) wrote anonymously in Monthly Review the idea that Shakespeare was a nom de guerre for Marlowe. And there were others before Hoffman, like Ziegler, Watterson, Webster, and Eagle. But Calvin Hoffman provided the first complete monograph which really brought it all to a head. For me, his is by far the most valuable and plausible hypothesis on the authorship issue. It is painful to learn how Calvin Hoffman and his book have been ridiculed by so-called experts.

In science, you regularly have to work with assumptions and hypotheses. To prove the first hypothesis of the anti-Stratfordians is to give arguments that the Stratford man could not have been the poet and playwright. Having studied the poems and plays of Shakespeare and having created a mental profile of its author, for me the written will of the Stratford man alone would be enough to exclude him forever from the authorship debate. But there is today, as you know, an additional wealth of cumulative negative evidence that works against Shakespeare, even much more than Calvin Hoffman knew at his time. Yet, as I tell my friends, if you choose to stay with Shakespeare after having studied this evidence, you have to leave your mind in the cloakroom. Let's face it, what we know of Shakespeare's private life does not fit with this notion of a highly distinguished and intellectual playwright/poet.

And so it was very important that Samuel Blumenfeld and Daryl Pinksen each published excellent books on the Marlowe theory this year, and they make a highly convincing case as to how a faked death could have been pulled off and how Marlowe's footprints are all over the Shakespeare canon.

I am very interested in scientific methods of how to prove or disprove a highly valuable hypothesis that Marlowe's death had to be faked, and how to demonstrate it on an academic level. Even if we were never to discover any new evidence, already today the positive cumulative evidence - the amount of facts and arguments that exist for a contemporary authorship debate - is so overwhelming that we are forced to take the hypothesis of Marlowe's staged death very seriously. Science often has to work with plausibilities.

© The Marlowe-Shakespeare Connection, December 2008

Sunday, December 7, 2008

The Marlowe Papers: a question for British poet Ros Barber

We caught up with British poet Ros Barber, whose latest collection of poems, Material, a Poetry Book Society Recommendation, is available for pre-order on Amazon. Her poetry has been published widely in newspapers and poetry journals, including The Daily Telegraph, The Independent on Sunday, London Magazine, and The Forward Book of Poetry. She is presently working on The Marlowe Papers, a novel which supports the Marlovian theory.

Q: Ros, thanks for joining us. The Marlowe Papers sounds fascinating. When and how did the idea first germinate?

Ros: The Mike Rubbo documentary, Much Ado About Something, was shown on BBC4 in November 2005. At the time I was looking for an idea big enough and interesting enough for a Creative Writing PhD; something that required some serious academic research so I'd have a chance of getting it funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council. The Rubbo film was my first real contact with the idea that anyone other than Shakespeare wrote Shakespeare - and I was intrigued by how it would feel to be this genius writer who is forced by impossible circumstances into letting someone else take credit for his work. In the documentary, Jonathan Bate says something like "it's a ludicrous idea, but it would make a great work of fiction." That was my lightbulb moment. I spent four months putting the proposal together (including finding a supervisor who was happy to support my research of such an academically unpopular theory), and five more months waiting for the outcome of the funding application. Happily it was positive, and I've been researching and writing The Marlowe Papers on an AHRC grant since autumn 2006.

Q: That's wonderful. Care to share some of your thoughts on the research you've come across that really resonates with you? Anything specifically that jumped out at you?

Ros: I was really surprised to find evidence that doubt about Shakespeare's authorship began in the very year that the name "William Shakespeare" first appeared on a publication (1593), and that rather a large body of evidence of early authorship doubt is currently unacknowledged in the academic establishment. There is a lot of interesting evidence that has been overlooked by orthodox Shakespeareans - not because there's any kind of "conspiracy" but simply because that is how the human brain is wired up: we don't tend to see things that fall outside our belief systems, since cognitive dissonance leads our brains to filter out perceptions that conflict with what we already believe we "know." The fact that authorship doubts arose amongst some of Shakespeare's most knowledgeable contemporaries is, in my view, the strongest argument that the authorship question should be admitted as a viable subject for academic research and debate.

Q: Is it true you're writing a lot of this novel in blank verse?

Ros: So far, all of it is in iambic pentameter, with the majority being blank verse and the occasional lyrical rhyming piece or sonnet thrown in. Blank verse seemed the most appropriate form for a novel about Marlowe and Shakespeare, given that I'm very comfortable writing that way. Shakespeare's later plays weren't entirely in blank verse, of course, and I've given myself permission to break into prose if the situation seems to require it. But so far it hasn't. My biggest challenge to the blank verse form was writing a duel scene, but I tried prose and it didn't work. In the end I found the energy of the scene sprang directly out of the tension created by attempting to contain high emotion in a regular five-foot line. You'd think prose or free verse would be easier - but for me, it isn't.

Q: Ros, we really appreciate your taking the time. We wish you luck with The Marlowe Papers. Please come back again?

Ros: I'd be very happy to. Thanks, Carlo.

© The Marlowe-Shakespeare Connection, December 2008

Click here to learn more about Ms. Barber. Emmerich Rylance

Click here for Ms. Barber's video interview on the Marlowe-Shakespeare theory.

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Monday, December 1, 2008

Marlowe, Shakespeare, and the style issue: a question for Daryl Pinksen, author of Marlowe's Ghost

Q: Daryl, what do you say to those who argue that Marlowe's style differs from Shakespeare's? Thus, the argument goes, Marlowe could not have authored the plays we attribute to Shakespeare.

Daryl: Thanks, Carlo. They do have a point, the mature Shakespeare style does differ substantially from Marlowe's, but here's the rub: the early Shakespeare style also differs substantially from the mature Shakespeare style. As a result, comparing Marlowe's style to the mature Shakespeare tells us little. Here is what we need to ask: are the styles of late Marlowe plays and early Shakespeare plays similar enough to suggest that they could have been written by the same person?

Many people don't realize that until the 1960's, it was common for scholars to argue that Marlowe co-authored early Shakespeare plays. As far back as 1886, scholar A.W. Verity said, "Among the plays assigned to Shakespeare there are four of which it is practically certain that Marlowe was a part author; they are of course, Henry VI, parts I, II and III, and Titus Andronicus." To many scholars' ears, early Shakespeare simply sounded too much like Marlowe to ignore. Assigning early Shakespeare plays wholesale to Marlowe was unacceptable, so they compromised by speculating that the early plays had been co-written by the two men. But things have changed since then. In the last several decades, these claims have nearly vanished from the literature.

Nonetheless, a survey of scholarship on Shakespeare and Marlowe dating back over a century confirms that the styles of the two bodies of work are closely related. Take this 2002 quote from a giant of Shakespearean scholarship, Harold Bloom, who said, "Marlowe . . . was Shakespeare's starting point, curiously difficult for the young Shakespeare to exorcise completely," adding, "that means the strongest writer known to us served a seven-year apprenticeship to Christopher Marlowe." So why is it that we continue to hear how different their styles are? I have a theory. . .

In undergraduate English programs, students read Hamlet, King Lear, Macbeth -- the mature Shakespeare masterpieces. If they are required to read a Marlowe play, it will likely be Dr. Faustus, the play most associated with Marlowe. Marlowe does not fare well in the comparison. The instructor will then guide students through a "compare and contrast" of the two playwrights' styles. Even the dullest student will easily see the differences between Shakespeare masterpieces and early Marlowe. For many students of English literature this will end their study of Shakespeare's contemporaries, and they will depart with the firm, albeit superficial, conviction that the styles of Marlowe and Shakespeare are markedly different, and proceed to ridicule anyone so blind as to suggest otherwise.

A more honest approach would lead to a very different conclusion. Dr. Faustus was written before 1588, when Marlowe was in his early 20's. Hamlet and Lear were written after 1600, when Marlowe (and Shakespeare) were in their mid to late 30's. A fair comparison would examine plays written closer to the same time. If students were to begin their studies with an early Shakespeare play, like Richard II, and then read a late Marlowe play, like Edward II, plays separated by only a handful of years, they would find it hard to believe that they were written by different playwrights. Or imagine instead if students were to begin their Shakespeare studies by reading Hamlet (1600) followed immediately by Titus Andronicus (pre-1594). They might find it hard to reconcile the two plays as the product of a single author. Yet most accept that these two plays were written by the same person because we quite reasonably make allowances for writers to grow over a long career.

When we eliminate the variable of time, the styles of the Marlowe and Shakespeare plays are indistinguishable. Placed in chronological order, the plays reveal the continuous evolution of a single writer, the blacklisted accused heretic, Christopher Marlowe.

© The Marlowe-Shakespeare Connection, December 2008

Click here to purchase Daryl Pinksen's Marlowe's Ghost.

Click here to reach Daryl Pinksen's website.

Click here for another piece by Daryl Pinksen on style similarities.

From the International Marlowe-Shakespeare Society, what the scholars say about the similarities between Marlowe and Shakespeare.

Click here for the blog's home page and recent content.

Monday, November 24, 2008

"Shake-scene" and shattering the Shakespeare myth: a question for authors Samuel Blumenfeld and Daryl Pinksen

Q: Elizabethan playwright Robert Greene's 1592 deathbed pamphlet entitled Greene’s Groatsworth of Wit is largely famous for the appearance of one hyphenated word: "Shake-scene."

Stratfordians have long maintained that "Shake-scene" is the first mention of Shakespeare as a writer as early as 1591. Now I understand their desire to show that Shakespeare was already established in London circa 1591. They need to establish this, after all, since they maintain that Shakespeare wrote the very intricate (and dare I say very Marlovian) Henry VI, Part I--his first play--circa 1589. Pretty impressive work by a novice. Yet is this the best Stratfordians can do? No "other" mention of a theatrical Shakespeare exists at this time, and so all we have to go with is Robert Greene's "Shake-scene" amid a bitter rant about how theatre owners and actor-managers exploited him and other writers (Greene was debt-ridden, by the way).

Sam: Yes, Carlo, one of the historical resources Stratfordians use to prove that Shakespeare was a known actor and playwright before 1592 is Robert Greene’s pamphlet, Greene’s Groatsworth of Wit, Bought with a Million of Repentence.

Greene, born in 1560, had been at Cambridge from 1575 to 1583, thus overlapping the years when Marlowe had been there. Marlowe, born in 1564, had entered in 1580. Thus, both men, who became aspiring playwrights, were well acquainted with each other. In fact, later, Greene was so impressed with Marlowe’s Tamburlaine that he wrote a play, Alphonsus King of Aragon, in imitation of Marlowe’s style. But it was a flop, and in 1588 he attacked Marlowe in a pamphlet, Perimedes the Blacksmith.

In 1592, Greene, down and out and suffering from a fatal disease, wrote a largely autobiographical pamphlet, Greene’s Groatsworth of Wit, which was published posthumously. In it he lashed out at those in the theater business who had used him and then left him to die in poverty. Obviously, he was referring to Edward Alleyn, who had acted in his plays, and Philip Henslowe who had produced them (ed. note: see 6/12/08 post on Henslowe's Diary). He wrote:

Is it not strange, that I, to whom they all have been beholding: is it not like that you, to whom they all have been beholding, shall (were ye in that case as I am now) be both at once of them forsaken? Yes trust them not: for there is an upstart Crow, beautified with our feathers, that with his Tygers hart wrapt in a Players hyde, supposes he is as well able to bombast out a blanke verse as the best of you: and being an absolute Johannes fac totum, is in his own conceit the only Shake-scene in a country. O that I might entreat your rare wits to be employed in more profitable courses: & let those Apes imitate your past excellence, and never more acquaint them with your admired inventions.

It is obvious that Greene was trying to warn his fellow playwrights about the predatory practices of actors and producers, namely Alleyn, the well-known "Shake-scene," and Henslowe, his father-in-law theater owner. Alleyn became so wealthy that he was able to endow Dulwich College as a depository for Henslowe’s archives.

Greene’s pamphlet would have been largely forgotten had it not been read in 1778 by a classical scholar named Thomas Tyrwhitt (1730-1786), who was convinced he had made a significant discovery. He wrote: “There can be no doubt, I think, that Shake-scene alludes to Shakespeare.” He also observed that the reference to the “tyger’s heart” was taken from Henry VI, Part III, the authorship of which in 1778 was still questioned. We can be sure that Greene knew who wrote it!

Of course, in 1778 very little was known about Shakespeare, and the authorship question had not even arisen. But now that we know much more, it is obvious that "Shake-scene" refers to Edward Alleyn and not William Shakespeare, who was a totally unknown entity in 1592. Indeed, Shakespeare's name first appears in print on the dedication page of the poem Venus and Adonis in 1593, after Marlowe’s supposed demise. His name does not appear on the title of a play until 1598, when it appears on Love’s Labour’s Lost, “newly corrected and augmented by W. Shakespere.” That play had to be written by a university wit, and not a country bumpkin with no documented education of any kind.

Yet, Stratfordians have used Greene’s pamphlet as proof that Shakespeare was a well-recognized actor and playwright before 1592. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, the Stratfordian claim has made it difficult to accurately date the plays written before 1593 or designate their true authorship.

Stratfordians have written all of their biographies on the dubious foundation of Greene’s pamphlet, never questioning Tyrwhitt’s assumption. Indeed, Stephen Greenblatt, in his much acclaimed biography of the Bard, Will in the World, goes so far in his book as to remove the hyphen in "Shake-scene," thus giving the impression that "Shakescene" is indisputably Shakespeare. In doing so, he not only violated his profession as a scholar, but also perpetuated a gross historical error. Greene would have never used "Shake-scene" to refer to the name of an actual individual, since nowhere in the pamphlet does he refer to anyone by name.

Daryl: Thanks, Carlo. Sam Blumenfeld is quite right in pointing out just how crucial the "Shake-scene" reference is to the Shakespeare industry. Assuming it to be a reference to the Stratford man, it would verify that he was firmly established in the London theater world as of 1592. It would link him to a known Shakespeare play, Henry VI, and place him in contact with Lord Strange's Men at a time when Christopher Marlowe was writing for them. For Shakespeare biographers this is a goldmine, for it allows them to address what is arguably the most salient feature of the works of Shakespeare--the overwhelming debt the plays owe to Christopher Marlowe. By locating both Shakespeare and Marlowe in the company of Lord Strange's Men at the same time, biographers can imagine a close working relationship, perhaps even a personal one, between the two playwrights. Nearly all Shakespeare biographies devote ample speculation to this relationship, a relationship inferred entirely from the "Shake-scene" reference. Greene's reference is so important, so interwoven into the mythos of Shakespeare, that it has become indispensible. It simply cannot be abandoned, for if it were, it would be tantamount to erasing huge chunks of dozens of Shakespeare biographies.

The case for the "Shake-scene" referring to Shakespeare is strong; Greene's use of the prefix "Shake" and the fact that Green alludes to a Shakespeare play, Henry VI, both carry weight. But an alternative explanation, that "Shake-scene" was actually aimed at the premier actor of the age, Edward Alleyn, is even stronger. Greene tells us that the "Shake-scene" was a "player," i.e. an actor, and had a "tyger's hart," a line taken from Shakespeare's Henry VI. We know that Edward Alleyn spoke those words on stage; he was the lead actor for Lord Strange's Men in 1592 when Henry VI was performed. And a "Shake-scene" does sound like an egocentric ham splitting the rafters with bombastic speech. But the most important piece of evidence pointing to Alleyn as the "Shake-scene" is that Greene had already documented his dislike for Alleyn two years earlier. In 1590, Robert Greene had written this passage:

Why Roscius, art thou proud with Aesop's crow, being pranct with the glory of other's feathers? Of thyself thou canst say nothing, and if the Cobbler hath taught thee to say Ave Caesar, disdain not thy tutor because thou Pratest in a King's Chamber. (Robert Greene, Francesco's Fortunes, 1590)

The similarities to Greene's 1592 "Shake-scene" reference are striking. "Roscius," the name of a famous Roman actor, is Edward Alleyn. Ben Jonson also referred to Alleyn as "Roscius" in a 1616 poem he wrote, titled "To Edward Alleyn." The "Cobbler" was a common nickname for Marlowe, and a reminder of his humble origins as the son of a cobbler. In 1590 Greene told Alleyn that he was merely an actor mouthing words that others, like Greene and Marlowe, had written for him. Alleyn was "proud with Aesop's crow, being pranct with the glory of other's feathers." Then, in 1592, Greene claims that someone he calls a "Shake-scene" is "an upstart crow beautified with our [playwrights'] feathers." This sounds like it could be a continuation of Greene's attack on Alleyn. There would seem to be enough evidence to, at the very least, call the "Shake-scene" reference into question. But to hear Shakespeare's biographers tell it, there is no question, for the Shakespeare conclusion is regarded as unimpeachable. Let us assume for a moment that the argument here is academic, how should we decide what to believe? My answer is that we must ask ourselves would Edward Alleyn have assumed that Greene was referring to him in the "Shake-scene" reference. Given the similarity to the 1590 insult, and the fact that Alleyn had spoken the "tyger's hart" line on stage, how could he have assumed that the insult was not aimed at him? If Alleyn assumed that he was the "Shake-scene" being insulted (again) by Greene, then we must assume that he was "Shake-scene" as well.

Here is why the debate is not academic: if we were to assume that "Shake-scene" was Edward Alleyn, then Shakespeare--the writer Shakespeare--would not exist before Marlowe's disappearance in 1593. Beyond that, it would link Christopher Marlowe to Edward Alleyn's performance of Henry VI, a play which scholars have long noted sounds like a deliberate emulation of Marlowe's style by Shakespeare. The line between the works of Marlowe and Shakespeare is already blurred; replace Shakespeare with Edward Alleyn as the "Shake-scene," and the line is effectively erased.

© The Marlowe-Shakespeare Connection, November 2008

Click here for Daryl Pinksen's "Was Robert Greene's 'upstart crow' the Actor Edward Alleyn?"

Click here to purchase Samuel Blumenfeld's The Marlowe-Shakespeare Connection.

Click here to purchase Daryl Pinksen's Marlowe's Ghost.

Click here to reach Daryl Pinksen's website.

Click here for the blog's home page and recent content.

Monday, November 17, 2008

On Marlovian research and "Mr. W.H.": a question for 2007 Hoffman Prize winner Peter Farey

Peter Farey's Marlowe Page is the gold standard for Marlovian research, and we are honored that Peter has taken a few moments to chat with MSC. By the way, you can catch Peter in Mike Rubbo's film, Much Ado About Something.

Q: Peter, your essay "Hoffman and the Authorship," joint winner of the 2007 Hoffman Prize and available on your website, is truly a brilliant piece of scholarship, and I encourage all those interested in the Shakespeare authorship question to read your meticulous and compelling work and to spend time on your exceptional Marlowe Page. Your essay certainly makes the case that there is, to quote you, "sufficient reason" to conclude that Marlowe could have authored the Shakespeare works.

What's one piece of evidence that you're still on the hunt for? Obviously, there are many, but is there one in particular that really fascinates you? Is it Marlowe in Italy, for example, after his alleged "murder"/the Deptford incident?

Peter: Thanks for your kind remarks about the website, Carlo. I'm very flattered, and if they don't get more people visiting it I don't know what will!

Your question is an interesting one since it raises the issue of what is, for me, the main difference between my own approach and that of most other anti-Stratfordians. Whereas the norm is indeed for people to go off in search of evidence to support their theory, as your question implies, I much prefer to adopt what is the (rather more scientific?) approach of trying to prove it, or bits of it, wrong. This is why other Marlovians tend to find me as severe a critic of their ideas as I am those of any other authorship candidate's proponents.

So where does any new stuff come from? It usually arises as the result of my exploring those things which orthodox scholars themselves find puzzling. For example, it was my trying to find a sensible interpretation of the poem on Shakespeare's Stratford monument, about which there is no scholarly consensus, that resulted in my stumbling upon it really being a riddle telling us that Marlowe is "in" the monument with Shakespeare. Similarly, it was by reframing the contentious biographical question of just how Marlowe came to be killed at Deptford—to asking instead what the most probable reason was for those people to have met there that day—that I discovered that it had to be to arrange a faked death for him whether he continued as a poet/dramatist or not. A third example: scholarly uncertainty about just which "canopy" Sonnet 125 referred to led to my finding a completely different meaning for the poem, one that in fact shows the author to have been an atheist.

But how did I try to prove myself wrong, as I claim that I do? Mainly by posting my ideas on the internet long before I had really worked them out in detail. For the past ten years or so every single idea that I have eventually posted on my website has been subjected to the most rigorous challenge by newsgroup opponents, some of whom are very knowledgable indeed, and very capable of ripping apart any theory which is not based upon accurate information and logical reasoning. I can assure you that the arguments I present on my website would have been very different indeed if I hadn't exposed them to this examination first. In fact I wish that all of our Marlovian colleagues would follow a similar path, whether publicly or in private, before publishing!

So where does this leave us in terms of your initial question? Is there something I am "still on the hunt for" in particular? I think it would be in pursuit of an answer to the scholars' perennial problem of just who the "Mr W.H." mentioned in the dedicatory epistle of "Shakespeare's Sonnets" really was. As I explain in my essay "Hoffman and the Authorship," I'm sure Don Foster is right in saying that contemporary usage means that it must have been the poet himself. Given in addition that Ben Jonson's eulogy in the First Folio seems to indicate that the poet (if Marlowe) was still alive when it was published ("though thou had'st small Latin and less Greek"), and that the Avon referred to may well have been the one next to which the two dedicatees of the First Folio lived rather than the Stratford one, was there a "Mr. W.H."—other than William Herbert himself, of course—living at Wilton, seat of the Earl of Pembroke, at the time? If there were, I'd put my shirt on his really being a surviving Christopher Marlowe!

© The Marlowe-Shakespeare Connection, November 2008

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Monday, November 3, 2008

Who was Robert Poley? A question for Daryl Pinksen, author of Marlowe's Ghost

Q: Daryl, as I was reading your recent work, Marlowe's Ghost: The Blacklisting of the Man Who Was Shakespeare, I was struck by your description of Robert Poley, one of the three men who was with Marlowe the day of his alleged death. The other two were Nicholas Skeres and Ingram Frizer. Frizer was Thomas Walsingham's servant (ed. note: see 6/19 post on Walsinghams) and probably a low-level intelligence operative; Skeres, you suggest, might have been an operative in the Earl of Essex's intelligence network. And then there's Poley, someone with a very interesting intelligence background and a fairly experienced agent. Please elaborate.

Daryl: Thanks, Carlo. The fact that Robert Poley was at the Deptford meeting is remarkable. It's commonplace to hear people refer to the 1593 Deptford incident as a "tavern brawl." Far from it. The four men who gathered there were, as Charles Nicholl called them, scoundrels, Marlowe included, and all four were involved in shady dealings, linked in some way to the Elizabethan underworld. But Poley's presence at the meeting makes it an exceptional event.

Marlowe, Skeres, and Frizer were lightweights, minor cogs in the Walsingham/Burghley-led intelligence machine (ed. note: see 6/23 post on Cecils). Robert Poley was in a different league entirely; in 1586 he had been instrumental in exposing the Babington Plot, which led to the execution of Queen Elizabeth's cousin, Mary Queen of Scots. In The Reckoning, Nicholl's meticulous exploration of Marlowe's demise, he tells us that in the months leading up to Deptford, Poley was engaged in high-level diplomatic liaisons between The Hague, England, and Scotland. Here's where the story takes a turn - Nicholl's research reveals that for ten days following the Deptford meeting, Poley's whereabouts are inexplicably unknown. Where was he? Nicholl has no idea, but circumstances suggest that Poley may have been in Scotland, as Marlowe's escort. Years earlier, Poley had been recommended as an agent who knew "the best ways to pass into Scotland." And Marlowe, in his last conversation with Thomas Kyd (a playwright Marlowe had once shared a room with) said he was determined to go to Scotland, and mentioned that another of his literary friends, Matthew Roydon, had already gone. Marlowe urged Kyd to join them.

If Marlowe did survive the Deptford meeting, it may have been because Robert Poley was there to help Marlowe "pass into Scotland," a safe haven for freethinkers trying to escape the religious oppression then sweeping England. Thomas Kyd should have listened to Marlowe's advice; after his arrest he was imprisoned and tortured, and died within months of his release.

© The Marlowe-Shakespeare Connection, November 2008  Burgess Sam Riley
Daryl Pinksen, a regular MSC contributor, is the author of Marlowe's Ghost, Grand Prize Winner of the 17th Annual Writer's Digest International Self-Published Book Awards.

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Monday, October 27, 2008

Another MSC Exclusive: Mike Rubbo, writer & director of Much Ado About Something, on Blumenfeld's The Marlowe-Shakespeare Connection

Sam Blumenfeld and I have something in common. We both became fascinated with the Marlowe theory through reading Calvin Hoffman's book, The Murder of the Man Who Was "Shakespeare."

In Sam's case, he was editor of a publishing house which reprinted Hoffman's book. In my case, I was handed the Hoffman "hand grenade" on a tropic night in far north Queensland by the British author Tony Shaffer (Sleuth, The Wicker Man), who intoned, "Read this and you'll know the truth."

Read it I did and, while I was not sure about Hoffman's racy theory that Marlowe was the hidden hand, the real writer behind a bumbling petty businessman called Shakespeare, I was certainly fascinated enough to spend four years of my life researching and making my documentary on this very same theory and its adherents. This became Much Ado About Something.

This film project was a delightful journey because, as John Michell says in the film, the authorship question takes you back into such an interesting territory: the Elizabethan age. It forces you to become an expert too, if you are ever to voice your looming doubts about the Bard in public.

This is, of course, a real gem of a conspiracy theory and there are those of us by nature who love this sort of thing. I've concluded that a good conspiracy theory has to be improbable enough that few believe it, but plausible enough on investigation to stand up to assault. In this case, this conspiracy theory required that the Coroner's report of Marlowe's death in a stabbing incident on May 30, 1593, be untrue.

So, defend the theory to skeptics, that's the test. The best theory will cut a swathe through doubt and confusion and be a joy in the hand of the believer. I think the "Marlowe as hidden hand" theory Calvin Hoffman put forward, and which got both myself and Blumenfeld so intrigued, is just such a one.

My film, made six years ago, continues to find fascinated audiences, while much more recently, Sam Blumenfeld has written a book, The Marlowe-Shakespeare Connection, which takes the theory much further than either I or Calvin Hoffman.

So much progress has been made in bringing into the open the doubts about Shakespeare himself that Blumenfeld does not choose to spend too much time on unseating the Bard. The facts that Shakespeare never presented himself as a writer, that he apparently owned no books, had illiterate daughters, and was far more interested in property and crop yields than in his published works--all of that is now so well known that the author's seat is already semi-vacant.

For Marlowe to fill the throne, though, he has to survive that knife fight in Deptford. Since no concrete evidence for him being alive after that day has yet emerged, no firm sightings in Europe, no signed writing clearly postdated 1593, proof has still to be circumstantial and commonsensical.

Blumenfeld does an excellent job of setting out who Marlowe is. His family origins, the milieu in which he grows up, the cobbler's family in bustling Canterbury--all this is well drawn. We find that Canterbury is home to the refugee Huguenots and bears the scars of recent religious conflicts which have almost torn England apart as Elizabeth settles into the throne.

In this context, we meet a very smart boy, the cobbler's son, who's soon spotted by the talent scouts of his day. He's given scholarships which take him first to the King's School and then onto Cambridge to study for the Church. It's fascinating to follow Blumenfeld through the evidence and find how Marlowe develops other lives, that he becomes a spy for his queen against her Catholic enemies; and a free thinker, linked to the mysterious School of Night. He soon acquires powerful friends and gains as well an aristocratic patron, Tom Walshingham, the same age as himself.

Blumenfeld then shows us how Marlowe blooms as a writer. Fed on the classics at both school and university, obsessed with Ovid, he becomes, even before leaving university, a published poet and playwright with plays ready for the stage, soon to be instant hits. We find him, too, embroiled in the risky intellectual issues of the day, maybe playing with atheism. He's making dangerous enemies, most notable Archbishop Whitgift, Elizabeth's crusader against faith deviants, her "little black husband" as she called him.

All of this is known. It is the depth and richness of Blumenfeld's treatment which is new. Marlowe comes across as so solid that, not only does one want him to survive that day in May, 1593 (he's only 29 at that point), but we understand why others would be plotting his safety, as well. He is in real danger, accused of atheism and suspected of writing seditions pamphlets, with the Whitgift inquisition team, fuelled by informers, closing in. He faces torture, perhaps death, unless he can get away. Blumenfeld details what's at stake and the people around Marlowe one could expect to either help or harm him.

In my film, having never seen Marlowe's play performed, I was somewhat dismissive of the work, believing what a prominent Stratfordian here in Australia said, namely that you'd have to have "a tin ear" to imagine that Marlowe's plays were the equal of Shakespeare's to the point where the two could be the same person.

Blumenfeld takes us through those plays from Dido: Queen of Carthage to Edward II, revealing not only their mighty language, but the subtlety of plots and depth of ideas on the human condition, all of which indeed position Marlowe to be not only "the book in which Shakespeare went to school," but as we prefer, the man who in hiding kept on writing under the name of "Shakespeare."

The latter part of Blumenfeld's book is effective in the way it combs the plays of the First Folio, those called Shakespeare's, to see whether the theory stacks up in terms of clues as to the real author in hiding. It is quite astonishing how many links to Marlowe Blumenfeld finds as he works through the canon, play by play. Some are clues embedded by a frustrated Marlowe who, as the years pass from his supposed death, is more and more frustrated to see his frontman, Shakespeare, lauded by the ignorant.

In getting the help of his friends to escape under the cover of a false killing, an immediate fix for a situation of great danger in which Marlowe found himself, is achieved. But Marlowe made a Faustian bargain. In the rush to that solution, little thought was given, one guesses, as to how long the exile would have to last. The slur on his name no doubt came as a surprise, as well. He, who'd been used to such plaudits for his plays, had been called the "Muses darling," was now reviled and there was, it seemed, no end to it. His only salve was to snipe at Shakespeare, his frontman, from the shadows. That is one type of clue: Marlowe in anger.

Then there are the even more frequent clues in the plays that are unconscious. Again and again, Marlowe's favorite themes--his classical obsessions, the mentions of Ovid, of the Dido story and the Hero and Leander myth--appear in what is supposedly Shakespeare with no explanation as to why they are there.

There is much more in the book which has pulled me back into the credibility of this theory and its delights. I've gone onto other things in my life, and it was not till reading Blumenfeld and another book by Daryl Pinksen, Marlowe's Ghost, that I've come back as it were.

We believe Shakespeare is Shakespeare essentially because people put his name on plays--first on a few individual copies, folios, and then on the collected works, the First Folio. Blumenfeld finds the publisher Edward Blount is woven into publishing events linking Marlowe and Shakespeare in such a way as to suspect he was a key player in the setting up and maintaining of the Shakespeare front. This is new as far as I know, and he may be right in thinking that it's one of the most important scholarly connections he's making.

I have the feeling that the delightful theory is going places. I suspect that Charles Nicholl, who has made the most exhaustive investigation of the fatal day at Deptford, the day of Marlowe's supposed death, may take it further. To date, Nicholl mysteriously refuses to investigate the idea that Marlowe might have been saved, a theory quite as good as any on which he spends so much time in his book, The Reckoning.

Nicholl is a fantastic investigator, and his fair appraisal of the "Marlowe lived" theory would do much to decide things one way or another.

Nicholl is already half way along this path in that it was he who decided that the Coroner's report was a cover-up of a conspiracy. It is, thus, not such a big step for him to investigate whether it was a conspiracy to save, rather than kill, Marlowe. I'm hoping Charles Nicholl will read Blumenfeld and Pinksen and then take up the challenge.

Mike Rubbo, October 2008

© Mike Rubbo, October 2008

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Monday, October 20, 2008

MSC Exclusive: A question for Mike Rubbo, writer & director of Much Ado About Something

We caught up with Mike Rubbo, the veteran Australian filmmaker who wrote and directed the 2002 PBS/Frontline documentary Much Ado About Something, which explores the theory that Christopher Marlowe actually wrote the plays and sonnets attributed to Shakespeare.

Regarding Mike and the film, Elvis Mitchell of the New York Times praises: "Much Ado About Something is a film of ideas--well, notions, anyway--that are bound to stimulate discussion, an aspect long missing from documentary [. . .] Mr. Rubbo is an old-fashioned rabble-rouser, and he knows a good story when he finds it. And he's got one in this case, with its adherents to a cause and their whipsaw articulation of thoughts."

Mike was born in Melbourne, Australia, in 1938. After studying anthropology at Sydney University, he attended Stanford University on Fulbright and Ford scholarships to study filmmaking. At that time, he was the only Australian to win both prestigious scholarships.

He graduated from Stanford in the mid 1960's with an MA, and he has developed a busy and highly respected career as a filmmaker and teacher.

For 25 years he worked at the National Film Board of Canada where he directed over 40 documentaries, including the influential Waiting for Fidel (available on Netflix). Mike also wrote and directed Vincent and Me, which received a Daytime Emmy for Outstanding Children's Special. He has been a visiting lecturer at NYU, UCLA, Stanford, Univ. of Florida, Harvard, and the Australian Film, Television and Radio School.

We're truly honored that Mike shared some thoughts with us.

Q: Mike, the DVD version of your beautiful and provocative 2002 documentary Much Ado About Something has just been released in the US. A few years have elapsed since its original release and certainly you've had time to reflect upon Marlovian theory. Care to share your thoughts on the Shakespeare authorship matter today in 2008?

Mike Rubbo: Of course, I'm very happy that PBS has finally got around to putting my film on DVD. But even more exciting is the recent release of two books which take the case for Marlowe considerably further than I was able to do on the screen.

These are Sam Blumenfeld's The Marlowe-Shakespeare Connection and Daryl Pinksen's Marlowe's Ghost.

Both are excellent and together I'd say they pretty much clinch the case for Marlowe as the hidden hand behind the Bard. Naturally, I'm particularly pleased with the Pinksen book because he was inspired to write it after seeing my film.

In Much Ado About Something, I did not see myself as an advocate for the Marlowe theory so much as a filmmaker on a journey of discovery. I was just as interested in the wonderful characters attracted to the Marlowe cause, John Baker and Dolly Walker Wraight, for example, as I was in the case to be made for Marlowe.

The two authors take a different tack. They have cleared the decks as it were and get right down to the challenge of proving their case. Of course, it's still something that must be done with circumstantial evidence since no one has yet found proof positive that Marlowe lived after May 30, 1593.

Where are they strongest? Sam Blumenfeld combs the plays of the First Folio and finds clue after clue to Marlowe as their author. Some clues are intentionally placed, others are there because they reflect Marlowe's tastes and obsessions with Ovid, for example, and the Dido and Hero/Leander myths.

In my film I touch on just one such clue, the unschooled William character in As You Like It, taken by all as a send-up of Shakespeare. Blumenfeld's discoveries were a revelation for me as he turned up clue after clue, though strangely passing over what seems the most evident one, the country bumpkin William, mentioned above.

Blumenfeld is also very good at situating Marlowe, both boy and man, in the Elizabethan world of religious tensions, plots and powerful personalities. He brings in, as no else has done, the importance of the Countess of Pembroke and the intellectual circle she created around her including, Blumenfeld argues, Kit Marlowe.

You get the feeling from this book that the character and placement of Marlowe in his times that Blumenfeld achieves is like a gun fixing on a target, one which shoots this amazing man into the writer's seat, vacated by an improbable Shakespeare.

Daryl Pinksen covers some of the same ground but is more the lawyer arguing his case. He does, for instance, a great job of showing how orthodox scholars have again and again situated Marlowe as Shakespeare's precursor, even seeing Shakespeare as schooling himself in Marlowe and his mighty line, blank verse. Scholars have twinned the two to such a degree that they must have been close. Yet there is of course no evidence they ever met, ever spoke of each other, and so it becomes quite easy to take the next step to thinking we are dealing with just one author.

Both Pinksen and Blumenfeld score effectively with the way the name Shakespeare appears almost magically just days after Marlowe's supposed death, an appearance timed with a clear intent, it seems.

When my film came out, a common critique was that the plays of Marlowe were so crude compared to those of Shakespeare, that you'd have to have a tin ear to imagine Marlowe could have written Shakespeare.

It's hard for the average person to have an opinion on this because the opportunities for seeing Marlowe's plays are so rare. Blumenfeld does a great job in revealing the quality and subtlety of Marlowe's plays, very much the equal of those attributed to Shakespeare, especially the early ones.

Pinksen also does good work in showing what twisted pretzels scholars have made of themselves, trying to explain why the sonnets, which are clearly autobiographical, don't fit anything that we know of Shakespeare's life.

Indeed, as you read the sonnets for the life they reveal, you can't ever imagine them coming from the pen of the petty businessman who was Shakespeare as we know him. On the other hand, everything large and grand about Marlowe, coupled with the lonely life he would have had in exile, goes with the tone and content of the sonnets.

Daryl Pinksen is also useful for those who wonder how such a secret could stay hidden for so long. He compares Marlowe's situation with that of the Hollywood writers who were blacklisted during the McCarthy era. They also had to use fronts to get their work on the screen.

Pinksen points out that the many successful frontings for blacklisted authors in the McCarthy years were never exposed, even in an age of newspapers and investigative reporters. How much easier could such a secret have been kept in Elizabethan England with none of those tools of discovery.

At the end of the day, both books make their case equally on good research and commonsense grounds. This works just as well for a literary mystery as it does with a jury in a courtroom. I'm delighted my film still plays a part in this pursuit of a commonsense understanding of the authorship question and hope that people will pair its viewing with these two excellent books.

© The Marlowe-Shakespeare Connection, October 2008

Click here for Mike Rubbo's 8-minute YouTube clip on the Marlowe-as-Shakespeare theory.

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Jarmusch Swinton

On Marlowe in exile: a question for Samuel Blumenfeld, author of The Marlowe-Shakespeare Connection

Q: Sam, where did Marlowe go after the events at Deptford and his alleged "murder"?

Sam: John Baker has speculated that Marlowe may have gone to Scotland on a mission for Lord Burghley and son. But I believe that he went to Italy, which he had visited as a page with Philip Sidney. So he was familiar with the country. Also, so many of the plays take place in Italy that one can assume that they were written there while in exile: The Taming of the Shrew, Two Gentlemen of Verona, Romeo and Juliet, The Merchant of Venice, Julius Caesar, Othello.

A new book, Shakespeare in Venice, by Shaul Bassi, a lecturer at Venice University, and Alberto Toso Fei, asserts that Shakespeare had to have been in Italy in order to write his Italian plays. But, as we know, Shakespeare of Stratford never traveled abroad. So the plays had to be written by someone who did travel abroad: Christopher Marlowe.

The London Times Online reviewed the book. It stated:

"Mr Bassi and Mr Toso Fei accept that the frequent references in The Merchant of Venice to the Rialto Bridge--the nerve center of Venetian commerce and gossip--did not prove that Shakespeare had seen it, since its fame as a 'marvel of engineering' had spread to London.

"On the other hand, it was striking that he had given the name 'Gobbo' to Shylock’s servant, a reference to the carved figure of a hunchback (Il Gobbo di Rialto) on the bridge, a feature well known in Venice but not beyond it. Shakespeare had also used local words such as gondola, as in Act 2, scene 8 of The Merchant, when Salarino remarks: 'But there the duke was given to understand that in a gondola were seen together Lorenzo and his amorous Jessica.'

"In Othello Roderigo tells Brabantio, Desdemona’s father, that she has been 'Transported with no worse nor better guard but with a knave of common hire, a gondolier' (Act 1, scene 1). Shakespeare knew about the Venetian custom of offering pigeons ('a dish of doves') as a gift, and showed rare insight into cosmopolitan Venice’s ethnic and social relations, and its tolerance of foreigners and minorities."

I am sure that one can find in the Italian plays many more references to places and things indicating a personal knowledge obtained by actually being there. But one must not discount the fact that Marlowe apparently did extensive research when writing about foreign places as shown by his intimate knowledge of the island of Malta, which is revealed in The Jew of Malta.

Also, while in Italy Marlowe obviously had a way of getting his manuscripts to Lord Burghley and son (ed. note: see 6/23/08 Cecil post) in England by diplomatic pouch. As a member of the secret service such facilities would have been available to him. We know that Philip Sidney sent letters to England from Italy. Burghley then would have given the manuscripts to Thomas Walsingham who would have used a scribe to rewrite them so that Ed Blount (ed. note: see 6/7/08 Blount post) could bring them to Shakespeare at the Globe in pristine condition without a blot.

In any case, Marlowe’s exile in Italy should be more thoroughly researched in order to prove beyond any doubt that he lived beyond the events in Deptford and continued to write the greatest dramas in the English language.

© The Marlowe-Shakespeare Connection, October 2008

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Monday, October 13, 2008

Redux: Evidence points to Marlowe! Excellent 2002 piece on Marlowe theory and Mike Rubbo's Much Ado About Something documentary

Click here to read "Mystery Man" by Gavin McNett.

Originally posted here on 6/26/08. Apropos given the recent release of Much Ado About Something in the U.S. on DVD. You can purchase the critically acclaimed PBS/Frontline film by clicking here.

"Mr. Rubbo is an old-fashioned rabble-rouser, and he knows a good story when he finds it. And he's got one in this case, with its adherents to a cause and their whipsaw articulation of thoughts." Elvis Mitchell, New York Times

" . . . has enough wit, energy and geniality to please not only the fanatical adherents on either side, but also people who know nothing about the subject and think they're not interested." Mick LaSalle, San Francisco Chronicle

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Monday, October 6, 2008

Marlowe's Edward II and Historical Tragedy

Here at MSC, we're huge fans of Elizabethan scholar Irving Ribner, and we highly recommend his exceptional “Marlowe's Edward II and the Tudor History Play” (ELH, Vol. 22, No. 4; Dec., 1955). Written in his hallmark lucid and economical style, Professor Ribner explains how Edward II, composed in 1591-1592, "is our first important tragedy based upon the [English] chronicles" which "heralded . . . a new type of historical tragedy." With this play, Ribner argues, "we have, perhaps for the first time in Elizabethan drama, a mature tragedy of character in which a potentially good man comes to destruction because of inherent weaknesses which make him incapable of coping with a crisis which he himself has helped to create." We see in Edward II Marlowe's movement towards "characters who change and develop under the pressure of events," unlike the "classical substantialism" evident in his Tamburlaine. Ribner superbly demonstrates Marlowe's moving away from the Machiavellian-humanistic superman found in Tamburlaine "where there are no limits" to "a more tragic view of life" in Edward II where men "are molded themselves" by the stress which encroaches upon them (see 7/2 Machiavelli post). Also, with Edward II we have the divided-kingdom motif found in Shakespeare's Henry IV and King Lear plus the abandonment of rule, "mak[ing] Edward guilty of two of the greatest sins in the Renaissance catalogue of political crimes." Edward's character further reminds us, writes Ribner, that an absolute monarch must recognize justice and be cognizant of his subjects if he wishes to hold onto absolute rule. The 10-page article, likewise, nicely catalogues Marlowe's deft manipulation of the vast material available on Edward II from English historians Holinshed, et al.

© The Marlowe-Shakespeare Connection, October 2008

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Monday, September 29, 2008

Faustus and Despair

For a lean, straightforward examination of what dooms Dr. Faustus, I strongly recommend John McCloskey's "The Theme of Despair in Marlowe's Faustus" (College English, Vol. 4, No. 2; Nov. 1942). "Faustus is, undoubtedly, the embodiment of the Renaissance thirst for knowledge, but he is, at the same time, an illustration of the medieval concept of despair," asserts McCloskey. And there's the rub. It is his sin of despair--the loss of hope that he can be forgiven by God--that proves his ultimate demise. Until the final hour, writes McCloskey, there is still the opportunity for Faustus to repent ("Never too late," says the Good Angel, and "Then call for mercy" advises the old man), yet "Too grievous has been his sin, so he thinks, for the wrath of God to endure." Faustus's character defects of pride and ambition trigger his downfall, but it is despair--the sin against the Holy Spirit--"which finally and irrevocably ruins him."

© The Marlowe-Shakespeare Connection, September 2008

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Monday, September 15, 2008

Who Was Richard Baines? A question for Samuel Blumenfeld, author of The Marlowe-Shakespeare Connection

Q: Sam, I was re-reading Robert Ornstein's essay "The Tragic Theology of Dr. Faustus" (PMLA, Vol.83, No. 5, Oct. 1968) and I was struck by his last few lines: "If [Richard] Baines's account is accurate, Marlowe, in the last weeks of his life, courted the stake by publicly and repeatedly declaring atheistic and treasonous libels. And finally, in a drunken, almost suicidal quarrel (which he seems to have provoked), he found a lasting escape from the vexation of his own thought." I know you disagree with Prof. Ornstein here. The blog has examined the possible staged death of Marlowe in detail, but could you comment on the matter of Richard Baines and his infamous "Note" that accused Marlowe of atheism and blasphemy?

Sam: I adamantly disagree with Robert Ornstein, who obviously did not dig enough. Marlowe was not courting the stake by publicly and repeatedly declaring atheistic and treasonous libels. First of all, all of these accusations about Marlowe have come from his enemies. Baines, who once wanted to poison everyone at the Rheims Catholic Seminary, can hardly be trusted, and all of these negative accusations came mainly from Baines who was a double agent. He accused Marlowe of counterfeiting, but Burghley knew that Baines was lying. Also, there is no evidence, other than the phony Coroner's Inquest, that Marlowe was engaged in a drunken, suicidal quarrel with anyone. The Deptford "quarrel" was obviously a staged episode to justify Marlowe's "murder." The body that the Coroner inspected, I theorize, was not Marlowe's but John Penry's. When you accept as gospel truth what Marlowe's enemies said about him and what the Coroner's Inquest said, then you simply accept what the history books have reported about all of this. Obviously, after seven years of research, I have come to a very different conclusion.

© The Marlowe-Shakespeare Connection, September 2008

Click here for Sam's 3/21/09 post on Baines.

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Monday, September 8, 2008

Three Incompatible Views of Marlowe

For an excellent piece addressing Marlowe scholarly criticism, I strongly recommend Irving Ribner’s “Marlowe and the Critics” (The Tulane Drama Review, Vol. 8, No. 4; Summer, 1964). Although it’s dated by over 40 years, Ribner’s clarity, precision, and erudition make his prose a joy to read, as opposed to the pretentious, obfuscating, and often nihilistic ramblings so prevalent in literary journals of the past 30 years or so (see also our 7/2 post on Ribner's "Marlowe and Machiavelli"). In a nutshell, Ribner (of Tulane) analyzes the three prevailing positions taken by Marlowe’s critics (Marlowe as Renaissance/Romantic overreacher, Marlowe as pious Anglican, and Marlowe as the morally ambiguous dramatist) and persuasively argues the following: “Marlowe presents a virtually unique instance in contemporary criticism, for no one of the three dominant positions now current is in any real way compatible with either of the other two.” Best representing the overreacher critical view, Ribner focuses upon legendary Harvard scholar Harry Levin; for the pious Marlowe, Douglas Cole of Northwestern University; and for the morally ambiguous Marlowe, David Bevington of University of Chicago. Ribner also takes us on an educational trip down memory lane, cataloguing the major Marlowe critics since the Romantic Age, for “[e]n-thusiasm for Marlowe seems really to have begun with William Hazlitt, who devoted fifteen pages of criticism to him in a volume of lectures on the Elizabethan dramatists published in 1820.” In highlighting the three "utterly diverse" approaches to Marlowe that prevail in literary criticism, Ribner beautifully argues how such “incompatibility” is in fact a validation of Marlowe’s complex genius.

© The Marlowe-Shakespeare Connection, September 2008

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Monday, September 1, 2008

On his seven-year quest and Marlowe's best-kept secret: a question for Samuel Blumenfeld, author of The Marlowe-Shakespeare Connection

Q: Sam, getting to the bottom of the Shakespeare authorship controversy is no small quest on your part.

Sam: Of course. In fact, J. Thomas Looney, in his 1920 book on the Earl of Oxford, makes several statements which express my own views on the quest to identify the true author of the works of Shakespeare:

"The transference of the honour of writing the immortal Shakespeare dramas from one man to another, if definitely effected, becomes not merely a national or contemporary event, but a world event of permanent importance, destined to leave a mark as enduring as human literature and the human race itself."

That is why I was willing to devote seven years of research to this project!

Looney states: "Everything seemed to point to his [Shakespeare's] being but a mask, behind which some great genius, for inscrutable reasons, had elected to work out his own destiny."

In addition, I'm always asked how Marlowe's fake death managed to be so well-kept a secret. Let me refer to Looney again, who makes an interesting point about secrecy in Elizabethan times:

"Mystery and concerted secrecy were moreover characteristic not only of the literary life of the times, but even more so of the general social and political life....We can be quite sure that in those times no important secret would be imparted to any one without first of all receiving the most solemn assurance that no risk of disclosure should be run....The carefully framed oaths by which Hamlet binds Horatio and Marcellus to secrecy, and the final caution he administers, is clearly the work of a man who knew how to ensure secrecy so far as it was humanly possible to do so. And we do know, as a matter of actual human experience, that when a superior intelligence is combined with what may be called a faculty for secrecy and a sound instinct in judging and choosing agents, secret purposes are carried through successfully in a way that is amazing and mystifying to simple minds."

It has taken 300 years to unravel this best-kept secret!

© The Marlowe-Shakespeare Connection, September 2008

Samuel Blumenfeld, a World War II veteran of the Italian campaign, has authored more than ten books. His latest, The Marlowe-Shakespeare Connection: A New Study of the Authorship Question, was published by McFarland. He is a former editor in the New York book publishing industry and has lectured widely. His writings have appeared in such diverse publications as Esquire, Reason, Education Digest, Vital Speeches of the Day, Boston, and many others. He is a regular contributor to MSC.

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Monday, August 25, 2008

On Marlowe's exile clues in Shakespeare: a question for Samuel Blumenfeld, author of The Marlowe-Shakespeare Connection

Q: Sam, the blog recently posted a few sonnets attributed to Shakespeare that demonstrate the exile motif. I know you explain in your book that the motifs of exile, banishment, etc. found in the sonnets and the plays are just some of the intriguing clues that point to Marlowe as the true author of the Shakespeare canon. Please shed some light on the subject here for our blog readers.

Sam: Carlo, the themes of exile and banishment, the use of disguises, faked deaths, and mistaken identities can be found in Richard II, As You Like It, Twelfth Night, Measure for Measure, King Lear, Coriolanus, The Winter’s Tale, All’s Well That Ends Well, and Cymbeline.

There are faked deaths and resurrections in Romeo and Juliet, The Winter’s Tale, Much Ado About Nothing, and All’s Well That Ends Well.

Obviously, Marlowe, who was forced to live in exile and banishment and whose death was faked (ed. note: see 7/7 post on Marlowe's death), could write about all of this from experience. He also, no doubt, used disguises to hide his identity. We believe that he used the name Thomas Shelton for his translation of Don Quixote, which was published by his executor Ed Blount. (ed. note: see 6/7 Blount post)

When Mowbury, in Richard II, is sent into exile, he laments:

A heavy sentence, my most sovereign liege,
And all unlook’d for from your highness’ mouth….
The language I have learnt these forty years,
My native English, now I must forgo;…
Within my mouth you have enjail’d my tongue….
What is thy sentence then but speechless death,
Which robs my tongue from breathing native breath?

We can imagine that these were Marlowe’s own thoughts when he went into exile after the events in Deptford. And when he was aboard ship on his way to France, he no doubt suffered the same feelings expressed by Bullingbrooke when he too was sent into exile:

Then, England’s ground, farewell; sweet soil adieu,
My mother, and my nurse, that bears me yet.
Where ere I wander, boast of this I can,
Though banished, yet a trueborn Englishman.

As for faked deaths, the most graphic instance of one is in Much Ado About Nothing, in which Hero is persuaded by the Friar to pretend to die in order to gain the sympathy of the man who had jilted her at their wedding. The Friar says: “Come Lady, die to live.” And the ruse works.

“Die to live” was the simple and obvious rationale behind Marlowe’s faked death at Deptford.

© The Marlowe-Shakespeare Connection, August 2008 Sam Riley Deptford
Samuel Blumenfeld, a World War II veteran of the Italian campaign, has authored more than ten books. His latest, The Marlowe-Shakespeare Connection: A New Study of the Authorship Question, was published by McFarland. He is a former editor in the New York book publishing industry and has lectured widely on a diverse range of subjects. He is a regular contributor to MSC.

Click here for the blog's home page and recent content.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Framing Marlowe: The Dutch Church Libel

As Samuel Blumenfeld clarifies in his latest book, The Marlowe-Shakespeare Connection: A New Study of the Authorship Question, "The specific event that led to the unforeseen dangerous consequences for Marlowe [i.e., his arrest] was the Dutch Church Libel [of May 1593], the nailing of a 53-line doggerel poem on the wall of the Dutch churchyard in Broad Street. It threatened the Dutch immigrants living in London with harm and violence if they did not leave." The libel was written in iambic pentameter (a meter Marlowe knew very well, of course, employing it in his pioneering blank verse), was signed "Tamburlaine" (the title of Marlowe's first successful play), and contained references to Marlowe's plays. As Blumenfeld is careful to remind us, the libel must be considered in light of the rivalry between the Earl of Essex and Sir Walter Ralegh (a friend of Marlowe), who were in serious competition for Queen Elizabeth's favor. Blumenfeld postulates that Essex had his hands in framing Marlowe, and in so doing, framing his nemesis Ralegh: since Ralegh favored the expulsion of resident aliens (while the Queen did not), a libel allegedly written by Marlowe would thus discredit his pal Ralegh, as well, and would pave the way for an investigation of Ralegh's atheism (and his "School of Night" circle) by Whitgift's Privy Council (see 7/14 Penry post). "In fact," writes Blumenfeld, "Marlowe's reputation as an atheist and blasphemer stems from reports about the goings on among" Ralegh's intellectual coterie. Blumenfeld also concurs with Charles Nicholl, who in The Reckoning argues that the libel was probably written by one of Essex's servants.

Let's further keep in mind that Francis Bacon had allied himself with Essex by now in order to advance in Elizabeth's government, which placed him in natural competition with Lord Burghley's son Robert Cecil. According to Lisa Jardine and Alan Stewart, in their Hostage to Fortune: The Troubled Life of Francis Bacon, "Bacon's prospects were obstructed throughout his career by Sir Robert Cecil." Also, with the death of spymaster Francis Walsingham (see 6/19 Walsingham post), Essex and Francis Bacon were creating their own spy network to rival the Cecils (see 6/23 Cecil post). Thus, the Cecils had to be thinking that any charges brought against their spy operative Marlowe (and erstwhile Walsingham operative Ralegh) would also discredit them.

Get to Marlowe to get to Ralegh, and discredit the Cecils, too.

© The Marlowe-Shakespeare Connection, August 2008

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Monday, August 11, 2008

Allusionary Play: Hemingway from Shakespeare, Shakespeare from Marlowe

In Ernest Hemingway’s “The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber,” when the virile safari guide Wilson quotes a passage from Shakespeare’s Henry IV, Part II -- “By my troth, I care not; a man can die but once; we owe God a death” (3.2.109) -- Marlowe’s Edward II (written around seven years before Henry IV, Part II) also comes to mind, as Edward states to Berkeley, “. . . of this am I assured: / That death ends all, and I can die but once” (5.1.152-153).

Perhaps Marlowe, who was very well-versed in Scripture, was inspired by Hebrews 9:27: “And as it is appointed unto men once to die . . .”

Of course, I believe Marlowe most likely wrote the Shakespeare plays anyway. Read Edward II, for example, and you’ll see “Shakespeare" everywhere. Regardless, tracing allusions is one of life’s greatest pleasures.

© The Marlowe-Shakespeare Connection, August 2008

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Thursday, August 7, 2008

Leonardo Da Vinci's Brilliance

Click above for a nice piece from Investor's Business Daily.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

First Folio Reappears Ten Years After Library Theft!

Click above link for video, courtesy of Breitbart TV/Fox News.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Shakespeare Authorship Debate, 2007: Stanley Wells vs. Mark Rylance

Click here to read a 2007 debate between Mark Rylance, one of the world’s leading Shakespearean actors, and Professor Stanley Wells, one of the world’s leading Shakespearean scholars. While you’re at the site, sign “The Declaration of Reasonable Doubt About the Identity of William Shakespeare,” sponsored by the Shakespeare Authorship Coalition.

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Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Clues: Marlowe in Shakespeare's Sonnet XXIX?

Hmmm . . . Marlowe in a painful state of exile after his "murder"?

WHEN in disgrace with fortune and men’s eyes

I all alone beweep my outcast state,

And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries,

And look upon myself, and curse my fate,

Wishing me like to one more rich in hope,

Featur’d like him, like him with friends possess’d,

Desiring this man’s art, and that man’s scope,

With what I most enjoy contented least;

Yet in these thoughts myself almost despising,

Haply I think on thee,—and then my state,

Like to the lark at break of day arising

From sullen earth, sings hymns at heaven’s gate;

For thy sweet love remember’d such wealth brings

That then I scorn to change my state with kings.

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Thursday, July 24, 2008

Clues: Marlowe in Shakespeare's Sonnet L?

As seen in a number of the sonnets, a grief-stricken speaker references a painful journey and/or a state of exile. Marlowe on the run/in exile after Deptford?

HOW heavy do I journey on the way

When what I seek, my weary travel’s end,

Doth teach that ease and that repose to say,

‘Thus far the miles are measur’d from thy friend!’

The beast that bears me, tired with my woe,

Plods dully on, to bear that weight in me,

As if by some instinct the wretch did know

His rider lov’d not speed, being made from thee:

The bloody spur cannot provoke him on

That sometimes anger thrusts into his hide,

Which heavily he answers with a groan

More sharp to me than spurring to his side;

For that same groan doth put this in my mind:

My grief lies onward, and my joy behind.

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Friday, July 18, 2008

Mirabile Visu: Arthur Miller's Tragedy and the Common Man

One would be hard-pressed to find a more concise and articulate explanation of the tragic ethos than Arthur Miller's "Tragedy and the Common Man" essay, which first appeared in the New York Times in 1949. Of course, Death of a Salesman is widely considered to be the greatest 20th-century tragedy, and so--if I may borrow a line from his Linda Loman--"attention must be paid" to Miller. Miller makes a passionate case that the average modern man can be as tragic a figure as a king, and thanks to his poignant and clear rationale it is easy to view a Willy Loman in the same tragic light and stature as a Lear, Hamlet, or Oedipus: "Insistence upon the rank of the tragic hero, or the so-called nobility of his character, is really but a clinging to the outward forms of tragedy . . . The quality in such plays that does shake us, however, derives from the underlying fear of being displaced, the disaster inherent in being torn away from our chosen image of what and who we are in this world." And Miller's explanation of the all-important "tragic flaw" is provocative and lucid: "The flaw, or crack in the characters, is really nothing--and need be nothing, but his inherent unwillingness to remain passive in the face of what he conceives to be a challenge to his dignity, his image of his rightful status. Only the passive, only those who accept their lot without active retaliation, are 'flawless.'" Thus, Miller argues, when the character takes a step forward to confront the challenge to his dignity and attacks "the seemingly stable cosmos," he elevates in tragic stature. With that tragic advance, however, he must also face the terror and fear that will inevitably accompany his "questioning of what has previously been unquestioned."

Read the taut, enlightening, and philosophically accessible "Tragedy and the Common Man" again and again. You may learn more about the pure essence of the tragic genre in his 1500 words than in any other place.

© The Marlowe-Shakespeare Connection, July 2008

Click here for Arthur Miller essay.

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