The Marlowe Studies Entry: July 13, 2011

bird

 

DECONSTRUCTING CHRISTOPHER MARLOWE

 

Perhaps a closer inspection of Marlowe's Cambridge education will give us more understanding of the actual man and how the writer within him was formed. Those who like the idea that the Stratford Shakespeare was self-educated may find that the Shakespeare Works depended upon the initial guidance of a university education. Those who see Marlowe as a lone atheist rebel may discover that he represented many of the university educated men of his time. Those who think it is quite possible Marlowe was Shakespeare will discover the learning that formed the foundation of the Shakespeare Works.

One thing that will be universally agreed upon is that Marlowe's work at Cambridge was more difficult and time-consuming than is demanded of any university student today. It consumed every waking hour of Marlowe's life. Imagine the delight of waking up at 4:00 a.m. to attend morning prayer in the college chapel between five and six, then running off to attend the daily courses on logic and philosophy with no Starbucks nearby. The only free time Marlowe had was a few hours in the afternoon on Sundays.

The purpose of Marlowe's Divinity Scholarship was to produce an educated conformist who would fill a position in the church or civil service. We learn that during his first two years at Cambridge Marlowe concentrated on logic and learned how to defend and attack a thesis. His first-year efforts were aimed at false claims. His second and third-year efforts were aimed at dialectical disputations. Dialectic is the art of arriving at the truth by the exchange of logical arguments. The Shakespeare Works are permeated with dialectic. Every Friday Marlowe would attend a debate in which two students disputed a Divinity problem for two hours. Before he graduated with a BA he had to take part in four debates at which the university examiners would attend. This was the most difficult obstacle to surmount for all candidates.

We discover how the University of Cambridge formed the writer Marlowe in David Riggs' The World of Christopher Marlowe, Chapter 5: Thinking Like a Roman. The following three editorial pages are based on this illuminating chapter and can be thought of as a synopsis of it, interspersed with comments and examples from The Marlowe Studies.

Riggs says . . .

The core curriculum for Cambridge students was created by John Whitgift in 1570 when he was Master of Trinity College, before he became the Archbishop. With the limited objective of producing educated conformists, Whitgift's set of texts for university lecturers was a classically based but sparse representation of the pre-Reformation arts courses. The only works that survived from the historic syllabus were Aristotle's Ethics and Politics and the pseudo-Aristotelian Problems, a collection of scientific puzzles and curiosities.

Marlowe's Morning Classes: Logic

Dialectic was the indispensable subject in Marlowe's BA program. The English version of classical logic dispensed with the complicated rules of formal logic. His courses used Cicero's Topics, which showed Marlowe the forms of argument he could use in his debates, and Aristotle's Sophistical Refutations, which showed him how to find fallacies in his opponent's logic during the debates.

Marlowe appears on an October 1581 list of students being taught by Mr. Jones, a Cambridge University lecturer in dialectic. As Riggs says, much of what Mr. Jones told his pupils can be reconstructed from the text he was using Dialectic . . . with annotations by Peter Carter. Mr Jones would have told his students that dialectic is the skill of arguing credibly on any topic. The word "credibly" meant a convincing argument, it bore no relationship to objective truth. The argument was based on "probables".

Marlowe learned the way of arranging his arguments into a convincing sequence. The English dialecticians "agreed with Aristotle that when the two initial premises of a formal syllogism are properly stated, the third follows of necessity. Riggs tells us that Marlowe uses this method in his short epic poem Hero and Leander for Leander's seduction of Hero. If Hero follows Venus, and every follower of Venus makes love, then Hero must make love. This is the classic three-part syllogism. Riggs says that Marlowe's teacher, Mr. Jones, "quietly discarded the whole notion of formal validity, explaining that anyone who accepts the major premise of a syllogism (all men are mortal) is bound to grant the conclusion (Socrates is mortal)." Mr. Jones concluded the second part of the syllogism was unnecessary (Socrates is a man), so he taught Marlowe a two-part syllogism as the basic model for an argument: if x is true y is true. The premise contains in itself the conclusion. These two-part syllogisms are known as "enthymemes".

The multipication of syllogisms breeds refuting counter-arguments. This is because instability haunts the nature of things. As Cicero said, the nature of things has provided us with no knowledge of boundaries. We are speaking of the boundaries that absolutely define what a thing is. Riggs gives the example "How many hairs does a man have to lose before he turns bald?" The dialecticians were invested in probabilities because certainty was unattainable. Although everything could be disputed and debated on all sides with great fervor, "Mr Jones assured his students that dialectic has no intellectual agenda, that it is just a way of finding and arranging arguments."

The irony here is that Marlowe's Divinity Scholarship inadvertently bequeathed to him an intense education in skepticism. Riggs says, "The dialecticians' eclectic search for 'probable' doctrines shaped their understanding of religion. Cicero agreed with Plato and Aristotle that religion is the foundation of public morality, but he remained skeptical about choosing among rival creeds. In 'this medley of conflicting opinions one thing is certain,' Cicero concludes. 'Though it is possible that they are all of them false, it is impossible that more than one of them is true.' Cicero's position opened the way for a skeptical critique of modern faiths. Consider the case of Marlowe's plays. Earlier English drama had opposed good Christians to bad pagans, or more recently, good Protestants to bad Catholics. Marlowe's works assesses the rival claims of Muhammad, Christ and the classical gods, or of Christian, Muslim and atheist beliefs, without arriving at any definitive conclusions."

So Marlowe learned how to find the forms of argument that qualified as intrinsically probable. In drawing comparisons "What is valid in the greater should be valid in the less." Riggs uses this example: If Christ came to save all mankind, then He came to save Dr. Faustus."

Marlowe not only illustrated this method in his poem Hero and Leander, he referred back to his Cambridge days in doing so. Hero has taken a vow of chastity and Leander wants to persuade her to have sex with him. Marlowe writes that like "a bold sharp sophister' Leander proceeds. As Riggs points out, the term "sophister" denoted second- and third-year Cambridge undergraduates.

And yet at every word she turned aside,
And always cut him off as he replied.
At last, like to a bold sharp sophister,

With cheerful hope thus he accosted her.

Like the student of logic, Marlowe, Leander is looking for "probables" that will persuade Hero to make love to him. Leander cannot merely tell her that making love is superior to virginity. He must give reasons that making love is better than Hero retaining her virginity.

Marlowe goes to his text book on logic to the place called 'cause' to find his first probable in 'formal cause': the shape that determines what something is. Using this idea, he has Leander attempt to persuade Hero by having him say

Be not unkind and fair; misshapen stuff
Are of behaviour boisterous and rough.

In other words, there is no symmetry when unkindness (Hero's refusal) is coupled with fairness (Hero's beauty).

Building Leander's argument, Marlowe then uses a probable from the place of "final cause": the end for which a thing exists. He has Leander say

Who builds a palace and rams up the gate,
Shall see it ruinous and desolate

For his "knockdown punch" Marlowe goes to the place of "material cause": the substance of which a thing is made. In this case, the substance of Hero's virginity itself is questioned:

This idol which you term virginity
Is neither essence subject to the eye
No, nor to any one exterior sense,
Nor hath it any place of residence,
Nor is't of earth or mould celestial,
Or capable of any form at all.
Of that which hath no being do not boast;
Things that are not at all are never lost.
Men foolishly do call it virtuous;
What virtue is it that is born with us?
Much less can honour be ascribed thereto;
Honour is purchased by the deeds we do.
Believe me, Hero, honour is not won
Until some honourable deed be done.

At the Cambridge debates one student defended his thesis and another student attacked it. The thesis defender was The Answerer, the attacker was The Questioner, . The questioner tried to find a question that the Answerer could not respond to without losing his position in the argument. Riggs says, "Leander accomplishes this feat when he asks Hero 'to whom mad'st thou that heedless oath' of chastity. Hero's answer, 'To Venus', puts her in the indefensible position of swearing to the goddess of love that she will never make love. Seeing at once that she's been trapped, Hero sheds a tear as the words leave her lips. Leander selects his clincher from [the place of] 'contraries'. 'Thee as a holy idiot doth she scorn,' he counters, 'For thou in vowing chastity hast sworn / To rob her name and honour.' This is the questioner's knockout punch; the disputation is over, the endgame of physical seduction can begin."

Perhaps thy sacred priesthood makes thee loath.
Tell me, to whom mad'st thou that heedless oath?"
"To Venus," answered she and, as she spake,
Forth from those two tralucent cisterns brake
A stream of liquid pearl, which down her face
Made milk-white paths, whereon the gods might trace
To Jove's high court. He thus replied: "The rites
In which love's beauteous empress most delights
Are banquets, Doric music, midnight revel,
Plays, masks, and all that stern age counteth evil.
Thee as a holy idiot doth she scorn
For thou in vowing chastity hast sworn
To rob her name and honour, and thereby
Committ'st a sin far worse than perjury,
Even sacrilege against her deity,
Through regular and formal purity.
To expiate which sin, kiss and shake hands.
Such sacrifice as this Venus demands."

Riggs says, "The dialecticians' radical intuition that two-part syllogisms, or 'enthymemes', were the common coin of sequential reasoning drastically streamlined the construction of extended arguments. As Cicero said, if an expression of thought is an enthymeme, "then a heap of enthymemes automatically qualifies as a weighty argument." Riggs points out that Marlowe has Leander cram twenty enthymemes into the space of ninety lines. This "heap" of two-part syllogisms (enthymemes) was "the argument of little by little".

In the morning Marlowe went to his Logic classes, in the afternoon he attended classes in rhetoric. The rhetorician dresses the logician's arguments in elegant figurative language. Riggs says, "Moral goodness was superfluous to the orator's vocation. Persuasion was simply a means to an end - any end." He goes on to say, "Marlowe learned this lesson well. His poetry and plays - from his signature lyric 'Come live with me and be my love' to Tamburlaine the Great to his erotic narrative Hero and Leander - emphasize the power of persuasive speech to move the will. Whether conquering the world or the most beautiful virgin, "Morality takes a back seat to pragmatism." What follows are some of Marlowe's syllogisms that enable Leander to seduce Hero who thinks she must remain a virgin because she belongs to a religious order devoted to Venus.

 

Why should you worship her ? Her you surpass
As much as sparkling diamonds flaring glass.

A stately builded ship, well rigged and tall,
The ocean maketh more majestical.
Why vowest thou then to live in Sestos here
Who on Love's seas more glorious wouldst appear?

Like untuned golden strings all women are,
Which long time lie untouched, will harshly jar.
Vessels of brass, oft handled, brightly shine.
What difference betwixt the richest mine
And basest mould, but use? For both, not used,
Are of like worth. Then treasure is abused
When misers keep it; being put to loan,
In time it will return us two for one.

Who builds a palace and rams up the gate
Shall see it ruinous and desolate.
Ah, simple Hero, learn thyself to cherish.
Lone women like to empty houses perish.

Less sins the poor rich man that starves himself
In heaping up a mass of drossy pelf,
Than such as you. His golden earth remains
Which, after his decease, some other gains.
But this fair gem, sweet in the loss alone,
When you flee hence, can be bequeathed to none.
Or, if it could, down from th'enameled sky
All heaven would come to claim this legacy,
And with intestine broils the world destroy,
And quite confound nature's sweet harmony.

Wild savages, that drink of running springs,
Think water far excels all earthly things,
But they that daily taste neat wine despise it.
Virginity, albeit some highly prize it,
Compared with marriage, had you tried them both,
Differs as much as wine and water doth.

This idol which you term virginity
Is neither essence subject to the eye
No, nor to any one exterior sense,
Nor hath it any place of residence,
Nor is't of earth or mould celestial,
Or capable of any form at all.
Of that which hath no being do not boast;
Things that are not at all are never lost.

Men foolishly do call it virtuous;
What virtue is it that is born with us?
Much less can honour be ascribed thereto;
Honour is purchased by the deeds we do.
Believe me, Hero, honour is not won
Until some honourable deed be done.

"Though neither gods nor men may thee deserve,
Yet for her sake, whom you have vowed to serve,
Abandon fruitless cold virginity,
The gentle queen of love's sole enemy.
Then shall you most resemble Venus' nun,
When Venus' sweet rites are performed and done.

The richest corn dies, if it be not reaped;
Beauty alone is lost, too warily kept.

 

 

Marlowe again harks back to his Cambridge education in rhetoric at the end of his argument:

 

These arguments he used, and many more,
Wherewith she yielded, that was won before.
Hero's looks yielded but her words made war.
Women are won when they begin to jar.
Thus, having swallowed Cupid's golden hook,
The more she strived, the deeper was she strook.
Yet, evilly feigning anger, strove she still
And would be thought to grant against her will.
So having paused a while at last she said,
"Who taught thee rhetoric to deceive a maid?
Ay me, such words as these should I abhor
And yet I like them for the orator."

 

Marlowe Studies Entry: July 17, 2011

bird

 

Marlowe's classes in moral and natural philosophy didn't begin until his third year. Riggs says that his pragmatic dialectic education left him ill prepared to work with Aristotle. "Aristotle says that dialectic is 'useful for the philosophical sciences because the ability to survey the puzzles on each side of a question makes it easier to notice what is true and false'. True and false were, however, alien concepts in the Elizabethan arts course; for Marlowe and his fellow undergraduates, philosophy was the puzzles on each side of a question. The Scholar had come to the intellectual crossroads of his undergraduate education: how did students trained in rhetoric and dialectic cope with the philosophical sciences?

Marlowe recalled this predicament when he wrote Dr. Faustus. In the opening scene, the recent graduate decides that he will devote himself to philosophy - until he tries to conceive of what that would mean. "Level at the end of every art,' he begins, 'And live and die in Aristotle's works:/Sweet Analytics, 'tis thou hast ravished me!' But this choice only satisfies him for the space of a single line: 'Bene disserere est finish logices," he continues, 'Is to dispute well logic's chiefest end?' The dialecticians' answer to this question was yes, that is what logicians do. This answer understandably fails to satisfy Dr. Faustus, who asks at one, 'Affords this art no greater miracle?' "

Marlowe was only a few years out of Cambridge when he wrote Dr. Faustus, a play that reveals the writer's expanded awareness of the limitations put on his education in philosophy. Riggs says, "Dr. Faustus imagines that the definition he quotes in Latin ('To dispute well is the end of logic') comes from the 'Sweet Analytics', Aristotle's two great treatises on formal logic. But the Doctor has never read these books and does not know what he is talking about. The rejected definition comes from Cicero, not Aristotle. The dialectician Peter Ramus adopted Cicero's tagline as a slogan and repeatedly cites it in his textbooks."

We can track projections of Marlowe's own character by seeing how he deviated from his historical sources and inspecting what he inserted into his plays out of his own imagination. Interestingly, Marlowe inserted the dialectician Ramus into his play Massacre At Paris and he had the Guise's men kill him during the St. Bartholomew's Day massacre of Protestants in France. It would seem more likely than not that Marlowe's genius wanted more out of logic than merely to be able to "dispute well" and that is the reason he inserts Ramus into the play and has him killed.

From scene 7: Massacre At Paris

Enter Ramus in his studie.

RAMUS. What fearfull cries come from the river Sene,
That fright poore Ramus sitting at his book?
I feare the Guisians have past the bridge,
And meane once more to menace me.

. . .

RETES. Tis Ramus, the Kings professor of Logick.

GUISE. Stab him.

RAMUS. O good my Lord,
Wherein hath Ramus been so offencious?

GUISE. Marry sir, in having a smack in all,
And yet didst never sound any thing to the depth.
Was it not thou that scoff'dst the Organon,
And said it was a heape of vanities?
He that will be a flat decotamest,
And seen in nothing but Epitomies:
Is in your judgment thought a learned man.
And he forsooth must goe and preach in Germany:
Excepting against Doctors actions,
And ipse dixi with this quidditie,
Argumentum testimonis est in arte partialis.
To contradict which, I say Ramus shall dye:
How answere you that? your nego argumentum
Cannot serve, Sirrah, kill him.

RAMUS. O good my Lord, let me but speak a word.

ANJOY. Well, say on.

RAMUS. Not for my life doe I desire this pause,
But in my latter houre to purge my selfe,
In that I know the things that I have wrote,
Which as I heare one Shekins takes it ill,
Because my places being but three, contain all his:
I knew the Organon to be confusde,
And I reduc'd it into better forme.
And this for Aristotle will I say,
That he that despiseth him, can nere
Be good in Logick or Philosophie.
And thats because the blockish Sorbonests
Attribute as much unto their workes,
As to the service of the eternall God.

GUISE. Why suffer you that peasant to declaime?
Stab him I say and send him to his freends in hell.

ANJOY. Nere was there Colliars sonne so full of pride.
Kill him.

It is important to note here that we have so far seen Marlowe inserting his personal experience into his play Massacre At Paris, his short epic poem Hero and Leander, and Dr. Faustus. Academia has no solid picture of the Stratford Shakespeare's autobiography because there is nothing we know of his life that has been put into the plays and sonnets. They rationalize this absence using the circular argument that he must have made a conscious choice to put nothing autobiographical in his works. As has been mentioned, Emerson epitomized this argument when he stated it is the very essence of poetry to refuse all history - a baseless argument that the Cambridge students would have relished questioning in a debate.

Marlowe's tendency to put himself into his later work under the Shakespeare pseudonym is backed up by evidence found in the work under his own name. This is why it is important to point this out now. The Marlowe Studies has shown A.D. Wraight's evidence of Marlowe standing behind the mask of the Reporter in Edward the Third, Pinksen's evidence of Marlowe behind the mask of Touchstone in As You Like It, evidence that Marlowe's shoemaker father John Marlowe and Canterbury neighbor John Applegate were the characters John the Cobler and Lawrence Costermonger, a metaphor for a "seller of apples", in The Famous Victories of Henry the Fifth (thought to be the source for Shakespeare’s Henry V and Henry IV), Isabel Goratzar's evidence Marlowe was behind the mask of Sly in The Taming Of A Shrew (later revised into The Taming Of A Shrew), and, of course, evidence of Marlowe's autobiography throughout those sonnets thought to be written during his exile. The essay "The Profound Abysm of Sonnet 112" explores several of these exile sonnets and shows Marlowe's connection to each of them.

We have been discussing Marlowe's character Dr. Faustus and how his education, like Marlowe's, did not cover Aristotle in depth. Riggs continues, "Dr. Faustus, the dialectician's disciple, scarcely understands what logic is. He can only conceive of it as a way of arguing about philosophical problems because that is what the dialecticians have taught him to do. It never occurs to him that logic could be a way of doing philosophy, of actually solving problems. Although Dr. Faustus imagines that he stands on the brink of a brilliant career, his situation is akin to that of a second-year Cambridge undergraduate. He can 'make our schools ring with 'sic probo' [thus I prove] -but he has no clue about where to go from there."

Riggs shows us how the limitations of Marlowe's truncated education in philosophy is revealed in Oxford professor John Cases' undergraduate textbook Mirror of Moral Questions in Aristotle's Complete Ethics which was a commentary on the Ethics in the form of dialectical disputation:

"Case begins each chapter by posing a Question to Aristotle, who takes the part of the Answerer. When Case arrives at the chapter on magnanimity, for example, he asks, 'Is greatness of soul a virtue?' He gives Aristotle's answer (yes), cites authorities on both sides of the question and then goes on the attack: 'No virtue is the contrary of a virtue. But greatness of soul is the contrary of a virtue, indeed humility. Therefore, greatness of soul in not a virtue.' The Answerer poses a counter-argument, and the two imaginary speakers conduct a disputation on the printed page. The Questioner has no settled convictions. He just opposes whatever the Answerer says. Nor do these mini-disputations ever lead to a synthetic compromise position that signifies agreement and closure."

In the absence of up-to-date textbooks on Aristotle's logic and annotated editions of all his major works, Riggs says, "Marlowe's generation found alternative ways of doing philosophy. The most important of these, for Marlowe's purposes, was poetry."

And now we have come to the core.

Riggs says, "Humanists believed 'that poetry is a kind of elementary philosophy, which, taking us in our very boyhood, introduces us to the art of life'.

In his Apology For Poetry, Sir Philip Sidney argued that poetry was superior to philosophy because the poet dressed ideas in images the mind could taste where philosophers only gave "wordish descriptions". It is of note that Sidney was the brother to Mary Pembroke. Mary was the wife of the 2nd Earl of Pembroke, Henry Herbert. Henry patronized the troop of actors known as The Earl of Pembroke's Men. Marlowe wrote Edward II for The Pembroke's Men. This troop also performed three other plays that have been ascribed to Marlowe: The First Part of the Contention betwixt the two famous Houses of Yorke and Lancaster (later known as Henry VI, Part 2) , The True Tragedy of Richard Duke of York (later kown as Henry VI, Part 3), and The Taming Of A Shrew (the early version of his revision The Taming Of The Shrew).

Marlowe's Ovid

Ovid was extremely popular with both grammar school and University students. His Metamorphoses showed them that there were other creation theories, or myths, than the one supplied by the Christian Bible; we find similarities to Genesis in the organization of Book 1: The Primal Chaos, Separation of the elements, The earth and sea, The five zones, The four winds, Humankind, The Golden Age, The Silver Age, The Bronze Age, etc.

Marlowe was introduced to Ovid early on, at King's School where his fables were used in the grammar school exercise books. When the study of Aristotle was diminished by John Whitgift in 1570 at Cambridge, a space was created for Ovid. At the moment Marlowe began his studies in natural philosophy, the Cambridge University Press published George Sabinus's Ethical, Scientific and Historical Interpretation of Ovid's Fables. Here is what Marlowe found in this book:

Poetry is nothing, if not philosophy joined together with metre and story.

This concept was supported by another text Marlowe studied, Sebastian Verro's Ten Books of Natural Philosophy, which taught him (in Riggs' words) "philosophy was nothing if not poetry informed by scientific ideas."

In an age when scientists were making heretical discoveries such as the sun is the center of the universe, the dialecticians Marlowe studied were saying that poems are repositories of scientific knowledge. Riggs says, "Quintilian taught them that 'there are numerous passages in almost every poem based on the most intricate questions of natural philosophy.' Seton says that a vivid description is equivalent to a scientific definition and refers the student to the Palace of the Sun in Ovid's Metamorphoses."

From Ovid's Metamorphoses, Book 2: The Palace of the Sun

The palace of the Sun towered up with raised columns, bright with glittering gold, and gleaming bronze like fire. Shining ivory crowned the roofs, and the twin doors radiated light from polished silver. The work of art was finer than the material: on the doors Mulciber had engraved the waters that surround the earth’s centre, the earthly globe, and the overarching sky . . .

He goes on to say, "Marlowe knew from grammar school that lifelike representations lent an aura of reality to fictional entities like the Palace of the Sun. Poetic descriptions produced an illusion of presence, 'so that our hearer or reader is carried away and seems to be in the audience at a theatre'.

Marlowe Studies Entry: July 22, 2011

bird

 

Poetic descriptions produced an illusion of presence. This is what Touchstone was getting at in Shakespeare's As You Like It when he said, "The truest poetry is the most feigning".

Let us take a moment to explore the context surrounding that line.

Touchstone
When a mans verses cannot be understood, nor
a mans good wit seconded with the forward child, understanding:
it strikes a man more dead then a great reckoning
in a little roome:
truly, I would the Gods had
made thee poetical.

Audrey.
I do not know what Poetical is: is it honest in
deed and word: is it a true thing?

Touchstone
No trulie: for the truest poetrie is the most feigning

Many Shakespearean scholars have wondered if Touchstone is referring to Marlowe's death at Deptford in the lines "it strikes a man more dead then a great reckoning in a little room" because they allude to the description in the Coroner's Report:

. . . after supper the said Ingram & Christopher Morley were in speech & uttered one to the other divers malicious words for the reason that they could not be at one nor agree about the payment of the sum of pence, that is, le recknynge [reckoning], there; & the said Christopher Morley then lying upon a bed in the room where they supped, & moved with anger against the said Ingram ffrysar upon the words aforesaid spoken between them . . .

There were many different rumors flying around London concerning the death, all wrong. The Stratford Shakespeare would not have known enough about the death to write these words. The only people who knew the contents of the Coroner's Report were those directly involved in the affair and those on the Privy Council who had been made aware of it. All this aside, the allusion is oddly out of context in this scene where Touchstone is wooing a woman. The out of context placement makes much more sense if it is Marlowe's hand writing the lines -inserting his life into the play, just as we showed him doing in Hero and Leander and the other works we have mentioned.

To feign is to give a false appearance, to fabricate, invent, or imagine. Since Touchstone follows his allusion to Marlowe's "great reckoning" by saying that the truest poetry is the most feigning (gives the most believability to fictional events or characters) we might ascertain he is telling us Marlowe's "death" was the truest, most feigning fiction (poetry) because everyone believes it is a genuine truth. Touchstone seems to be telling us the man who was struck dead by a great reckoning in a little room is not dead because this was a feigned event.


Marlowe Studies Entry: July 25, 2011

 

bird

 

Back to Ovid . . .

Aristotle's writings influenced the theology of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Aristotle reasoned that movement began with a first or prime mover that had not itself been moved or acted upon by any other agent. Aristotle sometimes called this prime mover “God.” This "unmoved mover" is the God of Judaism, Islam, and Christianity. It is God's intellectual activity that moves the universe. This is why the Christian Bible states, "In the beginning was the word."

By the time Dante lived, the Pagans had been demonized by Christians for more than a thousand years. In Dante's first circle of Hell, which he called Limbo, we find the most virtuous of Pagans, who, though trapped, were not tormented. Here Dante met the Pagan poets Homer, Horace, and Ovid.

Left brained Aristotle did not describe how the world was created. It was the naturalistic and libertine Ovid the Pagan who gave us a poetical feigning of world creation in his Metamorphoses. This book shows, in living color, the history of changes by "a god or nature" who fashioned the four elements out of chaos.

Marlowe's first play that took London by storm after he was fresh out of Cambridge was Tamburlaine, in which we find traces of Ovid in the lines

Nature that fram’d us of four Elements,
Warring within our breasts for regiment,
Doth teach us all to have aspyring minds:
Our soules, whose faculties can comprehend
The wonderous Architecture of this world:
And measure every wandering plannets course:
Still climbing after knowledge infinite,
And alwaies moving like the restless Spheares . . .

Jewish, Christian, and Islamic religions are not naturalistic and libertine. Rather than being naturalistic, they are intellectual: Their God created our material world out of an idea. Rather than being libertine, their theology instills guilt into humanity, rules and regulations about how to live the right way according to God's word. In contrast, Ovid's philosophical explanations of metamorphoses are based on the principle of harmony in discord.

If the Shakespeare name was a pseudonym for Marlowe, another thing we would expect to find is that the great writer's favorite poet was Ovid. Indeed, Shakespeare's favorite poet was Ovid and his presence is found throughout the works, especially the narrative poems, pastoral comedies, the tragedies and the Sonnets. The Shakespearean scholar Jonathan Bate has written a book titled Shakespeare and Ovid that demonstrates how profoundly creative Ovid's influence was on Shakespeare, especially in his representations of myth, metamorphosis, and sexuality. This book shows that Shakespeare was an extraordinarily sophisticated reader of Ovidian myth, and that as a metamorphic artist he was as fluid and nimble as his classical original. Of course, it wasn't the Stratford Shakespeare whom we can credit with the translations of Ovid's Amores; Christopher Marlowe translated all of Ovid’s forty-eight elegies in the Amores while he was a divinity scholar at Cambridge, and to this day his is the only English translation. "Shakespeare" was "an extraordinarily sophisticated reader of Ovidian myth" because he (Marlowe) knew Ovid backwards and forwards, for this is what the work of translating Ovid's Latin into the still loosely formed English language would done to him. Those who believe Marlowe was Shakespeare understand how the roots of Shakespeare's Ovidian influence were embedded in his King's School and Cambridge educations.

Ovid's creator is the symbol of mind and his chaos stands for the material world. In his Metamorphoses Creation takes place during events between mind and matter, the warring elements, love and strife, sexual encounters between the gods and reluctant maidens. Marlowe's first dramatic success that took all of London by storm, Tamburlaine, had adhered to Ovid's philosophy of a materialistic, ever-changing cosmos. This was also true of his short epic poem Hero and Leander. Riggs says, "He [Marlowe] recognized early in his career that a full-scale critique of Judeo-Christian morality would require a pagan creation myth and a Greco-Roman cosmology."

Ovid's philosophy of a materialistic, ever-changing cosmos was also adhered to in Shakespeare's short epic poem Venus and Adonis. It will be remembered that this work was the first piece to have the Shakespeare name attached to it, and that this name appeared for the first time two weeks after Marlowe's "death" at Deptford (yet another thing we would expect to find if "Shakespeare" were a pseudonym for Marlowe).

Venus and Adonis was registered anonymously in April of 1593, before Marlowe had been arrested while he was staying at the home of his friend Thomas Walslingham. It is not believed to have been printed until June. The first recorded notice of its purchase is dated 12 June 1593, less than two weeks after Marlowe's "death" at Deptford. If the name Shakespeare was a pseudonym for Marlowe, we would also expect to find evidence of this within the poem Venus and Adonis. John Baker's essay "On Marlowe's Authorship of Venus and Adonis" gives us this evidence, not only within the poem's content but from the dedication and title page.

John's research begins with the Shakespeare name that was placed under the dedication to Southampton. He says, "Only a single example for the first edition or quarto, as they were called, survives. Even the most elementary bibliographic examination of this exceedingly rare text proves the dedication page was added to the edition after the text had been printed." He says that the dedication page is not part of the rest if the volume, and compares this placement with the dedication of Lucrece (also to Southampton, published the following year) where it is conjoined with the text. John says that this suggests the dedication page with the Shakespeare name on Venus and Adonis was "an afterthought, something hastily added subsequently to the printing of the text."

It will be remembered that the young Earl of Southampton, to whom this poem was dedicated, was close to the Earl of Essex who was married to Sir Francis Walsinham's daughter Frances, who had been living as a sister with Thomas Walsingham since his own father died when he was eleven years old. Both Essex and Southampton were avid play goers. It takes no great leap to assume that these people formed part of Marlowe's circle of friends. There is certainly more of a connection to be drawn between Marlowe and Southampton than the Stratford Shakespeare and Southampton, where there is no evidence at all of a friendship.

John tells us that the Latin couplet which graces the title page of Venus and Adonis, "Vilia miretus vulgus: himi flauus Apollo/Pocula Castaliapelena minisiret aqua" is the same Latin that lies behind Marlowe’s translation of Ovid's Elegia 15 ( Book I), which read, "Let base conceited wits admire vile things, Faire Phoebus led me to the Muses springs."

He says, "Curiously the best evidence for Marlowe’s authorship of Venus and Adonis comes directly from Marlowe himself." He is referring to the fact that Marlowe's Hero and Leander tells us it is a sequel to Venus and Adonis. We know that at the beginning of a new play Marlowe habitually alluded back to his previous one. The second part of Tamburlaine refers back to the first part:

The general welcomes Tamburlaine received
When he arrived last upon our stage . . .

The Prologue of The Jew of Malta alludes to the Guize’s death at the end of Marlowe's preceding play The Massacre at Paris, Dr. Faustus begins with allusions to both Dido and Edward the Second, Edward the Second begins with an allusion to Hero and Leander, and Hero and Leander begins with an allusion to Venus and Adonis:

. . . Where Venus in her naked glory strove
To please the careless and disdainful eyes
Of proud Adonis, that before her lies.

Following Marlowe's allusion to Venus and Adonis, we find the description, "rose-cheeked Adonis", which directly quotes the opening lines of Venus and Adonis:

The men of wealthy Sestos every year,
(For his sake whom their goddess held so dear,
Rose-cheeked Adonis) kept a solemn feast.

It is agreed among scholars that Hero and Leander, a later work of Marlowe's that wasn't published until five years after his "death" at Deptford, is of greater perfection in form than "Shakespeare's" Venus and Adonis. Baker says, "This is precisely what one would expect if Hero was a sequel to Venus."

Before one can connect the dots, one has to gather the dots. This the Universities refuse to do in spite of the fact that all earlier scholars agreed more than any writer it was Marlowe who had the greatest influence on Shakespeare (another thing we would expect to find if the Shakespeare name was Marlowe's pseudonym, another "dot".) John Baker has also found that it is not the Stratford Shakespeare's home territory of Warwickshire in the images and setting of Venus and Adonis, but Marlowe's home territory of Kent. Just as Marlowe inserted his Cambridge education in logic and oratory into Hero and Leander, he has inserted his home territory of Kent and his work in secret intelligence into Venus and Adonis.

Baker says,
"Kent is coastal, Warwickshire isn’t. Kent is set upon the downs, Warwickshire isn’t. In Kent one may see the ocean, the sea-side flora and fauna, and one may witness the coming and going of great sailing ships from the Downs and cinque ports of Kent, Dover and Faversham, the coastal communities where Marlowe’s parents originated. Consider this image [from Venus and Adonis] "after him she darts, as one on shore Gazing upon a late embarked friend, /Till the wild waves will have him seen no more." No landlocked boy has seen such sights or holds such remembrances. However both of Marlowe’s parents were from ocean (or channel) facing communities, Dover and Ospringe/Faversham (Urry, 1988, 12-13). As a lad, in visiting these communities and standing on the cliffs of Dover or in the keep of its castle, young Christopher would have watched, likely in rapt fascination, as great sailing ships were slowly taken from sight by "the wild waves."

Marlowe’s native county, which is famous, worldwide, for its downs, unlike either Adonis’ native home or Warwickshire. So these images signal the poet’s deep personal familiarity with the sea, as do hundreds of similar images and figures found elsewhere in the Shakespeare works. Here they are much more suggestive of Marlowe than Shakespeare, because Shakespeare cannot have had these kinds of childhood experiences. The poem alludes to "downs," "brakes," "mermaids," "dive-dappers, peering out of a wave," "coral," "ocean drenched" and other coastal elements of Kent.  While Warwickshire retains some of these features, including the occasional down, it is most assuredly not a coastal county and the poet’s continual allusions to the sea and to topographical features that are not in Warwickshire.

Consider this image, also tucked away in  Venus and Adonis:

This sour informer, this bate-breeding spy,
This canker that eats up love's tender spring,
This carry-tale, dissentious jealousy,
That sometime true news, sometime false doth bring

These images and figures revolve around or relate to Marlowe’s covert operations, "bate-breeding spy," "carry-tale," "sour informer," "sometime true news, sometimes false." A profession that was costing him considerably in general prestige, judging from his problems at Cambridge and his final arrest. "

Finally, John examines Marlowe's first known play written at Cambridge, Dido Queen of Carthage, which shows Marlowe's interest in Venus and Adonis long before the "Shakespeare" poem was written. He says, "Dido opens with Venus on stage, clear proof that Venus had long been in the poet’s mind not to mention Adonis, "I will beare [him] to Ida in mine armes," Venus pledges "And couch him in Adonis’ purple downe." This allusion ties into the ending of Venus and Adonis when Venus transmutes her fallen boy into a purple flower:

By this the boy that by her side lay killed
Was melted like a vapor from her sight,
And in his blood that on the ground lay spilled,
A purple flow'r sprung up, check'red with white,
Resembling well his pale cheeks and the blood
Which in round drops upon their whiteness stood

Taken in tandem Marlowe knew Venus and Adonis, intimately, and was reminding his readers of this rather esoteric knowledge of the lovers in Dido, his earliest play. Moreover he explicitly connects Adonis to the same color "Shakespeare" will: purple, a royal color and a color three times associated with Adonis in Venus and Adonis. The long and short of this is we have good evidence Marlowe alludes to Venus and Adonis in the same proprietary fashion he alludes to his other works."

It should be stated that in the Metamorphoses Ovid's color for Adonis after he was killed was crimson (the color of blood, the color of pomegranite). In Marlowe's early play Dido the color is purple, and in Venus and Adonis the color matches that of Dido, purple. By this we know that Marlowe did not follow Ovid by choosing his own color for his Dido, written at Cambridge when he was around twenty one years old. The fact that the color for Adonis is also purple in "Shakespeare's" first work Venus and Adonis, published eight years later, is another piece of evidence suggestive of Marlowe's authorship. Marlowe's habit was to allude to his earlier works in his writing, and this consistency of the color purple matches that habit.

It has been shown in these editorial pages that the most detailed research by Renaissance scholars points to Marlowe as the chief architect of the King Henry VI trilogy and King Edward the Third. When Venus and Adonis is added to this list, the early works of the Stratford Shakespeare are no longer his to own.

 

 

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