The Marlowe Studies Entry: September 8, 2011


First Folio Shakespeare and the Chandos portrait


How the Shakespeare New Orthodoxy Embellishes the Marlowe-Shakespeare Myths

Stephen Greenblatt's Will In The World: His Marlowe, Tamburlaine, and King Henry VI


greenblattSometimes you can judge a book by its cover. Above, on the right, is the man representing Shakespeare on the cover of Greenblatt's Will In The World. Above, on the left, is the First Folio's Shakespeare engraving. Above, in the middle, is the Chandos portrait with its loose collar laces and the gold earring denoting a 16th century poet. There is a trail of claims that the Chandos was a portrait of Shakespeare. Many people would certainly prefer the hearty, worldly and intelligent looking Chandos to be Shakespeare over the gaunt and puppet-like First Folio engraving. And this is probably why Greenblatt, who has written a wonderful fantasy of a life for the Stratford Shakespeare, chose not the folio engraving of Shakespeare, but the Chandos to represent the dramatist on the cover of his Will In The World- sort of. The man Greenblatt has on his cover is actually E. Scriven's romanticized Chandos, engraved in 1824. This Shakespeare, like Greenblatt's Shakespeare, is the very man we wish Shakespeare to have looked like. See how the hazel blue eyes gaze at us with serious intent, see how Chando's rugged worldliness has been transformed by the engraver's fingers into a more poetic looking man: the more finely tapered mustache, the feminized sensitive lips, the finely sculpted nose, the well-trimmed beard, even the scar beside the left eye has disappeared and the bush of hair has gone to the barber to be waved while the soft collar has been transported via a science fiction time machine back to the 16th century to wrap itself around the neck of this man who was never born. Just as many academics read only the books that reinforce the myth of Marlowe, they also write books that reinforce the myth of the Stratford Shakespeare.

Before we leave the morphed image of Chandos on the cover of Greenblatt's book, we might as well look at the computerized morphing of Marlowe's Cambridge Portrait into the Chandos:

chandosChandos Portrait



The 21 year-old Marlowe morphed into the 40 year-old Chandos


Yet another lesson for students interested in spotting fallacious argumentation

Stephen Greenblatt's Tamburlaine



In his chapter "Life In The Suburbs" Stephen Greenblatt defines the purpose of London's theaters using the 16th century chronicler Stow's quote that London, "was a mighty arm and instrument to bring any great desire to effect." He goes on to say that the theaters were in the business of fostering and catering to such great desires. It had been a long dark night of predictable medieval morality plays, but Greenblatt's perspective ignores the people's longing for drama, clowns, and the joviality that theater gatherings fostered. Greenblatt must limit the scope of his focus because he is about to pounce on Marlowe's Tamburlaine, which he and the other members of the New Orthodoxy Club interpret as a projection of Marlowe's own "great desires".

He says, "Shakespeare encountered this central principle [fostering great desires] in its purest form almost immediately upon his arrival, for in 1587, just at the time he was finding his feet in London, crowds were flocking to the Rose to see the Lord Admiral's Men perform Christopher Marlowe's Tamburlaine."

Watch the walnut! It is Greenblatt who has decided, along with the all the other Stratford Shakespeare believers, that he had arrived in London by 1587. The first absolute proof we have that William Shakespeare actor was in London, however, is on a December 1594 list composed by the Treasurer of the Queen's Chamber as receiving payment for two performances at Greenwich.


Greenblatt goes on to say that Shakespeare almost certainly saw Tamburlaine, and he probably went back again and again. "It may indeed have been one of the first performances he ever saw in a playhouse-perhaps the first- and, from its effect upon his early work, it appears to have had upon him an intense, visceral, indeed life-transforming impact."

Almost certainly, probably, may indeed have been, perhaps the first are Greenblatt's foundation for his asseveration that Tamburlaine had a life-transforming impact which strongly effected the Stratford Shakespeare's early work. He is referring to the King Henry VI plays and Edward the Third which many scholars have seen Marlowe's hand in as chief plotter (scholars outside the New Orthodox Club who seem desperate to denigrate Marlowe). Perhaps he is also referring to the other early Shakespeare plays that so many scholars see as an imitation of Marlowe:

Sidney Lee, 1898
Throughout Shakespeare’s Richard III the effort to emulate Marlowe is undeniable.

Algernon Swinburne, 1880
This [Richard III] only of all Shakespeare’s plays belongs absolutely in the school of Marlowe. The influence of the elder master, and that influence alone, is perceptible from end to end.

John Addington Symonds, 1884
On Edward III
. . . so good that we are forced to think of Shakspere and of Marlowe, of Shakspere in his period of lyricism, or of Shakspere following the track of Marlowe.

G.B. Harrison, 1933
On the corresponding styles of Venus & Adonis and Marlowe's Hero and Leander:
Shakespeare already admired Marlowe to the point of close imitation; now he ventured on rivalry. He too would write a poem in the same style . . .

F.E. Halliday, 1961
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.

James Shapiro, 1991
Shakespeare seems to be very much aware of what Marlowe is up to and chooses to plot a parallel course, virtually stalking his rival.

Thomas Merriam, 1996
Shakespeare's incorporation and revision of original writing by Marlowe . . . . would help to account for the subliminal Marlovian characteristics of the Henry VI plays, their invariable association with each other and with Titus Andronicus, Richard II and Richard III . . .

Having woven his rope out of sand, Greenblatt now tosses it around Marlowe's neck:

"The dream that Marlowe's startlingly cruel play aroused and brilliantly gratified was the dream of domination."

Startlingly cruel play? Compare Greenblatt's surface description with Wraight's in-depth description:

While Marlowe knew well the tastes of his fellow countrymen which would make the choice of such a subject as Tamburlaine, whose spectacular success in war was matched by his cruelty, a popular entertainment, he was never satisfied merely to entertain. The Elizabethans were inured to cruelty, bloodshed and death, but when Marlowe paints scenes of human cruelty he does so to evoke a response which finally recoils from this. He does not pander to sadism as, for instance, Nashe does in The Unfortunate Traveller, Or The Life of Jacke Wilton (1594). In this Marlowe stands aside from most of his contemporaries.

Greenblatt continues with his description of Marlowe's play, saying, "His hero is a poor Scythian shepherd who rises by determination, charismatic energy, and utter ruthlessness to conquer much of the known world. The play, conceived on an epic scale, is full of noise, exotic pageantry, and rivers of stage blood - flags fly, chariots are dragged across the stage, cannons are fired - but the core if its appeal is its incantatory celebration of the will to power:

Nature that fram'd us of four elements
Warring within our breast for regiment,
Doth teach us all to have aspiring minds:
Our souls, whose faculties can comprehend
The wondrous architecture of the world,
And measure every wandering planet's course,
Still climbing after knowledge infinite,
And always moving as the restless spheres,
Will us to wear ourselves, and never rest,
Until we reach the ripest fruit of all,
That perfect bliss and sole felicity,
The sweet fruition of an earthly crown.

Compare Greenblatt's description of this passage as an "incantatory celebration of the will to power" with Wraight's " . . . he [Marlowe] puts into the mouth of Tamburlaine words that reflect the aspiring minds of these ardent seekers after knowledge infinite."

Just as Greenblatt narrows the motives of the London theaters to be "a mighty arm and instrument to bring any great desire to effect," he asserts that through the mouth of Tamburlaine Marlowe is celebrating the will to power. It is by separating Marlowe's use of historical sources from what Marlowe added to the play out of his own imagination that we can discover he is not celebrating the will to power. Marlowe's historical sources all gave the number of Tamburlaine's sons as two. It was out of his own imagination Marlowe created a third son, Calyphas, who hated war and violence. He sees his brothers, who follow in their father's footsteps, as "more childish-valorous than manly-wise".

Greenblatt now tightens the noose, saying, "For the space of this play, all of the moral rules inculcated in schools and churches, in homilies and proclamations and sober-minded tracts, are suspended. The highest good - "That perfect bliss and sole felicity" -is not the contemplation of God but the possession of a crown. There is no hierarchy of blood, no divinely sanctioned legitimate authority, no inherited obligation to obey, no moral restraint. Instead, there is a restless, violent striving that can be fully appeased only by grasping (or dreaming of grasping) supreme power."

Greenblatt's implication in the above paragraph is that Marlowe's own character (as Greenblatt sees it) is being projected into Tamburlaine: all moral rules are suspended, all sober-minded tracts are suspended, the highest good is not the contemplation of God but the possession of a crown, there is no divinely sanctioned legitimate authority, no inherited obligation to obey, no moral restraint. There is only a restless, violent striving.

To keep the myth intact, Greenblatt must refuse to see that it is the character Tamburlaine, and not Marlowe, who suspends moral rules. Compare what Greenblatt has chosen to say out of his narrow focus, to another orthodox Shakespearean's, Della Hilton's, description of Marlowe's purposes. “ . . . too often Marlowe’s plays are read or produced with alleged hindsight, which attributes false meanings to otherwise straightforward passages. For example, Marlowe is described as "violent" when his record, set beside that of contemporaries, is relatively mild and his plays are no more bloodthirsty than the fashion of the time.”

Marlowe did not make up the character of Tamburlaine from his own projected desires. He thoroughly researched his Tamburlaine character. Perhaps Greenblatt has not read John Bakeless' two volume The Tragicall History of Christopher Marlowe, the most thoroughly researched biography of the dramatists' life and works to date. John Bakeless says, "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."

As stated earlier, we can know that Marlowe is not celebrating the will to power by what he added to the play out of his own imagination. It would certainly seem that Marlowe's additions to the Tamburlaine's story reveal his personal projections much more than the historical sources he used. For instance, there is no historical basis for Zenocrate, she has been created from Marlowe's imagination. Wraight tells us that none of the books Marlowe read about Tamburlaine gave any historical basis for the love story of Tamburlaine and Zenocrate, which, she says, is the central thread of Marlowe's drama. She goes on to say, "As Dr. Bakeless' extensive research on Marlowe's historical sources has shown, the story of Tamburlaine's great love for Zenocrate, with which Marlowe underpins his drama and supplies the human emotional element that lifts his available sources."

She also says, "It is not in the magniloquence of Tamburlaine's rant that the essential Marlowe, the soul of the poet, is to be found, but rather in the famous passage which contains his apostrophe to Beauty."

If all the pens that ever poets held
Had fed the feeling of their masters' thoughts,
And every sweetness that inspir'd their hearts,
Their minds, and muses on admired themes . . .

On previous editorial page 11 we have Wraight's in depth analysis of Tamburlaine, where she says:

The blood-bath of Tamburlaine acts like a powerful cathartic panacea to the soul, for he holds up a cruel conqueror for our admiration only finally to reduce him to a man who is maddened by his bloodlust. A colossus with feet of clay wading in blood, to arouse our pity. The civilizing influence in Tamburlaine is the lovely Zenocrate, and when she dies we hear echoes of Othello's forlorn cry -

But I do love thee; and when I love thee not
Chaos is come again.
Act III Sc.3. 1192-3

Othello depends on Desdemona for his sanity: Tamburlaine without Zenocrate is almost a madman. Zenocrate's remorse and pity for the death of the tormented Bajazeth and Zabina invite us to pity, not to gloat. Mycetes expresses the terrors of war feelingly in his outburst -

Accurs'd be he that first invented war!
They knew not, ah, they knew not, simple men,
How those were hit by pelting cannon-shot
Stand staggering like a quivering aspen-leaf
Fearing the force of Boreas' boisterous blasts!
The First Part of Tamburlaine Act II Sc.4 11.1-5

As mentioned earlier, Marlowe's sources gave the number of Tamburlaine's sons as two.

Wraight says

Marlowe expands the sons to three, one of whom is the cowardly Calyphas ('in no way compared to Tamerlaine in military valour') while the other two are as warlike and cruel as their father. Later, she says

. . . Tamburlaine's war-hating third son Calyphas in The Second Part of Tamburlaine is a more complex character, a dissenter against war of courage and conscience who is almost modern. He finds war 'dangerous' yet he is not really a coward - his dislike of warfare is deeply grounded on personal distaste for violence and an intellectual contempt for those who indulge in war. He calls his warlike brothers fools who are 'more childish-valorous than manly-wise' and afraid to be stigmatized as cowards. One of them confesses he is partly motivated by fear of their father's anger should they fail to strive to emulate him in military prowess. 'I would not bide the fury of my father', exclaims Amyra marveling at Calyphas's foolhardiness. But Calyphas has integrity and a cool courage of his own. He tells his brothers:

I know, sir, what it is to kill a man;
It works remorse of conscience in me.
I take no pleasure to be murderous.

When Celebinus taunts him as a coward who shames their house, Callyphas answers derisively:

Go, go, tall stripling, fight you for us both,
And take my other toward brother here,
For person like to prove a second Mars.

He tells Perdicas, with whom he plays at cards while the battle rages:

They say I am a coward, Perdicas, and I fear as little their
taratantaras, their swords, or their cannons as I do a naked
lady in a net of gold, and, for fear I should be afraid would
put it off and come to bed with me.

The Marlowe Studies Entry: September 20, 2011


One obvious fact The New Orthodoxy Club cannot ignore is the power of Marlowe's verse which set him apart from every writer before him and during his time. While placing the Stratford Shakespeare in the audience watching Tamburlaine, Greenblatt says, "The hushed crowd was already tasting Tamburlaine's power in the unprecedented energy and commanding eloquence of the play's blank verse - the dynamic flow of unrhymed five-stress, ten-syllable lines - that the author, Christopher Marlowe, had mastered for the stage. This verse, like the dream of what ordinary speech would be like were human beings something greater than they are, was by no means only bombast and bragging. Its appeal lay in its own "wondrous architecture": its subtle rhythms, the way in which a succession of monosyllables suddenly flowers into the word "aspiring," the pleasure of hearing "fruit" become "fruition".

Greenblatt imagines the Stratford Shakespeare, who has just come to London with his Warwickshire dialect tripping off his tongue, reacting to a stage performance of Tamburlaine:

"Shakespeare had never heard anything quite like this before - certainly not in the morality plays or mystery cycles he had watched back in Warwickshire. He must have said to himself something like, "You are not in Stratford anymore." To someone raised on a diet of moralities and mysteries, it must have seemed as if the figure of Riot had somehow seized control of the stage, and with it an unparalleled power of language. Perhaps, at one of those early performances - before the full extent of Marlowe's recklessness became known - Shakespeare waited, with others in the audience, for the tyrant, soaked with the blood of innocents, to be brought low. That, after all, is what always happened to Riot or to Herod in the religious drama. But what he saw instead was one insanely cruel victory follow another, the rhetoric of triumph becoming ever more intoxicating . . .Then, shockingly, outrageously, the play was over, and the crowd applauded, cheering the trampling of everything that they had been instructed with numbing repetition to hold dear. "


Before Marlowe's recklessness became known! In other words, Greenblatt is telling us that Marlowe has projected his own character into that of Tamburlaine, or chosen Tamburlaine as a subject because of his own character traits. Greenblatt reveals that he has not studied the writers who have given evidence contrary to this "recklessness", and he ignores the mountain of evidence that tells us Marlowe must have been a very astute young man to have accomplished what no Elizabethan before him had accomplished, in not one, but several ways. Let us examine what Greenblatt is referring to when he says "reckless" since he has not bothered to be specific. He is referring to the items that compose the Marlowe Myth. 1. The Coroner's Report on Marlowe's death which has him being killed in an argument over the dinner bill. 2. The counterfeiting incident in Flushing. 3. Baines' Note 4. The William Corkyn charge that Marlowe assaulted him in Canterbury 5. The Bradley Duel.

Greenblatt and others of the New Orthodoxy Club have either not bothered to do in-depth research on Marlowe or have chosen to ignore all the research that goes contrary to their preservation and embellishment of the myth. Here is the information they leave out of their books and essays regarding Marlowe:

1. Many orthodox Shakespeareans have voiced suspicion over the Coroner's Report on Marlowe's death which has him striking a man from behind, including Charles Nicholl. In The Reckoning he 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 . . .

2-3. It was Richard Baines who accused Marlowe of counterfeiting in Flushing, when the evidence suggests Marlowe was there under Lord Burghley's orders to root out Catholic counterfeiters. It was also Richard Baines who had accused Marlowe of atheism in his Note of 1593, an accusation that would likely lead to a Star Chamber order Marlowe be hanged. The New Orthodoxy Club refuses to see the high coincidence that a few days after this note was received, Marlowe "died" at Deptford. Casting a blind eye to this coincidence as well as the suspicious Coroner's Report that states it was Marlowe's Patron's employee that "killed" him at Deptford, the New Orthodoxy Club treats Richard Baines as if he were town Mayor, ignoring his own confession of atheistic thoughts while at Rheims and his highly suspicious release after he had threatened to poison the well there. The evidence surrounding Baines is more suggestive of a double agent working for Spain than of a man interested in England's welfare.

Baines’ first attack on Marlowe in Flushing coincided with the 1592 Catholic priest Robert Persons’ English publication Responsio ad Edictum Elizabethan out of which the mythic “School of Night” was born. In this satirical piece Persons wrote of “Sir Walter Rawley’s school of atheism” and  “the diligence used to get young gentlemen to this school, wherein both Moses and our Saviour, the Old and the New Testament, are jested at, and the scholars taught among other things to spell God backward.” Charles Nicholl writes of the similarities between this Catholic propaganda work and the contents of Baines’ Note and Drury’s Remembrances, which were being written the heels of its publication.

Many of the charges Baines and Drury made against Marlowe not only echo each other, they echo Persons’ article and elaborate on Persons’ accusation against Raleigh’s “school of atheism”, a school that, for lack of evidence as having existed, seems to have lived only in the Catholic Persons’ mind. Both Baines’ and Drury’s accusations seem to have the intent of legitimizing what began with Persons’ Catholic propaganda several months previously. It was Persons who wrote that Raleigh wanted to create an “atheist commonwealth” in which atheism would become the ‘law of the land’. The purpose of his article seems to have been to drive a wedge further between the already strained Whitgift and Burghley factions on the Privy Council, and to fracture England’s aristocracy.

This historical context coincides with the theory Whitgift used the two informers Baines and Drury to go after the freethinkers, and through torture was going to knock them down like dominoes: torture Kyd to get Marlowe, torture Marlowe to get Raleigh and others of his “circle” that had been stigmatized atheists because of their interest in science and their questioning of certain facts in the Christian Bible, such as the time of man’s creation. Austin Gray has observed that, “the charges [Baines’ Note, Drury’s Remembrances] implicitly connected Sir Walter Ralegh and the Earl of Northumberland with the heresy. Thus, it seems probable that the investigation was meant primarily to be a warning to the politicians in the "School of Night," and/or that it was connected with a power struggle within the Privy Council itself.” In 1594, the year after Baines' accusations of atheism against Marlowe, Whitgift did, indeed, investigate Raleigh and his friends at Cerne Abbas.

4. The New Orthodoxy Club often cites Marlowe's attack on William Corkyn in Canterbury as one of the examples of his violent nature. They choose to ignore two pertinent items: Marlowe himself brought the same charge against Corkyn, and this charge tells us it was Corkyn who attacked Marlowe five days earlier. From the Canterbury Archives::

William Corkyn, Canterbury, tailor: assaulting Christopher Marlowe, gent in St Andrew's parish, Westgate ward 10 Dec 1591. Endorsed: ignoramus.

And, six months later, another assault charge was made against Corkyn by one Reginald Digges:

Indictment of William Corkyn, Canterbury, tailor for assaulting Reginald Digges, gent in St Mary Breadman parish, Westgate ward 30 June 1592. Placed himself at the mercy of the court by pledge of Giles Wynston and evidently amerced 3s 4d.

5. The New Orthodoxy Club often cites The Bradley Duel as an example of Marlowe's violent nature. They choose to ignore the mass of evidence that reveals Bradley to have been the instigator of this brawl. Regarding this affair, Constance Kuriyama in her A Renaissance Life, says, "In the fight with Bradley in 1589, the innkeeper’s son appears to have been the aggressor. Marlowe stopped fighting as soon as Watson appeared and Watson killed Bradley only when Bradley turned on him." Although this isn't quite correct. In reality, it would seem that Bradley was there in the first place to fight with Watson. We have the documented court evidence stating that when Bradley saw Watson coming down the street, he said, "Art thou now come? Then I will have a bout with thee."

An excerpt from Wraight regarding the backgound of this event::

As so often when evidence survives, it is in the records of the law. In the autumn of 1589, Marlowe and Watson became involved in a fight with Watson’s enemy, a thug named William Bradley, who was out for Watson’s blood. Watson had gone to the aid of his brother-in-law, Hugh Swift, a lawyer engaged by the innkeeper, John Allen, to recover an outstanding debt of £14 from Bradley. [It should be noted that, although they spelled their names differently, John Allen was the brother of Edward Alleyn, the actor who worked closely with Christopher Marlowe for he played all of Marlowe’s leading characters: Tamburlaine, Dr. Faustus, and Barabas, the Jew of Malta]. Bradley had a record for brawling, and he now called in a pal of his with similar tastes, called George Orrell, a young man of truculent spirit described as one who ‘held his neck awry’ in that stance that commonly trumpets a challenge to all comers. Orrell visited Hugh Swift and threatened him with a beating up if he dared to take his friend Bradley to court. Swift thereupon lodged an appeal with the Queen’s Bench for sureties of the peace against George Orrell ‘being in fear of death & c.’

At this stage Tom Watson, it seems, joined forces with Swift and Allen to add the force of numbers in counter-threatening Bradley – who now lodged an appeal for sureties of the peace against Swift, Allen and Watson. Marlowe’s name is nowhere mentioned in all this. Whether Watson, who was noted for his witty repartee, had said something that had made Bradley smart with hatred of him, the upshot was that Bradley decided to attack Watson alone, and he was found lurking in Hog Lane, not far from Watson’s and Marlowe’s lodgings. When Marlowe passed that way in the early afternoon of 18th September, probably on his way to Burbage’s Theatre, Bradley either accosted him, or Marlowe, suspicious, may have asked him what he was doing there. Soon swords were drawn and they were locked in a duel. Attracted by the clash of steel a crowd assembled, and Watson himself appeared.

As soon s he saw Watson, Bradley turned to him with the shout: ‘Art thou now come, then I will have a bout with thee’, [This implies it was likely Bradley who instigated the fight with Marlowe] whereupon he ‘did leap upon Watson, clearly showing with whom his quarrel lay. Marlowe withdrew leaving the two to fight it out. [For the rest, see The Bradley Duel]

. . .


Greenblatt goes on to say, "This (the play Tamburlaine] was a crucial experience for Shakespeare, a challenge to all of his aesthetic and moral and professional assumptions." What professional assumptions? Keeping to Greenblatt's imaginary timeline, this Shakespeare had just left his wife and children in Stratford to come to London. We have no evidence he had written anything "professional" at all before Greenblatt has him watching Marlowe's play. We have no mention of him between 1589 (when he seems still to have been in Stratford because he was named together with his parents in a legal action taken against John Lambert) and 1595 when his name as an actor is on the Accounts to the Treasurer of the Royal Chamber for a recorded payment of £20 to 'Will Kempe Will Shakespeare & Richard Burbage servants to the Lord Chamb[er]lain . . ."

Stephen Greenblatt's King Henry VI

Greenblatt continues his imaginary timeline, saying, "Had Marlowe not existed, Shakespeare would no doubt have written plays, but those plays would have been decisively different. As it is, he gives the impression that he made the key move in his career- the decision not to make his living as an actor alone but to try also to write for the stage on which he performed - under Marlowe's influence. The fingertips of Tamburlaine (both the initial play and the sequel that soon followed) are all over the plays that are among Shakespeare's earliest known ventures as a playwright, the three parts of Henry VI - so much so that earlier textual scholars thought that the Henry VI plays must have been collaborative enterprises undertaken with Marlowe himself. The decided unevenness in the style of the plays suggests that Shakespeare may well have been working with others, though few scholars any longer believe that Marlowe was among them. Rather, the neophyte Shakespeare and his collaborators seem to have been looking over their shoulders at Marlowe's achievement.


Watch the walnut! The decided unevenness in the style of the plays suggests that Shakespeare may well have been working with others, though few scholars any longer believe that Marlowe was among them. This is so far from the truth it begs the question, has Greenblatt read the most thorough studies of the King Henry VI plays? This would be the 1 King Henry VI, and Parts 2 and 3 (the two earlier plays: 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 Marlowe Studies has presented the case for Marlowe as chief plotter of these plays on editorial pages 4 and 5. Again, the deepest studies of 1 Henry V1 by C.F. Tucker Brooke, Allison Gaw, and A.D. Wraight show that Marlowe was the chief plotter of that play. Gaw’s work represents the most thorough textual assessment of 1 Henry VI ever conducted. You can read Wraight's synopsis of C.F. Tucker Brooke's argument for Marlowe's authorship of the Henry VI trilogy, and Marlowe's two esteemed biographers (John Bakeless' and Frederick Boas') agreement with it here.

In his Christopher Marlowe, Frederick Boas gives a brief review of Brooke's arguments (from Wraight's Christopher Marlowe and Edward Alleyn):

"The literary quality of The Contention and The True Tragedy [Parts 2 and 3 of King Henry VI], 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 Queen Isabella, Mortimer, and Prince Edward in 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 parallels 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 gave 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."

Dr. Gaw, who has done the most thorough linguistic analyses to date on the "Hands" (Hand A,B,C,D) that took part in the writing of 1 King Henry VI, also speaks of Brooke's work, saying, "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." You can read Brooke's parallel passages typical of Marlowe here.

You can read Wraight's chapter on the writers of 1 King Henry VI here.
You can read Wraight's chapter on the writers of The Contention and the True Tragedy here.




Greenblatt's embellishment of the Marlowe Myth is most revealed when he says, "Marlowe had put together the two parts of Tamburlaine out of his strange personal history - spy, double agent, counterfeiter, atheist - but also and as important, out of his voraciously wide reading."

First of all, notice that Marlowe's "voraciously wide reading" has been relegated to the last position in this sentence, and this reading is merely "as important" as his being a spy, double agent, counterfeiter, and atheist. In reality, Marlowe's research of historical source material was the most important work he did toward writing Tamburlaine. Previous editorial page 11 goes into detail around this reading in order to show what Marlowe did project into the play from his own imagination. It is imperative we deconstruct Greenblatt's sentence because it epitomizes the New Orthodox Club's embellishment of the Marlowe Myth and their lack of education when it comes to the dramatist/poet.

"strange personal history": What would a strange personal history have to do with writing the play Tamburlaine? It would seem Greenblatt is bent upon diminishing Marlowe at every turn. Rather than having Greenblatt's implied negative personal history, Marlowe was the son of a cobbler who was given a scholarship to King's School, a scholarship to Cambridge, the developer of a blank verse drama now known as "Shakespearean" blank verse drama, the darling of the London stage emulated and envied by all the other dramatists of his time, many of his plays seem to have been written with the State interest in mind (Massacre At Paris, Edward II, Edward III, King Henry VI all three parts).

"spy": What would being a spy have to do with the writing of Tamburlaine? All we know of his "spy" work was that when Cambridge wanted to withhold Marlowe's Master's degree because of rumors that he'd gone over to the Catholic side, Lord Burghley had all the members of the Privy Council sign a letter to the Cambridge authorities stating the rumors were false. We also know that no charges of sedition occurred after Baines accused him of counterfeiting in Flushing. His work for secret intelligence had more to do with creating a national drama by writing history plays than with "spying".

"double agent": This one is mystifying. Perhaps Greenblatt believes the rumors that were circulating about Marlowe going over to the Catholic side, even though Lord Burghley, along with the rest of the Privy Council, squelched those rumors. Greenblatt's "double agent" becomes quite ironic in view of all the thorough studies that show Marlowe as chief plotter of England's first history plays.

"counterfeiter": What would counterfeiter have to do with writing Tamburlaine? No charges were brought upon Marlowe concerning these allegations of Baines. It is more likely Marlowe was working for Burghley and attempting to smoke out the Catholic counterfeiters who have become a problem for the English government. But what is most interesting about Greenblatt's thinking Marlowe had used this experience when writing Tamburlaine is that the Flushing counterfeiting incident occurred in 1592, long after Tamburlaine had been written (in 1588) !

"atheist": Tamburlaine was written on the heels of Marlowe's Cambridge education in the pagan philosophers, historicists, and dramatists. Tamburlaine was of interest to everyone in England at that time because he had conquered the Turks who were a threat to the small isle. Many of those in academia have pounced on Marlowe's use of a Pagan warrior as an example of his "atheism". Bakeless says of this, "The oath of Amurath [Orcanes in Tamburlaine] is a good illustration of the way in which the study of sources sometimes throws light upon an author's mind. This passage has long been supposed to illustrate Marlowe's "atheistic" leanings and has been pointed out as an example of the sort of blasphemy about which Richard Baines bore tales to the authorities. But when the 'blasphemy' turns out to be merely a vivid bit of history, we see that it is merely once more instance of the selective skill with which Marlowe has sifted the material in his sources."

Greenblatt is far too willing to believe Baines' accusations of Marlowe's heresies, in spite of the fact that Baines is the only contemporary of Marlowe's for whom we have his own written confession of atheistic thoughts. Baines began stalking Marlowe in 1592 when he accused Marlowe of counterfeiting in Flushing, we find him making the accusations of atheism a year later, 1593. These connections, and many others, are never mentioned by most members of the New Orthodoxy Club.



Greenblatt has made no attempt to find the pea hidden under the Baines' walnut because Richard Baines is one of the pillars holding up the Marlowe Myth. Let us uncover a few facts that are never voiced by members of the New Orthodoxy.

In late sixteenth century England two witnesses were needed to secure a judgment of heresy. Enter Baines with his Note of Atheistic charges against Marlowe, and Drury’s Remembrances which linked Marlowe with that other freethinker, Raleigh. The evidence shows that Richard Baines was working as a paid informant for the Ecclesiastical Court because Lord Buckhurst, the Commissioner for Ecclesiastical Causes, was the prime mover in securing Drury's release from prison in order that Drury should "do some servis”. In his book Christopher Marlowe and Richard Baines: Journeys Through the Elizabethan Underground, Roy Kendall says:

On November 8, unknown to Marlowe, Lord Buckhurst, privy councillor and commissioner for Ecclesiastical Causes, was writing to the new lord keeper of the Great Seal, Sir John Puckering, with regard to the release of the former government agent [spy] Thomas Drury from the Marshalsea Prison, in order that Drury might do the state "some servis.” Whatever Buckhurst had in mind at the time, what transpired was that Drury was asked to track down Richard Baines in order to oblige him to commit to paper his thoughts concerning Marlowe's "damnable Judgment of Religion, and scorn of Gods word”.


These editorial pages have not yet discussed the Dutch Church Libel which became the reason
for torturing Thomas Kyd and for Baines' accusations against Marlowe seven days later. For current purposes, it is sufficient to merely ask the question that the New Orthodoxy never asks, "If Buckhurst knew that Baines knew the name of the Dutch Church libeler, why didn’t Buckhurst just ask Baines himself? Why did he need Drury to go to Baines to ask who the libeler was? And, more to the point, just how was it that Baines knew who the Dutch Church libeler was?"

It would seem more than in the realm of possibility Baines was working as a paid informant for Buckhurst and Puckering (who were working for Whitgift) and they were using Drury as the second witness for the setup to go after Marlowe.

Peter Farey has pointed out that Baines was connected with every stage of the “campaign” to get Marlowe.

1. He was the person who, allegedly, knew the author of the Dutch Church libel - the style, content and signature of which all implicated Christopher Marlowe.

2. He provided the reason for Kyd to be arrested and, thereby, for the 'vile hereticall conceipts', apparently from Marlowe, to be found, and Kyd's accusations about Marlowe to be recorded,

3. He was the author of the famous ‘Note’ directly accusing Marlowe of several appalling crimes

4. This 'Note' provided a model for the letter accompanying the 'Remembrances' [Drury's] about Richard Cholmeley, in which Marlowe is accused of inciting others to atheism.


More on the Dutch Church Libel later. It is important to say now that no scholar has voiced the opinion Marlowe was the Dutch Church Libeler, and neither did Richard Baines state this in his Note which accused Marlowe of atheism. There is always the possibility whoever authored this libel may have been trying to set Marlowe up for what occurred after the libel had been posted, since they signed it "Tamburlaine", a far too obvious signature for it to have been Marlowe's. It seems that once Marlowe's arrest had been secured, Baines' course diverged from pursuit of the Dutch Church Libeler, and was then aimed at running Marlowe into the ground.



To be continued . . .

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