The Marlowe Studies Entry: May 16, 2011


I count religion but a childish toy
And hold there is no sin but ignorance.

Christopher Marlowe's Machevil speaking in the Prologue to The Jew of Malta


It might be a collective unconscious Christian imperative in academia to exclude all evidence for Marlowe's authorship of the early King Henry trilogy and Edward III. Shakespeare is now akin to the God of literature, so let us present an analogy: the unconscious imperative to believe in the religion of one's tribe. The case for Marlowe cannot be won by evidence alone. The myth of Marlowe is far too antithetical to the myth of Shakespeare for academics raised within the Christian framework who have the need to project its morality onto the Bard.

 There is a powerful willingness in all too many people to believe in the unbelievable in spite of a lack of evidence or even evidence to the contrary. The tendency is to resort to magical thinking, the attribution of occult causes for natural phenomena. Ralph Waldo Emerson epitomized academia's tendency to use circular reasoning when it comes to validating the literary existence of the Stratford Shakespeare when he gave a "magical" rational for the absence of his life depicted in the Works, saying, "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."

Western Catholic and Protestant religion erects impermeable barriers between the conscious and unconscious self, which generally manifest as 'moral laws' or 'thou shalts' with the result that man is divorced from his deeper self, living only in his conscious mind. Western philosophies have tended toward concepts that uphold the conscious mind to be its own master, as if we were completely aware of our thought processes. Now cognitive science has shown that we are constantly driven by unconscious factors, either environmental or psychological, of which we may have little or no conscious awareness. The doctrine of original sin, which found such forceful expression in Catholicism, Lutheranism and Calvinism, was the demonization of humanity, the idea that 'the self' is hopelessly corrupted and a fundamentally powerless entity.

In contrast to these Western religions, Tantric Buddhism, Hermeticism and Gnosticism conceptualize and depict unconscious forces and drives in terms of deities and levels of reality. In Buddhism there is the concept of the 'collective unconscious' (alaya-vijnana) and the 'depth psychology' of the Abhidhamma which understands and works with unconscious drives. Where Calvinist-style Christianity refuses to recognize these deeper (therefore, potentially antagonistic) forces in the psyche, Tantric Buddhism (of which Tibetan Buddhism is the most prominent example) has a long tradition of understanding which allows these forces to be depicted, understood and integrated.

The Roman poet Lucretius said that fear "was the first thing on Earth to make gods."

This is similar to the informer Baines' written statement that Marlowe said, "The first beginning of Religion was only to keep men in awe.” Marlowe knew Lucretius. In his translation of Ovid's Elegia XV (an ode to the lastingness of poetic verse, not eternally but until the end of human time), Marlowe has the lines:

Lofty Lucretius shall live that hour,
That nature shall dissolve this earthly bower.

Until we explore our own thought processes so that we can recognize the difference between prejudice and critical thinking, until we become observers of ourselves instead of merely actors carrying out unconscious commands, we continue projecting unconscious attitudes into the world without knowing it. Traditionally, most Shakespeareans have assumed the poet was a Christian. Catholic scholars see him with Catholic leanings, Protestant scholars see him with Protestant leanings. Gary Sloane, an agnostic, finds evidence in the plays that Shakespeare was, "a closet apostate who left a trail of clues to his infidelity". Sloane gives us this evidence in his essay, "Was Shakespeare An Atheist?"

1. Though church sermons routinely propounded the efficacy of prayers, in Shakespeare they are often a prelude to disaster.

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.

Hoping his amputated hand will ransom his two sons from execution, Titus Andronicus lifts his remaining hand heavenward in supplication: "If any power pities wretched tears, / To that I call!" Thereupon, a courier enters bearing his sons' decapitated heads.

In Macbeth, having warned Lady Macduff to flee, a messenger blesses her: "Heaven preserve you!" Moments later, she and her babes are in one fell swoop slaughtered.

These ominous invocations vivify a comment by Mistress Quickly in The Merry Wives of Windsor: "His worst fault is that he is given to prayer."

2. Gibes at Christians abound.

Lancelot twits Lorenzo for turning his wife Jessica, a Jew, into a pork-eating Christian: "We were Christians enough before, even as many as could well live one by another. This making of Christians will raise the price of hogs" (Merchant of Venice).

"Now, as I am a Christian, I shall break that merry sconce of yours" (Comedy of Errors). "Methinks sometimes I have no more wit than a Christian or an ordinary man has" (Twelfth Night).

Constable Elbow adjudges Froth, a whoremonger, "void of all profanation in the world that good Christians ought to have" (Measure for Measure).

Dogberry insists the villainous Don John be "condemned to everlasting redemption" (Much Ado About Nothing).

Consenting to marry a wench he doesn't love, Slender reasons, "If there be no great love in the beginning, yet heaven may decrease it upon better acquaintance" (Merry Wives).

Bottom tomahawks Scripture: "The eye of man hath not heard, the ear of man hath not seen, man's hand is not able to taste," etc. (Midsummer Night's Dream).

Sloane says, "Shakespeare was a master of the double entendre. 'The duke yet lives that Henry will depose' is an oft-cited example (Henry VI, Part 2). Will Henry depose or be deposed? (The latter, it turns out). With stealthy juggling of diction and syntax, the Bard could slip sacrilege past the censor and, no doubt, many others, for whom he was, like Dogberry, too cunning to be understood."

Does the poet mock a theophagous Eucharist and a deicidal religion?

TIMON: Wilt dine with me, Apemantus?
APEMANTUS: No. I eat not lords (i.e., won't eat your food).

Does Hamlet call god a beast?
"O God, a beast, that wants discourse of reason, / Would have mourned longer"?

Does Hamlet call god a jig maker? [Game or puzzle-maker]
OPHELIA: You are merry, my lord?
OPHELIA: Ay, my lord.
HAMLET: O God, your only jig maker.

Is god fake?
"O God, counterfeit" (Much Ado)

With his dying breath, does Hamlet repudiate immortality?
"The rest is silence"

Sloane points out that Shakespeare's characters are psychologically grounded in the world of earth. He seems to have the heart for human passions, not religious: sexual ambition, revenge, romance, love, hate, pleasure.

Shakespeare's characters invoke deities to avouch, to shield, and to execrate:

"Away! By Jupiter, / This shall not be revoked" (Lear)
"Angels and ministers of grace defend us!" (Hamlet)
"By heaven, I'll hate him everlastingly / That bids me be of comfort anymore" (Richard II)

Gods are celestial hit men and bellicose avengers:

"Cancel his bond of life, dear God! I pray/That I may live and say 'The dog is dead'!"
(Richard III)

"Heaven guide him to thy husband's cudgel" (Merry Wives)

"God for Harry! England and Saint George!" Unknown to Henry, god is a double agent. In the French camp, he uses the alias Dieu de batailles. On both sides, notes Pistol, "God's vassals drop and die" (Henry V).

In war or peace, a robust Shakespearean naturalism keeps bursting the seams of other-worldliness. Quotations are easily assembled for a secularist manifesto:

"Our remedies oft in ourselves do lie/Which we ascribe to heaven" (All's Well That Ends Well)

"While we are suitors to their [the gods'] throne, decays / The thing we sue for" (Antony and Cleopatra)

"Hell is empty, / And all the devils are here" (Tempest)

"'Tis in ourselves that we are thus or thus" (Othello)

The only certainty is that life flies:

What is love? 'tis not hereafter;
Present mirth hath present laughter;
What's to come is still unsure.
In delay there lies no plenty.
Then come kiss me, sweet and twenty;
Youth's a stuff will not endure. (Twelfth Night)


Marlowe Studies Entry: May 20, 2011


Harold Bloom titled his well-known book Shakespeare: The Invention Of The Human.
That might be a bit much to ascribe to even Shakespeare. Perhaps it would suffice to say that Shakespeare performed the dramatist's ultimate catharsis by rupturing our complete identification with the Church's commanded script that dictated how to be human in the eyes of a God no man had ever met.

When the map starts out at the wrong place, all directions lead to wrong destinations. There can be no full interpretation of Shakespeare until we have at least a general outline of the man. If someone were going to write a book titled What We Would Expect To Find If Shakespeare Were A Pseudonym For Marlowe, the list would include exactly what we have found, from the suspicious Coroner's Report which tells us the "killer" was his patron's employee to the Shakespeare plays and sonnets that point to Marlowe's life and writing style. Granted, the style matures with time, and Marlowe's hand is seen most strongly in the early Shakespeare plays. That Marlowe was capable of continual style evolution is easily traced in the pre 1593 plays under his own name.

Why is the idea that Thomas Walsingham and Burghley negotiated a deal with the Queen to save Marlowe so preposterous to academicians? There are many deep connections between all these people. It isn't as if they were mere acquaintances. In the 16th century it wasn't as difficult to fake a death as it is today. 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 likely 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 "exiled" stay at Wartburg.

Marlowe Studies Entry: May 21, 2011



Another thing we would expect to find if Shakespeare were a pseudonym for Marlowe is no evidence the Stratford man was the dramatist. And, indeed, this is what we find. It is Marlowe who is in all the places the Stratford Shakespeare should have been, and, as A.D. Wraight says, "It is only in Marlowe we find all the elements of Shakespeare’s knowledge." For centuries scholars have lamented there is no autobiographical material we can grasp for the Stratford man in Shake-speare's Sonnets. Most scholars have concluded he must have purposefully put nothing of his own life into his works. This is an example of how we get to wrong destinations when the map we are holding begins at the wrong place. When Marlowe is taken to be the writer of the Sonnets, we find the autobiography of an exiled man whose name had been disgraced.

O! if, I say, you look upon this verse,
When I perhaps compounded am with clay,
Do not so much as my poor name rehearse;
But let your love even with my life decay;
Lest the wise world should look into your moan,
And mock you with me after I am gone.

My name be buried where my body is,
And live no more to shame nor me nor you.

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,

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:


Your love and pity doth the impression fill,
Which vulgar scandal stamped upon my brow;
For what care I who calls me well or ill,
So you o'er-green my bad, my good allow?


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


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.

. . . The painful warrior famoused for fight,
After a thousand victories once foiled,
Is from the book of honour razed quite,
And all the rest forgot for which he toiled:


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,


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,


Nothing tells us the Stratford Shakespeare is an emperor wearing no clothes like Sonnet 81, which seems to have been written to him, not by him:

Or I shall live your epitaph to make,
Or you survive when I in earth am rotten,
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.


Marlowe Studies Entry: May 26, 2011


When Ralph Waldo Emerson stated that it is the essence of poetry to "refuse all history", he voiced the opinion of many academics who have concluded the Sonnets were an impersonal, literary exercise. They cannot see autobiographical material in the Sonnets. If they did, what would they say about the writer who speaks so often of being exiled in disgrace?



Mark and his wife Claire van Kampen, a composer and musical director.

Mark Rylance is the former artistic director of the Globe Theater, has acted in more than fifty Shakespeare plays, and is Chairman of the Shakespeare Authorship Trust which is dedicated to legitimizing the Shakespeare authorship question so that it will be taken up in college studies. When he was asked, “What difference does it make who wrote the Shakespeare plays,” he said:

"No ones has written such a wide compass of plays as Shakespeare, so, yes, I’m interested in how he did that. At the moment there is a massive campaign to convince us that his was some kind of impersonal literary exercise - and that’s being taught to young people who pay a lot of money in many universities, that the sonnets are a literary exercise. I have never ever encountered a poet, a playwright, any artist that doesn’t involve himself or herself personally in their work and doesn’t draw upon their own experience and their own efforts to learn by books or by talking to other people or by visiting places by putting a lot of work in. To say that you make up fourteen plays set in Italy with accurate details of Italian landscape, customs,  habits, culture -that you just imagine that stuff, I think it’s an absolute crime that young people are being taught that, an absolute crime that members of my profession are being taught that.

Since the authorship question was open to me, my respect for the author, my attention to the detail of the plays, my feelings that I’m working with someone who is possibly in this particular story sharing something of enormous personal pain and suffering,  that these words were not just made up is a ridiculous idea. There was enormous personal suffering that went into making this kind of writing. Let them bring forth other writers; let them bring forth evidence that Ibsen, or Chekhov, or Goethe, or Dostoevsky wrote without deep feeling and personal input. There’s a great, great deal of rubbish being put out about Shakespeare. One of the unfortunate things about this Shakespearean thing is that it’s totally unimportant, it doesn’t matter a chop. But when you break through it, it starts to teach you how to question and break through other fallacies that are being put about at the moment."



Mark at the Globe

You can read Mark's response to Stanley Wells' criticisms of the Declaration of Reasonable Doubt here. Should you want to sign the Declaration of Reasonable Doubt, go here.



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