Editorial 1

How I Got Hooked on Marlowe's Story







I would like to thank Australian filmmaker Mike Rubbo for introducing me to Marlowe's story nineteen years ago. It was 9:00 P.M. on a Tuesday night when his film Much Ado About Something suddenly appeared on Frontline and launched me onto this road less traveled. There were two facts presented in Much Ado About Something that specifically aroused my interest.


The film had a dialogue between Mike Rubbo and England's noted Shakespeare scholar, Jonathan Bate. That scene captured Bate making an obvious error in his Shakespeare studies. After Mike Rubbo told Bate the name "William Shakespeare" had never appeared on any piece of literary work until two weeks after Marlowe's "death", on the long poem Venus and Adonis, Bate authoritatively brushed it off, saying, "It was registered two weeks before Marlowe's death in Shakespeare's name." His implication was that the poem had the name William Shakespeare on it before Marlowe died, so it couldn't have been a pseudonym for Marlowe "in exile".


 Mike Rubbo responded to this implication, saying, "But it was registered anonymously." (Before Marlowe disappeared from the scene).


Bate was visibly taken aback. "It was?" he said.


I would eventually learn this gem of a moment captured on film revealed just one of many gaps in the universities' studies of Marlowe's myriad connections to the name Shakespeare, in spite of the fact that the nineteenth century scholars who set precedence for the traditional view of the Bard noted Shakespeare certainly began his writing career imitating Marlowe --which is exactly what we would expect if Shakespeare was Marlowe. While most scholars agree the Coroner's Report on Marlowe's death is suspicious and all scholars agree there is no direct literary evidence proving the Stratford Shakspere wrote the Works, contemporary academics don't bat and eye. The numerous links in the chain of coincidences providing cumulative evidence Shakespeare was Marlowe does not even awaken their curiosity.


The film's second item that aroused my interest, even more than a respected Shakespeare scholar's gap in knowledge, was the fact that the three men in the room with Marlowe when he "died" were all connected to Marlowe's patron, Thomas Walsingham. At that time, I knew as little about Christopher Marlowe as my college Shakespeare professors who had never even mentioned him. Mike Rubbo's narrative filled me in on a few more facts: Thomas Walsingham was the first cousin once removed to Sir Francis Walsingham, England's Secretary of State and head of secret intelligence.

Mike Rubbo: See Portrait of a Filmmaker


After I'd read the Shakespeare scholars who wrote about Marlowe in the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries and discovered they all saw many similarities in the two writers' styles, and that a good number of scholars thought Marlowe had written the early Shakespeare plays, and all of them saw allusions to no contemporary writer but Marlowe in the Shakespeare plays, I found it difficult to understand why the current literary establishment doesn't study Marlowe more deeply. Why do they so easily dismiss the idea he may have escaped to the continent when most of them agree that the Coroner's Report stating Marlowe died in a scuffle over the reckoning of the dinner bill is suspicious, and that his death was more likely an assassination? With all the textual evidence in the Shakespeare works pointing to a maturing Marlowe, shouldn't the idea of a faked death and exile on the continent at least be pursued?

The Shakespeare plays allude to no other contemporary writer but Marlowe. Marlowe lives in Shakespeare's mind. There are many examples of Marlowe allusions in Shakespeare plays that point to him being behind the Shakespeare name. It would be good to give just one here. In The Merry Wives of Windsor we find the character Parson Hugh Evans confusing Marlowe's poem "Passionate Shepherd to his Love" with a song based upon Psalm 137, "By the rivers of Babylon". Peter Farey has written about this allusion in his essay "The Dream and Merry Wives":


In Act III Scene 1, while preparing to fight Doctor Caius, he [Evans] sings a song to keep his spirits up, which is in fact Christopher Marlowe's Passionate Shepherd to his Love. Far from cheering him up, however, it plunges him deeper into melancholy. "Mercy on me!" he says, "I have a great disposition to cry" - a strange emotion for such an occasion - and he then starts to get the words mixed up with those of another song, a hymn based upon Psalm 137, perhaps the most famous song of exile ever written:


"By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept when we remembered Zion".


Marlowe Studies Entry: December 10, 2010



England’s Post-Reformation Inquisition was occurring at the very time Marlowe was accused of heresy, and this must be taken into account when considering the authorship question. Certainly there is nothing unusual about the world’s greatest writer having been a threat to established forms of religion in the sixteenth century, just as it would not have been unusual in that century to use the charge "heretic" or "atheist" to get rid of someone who threatened Church or State. Perhaps it is that the brand "atheist" subconsciously prevents academia from being open-minded when it comes to the in-depth research


on Marlowe's life and works, research that reveals an enormous number of coincidences in relation to the authorship question


In his book Ada, Vladimir Nabokov said, “Some law of logic should fix the number of coincidences, in a given domain, after which they cease to be coincidences, and form, instead, the living organism of a new truth.” Science, law, and scholastic studies begin with speculation and arrive at proven theories by accumulating coincidences that form patterns. It would seem legitimate to apply this method to the authorship debate. Should we do this, we can speculate by working backward from the premise that Marlowe used the pseudonym Shakespeare while in exile. Our object is to see if we can accumulate coincidences that form the pattern that upholds this premise. If the name William Shakespeare were a pseudonym for Marlowe, and the Stratford man was merely used as the cover, we would expect certain things to coincide with this premise.

For instance, we would expect to find ample evidence the Stratford Shakespeare held a position in life not of a dramatist, but something else, such as a businessman. Indeed, the only documented evidence we have for the Stratford Shakespeare is that he was a businessman. We would also expect to not be surprised if we find for the Stratford Shakespeare no evidence of letters from other literary men, no evidence of a scholar's education, few books in his will. Indeed, there are no letters, no evidence of any education, no books in his will.

If the name “William Shakespeare” is a pseudonym for Marlowe, we would expect to find a good reason for this cover. On May 18th, 1593 Christopher Marlowe was staying at the home of his patron Thomas Walsingham when he was arrested for questioning regarding the posting of a paper on the Dutch church that was calling for rebellion against the recent influx of immigrants fleeing the Catholic ruled continent. Because this call to rebellion was signed "Tamburlaine", the character in Marlowe's play, he was taken to London to go before the Privy Council. The Council allowed him to go free but told him to report back daily. During the time Marlowe was out on bail the Privy Council received the informer Richard Baines' Note accusing him of atheism. This Note would have been enough to bring him before the Star Chamber Court on charges of heresy, and it is more than likely he would have been hanged. But on his last day of bail, likely the last day of his freedom, Marlowe was "killed" by a dagger to the eye. This is just one of numerous coincidences in his story.

       Never before has there been a great writer for whom we can find no evidence of a literary career before or after Shakespeare. Never before has doubt about a writer's identity been expressed by so many literary voices. Yet the universities ignore the reasons for this doubt. They do this by imagining reasons for each element of absence the Shakespeare from Stratford exhibits. Even writing “the Shakespeare from Stratford” reveals an element of absence, because the Stratford man never signed his own name “Shakespeare”. None of the six signatures we have of his are signed the same way, as if he never knew how to spell it. The first page of his will bears the signature “Shackspere”, and that is the one I will use when referring to him.


If the name William Shakespeare were a pseudonym for Marlowe we would expect to find allusions to his arrest and death from a knife in the sonnets. Indeed, we do. In Sonnet 74 we find the telling of his time of bail, and how it relates to the event at Deptford:


But be contented when that fell arrest
Without all bail shall carry me away,
My life hath in this line some interest,


. . . my body being dead;
The coward conquest of a wretch's knife,

Too base of thee to be remembered.


Most readers of this sonnet have not read the Coroner's Report on Marlowe's death, and so they do not know that the killer, Ingram Frizer, stated that behind his back Marlowe had grabbed his dagger from its sheath and struck him on the head with it. Frizer then grabbed his dagger from Marlowe's hand and struck him through the eye, killing him instantly. It is important to know this in order to understand how unlikely it is any other writer would have written that his body is dead due to the coward conquest of a wretch's knife. Faking Marlowe's death in this disgraceful manner (only a coward would grab another man's dagger from behind), allowed Walingham’s man Frizer to get off on “murder in self defense”. That Walsingham contrived this scene for Marlowe's "death" is hinted at in the last line, above.



If the name William Shakespeare were a pseudonym for Marlowe we would expect to find evidence supporting a faked death at Deptford a few days after the allegations of atheism had been made against him. For instance, we would expect the position of the players in the Coroner's Report of Marlowe's "death" to correspond with this expectation. It does. It wasn't until 1925, almost four hundred years later that the Coroner's Report on his death was discovered. We only then learned the man who killed him by stabbing a knife into his eye was the personal employee of Marlowe's own patron, Thomas Walsingham, whose home the dramatist had been staying at when he was arrested ten days earlier. Added to this coincidence between Marlowe's patron and his "killer" is the fact that Walsingham was in a position that would enable him to fake the dramatist's death successfully. 


Thomas Walsingham was the only man in England to be educated in secret intelligence at the knee of its creator, Sir Francis Walsingham. At the time of Marlowe's "death" at Deptford, and in the wake of Sir Francis Walsingham's death, Thomas Walsingham was working with Lord Burghley and the Earl of Essex to help form a new co-operative secret intelligence network. He was, therefore, in a position of some clout. 


If the death was faked, we would expect to find elements of the Coroner's Report suspicious. Indeed, most commentators have found the circumstances in the Coroner’s Report suspicious, including those who do not believe Marlowe was Shakespeare. In The Reckoning Charles Nicholl concludes the Coroner’s Report was a blind, and it is more likely Marlowe was assassinated in that room:


I am not the first to doubt the ‘official story’ of Marlowe’s death. Most of his biographers have expressed some unease with it, but they have ended up accepting it for lack of any provable alternative . . . The witnesses are untrustworthy, the story unsatisfactory, the circumstances shady. (Chicago 1995, 117)


The Coroner's Report of Marlowe's death has become the ground for the view that Marlowe was a violent man, therefore, it is important to include the opinions of a few other Marlowe biographers concerning the validity of the Coroner’s Report.


John Bakeless, author of the massive Marlowe biography, The Tragicall History of Christopher Marlowe (two volumes), questions the veracity of the witnesses to Marlowe’s death, “If the men were lying, their story – which is, medically speaking, impossible – may cover cold-blooded and deliberately planned assassination. (Christopher Marlowe The Man In His Time, New York, 230.)


Marlowe’s biographer Frederick Boas cites several commentators criticisms of the Coroner’s Report, then includes his own. Boas says, “And there is a suspicious similarity between the setting of the Deptford episode and an incident in the Babington conspiracy when a number of the plotters, including Skeres, might have been taken ‘at supper in Poley’s garden’, probably the Garden Inn near Fleet Street.”


The man listed in the report as Marlowe’s killer was the personal employee of Marlowe’s patron Thomas Walsingham, and the two witnesses in the Report were secret agents who worked directly under Walsingham when they infiltrated the Babington Plot. Boas draws an interesting comparison between the design of the situation in the Coroner’s Report and these two secret agent witnesses to his apparent death. (Christopher Marlowe A Biographical and Critical Study(London). 274-275.)


Marlowe’s biographer David Riggs finds the details of the Coroner’s Report “confusing”. He also notices the coincidence of Marlowe being killed just three days after the informers’ notes reached the Queen and she proclaimed, “Prosecute it to the full!” He says, “The court bureaucracy that confined Marlowe within the verge cannot be counted on to disclose the truth about what happened there. The fact that the official account trivializes the killing should provoke skepticism not acquiescence.” (The World Of Christopher Marlowe, New York, 334-335).


Marlowe’s biographer Park Honan thinks it was murder, and he finds the Coroner’s Report describing an “odd, almost hallucinatory scene.”


The three men, Skeres, Frizer, and Poley, sit with their backs to the poet, and they remain squeezed together and glued to a bench. Frizer speaks to a wall, and Marlowe on a bed replies to the ceiling. Possibly, the room begins to contract; one might think that the furniture is on the move, for twice, in Latin and in English, Mrs. Bull’s long table comes nere the bed. Poley and Skeres hear nothing. When violence begins, nobody can move, stand up, shout for help, or even turn his head. The most spectacular, bloody events occur next to Poley’s elbow, but he has no idea that a man is being killed. (Christopher Marlowe Poet & Spy (New York), 351.)



The assassination theory leaves an even bigger question than that of a faked death. If Marlowe was assassinated, why was it necessary to insert secret agents into a Coroner’s Inquest "cover" for that assassination, when the most expedient method would have been to simply poison him in a tavern or knife him on the street and leave his body for others to find? On the other hand, if the purpose was not to assassinate Marlowe, but to fake his death in order to convince others he was dead by producing a "legitimate" Coroner’s Report, these secret agents would have been necessary to witness his "death". Walsingham knew that the law required two witnesses to a murder in self defense.


If the Shakespeare name were a psuedonym for Marlowe we would not be surprised to find that the only two witnesses to the "murder" were secret agents who had worked with Thomas Walsingham in the Babington Plot, and the third man, the man who "killed" him, worked for Walsingham in a more personal capacity. 


If Marlowe's death had been faked by these men, we would expect to find a loophole in the Coroner's Report which allowed the killer to get off scot free. Indeed, this is what we find. Marlowe was himself blamed for his death because, as the Coroner's Report states, he grabbed Frizer's dagger from behind and hit him over the head with it - a cowardly act beyond measure which insured Frizer would not have to go to prison for "killing" Marlowe. This cowardly grabbing of another man's knife adds another coincidence to Sonnet 74's stated death by a knife:


. . . my body being dead;
The coward conquest of a wretch's knife . . .


Many of the sonnets refer to the poet's disgraced name. There is no evidence at all that the Straford Shackspere was ever disgraced. If the death was faked in this manner, we would expect much disgrace heaped on Marlowe for his coward conquest of a wretch's knife. We would expect some of the Sonnets to speak of this disgrace, and they do.


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,


Thence comes it that my name receives a brand,
And almost thence my nature is subdued
To what it works in, like the dyer's hand:  [the one who dies hand]


Your love and pity doth the impression fill,
Which vulgar scandal stamped upon my brow;


'Tis better to be vile than vile esteemed,
When not to be receives reproach of being;

What is the likelihood Walsingham's personal employee Frizer, listed as the killer, would have killed his employer's friend Marlowe in a scuffle over the dinner bill? This kind of thing is highly suspicious. Certainly Frizer would have been fired on the spot by Walsingham. Yet, Frizer went on working for Walsingham for the rest of his life. More than this, he was given land by Walsingham. Frizer seems to have received special treatment for his "murder in self-defense". Thomas Watson languished in prison for six months waiting to go to trial for his murder in self-defense, but Frizer was acquitted within one month's time by the Queen herself. This is something we would not expect if Frizer had really killed Marlowe, who was not only Walsingham's friend but England's greatest dramatist at the time.


If the purpose of the Coroner's Report was to produce a legitimate document that would convince others Marlowe was dead we would expect to find connections between Marlowe, Thomas Walsingham, the players at Deptford, Lord Burghley and Coroner Danby.


Lord Burghley and Sir Francis Walsingham had been the two top men in the English Government until Sir Francis died in 1590. When Sir Francis died, Lord Burghley became the head of secret intelligence. It is likely Marlowe began working for secret intelligence while still a student at Cambridge. Lord Burghley, the chief advisor to the Queen and Lord High Treasurer, was one of the Privy Counsel members who signed the letter requesting Cambridge give Marlowe his Master's Degree when they held it back out of suspicion he had gone to the Catholic side. Burghley, Francis Walsingham, and other Privy Council members squelched this rumor when they informed the Cambridge authorities that Marlowe had been doing honorable service for the State. Lord Burghley was also Chancellor of Cambridge which gave him additional clout. We now know that one of the two witnesses in the room with Marlowe when he "died" was secret intelligence agent Robert Poley, who was working directly under Lord Burghley at the time of the "killing", we know this because of the date on a surviving receipt of payment from the treasury. 


My college professors told us that Marlowe died in a bar room brawl. I discovered that the room where the three men met was not a bar, it was a home owned by Dame Eleanor Bull. If Shakespeare were a pseudonym for Marlowe we would expect coincidental connections between this woman and Lord Burghley. Indeed, Dame Bull had Court connections. Her sister, Blanche, was the god-daughter of Blanche Parry, who had been the much loved nanny of the infant Elizabeth and was Lord Burghley's cousin. Lord Burghley left Dame Bull money in his will. Her home was likely a safe house for Government Agents. All the government agents worked for men who had invested in the Muscovy Company (later the Russia Company) which was also housed at Dame Bull's. Both Lord Burghley and Sir Francis Walsingham were investors in the Muscovy Company. Dame Bull's husband, a friend of Lord Burghley, had worked for the government with this company. Before he died, her husband dealt directly with the Muscovy Company's manager, Anthony Marlowe, possibly Christopher Marlowe's Crayford relative. Richard Wilson’s essay “Visible Bullets: Tamburlaine the Great and Ivan the Terrible” shows the connections between the Muscovy Company and Marlowe's play Tamburlaine.


Burghley was also a close friend of Coroner Danby and had worked with him for many years. Danby would often have been used in secret intelligence affairs by both Burghley and Francis Walsingham. Peter Farey's essay "Was Marlowe's Inquest Void?" gives details that point to an illegal Coroner's Report, yet another item compatible with the theory of a faked death. Farey's discovery that the Coroner's Report was illegal is as compatible with a cover up as the fact that the men in the room with Marlowe when he "died" all worked for Thomas Walsingham and Lord Burghley.


Richard Baines’s damning accusations of heresy against Marlowe were put into Robert Cecil’s hands sometime between May 25th and 28th. On May 28th Lord Burghley, still quite ill at his home in London, responded to a letter he had received from his son Robert Cecil that day:   


I have received your letter of this 28th. Hereupon, though I am weak and uncertain how I shall come to the Court, with opinion that after one or two days her Majesty will license me to return to seek my amendment or to take my journey to follow univerrsam viam carnis [the way of all flesh]. And to this latter journey I am most disposed with persuasion that if souls have sense of earthly things, I shall be in God’s sight an intercessor for the prosperity of His church here and for her Majesty as His governor thereof to His Glory. You must allow me to be in this humour, for I find no other taste of any other thing. If I shall be able by coach or litter (for I provide both) I will be with you tomorrow.


Although Lord Burghley felt he was at death’s door, after three months’ in bed he returned to court May 29th, the very day plans for Marlowe’s fictional death on May 30th would have had to be formalized with Coroner Danby.



Whitgift’s “inquisition” had picked up after Sir Francis Walsingham’s death in 1590, intensified during Lord Burghley’s three-month absence from court, and culminated with the arrest of Marlowe. Lord Burghley’s stance against Archbishop Whitgift’s inquisitorial practices toward England’s Separatists and Freethinkers is well known. Lord Burghley attempted to intervene against the Archbishop many times. Conyers Read writes of his stance against Whitgift:



More than once he had broken a lance with Whitgift on behalf of Puritan preachers. . . . He had befriended Thomas Cartwright, the recognized leader of the Presbyterian movement, and would befriend him again. Morice and Beale, the two leaders of the fight against the ex officio oath, both looked to him. So did Peter Wentworth. So did the separatists, Barrow and Greenwood, and the Puritan John Penry.


Like A.D. Wraight, Peter Farey has dug deeper than many Shakespearean scholars because he asks questions the others have not thought to ask. The independent scholar who is not affiliated with the Universities often sees more questions because he or she doesn't wear the blinders of dogma. It was not an orthodox Shakespearean scholar who discovered that the Coroner's Report of Christopher Marlowe's death was legally void, but the independent scholar Farey. It was not an orthodox Shakespearean scholar who knew Venus and Adonis had been registered anonymously before publication, it was the independent scholar Rubbo.


Peter Farey researched the sixteen jurors who served at the inquest of the body. In his essay The Deptford Jury, he says, "For those who claim that there was something fishy about that inquest, the presence of Thomas Walsingham's neighbour, Mr. Nicholas Draper, at the head of its jury may therefore after further investigation turn out to offer considerable support."


If the conclusion is correct that the Coroner's Report was necessary to legitimize a faked death in order to assure those who wanted to prosecute Marlowe as a heretic that he had not escaped to the continent, we would expect to find no body for the dramatist after his death had been faked. Indeed, we cannot find his body.



The body used for the Coroner's Inquisition, quite possibly John Penry's, was buried in a plague pit, the "unmarked grave" at St. Nicholas's Church, Deptford. The plague was raging throughout London at this time. A Coroner's Report stating Marlowe had been buried in the plague pit guaranteed no one would want to come and uncover the body to make sure it was the poet-dramatist.


The wall in St. Nicholas Churchyard on which hangs Marlowe's 20th century Memorial Plaque.



If the name Shakespeare was a pseudonym for Marlowe, the faking of his death at Deptford would have had to include the scenario of a burial in an unmarked grave. It is beyond the bounds of reason to believe that England's greatest dramatist at that time, "killed" by his own patron's employee, was buried in an unmarked grave rather than taken back to his family in Canterbury. To think this was true, is to cast aspersion on the character of Marlowe's patron, Thomas Walsingham.


If the name William Shakespeare were a pseudonym for Marlowe we would expect to find allusions to his exiled and disgraced state in the Sonnets. After reading the excerpts below, one might ask the question, "How is it possible the Stratford man who died peacefully at home after a successful business career and seemingly successful writing career, would have written these lines?" 


Why write I still all one, ever the same,
And keep invention in a noted weed,
That every word doth almost tell my name,
Showing their birth, and where they did proceed?


Let those who are in favour with their stars
Of public honour and proud titles boast,
Whilst I, whom fortune of such triumph bars
Unlook'd for joy in that I honour most.


Full many a glorious morning have I seen

Flatter the mountain tops with sovereign eye,

Kissing with golden face the meadows green,

Gilding pale streams with heavenly alchemy;

Anon permit the basest clouds to ride

With ugly rack on his celestial face,

And from the forlorn world his visage hide,

Stealing unseen to west with this disgrace:

Even so my sun one early morn did shine,

With all triumphant splendour on my brow;

But out, alack, he was but one hour mine,

The region cloud hath mask'd him from me now.

Yet him for this my love no whit disdaineth;

Suns of the world may stain when heaven's sun staineth.     


If the name Shakespeare were a pseudonym for Marlowe, we would expect to find sonnets alluding to this, such as Sonnet 81, which seems to have been written by a man who has lost his own name and has no burial stone, a man who "once gone, to all the world must die".


 From hence your memory death cannot take,
Although in me each part will be forgotten.
Your name from hence immortal life shall have,
Though I, once gone, to all the world must die:
The earth can yield me but a common grave,
When you entombed in men's eyes shall lie.
Your monument shall be my gentle verse,
Which eyes not yet created shall o'er-read;
And tongues to be, your being shall rehearse,
When all the breathers of this world are dead;
You still shall live, such virtue hath my pen,
Where breath most breathes, even in the mouths of men.


Historical truth exists as a reasonable approximation of the past. The traditional understanding of history has often been proved mistaken because nations preserve and teach that which reflects well upon themselves. A nation would prefer its greatest writer to have no personal history than to have it revealed he was exiled for beliefs that did not uphold that of the Church and State of his time.


The Marlowe Studies Entry: January 15, 2011


It is not likely that Lord Burghley would have done his part in the faked death without the Queen's consent. What coincidences might we find here? We have already seen the Queen was close to both Sir Francis Walsingham and Lord Burghley, her two top men in the English Government. I also discovered that the woman Marlowe's patron Thomas Walsingham would soon marry was Audrey Shelton whose family had strong connections with the Queen. Audrey's grandfather, Sir John Shelton, had married Anne Boleyn, an aunt of the unfortunate mother of Queen Elizabeth, and it was to them that Elizabeth fled for protection when she was persecuted by her half sister, Mary Tudor. Later when Elizabeth came to the throne she showed her gratitude by inviting members of the family to live with her at the Court. Audrey's aunt Mary, sister of her father Sir Ralph Shelton, was Queen Elizabeth's Maid of Honor and later Mistress of the Robes. Audrey herself was the queen's chamber maid.


So far the evidence tells us that the only men in England who had the ability to fake Marlowe's death successfully had positive relationships with him. Thomas Walsingham would not have been the first man in history to save someone he valued in such a dramatic fashion -just as Christopher Marlowe would not be the first man to write his greatest works in exile. It was in another May, seventy-two years before Marlowe was about to go before England’s Star Chamber Court, that Prince Frederick III hid Martin Luther at Wartburg Castle when Emperor Charles V wanted him punished as a heretic. Luther translated the New Testament from Greek into German during his stay at Wartburg.


You can read a short synopsis of Marlowe's death at Deptford and Thomas Walsingham's connection to it at England's Marlowe Society website. The Marlowe Society is neutral on the authorship question, although it does incorporate the possibility because a fairly even portion of the fellowship believes Marlowe was Shakespeare.


Commentators interpreting Marlowe's plays often leave out details that contradict their hypotheses. For example, when academics cite the charges of Marlowe's Atheism in Baines' Note, they rarely mention the murky circumstances around the informant Richard Baines such as his own written confession of atheism, or his suspicious release from Rheims by the Catholics after threatening to poison their well. Neither do many commentators mention that the 16th century term "atheist" was a general statement defining free-thinkers. Sir Francis Bacon gives us this definition in his essay "Of Atheism". Many contemporary essays streaming forth from the universities look at Marlowe through a keyhole shaped by myth.


Academia studies Marlowe as an isolated example of an atheist, rather than as representing the thinking of many others during the turbulent age of religious reformation that swept 16th century Europe. It is clear from the informer's charges that Marlowe's thinking ran along the same lines as that of the newly emerging scientists and humanistic philosophies that questioned the authenticity of the Christian Bible. Is this not the kind of mind we would expect the genius Shakespeare to have had? Today the rates of self-reported atheism in Western nations can easily be doubled, and probably tripled considering most people who don't believe in a God do not bother to "report" it: United States=4% “reported”, Italy=7% “reported”, Spain=11% “reported”, Great Britain=17% “reported”, Germany=20% “reported”, and France=32% “reported”.


In order to fit "Shakespeare" into the unconscious Christian imperative, academia ignores the glimpses of atheistic thinking Shakespeare crouched in ambiguity.     In his essay "Was Shakespeare an Atheist?" Gary Sloane has shown us the many places we can find an unbeliever in Shakespeare. Sloane says, "Though church sermons routinely propounded the efficacy of prayers, in Shakespeare they are often a prelude to disaster." Here are two of his examples:


In King Lear, Kent thanks Gloucester for a good turn: "The gods reward your kindness!" Shortly thereafter, Cornwall plucks out Gloucester's eyes.


Having learned Edmund has commissioned Cordelia's death, Albany cries out: "The gods defend her!" Enter Lear, his daughter's dead body in his arms.


Should we believe Shakespeare was a pseudonym for Marlowe in exile, we gain even more respect for the great writer. We see he dared to take risks in his writing during an age that destroyed men for non-orthodox religious thinking. Academia's need to denigrate Marlowe likely comes from an unconscious Christian imperative to keep him tightly bound within the myth created by 16th century Puritans and the envious playwright Greene. At the same time, academia is just as unconsciously compelled to exalt the Stratford Shakespeare to heavenly heights in spite of the fact that the only records we have of him reveal a narrow-minded businessman.

Editorial page 2



1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 1112 13 14




















web counter