King Edward the Third's son, Edward The Black Prince, is entombed at Canterbury Cathedral.
As a member of the Cathedral choir and a scholar at King's School, Marlowe had been steeped
in the visual imagery of England's history since childhood.
Here we find part of Marlowe's
motive for writing the play Edward the Third. Surely Marlowe often stood gazing down in awe
at this effigy of the Black Prince which resides behind the choir stalls where he sang at fifteen
years of age. He probably read the Black Prince's Epitaph inscribed around the effigy many times:

Such as thou art, sometime was I.
Such as I am, such shalt thou be.
I thought little on th'our of Death
So long as I enjoyed breath.
But now a wretched captive am I,
Deep in the ground, lo here I lie.
My beauty great, is all quite gone,
My flesh is wasted to the bone.

Marlowe's Authorship of Edward the Third According to A.D. Wraight

A synopsis and commentary on Chapter 3 of A.D. Wraight’s Christopher Marlowe and Edward Alleyn: "An 'Armada' English History Play".

Cynthia Morgan



 The Documented Evidence

The only documented evidence we have from the time when the anonymous play  Edward the Third was performed tells us Christopher Marlowe was the play’s author. As A.D. Wraight says, Robert Greene’s comments in his 1590 novel Francescos Fortunes precisely match up the author with the play:


Why Roscius, art thou proud with Esops Crow, being pract with the glorie of others feathers? Of thy selfe thou canst say nothing, and if the Cobler hath taught thee to say Ave Caesar, disdain not thy tutor because thou pratest in a kings Chamber.


Just as we would instantly recognize, “Here’s looking at you, kid” as Humphrey Bogart’s line in Casa Blanca, so did Greene’s readers know he was alluding to the great actor Edward Alleyn (Roscius) and the dramatist Marlowe (the Cobler) who wrote the words "Ave Caesar" spoken in the "kings Chamber” during the first act of the patriotic play Edward the Third. It is only because of academia’s misconceptions about Marlowe’s character, and, therefore, his dramatic intentions, that this primary literary evidence has been ignored and Edward the Third has remained in the apocryphal category for so long.

Here we do not find the scholar’s path barred by evidence that has been destroyed by time, but the rare occasion of literary proof spared from the damp of the centuries, yet, astonishingly, academia hasn’t taken Greene’s words into account. The editor of the 1998 New Cambridge Edition: Edward the Third, Giorgi Melchiori, nowhere mentions Greene’s 1590 comments in his introduction to the play. His conclusion that Edward the Third was first performed in 1592 or early 1593 is guesswork based on published reports of the Armada after 1590 and the publication of the play’s text in 1596. We don’t know when Greene’s above comments were written, but since they were published in 1590, the play had to have been performed between 1589-90, closer on the heels of England’s naval battle with the Spanish Armada than Melchiori’s dating of 1592-93.



It is important to get the dates right. Dates are anchors around which primary pieces of evidence gather to prove a case beyond a reasonable doubt. In this instance, the dating of the play’s composition by Greene’s 1590 comments tells us its author had direct access to state reports before they were published. While it is quite possible this access was available to Marlowe who worked in secret intelligence for Lord Burghley and Sir Francis Walsingham, it is quite improbable for the man from Stratford to whom Melchiori and others of the Shakespeare establishment would like to attribute the play. In other words, this is just another marker for Marlowe being the man behind the Shakespeare works.


Academia’s Rejection of Marlowe’s Authorship


Before we get on with A.D. Wraight’s argument for Marlowe’s authorship of Edward the Third, a comparison of her reasoning method to that of various Shakespeare scholars will illustrate how their conclusions concerning Marlowe are often formed by leaving out research that contradicts their hypotheses. A.D. Wraight fearlessly presents opposing views alongside her own and, in the process, fallacious arguments of the Shakespeare establishment are revealed. 













A.D. (Dolly) Wraight standing at the head of the table during a meeting of
The Marlowe Society of England, at Bankside Tavern, London, June 1993

A.D. Wraight Addresses Academia's Rejection of Marlowe's Authorship

While at Harvard in 1936, the historian and literary editor/critic John Bakeless completed his dissertation, “Christopher Marlowe, A Biographical and Critical Study,” which ultimately resulted in two books: Christopher Marlowe, The Man in His Time and The Tragical History of Christopher Marlowe. While Bakeless was a thorough researcher, there are some areas he did not study because he had not realized their importance, and his conclusions were therefore limited. Bakeless rejected Greene’s 1590 comments as pointing to Marlowe’s authorship of Edward the Third. A.D. Wraight responds:


Bakeless . . . dismisses Greene’s allusion as too obscure but misquotes it by omitting the vital clue which is  ‘because thou pratest in a kings Chamber’. He gives only the preceding quotation, concluding with ' . . . and if the Cobler hath taught thee to say Ave Caesar, disdain not thy tutor’. Here he cuts it short with a full stop, where there is none! This enables him to comment that whereas the words 'Ave Caesar' do occur in Edward III they might equally belong to a play now no longer extant. It is of course highly unlikely that any other play, extant or not, would also have these very words uttered in a 'kings Chamber'. 


She goes on to say:

Unaccountably Bakeless also casts doubt on the allusion to Marlowe as 'the cobler', which he says 'may be a taunt against Marlowe’s parentage, but it may merely allude to a fable’. If so, what relevant fable does he have in mind? This is totally to misunderstand Greene’s satire, and it is poor detective work that leads nowhere. And he has, in common with the other erudite critics, failed to notice the striking Armada connection in the play.















A.D. Wraight in Marlowe's home town Canterbury with Shakespearean actor Sir Ian Mckellen


The Marlowe Studies suggests the fable Bakeless may have had in mind was from a story by Macrobius. In his essay “Upstart Crow”: Provenance and Meaning” (1995) David Chandler says:


According to Wilson [John Dover], this passage "combines two stories from Macrobius, one about a crow taught by a cobbler to cry 'Ave Caesar' and the other about Roscius, both widely current in renaissance literature." For this assumption about the provenance of the crow, Wilson drew entirely on a note to McKerrow's edition of Nashe [1904], as his own note makes clear. Although his assumption is very questionable, if not altogether wrong, it remains a part of Wilson's controversial article that has gone unchallenged.


McKerrow’s 1904 assumption has gathered unto itself seeming evidentiary weight in academia by the mere force of repetition. For example, sixty-seven years later, in his William Shakespeare: A Compact Documentary Life, Samuel Schoenbaum states without question, “In Macrobius, Greene found the stories of Roscius and of the cobbler's crow used in Francesco's Fortunes.” 


Chandler says:

As a source for the `Esops Crow' reference in Francesco's Fortunes – and, by extension, the 'upstart Crow' reference in Greene's Groatsworth of Wit – this is not particularly satisfactory. Macrobius' raven and Aesop's crow . . .  appear to have singularly little in common. The pride of Greene's crow, and the point of the allusion, seems to derive from its 'prating in a King's chamber' . . . If Greene imagined Macrobius' reticent raven subsequently `prating in a Kings chamber' (which seems unlikely), the raven does not do so in the story . . . all that matters is what Greene himself meant.


Here we are, back to the vital clue that Bakeless left out (“because thou pratest in a kings Chamber”) when he dismissed Greene's "Crow" and "Cobler" allusions as being too obscure.  Bakeless, Wilson, Schoenbaum, and others seem to be unaware that these identifying comments from Greene do not stand alone, but are part of a sequence of similar allusions by both Nashe and Green. They are attempting to define the meaning of “Crow” and “Cobler” outside of this sequential context when it is the sequence itself that further defines both Greene’s meaning and the identities of the “Crow” and "Cobler". 

A.F. Hopkinson (Shakespeare’s Doubtful Plays) rejects Marlowe’s authorship for the reason there is no Tamburlaine-like rant or bombast in the play. One of the misconceptions about Christopher Marlowe is that his characters are all bombast and rant, even though there is little, if any, in Dr. Faustus, Edward II and The Jew of Malta.

Wraight says, “It is a widely held assumption Marlowe was only capable of writing one type of play, employing a sufficient injection of rant and bombast, with one larger-than-life dominant character, and that he wrote only tragedies since no known comedy has been identified from his pen . . .” It is this assumption, she believes, that has prevented those who have studied Edward the Third to the likelihood he wrote it.

Hopkinson also states that the characterization, dramatic treatment and versification are nothing like Marlowe’s known dramatic work, which doesn’t have the same proportion of rhyming lines that are a feature of Edward the Third. Wraight answers this by showing us how Marlowe’s rhymed lines in the play have the same purpose they did in The Jew of Malta, stating it is when King Edward falls in love with the Countess of Salisbury that rhyme makes its appearance:


It is as though Marlowe is using rhyme as a symbolic device to suggest the dart of Cupid entering the King’s heart, for from the moment that he sets eyes on her he begins to speak in rhyme! Thus we see Marlowe’s use of rhyme as an inspirational device associated with romance. It is interesting to note that Shakespeare’s most romantic play, Romeo and Juliet, is intermittently in rhyme . . . There is also a great deal of rhyme in Love’s Labour’s Lost and in A Midsummer Night’s Dream.


Wraight points out that in Marlowe's The Jew of Malta the character Ithamore, “. . . breaks into verse when in the arms of the courtesan Bellamira”. 


Ithamore. Content: but we will leave this paltry land,
And sail from hence to Greece, to lovely Greece;
I’ll be thy Jason, thou my golden fleece;
Where painted carpets o’er the meads are hurl’d,
And Bacchus’ vineyards o’erspread the world;
Where woods and forests go in goodly green,
I’ll be Adonis, thou shalt be Love’s Queen.
The meads, the orchards, and the primrose-lanes,
Instead of sedge and reed, bear sugar-canes:
Thou in those groves, by Dis above,
Shalt live with me, and be my love.



Wraight says, “The general failure to recognize Marlowe’s style, versification and his idiosyncratic tricks of composition with which the play [Edward the Third] literally abounds, is only matched by the failure of all the critics, not excepting its editors, to note its Armada connection.” She was writing this in 1965, long before Melchiori and others realized the play's allusions to England's 1588 battle with the Spansh Armada. These Armada allusions figure strongly in her hypothesis of the play’s authorship, which she bases on the internal evidence of Marlowe’s style and the external evidence of Greene’s and Nashe’s allusions, along with a never published Armada report “A Relation of Proceedings”. This report was written for presentation to Sir Francis Walsingham, for whom Marlowe worked in secret intelligence. 

According to Wraight, Edward the Third has remained in the Anonymous category for so long because all the evaluations of the play have been superficial studies: 


It is a remarkable fact that of the eminent scholars who have studied this play and pronounced opinions on its authorship, including its editors, not one has commented on its Armada connection which is clearly and undeniably presented in the text — a blind spot that can only be attributed to a lack of historical perspective on the part of the English literary scholars concerned. 


She suggests the 1588 Armada association may have been “obscured” by the play’s publication date of 1596. The Marlowe Studies would add that by extension, this lapse in time might also have obscured academia’s association of Greene and Nashe’s 1589-92 allusions to the play’s author.


16th Century Comments Pointing to Marlowe As Author


Wraight begins her investigation to establish the authorship of Edward the Third with several allusions in the prose works of Greene and Nashe between 1588 and 1592. She traces the source of Greene’s comments aimed at Marlowe back to a play he wrote in imitation of Tamburlaine titled Alphonsus, King of Aragon, which was a flop and jested at by other writers. A few months later the envious Greene took his first stabs at Marlowe in the Preface of his 1588 novel Perimedes the Blacke-Smith. In this Preface we find the progenitor of the heretic-atheist label that has plagued Marlowe ever since. Greene described the dramatist as "daring God out of heaven with that Atheist Tamburlan, or blaspheming with the mad preest of the sonne” and “wantonlye set out such impious instances of intolerable poetrie, such mad and scoffing poets, that have propheticall spirits, as bred of Merlins race”. Greene’s "mad preest of the sonne” was an allusion to Giordano Bruno, that friend of England’s freethinkers whose heretical cosmological theories went beyond the Copernican by identifying the sun as just one of an infinite number of independently moving heavenly bodies. The ideas of men like Bruno are what renaissance thinkers like Marlowe, Raleigh, and their friends discussed. Bruno was eventually burned as a heretic. Marlowe would soon “die” while charges of heresy were being brought against him.

Wraight says of Bruno:

As a renowned mystical philosopher and adept Renaissance magus, Bruno was warmly welcomed by the English intellectuals. He was invited to lecture and discuss his ideas with them at gatherings including Sir Philip Sidney, Sir Walter Raleigh, and Thomas Watson and his partner Sir Francis Walsingham, with many other distinguished Englishmen. Marlowe was then a nineteen-year-old student at Cambridge, but he doubtless read Bruno’s works written during his year in England and dedicated to Sir Philip Sidney, which would have been in Walsingham’s library, if not also among Watson’s books and in the great library of the ‘Wizard Earl’ [The Earl of Northumberland].


Although Greene’s "atheist” was clearly aimed at the character Tamburlaine and not Marlowe, it has become part of academia’s Marlowe myth, which is based on partially revised history. In Who Was Kit Marlowe? Della Hilton says, "The label 'atheist’ came very early, from a jealous playwright [Greene]; and through this playwright misquoted, saying that Tamburlaine 'dared God from Heaven’ when he actually dared Mohammed, the mistake has still contributed to the myth.” 

The Marlowe Studies suggests that Greene is also proven wrong in his "atheist” assessment of Tamburlaine by Marlowe’s use of religious allusions in Tamburlaine’s mourning elegy over the death of Zenocrate, which contains these lines: Now walk the angels on the walls of heaven, The Cherubims and holy seraphims, That sing and play before the King of Kings, The god that tunes this music to our souls, Holds out his hand in highest majesty.

The “atheist” label put upon Marlowe has not been sufficiently studied in a 16th century historical context. Academia seems not to have allowed itself to imagine what it was like for a genius like Marlowe to be born into the bloody reformation and its clashing religions. Scholars all remark upon Shakespeare's seeming distance from his work. This distance is the result of what seems to be his primary interest, dialectic. It would be easy to be mistaken for an atheist in the 16th century when one was, in reality, an educated genius who looked upon the various organized religions as deceitful practices, none of which were the right path to find truth. Truth is what Marlowe and his friends like Raleigh, Northumberland, and Hariot were seeking, and dialectic was the method with which to search for it. Young Marlowe and his friends most likely experienced a growing aversion for organized religions which had caused so much bloodshed and seemed more bent upon tyranny over mankind than precepts of compassion and liberty. In The Alphabet and the Goddess, Leanard Shlain attributes a similar attitude to Abraham, the patriarch of all Western religions:


Among the polyglot of peoples living in Ur was a man named Terah who made his living crafting idols. Given the mélange of religions practiced in Ur – Babylon was, after all, the model for the story of the Tower of Babel – Terah prospered. His artistic skill and political acumen brought him considerable respect. His progression involved carving sacred images onto blocks of wood, a calling that may have militated against Terah’s developing a strong allegiance to any one particular cult. (An idol-maker working among competing deities most assuredly would be among history’s first skeptics.)

. . . Terah had three sons, one of whom was an imposing youth named Abram, who would later become Abraham, patriarch of all the religions of the West . . . Sitting in his father’s atelier practicing his syllabary lessons on clay tablets, Abram watched with bemused interest as foreigners with thick accents placed talismanic orders with his father. His perception altered by his learning, he was perhaps disdainful of the stacked idols in his father’s shop, and looked down on those who believed that something man-made could emanate the spirit of the divine. Witnessing daily the transformation of mute timber into gods and goddesses, Abram might have experienced a growing aversion for idolatry.


Greene assailed Marlowe the second time a year later, 1589, when he had the satirist Nashe write the Preface for his novel Menaphon. Here we find not only an echo of Greene’s former sentiments toward Marlowe, but the first attack on both Marlowe and Edward Alleyn. In this excerpt Alleyn is a "vainglorious tragedian” and Marlowe is his "idiote art-master”:


. . . I impute not so much to the perfection of arts, as to the servile imitation of vainglorious tragedians [Edward Alleyn], who contend not so seriouslie to excel in action, as to embowel the clowdes in a speech of comparison; thinking themselves more than initiated in Poets immortalitie, if they but once get Boreas by the beard, and the heavenlie bull by the deaw-lap. But herein I cannot so fully bequeath them to follie, as their idiote art-masters [Marlowe], that intrude themselves to our eares as the alcumists of eloquence; who (mounted on the stage of arrogance) think to oubrave better pens with the swelling bombast of a bragging blanke verse. Indeed it may be the ingrafted overflow of some kilcow conceipt, that overcloeith their imagination with a more than drunken resolution, being not extemporal in the invention of anie other meanes to bent their manhood, commits the digestion of their cholerick incumbrances . . .


Later in this long Preface Nashe again refers to Alleyn, making the association between him as ‘Roscius’and ‘Caesar’ clear to his readers:


. . . when as the deserued reputation of one Roscius, is of force to inrich a rabble of counterfeits; yet let subiects for all their insolence, dedicate a De profundis euerie morning to the preseruation of their Caesar . . .


Nashe, working for Greene, has picked up the threads of Greene’s 1588 allusions. Most modern academics take Nashe and Greene’s words (like “arrogance”) out of context when they interpret Marlowe’s character, instead of relating the allusions to Greene’s envy of Marlowe’s success and to Marlowe’s authorship of Edward the Third. 

It should also be noted that after Greene’s Groatsworth was published three years later, with its last libelous accusation against Marlowe (“. . . he that hath said there is no God in his heart”) Nashe came to Marlowe’s defense denouncing it as a ‘scald trivial lying pamphlet.” 


Wraight says:


Some critics profess that Nashe’s satirically witty passage is too obscure to be understood by us latter-day speakers of the English language, but in this instance he is surely unambiguous. Greene later referred to Marlowe as ‘thou famous gracer of Tragedians’ (in his Groatsworth of Wit Letter), the ‘Tragedians’ being the actors for whom he wrote his tragic roles, while he, Marlowe, is their ‘gracer’. . . .  Greene’s constant criticism of Alleyn was that he was too proud (vainglorious) and assumed fine airs, whereas he owed all his fame to the playwrights who provided him with superb dramatic texts, and these were poorly paid for their artistic works . . .  What is significant in the above allusion is that Nashe links the well-known synonym for Alleyn as ‘Roscius’ here with ‘Caesar’ which in 1589 is topically relevant to the play Edward the Third . . No one (to my knowledge) has ever read this passage as referring to both Edward Alleyn (the vainglorious tragedian) who played Tamburlaine . . . and Marlowe (the idiot art-master) who wrote the play.” At the time all these allusions were made Marlowe was London’s premier dramatist Edward Alleyn was without rival, and no one else but he is eligible for the accolade of ‘Roscius’ . . . The canting allusions were a language devised by Greene and Nashe in such a way readers recognize the persons referred to, otherwise the lampoons would have fallen on deaf ears.


Greene shot a second barrel in Menaphon’s text where he, as Wraight says, “echoed Nashe’s jibe” at Marlowe through the mouth of his character Melicertus. When Melicertus is wooing Samela, she tells him she has heard that he already loves a beautiful shepherdess in Arcadia, to which he replies: ‘Whosoever Samela descanted of that love, told you a Canterbury tale; some propheticall full mouth that as he were a Coblers eldest sonne, would by the last tell where anothers shooe wrings.’ This allusion further narrows the identity of the “Cobler” who taught “Roscius” to say “Ave Caesar!”

 Wraight says: 

Greene and Nashe twitted Gabriel Harvey as the son of a rope-maker, here Greene is identifying Marlowe by reference to his father’s trade . . . ‘a Coblers eldest sonne” is unmistakably Marlowe – all the connotations are there, and Greene wrote for his readers to understand and enjoy his lampoons, not to obfuscate them. Again he is petulantly referring to the disparaging comparisons made between his play Alphopnsus with Marlowe’s Tamburlaine.

Keeping the allusions in sequence, after this came the 1590 allusion of Greene’s, already quoted: 

Why Roscius, art thou proud with Esops Crow, being pract with the glorie of others feathers? Of thy selfe thou canst say nothing, and if the Cobler hath taught thee to say Ave Caesar, disdain not thy tutor because thou pratest in a kings Chamber.


Wraight identifies “Roscius” as the actor Edward Alleyn, who was often called “Roscius” after the famous Roman actor. She identifies “the Cobler” who taught “Roscius” to say “Ave Caesar” as Christopher Marlowe who was the son of a cobbler, and was often referred to as that. She identifies the play Greene is referring to by the lines “Roscius” spoke containing the words “Ave Caesar” taking place in the “kings Chamber” (a room of state at Westminster Palace where King Edward is deciding to go to war with France). These words and this scene are in Act I, Scene 1 of Edward the Third in which Alleyn played the Black Prince, “. . . whose rousing curtain speech at the end of the first scene announces the martial theme of the play with his exultant cry: “Ave Caesar!” Wraight says there is no other play during that time to which these allusions can possibly apply.

Prince; As cheerful sounding to my youthful spleen 
This tumult is, of war’s increasing broils,
As, at the coronation of a king,
The joyful clamours of the people are,
When ‘Ave Caesar!’ they pronounce aloud


Wraight finds the last allusion supporting Marlowe’s authorship of Edward the Third in Nashe’s 1592 Piers Penniless, where he continues to associate the words “Ave Caesar” with a speech spoken by the actor who is identified as “the Cobler’s Crow” in a play written by the Cobbler:


The Cobler’s Crowe, for crying Ave Caesar bee more esteemed than rarer birds that have warbled sweeter notes unrewarded.


Wraight says most of those who have commented on the authorship possibilities of Edward the Third think Nashe’s allusions in Piers Penniless are “vague” in spite of the fact that “Crow” is another well-known Elizabethanism for an actor. She says Nashe clearly points to the partnership between Edward Alleyn and Christopher Marlowe in 1592 when it would have been understood by his readers: “By 1592 Marlowe had supplied Alleyn with many star roles so to call Alleyn ‘the Cobbler’s Crow’ is apt description for he was repeatedly seen as Marlowe’s actor . . . their special relationship missed by paucity of research devoted to Alleyn.”


Marlowe the Patriot turdorrose

Edward the Third is a moral tale about how to be a good king. Tucker Brooke says the author of Edward the Third, whoever he may have been, was “one of the truest poets and most ardent patriots, certainly, of his generation.” Should we agree that all these allusions from Greene and Nashe provide evidence beyond a reasonable doubt that Marlowe wrote Edward the Third, the paradigm by which we interpret him shifts, and there is no recourse but to see that academia unconsciously disallows evidence contrary to the Marlowe myth housed within its walls: rebel, violent, atheist. It is this myth of Marlowe that keeps even those that doubt the Stratford man was the author of the Shakespeare works and those that doubt the validity of the Coroner’s Report on Marlowe’s death from seriously considering Marlowe lived beyond 1593 and continued evolving as a writer. F.P. Wilson speaks of the diversity of Marlowe’s writing in his Marlowe and the Early Shakespeare:


Too little justice has been done to Marlowe’s sense of decorum or to the variety of his work. Charles Lamb observed, in a conversation reported by Crabb Robinson, that Marlowe’s works are all of a different kind, and it is a true observation. We are apt to forget this because we think too much of his heroes, of the amour de l’impossible, and so on. While every play of his exhibits at least one character with a ruling passion, in every play the style is adapted to the tone and temper of the changing theme. He was not a dramatist who was content to go on repeating the same effects. The style and method of progression in his next play, The Jew of Malta, are entirely different from what we find in Tamburlaine. And who can say what a poet might have done next who spent his last months (as evidence suggests that he did) in writing works as Doctor Faustus and Hero and Leander? 


From Wraight:

Academia holds the assumption that Marlowe was only capable of writing one type of play, employing a sufficient injection of rant and bombast, with one larger-than-life dominant character, and that he wrote only tragedies. Of bombast and rant there is none in Edward the Second. As a matter of fact, there is little of it in any of his plays except for Tamburlaine . . .  where  it has its proper place.


       Academia’s assumption that Marlowe could not have written the moral play Edward the Third is due to its misperception of his character, which it then projects into his plays. Dr. Faustus is normally seen as a projection of his own desires and has rarely been placed into its proper historical context. Samuel Blumenfeld says, “It is inconceivable that Marlowe secretly sympathized with Faustus, as some modern critics have suggested.” Placing Dr. Faustus into historical context is the scholar’s first duty, and Blumenfeld does this:


That Marlowe should write a play based on orthodox Christian doctrine should surprise no one. Six years of intensive study of religion at Cambridge provided him with a foundation of Christian doctrine that would be with him for the rest of his life. Indeed, Marlowe had written a play that would have pleased both Sir Francis Walsingham and Lord Burghley, his governmental benefactors. Both men were devout Protestants who had spent their lives defending the faith against England’s Catholic enemies. 


Another reason academia skirts the possibility Marlowe wrote Edward the Third is the contradictory element “violent rebel” in the Marlowe myth. Della Hilton says, “ . . . too often Marlowe’s plays are read or produced with alleged hindsight, which attributes false meanings to otherwise straightforward passages. For example, Marlowe is described as ‘violent’ when his record, set beside that of contemporaries, is relatively mild and his plays are no more bloodthirsty than the fashion of the time."


Marlowe cannot be put into correct context until proper weight is given to each piece of evidence. Here was a young man of humble origin whose mental acuity caused swift, dramaticly unique leaps in his life -from a cobbler’s home in Canterbury to King's School to Cambridge to the secret service to the best playright on the London stage to the lap of the aristocracy. Secret intelligence at that time was as patriotic as you could get. The threat of Catholic Spain and Rome was great. For the most part this has been ignored by academics whose myth box also contains the element “Marlowe the sleazy spy”. Although his work for the State in secret intelligence put him at risk for his Master’s Degree at Cambridge, academia has made no account of this sacrifice for England.



A high value should be placed on the positive evidence of Lord Burghley’s letter to Cambridge authorities stating Marlowe had done the State good service and commanding they give him his Master’s Degree when rumors abounded at the University he had gone to the Catholic side. Rumor and myth formed around Marlowe from the beginning because of his work for secret intelligence. This extremely positive factor remains under-valued in an academia which ignorantly credits the accusations of the informer Richard Baines, for whom the only evidence known is that he was not to be trusted.

F.P. Wilson says, “It is not impossible to reconcile The Jew of Malta, The Massacre at Paris, Edward II, and of course Doctor Faustus with orthodox Elizabethan morality. Each play presents a character of exceptional power seeking exceptional power-Barabas, Guise, Mortimer, Faustus; they are deterred by no scruples from seeking their end, and in seeking that end they are undone.” Wilson is saying that these plays can be considered moral tales.

       In his book Christopher Marlowe, G.M. Pinciss says:


During the 1590s English Calvinism had been very much in the ascendant, and nowhere was that ascendancy more obvious than at Cambridge University . . . "Contrition, prayer, repentance: what of them?" Faustus asks, and the question Marlowe wrote for his hero echoed the uncertainty over religious beliefs and practices felt by many of Queen Elizabeth's subjects. Indeed, in writing Doctor Faustus, Marlowe reflected the growing debate among Protestants that grew progressively more intense at his university during his years there. For unlike Oxford, Cambridge in the later 1580s was the battlefield on which the Calvinist and anti-Calvinist advocates played out their strategies, and the young Marlowe was surely an impressionable witness. To appreciate the impact of this experience on him, we should know something of what he encountered as an undergraduate--the broad areas of disagreement that separated the various Protestant positions, the intense quarrels over religious doctrine, and the powerful impression created by influential churchmen. And we should keep in mind that what may seem today to be minor differences took on importance because, to a true believer, such matters could prove decisive in the salvation of one's soul; the risks were very high.


The Armada Connection

armadacircleAccording to Wraight, the play Edward the Third was Marlowe’s patriotic celebration of England’s victorious naval campaign against Philip of Spain’s Armada. Just as in 1340 King Edward the Third’s son and his soldiers were outnumbered by the French army, so did the Spanish Armada outman the English with 8,000 sailors on board and 18,000 soldiers ready to invade England’s southern coast, close to Canterbury where Marlowe’s parents and sisters lived. 

The first sign of the Armada connection is Marlowe’s choice of King Edward III as his main character in the drama. Wraight says:


The choice of the reign of Edward III was deliberate, for he was the founder of our navy and wrested the supremacy of the seas from the French and Spanish; and after the battle of Sluys in 1340, in which the English navy totally destroyed the French navy, Parliament awarded King Edward III the title of ‘Sovereign of the Sea’, in commemoration of which he had a gold coin cast bearing the emblem of a ship.” It was this naval victory that gave Marlowe an analogy for the victory over the Spanish Armada. He made use of the historic parallel by transforming the speeches ostensibly describing the decisive naval battle of Sluys in 1340 to reflect the recent great naval battles of 1588.


Marlowe made King Edward’s son, Edward the Black Prince, the joint hero of his drama. It is the Black Prince’s line at the end of the first scene Greene was alluding to when he wrote “and if the Cobler hath taught thee to say Ave Caesar, disdain not thy tutor because thou pratest in a kings Chamber”. Here are the lines in the play:

Prince: As cheerful sounding to my youthful spleen
This tumult is of war’s increasing broils,
As at the coronation of a king
The joyful clamours of the people are,
When Ave Caesar they pronounce aloud.
Within this school of honour I shall learn
Either to sacrifice my foes to death,
Or in a rightful quarrel spend my breath.
Then cheerfully forward, each a several way;
In great affairs ‘tis naught to use delay.


Concerning Marlowe’s motive for writing the play, Wraight says:

His inspiration was doubtless also his own love of history nurtured in him by his Canterbury upbringing and his education under the aegis of the great Cathedral in an environment steeped in history where, as a boy, he would daily have seen the tomb of the Black Prince, his armored figure lying under the magnificent canopy near the choir where the choristers sang. The boy’s education at King’s under such an ardent historian and bibliophile as Dr John Gresshop, the headmaster, would have taught him the historic exploits of the heroic Black Prince. 


Wraight points out that for dramatic purposes Marlowe bends historical events [as Shakespeare does], a technique he had already used in Tamburlaine the Great. It is clear Edward the Third bends history in order to incorporate the analogy of England's recent conquest over Spain. He “abandons” Holinshed’s detailed account of the 1340 Battle of Sluys in favor of incidents that occurred during the fight against the 1588 Spanish Armada. All these incidents are found in a report written for Lord Admiral Howard titled “A Relation of Proceedings”, a twelve-folio manuscript Wraight found at the British Museum, which is now housed at the British Library (Cotton MSS Julius F.X. ff. 95-101). Wraight shows how the incidents in this report are supported by the play’s text, especially in the speeches of the French Mariner when he is reporting the battle to the French King.

It was the Armada’s crescent moon battle formation that had posed the threat to the English navy. The French Mariner’s first sighting of King Edward’s approaching fleet gives the audience a foretaste of what is to come by significantly recalling the Spanish Armada ‘figuring the horned circle of the moon’, whose black-painted ships are here transformed into the colourful assembly of the English navy which is advancing as an invasion fleet (as was the Spanish Armada) sailing in the famous battle formation of the Spaniards in the configuration of the crescent moon:

Mariner. Near to the coast I have descried, my Lord,
As I was busy in my watchful charge,
The proud Armado of King Edward’s ships:
Which, at the first, far off when I did ken,
Seem’d as it were a grove of withered pines;


Wraight says, “This is just how the Armada appeared to those who first saw it in the distance, like a black forest of masts.” The French Mariner continues:


But, drawing near, their glorious bright aspect,
Their streaming ensigns, wrought of coloured silks
Like to a meadow full of sundry flowers,
Adorns the naked bosom of the earth:
Majestical the order of their course,
Figuring the horned circle of the moon:


The Armada Report "A Relation of Proceedings"


Few scholars have seen “A Relation of Proceedings” because it was not one of the Armada reports published after 1590. Wraight states that this is a first-hand report on the entire Armada campaign, written by someone who was an observer and participant with the English navy, as is made clear by the reporter’s use of the personal pronouns “we” and “us” when reporting the “accidents” of the naval battle. Wraight discovered with the report a letter written by Admiral Howard which states it was intended for presentation to Sir Francis Walsingham, “Marlowe’s boss in the espionage service, and for whom he would have been accustomed to write his intelligence reports.” The report would have either been dispatched to Sir Francis Walsingham from aboard the ships of Her Majesty’s navy, or subsequently written. Wraight made a thorough calligraphic comparison between the handwriting of this report, the handwriting of the Massacre at Paris “Collier Leaf”, and Marlowe’s signature on Katherine Benchkin’s Canterbury will, and she concluded these were all in Marlowe’s hand, “demonstrating his prose style, which shows him in his capacity a most able and trusted government agent.” Concerning the authorship of this report, she cites British Naval historian Professor Laughton’s comment:


The identity of the author it is impossible to guess. It is more literary in style than any of the letters written by Howard, or his secretary or his secretary’s clerk.


       Just as the play’s 1340 Battle of Sluys alludes to the 1588 battle with the Spanish Armada, so might the character of the French Mariner in Edward the Third allude to the reporter who wrote “A Relation of Proceedings” for presentation to Sir Francis Walsingham. The French Mariner as reporter is not necessary to the play. The play’s author could easily have had the French King, one or both of his sons, or the Duke of Lorraine describe these events as seen and heard from shore, giving us at the same time further tension development between the main players in this drama.

The idea that Marlowe would have inserted his Armada role into Edward the Third is aligned with Wraight’s belief that he placed the ship he sailed on during the 1588 battle against Spain into the play’s battle that took place in 1340. Not one of King Edward’s ships at the 1340 Battle of Sluys is named in Edward the Third. The only ship named is the Nonpareille, (“Much did the Nonpareille, that brave ship”) which was the flagship of Drake’s second-in command when fighting the 1588 Spanish Armada. Wraight found the Nonpareille mentioned frequently in the report “A Relation of Proceedings”. She proposes that Marlowe used the Nonpareille in Edward the Third ". . . the same way he did not invent a name for a ship to place in the argosy of The Jew of Malta, but chose to put The Flying Dragon, which was in Dover harbor during his childhood, into his play.” 

Wraight lists 7 items in the play’s Mariner’s Tale that follow the “accidents” reported in 1588’s “A Relation of Proceedings”.

The Mariner's Tale


Wraight:  (1) Iron cannon balls and iron cannon were used in the sixteenth century navies. The Queen’s navy still possessed many of these although Wynter had replaced as many as he could with brass culverins the Spanish navy had predominantly iron cannon.


Mariner: My gracious sovereign, France hath ta’en the foil,
And boasting Edward triumphs with success.
iron-hearted navies . . .


Wraight: (2) Admiral meeting Admiral was the opening gambit of the Armada campaign – or so it was intended, when the Lord Admiral’s Ark challenged de Leiva’s capitana of the Levant squadron. La Rata Coronada riding in the port wing facing the enemy in the position of honour and danger, believing that this was the Admiral’s ship. “A Relation of Proceedings” tells us, “the Ark bare up with the admiral of the Spaniards wherein the Duke was supposed to be and fought with her.”

When last I was reporter to your grace,

Both full of angry spleen, of hope, and fear,
Hasting to meet each other in the face,

At last conjoined; and by their Admiral 

Our Admiral encountr’d many shot:


Wraight: (3) This recollects the fierce battle of Tuesday 23rd July when, as Garrett Mattingly puts it, “the roar of the cannon…was like the continuous roll of musketry, and the smoke was blinding.” In this pall of smoke daylight penetrated only intermittently and the noise must have been deafening. “A Relation of Proceedings” tells us “there was neuer seen a more terrible valew of greate shott.”


    By this, the other, that beheld these twain

    Give earnest penny for a further wrack,

    Like fiery dragons took their haughty flight;
    And, likewise meeting, from their smoky wombs 
    Sent many grim ambassadors of death.
    Then gan the day to turn to gloomy night,
    And darkness did as well enclose the quick
    As those that were but newly reft of life,
    No leisure serv’d for friends to bid farewell;
    And, if it had, the hideous noise was such
    As each to other seemed deaf and dumb.


Wraight: (4) In the final battle off Gravelines, the punishment the Armada took resulted in decks strewn with dead and wounded and running blood, the upper works of these galleons “were only musket-proof at best, and by evening they had been beaten to bloody flinders.”


Purple the sea, whose channel fill’d as fast
With streaming gore, that from the maimed fell. 

As did her gushing moisture break into
The crannied cleftures of the through-shot planks.
Here flew a head, dissevered from the trunk,
There mangled arms and legs were toss’d aloft,
As when a whirlwind takes the summer dust
And scatters it in middle of the air.


Wraight: (5) “A Brief Abstract of Accidents” enclosed with Howard’s letter of 7th August reports: “The 30th, one of the enemy’s great ships was espied to be in great distress by the captain of her Majesty’s ship called the Hope; who being in speech of yielding unto the said captain, before they could agree on certain conditions, sank presently before their eyes.” On the same day a great armed merchantman of the Spanish fleet went down within sight of both navies.

Then might ye see the reeling vessels split,
And tottering sink into the ruthless flood,

Until their lofty tops were seen no more.
All shifts weer tried, both for defence and hurt:
And now the effect of valour and of force,
Of resolution and of cowardice,
 We lively picture; how the one for fame,
 The other by compulsion laid about:


Wraight: (6) The Nonpareille was Captain Fenner’s ship (vice-admiral of Drake’s squadron). This is the ship on which I believe Marlowe served for she was reconnoitering the French coast for intelligence just prior to the outbreak of hostilities. Her appearance here in Edward the Third underlines this hypothesis. The “black snake of Boulogne” is probably a descriptive identification of a black-painted sleek, low-slung ship built as a galleas, of which there were four in the Spanish navy; “black snake” does not seem to be the actual name of the ship, as Nonpareille obviously is, and she features frequently in “A Relation of Proceedings”.


Much did the Nonpareille, that brave ship;
So did the black snake of Boulogne, than which
A bonnier vessel never yet spread sail.


Wraight: (7) These two lines describing the weather and tide are authentic Holinshed, and prove that he had the text before him. To have ignored all the rest of Holinshed’s data is therefore quite deliberate on the part of the dramatist. This confirms his intention to make this play his Armada victory celebration.

But all in vain; both sun, the wind and tide,
Revolted all unto our foeman’s side . . .


An excerpt from the report “A Relation of Proceedings”:


'This fighte was very nobly contynewed from mornynge vntil the eavenynge the Lo: Admyrall beinge always [in] the hottest of the encounter. And it may well be sayed that for the time there was neuer seene a more terrible valew of greate shott nor a more hott fighte then this was for althoughe the musketteres and harquebysers of crocke were then infynyte yet colde they not be decearned nor hard [heard] for the great ordnaunce came soe thicke that a man woulde haue judged it to haue ben a hot skirmishe of small shotte beinge all the fighte longe wthin halfe musket shott of the enemye.’


The Marlowe Studies has noticed the use of the word “infynyte” in this report. This word was not commonly used in the 16th century. After Archimedes, the exploration of infinity seemed to come to an end. It wasn’t until the latter part of the 16th century the concept of infinity again became popular among mathematicians like Marlowe’s friend Thomas Harriot who was associated with his circle of “freethinkers”. The concept of infinity was central to Giordano Bruno’s cosmological theory. At that time scientific concepts such as infinite were heretical, “atheistic” ideas because they proposed the sun was not the center of the universe. Marlowe used this word in The Jew of Malta, the often-cited "infinite riches in a little room". He also used this word in Tamburlaine, and it may have been that which prompted Greene’s 1588 attack "blaspheming with the mad preest of the sun” (Bruno):


Our souls, whose faculties can comprehend
The wondrous architecture of the world,
And measure every wandering planet’s course,
Still climbing after knowledge infinite . . .
                          Part I Tamburlaine, 2.7.18-29


Wraight says, “This is graphic reporting by Marlowe in his capacity as an Elizabethan journalist, one might say. He doubtless joined the English navy in the first instance as a secret agent when Walsingham’s espionage service carried the heavy responsibility for spying out the Spanish Stratagems and activities.” She goes on to say that Marlowe’s career in intelligence has been insufficiently researched.


walsinghamMarlowe the Patriot II

The Marlowe Studies suggests that the two men who ruled England under Elizabeth, Sir Francis Walsingham and Lord Burghley, realized Marlowe’s writing talent was his most valuable asset to the State. It is difficult to believe that Sir Francis Walsingham and Lord Burghley would have used England’s most popular dramatist as a common spy when his most practical use to the State would have been through the medium of drama. There was no other man in England who could have written better State propaganda than Marlowe. Edward the Third could have been Sir Francis Walsingham and/or Lord Burghley’s celebration of the Armada victory, as well as Marlowe’s. 

Two other plays of Marlowe’s agree with this proposition. In 1583 Sir Francis Walsingham made the long journey to Scotland where he conferred privately with King James in order to countercheck the influence of Spain there. Walsingham’s foremost concern was James’ relationship with his second cousin Esme Stuart who was the young king’s strongest political influence. Stuart had been sent to Scotland by the Duke of Guise in order to restore French (Catholic) influence. 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. In that report we find:


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.


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; his attitude toward governance was of extreme importance to all the men Marlowe worked for in the secret service. The above excerpted “which reason and ground of government was set down the deposition of Edward the Second” suggests that 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 . . .” 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.


Sir Francis Walsingham was England’s Ambassador to France when the eleven year-old Thomas Walsingham went 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 while living at Thomas Walsingham’s home. In The World of Christopher Marlowe, David Riggs says of Marlowe’s 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 Massacre At Paris resemble diplomatic dispatches; these were the raw materials of intelligence field work.


Shakespeare scholars have wondered at his knowledge of England’s navy, ship sailing, and the affairs of state. This is why Baconians and De Verians think he must have been an aristocrat. It is only in Marlowe we find all the elements of Shakespeare’s knowledge. At the same time, this hypothesis gives us the origins of the Shakespeare history plays that used the past, often altering it, to say something about the present.


Edward the Third's Stylistic Affinity with Tamburlaine

Wraight hears echoes of Tamburlaine still discernible in what was likely Marlowe’s next play, Edward the Third. She finds a strong stylistic affinity between King Edward the Third and Tamburlaine’s expressions of romantic love:


King Edward: Better than beautiful, thou must begin;
Devise for fair a fairer word than fair.


       Tamberlaine: Ah, fair Zenocrate! — divine Zenocrate!

       Fair is too foul an epithet for thee.


Wraight says that King Edwards’s speech of adoration for the Countess echoes Tamburlaine’s for Zenocrate, alluding back to Marlowe’s previous play, “ . . . inviting his audiences to associate Tamburlaine’s grand passion with the King’s by referring directly to raising ‘drops in a Tartar’s eye’ and making ‘a flintheart Scythian pitiful’.”

       John Baker has pointed out that it was Marlowe’s habit to allude to his previous works in the opening of his latest work. The Jew of Malta opens with an allusion to Marlowe’s play The Massacre at Paris and to the Guize’s death which occurs at its end:


       Machiavel: Albeit the world think Machaiavel is dead,

       Yet was his soul but flown beyone the Alps;

       And, now the Guise is dead, is come from France,

       To view this land, and frolic with his friends.


Marlowe’s Edward the Second opens with an allusion to Hero and Leander:


   Gaveston: My father is deceas'd. Come, Gaveston,
   And share the kingdom with thy dearest friend.

   Ah, words that make me surfeit with delight!
   What greater bliss can hap to Gaveston
   Than live and be the favourite of a king!
   Sweet prince, I come! these, thy amorous lines
   Might have enforc'd me to have swum from France,
   And, like Leander, gasp'd upon the sand,
   So thou wouldst smile, and take me in thine arms.
   The sight of London to my exil'd eyes
   Is as Elysium to a new-come soul:



Doctor Faustus opens with allusions to Dido, Edward the Second, and Tamburlaine.


CHORUS. Not marching now in fields of Thrasymene,
Where Mars did mate the Carthaginians;
Nor sporting in the dalliance of love,
In courts of kings where state is overturn'd;
Nor in the pomp of proud audacious deeds,
Intends our Muse to vaunt her heavenly verse:


Interestingly, the opening of Hero and Leander harks “back” 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.


Even more interesting, the phrase "rose-cheeked Adonis" is a direct quote from the opening lines of Venus and Adonis:


The men of wealthy Sestos every year,

(For his sake whom their goddess held so dear,

Rose-cheeked Adonis) kept a solemn feast.


Wraight finds resemblances in the Tamburlaine and Edward the Third love scenes numerous and obvious, saying, “Both Edward’s and Tamburlaine’s love-speeches are such unabashed transcendent panegyrics as proclaim them to be from the pen of Marlowe, the poet of passion and beauty.” When she gives us the passage in which Edward is instructing his courtier to compose a poem to move the countess to respond to his passionate love for her, she says, “Edward begins his instructions to the courtier by invoking ‘some golden Muse’ to bring his poet ‘an enchanted pen’ alluding to Tamburlaine’s 'If all the pens that poets ever held, Had fed the feelings of their master’s thoughts’.”

King. Now, Lodowick, invocate some golden Muse,
To bring thee hither an enchanted pen,
That may for sighs set down true sighs indeed,
Talking of grief, to make thee ready groan;
And when thou writest of tears, encouch the word
Before and after with such sweet laments
That it may raise drops in a Tarter’s eye
And make a flintheart Scythian pitiful;
For so much moving hath a poet’s pen;

. . . Better than beautiful, thou must begin;
Devise for fair a fairer word than fair,
And every ornament that thou wouldst praise,
Fly it a pitch above the soar of praise.

Tamburlaine: Ah, fair Zenocrate!--divine Zenocrate! 
Fair is too foul an epithet for thee,-- 


Marlowe Echoes and Repeats

Wraight says, “It was Marlowe’s work translating Ovid and Lucan that prepared the way for his dramatic blank verse style. These are love poems, and in Edward the Third he is writing a love scene, so that the memory of Ovid is strongly evoked and the style subconsciously pervades his writing.” She then traces the origin of the author’s repetition in King Edward’s romantic lines to Marlowe’s translation of Ovid’s Amores while at Cambridge, where he had repeatedly written such lines as:

Accept him that will serve thee all his youth,
Accept him that will love with spotless truth,

And she to whom in shape of swan Jove came,
And she that on a feign’d bull swam to land
Book 1, Elegy III


Marlowe in romantic mood echoes himself, and this is a cogent argument, for dramatic parallelism revealing the same mind at work is perhaps even more indicative of authorship than reliance on an analysis of prosody, which is subject to the mood and emotion of a poet of such sensitivity as Marlowe, who varies his style and metrics according to the character and situation he is portraying. In this we have Marlowe’s repetitious use of words and imagery in building up a climax, as he did in Tamburlaine the previous year. It is a trick he learned from Ovid, and is one of his most characteristic traits.

Here are the repeating lines in Edward the Third when the King must show the poet how to write love poetry:
And let me have her likened to the sun;
Say she hath thrice more splendour than the sun,
That her perfections emulate the sun,
That she breed sweets as plenteous as the sun,
That she doth thaw cold winter like the sun,
That she doth cheer fresh summer like the sun,
That she doth dazzle gazers like the sun;
And, in this application to the sun,
Bid her be free and general as the sun,
Who smiles upon the basest weed that grows
As lovingly as on the fragrant rose.

It is difficult to believe the man from rural Stratford came into London able to write as if he were a University man capable of lithely penned, scholarly lines like “And, in this application to the sun”? Cambridge taught Marlowe dialectic and rhetorical skills that one does not receive just by reading books.
Wraight finds evidence of Marlowe repetition in the ritual donning of the young Prince Edward’s armour before the battle of Crecy, where Marlowe “employs his favourite device of a refrain to impart a ritualistic effect”, just as he did in Tamburlaine’s mourning elegy over the death of Zenocrate.” In Tamburlaine Part 2, act II, scene IV, 6 stanzas end in the elegy’s refrain “To entertain divine Zenocrate”.

Now walk the angels on the walls of heaven,
As sentinels to warn th' immortal souls
To entertain divine Zenocrate:
Apollo, Cynthia, and the ceaseless lamps
That gently look'd upon this loathsome earth,
Shine downwards now no more, but deck the heavens
To entertain divine Zenocrate:
The crystal springs, whose taste illuminates
Refined eyes with an eternal sight,
Like tried silver run through Paradise
To entertain divine Zenocrate:
The cherubins and holy seraphins,
That sing and play before the King of Kings,
Use all their voices and their instruments
To entertain divine Zenocrate;
And, in this sweet and curious harmony,
The god that tunes this music to our souls
Holds out his hand in highest majesty
To entertain divine Zenocrate.

In Edward the Third when young Prince Edward goes into battle the first time, four stanzas end in the refrain of the King’s and Noblemen’s blessings “Fight and be valiant, conquer where thou com’st!”:

King Edward.
Edward Plantagenet, in the name of God,
As with this armour I impale thy breast,
So be thy noble unrelenting heart
Walled in with flint of matchless fortitude,
That never base affections enter there:
Fight and be valiant, conquer where thou comest!
Now follow, Lords, and do him honor to.
Edward Plantagenet, prince of Wales,
As I do set this helmet on thy head,
Wherewith the chamber of thy brain is fenst,
So may thy temples, with Bellona's hand,
Be still adorned with laurel victory:
Fight and be valiant, conquer where thou comest!
Edward Plantagenet, prince of Wales,
Receive this lance into thy manly hand;
Use it in fashion of a brazen pen,
To draw forth bloody stratagems in France,
And print thy valiant deeds in honor's book:
Fight and be valiant, vanquish where thou comest!
Edward Plantagenet, prince of Wales,
Hold, take this target, wear it on thy arm;
And may the view thereof, like Perseus' shield,
Astonish and transform thy gazing foes
To senseless images of meager death:
Fight and be valiant, conquer where thou comest!

The Marlowe Studies has noticed both Tamburlaine’s and King Edward’s long romantic passages build up to a climax which ends abruptly, just as does Tamburlaine’s long mourning elegy. Tamburlaine’s long romantic passage ends abruptly with “Who's within there?” (Enter Attendants) “Hath Bajazeth been fed to--day?” And in the second part of Tamburlaine, the long mourning elegy ends with, “Physicians, will no physic do her good?” King Edward’s long romantic passage ends abruptly with “What, thinkest thou I did bid thee praise a horse?”


Save only that in beauty's just applause,
With whose instinct the soul of man is touched;
And every warrior that is rapt with love
Of fame, of valour, and of victory,
Must needs have beauty beat on his conceits:
I thus conceiving, and subduing both,
That which hath stoop'd the chiefest of the gods,
Even from the fiery-spangled veil of heaven,
To feel the lovely warmth of shepherds' flames,
And mask in cottages of strowed reeds,
Shall give the world to note, for all my birth,
That virtue solely is the sum of glory,
And fashions men with true nobility.—
Who's within there?
Enter Attendants.
Hath Bajazeth been fed to--day?

Then let some holy trance convey my thoughts
Up to the palace of th' empyreal heaven,
That this my life may be as short to me
As are the days of sweet Zenocrate.--
Physicians, will no physic do her good?

King Edward III:
Forget not to set down, how passionate,
How heart-sick, and how full of languishment,
Her beauty makes me.
Lodowidk. Write I to a woman?
King. What beauty else could triumph over me,
Or who but women do our loves lays greet?
What, thinkest thou I did bid thee praise a horse?

Wraight sees several examples of Marlowe’s stylistic idiosyncrasies in the play, saying, "His distinctive use of double-barreled adjectives, first developed in his translation of Lucan and Ovid, are here superbly represented in the ‘iron-hearted navies’ and the ‘through-shot planks’, and King John’s dramatic ‘mirror of pale death’, an association of imagery that is typical of Marlowe.” The “pale death” image occurs in Edward the Third when King John tells the Mariner to report the battle’s outcome to him:
My heart misgives: - say, mirror of pale death,
To whom belongs the honour of this day?
Relate, I pray thee, if thy breath will serve,
The sad discourse of this discomfiture.

Wraight says, “In ‘pale death’ we immediately encounter a favourite word-image of Marlowe’s which he uses in Dido Queen of Carthage, in Tamburlaine and in The Massacre at Paris.”
From Dido
Aeneas: A woeful tale bids Dido to unfold,
Whose memory, like pale Death's stony mace,
Beats forth my senses from this troubled soul
And makes Aeneas sink at Dido's feet.
Dido: What, faints Aeneas to remember Troy,
In whose defence he fought so valiantly?

From Tamburlaine the Great, while Zenocrate is dying

That dares torment the body of my love,
And scourge the scourge of the immortal God!
Now are those spheres, where Cupid us'd to sit,
Wounding the world with wonder and with love,
Sadly supplied with pale and ghastly death,

Whose darts do pierce the centre of my soul.
Her sacred beauty hath enchanted heaven;
(Part 2. Scene 4)

From Massacre at Paris

Guise: But first lets follow those in France.
That hinder our possession to the crowne:
As Caesar to his souldiers, so say I:
Those that hate me, will I learn to loath.
Give me a look, that when I bend the browes,
Pale death may walke in furrowes of my face:

The Love Episode: Plot and Sub Plot

The disputed authorship of Edward the Third revolves mainly around the argument as to whether Shakespeare had a hand in the love-episode. Wraight believes the internal and external evidence reveals this is unquestionably Marlowe’s work throughout. She has given ample evidence that the love episode is from Marlowe, and her interpretation of the design of the plot/subplot (the education of princes and the illustration of king-becoming virtues) reveals the love episode was an integral part of the play from conception, not added after the fact a many Shakespeare scholars have surmised. She argues these two unifying themes work against the soundness of the arguments put forward claiming the love-episode represents an interpolation or later addition by Shakespeare. Such a suggestion, she says, can now be seen as untenable for it would destroy the very fabric of the play, not merely unbalance it.

The first scene of Edward the Third sets up England’s war with France. Instead of marching forward into this war, we are delayed by love. Marlowe seems to be harkening back to his recent translation of Ovid’s Amores, which tells us in the first book, Elegy 1 (Marlowe’s translation):


With Muse upreared I meant to sing of arms,
Choosing a subject fit for fierce alarms:
Both verses were alike till Love (men say)
Began to smile and took one foot away.


Who'll set the fair tressed sun in battle ray,
While Mars doth take the Aonian harp to play


Love unlocked his quiver,
Took out the shaft, ordained my heart to shiver:
And bent his sinewy bow upon his knee,
Saying, 'Poet here's a work beseeming thee'.
Oh woe is me, he never shoots but hits,
I burn, Love in my idle bosom sits.
Let my first verse be sixe, my last five feet,
Farewell sterne war, for blunter poets meet.


Wraight cites William Armstrong’s Introduction to Elizabethan History Plays which sums up the view put forward by Warnke and Proescholdt concerning the importance of the love episode, the second, parallel theme, which presages, "Shakespeare’s portrayal of the education of Prince Hal in the two parts of Henry IV and his ideal kingship in Henry V."

Once it is appreciated that the basic themes of the play are the education of princes and the illustration of king-becoming virtues, its various episodes assume a meaningful relationship. The education comes especially through learning to respect those covenants on which honour and civilization depend. The eloquent Countess of Salisbury convinces Edward that his passions have put him in danger of committing “high treason against the King of Heaven”, who instituted the marriage bond before He appointed kings. Similarly, Villiers convinces Charles of Normandy that princes cannot countermand the parole given by a soldier. Later, when King John of France would revoke the safe-conduct which Charles has given to Salisbury, he, too, is taught that kings must not abuse their powers. The kingly virtues are illustrated by Edward’s care in ensuring that war against France would be just, by the fortitude displayed by the Black Prince at Crecy and Poitiers, and by Edward’s clemency towards the six burghers of Calais. Contrasts are used to throw these themes into relief; David of Scotland is a breaker of covenants, and when John uses Frenchmen to fight for his usurped crown, he is represented as a tyrant, a ‘thirsty tiger’ tearing the entrails of the realm.’


Marlowe is writing about a King confronting a spiritual questioning of his own desires not with a prayer book in hand but his own conscience. It is King Edward’s inner struggle to master his illicit desire for the married Countess of Salisbury that establishes the underlying theme of Edward the Third. King Edward soliloquizes:

Away, loose silks of wavering vanity!
Shall the large limit of fair Brittany
By me be overthrown, and shall I not
Master this little mansion of myself?
Give me an armour of eternal steel!
I go to conquer kings; and shall I not then
Subdue myself? And be my enemies’ friend?
It must not be. —Come, boy, forward, advance!
Let’s with our colours sweet the air of France. 



This theme is brought full circle when King Edward’s Queen, Philippa, asks him to spare the lives of the six burghers of Calais. Wraight says, “Edward had begun by playing a heavy hand of retribution, like a Tamburlaine refusing mercy because he had decreed that these six men were to be the sacrifice his conquering pride and authority demanded.” In the French Queen’s persuasive entreaty we see Marlowe giving a stronger role to his female character than he did in his previous works.

Phillipa. Ah, be more mild unto these yielding men!
It is a glorious thing to stablish peace,
And kings approach the nearest unto God
By giving life and safety unto men:
As thou intendest to be king of France,
So let her people live to call thee king;
For what the sword cuts down or fire hath spoil’d,
Is held in reputation none of ours.

King Edward listens and yields:

Edward. Although experience teach us this is true,
That peaceful quietness brings most delight,
When most of all abuses are controll’d;
Yet, insomuch it shall be known that we
As well can master our affections’
As conquer other by the dint of sword,
Phillip, prevail; we yield to thy request:
These men shall live to boast of clemency,
And, tyranny, strike terror to thyself.


Wraight says King Edward is swayed by passion beyond reason in typical Marlovian fashion. He tricks the Countess’s father, the Earl of Warwick, by obtaining his promise on oath to aid him in a project dear to his heart. Only after giving his promise does Warwick discover the “project” is to persuade his own daughter she must give in to the King’s desire for her. When his daughter refuses to acquiesce, “Warwick launches on the long speech containing the well-known line in Shakespeare’s Sonnet 94 — ‘Lilies that fester smell far worse than weeds’ — which fits its context here perfectly. His [Marlowe’s] mighty opposites are in full glory here.”


Warwick. Why, now thou speak’st as I would
Have thee speak:
And mark how I unsay my words again.
An honourable grave is more esteem’d
Than the polluted closet of a king:
The greater man, the greater is the thing,
Be it good or bad, that he shall undertake:
An unreputed mote, flying in the sun,
Presents a greater substance than it is:
The freshest summer’s day doth soonest taint
The loathed carrion that it seems to kiss:
Deep are the blows made with a mighty axe:
That sin doth ten times aggravate itself,

That is committed in a holy place:
An evil deed, done by authority,
Is sin and subornation: deck an ape
In tissue, and the beauty of the robe
Adds but the greater scorn unto the beast.
A spacious field of reasons could I urge
Between his glory, daughter, and thy shame:
That poison shows worst in a golden cup;
Dark night seems darker by the lightning flash;
Lilies that fester smell far worse than weeds;
And every glory that inclines to sin,
The shame is treble by the opposite.
So leave I with my blessing in thy bosom,
Which I then convert to a most heavy curse,
When thou convertest from honours golden name
To the black faction of bed blotting shame.


Shake-speare’s Sonnet 94


They that have power to hurt, and will do none,
That do not do the thing they most do show,
Who, moving others, are themselves as stone,
Unmoved, cold, and to temptation slow;
They rightly do inherit heaven's graces,
And husband nature's riches from expense;
They are the lords and owners of their faces,
Others, but stewards of their excellence.
The summer's flower is to the summer sweet,
Though to itself, it only live and die,
But if that flower with base infection meet,
The basest weed outbraves his dignity: 
For sweetest things turn sourest by their deeds;
Lilies that fester, smell far worse than weeds.


In his book Tamburlane the Great, Joseph Cunningham says: White and black, mercy and doom, pliancy and resolution, fire and dross, life and death, Jove and Hades, Heaven and Erebus. These bold opposites govern the play’s visual and verbal rhetoric. They range together in sets white, mercy, pliancy, life; black, wrath, resolution, death-but they also activate our sense of ambivalence, complicating the simple patterns of response. For instance, they dramatize the opposition between Tamburlaine and some of his victims, or between Tamburlaine’s sensibility and Zenocrate’s, the more powerfully because they are two faces of Tamburlaine himself:


His lofty brows in folds do figure death,
And in their smoothness amity and life.
(Part 1, 2.i.21-2)                                        


The Marlowe Studies Conclusion


When Edward the Third is seen to be Marlowe’s play a paradigm shift occurs when interpreting his character and the other works under his name. Tamburlaine and Faustus can no longer be seen as projections of Marlowe’s own desires, but characters developed with the objectivity of the artist in his early twenties, the time when genius has not fully developed an in-depth philosophy that will guide its dramatic forms, the time when a young man will tend to choose fiery warriors, flat characterizations of princesses such as Dido and her Trojan refugee Aeneas, and, fresh out of Cambridge, rebelliously ambitious scholars who spend their knowledge on a pact with the Devil¬ just the sort of thing the young Shakespeare would have written had he gone to Cambridge and been educated in Democratic ideas. 

When Edward the Third is seen to be Marlowe’s play, the gap shrinks between Marlowe the “rebel” and Shakespeare the upholder of the covenants on which honour and civilization depend. This play shows him not to be a cold-hearted Machiavellian or an atheist in the modern day sense of the word. Few modern academics seem to be aware of the Elizabethan view of an atheist as a freethinker, best described by Marlowe’s contemporary Francis Bacon in his essay “Of Atheism”, where he wrote, “all that impugn a received religion, or super-stition, are by the adverse part branded with the name of atheists.”

Shakespeare is generally thought to have been a full-throttle Christian, and this is another thing that causes many to doubt Marlowe could have been the man behind a Shakespeare pseudonym. But was he? In his essay “Was Shakespeare an Atheist?” Gary Sloane says:

Though church sermons routinely propounded the efficacy of prayers, in Shakespeare they are often a prelude to disaster. In Lear Kent thanks Gloucester for a good turn: "The gods reward your kindness!" Shortly thereafter, Cornwall plucks out Gloucester's eyes. Having learned Edmund has commissioned Cordelia's death, Albany cries out: "The gods defend her!" Enter Lear, his daughter's dead body in his arms. Hoping his amputated hand will ransom his two sons from execution, Titus Andronicus lifts his remaining hand heavenward in supplication: "If any power pities wretched tears, /To that I call!" Thereupon, a courier enters bearing his sons' decapitated heads. In Macbeth, having warned Lady Macduff to flee, a messenger blesses her: "Heaven preserve you!" Moments later, she and her babes are in one fell swoop slaughtered. These ominous invocations vivify a comment by Mistress Quickly in The Merry Wives of Windsor: His worst fault is that he is given to prayer.

The Marlowe Studies notes that in Nashe and Greene’s writings Wraight has shown us they have kept to a consistent pattern alluding to Alleyn as the “Crow”, and this pattern is not broken later in the Groatsworth letter where the “vpstart Crow” is again Alleyn. It should be noted the foundation of academia's belief that Shakespeare from Stratford was the William Shakespeare depends upon Greene's 1592 "vpstart Crow" in Groatsworth alluding to him and not Edward Alleyn.


We will now look at Wraight's evidence Marlowe was the chief plotter and writer of  King Henry VI Parts 2 and 3, and their earlier versions The First Part of the Contention betwixt the two Famous Houses of Yorke and Lancaster and The True Tragedy of Richard Duke of Yorke.

Three Plays of the Pembroke Players