Thursday, December 23, 2010

Worth Repeating: Shakespeare, Businessman...

Click here for Anthony Kellett's "William Shakespeare, Businessman - Forgotten Genius," one of this blog's most popular posts (and which has generated/provoked many reader comments).

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Donna Murphy Wins Hoffman Prize

Congratulations to Donna N. Murphy for co-winning the 2010 Calvin and Rose G. Hoffman Prize for a Distinguished Publication on Christopher Marlowe. She is only the third person to do so for a work which supports the view that Marlowe wrote Shakespeare (the others being Peter Farey and Michael Rubbo). Her entry, “Christopher Marlowe and the authorship of Early English Anonymous Plays,” attempts to provide some evidence for the authorship of certain anonymous Elizabethan plays. Donna explains that her analysis "employs a new technique involving Matches and Near Matches."

Matches are word juxtapositions occurring no more than once elsewhere within forty years of the works in question in the searchable Early English Books Online (EEBO) database, while Near Matches are those occurring no more than fifteen other times within EEBO’s over 20,000 records. (For an example of how she elsewhere employed EEBO to ascertain authorship, see Donna N. Murphy, “The Cobbler of Canterbury and Robert Greene,” Notes & Queries 57 {2010}: 349-52). She is particularly intrigued by Matches that seem to occur at the subconscious level. For example:

Marlowe’s Dido, Queen of Carthage:
A woeful tale bids Dido to unfold,
Whose memory, like pale death’s stony mace,
Beats forth my senses from this troubled soul,
And makes Aeneas sink at Dido’s feet. (II.i.114-7)

Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus 1594 Quarto:
The poor remainder of Andronici
Will, hand in hand, all headlong cast us down,
And on the ragged stones beat forth our soules,
And make a mutuall closure of our house. (K3v-K4r)
The First Folio version of Titus replaces “souls” with “brains” (V.iii.131-4)

Not only do these two plays share the only occurrences in EEBO of “Ston*” within ten words of “beat* forth,” they additionally juxtapose “soul*” plus “and make*.” The passages share a deep connection, yet do not appear to be one man imitating another.

Despite winning the Prize, Donna has no immediate plans to publish her essay. Rather she sees it as a work in progress. "I hope to publish some of my findings in the next few years," she explains, "but not until I've undertaken further linguistic investigation of Thomas Nashe."

Click here for Donna's article "Could the Earl of Oxford Have Written the Works of Shakespeare?," which first appeared on this blog in November 2009. Emmerich Anonymous

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Saturday, November 27, 2010

Allusion or Illusion? William Covell's Gaveston by Ros Barber

A Shakespeare allusion containing what has widely been considered an error, if read as correct, suggests that a Cambridge University contemporary of Christopher Marlowe understood "William Shakespeare" to be Marlowe’s pseudonym.

A belief is a perceptual framework. The nature of human neurology is such that our perceptions are filtered through our beliefs, and where we meet data which conflicts with a strongly held belief we will either not register the existence of the anomalous data at all, or will consider it to be an error and discard it as insignificant.

An experiment by Bruner and Postman in 1949 demonstrated that subjects exposed to a pack of playing cards that included anomalous cards (a black four of hearts, for example) repeatedly failed to identify any problems with the pack. Only with longer and repeated exposures did certain individuals begin to register the anomalous cards, and even then, they often couldn’t identify what exactly was wrong with them. Some did not register the anomalies no matter how long or how often they were exposed to them.1

It is important to our general functioning in the world that we keep our perceptual frameworks fairly rigid; thus even when the brain does identify a piece of data as anomalous, we tend to simply explain it away as an error or fluke. Fugelsang, Stein, Green and Dunbar, studying scientists at work in their laboratories, discovered that in over half of the scientific experiments they studied, the results were inconsistent with the scientists’ predictions, and that scientists were reluctant to consider that data as "real."2 The surprising finding was usually classified as a mistake: "perhaps a machine malfunctioned or an enzyme had gone stale."3 "The scientists were trying to explain away what they didn’t understand," said Kevin Dunbar, one of the neuroscientists involved. "It’s as if they didn’t want to believe it." Even after scientists had produced the anomaly consistently, they would often choose not to follow it up. The research of Fuselang, Dunbar and others demonstrates that despite their discipline’s reputation for impartiality, scientists are not immune from confirmation bias: the human tendency to seek out and give attention to data consistent with one’s initial theory.

Confirmation bias is probably the greatest danger to those of us with an interest in the Shakespeare authorship question. Non-Stratfordians are accused of it more than most – and often quite rightly – but as you would expect of a basic function of human neurology, it affects orthodox Shakespeareans too. Indeed, I would contend it is the orthodox scholars’ lack of engagement with significant quantities of anomalous data – that is, data inconsistent with the orthodox theory of authorship – that spawned the authorship question in the first place. Here, I will look at just one of the numerous anomalies that are no longer anomalous when viewed from a Marlovian perspective.

One of the earliest allusions to Shakespeare as an author is a marginal note in William Covell’s Polimanteia (1595). The note reads:
All praise
Sweet Shak-

Katherine Duncan-Jones and H.R.Woudhuysen explain his apparent error thus:
Carried away with enthusiasm, Covell appears to have added Piers Gaveston (1594?) – strongly influenced by Shakespeare but written by Michael Drayton – to Shakespeare’s authentic poems, Venus and Adonis (1593) and Lucrece (1594).4
It seems odd that Covell would make such a mistake given the prominence of Michael Drayton’s name on the dedicatory epistle accompanying Piers Gaveston, but an error must necessarily be assumed under the orthodox narrative.

However, it is perfectly possible that Covell was not making a mistake, but rather recognised that Venus and Adonis and The Rape of Lucrece were written by the same author who had depicted Piers Gaveston in Edward II, a play which preceded Drayton’s poem both in performance and publication. Gaveston in Marlowe’s play is at least as eloquent as Drayton’s narrator, and the play opens with Gaveston speaking for two dozen lines before anyone else says a word. It is worth noting that Covell is connected to Marlowe’s Cambridge years, being a student at Christ’s College, Cambridge – whose alumni included Marlowe’s "nemesis" Richard Baines - at the same time that Marlowe was a student at Corpus Christi. Covell gained his BA in 1585 (the same year as Marlowe) and his MA in 1588 (the year after Marlowe).

The idea that Covell believes Shakespeare to be a pseudonym for Marlowe is strengthened by his observation that the author is "Watson’s heyre." It is well-documented that Marlowe was a friend of Thomas Watson (nine years his senior), both from the legal accounts of the Hog Lane incident,5 and from the published dialogue between Thomas Nashe and Gabriel Harvey. There is no evidence whatsoever that Thomas Watson was connected with Shakespeare of Stratford, though it has long been recognised that the author of Shake-speares Sonnets was familiar with Watson’s work.6 If we allow ourselves to read Covell’s comment from a Marlovian perspective, no error exists – Covell is saying that Marlowe, the man who put eloquence in the mouth of Piers Gaveston and was the natural heir to Thomas Watson, was the author (as "Shak-speare") of Venus and Adonis and the Rape of Lucrece.7

This does not in any way count as proof of Marlowe’s authorship of Shakespeare’s narrative poems. It is, however, one of many examples of how the historical data reads differently when viewed through different interpretive frameworks, and demonstrates clearly how an "error" according to orthodox scholarship can be read at face value and treated as correct when viewed through a Marlovian lens.

© Ros Barber, November 2010

Ros Barber ( is the first person in the world to complete a PhD in Marlovian authorship theory. Her PhD was funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (UK). Her first degree was in Biological Sciences. A founding member of the International Marlowe-Shakespeare Society, she has published articles challenging the orthodox biography of Marlowe in academic books and journals, including the peer-reviewed Routledge journal Rethinking History. Her essay "Was Marlowe a Violent Man?," which was presented at the Marlowe Society of America conference in 2008, is featured in Christopher Marlowe the Craftsman (Ashgate 2010). A published poet, her latest poetry collection, Material (Anvil 2008), was a Poetry Book Society Recommendation and was funded by Arts Council England.

1Bruner, J. S., and Postman, Leo (1949). "On the Perception of Incongruity: A Paradigm." Journal of Personality, XVIII, 206-23.
2Fugelsand, J. A., Stein, C. B., Green, A. E. and Dunbar, K. N. (2004). "Theory and Data Interactions of the Scientific Mind: Evidence from the Molecular and the Cognitive Laboratory." Canadian Journal of Experimental Psychology, 58, 86-95.
3Lehrer, J. (2009). "Accept Defeat: The Neuroscience of Screwing Up." Wired Magazine.
4Duncan-Jones, K. and Woudhuysen, H. R. (Eds.) (2007). Shakespeare's Poems, Arden Shakespeare, 5.
5Details of the Hog Lane affray can be found in any Marlowe biography, but the definitive account remains Eccles, M. (1934) Christopher Marlowe in London, Cambridge, Mass., Harvard University Press.
6According to The Oxford Companion to English Literature, Watson's sonnets "appear to have been studied by Shakespeare." Harvey, P. S. (1969). The Oxford Companion to English Literature, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 874.Emmerich Anonymous
7Unlike Shake-speares Sonnets, the hyphen here is accounted for by the requirements of the text’s layout.Shakespeare Anonymous

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"It’s enough to strike despair into the heart of James Shapiro, author of Contested Will, as well as the hearts of all the other Shakespeare experts who refute the so-called 'authorship controversy'."  (Financial Times)

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Sunday, November 14, 2010

Book Collecting and the Shakespeare Authorship Controversy by Samuel Blumenfeld

(this article originally appeared in the Fall 2010 newsletter of The Fellowship of American Bibliophilic Societies)

Anyone embarking on writing a book about the Shakespeare authorship question cannot know in advance what he or she will find in that solitary but wonderful search through the hundreds, if not thousands, of books already written about the Elizabethan era and its writers. And so I began my own journey at the age of 73 in 1999 and wrote the final chapter eight years later in 2007. In the interim I had gained a literary education equivalent to a Ph.D.

Writing on such a subject automatically turns one into a book collector, a haunter of antiquarian bookshops and internet sources. There is no greater delight than coming across a book which has that single bit of vital information you are looking for. At first I thought I would have to go to England for research, but I was amazed at how much information was available in books already published. But it also became clear that there were still many books that needed to be written about the events and people in the Elizabethan era. There is still a lot more to know.

Once the manuscript was completed, I was anxious to get it read and published. I had already sent out sample chapters to the usual trade publishers hoping to find an enthusiastic editor anxious to offer a contract. My old contacts in the New York book publishing business were gone, and the younger generation of editors were not interested in what I had written.

I then tried university presses and found a delightful editor at the University of Virginia Press who was intrigued by the subject. I sent her the manuscript of over a thousand pages, which she asked me to cut down. Which I did. She then sent copies to two scholarly reviewers who complimented me on my writing style, but did not think the book should be published. I could never understand why they came to such a negative conclusion. One of the reviewers never returned his copy.

In any case, after sitting on the book for almost a year, the Virginians turned it down. Fortunately, I found a publisher in North Carolina, McFarland, who specialized in publishing well-researched books for the library and academic market. Which meant that I would never be able to retire on the proceeds from the sales of the book, but at least I had a handsome looking tome I could hold in my hand and perhaps sell at lectures. Its final title was The Marlowe-Shakespeare Connection.

I had actually become interested in the authorship controversy back in my days at Grosset & Dunlap, where I was editor of The Universal Library, their quality paperback line. One day, back in 1956, a man by the name of Calvin Hoffman came to my office to urge me to publish a paperback edition of his book, The Murder of the Man Who Was Shakespeare. Hoffman had studied the works of Marlowe and Shakespeare and came to the conclusion that they were all written by one man, Marlowe.

But hadn’t Marlowe been killed in a barroom brawl at the age of 29? Hoffman said he was not, and that the so-called murder was a faked death staged by his employers in the Secret Service to save him from Archbishop Whitgift’s inquisition. I read the book and became convinced that Hoffman was right. We published his book, and I’ve remained a Marlovian ever since.

Forty years later I decided to write my own book on the subject, using the methods of a detective to prove beyond any doubt that Christopher Marlowe was the true author of the works attributed to William Shakespeare. That meant reading all of Marlowe and all of Shakespeare, which I did, and which proved to my satisfaction that Christopher Marlowe was indeed the author of the thirty-six plays in the First Folio, most of which were written in exile. Shakespeare, a good businessman, was the perfect front for the hidden author.

In retrospect, I doubt that I would have embarked on this journey had I known in advance how difficult it would be to get such a book published. In those eight years I could have written perhaps a half-dozen books on subjects I already knew a lot about. My first ten books were on education and literacy. Again, my interest in literacy also began at Grosset & Dunlap where we published all of those series books for young readers.

An attorney friend, Watson Washburn, came to my office one day to enlist me as an advisor for his newly created Reading Reform Foundation. I asked him what the purpose of the Foundation was, and he told me that it was to get phonics back in the schools. Get phonics back in schools? Since when was it taken out? And how could you teach reading without it? He advised me to read Rudolf Flesch’s Why Johnny Can’t Read, which I did. That’s what turned me into a critic of our public schools, and that is why years later I wrote The New Illiterates.

We book lovers deplore the decline of literacy not only in America but throughout the English-speaking world. Despite computers, the Internet, cable television and other forms of entertainment and distraction, there is no substitute for the actual book that one can hold in one’s hands and revere as a source of ageless wisdom. Book collecting speaks of a rational civilization which values ideas, lives, and history. And for that reason, as long as there is a humane civilization, there will be writers, publishers, readers and book collectors.

© Samuel Blumenfeld, 2010

Samuel Blumenfeld, a regular contibutor to MSC, has authored more than ten books. His latest, The Marlowe-Shakespeare Connection: A New Study of the Authorship Question, was published by McFarland. His writings have appeared in such diverse publications as Esquire, Reason, Education Digest, Vital Speeches of the Day, Boston, and many others. His Alpha-Phonics reading system has taught thousands of beginning and struggling readers.Emmerich Shakespeare

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Monday, November 1, 2010

Under an Old Oak by Isabel Gortázar

Following Mike Frohnsdorff’s suggestion1 and Peter Farey’s further elaboration on the subject,2 here are my own thoughts about Oliver’s speech in As You Like It, below.

For those of us who believe that Christopher Marlowe did not die in Deptford in 1593, but lived on to write the works that have been attributed to William Shakespeare of Stratford, it is imperative to try and read in those works the information that any author, but particularly one in Marlowe’s circumstances, would have included about himself, his life in exile, his friends and his enemies, in the various texts.

As You Like It is one of the Shakespeare plays in which scholars and academics have recognized references to Marlowe, including his unclear relationship with “William of Arden," although all orthodox explanations of such references remain so far unconvincing. In this respect, I agree with Farey that Oliver’s speech may be providing us with significant information. Here is the speech again:

Under an old oak, whose boughs were mossed with age
And high top bald with dry antiquity,
A wretched, ragged man, o'ergrown with hair,
Lay sleeping on his back. About his neck
A green and gilded snake had wreathed itself,
Who with her head, nimble in threats, approached
The opening of his mouth. But suddenly
Seeing Orlando, it unlinked itself,
And with indented glides did slip away
Into a bush, under which bush's shade
A lioness, with udders all drawn dry,
Lay couching, head on ground, with catlike watch
When that the sleeping man should stir. For 'tis
The royal disposition of that beast
To prey on nothing that doth seem as dead.

Let me comment on these lines separately:

Under an old oak, whose boughs were mossed with age
And high top bald with dry antiquity,

There seems to be here an unnecessary emphasis on the fact that the oak is very old; in fact, its high top is bald with dry antiquity. The word “antiquity” evokes a mythical scene: According to one of the Arthurian legends, Merlin the magician was trapped in an oak tree by a sorceress; the magician was not dead but due to re-appear some day. Merlin was one of Marlowe’s nicknames, not only on account of the etymology of the name: Marl, Marlin, etc., but also because of Marlowe's identification with his creation, Dr. Faustus. About ten years later, yet another magician, Prospero (a Spanish name synonymous to Fausto), will find his spirit, Ariel, also trapped in a tree by a witch in The Tempest.

These possible references to the Merlin story, steeped in antiquity like Oliver’s tree, might be confirming the identity of our runaway friend. Also, the fact that he is asleep: in the induction of The Taming of the Shrew,3 Marlowe's absence of fifteen years is referred to as "a goodly nap."

Second Servingman
These fifteen years you have been in a dream;
Or when you waked, so waked as if you slept.

These fifteen years! by my fay, a goodly nap.

Back to As You Like It:

A wretched, ragged man, o'ergrown with hair,
Lay sleeping on his back.

These lines are describing a man that has been on the run, probably in these same woods, long enough for his hair to be o'ergrown, and his clothes in rags. Considering that in As You Like It, the woods are the hiding habitat of the outlawed Duke and his followers, the fact that Oliver seems to be hiding/living in a wood would be another pointer to his being an outlaw.

(…). About his neck
A green and gilded snake had wreathed itself,
Who with her head, nimble in threats, approached
The opening of his mouth. But suddenly
Seeing Orlando, it unlinked itself,
And with indented glides did slip away
Into a bush,

Given Frohnsdorff’s suggestion that the basic colour of ecclesiastical vestments changes to green at Pentecost (about the time of the Deptford episode), I agree with Farey that this green and gilded snake may well be a reference to Archbishop Whitgift, attempting to stop Marlowe’s heretical and seditious mouth. Apparently, the snake does not let go off his intended prey until this moment, when Oliver seems to be already an outlaw in the woods, and has obviously been on the run long enough to explain his wretched appearance.

(…) under which bush's shade
A lioness, with udders all drawn dry,
Lay couching, head on ground, with catlike watch
When that the sleeping man should stir. For 'tis
The royal disposition of that beast
To prey on nothing that doth seem as dead

Again, I agree with Farey that this lioness may be Queen Elizabeth; as we know she died in 1603 but she would certainly have been considered an old woman in 1593. However, I personally would feel much more comfortable imagining this lioness/Queen years later, allowing for the time necessary to justify the sleeping man's appearance.

While I personally cannot accept Farey’s theory that Whitgift would have agreed to Marlowe’s banishment, I can easily believe that, given the amount of people that seems to have been in the know as to Kit’s fate, Whitgift would have found out the truth within the next few years. Banishment does not stop anybody’s mouth, only death does that, and silencing heretics was as important as punishing them.

When Richard II banished Bolingbroke, that was perceived as punishment. When Romeo was banished, that was also perceived as punishment; it was Juliet who faked her death while Romeo was punished by exile. From a politico-religious point of view the accidental death staged at Deptford was no punishment in any practical sense, since it was not exemplary. In any case, the exiled life did not silence Marlowe as we know, and stopping Oliver’s mouth is what the snake seems to be intent on, until he leaves the job to the lioness.

Putting all these thoughts together, my personal reading of the speech in question is that Whitgift, having found out over the next few years that Marlowe was still alive, made sure the Queen would never allow him to come back to life, like Merlin.

The scene depicted in this metaphorical manner is covering a period between 1594 (let’s give at least a year for Oliver’s hair to overgrow and his clothes to become rags) and the first months of 1603, when both the “snake” and the “lioness” were still alive. However, the play was entered into the SR on August 4th 1600, although its publication was stayed. This suggests two possibilities: a) That Marlowe had lost his head and was cutting his own throat by writing this speech in 1599, or, b) That precisely in 1599, given Essex’s departure for, and expected failure in, Ireland, Marlowe’s situation was anyway hopeless, and he knew it, so he no longer cared which snake or lioness he might offend. (As I have said before, I believe it was the Earl of Essex who persuaded the Queen to save Marlowe’s life in 1593 and the man who gave him employment and financial support as an agent until 1599.)

A third possibility, and the one I prefer, is that this scene was revised after the Queen’s death, perhaps for that famous performance in the autumn of 1603, tantalizingly announced in Mary Sidney’s lost letter to her son, William, by then Earl of Pembroke.

I personally have no problem with that. Oliver’s is not the only speech and/or scene in As You Like It that seems to have been added after 1600 - the surmise that Marlowe, as most creative writers, may have revised his plays, adding information over the years, seems very reasonable to me.

In any case, this clue, picked up by Frohnsdorff and Farey, suggests to me that Whitgift may have been actively instrumental in preventing the Queen from “resurrecting” Marlowe before she herself died. If, as it appears by the involvement of her Coroner, William Danby, Queen Elizabeth had agreed to the Deptford scam, she must have had some plan for a future “happy ending."

Although, of course, it would not be as simple as that. I can imagine a changing scenario, with Marlowe’s release on the balance, as influence over the Queen shifted slowly, over the next five years, from Essex to Whitgift, with the Cecils swimming with the tide, as Essex insistently blotted his political copybook.

© Isabel Gortázar, October 2010

Isabel Gortázar is an independent scholar, specializing in Shakespeare and Marlowe studies. She is a member of the Board of Directors of the Marlowe Society (UK) and a founding member of the International Marlowe Society. She divides her time between London and Bilbao, Spain.
Roland Emmerich Shakespeare Anonymous
1Frohnsdorff, Mike. The Marlowe Society Newsletter 18, Spring 2002, pp.31-33.
2Farey, Peter. 2010. "Christopher Marlowe: Flight or Banishment."
3See Gortázar, Isabel: The Clue in the Shrew (Revised): A Tumbling Trick.

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Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Significance of Sir Oliver Mar-text in As You Like It by Maureen Duff

Sir Oliver Mar-text1 is a minor character in the play As You Like It. He appears in Act III, sc. iii and is mentioned in Act V, sc. i. He has only three lines of dialogue. As there is already a major character called "Oliver" in the play, it is odd that there is also a minor one with the same first name. 2

In the first of the two scenes Touchstone, the clown, attempts to marry Audrey within the Forest of Arden. Sir Oliver Mar-text, a vicar summoned to marry them, is exposed by a witness, Jaques, as not being up to the task.  As a result, the marriage is halted until a more suitable vicar and place are found. In the second scene, Touchstone refers to Sir Oliver as "a most wicked Sir Oliver" and "a most vile Mar-text" before he turns his attention to seeing off a romantic rival, William, a "countryman," who lives in the Forest.

Some of those interested in the Shakespeare authorship question have wondered if Sir Oliver Mar-textʼs highly unusual name has a special significance. For example, Daryl Pinksen and Sam Blumenfeld both point out that "Marlo" can be read within the name. Blumenfeld goes further and wonders if "Mar-text" is a shortened form of "Marlowe's text," as does Calvin Hoffman and A.D. Wraight.3 "Marlo" is a known variant of the name "Marlowe."4

In the second of the two scenes, Touchstone and William compete for Audreyʼs hand. It has been suggested that a dim-witted character such as Audrey is an allegorical figure standing for the "auditors" or audience.5 Itʼs easy to guess who William might be. Touchstone dismisses William as vulgar and unlearned, and therefore unfit to marry Audrey. However, Touchstone (a pseudonym for Marlowe?) emphasizes his own fitness for the position of husband in classical form, viz ipse = he himself.6

I was struck by the introduction into the text of the Latin ipse and further by the description of Sir Oliver Mar-text as "wicked" and "vile" and therefore needing to be changed in some way – as an anagram, for example? As the two scenes are connected, this seemed to suggest that the name "Sir Oliver Mar-text" might hold a cryptic message in Latin. My knowledge of Latin is elementary, but I quickly saw that moving one of the two "iʼs" in the name into "text" made "texit" (3rd person, present tense) from texere = to compose.

I now had "Marlowe composes"; but what about the remaining six letters: s i r and v e r ? If this was a Latin anagram, the phrase must make sense and the grammar must fit exactly. At that point, I had a brief conversation with my uncle, Dr. William Anderson, research chemist and Latin scholar. It shortly became clear to us both that "Sir Oliver Mar-text" resolves into a straightforward Latin sentence with a meaningful English translation:

MARLO VIR RES TEXIT and the basic English translation:

So, why is a Latin anagram here at all? Who was it for? In 1598 William Shakespeare was identified in print for the first time as the author of the plays.8 Marloweʼs own name placed cryptically among the characters of As You Like It would serve as consolation for the real playwright. At least he would know it was there, even if no one else did.

I therefore suggest that the significance of Sir Oliver Mar-text is that it represents Christopher Marloweʼs claim to authorship of As You Like It - and possibly some of the other works attributed to Shakespeare.

© Maureen Duff, October 2010

Post-Script, October 2011

Appendix B of David Mateer's publication, "New Sightings of Christopher Marlowe in London," is a transcript, in the original Latin, of the charges brought against Christopher Marlowe by James Wheatley for the non-return of a horse. In it, "Marlowe" is twice spelled "Marlo." This shows that in 1589, "Marlo" was already a known Latin form of the poet's last name. (David Mateer, New Sightings of Christopher Marlowe in London, Early Theatre 11.2 [2008]: Article 2)

Thanks to Dr. W. Anderson and Peter Farey for their invaluable comments.

Maureen Duff was born in Glasgow, Scotland, and was educated at the University of Glasgow (MA, English Literature and Philosophy). She has worked in the entertainment industry for many years, first as a theatrical agent, then as a casting director in films and television. She worked for Director Richard Attenborough on Closing the Ring and Director Danny Boyle on several films, including The Beach and 28 Days Later. Her filmography can be found on the imdb. She has won or been a finalist in several UK national magazine writing competitions, notably winning a trip for two to Hawaii for a short story entitled "Krakatoa, East of Java." She once cast As You Like It for the Northcott Theatre, Exeter. She lives and works in London.

1 In the First Folio, 1623, Sir Oliver Mar-text was hyphenated and "Oliver" was spelled "Oliuer." At this time, "u" and "v" were the same letter but were sometimes written differently depending on position in a word.
2Oliver de Boys, son of Sir Rowland de Boys.
3Pinksen, Daryl. 2008. Marlowe's Ghost. p. 125.
Blumenfeld, Samuel. 2008. The Marlowe-Shakespeare Connection. p. 295.
Hoffman, Calvin. 1955. The Man Who Was Shakespeare. p. 176.
Wraight, A.D. The Story That the Sonnets Tell. p. 342.
4Farey, Peter. 2002. "The Spelling of Marloweʼs Name." "Marlo" appears on the original title page of one of his plays (The Jew of Malta).
5Ben Jonson refers in "On Poet-Ape" to the "sluggish gaping auditor." A.D. Wraight: The Story That the Sonnets Tell, p. 341. Daryl Pinksen's Marloweʼs Ghost, pp. 118-121.
6Act V, sc. i
Touchstone: Give me your hand. Art thou learned?
William: No, sir.
Touchstone: Then learn this of me: to have, is to have; for it is a figure in rhetoric that drink, being poured out of a cup into a glass, by filling the one doth empty the other; for all your writers do consent that ipse is he: now you are not ipse, for I am he.
7According to Lewis & Shortʼs Latin Dictionary (1879, Impression of 1958, Clarendon Press, Oxford):
VIR (noun, nom, or voc, sing) = man, brave man, man of principle, hero, husband.
RES (noun, accus, plu), = things, facts, truths, subject matter; (in a literary context) events, acts, stories, histories.
TEXIT (verb, 3rd person, present) = he weaves; makes; (in a literary context) contrives, composes.
Collins Gem Latin Dictionary (1996) also lists these English meanings of the Latin words, showing their common usage.
8Loveʼs Labourʼs Lost was the first play to be published under the name "William Shakespeare" in 1598. As You Like It was written between late 1598 and early 1600 but "staied" from publication at the Stationers Register in May 1600. It was not seen in print until the First Folio, 1623.
For the first time in print, an independent author, Francis Meres, in Palladis Tamia (1598), named William Shakespeare as the "honey-tongued" author of twelve plays, two poems and a collection of "sugared" sonnets.
Daryl Pinksenʼs Marloweʼs Ghost (pp. 65-67) gives a list of the plays and dates of their publication.  Who wrote Shakespeare? Emmerich Anonymous
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Monday, October 4, 2010

The Tanner of Wingham by Peter Farey

In his introduction to William Urry's (1988) Christopher Marlowe
and Canterbury
Andrew Butcher wrote: "Furthermore, it seemed to Urry that the detailed local knowledge of East Kent which occurs in Henry VI Part II was certainly of a kind which Marlowe might have possessed and used. In describing Alexander Iden, Best, Wingham tanner, Emmanuel, the clerk of Chartham (or possibly Chatham), and Dick, the Ashford butcher, the dramatist seemed to be drawing on a knowledge of individuals who were demonstrably known to those living in Canterbury and its hinterland."

I don't know anything about the others, but it seems to me that Urry may well have had a point regarding that tanner's son:
Holland: I see them, I see them! There's Best's son, the tanner of Wingham. (2H6 4.2.21)
Mid-way between Canterbury and Wingham, which are about six miles apart, lies the parish of Bekesbourne. It is there that on 19 March 1582 (today's calendar) Joseph Best, the son of John Best, was christened. One may reasonably assume that he was a brother to Thomas Best, also baptized in Bekesbourne some three years earlier, on 22 February 1579. There was a Margaret Best (John's sister?) too, who had married John Silcock on 14 October 1566 in Goodnestone, which is less than two miles from Wingham. All of this information is from the International Genealogical Index of the Church of Latter Day Saints.

Marlowe would have been two years old when Margaret was married. He was about fifteen - and only recently first recorded as a pupil at the King's School Canterbury - when Thomas arrived, and at Cambridge aged eighteen when Joseph was born. The Marlowes were at this time living in the parish of St. George, the Canterbury parish next to the city gate leading to Bekesbourne and Wingham.

We don't know whether this John Best was a tanner, of course - although Canterbury's "Old Tannery" isn't that far from "Best Lane" - but I quite like to imagine the young Kit Marlowe collecting leather for his shoemaker father from the Bests at Wingham and in a brief period away from school even visiting them around the time when his friend John’s wife was giving birth to young Thomas.

© Peter Farey, October 2010

Peter Farey, a founding member of the International Marlowe-Shakespeare Society, is the 2007 recipient of the Calvin & Rose G. Hoffman Prize, administered annually by The King's School in Canterbury for a "distinguished publication on Christopher Marlowe." He was also a founding member (with Derek Jacobi) of the UK's National Youth Theatre. Click here to reach Peter's website.    Sam Riley Marlowe Burgess Emmerich Anonymous

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Monday, September 20, 2010

More Doubts About Will - 4: The (Real) Death of Marlowe by Isabel Gortázar

And so we are coming to the end of my story: My hypothesis that Christopher Marlowe died, or killed himself, in the last months of 1621 is based on a series of events occurring between September 25th of that year and the summer of 1622, so six years after the death of William Shakespeare. (See Part I: "The Chancel"; Part II: "Enter Iago"; Part III: "The Swan Song"; and the Time-Schedule below).

The printing process of the First Folio (FF) started around April 1621,1 to be stopped on 21st October by order of the Lord Chamberlain2(Mary Sidney’s eldest’s son); by then, all the Comedies except The Winter’s Tale were already printed. According to the dates for the Frankfurt Catalogue,3 by April 1622 it had already been decided to attribute the works in the FF to William Shakespeare.

The tantalizing flight of wishful thinking that emerges from a combination of all facts and dates is that Marlowe’s friends, including Edward Blount and Ben Jonson, angered by this injustice but powerless to redress it, undertook to plant a series of clues in the Introductory Pages of the FF and in the Chancel of Trinity Church in Stratford, where William Shakespeare had been buried.

In his Introductory Poem, dedicated to my beloved, the author, Mr William Shakespeare, Jonson hails him as one who had “small Latin and less Greek,” and, in another line, as the “Soul of the Age”. In those days, when the knowledge of Latin was taken for granted in every educated person, the contradiction between those two expressions would have sounded most bizarre. Theirs was the Age of the Renaissance, the “rebirth” of classical culture. No amount of creative genius could make a man with “small Latin and less Greek” the “soul” of such an “age."

To these and other oddities, Jonson added the puzzling words: “You are a Monument without a Tomb,” a line all the more remarkable if the Tomb had been there since 1616, while the Monument was just being erected.4

In the middle of an erratic process in which the publication of the FF was delayed by more than two years, The Tragedy of Othello was registered and published, as we have seen,5 with a villain named Iago, the Spanish name for King James. At the time when this registration and subsequent publication happened, the man who was responsible for giving it the green light was Sir George Buck, Master of the Revels (MR) since 1610. But Ben Jonson had been appointed Deputy Master of the Revels (DMR) on October 5, 1621.6 If Buck had really gone mad, as was later reported, Jonson could have taken advantage of the situation.

A letter dated May 3, 1619, forbidding publication of plays owned by the King’s Men without their consent, coincides in time with the period of publication of the Pavier Collection (see Time-Schedule). Since then Walkley had obtained permission to publish three plays owned by the King’s Men, all three by Beaumont and Fletcher.7 This suggests that perhaps the Lord Chamberlain was not so much interested in controlling the publication of the King’s Men’s plays, but of Shakespeare’s plays, maybe because the project for a Folio volume was already being discussed, and Marlowe was revising the plays for it. The Comedies show plausible signs of having been revised after 1618.8

If Othello had been the old Moor of Venice, the play would have belonged to the King’s Men. That being the case, I find it difficult to believe that with more than ten unpublished Shakespeare plays, Pembroke would have made an exception precisely with Othello. However, if the text were a new one, Walkley would have been in a position to equivocate, which he seems to have done, printing on the title page that the play had been diverse times acted at the Globe and at the Black Friars, by His Majesty’s Servants.

And here is another conjecture for what it is worth: Given his standing orders about publication, once the 1Q Othello appeared in print, the Lord Chamberlain would have seen it, made enquiries, realized the imposture, declared the Master of the Revels to be insane and had both Buck and Jonson sacked; but there was little else he could do if indeed the play, being new, did not belong to the King’s Men, had been properly registered by Buck, and no attempt was being made to show it in performance. Once 1Q Othello was published Jaggard could include the full text in 1623; leaving out of the FF a recently published “Shakespeare” play would have been more suspicious than including it.

But who had the MS of Othello? After months of rumours, Sir George Buck was officially declared insane in April 1622. Following the brief appointment of Sir John Astley, Sir Henry Herbert (a relative of the Lord Chamberlain) was appointed Master of the Revels in 1623. Buck’s family was requested to deliver to the new MR all papers from Sir George’s Library, and that’s the last we see of them. Ben Jonson’s library was burnt to the ground at about the time the FF was registered. It seems that as from November 1623, all possible Shakespeare MSS that were not under the direct control of the Herbert family had gone up in flames.

Whoever, and for whatever reason (presumably in agreement with, or by order of, King James), decided to obliterate Marlowe's name for posterity, it seems the Herbert family (and that includes, of course, “The Inimitable Pair”9) were instrumental in the cover up. As Oscar Wilde would put it: to lose one manuscript may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose thirty-six looks like carelessness.10 The destruction of those two libraries could have been an accident, but in view of all the circumstances, those fires smell as rotten as the State of Denmark.

Among the Poems of Ben Jonson, there is one with the title An Execration of Vulcan, published in December 1639 or early 1640, so two years after his death on August 6, 1637. Jonson addresses Vulcan thus:

And why to me this, thou lame lord of fire,
What had I done that might call on thine ire?

The Poem has 216 lines in which Jonson mentions just about every important book or literary character (including those in the learned Librarie of Don Quixote) he might have sacrificed to Vulcan “Had I fore-knowne of this thy least desire.” The general discourse of the Poem is obscure and the following lines struck me as intriguing:

All the madde Rolands and sweet Oliveer’s;
To Merlins marvailes and his Caball losse . . .

Merlins marvailes!
Well, well, well!

For all the unanswered questions, theses conjectures, when seen together with the dates of refurbishment of the Chancel, the erection of the Monument,11and the first visit of the “Poet’s” theatre friends to Stratford,"12 plus the renewal of the printing process of the FF in November 1622, seem to present us with an intriguing scenario that runs broadly between May 1619 through to the end of 1623, with a flurry of activity heavily concentrated in just under one year, from October 1621 to the summer of 1622.

Why? What had happened to justify this sudden interest in William Shakespeare six long years after his previously unnoticed death? My hunch (alas, I cannot prove it) is that Marlowe died in the last months of 1621, and his friends decided to direct our attention to the one place where, after the publication of the First Folio, “Shakespeare” would continue to be investigated: Stratford.

When that stone is rent,
And Time dissolves thy Stratford Moniment,
Here we alive shall view thee still.

To dissolve means also to solve: When...Time solves thy Stratford Moniment. The word Moniment, spelt with i instead of u appears twice in the Introductory Pages; it would derive from the Latin Monitio, “warning.”

So, perhaps Marlowe was finally dead. This possibility is particularly suggestive in the light of a theory, apparently propounded by Washington Irving, to the effect that an Englishman whom he thought was Christopher Marlowe died in Padua14 in 1627, at the home of one Pietro Basconi or Bosconi.15 Irving is supposed to have seen the relevant letter in 1843.

I found no Basconi or Bosconi families in the Padua records. The Padovan Archivists suggested that Irving may have misread the family name and advised me to look for the Bassani family in the relevant period; there I found one Antonio Bassanio curiously enough, though I could not find details about his life. And here is a tricky one for Stratfordians: Apart from three students called Rosenkrantz, and one Ioannes Gulderstiern16 I found the family of the Ottelli, (spelt variously as Otelli, Ottelli and Othelius), which means there would have been individuals walking the streets of Padua surnamed “Otello.”

As for the date 1627, during the Renaissance and later, the digit 1, as in 1621, was often written as the alpha letter in the Greek alphabet; if Irving misread the name Bosconi in the letter he saw, he might as easily have misread the date α62α (1621) for 1627.17

So here is the chain of events again:
1616: April 23rd: William Shakespeare dies.
1619: Thomas Pavier publishes a collection of “Shakespeare” plays, which contains ten titles, of which only three are accepted as Shakespearean texts.
1619: May 3rd: The Court of the Stationers’ Company receives a letter from the Lord Chamberlain (the Earl of Pembroke), forbidding the printing of any plays belonging to the King’s Men without their consent.
1621: April: The printing of the FF gets started.
1621: May 1st: Francis Bacon is convicted of taking bribes on twenty-three charges.
1621: September 25th: The Swan of Avon, Mary Sidney, Countess of Pembroke, dies in Wilton House.
1621: October 5th: Ben Jonson is appointed DMR.
1621: October 6th: Thomas Walkley registers the 1Q Othello.
1621: October 21: Printing of the FF is stopped by order of the Lord Chamberlain.
1622: Early months: Walkley publishes the 1Q Othello under the name of William Shakespeare.
1622: March: Ben Jonson is removed from his job as DMR. Rumours start that Sir George Buck has gone mad.
1622: March 29th: The reversion of the Mastership of the Revels is granted to Sir John Astley.
1622, April 12th: Sir George Buck is officially declared insane.
1622: c. April: The refurbishment in the Chancel begins and the Stratford Monument is finally erected.
1622: c. April: The Catalogue of the Frankfurt Book Fair is being prepared including the announcement of a Folio volume with the works of William Shakespeare.
1622: May 16th: Buck is required to surrender his office, and his relatives are requested to deliver all the Revels papers.18
1622: Summer: The King’s Players visit Stratford and receive 6 shillings in compensation (solatio) for not being allowed to play in the Hall. According to Fripp, there are no other records of payments to the King’s Men in the Minutes and Accounts, between 1616 and 1622. (See Part 1 for Edgar Fripp)
1622: c. November:  The printing of the FF is resumed.
1623: c. August: The Tragedy of Othello is included in the FF.
1623: Sir Henry Herbert succeeds Astley as master of the Revels. He will keep the post until 1642. During his mandate, Herbert said that many of Buck’s books and papers had been lost in a fire.
1623: November 8th: The FF is entered into the Stationers’ Register incomplete. Troilus and Cressida as well as the Introductory Pages will be included at a later date.
1623: c. November: The library of Ben Jonson is burned to the ground.19
1624: c. February: A maximum 1000, probably less than half, copies of the FF became ready for sale at one pound each.

The Earth covers him; the people mourn him; he is in Olympus.

Isabel Gortázar

© Isabel Gortázar, August 2010    Dead Man in Deptford Riley Burgess
Isabel Gortázar is an independent scholar, specializing in Shakespeare and Marlowe studies. She is a member of the Board of Directors of the Marlowe Society (UK) and a founding member of the International Marlowe Society. She divides her time between London and Bilbao, Spain. 

1W.W. Greg: The Shakespeare First Folio. (Oxford. Clarendon Press, 1955). Unless specified to the contrary, all information about the First Folio (FF) contained in this essay, has been obtained from Greg’s book, allegedly the most important work published on the subject.
2William Herbert, Earl of Pembroke.
3See Time-Schedule.
4See Part 1: "The Curious History of the Chancel."
5See Part II: "Enter Iago."
6The entry in the SR says: Thomas Walkley. Entred for his copie under the handes of Sir George Buck, and Master Swinhowe warden, The Tragedie of Othello, the moore of Venice." This seems to clear Jonson of all responsibility, but Buck was declared insane shortly afterwards.
7Greg. Op cit.
8My reasons for this conjecture are that I find information in the early Comedies on political events occurring after May 1618, which may be a coincidence, or perhaps not.
9The two sons of Mary Sidney, the Earls of Pembroke and Montgomery, are The Inimitable Pair to whom Hemminge and Condell dedicate the First Folio, in a text that is suspected to have been written by Ben Jonson. Montgomery succeeded his brother as Lord Chamberlain in 1626, so the control of the Herbert family over Shakespeare’s plays continued after Pembroke died in 1630.
10Thirty-eight, if we count Cardenio and Pericles. My quotation is from O. Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest.
11As we know, the Monument was carved by “one Gerard Johnson," according to Sir William Dugdale’s Antiquities of Warwickshire, published in 1656. This is a complex subject that deserves to be treated separately.
12See Part I: "The Chancel."
13L. Digges: First Folio, Introductory Pages.
14The City of Padua was part of the Venetian Republic.
15I owe this information to my colleague, John Hunt, Vice Chairman of the Marlowe Society, who obtained it from a letter written by Calvin Hoffman to a German colleague on 23/7/83. Unfortunately, the information about Irving’s trip to Padua has inexplicable errors.
16The spelling of the names varies. I am indebted to my colleague Dr. Bastian Conrad of Munich for confirming the existence of students with these names also at the University of Wittemberg.
17The “death records” in Padua are listed alphabetically; no Marlowe, Marlin, Marley or similar name, appears in those years, but he may have been using another name.
18Some of these dates I have obtained from Gwynneth Bowen: "The Incomparable Pair and 'The Works of William Shakespeare.'" Shakespearean Authorship Review (English): Autumn 1961.
19The date of this fire is not known. Sources vary between the beginning of 1624 and November 1623, the month when the FF was entered into the SR.

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Friday, September 3, 2010

History Play: a question for author Rodney Bolt

(this post originally appeared on January 4, 2009)

We caught up with writer Rodney Bolt, whose immensely enjoyable 2004 speculative biography, History Play: The Lives and Afterlife of Christopher Marlowe, imagines Christopher Marlowe faking his own death, escaping England, and going on to write the works we attribute to Shakespeare. Of the novel, Judith Flanders of the Spectator (UK) praises: "A triumph . . . It has both a serious remit and enough puns and anagrams to make Shakespeare (or possibly Marlowe) blush. It made me laugh out loud. And, most of all, it made me want to go back to the plays. This was a book that needed to be done perfectly or not at all. It is perfect."

Rodney’s latest biography, The Librettist of Venice: The Remarkable Life of Lorenzo Da Ponte – Mozart's Poet, Casanova's Friend, and Italian Opera's Impresario (2006), has been lauded as “irresistible reading” by Megan Marshall in the New York Times.

Rodney was born in South Africa and was educated at Rhodes University in South Africa and Corpus Christi College, Cambridge. He is an award-winning travel writer and has also written and directed for the theatre. He presently resides in Amsterdam in the Netherlands.

Q: Rodney, thanks for taking time to chat with us. I’m curious. Did Marlowe channel you while you were at Cambridge, or is the explanation for your writing History Play a bit more conventional and rooted in perhaps your skepticism with Shakespeare biographies? And certainly you had to know you were delving into the kind of territory that unsettles a lot of Shakespeare lovers and that you were perhaps placing yourself in the middle of some academic crossfire.

Rodney: At Cambridge, I studied English at Marlowe’s old college – so I guess he was always a presence looking over my shoulder. Perhaps, unconsciously, that was where it all began. Certainly, while I was writing History Play I was aware of wanting his ghost’s approval. More than that of living academics. I realized that what I was doing was going to create quite some huffing and puffing – though in the end, I was surprised at how few howls of anger there were. But this awareness did mean that History Play had to be absolutely watertight in its play with historical fact – if Marlowe and Montaigne have a conversation, it has to be completely possible that they were both in that place at the time; the plot that Marlowe becomes embroiled in (which leads to his staged death) is a real one, and his involvement perfectly feasible: that sort of thing. (For that reason, the Spectator review you quote is quite my favourite.)

But as you suggest, the main impetus for writing the book was indeed a scepticism about Shakespearean biography as a whole. We have just so many facts about Shakespeare. Those and no more. Every single Shakespearean biography there is has only this handful of hard fact to work with – the rest is speculation and (though authors generally deny they are doing it) extrapolation from the works themselves. One of my favourite quotes unearthed during research was Mark Twain’s, likening writing a biography of Shakespeare to reconstructing the skeleton of a brontosaurus, using "nine bones and six hundred barrels of plaster of Paris." I wanted to throw those old bones in the air, and let them land in a different pattern. To show that, using the same method, you could create an entirely different story. So I am not a true Marlovian, in the sense that History Play is a work of fiction (although it looks and reads like a straight biography). I’m probably closer to the people who in the UK recently signed a Declaration of Reasonable Doubt about William Shakespeare. The deeper I got into the research, the more sceptical I became – and certainly, for me, Marlowe is the most feasible candidate for an alternative authorship.

Q: Of all the things you uncovered in your impressively detailed research (many of the characters and events mentioned in History Play, by the way, have been discussed here at our blog), is there any one thing that really floored you about Marlowe, Shakespeare, a shadowy figure, or perhaps some historical incident? Any eureka moments, perhaps?

Rodney: The discovery that absolutely fascinated me was that there were troupes of English players travelling through continental Europe, hugely popular for performing in English. This struck me as an ideal cover for a spy, given the mobility of players. A poet-player (especially a university man like Marlowe) would have access both to servant’s gossip, and to the lords themselves (more often as not when they were drunk and relaxed after a meal), as well as a jester’s immunity in crossing borders (both social and political). And indeed, the same troupes performed for both sides in the war between the Spanish and the Dutch (a war in which England had a crucial role, and from which Queen Elizabeth’s court would be most desirous of inside information). This discovery was made even more exciting by my realization that Marlowe’s mysterious absences from Cambridge, doing "her majesty good service" in "matters touching the benefit of his Country" coincided with the players’ prime touring season. It also makes sense that high-action dramas such as Tamburlaine were written with one eye on a non-English-speaking audience . . . and there was a troupe present at the festivities surrounding the inauguration of Kronborg Castle at Elsinore (Kronborg’s topography bears a startling resemblance to that of the castle in Hamlet), a troupe that included the Shakespearean clown Will Kempe.

Q: I need to ask you about Roland Barthes’s “death of the author” argument. Should an author’s identity matter when we’re interpreting a text?

Rodney: For me, the plays written by (or attributed to) Shakespeare are unassailable. Having worked with them practically (as a theatre director) as well as academically, I stand in awe . . . and it does not matter one jot who wrote them. So, in that sense perhaps, I’m with Barthes. But with works so great, one cannot help but be intrigued to find out more about the hand behind them. I can be very cynical about academics who claim that you cannot move from the works to information about the author – and then go right ahead and do so, to fill out the pages of a biography that would be naked without such speculation. And I find the whole industry that surrounds the man Shakespeare – up there with Queen Victoria and Churchill as great national symbols, an icon subject to extraordinarily lucrative commercial, tourist and academic exploitation – most offensive.

Q: Care to clue us in on what you’re working on now?

Rodney: I’ve moved to the late-Victorian/early-Edwardian period for a (true) book about the Benson family – the spouse and offspring of an Archbishop of Canterbury. When the domineering, stuffy archbishop died, his wife changed her name from Mary to Ben, and took one Lucy Tait into her bed. Her brood were all famous in their own right (E.F. Benson for his Mapp and Lucia books, Arthur as the author of England’s unofficial national anthem "Land of Hope and Glory," Maggie for her archaeological excavations in Egypt, and more). They knew everyone, from Queen Victoria to Oscar Wilde, and not one of them (to use the idiom of the time) was "the marrying sort."

Q: Rodney, many thanks for sharing some thoughts with our audience. Please join us again, we hope? We’ll do lunch in downtown Sarasota when you’re on the Gulf Coast of Florida.

Rodney: Great!

(Bolt photo by Armando Guerra)

© The Marlowe-Shakespeare Connection, January 2009

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Thursday, August 19, 2010

Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers: Implications for Shakespeare Biographers by Daryl Pinksen

In Malcolm Gladwell’s recent book, Outliers: The Story of Success, the author argues that top-level mastery of any discipline cannot be achieved without sustained and concerted effort, usually from an early age, until something like ten thousand hours of focused practice have been logged. Gladwell’s goal is to expose as Romantic delusion the notion that “outliers,” his word for individuals who achieve world-class mastery, are the outcome of geniuses inevitably rising to the top—often in spite of their environment. In Outliers, Gladwell marshals a chorus of evidence to make his case.

The defining example Gladwell presents is a longitudinal study which tracked violin students in Berlin’s elite Academy of Music. All of the students had begun the violin around age five, and all had evidenced exceptional skill; this was their ticket into the academy. The study asked the students about practice habits, and followed the students into their professional lives. What the researchers found was stunning. For the first few years, when all students were practicing at roughly equal intensity, there was little difference in their ability, but as time went on, the proficiency gap began to widen, and there was only one factor that correlated with proficiency—practice time. Here is an excerpt from Outliers discussing the ramifications of the study’s findings:
By the age of twenty, the elite performers had each totalled ten thousand hours of practice. By contrast, the merely good students had totalled eight thousand hours, and the future music teachers had totalled just over four thousand hours.

Ericsson and his colleagues then compared amateur pianists with professional pianists. The same pattern emerged. The amateurs never practiced more than about three hours a week over the course of their childhood, and by the age of twenty they had totalled two thousand hours of practice. The professionals, on the other hand, steadily increased their practice time every year, until by the age of twenty they, like the violinists, had reached ten thousand hours.
The striking thing about Ericsson’s study is that he and his colleagues couldn’t find any “naturals,” musicians who floated effortlessly to the top while practicing a fraction of the time their peers did. Nor could they find any “grinds,” people who worked harder than everyone else, yet just didn’t have what it takes to break the top ranks. Their research suggests that once a musician has enough ability to get into a top music school, the thing that distinguishes one performer from another is how hard he or she works. That’s it. And what’s more, the people at the very top don’t work harder or even much harder than everyone else. They work much, much harder.1
One can see how such findings might be important for Shakespeare’s biographers, for the story of Shakespeare’s rise from rural glover’s son to the greatest writer in English history is frequently held up as an example of “genius”—nature—triumphing over environment. Shakespeare was a “natural” poet, who picked things up as he went along, absorbed what he could from books when he had the chance. His genius was so profound that his rise to poetic excellence was virtually pre-ordained at birth. This makes a great story, but is it credible?

Although Gladwell never mentions Shakespeare, what he has to say in Outliers gives us new insights into the conventional Shakespearean biography, for the truth uncovered about the violin students appears to be universal:
"The emerging picture from such studies is that ten thousand hours of practice is required to achieve the level of mastery associated with being a world-class expert—in anything,” writes the neurologist Daniel Levitin. “In study after study, of composers, basketball players, fiction writers, ice skaters, concert pianists, chess players, master criminals, and what have you, this number comes up again and again."2
By 1593, the best plays in England were written by two poets who, we are told, followed very different paths, yet ended up producing work very similar in style and substance, each exhibiting an equal world-class mastery—Christopher Marlowe and William Shakespeare.

We can easily account for Marlowe’s achievement of mastery: He was granted a scholarship to the elite King’s School in Canterbury, and from there a Parker scholarship3to Cambridge (bestowed upon boys who could read music, sing, and compose verse), first for a Bachelor of Arts, and then continuing on scholarship for his Master of Arts. Marlowe perfected his ability to “make a verse” by translating Ovid’s Latin Amores into sophisticated English verse, the first vernacular translation of that work. Marlowe began to write plays while still at University, each work moving, by steep steps, toward mastery of his chosen field.

Shakespeare’s path had to have been very different. We do not know, but given his father’s position in the community it is reasonable to assume that Shakespeare attended the Stratford grammar school. It is thought he could not have stayed more than seven years, leaving at the age of fourteen. From then he must have worked, most likely in Stratford, since at age eighteen he married a local girl and began raising a family. By the age of twenty-one, he and his wife have three children, raising them in Stratford. Then the record goes blank. It resumes again when the first plays attributed to Shakespeare make their debut in London in the early 1590s. No one knows where Shakespeare was, or what he was doing, between starting a family in Stratford and debuting as a playwright in London, with plays which were immediately the equal of, if not better than, Marlowe plays written at nearly the same time.

How did Shakespeare achieve this feat? No one knows, but what is made clear in Gladwell’s book is that “genius” is an insufficient explanation. You also need roughly ten thousand hours of practice, a very difficult thing to achieve, as Gladwell explains:
It’s all but impossible to reach that number all by yourself by the time you’re a young adult. You have to have parents who encourage and support you. You can’t be poor, because if you have to hold down a part time job on the side to help make ends meet, there won’t be enough time left in the day to practice enough. In fact, most people can reach that number only if they get into some kind of special program—like a hockey all-star squad—or if they get some kind of extraordinary opportunity that gives them a chance to put in those hours.4
This description applies perfectly to Christopher Marlowe. But could it also apply to Shakespeare?

If the research in Outliers is any indication, in order to produce plays and poetry which equalled Marlowe’s in refinement and skill, in the same time span, Shakespeare must have logged a similar amount of time studying and practicing as Marlowe (that they were the same age makes comparison easier). The burden rests on Shakespeare’s biographers to try and explain how this might have happened, or how it was even possible.

Those of us who argue that Christopher Marlowe wrote the works of Shakespeare have an explanation of where this fully-fledged Shakespearean mastery came from that is consistent with the research gathered in Outliers. We know that Marlowe (as is assumed of Shakespeare) was born a genius, but it was his environment, the lucky breaks he got in his childhood, his access to books, his scholarships, his leisure time to study and practice, his time to converse with other like-minded individuals, that made him, by 1593, arguably the greatest poet-playwright in England.

Shakespeare’s current biographers are wise enough to realize that “genius” is not a sufficient explanation, and they range far and wide to try and account for the incredible phenomenon of “Shakespeare”: He spent his youth as a page in the house of a nobleman; he was a teacher; he was a law-clerk; he patched up plays while on tour with acting troupes; he browsed book-sellers stalls and ended up equalling the learning of the university-educated. Since Shakespeare did achieve this mastery, the reasoning goes, one or more of these explanations must account for it. It is difficult to see how, though. Between working and raising a family Shakespeare had much going against him, perhaps as much as Marlowe had going for him. Gladwell’s summary also serves us here:
We pretend that success is exclusively a matter of individual merit. But there’s nothing in any of the histories we’ve looked at so far to suggest things are that simple. These are stories, instead, about people who were given a special opportunity to work really hard and seized it, and who happened to come of age at a time when that extraordinary effort was rewarded by the rest of society.5
This explanation fits Marlowe’s story; could it also fit Shakespeare’s? What Shakespeare did or did not do during his formative years is unknown, and will probably remain unknown. But could he have had the opportunities, and the sheer number of hours necessary, to become a playwright who was able to write plays and poems at the same level of mastery as Marlowe’s in the same time-frame? This is not a question borne of snobbery, the usual retort tossed out when this issue is raised. Rather, it simply asks for an acknowledgment of the way the world actually works.

Daryl Pinksen

© Daryl Pinksen, August 2010

Daryl Pinksen, a founding member of the International Marlowe-Shakespeare Society, is the author of Marlowe's Ghost: The Blacklisting of the Man Who Was Shakespeare, Grand Prize Winner of the 17th Annual Writer's Digest International Self-Published Book Awards.

1Gladwell, Malcolm. 2008. Outliers: The Story of Success. New York: Little, Brown and Company. p. 39.
[One of the many wonderful articles by Ericcson and his colleagues about the ten-thousand-hour rule is K. Anders Ericcson, Ralf Th. Krampe, and Clemens Tesch-Römer, “The Role of Deliberate Practice in the Acquisition of Expert Performance,” Psychological Review 100, no. 3 (1993): 363-406.] Outliers Notes pp. 288-9.
2Gladwell. 2008. p.40.
[Daniel J. Levitan talks about the ten thousand hours it takes to get mastery in This Is Your Brain on Music: The Science of a Human Obsession (New York: Dutton, 2006), p. 197.”] Outliers Notes p. 289.
3Archbishop Matthew Parker’s scholarship was awarded to boys who could "at first sight to solf and sing plainsong" and to be "if it may be, such as can make a verse."
4Gladwell. 2008. p.42.
5Gladwell. 2008. p.67.

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Friday, August 6, 2010

More Doubts About Will: The Swan Song by Isabel Gortázar

I proposed in Part 2, "Enter Iago," that The Tragedy of Othello, The Moor of Venice was a thoroughly revised text in respect of The Moor of Venice performed at Court in November 1604, as the name of Iago could not have been part of that performance. Let me repeat the relevant facts: The Tragedy of Othello, The Moor of Venice was entered into the Stationer’s Register (SR), by Thomas Walkley, on October 6th 1621, one day after Ben Jonson had been appointed Deputy Master of the Revels (DMR), and eleven days after the death of Mary Sydney, Countess of Pembroke on 25th September; the First Quarto (1Q) Othello, 160 lines shorter than the First Folio (FF) version, was published by Walkley in the early months of 1622.

The hypothesis I wish to propose here is that Marlowe re-wrote The Moor of Venice, turning it into what we know as the 1Q Othello in the spring/summer of 1621, and revised it almost immediately after the Countess died, adding 160 lines, many of which are dedicated to Emilia, including a long speech for the vindication of women. A further indication that Othello was probably revised long after 1616 may be that it is the first of the Quarto plays to be published with Act divisions.

Seeing that between the publication of the 1Q and the printing of the FF,1 (seven years after William Shakespeare’s death), those 160 new lines appeared out of nowhere, Stratfordians maintain that Shakespeare wrote the FF Othello in 1604, Iago included, and that Walkley’s 1Q is a shortened or “cut” version. In this respect, the possibility that Emilia’s death may refer to the Countess of Pembroke’s demise on 25th September 1621 would allow us to conjecture that a living Shake-spear was still revising his last play sometime after that date.2

Iago’s wife does not die in the source story, nor does she die in the 1Q; in the FF, however, Emilia dies singing like a swan:

Emilia (FF, V, 2 lines 244-6):
What did thy song bode, lady?
Hark, canst thou hear me? I will play the swan.
And die in music. (Etc.)

Because it is a known myth that swans sing immediately before their deaths, Emilia’s expression may be taken simply as a reference to such myth. However, the OED acknowledged in 1612 the epithet of “swan” as applicable to singers and poets.

Her admiring friends referred to Mary Sydney, Countess of Pembroke, as the swan of Avon, because the Wiltshire River Avon flows among the grounds of her home, Wilton House near Salisbury. I suspect that Jonson’s line in the Introductory Poem3 was meant for her.

Sweet Swan of Avon! What a sight it were
To see thee in our waters yet appeare,
And make those flights along the banks of Thames
That so did take Eliza and our James?

Actually, one wonders whether William Shakespeare was ever called the Swan of Avon, until later scholars took it for granted that Jonson’s poem must refer to him, on account of the river, but of course Jonson is talking about the Thames.

My conjecture is that Emilia’s death, singing like a swan, is a reference to Mary’s death, and was included by Marlowe after September 25th, but not in time to appear in the 1Q, published, as I have said, in the early months of 1622. If this were so, that would explain why Thomas Walkley would publish an incomplete version of Othello, instead of the full text. It is logical to suppose that the MS registered on October 6th, was all the text there was at that moment, and that those missing 160 lines were later added by the author, in time to be included in the FF.

No one has been able to explain satisfactorily why, when printing the 1Q, Walkley would take the trouble to remove, for example, the Willow Song, the death of Emilia, and some beautiful lines such as these:

Othello (FF: V, 2, lines 270-275):
Be not afraid, though you do see me weapon'd;
Here is my journey's end, here is my butt,
And very sea-mark of my utmost sail.
Do you go back dismay'd? 'tis a lost fear;
Man but a rush against Othello's breast,
And he retires. Where should Othello go?

This is indeed an anxious question: Where should Othello go? One might be tempted to conjecture that the death of Mary Sidney had left him without his last refuge in England; this added speech reads like a suicide note. Because Othello already had a suicide speech in the 1Q,4 this further insistence about his journey's end and the reference to his utmost sail may conceivably be telling us that the author is dying somewhere across the Channel, in the Continent where he has spent the last almost thirty years of his life.

Marlowe’s late revision would finally explain a small detail that has puzzled scholars: In Q1 Othello (Q1, 1. 3 – 345, corresponding to FF I. 3- 701), we find the word acerb: “acerb as the coloquintida”; this word was changed to bitter in the FF: “bitter as coloquintida,” a natural revision towards simplification, from the rare word to a familiar one. Acerb is not recognized in the OED as an English word until 1657, so an editor cutting/editing the FF manuscript would have had to pick up the word from the source story, in Italian. In M. R. Ridley’s Arden Edition of Othello (1962), the editor simply explains this away by saying that “It is reasonable to suppose that Shakespeare wrote acerb and not bitter since no actor, compositor, or editor would be likely to substitute the rare word for the common.” But the reverse is also true, as no actor, compositor, or editor is likely to have known what acerb meant at all! The coloquintida5 (OED, 1565) is a medicinal herb that grows in warm regions. I wonder how many people in an Elizabethan audience would have ever heard about such an herb, let alone known that it has a very bitter taste; therefore, the words “acerb as coloquintida” might have been unintelligible to most of them.

Shakespeare got the word acerbissimo from the original Tale by Cinthio,6 who uses it in a completely different context, when he explains that the Lieutenant’s love for Desdemona had turned to the bitterest hatred (odio acerbissimo) because the lady did not return his affections. We are used to Orthodox academics assuming that William Shakespeare knew Italian, but, in this case, he surpasses all expectations, showing that not only he knew the meaning of the superlative acerbissimo, but he was also familiar with Italian suffixes, so that he could coin a new adjective in English, acerb, by removing the particle issimo. However, as the word that we find in the FF is not acerb, but bitter, we need to be told who, in the chain of people allegedly involved in “cutting” and editing the FF manuscript for Walkley’s 1Q, had the nerve and the knowledge to remove the perfectly adequate English word, “bitter,” and substitute it for the non-existing word, “acerb." Unless, of course, there was a living author, a linguist, revising Othello between 6th October 1621, when the 1Q was registered, and the summer of 1622, when the full text of the play was included in the FF.

So where was Marlowe at the end of September 1621? If I were writing a work of fiction, I might propose that he was ill and away in the Continent when Mary Sidney died, which news he would have heard several weeks later; alternatively, he may have been at Mary’s bedside till she died. In this second scenario he might have delivered the 1Q Othello MS in person to Jonson before leaving the country, when, after Mary’s death, her two sons, the Inimitable Pair, sent him packing. His anxious question would be added in the last revision: Where should Othello go?

Wild speculations aside, the facts appear to suggest that Marlowe made the final revision of Othello after September 25th, and my hunch is that he then either died or killed himself. If he were abroad, Jonson may not have been aware that such a revision existed when the 1Q was printed early in 1622, but he might have known that Marlowe was finally dead. In his edition of the 1Q, Walkley thought it necessary to write a Prologue signed by himself on account of the author being dead… Although this appears to be obviously referring to William Shakespeare, dead six years earlier, we might wonder whether Jonson already knew that Iago could at last be introduced under cover of the early censorship, without further risk to the author. Here is the 1Q’s title page:

The Tragedy of Othello, the Moor of Venice
As it hath been diverse times acted at the Globe and at the Black Friars, by his Majesty’s Servants. Written by William Shakespeare.”

Despite this information, and for reasons that shall be explained later,7 I find it unlikely that the text published by Walkley may have been the property of the King’s Men. Since 1604, the King’s Men had been performing The Moor of Venice, not Othello.

I believe Othello to be the last of Shakespeare’s plays, his “swan song” as well as Emilia’s. In it, Christopher Marlowe skilfully weaves the strands of the principal events that led to his destruction and, eventually, to his death in exile and ignominy. In order to tell his complex story Marlowe turned around the common usage of having one actor play several roles; instead, he used each character to represent several real people, according to ingeniously interweaved sub-plots and meaningful names. He also used several characters to represent the same person in different moments of his/her life. He assumed that his audience and readers would be familiar with the relevant historical people and events. Alas, in that he was deceived by history itself: the clues that would have been obvious to his educated contemporaries are lost to many academics and readers today. But this is not the place to explain the full story that I believe is told in Othello.

The use of the same plot and similar title as the earlier play would have been a ploy to avoid close scrutiny from the censors, who would have taken for granted (as everybody does to this day) that Othello was the same play as the old Moor of Venice of 1604. The entry in the SR says: "Thomas Walkley. Entred for his copie under the handes of Sir George Buck, and Master Swinhowe warden, The Tragedie of Othello, the moore of Venice." This seems to clear Jonson of all responsibility; nevertheless, his presence as DMR may have been the unique circumstance that made such registration possible. If so, Jonson probably took an enormous risk by allowing Othello to be entered into the SR. In fact, coincidence or not, Buck was declared insane and removed from his post shortly after the 1Q Othello appeared in print and Jonson was also removed from the post of DMR in March 1622. Maybe writing that obscure Introductory Poem in the FF was the price he had to pay for this audacity, and for his loyalty to his unlucky friend.

One cannot help wondering at Hamlet’s farewell lines to Horatio,8 such as they appear in the 2Q (1604):

O god Horatio, what a wounded name,
Things standing thus unknown, shall live behind me!
If thou didst ever hold me in thy heart
Absent thee from felicity awhile,
And in this harsh world draw thy breath in pain,
To tell my story.

Why would Hamlet’s name be so badly “wounded”? It was Marlowe’s name that needed redressing, and he knew that only the recognition of his authorship of the Shakespearian Canon would clear his name forever.

(To be continued in Part 4.)

Isabel Gortázar

© Isabel Gortázar, July 2010

Isabel Gortázar is an independent scholar, specializing in Shakespeare and Marlowe studies. She is a member of the Board of Directors of the Marlowe Society (UK) and a founding member of the International Marlowe Society. She divides her time between London and Bilbao, Spain.

1According to W.W. Gregg (The Shakespeare First Folio, Oxford at the Clarendon Press, 1955, pg 371) Othello was printed between August and September 1623, so in the late stages of the printing process.
2For my objections that Francis Bacon, alive in 1621, may have been the author of Othello, see Part 2: "Enter Iago."
3In the First Folio (1623).
4Another coincidence: In the suicide speech of both the 1Q and FF, Othello makes a reference to Aleppo, one of the most famous conquests of Tamburlaine.
5Its full name is Citrullus colocynthis; it grows in some parts of Asia and the Mediterranean.
6G. Giraldi Cinthio: Gli Hecatommithi, Venice, 1565.
7See part 4: Pending publication.
8In his play Poetaster, (c1601) Ben Jonson represents himself as Horace; in his edition of Poetaster (The Revel Plays, Manchester University Press) Tom Cain wonders whether Jonson meant Ovid to represent Marlowe or Shakespeare (!).

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