The Marlowe Studies Entry: May 6, 2011




It wasn't until 1925 that an undergraduate student named Leslie Hotson discovered the Coroner's Report on Marlowe's death. Until that time, no one knew the man who "killed" him was a personal employee of his patron, Thomas Walsingham. For more than three hundred years before this document was found rumors had baked a solid myth of Marlowe. There were many variations of his death circulating. He became the Puritans symbol of corrupt morality in the theaters because of the rumors he'd been killed in a bar fight and died swearing. The rumor that he'd been killed in a bar room brawl over a woman still continues in college class rooms today because most of the English Literature professors still don't know about Hotson's discovery.

Hotson went on to get his Ph.D at Harvard University and wrote about his findings in The Death of Christopher Marlowe. In another book, The First Night of Twelfth Night, Hotson said,"We are all aware of an ever-present danger: nothing is easier in any kind of investigation than to overlook a vital piece of evidence staring us in the face. For if that piece of evidence does not seem to corroborate or to fall in with our already-settled ideas, our minds either simply ignore it, or else wrest it by ‘interpretation’ to make it mean what we think it ought to mean. Such behaviour is certainly human, but it blocks the road to knowledge."

This is an appropriate quotation to lead us into the study of parallelisms in the two early King Henry VI plays 2 and 3 written before Part 1. While stylometrics is the study of frequency of word usage, the study of parallelisms reveal repeated syntactical similarities. As mentioned, Tucker Brooke discovered the parallelism and repetition in the King Henry plays evidence for Marlowe's authorship because they are characteristic of Marlowe's technique.

Where scholars before Peter Alexander saw the early Shakespeare plays imitating Marlowe, the late 20th century born academics want to erase Marlowe altogether. This began with Peter Alexander whose 1929 assumption that Tucker Brooke's "Marlowe parallels" in the King Henry VI plays were not because Marlowe had written them, but were due to the poor memories of the actors who were putting together the scripts from their memories (i.e., memorial reconstruction). Alexander's asseverative statement that these actors took part in Marlowe's play Edward II, so they absent-mindedly put some of those lines into the copies of The Contention and The True Tragedy they were surreptitiously selling to the publisher.

Wraight gave the obvious, common sense response to Alexander: "This blatantly sophistical argument falls apart at first glance for if this is really the explanation of the many parallels in these plays – that they derive from the actors’ faulty memories of their parts – why is it that they are still there in the Folio versions after Shakespeare had revised the plays?"

What follows are a few of the parallelisms to Marlowe's Massacre at Paris, Edward II, and Tamburlaine that Tucker Brooke discovered within The Contention (King Henry VI Part 2) and The True Tragedy (King Henry VI Part 3). You can see all of them here.


Oh fatall was this marriage to vs all (Massacre)
Ah Lords, fatall is this marriage . . . (Contention)

For this I wake, when others think I sleepe (Massacre)
Watch thous, and wake when others be asleepe (Contention)

As though your highness were a schoole boy still,
And must be awde and gouernd like a child. (Edward II)
But still must be protected like a childe,
And gourned by that ambitious Duke. (Contention)

Nay, to my death, for too long haue I liued. (Edward II)
Euen to my death, for I haue liued too long. (Contention)

A gripping paine hath ceasde vpon my heart: (Massacre)
For sorrowes teares hath gripte my aged heart. (Contention)
See how the panges of death doth gripe his heart. (Contention)
How inlie anger gripes his hart. (True Tragedie)

Or looke you, I should play the Orator? (1 Tamburlaine)
Our swordes shall play the Orators for vs. (Tamburlaine)
Nay, I can better plaie the Orator. (True Tragedie)
Full well hath Clifford plaid the Orator. (True Tragedie)

The sworde shall plane the furrowes of thy browes. (Edward II)
Giue me a look, that when I bend the browes,
Pale death may walke in furrowes on my face. (Massacre)
Deepe trenched furrowes in his frowning brow. (Contention)

Weaponless must I fall and die in bands. (Edward II)
And die in bands for this vnkingly deed. (True Tragedie)

And we are grac'd with wreathes of victory. (Massacre)
And we are grast with wreathes of victorie. (True Tragedie)

Your Lordship shall doe well to let them haue it. (Jew of Malta)
Your highnesse shall doe well to grant it them. (True Tragedie)

As bristle-pointed as a thorny wood. (I Tamburlaine)
"Bristle-pointed" is another example of Marlowe's double adjectives he learned from Ovid.
See brothers, yonder stands the thorny wood, (True Tragedie)

Frownst thou thereat, aspiring Lancaster?
Highly scorning, that the lowly earth
Should drinke his bloud, mounts vp into the ayer
. (Edward II)
What? Will the aspiring bloud of Lancaster
Sinke into the ground, I had thought it would have mounted. (True Tragedie)

The wilde Oneyle, with swarms of Irish Kernes,
Liues Vncontroulde within the English pale. (Edward II)
The wild Onele my Lords, is Vp in Armes,
With troupes of Irish Kernes that vncontrold,
Doth plant themselues within the English pale. (Contention)

sweet Duke of Guise our prop to leane vpon,
Now thou art dead, heere is not stay fo vs. (Massacre)
Sweet Duke of Yorke our prop to leane vpon,
Now thou art gone there is no hope for vs. (True Tragedie)

The hautie Dane commands the narrow seas, (Edward II)
Commands the narrow seas (True Tragedie)


Marlowe's tendency toward repetition within a single work is often found in The Contention and The True Tragedy now known as King Henry VI, Parts 2 and 3. Here are a few examples from Tucker Brooke's findings:

Till terme of eighteene months be full expirde. (Contention)
Till terme of 18. months be full expirde. (Contention)

Ile laie a plot to heaue him from his seate. (Contention)
Weele quickly heaue Duke Humphrey from his seate. (Contention)

Cold newes for me, for I had hope of France,
Euen as I haue of fertill England. (Contention)
Cold newes for me, for I had hope of France,
Euen as I haue of fertill England. (Contention)

My mind doth tell me thou art innocent. (Contention)
My conscience tells me thou are innocent. (Contention)

Here are repetitions found in The Contention and The True Tragedy:
If our King Henry had shooke hands with death, (Contention)
Till our Henry had shooke hands with death. (True Tragedie)
Make hast, for vengeance comes along with them. (Contention)
Awai my Lord for vengeance comes along with him. (True Tragedie)

For strokes receiude, and manie blowes repaide,
Hath robd my strong knit sinnews of their strength,
And force perforce needes must I rest my selfe. (True Tragedy)

For manie wounds receiu'd and mani moe repaid,
Hath robd my strong knit sinews of their strength,
And spite of spites needes must I yeeld to death. (True Tragedy)

Her lookes are all repleat with maiestie. (True Tragedy)
Thy lookes are all repleat with Maiestie. (True Tragedy)

For I am not yet lookt on in the world. (True Tragedie)
For yet I am not lookt on in the world. (True Tragedie)

And last, but not least:

...tell false Edward thy supposed king,

That Lewis of France is sending ouer Maskers
To reuill it with him and his new bride
Bona. Tell him in hope heele be a widower shortile,

Ile weare the willow garland for his sake.

Queen. Tell him my mourning weedes be laide aside,

And I am readie to put armour on.
War. Tell him from me, that he hath done me wrong,

And therefore Ile vncrowne him er't be long. (True Tragedie)


...tell false Edward thy supposed king,

That Lewis of France is sending ouer Maskers,
To reuill it with him and his new bride...

Tell him quoth she, in hope heele proue a widdower shortly,

Ile weare the willow garland for his sake...
Tell him quoth shee my mourning weeds be
Downe, and I am ready to put armour on...
Tell him quoth he, that he hath done me wrong,
And therefore Ile vncrowne him er't be long. (True Tragedie)


The Marlowe Studies Entry: May 7, 2011




When A.D. Wraight took the 154 Shake-speare Sonnets out of chronological order and placed them into theme groups she discovered that a theme of exile from the poet's friends had been dispersed within the original sequence. She surmised that if Marlowe had kept to the correct sequence, this cluster would have been too obviously autobiographical and his Shakespeare cover would have been blown. We may have found evidence in several of these sonnets that Marlowe is telling us he is consciously putting his identity into his works under the Shakespeare pseudonym. Of course, we must each judge for our self whether or not "Shakespeare" is telling us of his real identity and the truth of his story in these sonnets. In order to do this properly, we would have to read the sonnets Wraight has classified as "Exile" and examine them for their double meanings.

The Marlowe Studies suggests that, hypothetically, the surface meaning will be a universal sentiment, and underneath it the personal story. In other words, Marlowe would have used the art of ambiguity so that he could remain hidden. Following this line of speculation, Sonnet 76 can be interpreted on the surface as a love sonnet, below the surface as Marlowe telling us we will find him in the Shakespeare Works. If this is true, Sonnet 76 tells us he is purposefully going to put allusions to his plays written before his exile into the plays under his Shakespeare name. He gets even more specific by also telling us we will find in the Shakespeare plays the stylistic characteristics he was famous for pre-1593.


Why is my verse so barren of new pride,

So far from variation or quick change?

Why with the time do I not glance aside

To new-found methods, and to compounds strange?

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?

O! know sweet love I always write of you,

And you and love are still my argument;

So all my best is dressing old words new,

Spending again what is already spent:

For as the sun is daily new and old,

So is my love still telling what is told.                  

"Noted weed" means "famous style" ("noted"= famous, "weed" = "garment". When he says, "[So] That every word doth almost tell my name," he is literally telling us the reason he is keeping to his famous style is to stamp his identity into the plays no longer bearing his name. He also tells us that the way he will accomplish this goal is by "Showing their birth, and where they did proceed . . ." In other words, he is putting allusions to his known dramas and poems (showing their birth) into the pseudonymous Shakespeare plays, but he will do variations of the original lines, hence showing "where they did proceed".

Of course, we would have to search the Shakespeare works for evidence to back up this interpretation of Sonnet 76. Is the writer of the Shakespeare plays ". . . still telling what is [has been] told" but in variation, so that "every word doth almost tell my [Marlowe's] name"? We don't have to look very far for evidence. After all, the scholars have been saying all along that Shakespeare began by imitating Marlowe, that there are many parallel lines in the Shakespeare and Marlowe canons, and that Shakespeare is continually alluding to Marlowe. Lets take a glance at the Shakespeare works to see if we can find Marlowe implanting his true identity by alluding back to his previous works and presenting variations of their lines.

In The Man Who Was Shakespeare, Calvin Hoffman lists thirty pages of parallel passages in the works of Marlowe and Shakespeare. We've put only a few of them here. Let us see if Marlowe's earlier lines show the birth of Shakespeare's later parallel's which proceed to present present a variation.

Showing their birth, and where they did proceed . . .

Holla, ye pampered Jades of Asia.
What can ye draw but twenty miles a day?
And hollow pampered jades of Asia,
Which cannot go but thirty miles a day.
(Henry IV, Part 2: The True Tragedy we were examining earlier)

These arms of mine shall be thy Sepulchre. (Jew of Malta)
These arms of mine shall be thy winding sheet;
My heart, sweet boy, shall be thy sepulchre. (Henry VI, Part 2)

O my girl, my fortune, my felicity:
O girl, O gold, O beauty, O my bliss! (Jew of Malta)
My daughter! O my ducats! My daughter!
Fled with a Christian! O my Christian ducats! (Merchant of Venice)

Remember thee, fellow! what else? (Edward II)
. . . O, earth!
. . . what else?
. . . Remember thee! (Hamlet)

Was this the face that launched a thousand ships? (Dr Faustus)
Was this the face that faced so many follies? (Richard II)

The glory of this happy day is yours. (Tamburlaine)
To part the glories of this happy day. (Julius Caesar)

Marlowe: He must need go that thee drives. (Dr Faustus)
Shakespeare: And he must needs go that the devil drives. (All's Well That Ends Well)

Yet Caesar shall go forth. Thus Caesar did go forth, and thus he died. (Massacre At Paris)
Caesar shall go forth.
Yet Caesar shall go forth. (Julius Caesar)

The Moon sleeps with Endymion every day. (Elegies: Marlowe's translation of Ovid's Amores.)
Peace, ho! the Moon sleeps with Endymion. (Merchant of Venice)

To note me emperor of the three-fold world. (Tamburlaine)
The three-fold world divided (Julius Caesar)

By shallow rivers, to whose falls
Melodious birds sing madrigals.
And I will make thee beds of roses,
And a thousand fragrant posies. (Passionate Shepherd to His Love)
By shallow rivers, to whose falls
Melodious birds sing madrigals:
There will we make our beds of roses
And a thousand fragrant posies. (Merry Wives of Windsor)

Weep not for Mortimer
That scorns the world and as a traveller
Goes to discover countries yet unknown. (Edward II)
The undiscovered country from whose bourn
No traveller returns. (Hamlet)

Was this the face that launched a thousand ships? (Dr Faustus)
She is a pearl, whose price hath launched above a thousand ships. (Troilus and Cressida)

Who ever loved that loved not at first sight. (Hero and Leander)
Who ever loved that loved not at first sight. (As You Like It)

I count religion but a childish toy
And hold there is no sin but ignorance. (Jew of Malta)
I say there is no darkness but ignorance. (Twelfth Night)

Blush, blush, fair city. (Tamburlaine)
Bleed, bleed, poor country. (Macbeth)

. . . she, wanting no excuse to feed him with delays . . . (Hero and Leander)
He doth me double wrong to feed me with delays. (Titus Andronicus)

Infinite riches in a little room. (Jew of Malta)
A great reckoning in a little room. (As You Like It)


Shakespeare's Venus and Adonis, 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 . . . "
G.B. Harrison, 1933

Venus and Adonis was registered anonymously a month before Marlowe "died". This is the first piece of work that has the Shakespeare name attached to it. Hero and Leander wasn't published until 1598, five years after Marlowe "died". The two poems are known for their similar structures, but Hero and Leander is far more developed stylistically than Venus and Adonis which was the earlier work.

The Marlowe Studies suggests that the content of the parallels below is far too similar for these poems not to have been written by the same man, a man whose tendency was to repeat himself in variations of his former lines. This is illustrated in the thematic parallels between the two poems. We will put the earlier Venus and Adonis first so that the style development is shown chronologically.

Died to kiss his shadow in the brook. (Venus and Adonis)
. . . leapt into the water for a kiss
Of his own shadow. (Hero and Leander)

O hard-believing love, how strange it seems
Not to believe, and yet too credulous. (Venus and Adonis)

Love is too full of faith, too credulous,
With folly and false hope deluding us. (Hero and Leander)

But gold that's put to use more gold begets. (Venus and Adonis)

. . . then treasure is abused,
When misers keep it; being put to loan,
In time it will return us two for one. (Hero and Leander)

Thy unused beauty must be tombed with thee. (Venus and Adonis)
The richest corn dies, if it be not reaped,
Beauty alone is lost, too wrily kept. (Hero and Leander)

Love's golden arrow at him should have fled. (Venus and Adonis
Thence flew Love's arrow with the golden head. (Hero and Leander)

. . . she [Venus] lies as she were slain,
Till his breath breatheth life in her again. (Venus and Adonis)
Hero . . . fell down and fainted.
He kissed her, and breathed life into her lips. (Hero and Leander)


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