I live in California, on Belvedere Island, across the bay from San Francisco
I have Australian filmmaker Mike Rubbo to thank for introducing me to Marlowe's story 12 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 Shakespearean 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 Shakespeare 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 Shakespearean 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 Shakespearean 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 they have gone as far to 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 dispositions to cry" - a strange emotion for such an occasion - and he then starts to get the words mixed up with those of another song. These are from 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".
We find the boldest statement concerning the faking of his death and self-imposed exile in the Prologue to The Jew of Malta, not published until long after the players at Deptford and all those connected to the event were dead.
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 done 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 were 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. 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. Between May 25th and May 27th the Privy Council received the informer Richard Baines' Note accusing Marlowe of atheism. This Note would have been enough to bring Marlowe before the Star Chamber Court on charges of heresy, and it is more than likely he would have been hanged. Coincidentally, Marlowe is "killed" by a dagger to the eye only a few days later, on May 30th.
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 folk. Yet the universities ignore the reasons for this doubt. They do this by imagining reasons for each element of absence their man exhibits. For instance, current day academics divorce the Sonnets from his life, as if they were mere exercises to limber him up for his play writing. If they didn't do this, they would find Marlowe's autobiography in these poems. The Marlowe Studies suggests that the reason so many of the Sonnets strongly express Marlowe's story around his arrest and exile is because he wanted to be found someday. He wanted to have his disgraced name redeemed.
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.
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 . . .
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 later, this Coroner's Report was discovered and we 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 and master, 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.)
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. The assassination theory, therefore, 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 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 merely to convince others he was dead by producing a "legitimate" Coroner’s Report, these secret agents would have been necessary to witness his "death".
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 . . .
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. Indeed, 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;
As far as the stated reason in the report goes, 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 during most of her reign 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 secret agents in the room with Marlowe when he "died" 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.
Academics parrot the myth 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, said to have been Christopher Marlowe's Crayford relative. Few scholars other than Richard Wilson (in his essay Visible Bullets: Tamburlaine the Great and Ivan the Terrible) have seen the connections between the Muscovy Company and Marlowe's play Tamburlaine.
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. Burghley was also a close friend of Coroner Danby and had worked with him for many years. Danby would have been used often in secret intelligence affairs by both Burghley and Francis Walsingham. Farey's discovery that the Coroner's Report was illegal was 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.
The details Peter Farey diligently researched are rarely glanced at by the men and women of the Universities, nor have they been cited by Charles Nicholl in his well-known book The Reckoning. 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 has also researched the sixteen jurors who served at the inquest over 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 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. This alone should tell us he was not really killed that day. 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 -which, most scholars agree, are autobiographical. Indeed, we do find these allusions. 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.
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,
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.
Since that Tuesday night a decade ago, I have been plunged in Marlowe, Shakespeare, the 16th century, and the history of academia's scholarship on all the above. During this fascinating literary journey I have learned many other facts that are directly related to Marlowe's story. It is an incredibly complex one, full of coincidences that can be logically connected to the facts we know. The pattern forms a drama better than any play Shakespeare ever wrote.
Marlowe Studies Entry: April 1, 2011
I've learned during this decade of study that contemporary academia's essays interpreting Marlowe's plays always leave out details that contradict their hypotheses. This is a sly form of fallacious argumentation, the kind lawyers utilize. 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 the new orthodox scholars mention that the 16th century term "atheist" was a general statement defining free-thinkers. One merely has to follow the history of heresy charges in Europe to realize this. Sir Francis Bacon gives us this definition in his essay "Of Atheism". The contemporary essays streaming forth from the universities all look at Marlowe through a keyhole shaped by myth. One of Sir Walter Raleigh's stanzas in his eerily 21st Century styled poem The Lie still holds true today:
Tell arts they have no soundness,
But vary by esteeming;
Tell schools they want profoundness,
And stand too much on seeming:
If arts and school reply,
Give arts and school the lie.
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% (12%?), Italy=7% (21%?), Spain=11% (33%?), Great Britain=17% (51%?), Germany=20% (60%?), and France=32% (the tripling here would seem a bit high at 96%. Perhaps France has more atheists "reporting" it.)
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. In order to fit "Shakespeare" into the unconscious Christian imperative, academia ignores the glimpses of atheistic thinking the Bard 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.
Another example of the universities' popular Marlowe Myth is that of the "sleazy secret agent". It seems academics have not asked themselves the question, "At the time of England's greatest threat from Spain, why would Lord Burghley and Sir Francis Walsingham not use their secret agent Marlowe, who just happened to be England's most successful playwright, to write plays for the Nation State?" As a hypothesis, this idea can be backed up by Burghley's and Walsingham's attitudes toward Archbishop Whitgift's policies. Both men feared the power of the church influencing that of the State. As an exercise in scholastic pursuit, we might ask ourselves if there is anything else that could back up the idea Marlowe wrote plays for the State. Surely, if Shakespeare were a pseudonym for Marlowe, we would find evidence that Marlowe wrote plays for the State as part of his job in secret intelligence. This would have been one of the factors that led to powerful men in the English Government saving him from from torture and execution due to charges of heresy. We will begin by pursuing factual coincidences.
Massacre At Paris
Marlowe wrote Massacre at Paris in 1592, the year before he was arrested at Thomas Walsingham’s Scadbury estate. Sir Francis Walsingham had been England's ambassador to France during the St Bartholomew Day Massacre of 1572. He was living there during the massacre and saw between 5,000 and 30,000 Protestant Huguenots murdered in the Paris streets. Given these connections, it is more than fair to assume Christopher Marlowe wrote this play for his patron Thomas Walsingham in memory of Sir Francis who had recently died. Yet no academic has ever speculated upon this. In The World of Christopher Marlowe, David Riggs says of Marlowe's sources for this play:
“He had an intimate, firsthand knowledge of the feud between King Henry III and the Guise. Much of the factual material in the latter part of The Massacre can only be verified by recourse to confidential sources in the State Papers. Marlowe obtained this information by word of mouth from men who had been witness to these events. In contrast to the Partisan accounts of protestant and Catholic pamphleteers, he gives an even-handed, densely factual report on the feud. The brief documentary scenes that succeed one another in The Massacre At Paris resemble diplomatic dispatches; these were the raw materials of intelligence field work.”
Edward the Second
We have good evidence that Christopher Marlowe wrote his play Edward the Second for Sir Francis Walsingham, his boss in the Secret Service. This evidence comes to us in the form of Walsingham's report to the Queen concerning his visit to the young King James in Scotland, a long journey he made because of his great concern over James' relationship with the Catholic Esme Stuart. No one in academia has written about this connection to Edward the Second.
In 1583 Sir Francis Walsingham made this trip to Scotland where he conferred privately with the young King James in order to countercheck the influence of Spain on him. Walsingham’s foremost concern was James’ relationship with his second cousin Esme Stuart who was the king’s strongest political influence. Stuart had been sent to Scotland by the Duke of Guise in order to restore French (Catholic) interests. Walsingham later wrote a report for the Queen detailing his communication with James, the theme of which is echoed in Marlowe's play Edward the Second. I've put part of what Francis Walsingham said to the King here:
"That therefore divers princes . . . have been deposed, for that being advised to remove the said counselors from them rather than to yield to them, have been content to run any hazard or adventure, whereof both the histories of England and Scotland did give sufficient precedents . . . That as subjects are bound to obey dutifully so were princes bound to command justly; which reason and ground of government was set down the deposition of Edward the Second, as by ancient record thereof doth appear."
Sir Francis Walsingham’s "said counselors" that might induce a "young prince" to "run any hazard or adventure” refers to James’ close relationship with Stuart. James was in the line of succession to the English crown. His attitude about governance was of extreme importance to all the men Marlowe worked for in the secret service. The above excerpt, with its, “which reason and ground of government was set down the deposition of Edward the Second” suggests the purpose of Marlowe’s play Edward II was Sir Francis Walsingham’s. As for Walsingham’s warning to James that princes have been deposed for showing too much favor to "said counselors”, in the play Marlowe has Lancaster tell Edward, “Look for rebellion, look to be deposed . . .” One of Walsingham’s chief concerns was that King James had showered Stuart with gifts and political power; he’d been made a member of the Privy Council, Gentleman of the Bedchamber, and governor of Dumbarton Castle. In Act I of Edward II we find King Edward saying the following lines that reveal Francis Walsingham’s concern with the giving away of the body politic:
Edward: I here create thee Lord High Chamberlain,
Chief Secretary to the state and me,
Earl of Cornwall, King and Lord of Man . . .
I’ll give thee more; for but to honor thee
Is Edward pleased with kingly regiment.
Fearst thou thy person? Thou shalt have a guard.
Wantst thou gold? Go to my treasury.
Wouldst thou be loved and feared? Receive my seal.
Academia ignores the in-depth research that shows Marlowe to have been the chief architect of the apocryphal history plays it wants to ascribe to the Stratford Shakespeare as his early works. If academia allows Marlowe's hand as chief architect in these plays, their sharp dividing line between Shakespeare and Marlowe begins to diminish on two counts: Shakespeare the upholder of State values versus Marlowe the rebel, and Shakespeare having been a writer before Marlowe's "death".
Marlowe Studies Entry: April 13, 2011
With Edward II, and Massacre At Paris, Marlowe became the progenitor of England's history plays. Both Edward II and Massacre At Paris upheld the nation state, although current academics ignore this. They tend, rather, to use Edward II as evidence merely of Marlowe's homosexuality. Academia must keep a firm line between Shakespeare's upholding of the nation state and Marlowe as independent rebel. But this is only because it has misinterpreted Marlowe due to Puritan and Victorian influence. Without any evidence, much of current day academia has given the Stratford Shakespeare credit for writing Edward the Third and the King Henry VI Trilogy. If Shakespeare were a pseudonym for Marlowe, we would expect to find Marlowe's hand as chief architect in these plays academics want to ascribe to Shakespeare, plays that upheld the nation state just as did the two Marlowe plays discussed above. Indeed, we do.
Massacre At Paris and Edward the Second fit easily into State interests. Edward the Third is also a play that fits into State interests. In A.D. Wraight's chapter "An 'Armada' History Play" from her Christopher Marlowe and Edward Alleyn, we discover that the only documented evidence we have from the Sixteenth Century tells us Marlowe wrote this play (co-authored probably by Peele, Greene, and/or Kyd). Wraight also shows us how this play is a celebration of England's recent victorious battle with the Spanish Armada. Although many Shakespearean scholars see this now, she was writing about it long before current scholarship realized Edward III alludes to the Spanish Armada. Wraight's investigation to establish the authorship of Edward the Third begins with several allusions in the prose works of Greene and Nashe between 1588 and 1592. The most informative of these is the jealous playwright Greene's 1590 blast at Edward Alleyn, who played most of Marlowe's main characters on the stage:
"Why Roscius, art thou proud with Esops Crow, being pract with the glorie of others feathers? Of thy selfe thou canst say nothing, and if the Cobler hath taught thee to say Ave Caesar, disdain not thy tutor because thou pratest in a kings Chamber."
Wraight identifies “Roscius” as the actor Edward Alleyn, who was often called “Roscius” after the famous Roman actor. She identifies “the Cobler” who taught “Roscius” to say ”Ave Caesar” as Christopher Marlowe who was the son of a cobbler. She identifies the play Greene is referring to by the lines that “Roscius” spoke containing the words “Ave Caesar” taking place in the “kings Chamber” (in the play a room of state at Westminster Palace where King Edward is deciding to go to war with France). These words and this scene are in Act I, Scene 1 of Edward the Third in which Alleyn played the Black Prince, “ . . . whose rousing curtain speech at the end of the first scene announces the martial theme of the play with his exultant cry: ‘Ave Caesar!” Wraight says there is no other play during that time to which these allusions can possibly apply.
Prince; As cheerful sounding to my youthful spleen
This tumult is, of war’s increasing broils,
As, at the coronation of a king,
The joyful clamours of the people are,
When ‘Ave Caesar!’ they pronounce aloud
Edward the Third Act I, Scene 1. 11.160-4
Marlowe Studies Entry: April 14, 2011
We have not one, but two allusions from Marlowe's contemporaries that he wrote Edward the Third.
In Thomas Nashe’s 1592 Piers Penniless, he associates the words “Ave Caesar” with a speech spoken by the actor who is identified as "the Cobler’s Crow” in a play written by the Cobbler:
"The Cobler’s Crowe, for crying Ave Caesar bee more esteemed than rarer birds that have warbled sweeter notes unrewarded."
The Marlowe Studies has provided a synopsis of Wraight's research on Edward the Third for those interested in pursuing the credibility of her claim that Marlowe was the main author. Should one agree Marlowe wrote much of this play, it becomes the missing link between the early Marlowe and later Marlowe as Shakespeare (for those who believe he was Shakespeare). Edward the Third marks the pivotal point for a paradigm shift in academia's one-dimensional interpretation of Marlowe’s character as well as his work. To believe Marlowe wrote this play, Tamburlaine and Faustus can no longer be seen as projections of Marlowe’s own ambitious desires, but characters developed with the objectivity of a young artist before his genius had matured.
John Bakeless, an orthodox Shakespearean, wrote the most thorough biography of Christopher Marlowe in 1942, The Tragicall History of Christopher Marlowe. Bakeless said:
The study of Marlowe's sources for Tamburlaine is of particular importance because it definitely reverses the view of his mind and character which has been generally accepted for three centuries. Detailed, minute, even trifling though the necessary investigation may be, it is rewarded in the end by a new understanding of the mind of a very great poet. It shows Marlowe as something more than an impetuous youth with a gift for poetry. It shows him as a careful writer who bases work of the purest poetic beauty on an elaborate and careful study of all available materials.
F.E. Halliday was another Orthodox Shakespearean who saw the many stylistic connections between Marlowe and Shakespeare. He wrote, "Shakespeare, too, must have seen Tamburlaine at the Rose . . . . perhaps his reaction to Tamburlaine was the rewriting of part of a new history of Henry VI. His opening lines were certainly inspired by that play, and a finer tribute to Marlowe than anything written by the University Wits."
Although Halliday attributed the style of 1 Henry VI's opening lines to Shakespeare imitating Marlowe, there is a great deal of scholarship going back to the eighteenth century that purports Marlowe had a strong hand in the King Henry VI plays about The War of the Roses, both Part 1 and the earlier Parts 2 and 3 (otherwise known as The First Part of the Contention betwixt the two famous Houses of Yorke and Lancaster, and The True Tragedy of Richard Duke of Yorke). The authorship of these anonymous works has been crucial to the problem of Shakespeare’s 'lost years’. This is why academia wants to ascribe these 1592 plays to the Stratford Shakespeare. There is no evidence that the Shakespeare name was attached to any plays or poems until two weeks after Christopher Marlowe "died" in 1593.
In 1929 Peter Alexander set the template for those in academia who have recently accepted these plays as the Stratford Shakespeare's. The motive behind Alexander's thesis was the need to succeed at establishing the Stratford man's presence as a dramatist in London before 1592. The need to place Shakespeare into the role of dramatist only sprang up in the early twentieth century. Before that time, scholars were focused on identifying the Shakespeare works and attempting interpretations; they were not focused on the lack of hard evidence that the man from Stratford actually lived the life of the great dramatist. They assumed, as we would have assumed, that the Stratford Shakespeare was the dramatist because that is to whom the Monument and First Folio seemed to be dedicated. Before the twentieth century, scholars did not consciously know enough about 16th century England's politics, Marlowe's life and its relationship to the plays and sonnets, the suspicious Coroner's Report on Marlowe's death discovered in 1925, and, most importantly, the complete lack of any evidence that tells us the Stratford man wrote the Works. In other words, there was no reason to ask the Authorship Question.
In her "Three Plays of the Pembroke Players" Wraight sets us straight on the path for these two plays academia wants to ascribe to Shakespeare as his first works. She contrasts her arguments for Marlowe's authorship with those of Peter Alexander. Since Wraight presents both sides of the argument this would be a good essay for student's to read in order to learn how to spot fallacious argumentation. Where Alexander uses assumptions to present his argument, Wraight uses textual analysis of the plays. We will put a bit of Wraight's chapter here to illustrate this.
In 1921 Dr C. F. Tucker Brooke undertook a detailed textual analysis of these two plays, because he found that no adequate textual examination had been conducted, although argument and counter-argument concerning the authorship of the plays continually exercised the minds of scholars. The result of his objective, critical and, indeed, exhaustive investigation of their authorial problems was to ascribe both plays without any doubt to Marlowe’s hand . . . He has been supported by Dr. Allison Gaw in his masterly expose of the vexed question of the authorship of the companion work in the trilogy, the Folio’s The first Part of Henry the Sixt in The Origin and Development of I Henry VI published in 1926, in which he has brilliantly demonstrated that this is clearly a collaborative play, which is mainly, but not all Marlowe’s work . . .
Today the orthodox school adopts a diametrically opposite view attributing the authorship of the entire Henry VI trilogy to Shakespeare’s hand alone, despite the fact that it has been impossible to refute Tucker Brooke’s or Dr Gaw’s finely argue theses. The orthodox position has been achieved by the expedient, not of refuting Tucker Brooke’s irrefutable arguments, but by misrepresenting them; and in the case of Dr Gaw’s great thesis, by simply ignoring its existence, apart from a mere passing reference to it – a courtesy nod as from one scholar to another. This nod comes from Peter Alexander, who is the man responsible for having staged a feigned refutation of Tucker Brooke’s findings concerning Marlowe’s authorship of The Contention and True Tragedy as will be established in the following examination of the argument the present firmly entrenched orthodox view of the authorship of the Henry VI trilogy as by Shakespeare’s hand alone exists, therefore, on unsound and contentious foundations.
Wraight tells us that Marlowe's two important biographers, John Bakeless and Frederick Boas, both support Brooke's evidence for Marlowe. She gives us Boas' summation of Brooke's thesis.
The literary quality of The Contention and The True Tragedy, in Brooke’s view, points to Marlowe as being their author. They exhibit “a brilliant synthesis of plot and emotion”, and “the whole tangled story is resolutely pitched in a single key”. Moreover, the respective relations of Henry VI, Queen Margaret, Suffolk, and Prince Edward in these two plays are closely akin to those of Edward II, Queen Isabel, Mortimer, and Prince Edward in [Marlowe’s] Edward II. The versification, with its predominant number of end stopped lines, and its absence of double endings, is characteristic of Marlowe. But the most concrete support for Marlowe’s claim is found by Brooke in the remarkable number of passages in The Contention and The True Tragedy which have in Marlowe’s accepted plays or which are repeated in the quartos themselves. Such parallelism and repetition are both characteristic of Marlowe’s technique. Brooke gives a list of Twenty-eight parallels with plays in the recognized Marlovian canon, fourteen of which are with Edward II and nine with The Massacre at Paris. He gives also fifteen examples of repetition within The Contention and The True Tragedy.
Wraight also gives us Dr. Gaw's statement of Brooke's thesis.
Gaw: In 1912 Dr. C.F. Tucker Brooke, through a careful examination of the external and internal evidence relating to The Contention and The True Tragedy, and especially of a series of forty-three groups of parallel passages strongly typical of Marlowe and interweaving those plays with the entire list of Marlowe’s undoubted dramas, proved conclusively, to my mind, his thesis that both of these plays were originally the sole work of Marlowe.
Wraight presents Alexander's argument for the Stratford Shakespeare as follows:
1. The two curtailed versions of 2 and 3 Henry VI published in 'bad' quartos as The Contention and The True Tragedy represent surreptitious copies of Shakespeare’s plays furnished by the actors of Pembroke’s company to the printer, Thomas Millington. [ASSUMPTION]
2. Shakespeare had already written the complete Henry VI, Part 2 and 3 for the Pembroke company in or about 1590, or the actors could not have obtained the text for their surreptitious copy to sell to the printer. [ASSUMPTION]
3. Since Shakespeare had written these plays in about 1590 for the Pembroke Men he must already have been installed as a member of that company as actor or resident playwright before Marlowe arrived on the scene to write his Edward II for them. [ASSUMPTION BUILT UPON AN ASSUMPTION]
4. Marlowe, therefore, wrote his Edward II after Shakespeare’s two history plays and in imitation of them. Marlowe is thereby revealed as the follower of Shakespeare and not the innovator of the English history play, as had always hitherto been accredited to him. He was only Shakespeare’s imitator and it was Shakespeare who was the true innovator of this popular genre of drama. [CONCLUSION BASED ON THREE ASSUMPTIONS]
Wraight says, "This neatly turns the tables in favour of Shakespeare’s authorship of The Contention and True Tragedy and additionally gives him the credit as the originator of great English historical drama. Nothing so mundane as 'evidence' is produced to support any of these bold assertions, and not the slightest evidence of Shakespeare’s connections with the Earl of Pembroke’s Men in 1589/90 exists . . . modern scholarship has elected to follow Alexander in uncritical obedience and has contrived to steer a devious course which avoids actual confrontation with this mass of carefully collated evidence by substituting subjective opinion and hypothesis for objective research."
The Marlowe Studies Entry: April 15, 2011
Watch the Walnut
What is most interesting about Peter Alexander is that after he'd denounced Tucker Brooke's detailed evidence with his assumptions in his 1929 Shakespeare's Henry VI and Richard III, he deleted Brooke's argument altogether in his 1964 Shakespeare. In the later book, as Wraight says, "He reiterated his arguments . . . but this time making no reference whatsoever to Tucker Brooke’s great work, harking back instead to the long outdated work of Edmund Malone, who was writing two centuries ago, between 1778 and 1790, on the same theme without, however, having made any thorough textual examination on which to base his opinions as Tucker Brooke had done."
The Marlowe Studies observes Wraight has shown us the very process in which history is distorted into myth. Like the game Chinese Rumors, assumptions by those who are passing the story on - the scholars - become a part of history when they are not questioned. Scholars of every new generation are raised upon the foundations set by previous scholars. Students in the universities right now are told to read Alexander’s book by professors who themselves never bothered to read any of the earlier and later contradictory theses that were written by men who had studied the plays much more deeply than Alexander.
On the subject of Alexander's "memorial reconstruction" hypotheses, Steven Urkowitz says in his essay, "Texts With Two Faces" (Henry VI: Critical Essays): The "memorial reconstruction" case for Henry VI, Parts 2 and 3 was argued most forcefully by Peter Alexander. Since it was published in 1929, Alexander's work has been cited as the primary basis for all subsequent editions. Despite its wide acceptance, Alexander's narrative about theatrical piracy has been questioned repeatedly, and new evidence shows that his arguments fail to warrant the credibility they have been accorded. But the imaginative appeal of his story as well as his daunting accumulation of inconsequential instances lends a continuing meretricious appeal, even in the face of strong counter-arguments. Shortly after Alexander's work on the texts was first published, Clayton Alvis Greer responded with an encyclopedic essay challenging the "memorial reconstruction" hypotheses of Peter Alexander and an ally, Madeleine Doran. Even though it appeared in PMLA, the foremost journal of the profession, Greer's arguments were and continue to be simply ignored by editors committed to memorial-reconstruction hypotheses."
Academia is conspicuously slow in accepting the authorship question. It refuses to bat an eye at the doubters and fiercely clings to the Marlowe Myth it has not only perpetuated, but embellished by basing its essays on the myth's assumptive foundations. College students are given Greenblatt's cotton candy fictional biography of the Stratford Shakespeare Will In The World to read as if it were historical scholarship, when in reality it is built upon the sandy ground of assumptions stacked precariously high as the Tower of Babel.
All the connections academia desires to establish for the Stratford man we find only in Marlowe. Most importantly, we see that these history plays were likely begun by State prompting via Lord Burghley and Sir Francis Walsingham. Once we make this connection, it is no great leap to Marlowe’s writing the Southampton sonnets for Burghley. All scholars agree the first 18 sonnets might be to Southampton. They cling to the notion that the Stratford Shakespeare wrote them for Lord Burghley, with no evidence that Burghley knew him. Marlowe worked for Burghley. Sir Francis Walsingham and Lord Burghley made sure Marlowe got his Masters degree when rumors flew at Cambridge he’d gone over to the Catholic side. Probably at the prompting of Walsingham under whom Marlowe worked in secret intelligence, the Privy Council members, including Archbishop Whitgift, signed a petition to the Cambridge authorities saying Marlowe had done good service for the Queen.
Should we agree after reading the arguments presented in The Marlowe Studies library that Marlowe wrote The Massacre at Paris, Edward the Second, Edward the Third, and the King Henry VI plays, we have the missing link for his development into "Shakespeare". The soundness of the argument may inspire some students to follow Marlowe's style developments chronologically (which now will include the apocryphal plays above), and explore his further stylistic development in the "Shakespeare" early plays: The Comedy of Errors, Titus Andronicus, Taming of the Shrew, The Two Gentlemen of Verona, and Love's Labour's Lost.
It has been shown time and time again that Marlowe wrote these plays with the aid of other writers (that "team of writers" we've all heard about). If these history plays were prompted by his secret service employers Burghley and Walsingham, Marlowe would have been the chief plotter, alone in knowing these plays needed to contain what Walsingham and Burghley wanted to be shown about the Nation. That Marlowe was the chief plotter of these plays is the conclusion of Tucker Brooke, Allyson Gaw, A.D. Wraight, and J.M. Robertson.
For example, Dr. Gaw, who had nothing to do with the authorship debate and was not a Marlovian in this sense, says of 1 Henry VI, " The opening scene of 1 Henry VI is a studied preparation for the various elements in the ensuing play, combining with the outbreak of the Gloucester-Winchester dispute a vivid relation of the capture by the French of the heroic Talbot, together with an adroit hint foreshadowing the sorcery of Joan of Arc. It shows a realization of the power of detailed climax found, I believe, nowhere as in Marlowe among the pre-Shakespeareans."
If these speculations are correct 1. The inception of the Shakespeare history plays would have begun as State "propaganda" under the wishes of Walsingham and Burghley, and 2. More power is given to the argument that Burghley, Thomas Walsingham (and probably Essex who was married to Frances Walsingham) were involved in the faking of Marlowe's death.
Marlowe Studies Entry
April 16, 2011
Generally speaking, the new criticism coming out of academia doesn't see plays like Edward the Second within a political historical context. Instead, we get fallacious essays like Jonathan Goldberg's "Sodomy and Society: The Case of Christopher Marlowe", which appeared in Christopher Marlowe, Edited and Introduced by Richard Wilson. Wilson introduces this essay, saying, "If modernist critics tended to read Marlowe's writing through his biography, post-modernist critics interpret the life through the plays. Jonathan Goldberg's essay is an instance of this provisional 'return of the author', with its proposition that Marlowe's identity as dramatist, sexual dissident and spy was constructed by the discourses of Elizabethan power, as a foil or shadow to its orthodoxy."
In spite of the fact that Wilson says Goldberg's essay is a provisional "return of the author" it is based on the modernist critics' mistaken biographies of Marlowe that left out more information than they put into their books and essays. So now we have Goldberg utilizing the Marlowe Myth to thrust upon Marlowe an imaginary Elizabethan social function. For anyone well-read in Marlowe and post-reformation England, even Wilson's description of the essay is a mish mash cultural projection aimed 400 years back in time. Here is one of Wilson's sentences that serves as an example: "On this view, the sodomy that epitomized Marlowe's transgressive status should be seen not as a positive act, but as a merely symbolic rebellion, licensed by authority to be its negative Other."
Academia's self-constructed labels like "modernist" and "post-modernist" reveals conscious crafting of its persona while the content of its research into Marlowe is a half-life of literary specialism devoid of historical context. Academia ignores the books in our library, such as Alex Jack's Hamlet by Christopher Marlowe, Wraight's The Story That The Sonnets Tell and Christopher Marlowe and Edward Alleyn. When studying Marlowe and Shakespeare one cannot divide literature and history; the two go hand in hand.
Concerning the seemingly absent Shakespeare from Stratford, Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “It is the essence of poetry to spring like the rainbow daughter of Wonder from the invisible, to abolish the past, and refuse all history.” But it is not the essence of our greatest writer's poetry to refuse all history. History permeates the Shakespeare works, both classical and the current news of his day. The only history absent from the works is that of the Stratford Shakespeare. The only explanation that makes common sense for his absence as a dramatist who seems to have had no personal relationship with others in London, is that the name is a pseudonym for someone else. One of the reasons there are so many varied interpretations of the Shakespeare plays is that we have no evidence that establishes the dramatist's relationship to his times. Shakespeare is a rorschach blot upon which we can project our own ideas, whether they be of a particular era's morality or group we belong to (Gay, Feminist, Freudian, Catholic, Protestant, etc.).
We do have evidence of Christopher Marlowe's relationship to his times. Alex Jack has commented on the themes and content of several Shakespeare plays in the Marlowe context in his Hamlet by Christopher Marlowe. We see that these themes are a continuance of the earlier history plays we have been discussing, but now focused on the issues of State versus Church:
The Comedy of Errors: Parodies issues of conformity advanced by Elizabeth and Whitgift in the Parliament of 1593.
Titus Andronicus: Wicked critique of Tudor absolutism and repression of poets and artists.
King John: defends ancient liberties and the Magna Carta against the position of Crown and Church in Parliament of 1593.
1 and 2 Henry IV: Satirizes the Church's oppression of Puritans and recreates the Martin Marprelate rhetoric.
Twelfth Night: Satire on Whitgift and Elizabeth's attacks on Puritans, arising out of the Darrell case in 1598.
Henry V: Includes famous allusion to the Early of Essex broaching revolution against Tudor absolutism on his sword.
As You Like It: Multiple references to Marlowe, including his "death" in Deptford; allusions to suppression of religious dissent, Whtigift's bonfire of the books, and Nashe's persecution.
Hamlet: Penetrating critique of the unholy union of Church and Crown; sly attack on Whitgift's murderous usurpation of authority, and attempt to force Elizabeth to look into the window of her own soul.
Modernist and Post-Modernist critics see the moon's reflection on the surface of the lake and grab at it, never clutching anything of substance. They read Marlowe's play about a homosexual King Edward and deduce this means Marlowe projected his own homosexuality into Edward II. Wraight's research realigns us onto the path in her essay, "Evidence of Marlowe’s Heterosexuality in the Plays". In this essay, she says, "The horrendous murder of the pitiful king devised by Lightborne – surely one of the most coldly cruel and fiendishly evil characters ever created – by driving a red hot iron rod up his anus, is sufficient evidence that this is not the dramatist’s self-identification with the practice of homosexuality. The scene arouses the most powerful emotions of pity and horror in the audience of any scene ever written. I do not believe that anyone who was himself a homosexual could have written this play."