St. Nicholas churchyard at Deptford where Marlowe was supposedly buried in an unmarked grave.


The Profound Abysm of Sonnet 112

Cynthia Morgan


Sonnet 112


Your love and pity doth th’impression fill,
Which vulgar scandal stamped upon my brow,
For what care I who calls me well or ill,
So you ore-greene my bad, my good allow?
You are my All the world, and I must strive,
To know my shames and praises from your tongue,
None else to me, nor I to none alive,
That my steeled sense or changes right or wrong,
In so profound Abysm I throw all care
Of others’ voices, that my Adders sense,
To critic and to flatt’rer stopped are:
Mark how with my neglect I do dispense.

You are so strongly in my purpose bred,
That all the world besides me thinkes y’are dead.
Thorpe’s 1609 printing, modernized spelling


marloweThe skull at the entrance to St. Nicholas Churchyard




Many of Shake-speare’s Sonnets read like autobiography, yet we are unable to get a solid picture of the poet and his relationships because we know so little about his life. To escape this void, commentators have deduced he must have made a conscious choice to put nothing autobiographical in his works. Ralph Waldo Emerson epitomized this circular reasoning when he wrote of Shakespeare, “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.”1 It is also true to say the essence of poetry springs from the visible, embraces the past, and affirms all history, so we might just as reasonably conclude the Stratford man has not been found in the Sonnets because he is not there. Should we choose to look for a concrete life in the Sonnets, it is Christopher Marlowe’s autobiography we find.

The editors of Shake-speare’s Sonnets have leaped over the problem of autobiographical gap by replacing literal readings with the hyperbolic and abstract. Edmond Malone wrote the first critical analysis of Shake-speare’s Sonnets in 1780, and to this day most editors of new editions agree with his published reading of Sonnet 112 even though he changed the original sonnet by replacing the last line's "y'are dead" with "they are dead". This alteration of Malone's is accepted by all modern sonnet editors without question, giving us the general interpretation of Sonnet 112’s theme as a hyperbolic “You are my all the world and everyone else in comparison with you is dead" ["they are dead"]. This reading perceives the theme as the world being dead to the poet.

I suggest the editors have accepted Malone's alteration of the original last line because they looked to the wrong writer’s hand. When Christopher Marlowe is seen to be the writer of Sonnet 112 the hyperbolic you are my all the world theme becomes literal, and it is not the world that is dead to the poet, but the poet who is dead to the world. Interestingly, this is exactly the way Edmund Malone first interpreted Sonnet 112. There is no modern edition of Shake-speare's Sonnets that cites Malone's first reading of Sonnet 112's last line in 1780, which was added as a footnote in his book, at the place in the text where he changed the original "y'are dead" to "they are dead".

Malone's first response to "That all the world besides me thinkes y’are dead" was the same as the one being proposed in this paper. He wrote, "The context rather requires that we should read "That all the world besides you thinks me dead". By "context" Malone is referring to the obvious non sequitur "y'are dead" that ends the sonnet in the original 1609 publication of Shake-speare's Sonnets. It is precisely because "y'are dead" is a non sequitur that Malone changed it to "they are dead".

But what if the poet intended "y'are dead" to be a non sequitur?

This paper will explore in detail Malone's reasons for changing Thorpe's 1609 printing of these important last words in Sonnet 112 to "they are dead", instead of changing them to accord with his original "thinks me dead" response, which would have put the last line into context with the rest of the sonnet. This exploration will reveal why his reasons for changing the end of the last line to "they are dead" are not valid, and why it is hypothetically valid to switch the pronouns in the last line, so that it reads "That all the world besides you thinkes me dead".

The editors have found Sonnet 112 so densely patterned that no amount of navigation gives them a clear understanding of its complex territory. Stephen Booth suspects this sonnet to be unfinished or “one that Shakespeare abandoned in frustration” because “it is atypical of the others only in being incomprehensible.”2 It is not surprising the sonnet stating the poet is dead to all the world is the most difficult to penetrate. I propose the reason for 112’s density and resulting perplexity is the poet’s conflation of the cause for his faked death, the details of the killing, the new pseudonym, his disgraced name and exile from England. He accomplishes this feat in 14 lines through the art of ambiguity.

Ambiguity is unclear on the surface because it embodies two meanings. Doubling can be obtained by using a word that has two or more definitions, syntactical rearrangement, the joining of two separate words as they are spoken, or intentions that drive forward and backward. I suggest that all of these techniques are utilized in Sonnet 112. Booth sees many of the double meanings in Sonnet 112 as possible incidental verbal patterning, and says, "These verbal side effects can't substitute for the clear expository intentions that are ordinarily obvious in the sonnets and happen to be missing in Sonnet 112.”3 I suggest the poet doubles his meanings in this sonnet at the cost of syntactical clarity because he is melding several ideas and expressing topics conjointly in each line. He has echoed his meaning for each ambiguous word with one or more other words in the sonnet, thus establishing his intentions.

When one studies Marlowe’s plays, it is evident the natural inclination of his genius was to rapidly move toward the distillation of his works, progressing from the early long poetic lines we find in Tamburlaine toward the deeper characterization, compression, and subtle ambiguity found in Edward the Second. In his essay “Marlowe’s Edward II as ‘Actaeonesque History’” Wessman confirms this stylistic development by showing that in Edward the Second Marlowe began to approach “complex layers of ambiguity through multiply-mirrored images, reverberant puns, and double-and sometimes triple-endendres.”4

Sonnet 112 and its relationship to Sonnets 34, 74, and 111 will be explored for disambiguated meaning within the context that Marlowe’s death was faked and he continued writing under the pseudonym Shakespeare. Various 16th Century documents compatible with the new readings will be presented: the Coroner’s Inquest Report of Christopher Marlowe’s death, letters of Lord Burghley, Thomas Watson’s An Eclogue Upon the Death of the Right Honorable Sir Francis Walsingham, Marlowe’s plays, and Robert Persons’ An Advertisement written to a Secretary of My L. Treasurer. The traditional readings of the sonnets used in this paper will accompany the new interpretations so that fair comparison can be made. I will begin by offering a new resolution for 112’s well-known crux lines and show seven problems with their traditional interpretation.

A New Resolution for Sonnet 112’s Crux Lines


Most editors of Shake-speare’s Sonnets agree that the lines impeding our understanding of Sonnet 112 are 7, 8, and 14. I suggest these crux lines can only be solved by giving a new interpretation to line 12, which the editors have glossed over without question. Once the new interpretation is given to line 12, we will discover the poet gave us a clue in line 13 that supports this reading.

Line 12: Mark how with my neglect I do dispense.

Line 12 is telling us to Mark (pay attention) how with neglect the poet is going to dispense his words in the couplet that follows. I am attributing to dispense the meaning “give out” (early 14c., from Old French dispense, Latin dispensare “distribute by weight”). The Latin meaning “distribute by weight” supports the new reading because Latin and Greek poetry all used a quantitative meter based on long and short syllable weights. A late 16th century poet would used the word “dispense” when speaking of distributing the meter of his lines by the weight of the syllables. It is evident from Ben Jonson’s The Alchemist that by the late 16th century this word was often used to mean “distribute” in the general sense, and “to deal out in parts or portions”: 

  SUB. Then, to her cuz,
  Hoping that he hath vinegar'd his senses,
  As he was bid, the Fairy queen dispenses,
  By me, this robe, the petticoat of fortune;

When the poet says "Mark how with my neglect I do dispense" in line 12, he is  commanding us to look for an error he intentionally made when dispensing (distributing) the meter of his lines somewhere in the couplet. Line 13’s "You are so strongly in my purpose bred" remains in context with the you-are-my-all-the-world theme of the preceding lines, therefore, the neglectful way the poet is going to dispense his words must be in line 14’s "That all the world besides me thinkes y’are dead", which does not keep to the context of the previous lines. If the last line is to remain consistent with the you-are-my-all-the-world theme it ought to read: That all the world besides you thinkes me dead. The poet’s neglect in dispensing with the last two lines was his inversion of the pronouns "me" and "y’are" (you are), and this is why "y’are" is a non sequitur. While most editors have been so troubled by the "y’are" non sequitur they have rubbed it out and replaced it with “they are dead”, this paper suggests "y’are" is the key to begin solving the meaning of Sonnet 112.

marloweSt. Nicholas' Church Tower

 The Poet’s Clue Supporting Line 14’s New Reading

Now that line 14 has been corrected as the poet commanded, we can go back to line 13’s You are so strongly in my purpose bred and discover it gives us a clue that supports the new reading. Booth says the construction of line 13 is "highly unidiomatic" and concludes this could be a sign it is a play on "my riddle". If we take "purpose" in the above line to mean “riddle”, the riddle’s solution supports the new reading of line 14 (all the world besides you thinks me dead).

Let us look at line 13 again: You are so strongly in my purpose bred. When we take line 13 to be a riddle, we can objectify You are by placing a “The” before it and an “is” after it, which gives us: The you are is so strongly in my purpose (the object toward which I’m aiming) bred (the cause that will bring about the result). In other words, the “You are” in line 13 is strongly the poet’s purpose to produce line 12’s commanded correction. Can it be mere coincidence that it is precisely the “you are” (y’are) that needs to be exchanged with me in line 14 to solve the riddle of this densely patterned sonnet? Line 12 tells us to pay attention to how neglectfully the poet is going to make the arrangement of his words in the couplet and line 13 gives us the clue to the word y’are in line 14 that needs correction. The new line-by-line interpretation of Sonnet 112 will show that when the couplet has been altered according to line 12's commanded correction to

You are so strongly in my purpose bred
That all the world besides you thinkes me dead

it paraphrases the motto on the Cambridge portrait thought by many to be of Marlowe: That which nourishes me destroys me.

The legitimacy of the new interpretation in part depends upon this being Marlowe’s portrait, therefore, it is important to mention there is good evidence for believing this is Marlowe’s portrait. The "motto" on the portrait is a paraphrase from Ovid, the poet whose Amores Marlowe had probably already begun translating. The age of the sitter is twenty-one. The portrait was painted in 1585, the year Christopher Marlowe was 21 years old. In the University of Cambridge Book of Matriculation and Degrees, 1544-1659 the only student in the Corpus Christi list of registrants who was 21 years old in 1585 was Christopher Marlowe.

 The Editors’ Emendations to Crux Line 14

Line 14 as printed in Thorpe’s 1609 edition is a non sequitur, which is one of the reasons Booth suspects this sonnet to be unfinished. It has always been the obviously misplaced y’are dead in this line that has stumped the editors of Sonnet 112 so much that most of them replace it with “they are dead” or leave the y’are out altogether.7 The editors also replace the two-word me thinkes in line 14 with a contracted one-word “methinks”. Thorpe’s original spelling of both me thinkes and y’are is crucial to understanding this sonnet if we are to obtain the poet’s self-identifying declaration in line 14 that all the world thinks he is dead. It is imperative we get to the root of the editors’ reasons for altering the original 1609 printing of line 14.

 In 1780 Edmond Malone set precedence for editors ever-after when he wrote the first critical analyses of Shake-speare’s Sonnets in his two volume Supplement To The Edition Of Shakespeare’s Plays (published In 1778 By Samuel Johnson and George Steevens). It is Malone’s alteration of line 14 editors often cite as the one they are adhering to when they alter Thorpe’s original 1609 printing of the line.8

Thorpe’s line 14: That all the world besides me thinkes y’are dead.

Malone’s line 14: That all the world besides methinks are dead.9

In their analyses of this sonnet, the editors have not mentioned Edmond Malone’s first response to line 14. Here is Malone’s first comment on line 14:

That all the world besides me thinks y’are dead. Thus the quarto. The context rather requires that we should read 'That all the world besides you thinks me dead. i.e. all the world except you &c. so before: None else to me, nor I to none alive'.10 Malone


George Steevens responded to Malone’s comment:

I would read, if alteration be necessary, “That all the world beside, methinks, is (or are) dead. The sense would be this-I pay no regard to the sentiments of mankind; and observe how I account for this my indifference. I think so much of you, that I have no leisure to be anxious about the opinions of others. I proceed as if the world, yourself excepted, were no more.11 Steevens

Malone counter-responded:

I have followed the regulation proposed by Mr. Steevens, which was likewise suggested by an anonymous correspondent, whose favours have been already acknowledged. Malone.12


There are several problems with this emendation. First, we should take into consideration the “favours” of Malone’s anonymous correspondent when analyzing his reason for acquiescing to Steevens’ reading. If this is why he gave up the line’s need for the pronoun reversal that would have put it into correct context with the rest of the sonnet, his emendation ought to be reconsidered by modern editors who have blithely followed his final reading. Second, Steevens’ interpretation altogether leaves out the y’are in line 14 (“That all the world beside, methinks, is (or are) dead”). Third, in Malone’s more complete edition of his former work, The Plays and Poems of William Shakespeare, we find him not only succumbing to Steevens’ reading of line 14, but altering the line within the text to adapt it by contracting Thorpe’s two-word me thinkes and replacing the y’are with “they are”: That all the world besides methinks they are dead. Malone’s comment about this alteration was, “The quarto has-That all the world besides methinks y’are dead. Y’are was, I suppose, an abbreviation for they are or th’are. Such unpleasing contractions are often found in our old poets.”13

When Malone relinquished his instinctual pronoun reversal response for Steevens’ reading, he knew he had to do something with the y’are Steevens had left out, so he rewrote the y’are into “they are”, assuming the “y” in y’are must have stood for a degenerate form of the Old English thorn that had evolved into “th” by 1609. His supposition of the thorn usage is the fourth problem with the editors’ emendation. The thorn usage most often stood for “this”, “that”, and “the”(Ye Old English Tea Shop), and not for pronouns such as “they”. The supposition that line 14’s y’are exhibits this degenerate “y” thorn usage is also contradicted in the first line of the sonnet, which uses the evolved thorn: Your love and pity doth th’impression fill. In spite of this, Malone’s supposition has turned into an assumption by many editors of the Sonnets. Most modern editions have altered 112’s original y’are dead to “they are dead”, thereby thoroughly erasing the poet’s treasure.

The sixth problem with the traditional interpretation of 112 is Malone’s contraction of Thorpe’s two-word “me thinkes”. He was wrong when he stated in his second work that Thorpe printed a one-word “methinks”. It was Steevens who first contracted the word in his commentary on Malone’s first reading of line 14 (see page 7).  Thorpe’s 1609 edition printed a two-word “me thinkes”. This is an important distinction. In the New Cambridge Shakespeare, Evans says the reason for contracting Thorpe’s original two-word spelling of me thinkes into methinks is that the poet likely intended it to be one word, but it was usually printed as two in the late 16th Century and always in the Sonnets.14

Not one of the other sonnets Evans mentions has me as part of a prepositional phrase to be kept separated from the verb thinkes as does the new reading of 112’s line 14. I will place commas in Thorpe’s 1609 line to illustrate: That all the world, besides me, thinkes y’are dead. It is precisely this separation of me and thinkes that enables the poet’s commanded correction to read: That all the world, besides you, thinks me dead as opposed to the editors’ alteration which reads: That all the world besides methinks they are dead. The other three sonnets Evans mentions have me and thinkes subject-verb to each other, so they can be rewritten as one word without harming the poet’s intentions:

Sonnet 62

Me thinkes no face so gracious is as mine

Sonnet 14

And yet me thinkes I have Astronomy

Sonnet 104

So your sweet hue, which me thinkes still doth stand 

The seventh problem with the editors’ reading of line 14 is the meaning they attach to the word “besides”.15 Peter Farey has pointed out that, “Most incredibly, none of the editors (including Malone) have examined just how Shakespeare used the word ‘besides' elsewhere in the Works. On no occasion is the word used in the sense of ‘other than’, ‘with the exception of’, or ‘excluding’.” Peter listed three Shakespearean usages for ‘besides’: 1. Out of some mental state ( “how fell you besides your five witts?” TN) 2. More, as an additional matter 3. As well as, in addition to, over and above. He suggested the most appropriate meaning for line 14’s besides is “as well as” (or: “as well”).16 Peter's discovery cancels out both Steevens’ reading and Malone’s later acceptance of it because their interpretation of line 14’s besides is dependent upon it meaning “excluding” or “except”. I refer back to Steevens’ attempt to give the line meaning: “I proceed as if the world, yourself excepted, were no more.” When the editors’ “except” meaning is replaced with the correct “as well as” or “as well” meaning, their reading translates into: That all the word as well methinks they are dead. The incorrectness of this interpretation is best revealed when read after line 13:

You are so strongly in my purpose bred
That all the world as well methinks they are dead.

The irony here is that the emendation to Thorpe’s original printing of the line turns it back into a non sequitur. Compare Malone’s emended line with the new interpretation’s use of the “as well as” meaning, after the pronouns have been reversed:

You are so strongly in my purpose bred
That all the world as well as you thinkes me dead.




 Crux Lines 7 and 8

 7   None else to me, nor I to none alive,
8   That my steeled sense or changes right or wrong.

The editors’ interpretation of line 7 is generally “None else to me, nor I to none who are alive”. Once we reverse the pronouns in line 14 to get the new interpretation that all the world thinks the poet is dead, we discover, as Malone stated above, it echoes the last half of crux line 7 if the ambiguous sentence formation due to the absence of a comma is interpreted to mean “I, to none alive”. Ambiguity can disregard the comma inserted into a line, such as when Othello reveals the instigator of the brawl (Iago) even as he seeks his identity: “Tis monstrous. Iago, who began it?” Ambiguity can also insert a comma that has been left out of a line, such as line 7’s I to none alive, to make it mean “I, who am alive to none”.

Most editors interpret line 8 as follows: That my hardened way of thinking (my steeled sense) changes right or wrong. They then link my steeled sense with line 10’s my adder’s sense, which they interpret as the poet not listening to others, so that his ears to critic and to flatterer stopped are. This traditional reading attributes to the poet both a hardened sense and an unwillingness to hear the opinions of others. 

The poet uses the word “or” twice in line 8, and the editors generally leave out the or that comes before changes in their reading. Although Booth points out that the standard Renaissance use of “or . . . or” was used where we would use "either . . . or” this doesn't seem to clarify the use of line 8’s two ors, for it gives us a pointless: That my steeled sense either changes right or wrong.17 The new interpretation sees the vagaries of construction in line 8 to be the price of double intent. The or before changes drives both ways, and that is why the line has remained an elliptical crux for so long.

As was stated earlier, ambiguity is unclear on the surface because it embodies two meanings. One way of obtaining this doubling can be by joining two separate words as they are spoken. The editors have missed ambiguity’s sounded word “censor” in this line, which is the reason for putting the or before changes: That my steeled sense or (censor) changes right or wrong. With stealthy juggling of diction and syntax, Marlowe slipped censor past his censor. The new reading redefines my steeled sense by utilizing this seemingly unnecessary or before changes, thereby attributing the “hardened sense” not to the poet but to the poet’s censor, Archbishop John Whitgift. This new reading also applies to my adder’s sense, giving the stopped ear not to the poet, but to the poet’s censor.

  whitgiftArchbishop John Whitgift

The “You” Who Is the Poet’s all the world


Thomas Walsingham learned the ins and outs of secret intelligence under Sir Francis Walsingham’s tutelage. Sir Francis Walsingham was Thomas' older first cousin once removed. Francis had been the very creator of the secret service, and his template is still followed today. It is a striking coincidence that, of all the men in England, the hypothetical faking of Marlowe’s death includes Thomas Walsingham in its primary role as perpetuator.

Charles Nicholl suggests that around 1585 Thomas began to play an intermediary role between Sir Francis Walsingham and many of those under his employment in secret intelligence.18 After Sir Francis died, and during Marlowe’s crisis, Thomas was working with Lord Burghley, Robert Cecil, and Essex to form a new co-operational intelligence network. The Coroner’s Report of Christopher Marlowe’s death states that Thomas Walsingham’s personal employee was Marlowe’s “killer”. When this fact is linked to Walsingham’s role as Marlowe’s patron and his powerful position between the Burghley/Cecil/Essex factions at that time, it is fair to suggest that he would have been the prime mover in the faking of Marlowe’s death and the recipient of Sonnet 112.

Thomas Walsingham would not have been the first man in history to save someone he valued in such a dramatic fashion -just as Christopher Marlowe would not be the first man to write his greatest works in exile. It was in another May, seventy-two years before Marlowe was about to go before England’s Star Chamber Court, that Prince Frederick III hid Martin Luther at Wartburg Castle when Emperor Charles V wanted him punished as a heretic. Luther translated the New Testament from Greek into German during his stay at Wartburg.

It wasn’t until 1925 that graduate student Leslie Hotson discovered the Coroner’s Inquest Report on Christopher Marlowe’s death, and we finally learned the man who killed him was one of Thomas Walsingham’s inner circle of employees. From that report we also learned there were two other men in the room where the killing took place, Robert Poley and Nicholas Skeres. The records show both Poley and Skeres had worked under Thomas Walsingham in the secret service’s counter-moves against the Babington plot. A few condensed excerpts from the Coroner’s Inquest Report on Christopher Marlowe’s death provide much of the contextual background for the new interpretation of Sonnet 112:  

after supper Ingram & Christopher Morley
uttered one to the other malicious words
they could not agree about the payment, that is, le recknynge,
Christopher Morley lying upon a bed
moved with anger against Ingram
Ingram with his back towards the bed
sitting near the bed,
that is, nere the bed,
the front part of his body towards the table . . .  
Nicholas Skeres & Robert Poley sitting on either side of Ingram
in such a manner that Ingram could take flight;
Christopher Morley maliciously
drew the dagger of Ingram at his back,
and with the same dagger Christopher Morley maliciously
gave Ingram two wounds on his head
Ingram, in fear of being slain,
& sitting in the manner aforesaid
between Nicholas Skeres & Robert Poley
so that he could not get away,
in his own defence & for the saving of his life,
then & there struggled with Christopher Morley
to get back from him his dagger
Ingram could not get away from Christopher Morley;
and so it befell in that affray
Ingram, in defence of his life,
with the dagger
gave Christopher a mortal wound over his right eye
Christopher Morley instantly died . . .19

Many commentators have found the circumstances in the Coroner’s Report suspicious. In The Reckoning Charles Nicholl concludes the Coroner’s Report was a blind, and it is more likely Marlowe was assassinated in that room:

I am not the first to doubt the ‘official story’ of Marlowe’s death. Most of his biographers have expressed some unease with it, but they have ended up accepting it for lack of any provable alternative. . . The witnesses are untrustworthy, the story unsatisfactory, the circumstances shady . . .20

Nicholl’s conclusion leaves an even bigger question than that of a faked death. If Marlowe was assassinated, why was it necessary to insert secret agents into a Coroner’s Inquest when the most expedient method would have been to simply poison him in a tavern or knife him on the street and leave his body for others to find? On the other hand, if the purpose was not to assassinate Marlowe, but merely to convince others he was dead by producing a “legitimate” Coroner’s Report, these secret agents would have been necessary to “witness” his “death”.

That Which Nourishes Me

It is not likely this particularly complex faked death with its Coroner’s Report and secret intelligence involvement would have been possible without the compliance and guidance of Lord Burghley. The new interpretation of Sonnet 112’s couplet, along with  preceding Sonnet 111’s information (when interpreted in the Marlowe context) suggests that Thomas Walsingham was acting as agent for the State when 112 was written to him. Here is the new interpretation’s couplet:

You are so strongly in my purpose bred
That all the world as well as you thinkes me dead.

Here we find another coincidence. The couplet has now become an echo of the motto on the 1585 Cambridge portrait thought to be of Christopher Marlowe: That which nourishes me destroys me. To understand the autobiographical meaning of the couplet within the Marlowe context, one has to know that he started in secret intelligence early, while still a divinity student at Cambridge, and his work for the State continued, even as he became the darling of London’s stage. This paper theorizes that many of his plays were written as part of his work for both Sir Francis Walsingham and Lord Burghley, who had at his beck and call the most popular playwright in England during the time of her greatest crisis with Spain and France. Both Edward the Second and Massacre at Paris will be shown to have direct links to the State’s concerns for England.

Three pieces of circumstantial evidence point to Lord Burghley’s participation in the event that occurred at Deptford May 30th: 1. The records show Robert Poley was supposed to be in the Netherlands working for Lord Burghley at the very time the Coroner’s Report has him witnessing Marlowe’s death at Deptford.21 2. It was an illegal inquest, therefore it is unlikely Coroner Danby would have acquiesced without orders from Lord Burghley. Peter Farey has written at great length around the illegality of the Coroner’s Inquest of Marlowe’s death: 

William Danby did not perform the inquest with the local coroner, which as it was not within a royal palace he should have done, whether it was within the verge or not. He actually replaced him, thus actually rendering the whole inquest legally null and void.22


3. Although many commentators have speculated about what occurred that day, and most agree that if the death had been faked Lord Burghley was probably involved in some way, no one has yet mentioned that Lord Burghley was not at the Privy Council when Marlowe was arrested on May 18th. Rather than negate the case for a faked death, the evidence of Lord Burghley’s absence supports it. Lord Burghley had been ill at home since February 1593, a full three months before he suddenly reappeared to sit at the Star Chamber Court on May 29th, the very day before Marlowe’s alleged death on May 30th.

Richard Baines’ damning accusations of heresy against Marlowe were put into Cecil’s hands sometime between May 25th and 28th. On May 28th Lord Burghley, still quite ill at his home in London, responded to a letter he had received from his son Robert Cecil that day:

I have received your letter of this 28th. Hereupon, though I am weak and uncertain how I shall come to the Court, with opinion that after one or two days her Majesty will license me to return to seek my amendment or to take my journey to follow univerrsam viam carnis {the way of all flesh}. And to this latter journey I am most disposed with persuasion that if souls have sense of earthly things, I shall be in God’s sight an intercessor for the prosperity of His church here and for her Majesty as His governor thereof to His Glory. You must allow me to be in this humour, for I find no other taste of any other thing. If I shall be able by coach or litter (for I provide both) I will be with you tomorrow.23


Although Lord Burghley felt he was at death’s door, after three months in bed he returned to court May 29th, the very day plans for Marlowe’s fictional death on May 30th would have had to be formalized with Coroner Danby.

Whitgift’s “inquisition” had picked up after Sir Francis Walsingham’s death in 1590, intensified during Lord Burghley’s three-month absence from court, and culminated with the arrest of Marlowe. Lord Burghley’s stance against Archbishop Whitgift’s inquisitorial practices toward England’s Separatists and Freethinkers is well known. We know that Lord Burghley attempted to intervene against the Archbishop many times. Conyers Read writes of  his stance against Whitgift:

More than once he had broken a lance with Whitgift on behalf of Puritan preachers. . . . He had befriended Thomas Cartwright, the recognized leader of the Presbyterian movement, and would befriend him again. Morice and Beale, the two leaders of the fight against the ex officio oath, both looked to him. So did Peter Wentworth. So did the separatists, Barrow and Greenwood, and the Puritan John Penry.24


This paper surmises Lord Burghley’s involvement in the faked death would have derived from three factors: (1) His disagreement with the Inquisitorial policies and actions of Archbishop Whitgift (2) The threat that under torture Marlowe might have revealed Burghley and Cecil’s undercover work around King James’ Succession to the English throne, and (3) The State’s use of Marlowe’s unique talent as a dramatist.


The wall at St. Nicholas Churchyard on which hangs Marlowe's modern Memorial Plaque


Sonnets that Support the New Reading

Sonnets 34, 74, and 111 affirm the new reading of 112. At first glance the wide range between these numbers would seem to defy their relatedness to each other, however, when A.D. Wraight reassembled the sonnets by grouping them into themes, she discovered the largest group dealt with the theme of “a period of cruel separation from the poet’s former life and friends, a journey into what can only be likened to a state of exile.”25 Wraight found that the original sequence of the sonnets had been rearranged to deceptively disperse this theme of exile, “rather as a dramatist might take a sub-plot and interweave this with his main dramatic theme, with the difference that here the purpose is not to tell the story, but to obscure it and prevent easy detection of its import.”26

To illustrate Wraight’s hypothesis, early in the sequence we find sonnets that would seem to have been written later in the poet’s life, such as Sonnet 31, which contains these lines:

Thy bosom is endeared with all hearts,
Which I by lacking have supposed dead;
And there reigns Love, and all Love's loving parts,
And all those friends which I thought buried . . .


And Sonnet 33, which contains these lines:

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,
The region cloud hath mask'd him from me now.

Wraight’s “exile” theme group includes Sonnets 34, 74, and 111. Exploration of these as a cluster will not only support the new line-by-line interpretation of 112, it will reveal an extraordinary number of coincidences that form a concrete pattern compatible with the theory Marlowe’s death was fictionalized by his patron. When these sonnets are interpreted in this context, we learn all we need to answer many of the myths that have formed around Marlowe’s character due to the charges of heresy in Baines Note and Drury’s Remembrances. We also learn that the Coroner’s Inquisition Report stating Marlowe cowardly struck Ingram Frizer from behind with Frizer’s dagger was a story contrived to insure Thomas Walsingham’s man be exonerated of murder.

Sonnet 34

Sonnet 34 gives the general background for the faking of Marlowe’s death. I include all of 34
here because the raw emotional tone suggests it was the first one written after the Deptford event, and the others under exploration contain strong echoes of it.   

Why didst thou promise such a beauteous day,
And make me travel forth without my cloak,
To let base clouds o'ertake me in my way,
Hiding thy bravery in their rotten smoke?
'Tis not enough that through the cloud thou break,
To dry the rain on my storm-beaten face,
For no man well of such a salve can speak,
That heals the wound, and cures not the disgrace:
Nor can thy shame give physic to my grief;
Though thou repent, yet I have still the loss:
The offender's sorrow lends but weak relief
To him that bears the strong offence's cross.
Ah! but those tears are pearl which thy love sheds,
And they are rich and ransom all ill deeds.   

This sonnet tells us Marlowe was not present at Deptford the day they faked his death, and he didn’t take part in framing the story. Perhaps when Walsingham sent Marlowe to the continent plans had not congealed to the point where the necessary plea of self-defense had been scripted for his employee Frizer, and he had promised Marlowe a beauteous day because he had another scenario in mind, but at the last hour Lord Burghley decided they needed to contrive a “legal” report of the “death” to ward off any further suspicion. Although it is tempting to think Walsingham needed Marlowe’s cloak to put on the body they used at Deptford, line 2 may merely refer to the English proverbial “Although the sun shines, leave not thy cloak at home”.27

It will be shown that Base clouds echoes Too base of thee to be remembered in 74’s line 12; Thy bravery echoes The very part was consecrate to thee in 74’s line 6; Salve, cures, and physic echo 111’s willing patient, potions, infection, and cure me, all referring to the fictional eye-wound; Heals the wound also echoes these words in 111, just as it does 112’s impression and stamped upon my brow; Disgrace refers to what they’ve done to his name, echoing 29’s When in disgrace with fortune and men’s eyes and 112’s vulgar scandal; Shame, repent, offender’s sorrow all refer to Walsingham’s expressed feelings about what he’s done to Marlowe’s reputation by the way in which they faked his death, and they echo 111’s Nor double penance, to correct correction; Rotten smoke, Grief, loss, relief, him that bears the strong offence’s cross all refer to Marlowe’s feelings about what they have done to his name; ill deeds keeps to the wound metaphors used throughout these sonnets to sum up the disgraceful and contrived death caused by the fictional eye-wound.


deptfordThe town of Deptford circa 1850

Sonnet 74

Sonnet 74 tells us three times the poet is writing to the man responsible for faking his death: Which for memorial still with thee shall stay, The very part was consecrate to thee, To base of thee to be remembered. In this sonnet there are six echoes of the faked death: for memorial, fell arrest, lost life, the earth can have but earth, my body being dead, and the coward conquest of a wretches knife.

But be contented when that fell arrest
Without all bail shall carry me away,
My life hath in this line some interest,
Which for memorial still with thee shall stay.
When thou reviewest this, thou dost review
The very part was consecrate to thee:
The earth can have but earth, which is his due;
My spirit is thine, the better part of me:
So then thou hast but lost the dregs of life,
The prey of worms, my body being dead;
The coward conquest of a wretch's knife,
Too base of thee to be remembered.
The worth of that is that which it contains,
And that is this, and this with thee remains. 


Booth sums up the traditional interpretation of 74 when he says, “The religious language merely acts as a hyperbolic metaphor to vivify the speaker’s assertion that his spirit is in his verse and is immortal with it.”28 While most editors see the poet conflating the two abstract ideas “immortality of art” and “immortality of soul” in 74, I suggest this sonnet ambiguously disguises a second meaning in which the poet speaks literally of surviving the fictional death at Deptford, which, in turn, allows his writing to survive.

Clare Asquith’s book Shadowplay gives a detailed demonstration of precise parallels between momentous events of the sixteenth century and references concealed in the censored literature of the time. The most important aspect of this literature was it be deniable, in other words, incapable of proof.29 Asquith has discovered it is at those coded places in sixteenth century literature that, “the hidden language is at its most intense.”30 This coded literature can find no better literary weapon than that of double-edged ambiguity. Nowhere in the sonnets do we find as much ambiguity as we do in 74 and 112. This is not surprising when we consider these are the two sonnets of self-identification, in which “the hidden language is at its most intense”.

Sonnet 74 tells us the precise way in which the poet/dramatist’s death was faked and reiterates what we learned in 34, the poet was not the creator of his fictional death.

1 But be contented when that fell arrest
2 Without all bail shall carry me away,

Traditional: The editors read fell arrest to mean the poet’s future arrival of death expressed metaphorically as an officer of the law coming to arrest a criminal, and without all bail as death being akin to no possibility of release from death’s “prison”.31

Marlovian: The poet’s choice of legal language instead of religious language to begin describing his death in 74 is the first clue that Marlowe wrote this sonnet. He describes his death as a “deadly arrest”, which is what literally occurred if we take Marlowe’s arrest at Walsingham’s home on May 18th to be first cause for his fictionalized death on May 29th. When Marlowe was arrested he was given bail and ordered to report daily to the Privy Council. Line 2 alludes to that bail by saying this death has no bail. Instead of bail, this deadly arrest will carry me away (into exile). It is the poet’s use of the future tense “shall carry” instead of the past tense “carried” in the second line that has the editors interpreting this sonnet’s meaning to be the poet speaking of his future death. While the traditional reading changes the meaning of four words in this sonnet, the new interpretation takes every word just as it was written, except for the poet’s use of the future tense shall carry. It will be shown that Marlowe intentionally used the future tense in order to escape a too obvious identification.

3   My life hath in this line some interest,
4   Which for memorial still with thee shall stay.

Traditional: In the New Cambridge Edition of The Sonnets Evans sums up the general editorial reading of these lines as follows: I continue [after death] to have some claim upon or share in ‘life’ (i.e. living memory or fame) through my verses.32 The editors read line 4’s memorial to mean the immortality of the poet’s spirit contained in these lines.

Marlovian: The 3rd line is startling in its direct appeal we pay attention to whose life has a share in the information given in preceding lines 1-2. It is only because the editors interpret what the poet actually wrote in line 3, this line, to mean “these lines” that they are able to give this line the meaning “verses” and, hence, to read interest as the poet’s continued share in life after he is dead through the verses he wrote. I suggest it is quite clear the poet intended exactly what he wrote, not “verses” but this line, meaning the first full sentence of this sonnet which describes concretely the reason for the faking of the poet’s death and its consequence. If the poet had intended this line to mean his verses in general (and, hence, the immortality of his work) he could have written “these lines” which is closer to the editors’ interpreted meaning “immortality of the poet’s verses” and has the same number of syllables as this line: My life hath in these lines some interest.

It is the fourth line that first tells us 74 is being written to the man responsible for faking the poet’s death. He is confirming to the sonnet recipient that the memory (memorial) of the event which carried the poet away will still remain a secret between them. The use of the word still tells us 74 was probably written in later exile because it is suggestive of time passing since the Deptford affair took place.

5   When thou reviewest this, thou dost review
6   The very part was consecrate to thee,

Traditional: When you reread this line (line 3), you revive or give life to the better part of me (“very part”) that was sacred to you.33

Marlovian: For the second time the poet tells us the recipient is responsible for faking his death. The 5th line tells us that in this quatrain we are about to review (learn) the very part this man played in the deadly event that caused the poet to be carried away. The word “consecrate” in line 6 does not mean “to set apart as sacred” as the editors interpret it, but “to give of oneself unreservedly and with devotion”. It is an echo of sonnet 34’s line 4: Hiding thy bravery in their rotten smoke. Line 7 will explain the very part Walsingham played unreservedly, and with devotion to the poet.

7   The earth can have but earth, which is his due,
8   My spirit is thine, the better part of me,

Traditional: The poet’s body has gone back to the earth but his spirit still lives in his verses. The editors generally cite The Book of Common Prayer’s “earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust” when they interpret the meaning of this line.34

Marlovian: Line 7 tells us the poet is not buried in the grave, for the earth does not have him; therefore, the specific part Walsingham played unreservedly (at great risk to himself) was to fake Marlowe’s death and burial. This line is the poet’s parody of his own fictional burial service for the dead. From The Book of Common Prayer, The Order for the Burial of the Dead: We therefore commit his body to the ground, earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust. “Earth to earth” means “earth back to earth”. The poet has chosen to replace “to earth” with “but earth”which implies the earth can have merely, just, or only earth, not the body which came from earth. I suggest this is the earth’s due not in the sense of “something owed” but “in accord with right”, considering it would have been wrong for the poet to have actually been killed and buried in the grave.

This interpretation takes into account Sonnet 112’s line 4: So you ore-greene my bad, my good allow? In 112 the bad part is buried (ore-greened) while the good part is “allowed” (alive), as is the better part in line 8 above. This bad part was formed out of two fictions: Baines’ and Drury’s accusations and Walsingham’s faking of Marlowe’s death at Deptford in such a way that it brought disgrace to the poet’s name. Sonnet 121 in Wraight’s exile group affirms this reading, telling us in its opening lines the bad was a fiction: Tis better to be vile then vile esteemed, When not to be, receives reproach of being. Sonnet 121 also tells us that the first fiction (Baines’ and Drury’s accusations of heresy) was formed out of false adulterate eyes of frailer spies who have rank thoughts.35 The poet will affirm this reading of Sonnet 121 in 74’s lines 9, 10, and 11 below:

9    So then thou hast but lost the dregs of life
10   The prey of worms, my body being dead,
11   The coward conquest of a wretches knife,

Traditional: The poet is speaking of his body not being as important as his spirit that is contained in his verse. Duncan-Jones says of line 11: “A much discussed line: momentarily it may seem that the poet anticipates self-slaughter, but it is more likely that the wretch whose sharp implement has taken possession of the speaker’s body is personified death . . .”36 Most editors agree with her interpretation of wretches knife as the abstract personification of Time’s or Death’s knife. In The New Cambridge Edition, Evans says of line 11 that the dead body has become food for worms because of its cowardly seizure under the knife by Death. His explanation of why Death’s seizure is described as “cowardly” is: (a) death is like an assassin who stabs his unaware victim in the back and (b) the poet (“mankind”) is defenseless against either Death or Time.37

Marlovian: Line 9 more directly echoes 112’s So you ore-greene my bad because dregs are “the bad elements”. The bad was the fictional coward in the Coroner’s Report who struck Ingram Frizer from behind. The prey of worms only seems to imply that the body is lying in the grave to be eaten by worms.  The prey is actually a metaphor for dregs i.e. that despised fictional coward, while of worms is a metaphor for the two paid informers, Baines and Drury (the spies who have rank thoughts). When we consider that the poet has already told us in line 7 the earth can have but earth, line 10’s my body being dead can be taken as an impression created for the public. It will be shown that this reading echoes the new reading of Sonnet 112’s lines 7 and 14: I to none alive/all the world besides you thinks me dead.

Line 11 tells us the cause for my body being dead, and it is the literal description of the way Marlowe “died” as stated in the Coroner's Report. He cowardly grabbed the dagger (knife) from its sheath at Ingram Frizer’s waist, and struck him from behind. Frizer then pulled his dagger from Marlowe’s hand and killed him with it. If the poet intended wretch to represent Time or Death, as Duncan-Jones has surmised, I suggest he would have written “the wretches knife” instead of “a wretches knife” because “the” implies universality while “a” implies particularity, a specific individual (Ingram Frizer). It is precisely the use of the word “knife” that gives us one of the keys supporting the new reading. If a wretches knife is to be read as “personified death” or “Time’s knife” the poet could have used the word “scythe” here, just as he does in Sonnet 60: Time doth transfix the flourish set on youth . . . And nothing stands but for his scythe to mow. This is especially true when one considers “scythe” has the same syllable count as knife and keeps to the same rhyme ending in line 11.

I suggest it is this very line that caused the poet to begin the sonnet using the future tense shall carry instead of the past tense “carried”, so as to escape a too obvious identification. Line 11 is so graphically in keeping with the Coroner’s Report on Marlowe’s “death” that some editors read it as Shakespeare alluding to Marlowe’s “murder at Deptford” even though the allusion to another poet’s disgraceful death is out of place in a theme which the editors say expresses the immortality of the poet’s verse contained in its lines.

12   Too base of thee to be remembered,

Traditional: The dead body is too base of the sonnet recipient to be remembered.38

Marlovian: Paraphrasing lines 11 and 12 together gives us: The coward conquest of a wretches knife was too contemptible of you to be recalled. Line 12 echoes Sonnet 112's vulgar (base) scandal, and 34’s To let base clouds o'ertake me in my way. It tells us what we learned in Sonnet 34: Marlowe did not take part in the staging of his death. When he says Too base of thee it is the third time he has stated the sonnet recipient was responsible for the fictionalized scenario at Deptford. The editors take line 12 to be hyperbolic in the extreme: the poet’s life is too worthless to be remembered because when his body is dead it is no longer “of the spirit”.39 It is not the poet’s life, however, but the way in which Marlowe’s death was staged, clearly stated in the previous line, that was too base of the recipient to be remembered.

13   The worth of that, is that which it contains, 
14   And that is this, and this with thee remains.


Traditional: The worth of the dead body is the poetry it contained.40

Marlovian: Sonnet 74’s couplet tells us the worth of Walsingham’s risk saving the poet from torture and possible death has already been proven by Marlowe’s works. When the poet says The worth of that he is referring to the preceding quatrain’s fictional dead body for which Walsingham was responsible. The only worth in that faking of his death is in what the fictional dead body contains. The key here is the use of the present tense “contains” instead of the past tense “contained” (as the editors have interpreted it). Again, he could have used the past tense without changing the structure of the line. This present tense usage tells us that Marlowe’s body is not really dead, it still contains the poet’s talent. By the time this sonnet was written, Marlowe has produced many more plays and proven himself worthy of that risk. What remains is Marlowe’s literary compositions. This sonnet is one example of the remains.

The modern memorial plaque on the Nicholas Churchyard wall

Successive Sonnets 111 and 112

Sonnet 111 seems to have been written to Thomas Walsingham during Christopher Marlowe’s early exile because of its unsure tone and request for pity.


O! for my sake do you with Fortune chide,

The guilty goddess of my harmful deeds,

That did not better for my life provide

Than public means which public manners breeds.

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:

Pity me, then, and wish I were renewed;

Whilst, like a willing patient, I will drink

Potions of eisell 'gainst my strong infection;

No bitterness that I will bitter think,

Nor double penance, to correct correction.

Pity me then, dear friend, and I assure ye,

Even that your pity is enough to cure me.


Nine lines of 111 are relevant here, beginning with the 5th and 6th:

5   Thence comes it that my name receives a brand,
6   And almost thence my nature is subdued,

The 5th line’s name receives a brand finds its echo in 112's vulgar scandal stamped upon my brow. Most editors agree with Evans who defines brand loosely as “stamp, mark, stigma”.41 Marlowe’s contemporary Francis Bacon, in his essay “Of Atheism”, used the word “brand” more specifically when he wrote, all that impugn a received religion, or super-stition, are by the adverse part branded with the name of atheists.”42 At first glance the 6th line’s subdued seems merely to mean “toned down”, but the word “subued” also means “to be brought under control” (as in “Rome subdued Gaul”). The origin of this word in Anglo/French is “subdut”, which in Latin is “subditus” (subjected). Assuming Marlowe always had one eye on Latin and the other on his current spoken English, it is of note that the Latin meaning of “sub” is both “in the power of” and “under cover of, underneath”. Keeping this in mind, it is likely the coupling of “sub” and “dued” did not escape the poet’s notice as “under cover of dead”, an idea which is supported in the following line 7:

7   To what it works in, like the dyer’s hand:
8   Pity me, then, and wish I were renewed;

The dyer’s hand is “the one who dies’ hand” and in this context renewed means “to restore to existence” or “resurrected”. One easily identifies a dyer’s profession by the stains on his hands that don’t wash out when he leaves his work. The dyer’s hand is the poet’s chosen simile for his writing hand, but he is stained with more than the ink from his pen.43 In Dr. Faustus a scholar makes a pact with the devil. In The Jew of Malta Barabas uses Christian logic to show its hypocrisy. Considering Marlowe’s two Divinity scholarships were aimed at staffing the Anglican Church, and had been paid for by the church, the popularity of these dramas found audience in England to threaten and enrage an inquisitorial Archbishop Whitgift sermonizing at his pulpit. A.D. Wraight put it most aptly:

We should not lightly forget that his genius was nurtured in the Anglican Church to which his education had initially dedicated him, and if he did not preach from a pulpit it was nevertheless a kind of preaching in which he indulged. He turned reproving eyes on the established church to make courageous criticism exposing contemporary religious malpractice.44  


 9   Whilst, like a willing patient, I will drink

10   Potions of eisell 'gainst my strong infection;


The 10th line of 111 refers to the wound Frizer’s dagger made, this time more specifically than 112’s brow because he uses the word “eisell” which contains the sounded word “eye”, the exact spot stated in the Coroner’s Report.

Sonnet 111’s last quatrain ends with:

11   No bitterness that I will bitter think
12   Nor double penance, to correct correction.

The 11th line refers us to Sonnet 74’s Too base of thee to be remembered and 34’s base clouds, thy shame, offender’s sorrow, ill deeds, all referring to Walsingham’s grief over the method used to contrive Marlowe’s death and the disgrace it brought to the poet’s name. Although Marlowe is in despair over how the faking of his death has branded him a coward, he is telling Thomas he will not hold it against him. The 12th line seems to be telling Thomas that the poet will not ask him to make amends for this “sin” of making him out to be a man who would strike Ingram Frizer from behind. The poet uses the words “double penance” which implies that Walsingham has already expressed penance for the way they contrived the death. This implication is supported by Sonnet 34’s Nor can thy shame give physic to my grief; Though thou repent, yet I have still the loss. The second penance expressed in line 12 may be referring to some specific action Walsingham was considering that would cure Marlowe’s disgraced name. We might infer this because he says to correct correction. The faking of Marlowe’s death was Walsingham’s correction of the lies in Baines’ Note that could have led to Marlowe’s being tortured and hanged. The specific action Walsingham might have taken to correct his correction can only be guessed. The new interpretation of 112 will show that Walsingham did find a way to partially correct his correction.

The editors of the sonnets interpret the couplet to be resolving the poet’s dilemma by requesting pity as a means to cure him. It would seem an obvious error to interpret these lines as the poet begging for sympathy in such a manner. The poet has already equated pity with the renewal of his life in line 8, so the last line is repeating that this renewal of his life is enough to cure him. In other words, it is not the emotion of pity the poet is requesting, it is an act to be taken out of pity, specifically, the act that will lead to the poet’s resurrection.

13  Pity me then, dear friend, and I assure ye,
4  Even that your pity is enough to cure me.

The end of 111 brings us to the beginning of Sonnet 112:

Your love and pity doth the impression fill,
Which vulgar scandal stamped upon my brow;

Sonnet 112 Newly Interpreted Line-by-Line

Lines 1-2

 Your love and pity doth th’impression fill,

Which vulgar scandal stamped upon my brow,

Traditional: Smoothes over (by filling up) the dent made in my reputation by popular repute (Duncan-Jones). Your love and compassion “heal over the wound” scandal gave me (Evans). These readings imply impression means “an effect produced in the mind” and assumes the effect to be one of emotional depression which the sonnet recipient has healed by filling with love and pity.45

Marlovian: The poet has carefully chosen his words in these lines so they send forth two meanings: His fictional death and his resurrection under a pseudonym. Each meaning uses a different definition of “impression” and “scandal”. The first meaning of impression is the fictional wound in the Coroner’s Report that has been stamped upon the poet’s brow. The first two lines refer twice to this wound (impression, stamped) and once to the area of the wound (upon my brow. They also refer to the necessary plea of self-defense Frizer gave (vulgar scandal) which stamped Marlowe a coward for striking a man from behind. The meaning of vulgar is “base” (offensive) which brings to mind Sonnet 74’s Too base of thee to be remembered.

In the first meaning, scandal refers to “public disgrace”. Another meaning for scandal is “the act which causes public disgrace”. Another meaning for impression is “edition of book”. These definitions are used in the second, underlying meaning of the first two lines. Between the time Sonnets 111 and 112 were written Walsingham found a way to correct his correction. Love and pity have caused Walsingham to fill (supply with an inscription) the impression (edition of book) with the thing that the vulgar scandal (base faking of Marlowe’s death) necessitated be stamped upon the poet’s brow: the pseudonym that resurrects the poet. Walsingham did not fill the impression with love and pity, love and pity were the cause for him to fill the impression with something else, something that cures the poet and renews him, just as the poet requested in 111. Marlowe’s cure, the renewal of his life that Walsingham has performed out of love and pity, was a new name to put on his works.

The second meaning of 112’s first two lines does not refer to the poet’s emotion about the scandal, or to the recipient’s love and pity filling the impression, as the editors have interpreted these lines. While the editors read this pity in itself enough to satisfy the poet, I have already suggested that in Sonnet 111 it is not mere pity the poet is asking for, it is an action to be taken out of pity, and the poet equated this pity with a specific action: the renewal of his life (Pity me, then, and wish I were renewed  . . . Even that your pity is enough to cure me). In the first meaning of the line scandal is a public disgrace.

In her analyses of this line, Katherine Duncan-Jones has come close to the new interpretation for impression, saying, “There may also be a notion of a printed book, perhaps written by the poet (cf. 111.6-7), whose title-page is stamped, or printed, in a disgraceful manner, but redeemed by the young man’s love and pity.” She alludes to Jaggard’s piratical publishing of The Passionate Pilgrim in 1599 as a possible reason for this meaning of impression.46 This is weak cause for a pubic disgrace which, as the editors have interpreted it, has caused the poet to fall into such an emotional depression that he has literally begged for and received the sonnet recipients love and pity.

Booth says, "In the sonnets Shakespeare uses more of the ideational potential in words than the logic of their exposition needs or can admit."47 This is true only in so far as we can penetrate the “logic of their exposition” when the poet is applying ambiguity. I suggest the poet’s use of the ideational potential in the words of Sonnet 112, such as impression, is precisely what leads us to his second meaning.

Here it is necessary to explore the various definitions of impression and fill. The word “impression” comes from the Latin “inpressio” which means both “mark by pressure” and “edition of book”. In 112 the poet gives the word “impression” three synonymous echoes: stamped, steeled, and Mark. While steeled can mean “engraved”, both impression and stamped mean “identification mark, an official mark that indicates ownership, a block or die (such as a printer’s block or die which imprints a mark), to imprint with a mark.” The Volta line 12 begins with the word “Mark” which is a synonym for both impression and stamped while adding the meaning “signature”. The editors have taken the meaning of fill as “to engage or occupy completely”, however, fill also means “to complete by insertion or addition, to supply with material such as an inscription, to possess and discharge the duties of someone else (act as a stand in)”. When one takes into consideration this last meaning of fill, it is of note that impression can also mean “outward appearance” (the impression presented to the public) and “an impersonation, acting the part of a character on stage”.

The new interpretation translates the second meaning of lines 1 and 2: Your love and pity doth the edition of the book (impression) supply with the inscription (fill) William Shakespeare.

marloweSt. Nicholas Church at Deptford

Lines 3-4   For what care I who calls me well or ill
So you ore-greene my bad, my good allow?


Traditional: What care I whether people speak good or bad about me as long as you ignore (cover over) my bad, my good allow?48 Malone: The allusion {oer-green} seems to be either to the practice of covering a bare coarse piece of ground with fresh green-sward, or to that of planting ivy or Jessamine to conceal an unsightly building.49 Massey: Folds up my faults as the green grass hides the grave, or the ivy's embrace conceals the scars of time.50

Marlovian: Booth points out the use of adverbs with this sense of “to call” (who calls me well) is not idiomatic, and he suggests it may be due to making the pun "who calls me Will". He points out that Jill, ill, and well are rhymed in Midsummer Night’s Dream.51 If well was pronounced “will” at the time 112 was written, the pun would have been more obvious than it is to us. The meaning  “what care I whether people speak good or bad about me” contradicts the other sonnets under discussion that speak of slander and, at the same time, tell us the poet does care about his disgraced name. This would seem to give support to line 3’s intention of disguising the “pun” “What care I who calls me William Shakespeare”. This pun would be jarringly out of place if the editors’ reading of line 1 were correct: Your love and pity fill the emotional depression scandal stamped upon my brow, for what care I who calls me Will. In context with the new interpretation, the pun flows perfectly with lines 1-2: Your love and pity doth the edition of the book (impression) supply with the inscription (fill) William Shakespeare, which my alleged disgraceful death (vulgar scandal) caused to be stamped upon my brow, For what care I who calls me Will, so you bury the so-called coward (ore-greene my bad), my writing allow (my good allow)?

This first quatrain of 112 seems to be the poet’s response to discovering he now has a pseudonym that will allow his writing to live on, even though he is dead to all the world. The echoes in Sonnets 74 and 112 of Marlowe’s spirit being thine, his better part remaining with the recipient, and his good allowed by the recipient seem to point to Walsingham having some kind of management of Marlowe’s works following the fictional and disgraceful death at Deptford, i.e., the ore-greening of the poet’s bad.

Ore-greene is a concrete reference to the poet’s fictional grave, a patch of ground that must be returfed after the body has been buried. A similar image for a grave is used in Hamlet, Act IV, scene v, where Shakespeare has chosen to have Ophelia sing parts of the ballad “Walsingham”, the name of the man who contrived the faking of the dramatist's death, which makes it a perfect contextual match with this interpretation:

Ophelia: He is dead and gone, Lady.

He is dead and gone.

At his head a grass-green turf,

At his heels a stone.

 We can fairly deduce that ore-greene refers to the grave by the consistent "grave" and "dead body" echoes in these exile sonnets, particularly this one. The words or word couplings that can be construed to be referring to the grave occur 5 times in 112: "Pit(y)", "impression", "profound Abysm", "Mark" (grave marker), and "you ore-greene my bad" ("ore-greene" implies the turf growing over his fictional grave because it is coupled with "my bad", meaning the fictional coward who struck Ingram Frizer from behind and who is now buried). There are seven words or word couplings that can be construed to be referring to a dead body or a body buried in a grave: "the impression fill", "stamped", "ill", "you ore-greene my bad" (this second meaning refers to the fictional coward that the sonnet recipient has ore-greened), "I to none alive", "my steeled sense", and the last line, when corrected, "all the world besides you thinkes me dead".

The ore-greening of the poet’s bad finds its echo in 74’s The earth can have but earth. The bad that is ore-greened is 74’s fictional coward who made the coward conquest of a wretches knife.  Walsingham has fictionally buried Marlowe and now he has done something that allows the dramatist/poet to live on (allow my good?). The question mark gives this line a sportive sarcastic tone: So you bury the so-called coward and atheist under the ground, allow my good (plays/poems) to live? The good that is allowed by Walsingham is Marlowe’s writing, as is 74’s better part that remains with Walsingham. This reading accords with lines 1 and 2 referring to the pseudonym, especially when we take into consideration the question mark at its end. If the traditional reading were correct, lines 3 and 4 could just as well have left out the question mark: For what care I who calls me well or ill, as long as you ore-greene my bad, my good allow.

Walsingham’s way of correcting his correction, his specific way of answering the poet’s request in 111 to pity and thus cure him would have been to attach the name William Shakespeare to Venus and Adonis when Marlowe’s sudden “death” necessitated he be resurrected under a pseudonym. The name Shakespeare as a pseudonym would have derived from the Greek God Apollo who had the ability to cure. I suggest it is the symbol of Apollo that fills the impression in the first line of Sonnet 112, and this gives us the reason for the William Shakespeare pseudonym that first appeared two weeks after Marlowe’s alleged death and later became attached to the part-time actor/businessman who conveniently bore a similar name.

If this paper’s hypothesis is correct, it is difficult to believe Marlowe’s highly educated and powerful protectors in secret intelligence would have let the publisher of Venus and Adonis, Richard Fields, choose a front man named William Shaxpere (as on his marriage license) for Marlowe’s work so fresh on the heels of his escape from England’s Ecclesiastical Court. It seems more likely they would have created their own pseudonym for him, as they were used to doing with men who worked for secret intelligence. This time it was a name rich in pertinent resonance. An exploration of the William Shakespeare name will reveal any possible relationship to Marlowe’s situation after May 30th, 1593.

William Shakespeare as a Pseudonym

We cannot rule out the possibility that the hyphened Shake-speare on Thorpe’s 1609 edition of the Sonnets was indicative of a pseudonym. The sixteenth century was an age when literary disguises often employed a hyphen in a name resonant with meaning, such as Mar-prelate, Curry-knave, and Tell-truth. The name William comes from the Old High German origin Willehelm, a compound name composed of “willeo” (will, determination) and “helm” (protection, helmet) which gives us “determined protection”. In The Shakespeare Enigma, Peter Dawkins explores the meaning of the William Shakespeare name and its relationship to Apollo and Athena:

The name William is derived from Hwyll, the name in Welsh of the god of light, called Apollo by the Greeks, and helm, meaning helmet. In other words, William is a reference to Apollo’s golden helmet of light, for which both Apollo and his feminine counterpart, Athena, were particularly noted, along with their ‘shaking’ spears . . . Athena’s helmet is known as the helmet of invisibility, since it is reputed to bestow an invisible protection upon the wearer.52


If Marlowe’s patron Thomas Walsingham were going to select a pseudonym for his “charge” to protect him, he could have done worse than create a name that stood for the protectors of the arts Apollo/Athena. Dawkins points out that the Greek name Pallas Athena literally means “Spear Shaker” or Shake Spear”, and says this helps to explain why Ben Jonson hailed Shakespeare as an Apollo, and why, in Sonnet 38, Shakespeare declares his Muse to be the Tenth Muse, Apollo’s counterpart Pallas Athena. Apollo was the patron God of music and poetry who had the ability to cure (111’s cure me), and his most common attributes were the bow and arrow. Athena was the patroness and protector of the arts often depicted holding a spear and wearing a golden helmet. Athena sprang full-grown from the head of her father Zeus, just as William Shakespeare seems to have sprung full grown into the limelight as a fully developed poet.

In 1590 Thomas Walsingham was named chief mourner at Sir Francis Walsingham’s funeral. Sir Francis was patron to the poet Thomas Watson, Marlowe’s good friend. It is from Watson’s Meliboeus, written to honor Sir Francis Walsingham after his death, and dedicated to Thomas Walsingham, that we know the Apollo association would not have been far from Thomas’ mind three years later.53

Watson gives the real people he writes about in Meliboeus Latin names: Sir Francis is Meliboeus, Thomas is Tityrus, and Watson is Corydon. The long poem is framed as a dialogue between Tityrus and Corydon. When Tityrus asks Corydon to help him complain of Meliboeus’ death, Corydon replies: I now beginne: Apollo guide my sound, and weepe yee sisters of the learned hill: That your Paegafean springs may leap their bound.54 At one point Tityrus says of Francis Walsingham’s death:

And Venus weepe, as if Adonis dide.

And Stilbon with thy hat cloude Phoebus face55

Watson ends the long poem speaking of Damon (Lord Burghley) who is still alive to protect England, Aegon (Howard) who is still alive to defend her coast, and finishes his part of the dialogue between himself and Tityrus, saying:

Name Mopfus, Daphnis, Faustus, and the rest,

Whose feurall gifts thy singing can express:

When thou shalt tell how he in them is blest,

Their very names will comfort her {England’s} distress.56

While some critics tend to negate Marlowe’s importance to the aristocracy as part of the argument that Thomas Walsingham would not have risked saving him, the inclusion of this reference to Faustus suggests otherwise. This implies that Marlowe’s dramas were intended as a positive force for England, and is compatible with this paper’s hypothesis that Lord Burghley and Sir Francis Walsingham consigned at least two of his plays. Marlowe wrote Dr. Faustus a year or so before Meliboeus was written, so it is a fair assumption that he bore that nickname among his friends and associates. The name comes up again in an epigram by John Davies:

Faustus, not lord nor knight, nor wise nor old,

To every place about the town doth ride;

He rides into the fields, plays to behold,

He rides to take boat at the water side:

He rides to Pauls, he rides to th’Ordinary

He rides unto the house of bawdry too,

Thither his horse doth him so often carry,

That shortly he will quite forget to go.57

Watson is known as the Father of the English Sonnet and Shakespeare is often spoken of as Watson’s Heir. We have no evidence that the man from Stratford knew Watson. We do have evidence that Watson and Marlowe were not only very good friends, they were both under the patronage of the Walsinghams. It is well known that Watson may have saved Marlowe’s life in the “Bradley duel” in 1589. When Watson died in 1592 his Latin epic Amintae Gaudia was seen through the press by Marlowe.

In the wake of Francis Walsingham’s death in 1590, Thomas Walsingham took on the burden of forming a new co-operational intelligence network between Lord Burghley and Essex, whose comrade Southampton was always nearby. There is no known relationship between the Stratford man and Southampton, but this contextual setting gives us a more solid ground for the use of Southampton as the dedicatee of the first published work under the Shakespeare name than any connection orthodox Shakespeare scholars have surmised between Southampton and the man from Stratford.

Venus and Adonis was entered into the Stationers Register anonymously a few weeks before Marlowe was arrested. The first recorded notice of its purchase is June 12, 1593, thirteen days after his alleged death at Deptford. The name William Shakespeare appears not on the title page where an author’s name was conventionally placed, but as a signature to the dedication to Southampton. John Baker has pointed out that this dedication page is not conjoined with the text, which, he says, “suggests the attribution an afterthought, something hastily added subsequently to the printing of the text”.58 The following lines in the dedication to Southampton seem to be cryptic puns on the fictional burial and eye-wound:
till I have honoured you with some graver labour.
But if the first heir of my invention prove deformed

Sam Blumenfeld says of these lines, “Note that Shakespeare refers to the poem as his ‘first heir of my invention.’ No mention of all the plays attributed to him by future biographers which he was supposed to have written before 1593.”59 Disambiguation of “the first heir of my invention” in the Marlowe context gives us “the first heir of my invented name”.

We know that Marlowe habitually alluded to his previous play at the beginning of a new 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 his preceding play The Massacre at Paris, 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.

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.60 It seems William Shakespeare’s sudden appearance onto the literary scene as a highly developed poet and a lover of Ovid not only dove-tailed into Marlowe’s disappearance from the literary scene and Marlowe’s love of Ovid, but the two-line heroic couplet in Latin on the title page of Venus and Adonis had been excerpted from Elegy XV of Ovid’s Amores that, notably, only Marlowe had translated, and would not be published until 1600-1602:

Vilia miretur vulgus: mihi flavus Apollo
Pocula Castalia plena ministret aqua.61


In his translation Marlowe wrote these lines as follows:

Let base-conceited wits admire vile things,
Fair Phoebus lead me to the Muses' springs.62


The Muses’ springs are the same Paegafean springs mentioned earlier in the excerpt from Watson’s Eglouge in which he carries on a dialogue between himself and Thomas Walsingham. Roman poets often referred to Apollo as Phoebus (shining light). A less poetic but more literal translation of Ovid’s Latin used on the title page of Venus and Adonis according to Wraight is: “Let the vulgar admire vulgar things; as for me, tawny-haired Apollo fills my cups from the Castalian springs on Mt. Parnassus.”63 It is, therefore, Apollo who fills Marlowe’s favorite poet Ovid’s cups from the Castalian springs on Mt. Parnassus. Parnassus was the sacred source of literary inspiration and home to the muses for Ovid. Parnassus was also associated with a satirical genre of mock trials in which writers were prosecuted for their stylistic and social crimes—like the exiled Ovid and, as this paper hypothesizes, Marlowe.

A.D. Wraight has shown that the lines in Ovid’s Amores following those on the title page of Venus and Adonis also dovetailed into Marlowe’s circumstances at that time. She says, “The motto was a cryptic choice, for only those knowing the whole poem and his own tragic circumstances could appreciate the significance of culling the first two lines from this passage.64 Here are the succeeding lines as Marlowe translated them:

About my head be quivering myrtle wound,
And in sad lovers' heads let me be found.
The living, not the dead, can envy bite,
For after death all men receive their right:
Then though death rakes my bones in funeral fire,
I'll live, and as he pulls me down, mount higher. 65


Considering Marlowe’s arrest and mounting crisis around the two informers’ accusations occurred within the span of merely twelve days before he suddenly “died” at Deptford, and that the sonnets being explored in this paper seem to reveal he was hurried out of the country, we might speculate it was Thomas Walsingham who wrote the dedication and chose the passage for the title page. The lines take on a relevance they would not have had before Marlowe’s arrest and fictionalized death, just as does the meaning of the name William Shakespeare.

Lines 5-6
You are my All the world, and I must strive,

To know my shames and praises from your tongue,


Traditional: You are the only person who matters to me, the arbiter of what is good and bad in me.66 The editors all agree that shames and praises mean good and bad traits in the poet. Shames, however, is a word a mother might use to her son, not one the poet would likely intend as representative of his good and bad traits. Shames is an obvious extension of the vulgar scandal in line 2.

Marlovian: Unless we believe Shakespeare was the kind of man who would not accept criticism or praise from his friends, the traditional interpretation of these two lines doesn’t ring true and forces the editors to label them hyperbole. It is only when we read these lines as written by Marlowe in his exiled state that they make sense: You are my All the world now that everyone else thinks I’m dead, and I must strive to know what others are saying about my disgraceful death (shames) and future works (praises) from you.

The word “shames” refers to the rumors in England sparked by the fictionalized circumstances of his alleged death. Booth mentions the Elizabethans appeared to make no phonetic distinction between world and word.67 If this is true, Thomas Walsingham is both Marlowe’s All the world and his “all the word”. Sonnet 81 echoes this All the world theme phrase, at the same time confirming the man from Stratford couldn’t have been the writer of the works:

Your name from hence immortal life shall have
Though I, once gone, to all the world must die 68


Recently exiled, the poet is alone and Walsingham is literally his All the world at the time he is writing this sonnet. We are reminded of the following lines in the exile theme group’s Sonnet 29, the age Marlowe was when his fictionalized disgraceful death occurred. The last line below not only negates the editors’ reading of lines 5-6, but also their reading of 112’s theme:

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,
Wishing me like to one more rich in hope,
Featured like him, like him with friends possessed 69


The editors take outcaste state to be a hyperbolic metaphor.70 When Marlowe is understood to be the poet of Sonnet 29 outcaste state becomes concrete because the literal definition of outcast is “exiled”. To couple the word “outcast” with “state” means the poet is exiled from the State of England. This disambiguation of 29 supports 74’s new reading of that fell arrest without all bail shall carry [carried] me away.

Lines 7-8   None else to me, nor I to none alive,

      That my steeled sense or changes right or wrong.

Traditional: Booth gives the usual readings of these lines: (1) None else [is] alive as far as I am concerned, and I [am] alive to no one else, No one else means anything to me, nor do I mean anything to anyone else alive. That my stubborn way of thinking will make no change between right or wrong towards others. (2) There is no one else except you alive that is able to change my stubborn [steeled] resolution [sense] either to what is right, or to what is wrong. Lines 7-8 are a celebrated crux and have been attentively studied and discussed.71 In the Supplement to the Edition of Shakespeare’s Plays (p. 671) George Steevens said of these lines, “The meaning of this purblind and obscure stuff seems to be-You are the only person who has power to change my stubborn resolution either to what is right, or to what is wrong.”72Booth says of this reading, “He extrapolated a reasonable sense from the lines: ‘You are the only person who has power to change my stubborn resolution either to what is right, or to what is wrong.’ Subsequent editors have offered only slight variations . . . Steeven’s gloss is an act of desperation, but I have no more satisfactory explanation to offer.”73

 New: In these two conflated lines where every word has import, the editors take alive to be an adjectival appendage for none else or none in spite of the fact that it is not a necessary word if used in this manner. Considering the reader already assumes none else means those who are alive, I suggest the correct reading is I, to none alive. If we read line 7 as None else to me, nor I, to none alive we find its echo in the concluding line of the sonnet, once his intended error of pronoun reversal has been corrected: That All the world besides you thinkes me dead/I, to none alive. Booth sums up the problems with line 8, stating there is the need to fill in syntactic and logical gaps. He says it remains vague even after exploring several syntactical possibilities, concluding the line is insufficiently precise for telling the reader what is being related to what.73

The clarity of lines 7 and 8 has been sacrificed for ambiguity’s double meaning. Once we make the connection between sense and or to get the sounded censor the meaning of line 8 becomes “my censor’s hardened way of thinking” instead of the traditional “poet’s hardened way of thinking”. Line 8’s my steeled sense and line 10’s my adder’s sense both refer to the poet’s censor Whitgift. The first meaning takes the None else in line 7 to be referring to others Whitgift tortured and/or put to death during the months before Marlowe’s arrest, and the to me as “in my opinion” (the same use of “to me” that we find in Hamlet, Act II, Scene ii: to me it is a prison), which gives us: There is none else in my opinion, including myself since I am alive to no one, That my hardened censor changes his decisions for, whether he’s right or wrong.

A similar meaning is conveyed in Troilas and Cressida, where the word “adders” (line 10) is

coupled with “right and wrong” in Hector’s speech to Paris and Troilas:

The reasons you allege do more conduce
To the hot passion of distemper’d blood
Than to make up a free determination
‘Twixt right and wrong, for pleasure and revenge
Have ears more deaf than adders to the voice
Of any true decision.74

If there were one word the poet would want to disguise more than any other, it would certainly be “censor”. Alex Jack’s observation of the wordplay on Archbishop John Whitgift’s name made by the Ghost in Hamlet most appropriately supports the poet’s aptitude for suggesting “censor” in 112’s line 8 by splitting the word in half (sense or). Jack has shown that Whitgift’s name is split into two words in Hamlet (bold mine):

Ghost: Ay, that incestuous, that adulterate beast,
With witchcraft of his wit, with traitorous gifts,
O wicked wit and gifts, that have the power
So to seduce! Won to his shameful lust
The will of my most seeming-virtuous queen75

 Jack says, “The first Quarto of Hamlet contains a version of this passage, but the word play regarding Whitgift’s name did not appear until after the archbishop’s death and the publication of the Second Quarto. The First Folio’s capitalization makes the pun even bolder: ‘Oh wicked Wit and Gifts’.”76

Here is the First Folio’s version of this passage:

GHOST. I that incestuous, that adulterate Beast
With witchcraft of his wits, hath Traitorous gifts,
Oh wicked Wit, and Gifts, that have the power
So to seduce? Won to this shamefull Lust
The will of my most seeming virtuous Queene
(bold mine)

The context chosen by the dramatist to pun on Whitgift’s name in Hamlet is while the Ghost reveals to Hamlet his murder by King Claudiuis. We find a contextual match in Sonnet 112 where the poet refers to his censor in line 8 immediately after his statement that he is to none alive  at the end of line 7.

The second meaning of line 8 takes the or that drives both ways to be coupled with the word  “changes, rather than the preceding word “sense”, giving it the meaning “over changes” or “make a difference”: That my steeled sense over changes right or wrong. This reading takes the none else at the beginning of line 7 as “there is no one else” and the to me as “in contact with me”: There is none else in contact with (to) me, nor am I alive to anyone, So that my stolen life (steeled sense) can’t change anything whether the charges against me are right or wrong.

Again, we are touching upon the poet’s purposeful ambiguity in the ideational potential of his words. Booth points out that the nondirective context of steeled has allowed the reader progressing toward understanding steeled as “hardened” to touch on various other connotations of steeled, such as “armed in steel” and “stolen”.78My steeled sense sends out two meanings, each dependant on the poet using the ideational potential of steeled and sense: (1) If we take steeled to mean “cover” (the “helmet” embodied in the name William) and sense to mean sensibilities, then we get “my armored sensibilities” which echoes both line 3’s pun "what care I who calls me will" and the new interpretation of line 1’s the impression fill referring to the pseudonym on Venus and Adonis. (2) This meaning also contains within itself “my stolen life” (the past participle of “to steal”=stolen, senses=life). We can replace “my armored sensibilities” with “stolen life” or even “steeled (knifed) life” and keep to the same intention in the line.

The second quatrain seems to affirm that a great matter has been settled between the two men, the outcome being Walsingham is now Marlowe’s All the world. I suggest Sonnet 111’s double penance to correct correction may have alluded to Marlowe’s argument that he could have won his case before the Star Chamber Court because he knew the contents of the two informers’ accusations were without just cause and wanted Walsingham to renew and cure him so he could answer the charges, but in such a way that Walsingham would not be at risk for having recently fictionalized his death. Walsingham took another route, renewing and curing him by putting the pseudonym on Venus and Adonis. Sonnet 112’s lines 7 and 8 express the poet’s succumbing to Walsingham’s conclusion (guided by Lord Burghley and his son Robert Cecil) that it would be useless for him to “come back to life” and deny the charges whether the charges were right or wrong.

Lines 9-11 In so profound Abysm I throw all care

      Of others voices, that my adder’s sense

     To critic and to flatterer stopped are:


Traditional: Into such a deep or bottomless pit I throw all care of others voices. Turn a deaf ear.79 This interpretation takes profound Abysm to mean emotional depression, which is an echo of the traditional reading of line 1: Your love and compassion heal over the wound scandal gave me. The editors take my adder’s sense as the poet writing of his own refusal to hear, so that his ear to critic and flatterer is stopped. The editors generally refer to Tilley A32 “As deaf as an adder”.80 This expression refers to those who refuse to hear the truth, and comes from Psalms 58:4-5: “the deaf adder that stoppeth his eare . . . Which heareth not the voice of the inchanter.” The editors attribute to the poet a deaf ear in line 10, just as they attribute to him a stubborn sense in line 8.

Marlovian: Line 9 begins the third quatrain, which expresses Marlowe’s resignation to the final decision that he remain “dead”. The new reading translates the meaning as follows: Into this life-changing grave where I am supposed to lie (profound Abysm) I throw my care of others voices (Baines, Drury, Kyd) so that my censor’s (adder’s) hearing/scent (sense) of me to both my critics (Baines, Drury, Kyd) and flatterers (Ralegh’s circle of freethinkers) are stopped. Throwing his cares into his grave, he is no longer under the control of his censor Whitgift.

Although the editors read profound Abysm as a “deep pit”, the poet is not likely to have used the word “profound” to mean “deep” because it is a diminishing adjective for Abysm, contradicting the “bottomless” notion -although it might qualify for the Bulwer-Lytton (Worst Writers) Fiction Contest award where it would find such stiff competition as “your normal great man” and “his peeved hopeless face”. The word “profound” in this lineprobably means “far-reaching and thoroughgoing in its effect” upon the poet’s life now that All the world thinks he is dead and buried. The Abysm is his fictional grave in which he will be freefalling for the rest of his life. It should be noted here that “Abysm” is the only word in 112 that was italicized in Thorpe’s 1609 edition.

My adder’s sense refers not to the poet, but to the poet’s censor. Immediately before the Psalms passage cited by editors we find, “The wicked are estranged from the womb: they go astray as soon as they be born, speaking lies. Their poison is like the poison of a serpent.” One is reminded of the Ghost’s lines in Hamlet: Oh wicked Wit, and Gifts. Considering Whitgift's inquisitorial practices against England's own people were seen by Lord Burghley and others to be actions that threatened the ancient liberties guaranteed in the Magna Carta, and in that sense “bringing the fall of the rights of man” my adder’s sense might also be an allusion to the snake in the Garden of Eden. Booth mentions the Elizabethan lack of phonetic distinction between voices and vices, sense and sins.

I would add to this sense and scents, which touch on the homophonic and might also have had no phonetic distinction at that time. One of the five senses is smell, and this is why sense is used here to mean tracking. Adders are the only venomous snakes in Britain. They strike their prey, inject venom and follow the prey’s scent until it is dead or dying, then swallow it whole. Earlier, the “prey” allusion was found in Sonnet 74’s line 10: The prey of worms, My body being dead. Lord Burghley used the “prey” allusion in a letter he wrote to Whitgift in 1584 regarding the Archbishop’s practices employing the clergy:

I think the Inquisitors of Spain use not so many questions to comprehend and to trap their prey  . . . this kind of proceeding is too much savouring of the Roman inquisition, and is rather a device to seek for offenders than to reform any. This is not the charitable instruction that I thought was intended by you when employing the clergy we so need to fortify our church. Therefore I have willed them not to answer these articles except their conscience may suffer them.81

Now that Marlowe is dead to All the world, Whitgift will stop using Baines to track him, stop using this search as an excuse to track his friends and associates. This reading is a refrain of one of the lines shown earlier to follow those used on the title page of Venus and Adonis “The living, not the dead, can envy bite.” In Marlowe’s time the word “envy” did not mean “jealousy”, but “malice” and “ill-will”, such as in the Merchant of Venice when Antonio says of Shylock: And that no lawful means can carry me, Out of his envy’s reach. 82

That the poet does not think of himself in a sinful sense, as one who refuses to hear the truth, is backed up in exile Sonnet 121’s line 14, where he explicitly tells us he is being defined by frailer spies (Baines and Drury) who have false adulterate eyes and rank thoughts. We have documented evidence of the spy-informer Baines’ “rank thoughts” in the form of his confession at Rheims. The exerpts below reveal an interesting parallel to his “Note” that accuses Marlowe of heresy:

I most delited in prophane writers and the worst sort of them, such as ether wrot against the truth or had least tast of religion, . . . through nouelties of wordes ioyned with pretty prouerbs, termes and mocking taunts, wherevnto by natural inclination and by my said prophane usage I was much giuen . . . I began to mocke at the lesser points of religion, which is the high way to Heresie, Infidelitie & Athisme . . . to vtter diuers horrible blasphemies in plaine termes against the principal points of religion . . . 83


The following lines from Sonnet 121, mentioned earlier, also support the theory that the poet is not speaking of his own refusal to hear the truth:

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


It is also supported in exile Sonnet 125’s couplet, where he says he is a true soul and the man who impeached his character was a paid informant:

Hence, thou suborned informer! a true soul
When most impeached stands least in thy control.

Suborned means “bought, paid to bear false witness”. In the sixteenth century careers were made out of gathering libelous information. When making the observation Baines’ Note was a typical informer’s indictment used in character assassination, A.D. Wraight ssays, “not one of the obscene opinions accredited to Marlowe in Baines’ Note is original to Marlowe. Every single one of these specifically scurrilous anti-Christian statements has been lifted from some clerical authority. And not only were they available in print, but several of them were widely known and are even quoted in Elizabethan secular literature.”84 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”.88 In his book Christopher Marlowe and Richard Baines: Journeys Through the Elizabethan Underground, Roy Kendall says:

[Because] 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”.85


More to the point, if Buckhurst knew that Baines knew the name of the Dutch Church libeler, why didn’t Buckhurst just ask Baines himself? It is 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' about Richard Cholmeley, in which Marlowe is accused of inciting others to atheism.86


Katherine Duncan-Jones expresses the general editorial consensus of 125’s couplet when she defines suborned informer as  “bribed false witness, hired spy” and impeached “challenged, accused of treason or other major crime”.87 After giving this definition that so aptly fits Marlowe’s case, she concludes the suborned informer is an abstract reference to Time, just as the editors (Duncan-Jones included) interpreted 74’s a wretches knife as an abstract reference to Time or Death.

After Richard Baines impeached Marlowe’s character, thus exposing him to a Star Chamber inquisition and torture which forced him into exile, he was set free to write under his pseudonym without the same fear of censorship. This gives a literal reading to 125’s couplet where the poet states he stands least in thy control, andsupports the new reading of 112’s line 9, where, throwing his cares into this grave, the poet is no longer under his censor’s control. Needless to say, there is a great deal of speculation around Baines’ motives. Should one read Sonnet 125 as referring to Baines, we learn he was paid informant, which, by default, means his accusations are of little weight.

Booth says that, although the informer’s sudden presence in the couplet can be explained, his suddenness feels unrelated to the argument of the first twelve lines88 The suborned informer’s sudden appearance in the couplet has mystified editors because it seems out of context to the rest of the sonnet, a non sequitur, just as was Thorpe’s original printing of 112’s y’are dead in the last line. Vendler reads the couplet as being part of an impersonal “aesthetic strategy” of 125, and applies a purely literary purpose to the couplet, saying, “Thematically, 125 expresses unequivocally its preference for the simple [English words over the Latin].” She goes on to give the Latin meaning for informare “To give a form to a legal charge against someone”, and the Latin meaning for impeach “fetter the feet of”, concluding that the couplet’s declaration is purely literary in meaning, “it is when the Latinate is being most Latinate that the English is least threatened”.89

When 125 is read in the Marlowe context, the couplet is no longer a non sequitur, it is a summarization of the preceding quatrains: the suborned informer’s impeachment of the poet has set him free from time-wasting public rituals to lay great bases for eternity through his writing without fear of censorship.

To test the validity of Sonnet 112’s lines 9, 10, and 11’s new reading it is necessary to explore the circumstances around the timing of Baines’ Note and Drury’s Remembrances. 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.”90 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.91

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’.92 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.”93 In 1594, not long after Sonnet 112 was written according to this thesis, Whitgift did, indeed, investigate Raleigh and his friends at Cerne Abbas.94

Line 12  Mark how with my neglect I do dispense.

Traditional: Evans voices the general reading of this line: Observe how I excuse or pardon my indifference (‘neglect’) to ‘others’ voices’ (those of critics and flatterers).95 Some editors read this line as: Observe how I pardon my neglect of you (the sonnet’s recipient), relating it back to Sonnets 109 and 110. Boothe says, “Given the immediate context, it seems unlikely that ‘my neglect’ should be taken to refer to the poet’s lack of constancy, his ‘ranging’, treated in 109 and 110.”96 Duncan-Jones says of this line, “[Observe] how, given my neglect of or obliviousness to (the opinions of others); or, given my condition of being neglected, I excuse myself, or disregard (the world).”97

According to the above readings, the explanation of how he excuses or gets rid of others voices, critics and flatterers, or the sonnet’s recipient will follow in the couplet. The editors’ alteration of the non sequitur y’are in the last line, therefore, becomes the explanation: they are dead. This reading not only depends on the editors’ alteration of the last line, it contradicts their interpretation of line 9, which they interpret as the poet throwing his care of others voices and/or critics and flatterers into a “deep pit”. If that were the correct reading of line 9, why would the poet redundantly tell the sonnet recipient in line 12 to observe how he is going to pardon his neglect of them? He is not neglecting them. He has only told us he no longer has any care of them. He has thrown them away into the editors’ “deep pit”. He cannot neglect voices that are no longer there.

Marlovian: Once the Abysm is understood to be a metaphor for the poet’s fictional grave, he no longer has to be concerned about others voices or critics and flatterers because others think he is dead and burieds. Line 12 does not refer backward to others voices or to critics and flatterers. Line 12 drives forward telling us to pay attention (Mark) how the poet is going to dispense (mete out) his words in the couplet. Following his command that we pay attention to the place in the couplet where with his neglect he will dispense his words, it will be up to us to find this place and correct his error. “Mete out” is especially applicable as an intended meaning for dispense because it implies “meter”, the distribution by syllabic weight of his iambic pentameter in the couplet.

The last quatrain has expressed the poet’s resignation to the final decision he remain dead, the pseudonym had sealed his ore-greening. Sonnet 112’s Volta is signaled by the word “Mark” at the beginning of line 12. Mark is in the last line of the last quatrain, but instead of concluding the quatrain, it moves us forward. It is here the poet introduces the point that moves the theme of the first eleven lines toward the summation of the concluding couplet. The poet signals this Volta with his use of the colon at the end of line 11. A colon is used before an explanation: it is a gate inviting one to go forward. The word “Mark” has several meanings, the obvious one here is “Pay attention”. Another form of the word “mark” is “marker”. A grave marker is one of the words for a gravestone, something that we have never found for Christopher Marlowe. A grave marker is placed over the site of a grave to identify the occupant in the same way Mark is being used in line 12.

Line 13  You are so strongly in my purpose bred,

Traditional: Brought into existence in my discourse or preoccupations (OED).98

Marlovian: Line 13 remains contextually consistent with all preceding lines, however interpreted, so the poet’s purposeful error is not to be found here. This line has a double meaning, one of which was shown earlier to be the key for solving crux line 14 when You are is objectified by placing a “The” before it, which gives us the clue to the poet’s aim (purpose) for the exact spot that needs correction in the couplet: The “you are” is so strongly the purpose for my aimed correction.

The second meaning of line 13 can only be known once the poet’s commanded correction has been  made to the last line, and we have discovered that All the world thinks the poet is dead. This means the You in line 13 becomes the person who caused the poet to be dead to All the world. The sonnet recipient, the You, is so strongly in the poet’s purposes that All the world as well as the recipient thinks he is dead. This is a refrain of Sonnet 74’s When thou reviewest this, thou dost review, The very part was consecrate to thee which was interpreted earlier to mean the part the sonnet recipient played unreservedly and with devotion in the deadly event that caused the poet to be carried away from England. This reading is also in accordance with the new interpretation of lines 7 and 8 expressing the poet’s yielding to Walsingham’s conclusion that it would be useless for him to “come back to life” and deny the charges whether the charges were right or wrong.

It is possible line 13 alludes not only to the act of faking Marlowe’s death but to the cause, which would be related to his work for the State: You are so strongly in my purpose (as a dramatist and intelligence agent) bred (cause) that all the world besides (as well as) you thinks me dead. It is difficult to believe that Sir Francis Walsingham and Lord Burghley would have used a man with Marlowe’s writing talent as a common spy when his most practical use to the State would have been through the medium of drama. In Shakespeare and the Politics of Protestant England, Donna B. Hamilton has shown the struggle for religious freedom in England is the concern of several Shakespeare plays: The Life and Death of King John, The Comedy of Errors, and Twelfth Night. She states that these plays are ideologically similar to the “nonconformist” tradition of religious freedom associated with Leicester, Sidney, Essex, Southampton, and Pembroke.99 I would add to this Lord Burghley who stood for the Magna Carta, and Sir Francis Walsingham who was aligned with Leicester and the nonconformist Puritan faction. The evidence that at least two of Marlowe’s plays were related to State concerns will support the new interpretation of the couplet, while giving further motive for saving Marlowe by fictionalizing his death.

Edward II

We know that in 1583 Sir Francis Walsingham made the journey to Scotland where he conferred privately with the young King James in order to countercheck the influence of Spain on him. Walsingham’s foremost concern was James’ relationship with his second cousin Esme Stuart who was the king’s strongest political influence. Stuart had been sent to Scotland by the Duke of Guise in order to restore French (Catholic) interests. Walsingham later wrote a report for the Queen detailing his communication with James, the theme of which is echoed in Marlowe's play Edward II. I’ve put part of what Francis Walsingham said to the King here:

That therefore divers princes . . . have been deposed, for that being advised to remove the said counselors from them rather than to yield to them, have been content to run any hazard or adventure, whereof both the histories of England and Scotland did give sufficient precedents . . . That as subjects are bound to obey dutifully so were princes bound to command justly; which reason and ground of government was set down the deposition of Edward the Second, as by ancient record thereof doth appear.100

Sir Francis Walsingham’s “said counselors” that might induce a “young prince” to “run any hazard or adventure” refers to James’ close relationship with Stuart. James was in the line of succession to the English crown; therefore, his attitude about governance was of extreme importance to all the men Marlowe worked for in the secret service. The above excerpt, with its, “which reason and ground of government was set down the deposition of Edward the Second” suggests the purpose of Marlowe’s play Edward II was Sir Francis Walsingham’s. As for Walsingham’s warning to James that princes have been deposed for showing too much favor to “said counselors”, in the play Marlowe has Lancaster tell Edward, “Look for rebellion, look to be deposed . . .”101 One of Walsingham’s chief concerns was that King James had showered Stuart with gifts and political power; he’d been made a member of the Privy Council, Gentleman of the Bedchamber, and governor of Dumbarton Castle. In Act I of Edward II we find King Edward saying the following lines that reveal Francis Walsingham’s concern with the giving away of the body politic:

Edward: I here create thee Lord High Chamberlain,

Chief Secretary to the state and me,

Earl of Cornwall, King and Lord of Man . . .

I’ll give thee more; for but to honor thee

Is Edward pleased with kingly regiment.

Fearst thou thy person? Thou shalt have a guard.

Wantst thou gold? Go to my treasury.

Wouldst thou be loved and feared? Receive my seal.102


Massacre at Paris


Sir Francis Walsingham was England’s Ambassador to France when eleven year-old Thomas Walsingham came to live with him. Together they saw the massacre of Protestant Huguenots in Paris streets on Saint Bartholomew's Day. Marlowe wrote Massacre at Paris in 1592, the year before he was arrested at Thomas Walsingham’s home. In The World of Christopher Marlowe, David Riggs says of his sources for this play:

“He had an intimate, firsthand knowledge of the feud between King Henri III and the Guise. Much of the factual material in the latter part of The Massacre can only be verified by recourse to confidential sources in the State Papers. Marlowe obtained this information by word of mouth from men who had been witness to these events. In contrast to the Partisian accounts of protestant and Catholic pamphleteers, he gives an even-handed, densely factual report on the feud. The brief documentary scenes that succeed one another in The Massacre At Paris resemble diplomatic dispatches; these were the raw materials of intelligence field work.”103


Whatever the specific causes, Marlowe’s work as a playwright and intelligence agent was so strongly in his purpose bred that he is now “dead” to all the world.

Line 14  That all the world besides me thinkes y’are dead.

Traditional: Booth says this line doesn’t make ready sense without emendation.104 Most editors have rewritten it: That all the world besides methinks they are dead, or they simply leave out the “they” altogether and give us an “are dead”. Although the editors have gone to great lengths altering the me thinkes and y’are to fit their reading of the sonnet, their emended line cannot be what the poet intended because it depends upon besides meaning “except”, and Peter Farey has pointed out the meaning for besides most often used by Shakespeare was “as well” or “as well as”, never “except”. The line’s revision coupled with the mis-reading of “besides” combine to give us a double negative of the traditional reading.

Marlovian: This line is not merely non sequitur, it is antithetical to the spirit of the previous lines, which suggests the poet placed his intended error here. It is because the editors don’t see the poet stating he is about to make an intended error somewhere in the couplet that they have altered the seemingly meaningless y’are to “they are”. Once we understand the seemingly meaningless placement of y’are to be the poet’s intended error, and we reverse the pronouns, the line becomes thematically consistent with the sonnet’s you are my all the world theme. The new interpretation is best read along with preceding line 13:

You are so strongly in my purpose bred
That all the world as well as you thinkes me dead.


This new interpretation of line 14 resolves the traditional reading’s contradictions by providing a clear and startling summation of all the previous lines when we take Sonnet 112 to be Marlowe’s response to discovering they have put the name William Shakespeare on his works. This reading of the last line is supported by the new interpretation of lines 1-4 and 8’s allusions to the pseudonym. It is a tongue-in-cheek or bitingly sarcastic line. Instead of finding a legal channel with which to resurrect Marlowe, Burghley/Cecil/Walsingham decided to keep him dead, hence sealing (ore-greening) his grave with the pseudonym William Shakespeare.

Line 14 was written by a man who knew full well the purpose of faking his death was twofold: to save his life and to protect the people behind the event. There is no telling what a man will say or agree to while under torture. Marlowe’s knowledge of secret intelligence, or words put into his mouth while under torture, would have put them all at risk at a time when there was not only a power struggle between the Whitgift/Burghley factions, but while Lord Burghley was working behind the scenes toward Scotland’s King James eventual succession to the throne in spite of the Queen’s prohibition on the subject.

Walsingham’s use of his own employee Frizer as the killer in the faking of Marlowe’s death left him vulnerable, just as Lord Burghley and Robert Cecil were left vulnerable after using their man Poley as a “witness” to the event when he was supposed to have been working for them in the Netherlands. They all must act as if they think the poet is dead; therefore, they cannot plead Marlowe’s case with members of the Privy Council in an attempt to correct their correction (Sonnet 111) of the lies in Baines’ Note, Drury’s Remembrances, and Kyd’s accusations while under torture.

When we take the couplet in the Marlowe context it is revealed to be a paraphrase of the motto on the Cambridge portrait thought to be of Christopher Marlowe: That which nurtures me destroys me.

You are so strongly in my purpose bred
That all the world as well as you thinks me dead.

That which nurtures me destroys me.

Although Marlowe was the pre-eminent dramatist in England at the time of his alleged death, there is no headstone to be found for him. He had not been convicted of heresy when he “died” so there was no reason for him not to have been buried with a headstone. This is especially true when we consider the man who is supposed to have killed him was his patron’s servant. If Marlowe’s death was not faked, the question must be asked why his employer, patron, and friend Thomas Walsingham did not insure the body of England’s foremost dramatist be taken back to his family in Canterbury for a proper burial. Of course, this could not happen if there was no dead body to take to Marlowe’s family.

Marlowe likely got the idea for his portrait’s motto from the last five words on his favorite poet Ovid’s statue in Tomis, where he died after ten years exile: Here I lie, who played with tender loves, Naso the poet, killed by my own talent. In light of this, the couplet becomes Marlowe’s epitaph etched on the fictional grave Walsingham dug for him, and the profound Abysm of Sonnet 112 is the grave marker we have never found for Christopher Marlowe.

Tombstones in St. Nicholas Churchyard at Deptford




This paper has presented the faking of Marlowe’s death and his continuation under the Shakespeare pseudonym as the given domain in which to apply a new interpretation of Sonnet 112. The hypothesis has been supported within the paradigm of several disambiguated sonnets and 16th century documents. In the process, the traditional reading of Sonnet 112 has been shown to be incorrect. The conclusion is that if William Shakespeare was a pseudonym for Christopher Marlowe, his intentions in Sonnet 112 were close to the new interpretation presented here. An historical context that coincides with this conclusion has been provided.

In his book Ada, Vladimir Nabokov said, “Some law of logic should fix the number of coincidences, in a given domain, after which they cease to be coincidences, and form, instead, the living organism of a new truth.”105 Few sonnet editors mention Thorpe’s 1609 hyphenated Shake-speare name that reveals the possibility of a pseudonym (yet another coincidence), while even fewer remain true to the hyphen in the titles of their sonnet editions. To the coincidences detailed in this paper can be added the fact that Shake-speare’s Sonnets were suppressed after their first edition in 1609. In his book Marlowe’s Ghost, Daryl Pinksen says:

Thorpe published the sonnets, deliberately hyphenating SHAKE-SPEAR and supplying a cryptic dedication. The book went nowhere, disappearing with hardly a trace, despite the fact that by then “Shakespeare” was a tried and true brand name. So too did As You Like It go nowhere in 1600, just after Thorpe’s address to Blount. Both As You Like It and SHAKE-SPEARE’S SONNETS were perceived as threats: the former was stayed from publication; the latter was rapidly suppressed. 106

What we in the 21st century find obscure in these sonnets would have been crystal clear to many of Marlowe’s contemporaries. Thorpe published Shake-speares Sonnets at the time when both Cecil and Walsingham were in powerful positions; Cecil was King James’ Lord Keeper of the Privy Seal while Thomas Walsingham and his wife were the Keepers of the Queen’s Wardrobe. Many of the sonnets would have given away the identity of a pseudonymous Shake-speare, putting both Robert Cecil and Thomas Walsingham under a cloud of suspicion because the Coroner’s Report of Marlowe’s death states their employees were with him when he died.

Historical truth exists as a reasonable approximation of the past. The traditional understanding of history has often proved to be mistaken because nations preserve and teach that which reflects well upon themselves. A nation would prefer its greatest writer to have no personal history than to have it revealed he was exiled for beliefs that did not uphold that of the Church and State of his time. But the circumstance of England’s Post-Reformation and its inquisition, which, although of shorter duration than Spain’s, was occurring at the very time Marlowe was accused of heresy, must be taken into account when considering the authorship question. Marlowe has been studied in isolation, rather than as representing the thinking of many others during the turbulent age of religious reformation that swept Europe. Certainly there is nothing unusual about the world’s greatest writer being a threat to established forms of religion in the sixteenth century, neither was it unusual in that century to use the charge “heretic” or “atheist” to get rid of someone who threatened Church or State.

In Edmond Malone’s time the lack of a literary life  around Shakespeare from Stratford had not yet congealed, Shakespeare’s debt to Marlowe’s unique talent was yet to be fully realized, and the Coroner’s Report on Marlowe’s death had not yet been discovered. One has to wonder, if Malone, the man who set precedence for Shakespearean tradition, had known these things, and if he had known that Steevens’ interpretation of Sonnet 112 was based on a definition for “besides” that Shakespeare never used, and that the archaic English thorn had never been applied by Shakespeare, would he have succumbed to Steevens’ reading of line 14, or would he have stuck to his first reading of 112’s line 14, which was, "The context rather requires that we should read 'That all the world besides you thinks me dead'."

In his book Who Wrote Shakespeare? John Michell, concludes, “Were it not for the record of his early death Christopher Marlowe would be the strongest of Shakespeare candidates.”108The only problem is that Marlowe is thought to have died. And yet we find the author of Shake-speare’s Sonnets telling us repeatedly he is dead to all the world and it is someone else whose name from hence immortal life shall have, someone else whose monument shall be my gentle verse, someone else who still shall live when all the breathers of this world are dead because of the virtue of my pen.  

The absentee Shakespeare is a Rorsch blot upon which many commentators project their own imagined interpretations of his life and Works. These interpretations have depended upon the morality of the times and the predilections of interpreters who wish to see him holding their values rather than upon any concrete information that sheds light on Shakespeare’s values. But there is no reconciling the following lines in Sonnet 33 as being written by the man from Stratford:

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,
The region cloud hath mask'd him from me now.


It was Christopher Marlowe’s triumphant splendour that shone for an hour in the early morn of his life, not the man from Stratford’s. It was Christopher Marlowe who would have written Sonnet 111’s Thence comes it that my name receives a brand, not the man from Stratford. Should we be clinging to the wrong man, we are not only missing the correct interpretation of the works, we are missing the true character and development of the most profound writer who ever lived. We cannot roll back the mists of time to discover the life that gives to airy nothing a local habitation and a name, but the Marlowe case is strong enough to warrant a willing suspension of disbelief and reinterpretation of the Shakespeare works as if he wrote them, if only to see how many more coincidences we might gather. 








Ralph Waldo Emerson: “Writers and Books”: Emerson’s Literary Criticism, ed. Carlson: (1995) University of Nebraska Press. p. 172


2 Stephen Booth: Shakespeare’s Sonnets: Edited With Analytic Commentary (2000) Yale University Press.p. 369. This book provides the most thorough analytic commentary ever written on Shake-speare’s Sonnets.


3 Ibid. p.372     


4 Christopher Wessman: “Marlowe’s Edward II as ‘Actaconesque History’ ” (1999-2000) from Connotations: A Journal for Critical Debate, Vol. 9 p. 15: online at:


5 The New Cambridge Shakespeare: The Sonnets, ed. G. Blakemore Evans (1996) Cambridge University Press. p. 223. Booth (pp. 369-70) believes that 112 may be ‘an unfinished poem’, thus suggesting a reason for the difficulties posed by lines 7-8 and 14.”


6 Stephen Booth: op. cit. p. 364. “Since the construction is highly unidiomatic, Shakespeare might mean to play on my purpose meaning ‘my discourse,’ ‘what I say’ (for purpose meaning ‘discourse,’ ‘conversation,’ see FQ III.iii.4 and ‘listen our purpose’ in the Folio texts of Much Ado III.i.12where it appears in context of bred and of the topics of this sonnet), or conceivably, on my purpose meaning ‘my riddle’ (compare FQ III.x.8: ‘oft purposes, oft riddles he devysd’).”


7 1. The Oxford Shakespeare: The Complete Works, ed. Stanley Wells and Gary Taylor (1986) Clarendon Press. p. 867: That all the world besides, methinks, they’re dead. 2. The Complete Works of Shakespeare: The Cambridge Edition Text, ed. William Aldis Wright (1936) Doubleday, Doran & Company. p. 1418: That all the world besides methinks are dead. 3. The Sonnets: Poems of Love, (1980) St. Martin’s Press. p. 122: That all the world besides methinks are dead. 4. The New Cambridge Shakespeare: The Sonnets, ed. G. Blakemore Evans (1996) Cambridge University Press. p. 88: “That all the world besides methinks th’are dead”.


8 Evans: op. cit. p. 223: Evans says, “The reading here adopted (substantially following Malone) means: That all the people in the world, apart from you (“besides”), are, it seems to me (“methinks”), (as if) dead . . .”


9Edmond Malone: Supplement To The Edition Of Shakespeare’s Plays Published In 1778 By Samuel Johnson and George Steevens, V 1 (1780) London.p. 672  


10Ibid. p. 672


11George Steevens: Supplement To The Edition Of Shakespeare’s Plays Published In 1778 By Samuel Johnson and George Steevens, V 1 (1780) London.p. 672   


12 Malone: op. cit. p. 672


13 The Plays and Poems of William Shakespeare: ed. Edmond Malone (1790) London, printed by C. Baldwin.V 10 p. 283


14 G. Blakemore Evans: op. cit. p. 223


15 Shakespeare has 112 usages for ‘besides’, which I have placed at the end of these notes along with links to the places they are used in the plays so that their contexts can be seen.

16 Peter Farey’s interpretation of line 14 is “That, as well as thinking all the world is dead, I think you are too.” He states, “ . . . this is a possible (if only tongue in cheek) excuse for his neglect of the addressee. After all, who would not neglect someone if they thought him dead?”

17 Stephen Booth: op. cit. p. 365


18 Charles Nicholl: The Reckoning, “The Intelligence Connection” (1995) p. 117

19 J. Leslie Hotson: The Death of Christopher Marlowe, (1925) London: The Nonesuch Press, Cambridge: Harvard University Press. pp. 31-32  

20 Nicholl op. cit. p. 87


21Frederick S. Boas: Christopher Marlowe, A Biographical and Critical Study (1940) Oxford At The Clarendon Press. p. 267. A payment made to Poley, as listed in the Declared Accounts of the Treasurer of the Chamber, which shows that he was in her Majesties service the day the Deptford affair took place: To Robert Poolye upon a warrant signed by Mr vicechamberlayne dated at the Courte xiimo die Junii 1593 for carryinge of lettres in poste for her Majesties speciall and secrete afaires of great ymportaunce from the Courte at Croyden the viiith of Maye 1593 into the Lowe Countryes to the towne of the Hage in Hollande, and for retourninge backe againe with lettres of aunswere to the Courte at Nonesuche the viiith of June 1593, being in her Majesties service all the aforesaid tyme – xxxs.


22 Peter Farey: “Hoffman And The Authorship”, (2008)


23 Conyers Read: Lord Burghley and Queen Elizabeth, (1960) Jonathan Cape Thirty Bedford Square, London. V 2 p. 485. Burghley's letters  were obtained by Read  from Thomas Wright’s Queen Elizabeth and Her Times: A Series of Original Letters Selected From Unedited Private Correspondence, (1838) London. V 2 


24 Read: op. cit. p. 469


25 A.D. Wraight: The Story that the Sonnets Tell, (1994) Adam Hart LTD. pp. 146-147

26 Ibid.

27 Tilley S968


28 Stephen Booth: op. cit. p. 262


29 Clare Asquith: Shadowplay, (2005) Public Affairs, New York. p. xiv


30 Ibid. p. xv


31 The Arden Shakespeare: Shakespeare’s Sonnets, ed. Katherine Duncan-Jones (2004) The Arden Shakespeare. p.258, G. Blakemore Evans: op. cit. p. 180


32 G. Blakemore Evans: op. cit. p. 180


33 Ibid.


34 G. Blakemore Evans: op. cit. p. 180, Duncan-Jones: op. cit.  p. 258


35 The editors interpret 121’s frailer spies in the general: “other peoples’ eyes”. Katherine Duncan-Jones: op. cit. p.121, “People, or people’s eyes, even more faulty or susceptible than myself.”


36 Katherine Duncan-Jones: op. cit. p. 258


37 G. Blakemore Evans: op. cit. p.181


38 G. Blakemore Evans: op. cit. p. 181. Evans reads this line referring back to the dead body in line 11, which is, “Too mean, worthless (because not of the spirit) to be remembered by you.”


39 The editors read these lines as the body’s worth being the spirit that it contains while living, a spirit which is captured in the lines of this sonnet and so remains with the recipient after the poet is dead. The “immortal verse” theme is found in many of the sonnets, but in this particular sonnet that theme disguises the hidden meaning.  


40Helen Vendler: The Art If Shakespeare’s Sonnets, (1999) The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press: Cambridge, Massachusetts and London, England. p. 338 “Like 71 and 72, which imagine the beloved rereading the poet’s lines, 74 implies a hope, on the poet’s part, that the young man’s love will survive the poet’s death, and that the beloved will want to review his lines.”


41 G. Blakemore Evans: op. cit. p. 222 


42 Francis Bacon: “Of Atheism”, (1986) Wordsworth Classics of World Literature. p. 108


43 Like the dyer’s hand may have an intentional double meaning. The second meaning points to his purposefully planting his signature hand in his works. This idea is developed in Sonnet 76:

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?

Invention is the construction of his literary compositions. Weed in the 16th century meant garment. The word “weed” is also used in the plural to denote a widow’s weeds, and is common in Shakespeare. “Let me see thee in thy woman’s weeds,” says Orsino in Twelfth Night, and Titus talks about Rome’s “mourning weeds”. A noted weed means he is keeping to his renowned writing style so that every word almost tells his name, the way the dyer’s hand identifies the dyer’s work in Sonnet 74. These lines in 76 along with 111’s like the dyer’s hand attest to the hand of Marlowe scholars have seen haunting the Shakespeare plays ever since Edmond Malone wrote the first critical analyses of his works; a hand that would become fainter as he continued cultivating his style, especially when we consider how swiftly his play writing developed before 1593. One is reminded of the lines in Sonnet 59 that can be interpreted as Marlowe’s self-consciousness of his known style and his continually evolving hand in the works bearing his pseudonym:

If there be nothing new, but that which is

Hath been before, how are our brains beguil’d,

Which labouring for invention bear amiss

The second burthen of a former child . . .

The last line above echoes many of the references to the faking of Marlowe’s death that are being discussed considering one must “die” before one has a second birth.


44 A.D. Wraight: op. cit. p. 294


45 Katherine Duncan-Jones: op. cit. p. 334. G. Blakemore Evans: op. cit. p. 223 “love and pity i.e. love as expressed through compassion . . ..” “th’impression fill, heal over the wound.”


46 Katherine Duncan-Jones: op. cit. p. 334


47 Booth: op. cit. p. 371


48 Katherine Duncan-Jones: op. cit. p. 334


49Edmond Malone: op. cit. p. 671


50Gerald Massey: Shakspeare’s Sonnets Never Before Interpeted, (1866) London. p. 278. “What do I care how their tongues wag, or reck what they say of me, so that your tenderness folds up my faults as the green grass hides the grave, or the ivy’s embrace conceals the scars of time.” It was Massey who first looked for symbols in the sonnets. In his Shakspeare’s Sonnets Never Before Interpreted (1868), while interpreting Sonnet 111, he said, “Thence it arises that his name has been made the mark of scandal, and his nature has been almost subdued to what it works in, like the dyer’s hand. And here we come upon a striking example of the way in which the ‘pith and puissance” of the sonnets have been unappreciated and unperceived. They have been read as imagery alone, images painted on air and not founded on facts, without any grasp of the meaning which the images were only intended to convey and heighten, whereas the value of Shakspeare’s images lies in their second self, and this has so often been invisible to the reader.” Massey interprets many of the sonnets around his idea that much of the symbolic content came from Shakespeare’s life at the court, for which we have no evidence. So we find that, although Massey showed foresight by telling us to look at the symbols in relation to Shakespeare’s life to form our contexts for the sonnets, he built his contextual interpretations upon the sands of an assumed life.


51 Stephen Booth: op. cit. p. 362


52 Peter Dawkins: The Shakespeare Enigma (2004) Polair Publishing, Cambridge University Press. p. 112


53 Thomas Watson: Meliboes (in Latin), he later translated it into English as An Eclogue Upon the Death of the Right Honorable Sir Francis Walsingham, 1590. The English version is dedicated to Lady Frances Sidney, Sir Francis Walsingham’s daughter who married Essex the year her father died. The excerpts from the poem used in this paper are from Watson’s English translation An Eclogue.


54 Thomas Watson: Poems: “An Eglogve Vpon the death of the Right Honorable Sir Francis Walfingham” (1895) ed. Edward Arber (Arber’s English Reprints), Westminster A. Constable and Co. p. 153


55 Ibid. “Meliboevs” p. 161


56 Ibid. p.175


57 The Complete Poems of Sir John Davies, ed. Rev. Alexander B. Grosart (1876) Chatto and Windus, London. V 2 p. 12-13


58 John Baker: “On Marlowe’s Authorship of Venus and Adonis”, In this essay Baker has made pertinent observations of the Kentish images and setting in Venus and Adonis.

59 Samuel Blumenfeld: The Marlowe-Shakespeare Connection, (2008) McFarland & Company. p. 230

60 Marlowe Society:


61 William Shakespeare: Venus and Adonis, (1593) Richard Field.


62 A.D. Wraight: op. cit. p. 357


63 Ibid.


64 Ibid.


65 Christopher Marlowe: The Complete Poems and Translations, Ed. Stephen Orgel (2007) Penguin Classics.


66G. Blakemore Evans: op. cit. p. 222


67 Booth: op. cit. p. 363


68 Italics mine


69 At another place in Watson’s Eglogue Thomas Walsingham’s character Tityrus complains of Sir Francis’ death in a tone similar to Sonnet 29’s:

I all alone in darksome unknown place,

I all alone must like the Turtle Dove,

Whose joy is slain, Bewail my wretched case,

And pour out plaints against the Gods above . . .

When we consider that Shakespeare is known as “Watson’s heir” it is interesting to compare I all alone in darksome unknown place/Bewail my wretched case with 29’s I all alone beweep my outcast state. Tityrus(Thomas Walsingham) pours out his complaints against the Gods above mourning Sir Francis Walsingham’s death, while the poet of 29 troubles deaf heaven with his bootless cries mourning his disgrace (his fictional disgraceful death). Both Tityrus and the poet of Sonnet 29 compare themselves to birds, Tityrus to the Turtle Dove, the poet of 29 to the lark.

70G. Blakemore Evans: op. cit. p. 141 “outcast state condition or status, (1 rejected by Fortune), (2) socially looked down on (as not a gentleman or perhaps as an actor).”

71  Booth: op. cit. p. 363-366.


72 George Steevens: op. cit. p. 671.


73 Booth: op. cit. p. 365


74 Troilas and Cressida: Act II, scene ii:


75 Hamlet: Act I, Scene v

76 Alex Jack: op. cit. p. 10


77 The Complete Works of William Shakespeare: The Tragedie Of Hamlet, Prince Of Denmarke, (1953) The Nonesuch Press: Text established by Herbert Farjeon, Introduction Ivor Brown. Act I Scene V p.580


78 Booth: op. cit. p. 367. In support of this, he refers the reader to Sonnet 24’s use of steeled on page 369 of his book, where he suggests that, although the spelling is different, the poet may have given stelled (steeled) a triple meaning by using steeled to mean “styled” “stolen” and “engraved”: Mine eye hath played the painter and hath stelled, Thy beauty’s form in table of my heart. In other words, thy beauty’s form has been stolen by the poet and is both styled and engraved in his heart.


79 G. Blakemore Evans: op. cit. p. 223


80 Duncan-Jones: op. cit. p. 112


81  Conyers Read: op. cit. p. 295 

82 Merchant of Venice: Act 4, Scene I, line 10

83 Roy Kendall: Christopher Marlowe and Richard Baines: Journey Through The Underground, (2004) Fairleigh Dickinson University Press. Appendix D: Here Kendall gives the following information in endnote 15 (chapter 3) for this document: The first edition of the Concertatio, dated "Avgvstae Trevirorvm, Apud Emundum Hatotum, An.1583” (BL, Catalogue no. 86O.b.9) does not contain the "Palinodia Richardi Bainaei” of the 1588 edition. However, Baines's written recantation was reprinted the year after Marlowe's death in the 1594 edition (BL, 697 e.13). This edition also contains the "Palinodia Antonii Tyrelli.”


84 A.D. Wraight: op. cit. p. 268

85  Roy Kendall: op. cit. p. 230

86 Peter Farey: “ ‘The Reckoning’ Revisited”, (2002)

87  Katherine Duncan-Jones: op. cit. p. 363

88 Stephen Booth: op. cit. p. 429

89 Helen Vendler: op. cit. p. 531

90 An Advertisement written to a Secretary of My L. Treasurer, (1592) Antwerp. P. 18.

91  Charles Nicholl: op. cit.  pp. 293-294.


92 BL Harley MS.6848 f.190r,v


93 Austin Gray: “Some Observations on Christopher Marlowe, Government Agent”, (1928), Inc. V 43


94 Raleigh Trevelyan: Sir Walter Raleigh, (2004) Holt, Henry & Company. pp. 198-99.

The thinking of Marlowe’s educated “freethinking” peers is illustrated by a conversation that took place two months after Marlowe’s alleged death at a supper party given by the Deputy Lieutenant of Dorset which Sir Walter Ralegh and his brother Carew attended. For the preservation of this supper conversation we are indebted to one Reverend Ralph Ironside, minister of Winterbottom, who wrote “a full record of this dangerous conversation” down afterward, and later gave it to the Privy Council.

During the course of conversation at the table Sir Ralph Horsey reproached Carew for his “loose talk”, saying the Latin equivalent of “Evil talk corrupts good manners”. Carew asked the Reverend Ironside what he meant, and Ironside replied, “The wages of sin is death.” Carew pointed out that death is common to all, saint or sinner, to which Ironside responded that life which is properly the gift of God through Jesus Christ is life eternal, “so that death which is properly the wages of sin is death eternal, both of the body and soul also.”

At this point Carew said, “Soul. What is that?” Ironside replied, “Better it were that we would be careful how the souls might be saved than to be curious about finding out their essence.”

Sir Walter Raleigh now joined in, saying that Ironside should answer his brother’s question, and, “I have been a scholar some time at Oxford, I have answered under a Bachelor of Arts, and had talk with divers; yet hitherto in this point {regarding what the soul of man is} have I not by any been resolved. They tell us it is primus motor, the first mover in a man.” Ironside replied with a quote from Aristotle, which Raleigh rejected as “obscure and intricate.”

To this Ironside replied, “Plainly the reasonable soul is a spiritual and immortal substance breathed into man by God, whereby he lives and moves and understandeth, and so distinguished from other creatures.”

“Yes,” said Ralegh, “But what is that spiritual and immortal substance?”

“The soul,” replied Ironside.

To this circular reasoning, Ralegh said, “Nay, then, you do not answer like a scholar.”

Ironside concluded his part in the dialogue saying, “Nothing more certain in the world than that there is a God, yet being a spirit, to subject him to the sense otherwise than perfected it is impossible.”

“Marry,” said Raleigh, “There two be alike, for neither could I learn hitherto what God is.”

95 G. Blakemore Evans: op cit. p. 223.

96 Ibid.


97Duncan-Jones: op. cit. p. 334


98 Duncan-Jones: op. cit. p. 112


99 Donna B. Hamilton: The Politics of Protestant England, (1992) University Press of Kentucky. pp. 20-29


100 Conyers Read: Mr. Secretary Walsingham and the Policy of Queen Elizabeth, (1925) Oxford, The Clarendon Press. V II pp. 215-219


101 Christopher Marlowe: Edward II, Act II, Scene ii


102 Ibid: Act I, Scene i

103 David Riggs: The World of Christopher Marlowe, (2004) Henry Holt & Company, LLC. p. 313


104 Booth: op. cit. p. 368


105 Nabokov: Ada (1990) Vintage. p. 361


106  Daryl Pinksen: Marlowe’s Ghost, (2008) iUniverse Incorporated. p. 204


107 John Michell: Who Wrote Shakespeare?, (1996) Thames and Hudson. p. 239



Shakespeare’s 112 Usages for the Word ‘besides’:

Revels his addiction leads him: for, besides these   Othello: II, ii

Were rich and honourable; besides, the gentleman   The Two Gentlemen of Verona: III, i

Yea, and furr’d moss besides, when flowers are none,   Cymbeline: IV, ii

I am an ass, I am a woman’s man and besides myself.   The Comedy of Errors: III, ii

Upon the beauty of all parts besides,   King Henry IV, part I: III, i

To dinner: besides your cheer, you shall have   Merry Wives of Windsor: III, ii

The duke must grant me that: besides, his picture   King Lear: II, i

Of my complexion. besides, she uses me with a more   Twelfth Night: II, v

Marry, sir, besides myself, I am due to a woman; one   The Comedy of Errors: III, ii

He hath indeed, almost natural: for besides that   Twelfth Night: I, iii

besides, the lottery of my destiny   Merchant of Venice: II, i

besides, I met lord bigot and lord salisbury,   King John: IV, ii

besides this treasure for a fee,   Pericles, Prince of Tyre: III, ii

And say besides, that in aleppo once,   Othello: V, ii

And his old hate unto you; besides, forget not   Coriolanus: II, iii

Who with his fear is put besides his part,   Sonnets: XXIII

Who’s there, besides foul weather?   King Lear: III, i

Where you’ll be loath to be: besides you know   The Winter’s Tale: IV, iv

What woman’s man? and how besides thyself? besides thyself?   The Comedy of Errors: III, ii

To wit, besides commends and courteous breath,   Merchant of Venice: II, ix

Thou needs must be englutted. besides, in mercy,   King Henry V: IV, iii

This slaughter: besides, they have burned and   King Henry V: IV, vii

They purpose their services. besides, there is no   King Henry V: IV, i

There is besides in roderigo’s letter,   Othello: V, ii

There’s five to one; besides, they all are fresh.   King Henry V: IV, iii

Their minds may change. besides, it were a mock   Julius Caesar: II, ii

The love of him, and this respect besides,   King John: V, iv

The king has sent me otherwhere: besides,   King Henry VIII: II, ii

That she shall have; besides an argosy   The Taming of the Shrew: II, i

That makes me ugly; and, besides, the moor   Othello: V, i

That all the world besides methinks are dead.   Sonnets: CXII

Than three great argosies; besides two galliases,   The Taming of the Shrew: II, i

Such gallant chiding: for, besides the groves,   A Midsummer Night’s Dream: IV, i

Sir stephen scroop, besides a clergyman   King Richard II: III, iii

Shillings an ell. you owe money here besides, sir   King Henry IV, part I: III, iii

Respecting her that’s gone. besides, the gods   The Winter’s Tale: V, i

Quite besides   Cymbeline: II, iv

Present itself; a devilish knave. besides, the   Othello: II, i

Of cneius pompey’s; besides what hotter hours,   Antony and Cleopatra: III, xiii

Not bear the knife myself. besides, this duncan   Macbeth: I, vii

My speech, for besides that it is excellently well   Twelfth Night: I, v

Loves woman for, besides that hook of wiving,   Cymbeline: V, v

Is there not besides the douglas? have I not all   King Henry IV, part I: II, iii

If I know this, know all the world besides,   Julius Caesar: I, iii

I think, than you make a woman: besides he brings   As You Like It: IV, i

I fear it much; and I do fear besides,   Toilus and Cressida: III, ii

How now, sweetheart! who’s at home besides yourself?   Merry Wives of Windsor: IV, ii

He owes nine thousand; besides my former sum,   Timon of Athens: II, i

Full fifteen hundred, besides common men.   King Henry V: IV, viii

From my remembrance. and, besides, the king   Cymbeline: IV, iv

Eight hundred five. besides, their writers say,   King Henry V: I, ii

Desire to lay my bones there. besides, the penitent   The Winter’s Tale: IV, ii

But what thou art besides, thou wert too base   Cymbeline: II, iii

Bound to him as i. besides this nothing that he so   As You Like It: I, i

besides, you know, it draws something near to the   Measure for Measure: I, ii

besides, you grow dishonest.   Twelfth Night: I, v

besides, this sorrow is an enemy,   Titus Andronicus: III, i

besides, this place is famous for the creatures   The Winter’s Tale: III, iii

besides, the sore terms we stand upon with the gods   Pericles, Prince of Tyre: IV, ii

besides, the seeing these effects will be   Cymbeline: I, v

besides, the king hath wasted all his rods   King Henry IV, part II: IV, i

besides, the king’s name is a tower of strength,   King Richard III: V, iii

besides, the fashion of the time is changed--   The Two Gentlemen of Verona: III, i

besides, our nearness to the king in love   King Richard II: II, ii

besides, our hands are hard.   As You Like It: III, ii

besides, I will be sworn these ears of mine   The Comedy of Errors: V, i

besides, I like you not. if you will know my house,   As You Like It: III, v

besides, I heard the banish’d norfolk say   King Richard II: IV, i

besides, I have some business in the town.   The Comedy of Errors: IV, i

besides, his expedition promises   Timon of Athens: V, ii

besides, his cote, his flocks and bounds of feed   As You Like It: II, iv

besides, he tells me that, if peradventure   Measure for Measure: IV, vi

besides, he says there are two councils held;   King Richard III: III, ii

besides, he hates me for my father warwick;   King Richard III: IV, i

besides, we’ll cut the throats of those we have,   King Henry V: IV, vii

besides, virginity is peevish, proud, idle, made of   All’s Well that Ends Well: I, i

besides, upon the very siege of justice   Measure for Measure: IV, ii

besides, to be demanded of a sponge! what   Hamlet: IV, ii

besides, thy staying will abridge thy life.   The Two Gentlemen of Verona: III, i

besides, they are our outward consciences,   King Henry V: IV, i

besides, she did intend confession   The Two Gentlemen of Verona: V, ii

besides, possessed with the glanders and like to mose   The Taming of the Shrew: III, ii

besides, old gremio is hearkening still;   The Taming of the Shrew: IV, iv

besides, it should appear, that if he had   Merchant of Venice: III, ii

besides, if things go well,   Coriolanus: I, i

besides, i’ll make a present recompense.   Merry Wives of Windsor: IV, vi

besides, her intercession chafed him so,   The Two Gentlemen of Verona: III, i

besides, antonio certified the duke   Merchant of Venice: II, viii

besides, all french and france exclaims on thee,   King Henry VI, part I: III, iii

besides this present instance of his rage,   The Comedy of Errors: IV, iii

besides the things that we have heard and seen,   Julius Caesar: II, ii

besides the thane of cawdor. but ‘tis strange:   Macbeth: I, iii

besides the king to effect your suits, here is man   The Winter’s Tale: IV, iv

besides the gods, for this great miracle.   Pericles, Prince of Tyre: V, iii

besides the applause and approbation to which,   Toilus and Cressida: I, iii

besides yourself, to like of. but I prattle   The Tempest: III, i

besides two thousand ducats by the year   The Taming of the Shrew: II, i

besides these, other bars he lays before me,   Merry Wives of Windsor: III, iv

besides I say and will in battle prove,   King Richard II: I, i

besides himself, are all the english peers,   King Richard II: III, iv

besides her urging of her wreck at sea,--   The Comedy of Errors: V, i

Are like to dance these three days; besides the   King Henry VIII: V, iv

Are bred better; for, besides that they are fair   As You Like It: I, i

And I confess besides I am no maid:   Measure for Measure: V, i

And had, besides this gentleman in question,   Cymbeline: I, i

Alas, sir, how fell you besides your five wits?   Twelfth Night: IV, ii

‘this is put forth too truly:’ besides, I have stay’d   The Winter’s Tale: I, ii

Watching! in this slumbery agitation, besides her   Macbeth: V, i

besides—i ha’ not since put up my sword--   Julius Caesar: I, iii

‘was’ is not ‘is:’ besides, the oath of a lover is   As You Like It: III, iv

besides, you waste the treasure of your time with   Twelfth Night: II, v



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