The Shakespeare Debate
Shakespeare's Identity Revealed?
Two Views on King Arthur
King Arthur and Shakespeare - a Third View
The Shakespeare Debate with John Bede and Carl O. Nordling
A Case for Christopher Marlowe
The Sun-Spots of the Poet
The Revelation of the Sonnets
The Controversies of Timon, Pericles and Henry VIII
The Method of Doctor Mendenhall
The Unfathomable Melancholy of Robert Burton
The Contribution of David Rhys Williams
The William Shakeshafte Mystery
A Temporary Summary
Ventilating the Theories, by Laila Roth
Scrutinizing the Sonnets
John Michell's Solution to the Problem
All We Know About William Shakespeare, by Mark Twain
The Secrets of Anthony Bacon
Comments on A.D.Wraight
The Marlowe Case - Another Presentation
The Difficult Case of Sir Francis Bacon
Fact and Speculation in the Case of John Penry
A Shakespeare Apology, by John Bede
Presenting a Baconian Problem
The Perfect Set-Up - a Summary of the (lack of) Evidence
The Mystery, by Laila Roth
More Marlowe Theories
The Gothenburg Shakespeare Symposium, May 2002
Comments to "Arden of Feversham"
Main Traits of the Marlowe Theory
Doubts about Bacon
Shakespeare's Identity Revealed ?
The man who made the issue was really professor Abel Lefranc (1863-1952), one of the leading scientists of literature in France, who after a lifetime of serious research in a book called "Behind Shakespeare's Mask" launched a new theory of the real man behind the name. The name was indeed William, but the surname was very different from that in those days very common name Shakespeare (also spelt 'Shakspere', 'Shagsbeard', 'Shaxpier' among other variations). After all, one must admit, that the common actor William Shakespeare from Stratford, who had to marry his eight year older wife because he had made her pregnant, who escaped from her to London to start his theatrical career guarding horses of the visitors to the theatre, who never left England and who retired early to die at only 51 after having left only his second best bed to his old shrew of a widow, is difficult to recognize as the author of 37 very highbrow plays which all reveal intimacy with the ways and manners of high nobility, kings and dukes, expert knowledge of conditions at sea, at war and of such distant places as Turkey (the Bosphorus), Denmark (the Kronborg castle), Italy, Greece and the Orient. By his quest 1918 professor Abel Lefranc started an avalanche of new speculations of who the real William Shakespeare might have been, but most of these speculations ended up in the conclusion, that since Shakespeare could not have been Edmund Spenser, nor Francis Bacon, nor Christopher Marlowe, nor Thomas Kyd nor a whole lot of other prominent Elizabethan candidates, it remained the least doubtful that William Shakespeare simply had been William Shakespeare. Very few thereby chose to walk through the door that professor Abel Lefranc had opened, but some dared the challenge. They were above all A.W.Titherley 1952 in "Shakespeare's Identity" and Carl O. Nordling in "Hamlet's Secret" from 1995.
These have followed the track of professor Abel Lefranc's theories and confirmed them. These theories point to, that the man who wrote under Shakespeare's name was no one less than William Stanley, the sixth earl of Derby, a grandchild of Henry VIII:s romantic little sister Mary Tudor and a cousin with both Anne Boleyn, Queen Elizabeth, Mary Stuart and king James I in different lines. He was in other words very closely related with the royal family and could have become king himself after Queen Elizabeth had he wanted to. But instead he wrote "Hamlet" to explain why he declined.
Carl O. Nordling from Borgå (Finland) confirm these theories with an overwhelmingly convincing chain of circumstantial evidence. One of the most pregnant arguments is the idiomatic idiosyncrasies of Shakespeare, which in their dialectical ingredients are dominantly northernish from the parts of Yorkshire and Lancashire, the homelands of William Stanley, which Shakespeare never came in the vicinity of. Numerous plays betray expertise knowledge abroad, which William Stanley must have acquired on his extensive journeys, while the actor from Stratford never came outside the doorstep of his country. Scenes of "Hamlet" betray intimate knowledge of proceedings at the court of Frederick II of Denmark in the Kronborg Castle of Elsinore (inaugurated 1585) where William Stanley was a guest, since he probably wrote the German first version of "Hamlet" which was given there at the inauguration probably with himself in one of the leading parts, that amateurish play in bad school-German out of which the later English versions were developed. These are only a few examples of argument.
This thesis opens up an entire world of new interesting queries, of which all must turn around the question who this remarkable excentric high nobleman really was, who rather wrote plays than vied for the British crown. The mystery of William Shakespeare thereby becomes greater and more unfathomable than ever.
Our only light along this dark and blind alley are a very few known facts of William Stanley's life and the 37 completed plays under the name of William Shakespeare. Of these two sources of light, the second provides more material.
With relatively reliable certainty you can nowadays establish the chronological order of the Shakespeare plays. Among the first are the impassioned chronicles of English medieval history - the Lancaster tetralogies - which betray an emotionally extreme historical interest and a profound engagement in the very house of Lancaster, to which William Stanley himself belonged. An equally ardent interest in Italian mentality and affairs appear in the early Italian comedies and above all in the tragedy of "Romeo and Juliet". The affluent production of dramas until 1600 yells out loud in every play how much the author enjoyed writing them, almost wallowing in constantly surpassing himself in developing higher dramatic standards in every new play. Then suddenly comes the Hamlet crisis as a definite climax. Suddenly politics interfere on stage with devastating realism. "Hamlet" is nothing but a profound expression of a personal political crisis - Hamlet, who might have become the ideal king, is the author himself, whose conscience compels him to refrain from politics with all its power temptations since it is all so rotten. Carl O. Nordling poignantly exposes how the play "Hamlet" was psychologically used by its author against the kings James I (whose mother herself married her husband's murderer) and Frederick II of Denmark, who is king Claudius in the play, who fires cannons to his revelries, which is exactly what the Danish king did. The highest point of the ingenuities of "Hamlet" is when the leading actor uses a play to stir the conscience of the king - which is exactly what William Stanley did.
Gradually the plays then become more solemn and resigned - the great tragedies follow with the letting loose of king Lear's utter despair and terrible bitterness, and the criminal established power position of Macbeth, which forces him to ever more atrocious crimes. Resignation finally culminates in the last melancholy fairy plays, where Prospero in "The Tempest" in the end disrobes himself of his magical mantle and throws his books into the sea.
Here we are faced with the greatest issue - if William Stanley really was the man who wrote all this superb body of work, why then did he stop so suddenly and so early? He was born in January 1561 and only somewhat over 50 when he stopped writing. He lived for another 30 years, and no one knows anything about these 30 years. Did he fall out of favour with his royal cousin? Was he prohibited to write any more controversial and critical plays against the establishment?
The full picture thereby becomes a rather melancholy one. We see a young brilliant talent of royal blood brush society, blood and ancestry aside to instead devote himself passionately to the theatre under a rigorously observed pseudonym - if his real name had come out it would have been a most unacceptable scandal - royal persons were not supposed to write plays like "Titus Andronicus" and "Richard III". As a perfect actor he kept to his silent part - and could thereby continue to write plays. But after "Hamlet" age begins to make itself felt with disastrous consequences. It is too clearly felt that it becomes less and less fun to write plays, and more and more of them are never finished, like "Timon of Athens", "Pericles" and "Henry VIII", which are completed by others.
Finally only one thing remains to the author - to maintain his part by sticking to his anonymity - it is never revealed.
And is it a coincidence that all theatrical scenes in England are closed in September 1642, the same month that William Stanley, the 6th earl of Derby, expires? The British theatre thereby finds its grave to be replaced by the joyless wet blankets of the Puritans and their bloody civil war against monarchy - the staged political reality outmanoeuvres and closes the theatre.
What most of all convinces me that earl William Stanley is the author of Shakespeare's works is the consistent noble quality in all of Shakespeare's works - there has never been a writer more noble. I have often wondered: "If Shakespeare wrote all these works and was so successful - why then was he never knighted?" There is nothing more royalistic than Shakespeare's plays, no matter how bitter they may be about the use of power. Shakespeare's chronicle plays are the very heart of the matter of British monarchy. Therefore it is not more than self-evident that they should have been written by a person inside the royal family. All this is really rather incompatible with an ordinary middle class commoner of Stratford, a small place in the country, which he fled to make his fortune in London mainly by speculating in house-property. It doesn't fit with the internationalistic connoisseur of all Europe with such a heavy partiality for British royalism and every drop of noble blood in England.
The most difficult party to win over to this "Derby theory" will then of course republican nations be with the United States at the front. Real republicans will never be able to tolerate that William Shakespeare was not an ordinary upstart from the country. And the possibility that he instead could have been of the very highest nobility would simply be unthinkable.
It would be very difficult for ordinary people to understand this royal self-negator, who in fact is such an extreme democrat, that he sacrifices his royal and political possibilities just to be able to present the truth about the establishment on stage instead - and to give all the honour and credit for the show to the actors.
However, important pieces in the jig-saw puzzle are missing, and the most important of all is: If William Stanley of Derby really was the writer behind William Shakespeare's name, why then did he stop writing at the same time as the actor William Shakespeare retired?
The most likely answer to that question is that William Stanley and William Shakespeare had some kind of agreement and perhaps even partnership. It was William Stanley who sponsored Shakespeare's theatre company and who practically paid everything for them. In return his terms might have been, that they were allowed to produce his plays on condition that he was allowed to hide himself under Shakespeare's name and thus was ensured of an incognito. When Shakespeare suddenly retired after the Globe having burnt down in 1612, perhaps William Stanley suddenly found himself without a writing partner and found it difficult if not impossible to find a new name to hide behind. Ben Jonson was an entirely different character. Consequently William Stanley might have found it impossible to avoid recognition if he continued to write for the theatre when Shakespeare was gone. This is the most probable explanation. A born aristocrat of the highest order, earl Derby was vain enough not to risk his reputation and good standing as a cousin of the royal house and therefore preferred allowing William Shakespeare to keep the honour of his writings for 300 years - as long as the British Empire lasted.
The next great problem to stumble across in this argument is the Shakespearean Sonnets. This is the most personal and intimate work of the poet and the one which shows some unambiguous self-expression. The only theme of the Sonnets, however, is love, the love for a beautiful young man and a dark lady. The Sonnets were privately circulated during Shakespeare's career and were not published until 1610. They are dedicated, in the style of a most typical Shakespearean mystification, to a certain mr "W.H.", which abstruse dedication has puzzled scholars for 370 years and continues to do so. The most widely embraced theory has been that mr "W.H." was lord Henry Wriothesley of Southampton, one of the younger Shakespeare's foremost patrons, an extravagant young man with extremely long hair, who could be the male main figure of the Sonnets.
The whole Derby theory seems to totter on this precarious ground. However would anyone else than the author himself circulate these extremely intimate poems, which were known only among Shakespeare's closest friends? The language is that of the dramas but even more beautiful, elaborate, sensitive and even more ambitious.
What have the Derby followers to put against this? Simply that mr W.H. was William Shakespeare himself, whom the earl of Derby loved. William Stanley married not until 1595 at the age of 34 when probably most of the Shakespearean separate poems had been written. Further on even the tone of the Sonnets becomes more resigned as if it was slowly tiring, like in the tragedies, and the last two sonnets rather dryly express the death of love in a matter-of-fact sort of utter resignation, as apparently the whole unique Shakespearean inspiration is drying out after a period of 25 years' unequalled fruition.
William Stanley's marriage appears to have been stable and conventional with three sons. Stanley could have written the Sonnets to Shakespeare, as Shakespeare might have written them to Wriothesley. The initials "W.H." fit better with Henry Wriothesley than with William Shakespeare, but here the border lines of probability are extremely vague.
However, there are two poems preserved by William Stanley which no one else could have written. They are two poetical epitaphs from about 1632 on deceased family members, one of them being William Stanley's second son, who died 25 years old. One of the epitaphs has by tradition always been attributed to Shakespeare while the other must be written by the same hand. The churches are the Chelsea Old Church and the church in Tong outside Birmingham. These two epitaphs could be the earl's only lapsus linguae, the one instance when he lost his mask and unconsciously revealed himself as the man behind the art of William Shakespeare, who was himself dead since 16 years when these two epitaphs were engraved, which epitaphs could not have been written earlier, since the buried persons didn't die any earlier, which is why the motive for writing these burial poems neither could have existed any earlier.
Summary. It cannot be proved that Shakespeare was not the person who wrote the works of Shakespeare. Neither can it be proved that it was William Stanley who did it. Neither can it be proved that it was Edmund Spenser, Christopher Marlowe, Francis Bacon, Ben Jonson, Thomas Kyd nor any other Elizabethan who did it, although the least probable is that anyone of these could have done it. For arguments we can only use probabilities. It is as improbable that Shakespeare wrote all these works alone as that Stanley did it alone. We can't overlook the most probable possibility that they in a certain sense did it together, like later Alexandre Dumas - Auguste Picqart, the brothers Goncourt, Erckmann-Chatrian, Nordhoff and Hall and other famous co-operating writers. Then it is probable that the language is that of William Stanley while many scenical effects probably could be Shakespeare's own, since Shakespeare as an actor and director had more experience of practical details in stage work than Stanley as only a spectator and dreamer. What makes it very probable that Stanley was the writer and Shakespeare the technician is the fact, that Shakespeare (most probably) had to work all year round on stage while he almost only could have found time to write in summer; while Stanley had all the time in the world as a free independant noble. What makes this partnership most probable is that it broke when Shakespeare left the stage and that neither could continue alone. Another strong argument for Stanley being the poet is his slightly superior age - it is almost impossible to imagine that Shakespeare could have written the Lancaster tetralogies, "Romeo and Juliet" and other early masterpieces in his early twenties, while Stanley, who had already had a high education and travelled a lot, more probably could have done so. Shakespeare's imagination and quick thought could have picked up Stanley's higher international knowledge and experience and used it for his own purposes, for instance to give "Othello" some local colour. But Shakespeare could never have written the first version of "Hamlet" in bad anglicized school German which was staged at the inauguration of the Kronborg Castle at Elsinore in 1585. Instead, this was probably the first in a long line of magnificent dramas without a published name produced by the theatrical maniac the earl of Derby, whose title and position excluded him from this work, which fact served him as a spur to perform it all the more but in secret, which motivation lasted only as long as he could continue to do it in secret.
So we neither exclude the Derby nor the Stratford theory but recommend a compromise that includes both as indispensable for the appearance of the plays, proposing, though, that the dominating hand and quill belonged to the earl of Derby.
This will naturally upset all faithful Shakespeare fans most terribly, who every year go to Stratford in tens of thousands on pilgrimage. But truth must not be moved by that. What we are most interested in here is to help the truth to come forth. William Shakespeare can not be proved to be the author. If William Stanley was the author, then let it be proved.
Abel Lefranc : "Sous le masque de William Shakespeare", Paris 1918.
A.W.Titherley : "Shakespeare's Identity", Winchester 1952.
Carl O. Nordling : "Hamlet's hemlighet", Faktainformation A-Z, Stockholm 1995.
Two Views on King Arthur
The oldest complete account of King Arthur is Sir Thomas Malory's immense work from the 15th century, which he almost completely wrote in prison. On this solid ground of Sir Thomas Malory, Terence Hanbury White has composed a very original and humorous paraphrase, which doesn't take the age of chivalry and its ceremonious ways and manners with an equal amount of utter seriousness. Who, then, was Terence Hanbury White, the man behind "The Once and Future King", the four novels about king Arthur of which the first, "The Sword in the Stone", was so much in the taste of Walt Disney, that he made it his last cartoon picture?
He was born in Bombay in 1906 as much an Anglo-Indian as Rudyard Kipling. His father was a police inspector, and his mother was the daughter of an Indian judge. As that of Kipling, White's childhood was extremely unhappy since his parents did not agree. The thirst for knowledge saved him, he educated himself at Cambridge and published "The Sword in the Stone" in 1938. Twenty years later all the four novels were ready, and he died in 1964 on board a ship outside the port of Piraeus.
No matter how funny and entertaining "The Once and Future King" is, it contains at the same time much of more doubtful worth, above all lots of nonsense. He ridicules the age of chivalry a little too much, and the dialogue is often base. Noble ingredients never appear except to be made fun of. What saves the novels, though, is the unforgettable characteriziation of Sir Lancelot.
The third and greatest of the novels, "The Ill-Made Knight", is all about him. No one ever has dared to picture Sir Lancelot as ugly and awkward, but White manages this with overwhelming consequence. Also Sir Mordred is depicted with greater nuance and understandability than in other Arthurian tales, and White undertakes the effort to rather convincingly explain the strange behaviour of this destructive villain. But Sir Lancelot is the only complete character in the lasting life-work of Terence Hanbury White.
In the same way, we find in Marion Bradley's immensely more weighty cobble-stone of a novel, "The Mists of Avalon", the leading character in Morgan le Fay, the half-sister of king Arthur, the mother of his bastard son Sir Mordred. Marion Bradley is an American born in Albany, New York, in 1930, and her much more impressing and elaborated, psychologically poignant and deeply analyzing Arthurian romance is without equal in its penetration of the old Keltish religious life in prehistoric England. Historically her Arthur appears in the critical days when Christianity replaced the Roman realm in England. Queen Guinevere represents the Christian establishment of the brave new age while Morgan le Fay is the last representative of the old Keltish natural religion which is dying, while Arthur stands between them, is dependant on both and is hopelessly divided and destroyed like the whole kingdom when Christianity can not tolerate "heathendom". The tragedy of king Arthur in Marion Bradley's novel is then that his enlightenment and all his glorious court falls prey to Christian intolerance - a great, ambitious and extremely challenging theme, which gives a very convincing impression that that could really have been how it all happened. What you miss in Bradley's novel, though, is all the greatest advantages of White - the glorious good humour of the court life among the knights and the warmth of it.
We have asked John Bede of Northern Ireland to give his opinion about these two masterly tales of king Arthur with certain misgivings, though, that he might prefer "Prince Valiant". Our Irish colleague is if anything an Arthurian expert, and he has himself written an account of the fall of Camelot. We are happy to be able to include his answer to our queries right away:
King Arthur and Shakespeare - a Third View
by John Bede.
"Derry, July 1996.
My dear friend, without any hope of success I will try to make an effort to answer all your queries in your very own fine Swedish.
1. King Arthur. T.H.White's four novels are not serious. They are as entertaining as Wodehouse, but you can't turn an Arthurian chronicle into a joke. T.H.White is not without blessings, but he has completely misunderstood his subject and messed it all up.
Marion Bradley's novel is instead more serious, and of all the efforts that have been made to reach the truth, hers is perhaps the greatest. "Prince Valiant" is the most superficial of all Arthurian tales, but it is also the best drawn of all.
Marion Bradley's historical location of the Arthur saga in the 5th century could be correct. I have myself preferred to locate it outside the dimension of time, since to me the Arthur saga is an ageless manifestation of the eternal political problem of the impossibility to make a perfect ideal come true. Prosaically enough, the probable historical origin of the Arthurian political problem - the tragedy of the ideal regime - is the emperor Frederick II:s court in Palermo. This emperor of the 13th century had that in common with king Arthur that he according to the legend once would rise again from the grave and come back to fulfil his realm.
2. Shakespeare. The ground pillar of the interesting Derby theory is that Shakespeare and Derby had much in common. Earl Stanley might very well have been the model for Hamlet. One can find a vast amount of material in support of the Derby theory. The perhaps most interesting piece is the reason for Derby's silence after the death of Shakespeare. Derby did not agree well with James I and his court. To the dominions of the earl of Derby pertained the Isle of Man, which he almost ruled as a sovereign and which still today sustains unique privileges in Great Britain and stands outside the European Community. Sir Walter Scott has written a great novel which points out the perhaps gravest crisis during the reign of James I. It is not very well known and is called "Peveril of the Peak". It deals with an insurrection which was instigated by a certain mr Christian, a chieftain of the Isle of Man and a forefather to Fletcher Christian, who made himself famous in the mutiny on the "Bounty" in 1789. This ancestor, I think his name was William Christian, was also unjustly bereft of life and honour and even decapitated by mistake. In this insurrection from the Isle of Man the earl of Derby must have shared some of the responsibility. This could have resulted in that king James I commanded him to silence and perhaps even threatened him with the horrors of the Star Chamber.
So much in support of your theory. I think, however, that your theory falls on the very corner-stone which according to you is its decisive support - the two epitaphs by Stanley. Shakespeare could never have written them. It is obvious that they are inspired by the style of Shakespeare, but they are rather imitating than convincing. In my view earl Stanley's poems confirm that earl Stanley is not Shakespeare the poet.
You allege that Shakespeare the man is difficult to combine with the 37 grand dramas. Could he then not have had some imagination? Jules Verne wrote fantastic travel stories and described conditions abroad in far off countries without ever leaving France. I am sorry, but your and mr Nordling's and professor Lefranc's theory does not hold, no matter how much material there is in support for it. As there will always be doubts about Shakespeare's identity, there will always be greater doubts about another's substituting Shakespeare's identity.
But here's another theory for you: have you never wondered why Shakespeare never wrote a play about king Arthur? Of course, the Queen deceiving her sovereign with one of his knights was a delicate theme to represent on stage, but all the same he succeeded in writing about it, and it became his most delicate drama: that's what his Sonnets are all about: king Arthur reflecting on Sir Lancelot and Lady Guinevere. The dark lady then is most probably Morgan le Fay.
It's just a theory, but it fits."
Our friend John Bede thus maintains that Shakespeare could not produce a play showing how the King's Queen deceives him with his first knight - it would not have been proper. For the same reason the play "Henry VIII" does not say anything about the king's adultery. That Shakespeare should have found the theme of king Arthur so irresistible that he simply had to treat it in some way and found a method of doing so in the cryptical sonnets is a most enthralling theory.
We have objections, however, against John Bede's view on the epitaphs. They were written 20 years after the last writings of Shakespeare, and nothing implies that earl Stanley wrote anything in between. During 20 years even a poet has time to rust. If the epitaphs are not on level with Shakespeare's finest sonnets, they are all the same sustained by an almost Shakespearean pathos and honesty and depth of feeling. Above all: the nature of these epitaphs bear witness that these were not the first poems that earl Stanley ever wrote.
Here are the epitaphs in modernized spelling:
"To say a Stanley lies here, that alone
were epitaph enough; no brass, no stone,
no glorious tomb, no monumental hearse,
no guilded trophy or lamp-laboured verse
can dignify his grave or set it forth
like the immortal fame of his own worth.
Then, reader, fix not here, but quit this room
and fly to Abraham's bosom - there's his tomb.
There rests his soul, and for his other parts
they are embalmed and lodged in good men's hearts.
A braver monument of stone or lime,
no art can raise, for this shall outlast time."
(Chelsea Old Church, the monument on his son, Sir Robert Stanley,
and his children, 1633. )
"Ask who lies here, but do not weep.
He is not dead; he doth but sleep.
This stony register is for his bones.
His fame is more perpetual than these stones,
and his own goodness, with himself being gone
shall live when earthly monument is none.
Not monumental stone preserves our fame
nor sky-aspiring pyramids our name.
The memory for him for whom this stands
shall outlive marble and defacers' hands.
When all to time's consumption shall be given,
Stanley, for whom this stands, shall stand in heaven."
(Tong Church, in the outskirts of Birmingham, the monument on his uncle
Sir Thomas Stanley with wife and son, 1632.)
The Shakespeare Debate with John Bede and Carl O. Nordling
This continued for several volumes, but the last word was John Bede's:
"Thanks for sending me the works of Carl O. Nordling. He has put forth a most admirable and magnificent work of research, and I wonder if he realizes himself the importance of his findings. I am inclined to agree with him and accept his theories on almost every point, but in the end he stumbles on his own wicket and backfires. I must maintain that Shakespeare was not Marlowe nor Thomas Kyd and least of all Robert Burton. This clergyman is the very opposite of Shakespeare: a devout protestant, an unbearably tedious pedant, and a most unspiritual and unsophisticated bore completely lacking the art and vocabulary of Shakespeare. His work has merits but far from the merits of Shakespeare.
On the other hand, this Derby theory remains interesting and not without a certain plausibility. Mr Nordling's case is hopeless, however, without proper evidence. You'll never convince the world that Shakespeare was not Shakespeare without definite material evidence. The Shakespearisms of Marlowe, Burton and others can always be explained in other ways. It is known that Marlowe collaborated with Shakespeare at least in Henry VI Part One. Burton was clearly influenced by Shakespeare, since he has references to him, while there is not one reference to Michel de Montaigne in Burton, which clearly is one of Shakespeare's greatest influences. This is only one point of many indicating a clear incompatibility between Shakespeare and Burton.
The link between many Elizabethans and post-Elizabethans is a certain spirit of mind, which is felt both in Kyd, Marlowe, Jonson, Bacon, Burton and others, which reaches its highest expression in the personality of Shakespeare. Also William Stanley voices this spirit in his late epitaphs. But although Shakespeare leaves the scene and dies, the spirit prevails and never leaves England. It is also felt in Milton, Dryden, Swift, Coleridge, Keats and Shelley, the Brontë sisters and even in Conan Doyle and Robert Louis Stevenson, Kipling and Somerset Maugham. But this spirit must never be confused in the days of Shakespeare with other personalities than Shakespeare. William Stanley might well have been under its influence, since he knew Shakespeare personally, but the intimacy with this spirit does not imply that Stanley was Shakespeare.
This is my argument against mr Nordling and Lord Stanley as a Kelt and representative of the English-speaking peoples and, as I claim, myself an intimate of the spirit of Shakespeare.
The issue remains interesting, more material will certainly appear to shed some more light on the mystery, but no scientist will get anywhere in the ways of new theories without proper evidence which dispels every shadow of a doubt."
So much for John Bede. His answer is oracular and ambiguous. He accepts mr Nordling's theories with one hand only to refute them with the other. One could also say, that he neither opens nor closes the door but leaves it slightly ajar. And one can well ask if such an explanation to the mystery as "Shakespeare's spirit making itself felt in others than Shakespeare"
can be regarded as scientifically acceptable.
Mr Nordling's theories are basically these:
1) Shakespeare's dialect is not the language of Shakespeare's home county but belongs rather to the north of England in counties like Lancashire, Cheshire and Yorkshire, which Shakespeare never visited, and which dialect is not used outside these counties, while earl William Stanley was from these very parts.
2) The two epitaphs in Tong and Chelsea are easier to identify with Shakespeare than many of his sonnets. These epitaphs were provably written by William Stanley in 1631 and 1632, that is more than fifteen years after Shakespeare's death.
3) "Hamlet" can only have been written by someone intimately familiar with the life of the Danish court at Kronborg Castle in Elsinore in 1585. Shakespeare had no connection with the Danish court while William Stanley most probably did have.
4) The social position of William Stanley as a close relative of both the English and the Scottish royal families and his resignation from the rights of royal succession fits psychologically perfectly with the position and predicament of Hamlet in the play.
5) Many details and geographical descriptions in the plays of Shakespeare show that the author knew the world well outside England, so well that he must have been a traveller himself. Shakespeare was not. Stanley did travel in his youth.
These are the main arguments of Carl O. Nordling, of which the three first are the most important.
A Case for Christopher Marlowe
Christopher Marlowe, not even two months older than Shakespeare, was the acknowledged creator of the classical Elizabethan drama in blank verse by seven great tragedies of an epoch-making nature, among others the first great drama of Doctor Faust, which later inspired Goethe to his life's work. But apart from being an ingenious dramatist and poet, he was also a man who lived dangerously, working as a spy for Sir Francis Walsingham until his death in 1590, having reputedly homosexual connections and being (reputedly) an atheist.
In 1589 he was involved in a deadly duel with William Bradley. Marlowe's friend and colleague Thomas Watson interfered, and since this was the man Bradley really had sought quarrel with, Bradley left Marlowe and concentrated on Watson, who killed Bradley. This extremely thrilling triple duel must have made a strong impression on Marlowe - if Watson hadn't interfered, Marlowe would have been dead, being a small person (166 cm) and no fighter. Watson had a short term in prison for the duel, while Marlowe was acquitted.
May 18th 1593 Marlowe was arrested for alleged atheism and suspected coining of money. He had been informed against by his colleague Thomas Kyd, who had been arrested and tortured for political pamphlets. Marlowe was released on bail but forbidden to leave London, where the plague was raving. His life was on a tight-rope, and the odds were against him. Others had been executed for less. At this moment, on May 30th, he is accidentally killed in a fight over a bill in a Deptford inn by three companions who had been his friends. According to the coroner's report, Marlowe died instantly of a wound by a knife above his eye. Because of the plague situation, the body was instantly buried without even having been identified in an anonymous grave no one knows where.
Now, is this a credible story? Marlowe was an expert on intrigue, which he had proved in seven great tragedies, all works of a genius. Is it probable that he allowed himself to be involved in a fight with three common men for some pennies? No, it is much more probable that he arranged this scene without other witnesses in order to escape the difficult situation of his life and officially vanish. Pronounced dead, he would be free. All his three murderers were on the payroll of Sir Thomas Walsingham, cousin to Sir Francis Walsingham and Marlowe's benefactor - some even say lover.
The body that was slipped away could have been someone else's. There has never been evidence of Marlowe's death, the body never had a known grave, the brawl took place when the inn was empty with only its owner, a widow, present; the body was never identified and never had an autopsy, and the death certificate, discovered in 1925, seems fabricated. Experts have stated that no one can die of a wound of that sort which according to the coroner Marlowe died of instantly. Experts have stated, that to die of such a wound would take at least a few days. According to the coroner's report, Marlowe was the attacker whom the defendant killed by accident in self-defence while the other two did nothing. All four had been associating peacefully the whole day, after dinner Marlowe rested on a bench while the other three remained seated, then came the bill, and Marlowe suddenly attacked the middle man from behind, who could not defend himself, and sitting in the middle he couldn't even turn around against Marlowe. All the same, according to the coroner, he managed to give Marlowe a fatal wound above the eye, which no one else could have died of, but Marlowe did.
Also the coroner had been selected by Sir Thomas Walsingham. Every detail in the coroner's report seems premeditated long in advance to create a perfect crime scene in which Marlowe could officially vanish for good. The report seems fabricated to the very purpose of leaving no doubts and nothing to question. The fellow responsible for Marlowe's accidental death was of course prosecuted but soon released since he had acted in self-defence, and he immediately continued in the service of Sir Thomas Walsingham.
According to theories, Marlowe escaped to France and Italy. The scene in "Romeo and Juliet" where Tybalt kills Mercutio seems copied from the very fight between Marlowe, Bradley and Watson - but of course dramatized. Mercutio then could very well be a self-portrait of the young Marlowe.
There was one drawback in Marlowe's staged death - he could not return to life. He could continue to write plays, but not in his own name. The name provided for Marlowe's continued progress as a playwright was found in a decent fellow who willingly let himself be paid by Walsingham to give his name to Marlowe's plays. His name was William Shakespeare, an honest actor from Stratford.
"Your name from hence immortal life shall have,
Though I, once gone, to all the world must die...
Your monument shall be my gentle verse,
Which eyes not yet created shall o'er-read;" - Sonnet LXXXI.
This is the Marlowe case in brief.
Without doubt, the reports, rumours and backbiting on Marlowe must have been an unbearable burden to him. This remarkable shoemaker's son from Canterbury, an only son with four younger sisters, worked himself up alone to a brilliant degree in Cambridge. Just this career of a student without any family fortunes or titles must have been something unique in England at that time. This brilliant intellectual talent came by his sheer endowment early into contact with such influential gentlemen as Sir Walter Raleigh, perhaps the most colourful of all the Elizabethans beside the earl of Essex, and Sir Philip Sidney, another literary genius who died young, but who had time to act as a host to Giordano Bruno when he visited England. It's possible and probable that Christopher Marlowe might have been in some contact with Giordano Bruno, since you can trace some influence from him and from Sidney, which surprisingly is voiced in "Love's Labour's Lost".
But Marlowe was never an atheist. That reputation was false. In almost all of Marlowe's plays there are religious arguments, which show an astounding ability to discern between what is true and false. In "Tamburlaine the Great", the first classical Elizabethan drama, the chief character Timur Lenk rejects Mohammed and denounces him, but he never rejects God. This is a typical Marlowian differentiation. In "The Jew of Malta" the greedy Jew occasionally seems both heroic and sympathetic in his wild intrigues, and his religion is never derided. When he quite surprisingly perishes in the end it almost seems unfair. This Jew Barabbas sustains the whole play by his enormously complex religious character, just like Shylock does the same in "The Merchant of Venice", who could be regarded as a more modulated and developed version of the Barabbas character. Marlowe goes furthest in his interesting religious dealings in "The Massacre at Paris", where the victim to the slaughter is religion itself, which commits suicide by its moral collapse and bankruptcy. A better reason for never more dealing with any kind of religion couldn't be imagined on the part of Marlowe or king Henry IV of France.
Marlowe might very well have known king Henry IV of Navarre personally. "The Massacre at Paris" seems to convey that impression, and even more "Love's Labour's Lost", which leads us to suggest that Marlowe escaped after May 1593 to king Henry in France. He had earlier been on missions to Rheims, he must have known France well with the problems of the Huguenots, and many English Catholics had sought refuge at Rheims, whom he knew, since he had been spying on them for Sir Francis Walsingham.
"Tamburlaine the Great" has another interesting common denominator with the historical Shakespeare plays. In this early drama the poet already demonstrates his total freedom to deal with historical facts exactly as he wishes. Everything is allowed in rewriting history in order to fit it in on the stage. Tamburlaine has exactly as little to do with the real Timur Lenk as Shakespeare's Antony has any resemblance with the historical Antony, the murderer of Cicero. Such perfect parallels in the utterly shameless and disrespectful way of illustrating history are more than just striking.
Neither was Marlowe any proved coiner of money. It is true that he knew the art of coining base money, he probably tested doing it when he was in Holland,
("When I have seen the hungry ocean gain
Advantage on the kingdom on the shore,
And the firm soil win on the wat'ry main..." Sonnet LXIV,)
but there is no evidence that he ever practised that craft in England. Thus the Crown had no real charge against him.
Also his reputed homosexuality could be questioned. It is most probable that he with other British poets of the highest rank (like Byron, Shelley and Oscar Wilde, whom we must never forget was married and had two children: his homosexuality was in fact only a left-handed escapade,) quite simply was liberal enough to be bisexual - or asexual, which highly intellectual thinkers often are. This gives the Marlowe theory an advantage to both the candidatures of Shakespeare and Stanley to the authorship of the dramas: without any family ties Marlowe could more easily concentrate on creating the world's greatest dramas than both Shakespeare and Stanley.
When Marlowe vanishes from life, Shakespeare doesn't yet exist as a poet or playwright. Four months after the Deptford 'murder' he turns up as the author of his first publication, the poem "Venus and Adonis" eloquently dedicated to the dashing earl of Southampton, Henry Wriothesley, which dedication makes it impossible for anyone to doubt the author's identity as W. Shakespeare. This dedication eliminates every suspicion of Marlowe's haunting the verses, although the poem fits perfectly as a continuation and development of the theme in the last work in Marlowe's name, the idyllic love poem "Hero and Leander". Perhaps it was necessary to furnish the two Shakespearean poems with dedications to avoid suspicion: The two poems fit as a continuation of Marlowe's poem like hands into their perfect gloves, as if, as one scholar put it, "Marlowe reminds you more of Shakespeare than Shakespeare does himself."
Fleeing from England, things indicate that he found a safe environment with the knavish king Henry IV, who took nothing seriously and took all political intrigues for a joke. He changed religion a number of times and didn't care to which church he belonged as long as it matched his politics. Such a king would have been the ideal refuge to a vulnerable adventurer, who was embarking on a new life. "Love's Labour's Lost" was probably written on this occasion as the poet's first comedy. It's an intimate chamber comedy with the thinnest plot of all the plays, suited to a very small stage but full of French wit and trivialities: it's a trifle and the ideal experiment in comedy for a playwright who never had tried writing comedies in his life. Much in this almost over-spiritual comedy reminds you of "As You Like It", which also takes place in France. Most Shakespeare scholars agree, that "Love's Labour's Lost" can only have been written by someone who knew France and Henry IV intimately.
Then follow the Italian comedies, which betray the same thing: plays like "The Taming of the Shrew", "The Two Gentlemen of Verona", "Romeo and Juliet" and "The Merchant of Venice" can only have been written by someone who stayed long enough in these north-eastern parts of Italy to know them more than well. The local knowledge they display, like for instance about the water ways between Venice and Milan, could in those days only be acquired on the spot. To this comes the phenomenon about the sources to some of the Italian plays.
The source of "Romeo and Juliet" was a widely read and extremely popular short story by Luigi da Porto (1485-1529), which the poet simply has dramatized, but with some innovation: the characters of Mercutio, the Nurse, Benvolio and Prince Escalus have been invented, neither Paris nor Juliet's father play any great part in the short story, Tybalt is killed by Romeo without having killed any Mercutio, and Romeo is not dead when Juliet awakes in the tomb. The story of "Othello" is a true one recorded by G.B.Giraldo Cintio (1504-73), who got it live from Emilia, Iago's widow. In "Othello" the dramatist has not invented any extra characters, but he has given Othello a character of his own, the moor is not a nobly tragic figure in the original, but the whole series of events is a most brutal and vulgar story of vile desire. Iago's motivation is, that Desdemona has turned him down, she can't understand that he, who is already married, could try anything with her, who passionately loves only the moor, and so Iago decides to revenge himself on her. The story is very racist: to be turned down for a moor is the supreme insult to Iago, who breeds suspicion in the moor and prompts him to murder, which they however commit together, breaking down a wall on Desdemona, who is crushed. They were both tried for murder, but Othello admitted nothing and was acquitted though dishonoured for life, while Iago was badly tortured and died from it. The only name mentioned in the whole novelette is "Disdemona", the "un-devilish", while all others remain anonymous.
More remarkable is the origin to "The Merchant of Venice". This story is part of a collection like "Decamerone" written by a certain Ser Giovanni, and this short story is called "Il Pecorone". The remarkable thing is that the poet has come across this obscure collection of short stories, found this long one and dramatized it exactly according to the text. There are no extra inventions here. The drama concentrates the action on the middle part of the story, which really is like a short novel with complicated intrigues and long voyages in far off countries; and every detail is copied from the story: the Jew's refusing to compromise, the faked court of justice - only the Shylock character is developed and is like a brother of Barabbas in "The Jew of Malta", only more human.
Published short stories like "Il Pecorone", "The Book of Juliet" and "The Moor of Venice" could hardly have been available in English. A short story like "Il Pecorone" can only have been available in Italy. But W. Shakespeare never left England and did probably not know Italian. One who did know Italian was Thomas Kyd, the author of the most successful "The Spanish Tragedy", the first blood-curdling horror drama, which instantly turned Thomas Kyd into Marlowe's most dangerous competitor. Kyd's dramas are often spiced with Italian. If Kyd knew Italian it is probable that also Marlowe did, or got the ambition to learn it, linguistically talented as he was; and if he went to Italy after some time in France, which seems probable that he did, he must have gloated in thrilling modern Italian short novels and stories in order to gratefully use them for material to practise on as a playwright.
Thomas Kyd is intimately connected with Marlowe's fate. They worked together and vied with each other and were probably both good friends and hearty enemies, as great stage personalities often are. Lying on the rack, Kyd denounced Marlowe. Agents of Her Majesty's government had ransacked Kyd's apartment for pamphlets against Flemish immigrants, found nothing of that kind but found the more other interesting things, like deeply compromising atheistic writings, for which Kyd was arrested. These extremely daring and religiously challenging writings Kyd blamed on Marlowe and made a full statement implicating Marlowe completely, being forced to any unwilling confessions by the most insensitive machinery of the rack. Kyd was released but later on died from the after-effects of his torture. Marlowe might have felt some guilt for Kyd's undeserved fate, since Marlowe really was much guiltier of religious speculations than Kyd, who never had any interest in politics or religion. Like Michelangelo destroyed his own frescoes in the municipality of Florence when his competitor Leonardo's frescoes were ruined from sheer bad luck, so Marlowe might have decided to never again appear under his own name as a playwright after the most brutal rape of Thomas Kyd's muse.
There are more implications. One of the strangest is the secret contents in "As You Like It". Not only do we here find the strange character of Jacques, who many believe to be a self-portrait of the poet, and which is convincing as such. Two other characters reveal even more than Jacques: Touchstone and the preposterous priest Sir Oliver Martext, who really has nothing to do with the play. The knave Touchstone has several interesting quarrels with exciting import if you are familiar with the case of Marlowe. In one place Touchstone scolds the churl William, whom he calls a humbug and falsification while he himself is genuine. This is irrelevant and incomprehensible nonsense to each one who knows nothing of the Marlowe case, since the only possible interpretation is that Marlowe in this disguise unmasks William Shakespeare.
Sir Oliver Martext is as a mere character even more irrelevant. This is the only instance in the whole Shakespeare production where a superfluous character has been introduced to just utter a few insignificant lines and vanish. There is no explanation to his total misplacement. But in the First Folio the name is written Mar-text, and his only line of any meaning is his last: "...ne'er a fantastical knave of them all shall flout me out of my calling." The visiting appearance of Mar-text can only be explained in one way: he is the abbreviation of the clandestine message of Marlowe's text. This of course appears as a somewhat roundabout explanation, but let us remember the great pamphlet war in Canterbury in the 1580's. The author of seven pamphlets causing great religious controversy was a certain pseudonym who has never been found out calling himself Martin Marprelate. Now, Canterbury, from whence the pamphlets proceeded, was the hometown of Christopher Marlowe. This, of course, proves nothing, but might be the only possible explanation to that pamphlet war, which the spurious name of Sir Oliver Martext might be a last distant echo of.
These are but small links in a long chain of Marlowe indications in the play. But just such small hints so well disguised might have proved too much. Just before the play was to be printed in 1600 it was withdrawn from the presses, someone apparently had found it too risky and dangerous, and it was never printed until in The First Folio 23 years later.
These are but small trivialities in the overwhelming concordance between Shakespeare and Marlowe, as if Shakespeare had been Marlowe's double. The great circumstantial evidence is the style of Marlowe and Shakespeare, which is identical like finger-prints of the same person but in different ages. Scholars have always recognized traits of Marlowe's hand in early Shakespeare plays like "Titus Andronicus", "The Taming of the Shrew", "King John" and "Henry VI". Characters like Richard III, King Lear, Macbeth, Coriolanus and Timon of Athens are like aggrandized developments of such early heaven-storming Marlowe characters as Tamburlaine, doctor Faustus and the Jew Barabbas of Malta. The only chronicle play of Marlowe's, "Edward II", is a clear prototype to all the chronicles of Shakespeare. Concerning "Henry VI" there is a fragment by Marlowe called "Richard, Duke of York", which clearly is an earlier version of the third part of "Henry VI". The strange thing about this early version is, that everything is already there: the whole tragedy is developed, the ultimate personality of Richard III is already finished, even the horrible war scenes with the father who has killed his son and the son who has killed his father are complete in Marlowe's version.
We must not forget the Shakespeare apocrypha. There were six additional plays to which this name was attached as the author: "Locrine", "Sir John Oldcastle", "The True Chronicle History of Thomas Lord Cromwell", "The London Prodigal", "The Puritan" and "A Yorkshire Tragedy". These six were sorted out as The First Folio was compiled as not on the level with the other 37 plays. But these six were printed in Shakespeare's name while he lived. It's quite possible that they were actually written by him - but not by Marlowe.
The Sun-Spots of the Poet.
The first one is the most famous: Hamlet's folly. Hamlet is on the point of losing his head as he visits Ofelia with torn clothes and later on violates all limits to the correctness of behaviour for an heir to the throne in the violent scene against her. And the height in this disturbing middle part of the play, which always has caused so much concern and difficulties to actors and directors, is of course the suicide monologue.
All this folly, which is not to be found in the original story of Saxo Grammaticus, where Hamlet's folly finds completely different expressions, is singular to the author. Therefore there is only one interpretation: here is a personal self confession. Hamlet is such an extremely idiosyncratic individualist, that it can only be a self-portrait - and as such a unique expression of the poet. The problem is just, that this intricate irrational distracted playacting is completely ununderstandable.
Is it then possible to place such a torn personality in connection with William Stanley, the 6th earl of Derby, the candidate to the throne of the Catholics, a highly educated jurist with responsibility for a county, and with additional responsibility as the governor and owner of the Isle of Man, happily married with three sons and two castles, an established man of the world in the highest possible social position with a wife well seen at court? Lord Stanley, the proposed candidate of many scholars to the authorship of Shakespeare's works, is a far too well-balanced man to have drawn a self-portrait in the madness and tragic nature of Hamlet. There is no evidence that he ever would have written a single play himself, although George Fenner, a Catholic agent, wrote to Catholics abroad, that the earl of Derby "was far to busy writing plays to show any interest in the Catholic party". He would rather have been too busy governing the Isle of Man and Lancashire, bringing up his sons, maintaining his castles and properties, managing the administration of his theatre companies, keeping up his law duties and entertaining his wife to be able to write any of the Shakespeare plays. After all, these are not mere entertainments but rather part of the most advanced and difficult literature in the world. No one surpasses Shakespeare except Dante, and not even Dante surpasses the beauty of the Shakespearean sonnets.
Let's study Kit Marlowe, who at the age of 29 has to break off his career and go underground for the rest of his life to become a ghost writer to others and never again appear in public life, who always has had problems with women, who in "Edward II" describes relationships between men much more convincingly and intimately than between the sexes, and who also previously, like in "As You Like It", has shown an inclination to surreptitiously reveal self-confessions masked in mysteries. The extremely strained relationship between Hamlet and Ofelia fits perfectly to the case of Marlowe. It just couldn't fit more perfectly, because here we have glaringly clear the most characteristic of all symptoms of Marlowe: a bad relationship between man and women (Hamlet-Ofelia) but the best possible relationship between men (Hamlet-Horatio) - but please note: without any sign of homosexuality. That's Marlowe's sexual earmark: all his sexual relationships are bad, whether they are between the sexes or the same sex, while all his asexual relationships or Platonic friendships are perfect. And nothing would suit better into a case like Marlowe's than Hamlet's suicide monologue. Such a case would if anything give frequent occasions to reflections upon suicide, and in a character like Hamlet he would have had the ideal opportunity to give vent to such broodings in artistic expression. It would be nothing less than the perfect self therapy. The distracted Hamlet could very well be regarded as the painful self-portrait of Marlowe - and then suddenly Hamlet starts to make sense.
Even greater expressions the sickly spots of the poet find in "King Lear", where the bitter disillusions of the central figure find cosmic expressions in a tragic madness that goes beyond everything. King Lear is no more than a consequence and development of the first cautious steps into Hamlet's folly. In "Hamlet" the sickly melancholy of bitterness carefully suggests itself in a daring effort to intimate an expression. In "King Lear" the poet goes the whole line and dares to cry out his universal pain much more than just sufficiently - there is no more need for any further madness after that. Lear is the last lunatic in the canon.
Two spots remain - "Coriolanus" and "Timon of Athens". Coriolanus is the total public enemy, who takes the consequences of the injustice he suffers from the state he has served. Also Coriolanus is a complex character, who from sheer nobility of spirit can't apply the populist methods demanded of a civil servant if he is to get any support from the common mob. He just can't lower himself to show the vulgarity needed to become popular. As a consequence he is misunderstood and becomes unpopular and is frozen out by the more popular politicians whose positions depend on the favours of the common mob, whereupon he, being a completely honest man, takes the consequences in full and joins the enemies to the state to take up arms against his own home country: his logic makes him a traitor. This character is also a most personal invention of the author: Plutarch has not the slightest indication of the profound political psychology which is so predominant in the drama. Thus we can guess a self-portrait here as well. Of Lord Stanley? Impossible. He never wavered in his loyalty to the Crown, and king James did himself intervene for Lord Stanley in his great family trial of many years. He was loyalty impersonated.
Kit Marlowe was in the 1580's in the secret service of Sir Francis Walsingham spying on Catholics in France. Associating with them in Rheims, he knew the psychology and reason of traitors, like Dostoyevsky learned to understand the psychology of criminals in the prisons of Siberia. We have already suggested Marlowe's increasing bitterness during the years. Here again Coriolanus suits perfectly into the pattern as a self-therapeutic expression of a volcanically deep resentment against the British Crown, who probably failed Christopher Marlowe when it should have protected him, considering his earlier services to the state.
Finally the total misanthropist Timon of Athens - again a perfectly personal expression of a deep disappointment in humanity and in life itself. The only woman parts in the whole play are two harlots appearing drunk with Alcibiades. Never was woman given a more bitter jibe in any play by this playwright. It's his maximum insult against the weaker sex. Also this would fit perfectly into the case of Christopher Marlowe - and nowhere else.
Finally an authentic document (somewhat shortened), the critical moment in Marlowe's life, which compels him to his most extraordinary fate - to be able to survive only by officially ceasing to exist. It's the royal agent Richard Baines' report on Marlowe to the Privy Council and the Queen:
"Containing the opinion of Christopher Marlowe concerning his damnable opinions and judgement of religion and scorn of God's word.
That the Indians and many Authors of antiquity have assuredly written of above 16 thousand years ago, whereas Adam is proved to have lived within 6 thousand years.
He affirms that Moses was but a Juggler and that one Harriot, being Sir Walter Raleigh's man, can do more than he.
That Moses made the Jews travel 11 years in the wilderness, which journey to the promised land might have been done in less than one year, to the intent that those who were privy to most of his subtleties might perish and so an everlasting superstition remain in the hearts of the people.
That the first beginning of Religion was only to keep men in awe.
That Christ was the son of a carpenter and that, if the Jews among whom he was born did crucify him, they best knew him and whence he came.
That Christ deserved to die better than Barabbas, and that the Jews made a good choice, though Barabbas was both a thief and a murderer.
That if there be any God or good Religion, then it is the Papists', because the service of God is performed with more ceremonies, as elevation of the mass, organs, singing men, shaven crowns, etc.
That all Protestants are hypocritical asses.
That if he were put to write a new religion, he would undertake a both more excellent and Admirable method.
That all they that love not Tobacco and Boys were fools.
That all the apostles were fishermen and base fellows, neither of wit nor worth, that Paul only had wit, but he was a timorous fellow in bidding men to be subject to magistrates against his conscience.
That he had as good a right to coin as the Queen of England, and that he was acquainted with one Poole, a prisoner in Newgate, who has great skill in mixture of metals, and having learned some things from him, he meant, through help of a cunning stamp-maker, to coin French crowns, pistolets, and English shillings.
That Richard Cholmeley has confessed that he was persuaded by Marlowe's reasons to become an Atheist.
That this Marlowe does not only hold these opinions himself, but almost into every company he comes he persuades men to Atheism, utterly scorning both God and His ministers, wherefore I, Richard Baines, think all men in Christianity ought to endeavour that the mouth of so dangerous a member may be stopped."
This document is received by the Privy Council of the Queen on May 29th 1593. Marlowe's protector Sir Thomas Walsingham was in touch with the Queen and Council and probably had immediate knowledge of the report, the only serious charge of which was Marlowe's knowledge of coining money. The Queen could forgive anything but that someone interfered in her national economy.
So Marlowe's life as a successful dramatist is put at the stake, and he has no alternative to have his career disrupted than to anticipate the authorities and interrupt it himself, which he doesn't hesitate to do the very following day. And instead of the successful playwright and national poet Marlowe we had the most difficult case in theatre history, a much worse and more tragic and complicated case than the naïve simpleton Oscar Wilde, who was not strong enough to cope with his own case. Not until 1895, the very year when Oscar Wilde was put to trial, it started to be observed that Marlowe and Shakespeare could be the same author, the theory was published in California by the lawyer William G. Ziegler, who had found out that Shakespeare's and Marlowe's style were identical. The coroner's report on Marlowe's death was discovered 30 years later in 1925, and 30 years later again Calvin Hoffman published his book "The Man Who Was Shakespeare" where he exposes the sensational results of 19 years of research, an extremely concentrated and substantial book containing enough circumstantial evidence to show that Marlowe himself staged his death to be able to continue developing his art in spite of the "vulgar scandal stamped upon his brow" (Sonnet 112) but under the name of his colleague, the most reliable actor and stage director William Shakespeare.
The problem of the Puritans seems to have been the Nemesis not only of Marlowe but of the entire Elizabethan age. The important key figure to the Shakespeare mystery William Stanley, earl of Derby, died 81 years old in 1642. Around the same time the civil war broke out, and all the theatres closed in all England for 18 years ahead. Later on in the civil war, the Puritans burned the castle and home of Lord Stanley including his invaluable library, where all the original manuscripts of the Shakespeare plays might have been kept.
"My dear Shakespeare reader,
Many thanks for sending me the Richard Baines report in full. As I had not read it before, it appeared to me as a stunning revelation. I am now prepared to reconsider the Shakespeare problem and to alter my position more in favour of Christopher Marlowe. In fact, this report could both be regarded as an explanation of the case and as close to clear evidence of Marlowe's authorship of the Shakespeare works as you can get.
The stunning thing about this report is the evil of it. Of course it is biassed. Mr Richard Baines must have hated Christopher Marlowe. I see him as a petty official drudging on in obscurity with sordid paper work and with little chance of advancement in life. So he becomes a police spy specializing on informing against people. His motivation can't just have been safe-guarding the security of the state. Something about the successful genius of Christopher Marlowe must have revolted him, maybe Marlowe's audacity combined with some arrogance and insolence, but most probably Marlowe's clearcut and ruthless freedom of conscience. Mr Richard Baines must have been a complete Puritan, a bigot of the very worst kind, reacting against Marlowe's preposterous free-thinking as destructively as he possibly could. Mr Baines must have been fully aware, that his report was the complete devastation of Marlowe's career and life, and he must have written it in the very intention of effectively ruining the playwright's life.
Of course, the Queen, being the highest sponsor and lover of the Theatre in England, must have seen through Mr Baines' bias and vile intentions and been shocked. She could impossibly have sanctioned the arrest of Marlowe and his execution. She could not have taken such a prejudiced Puritan report seriously. At the same time, she could not disregard the fact that Marlowe's knowledge of coining was a latent security risk which had to be dealt with. She probably summoned Sir Thomas Walsingham, Marlowe's benefactor, promptly and commanded him to do something about it, to dispose of the problem without disrupting Marlowe's most promising career as a playwright and poet. Walsingham, who was knighted a few years later, must have solved the problem to the Queen's satisfaction. Instead of Marlowe she got Shakespeare, the protégé of Henry Wriothesley, the earl of Southampton, and, more important, in the theatre company of Will Stanley, the sixth earl of Derby, perhaps the most influential political key person in England beside the Queen, being the leader of the Catholics with diplomatic connections all over Europe, if anything an international figure and the perfect underground diplomat to be able to advocate new plays in the untarnished and completely non-controversial name of William Shakespeare.
I am with you, Christian, in your rehabilitation push for Christopher Marlowe.
Yours, John Bede."
The Revelation of the Sonnets.
Peter Quennell characterizes the sonnets as "a much visited cave with an infinite number of footprints outside the entrance, which show that many explorers have entered across its threshold but that none of them yet has come out of the cave." The 154 sonnets constitute the most difficult riddle in world literature. They tell a story, which no one has been able to interpret, and each effort to an interpretation has only made the interpretation more difficult. As a riddle it can perhaps only be compared with the prophecies of Nostradamus, which have caused as much speculation, but which have been interpreted with much greater ease than the Shakespearean sonnets.
But if you use the case of Christopher Marlowe for a mould and try to suit it into the hardly discernible pattern of the mysteries it is almost frighteningly much that fits, but still far from all. The extremely private and personal drama of the sonnets becomes visible but only faintly in the outlines.
Is it then at least possible from the sonnets to have a clear answer to our main question, namely who the poet really is? Let's have a look.
The first sonnets are the simplest. The poet loves a young man, whose beauty he wants him to preserve for the future by begetting a son. It's the purest and most beautiful thinkable expression of Platonic love when it is at its most constructive.
Sonnet 16 reveals there is a portrait of the man. This information inspired Oscar Wilde to write his most initiated speculation "The Portrait of Mr W.H." in 1888, a story which shows that Oscar Wilde perhaps deeper than anyone else tried to understand the sonnets but as a result only missed his shot more grossly than anyone else: He wants Mr W.H. to be a fair actor called Will Hughes, who is supposed to have been an expert on playing female parts. The idea is good although it remains 100% speculation.
In sonnet 20, Woman enters but so far without devastating consequences. But with sonnet 25 the self-confessions start to deepen and increase the reader's interest for the increasing mystery. This sonnet is especially interesting to our research, as it seems to definitely exclude William Stanley as a candidate to the authorship of Shakespeare's works, for here the poet's social position appears rather definite: He has no position, no titles, no public respect and is willingly detached from things like that, not with scorn but rather with some melancholy, as if he was well aware of his being excluded from all such possibilities in life.
In sonnet 29 he goes further and confesses to be in disgrace with Fortune and cries in self pity for his outcast state.
In sonnet 50 he is exiled. This theme of exile is remarkable and reoccurs constantly in the Shakespeare canon and is maybe the heaviest of all arguments for Marlowe. The exile theme appears already in the early comedy "The Two Gentlemen of Verona" and dominates also the comedies "As You Like It", "The Winter's Tale" and "The Tempest" and haunts most of the tragedies. The exile is always experienced and expressed as an extremely painful suffering but also with a kind of masochistic lust and pathos, as if the poet wallowed in that kind of suffering. The exile theme is driven to extremes in "King Lear", where the central part is driven to the highest degree of mental disorder by being driven into exile by his own family. Neither Shakespeare nor Stanley ever experienced being driven into exile.
In several sonnets he thinks of himself as a dead man, for example in 71 and 72, but in 73 we have another obvious indication. The only known portrait of Marlowe in Corpus Christi College in Cambridge has a text in the upper left-hand corner which says in Latin: "Quod nutrit me destruit," ("That which nourishes me destroys me,") which the portrayed person himself wanted inscribed on the painting, as some sort of motto. It was painted in 1585 as Marlowe was 21 years old. This very statement and phrase reoccurs constantly throughout the works of Shakespeare in many varied forms, like in sonnet 73:
"In me thou seest the glowing of such fire
That on the ashes of his youth doth lie,
As the death-bed whereon it must expire,
Consum'd with that which it was nourish'd by."
That Shakespeare or Stanley would copy and imitate Marlowe so directly or unawares in such extremely personal self-effusing poems as the sonnets, which all through breathe only the purest honesty, seems improbable to the highest possible degree. You can steal of others, but you can't copy another's spirit and publish it as your own. Here speaks the very same spirit that put the signature on the portrait.
In sonnet 74 he goes even farther in reflections over himself as dead:
"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."
Lines like these are completely incomprehensible and inexplicable unless you put them in context with Marlowe's staged death. Also in sonnet 112 he speaks of having had a "vulgar scandal" stamped upon his brow.
In sonnet 125 he speaks straight out:
"Hence, thou suborn'd informer! A true soul,
When most impeach'd, stands least in thy control."
This sonnet is clearly one of the most autobiographical, where he also confesses himself "poor but free". This also is not compatible with neither Shakespeare nor Lord Stanley.
In sonnet 127 appears the dark lady with devouringly destructive passions for a result (sonnet 129), the most typical of all Marlowe syndromes: Platonic love is perfect, but sexual love is only devastating.
This is merely a sketch of the top of the iceberg. 90% of the real contents of the sonnets will perhaps always remain hopelessly unexplainable even with Marlowe for a guide. The fact remains, however, that with both Shakespeare and Stanley for guides even less of the sonnets can be grasped and explained.
We mentioned the exile theme in so many of the Shakespeare plays. Almost all the greatest writers of Europe have created their masterworks in exile, starting with Dante, who was exiled from Florence and wrote most of his Comedy in exile. Victor Hugo wrote his three unsurpassed novels "Les Miserables", "Workers of the Sea" and "The Laughing Man" in exile from France on the isle of Guernsey in the English Channel. Dostoyevsky was not allowed for many years to live in his city of St. Petersburg and wrote "The Idiot" and "The Possessed" in Germany. Ibsen wrote most of his plays in voluntary exile in Rome. Stefan Zweig wrote all his greatest books after the exile from Austria in 1934. Already Ovid, the Latin poet who is most frequently remembered and quoted in the works of Marlowe and Shakespeare, (Marlowe actually translated him,) used his art in for instance "Tristia" in his exile from Rome as a kind of therapy to handle his anguished desperation. There is much to indicate that Marlowe in his enforced exile from England the more was motivated to create the more sublime masterpieces to fight and withstand the utter desperation of his loneliness. There are many indications in the sonnets that his love was telepathic.
Echoes of Marlowe occur not only in Oscar Wilde. Keats and Shelley were also exiled from England on different grounds, wrote their masterpieces and found their deaths in exile. Of all poets in England after Shakespeare, these two come the closest to the spirit and poetical ideal of Shakespeare.
By his fate Marlowe would find himself in the company of Beethoven, who by his deafness received the cruellest possible fate for his profession, and Dostoyevsky, who was condemned to death and had his life ruined by his political involvements in the writings of his youth. The last Shakespeare plays have often been compared with the last works of Beethoven. All these three, Marlowe, Beethoven and Dostoyevsky, were forced by their destinies to an extra effort of life and to a deeper not to say maximal concentration on their work, which luckier and happier artists never found.
The Controversies of Timon, Pericles and Henry VIII.
They have been treated with some doubt as to their genuineness. "Timon of Athens", "Pericles" and "Henry VIII" separate themselves from the usual mannerisms of the poet and almost fall outside the frames of his art: Timon is rather a philosophical drama and unique as such in his production; Pericles is neither a comedy nor a tragedy but rather some kind of an entertainment almost like a vaudeville of rather an equivocal nature; and also Henry VIII is completely detached from all the previous chronicles by its almost documentary realism. Arguments have been raised that these plays might not have been written entirely by our poet.
We dare refute such arguments. There is only one scene in Timon which is doubtful, act III scene 5 in the Senate with Alcibiades and the senators, which honestly speaking seems to be manufactured in subsequence by some clot.
Pericles is a remarkable limbo play which doesn't seem to belong anywhere. It was excluded from The First Folio but was taken in later on, since some scenes unmistakably bear the imprint of our genius, especially the scene with the fishermen. The drama recounts the strange story of how prince Pericles of Tyre proposes to a lovely princess, who has an incestuous relationship with her father. In order to win her, Pericles must explain an impossible enigma, the answer to which is the very matter of incest, which answer Pericles is clever enough to discern, whereupon the father to the princess is taken by such a fear, that he has no option than to dispose of Pericles just because he has solved the riddle, in the same way that he disposed of all the previous suitors for not having solved the riddle. It's the old Turandot story all over again but in a more poignant version. Pericles has to flee to save his life, is wrecked in a storm and encounters lots of adventures, until he finds another princess, woos her and marries her and has a daughter; but in the difficult delivery on board of a ship and in the middle of a new wrecking storm his wife dies, whereupon she is buried at sea in a coffin. This coffin floats ashore and falls into the hands of a king who knows the art of resurrecting the dead: He brings the Queen back to life, who in her sense of being lost in life chooses to serve as a priestess in a temple until time will explain her life to her.
In the meanwhile the small girl, who in the storm is separated from her father, faces many strange adventures. She grows up and is taken care of by a bawdy-woman, who in vain tries to exploit her and offer her to clients: the girl is utterly impossible as a whore, since she only preaches virtue and threatens the whole brothel business with bankruptcy. This is dramatically and psychologically the most interesting part of the play.
Pericles is himself totally inconsolable without his wife and daughter and allows his beard and hair to grow for years, until one day through a miracle he suddenly regains his Queen, daughter and his senses with even the whole of his old kingdom. Thus everything ends very well.
The drama is rather short and something like a parenthesis in the production but a most important missing link: It is obvious that the poet here experiments with new possibilities after having tired of the great tragedies and left them behind. Pericles is in fact the introduction to the last fairy plays, which all have the same form as Pericles but higher developed: the most impossible, difficult and complicated embroilments and disasters are turned by the unfathomable mechanisms of fate into bright redemption and triumphing human happiness.
Henry VIII is almost pedantic in its careful reconstruction of the falls of the Duke of Buckingham, Catherine of Aragon and Cardinal Wolsey. The play is very extensive, and nothing much happens really: people just talk and complain.
The representation of the case of Cardinal Wolsey, however, is of the greatest interest. He is in fact one of the poet's greatest and most impressing characters. It's difficult to imagine that this corrupt and ambitious cardinal might have been so interesting a person in reality.
We bring these plays to light here since they seem to have special bearings on Marlowe. In Pericles we have one of the very obvious: in Act II scene 2 six suitors to the lovely princess Thaïsa parade. The fourth of them carries a torch upside down with the device: Quod me alit, me extinguit", ("What keeps me burning consumes me",) a variation of the motto of Marlowe Quod nutrit me destruit, or, as the Sonnet 73 renders it: Consumed with that which it was nourished by. Also the salacious intrigues of Pericles smell very much of the early Marlowe: such tendencies are evident in for instance "Dido, Queen of Carthage". None of the dramas in the name of Shakespeare reminds you so much of the early sexually liberated Marlowe as Pericles does.
We mentioned somewhere that Marlowe probably was the man behind the great theological war of pamphlets made by the pseudonym Martin Marprelate from Marlowe's hometown Canterbury. In the dramas under the name of Marlowe preceding his fall there is very much theology. In the Shakespeare dramas there is almost none whatsoever until suddenly in Henry VIII in the case of Wolsey. All of a sudden this poet speaks of God, which he has never done before. Robert Greene, one of Marlowe's colleagues, who is charged with having denounced and denigrated Shakespeare, appears to have had some admiration of Marlowe, since Greene publicly expressed that Marlowe had a prophetic spirit. Indeed, such a prophetic spirit permeates the whole of Henry VIII maybe more than any of the plays.
The Shakespeare connoisseur Carl O. Nordling has suggested that the poet of the dramas very well later might have written the great work published in the name of Robert Burton, the very meticulous and learned treatise called "The Anatomy of Melancholy", one of the favourite books of Doctor Johnson's. Our opinion was that neither Shakespeare nor Stanley were probable as authors of this work, while indeed it could fit into the picture of Marlowe. If Marlowe anonymously wrote the pamphlets under the name of Martin Marprelate, he might also very well have written "The Anatomy of Melancholy" and used Robert Burton as he used Shakespeare, being obliged to never again use his own name after the terrible denouncement of Richard Baines.
In view of this possibility you can see the Wolsey character as a missing link - a transition into a new phase of the poet's life: he abandons the theatre to return to where he started: in theology. We have admitted to Carl O. Nordling that "The Anatomy of Melancholy" in language and style perfectly fits as a natural continuation and development of the idea-world of the dramas, especially in view of the last great dramatical character in the poet's output, the unforgettable Cardinal Wolsey in his abysmal fall from wordliness and power to purest spirituality.
The Method of Doctor Mendenhall
In 1901 a strange experiment was conducted in Boston, Massachusetts, by a certain doctor Thomas Corwin Mendenhall. He had in 1887 elaborated a method to analyze the literary "fingerprints" of an author's style by means of a very simple but extremely tedious system of summoning up some hundreds of thousands of words from an author's writings and grouping these in words of one syllable, two syllables, three syllables, four syllables, etc, adding the sums in a diagram. The more words counted, the more precise the literary "fingerprint". The method appeared to work out well, since the stylistic "fingerprint" of the investigated author always was the same, no matter from what works of his you took the vast collections of words.
In 1901 he was engaged by the rich mr Augustus Heminway for his purpose of trying to prove that the works of Shakespeare had been written by Francis Bacon. Doctor Mendenhall meticulously carried out his investigation but came to the decisive result that the literary "fingerprints" of Shakespeare and Bacon did not match. The great Bacon admirer mr Heminway's purpose had failed.
However, doctor Mendenhall had also made his test on other contemporary authors like Ben Jonson, Francis Beaumont, John Fletcher, Christopher Marlowe and others. It appeared, that the literary "fingerprints" of Christopher Marlowe matched with Shakespeare as perfectly as those of Shakespeare matched with himself.
This could be regarded as an undeniable evidence of that Marlowe is the true author of the works of Shakespeare, since the method in all its simplicity can be carried out by anyone and is 100% objective.
The Shakespeare research has six authentic autographs of Shakespeare to compare, and they are variously spelt Shaksper and Shakspe. Others spell his name Shaxper, Shagsper or Shacksper. It has never been spelt Shakespeare by anyone before The First Folio seven years after the man's death. The different spellings of his name by himself and others might indicate, that he had some difficulty in spelling it himself. That would explain why nobody else could spell it properly. One of his dauthers couldn't spell at all, she was illiterate, and on his departure from life all his property did not include one single book, so maybe also the father was illiterate. His will was obviously dictated. The more you close in on this Stratford man, the more improbable becomes his authorship to the greatest dramatic works of world literature, while as a reliable theatre man of good faith and common sense he could very well have served as the ideal cover-up for one harassed by the authorities with threats to his life like Christopher Marlowe.
The Unfathomable Melancholy of Robert Burton.
You can't deny it - Robert Burton's "The Anatomy of Melancholy" is a most impressing masterpiece and one of the very profoundest works of English literature in its strange disguise of scientific casualness. There is, however, much that speaks against Marlowe to stress the authorship of Burton to this work, since he so clearly emerges personally as an individual of idiosyncrasies. He is wholly an Oxford man (while Marlowe was all Cambridge,) he speaks in his work about his parents in a way which only a good son is capable of - with reverential criticism - and also includes in his work a translation from Latin which his younger brother Ralph has construed. (He had three brothers, and the oldest one, William, raised a monument on Robert after his death in 1640.) His great life's work, "The Anatomy of Melancholy", saw five editions during his lifetime (between 1621 and 1638), and each new edition was provided with new footnotes, additions and alterations. He is also a most circumstantial pedant, something that the author of the Shakespeare dramas never could afford to be. Burton is more a scientist than a poet, he often repeats himself and enjoys it, and although he can be very spiritual and entertaining he is never a creative artist but just a wise old priest with very much wisdom and knowledge of life but hopelessly a monologist, giving the impression of a preacher standing in his pulpit giving a universal sermon for all eternity.
There are some striking common denominators with Marlowe-Shakespeare however. He quotes Marlowe twice as often as Shakespeare, (only this is a matter of interest,) and the idea-world is principally the same. In the last play "Henry VIII" there are clear inclinations towards circumstantiality and pedantry, where the leading part is a priest who for the first time in Shakespearean drama pays any attention to the importance of God. And why would a comfortably established country clergyman of Segrave in Leicestershire, who hardly ever travelled outside his own county during his lifetime, commit his soul into lines like these:
"I was once so mad to bustle abroad and seek about for preferment, tire myself and trouble all my friends; but all my labour was unprofitable; for while death took off some of my friends, to others I was unknown; little liked by some, others made large promises; some pleaded strongly on my behalf, others fed me with vain hopes; while paying court to some, getting into favour with others, getting known to others, my best days were going, the years gliding by, my friends tired of my applications to them, and myself the worse for wear; so now, sick of the world and glutted with the falseness of human nature, I resign myself. I have had some bountiful patrons and noble benefactors, and I do thankfully acknowledge it; I have received some kindness, which may God repay, if not according to their wishes, yet according to their deserts, more peradventure than I deserve, though not to my desire, more of them that I did expect, yet not of others to my desert; neither am I ambitious or covetous all this while; what I have said, without prejudice or alteration shall stand. And now as a mired horse, that struggles at first with all his might and main to get out, but when he sees no remedy, that his beating will not serve, lies still, I have laboured in vain, rest now satisfied, and
Mine haven's found, fortune and hope, adieu!
Mock others now, for I have done with you. (Prudentius)"
(part 2, sect.3, mem.6)
Such words sound as coming directly out of the innermost depths of the anguished soul of Marlowe which was so profoundly wounded for life so early in its beginning, and he doesn't write them all in English but in significant parts in Latin. They hardly fit into the monotonous and narrow life of Robert Burton in his vicarage, who certainly never "bustled abroad", nor into the stable bourgeois life of Shakespeare with his very English small town life of means and property enough to be more than well contented, nor into the powerful aristocrat Lord Stanley, who certainly never had to write "applications"; while they fit almost too well into the self-confessions of the Sonnets and the sordid fate of Marlowe. Lines like these must provide fuel for the theory, that Marlowe's fate as a born poet was after Richard Baines' scandalizing denouncement to never again be able to write or publish anything in his own name but only under the cover of others', like Shakespeare's and Robert Burton's, and that he accepted this fate just to be able to at all continue to write, not entirely though without discreet protests in the almost surreptitious form of extremely carefully measured and guarded stealth.
The whole work is written to a large extent in Latin, and the text is constantly interrupted by Latin quotations, but also Greek appears occasionally. The author apparently also has a great penchant for Ovid (in remarkable similarity with Marlowe and Shakespeare) who is quoted more frequently than any other Latin writer including Cicero.
Such curious reminiscences of and clues to Marlowe-Shakespeare can't be ignored. The Marlowe chits in Burton are exactly of the same character as in Shakespeare: sudden flashes disappearing at once.
You get the same impression of Burton as of Marlowe-Shakespeare: here is a man who spends his life hard at work with only writing because he can't do anything else. Like Shakespeare ought to have been occupied with the practical work at his theatre for almost the entirety of his life, Burton would have been constantly busy with his pastoral duties; but "The Anatomy of Melancholy" shows an author who has read everything and knows the whole world literature by heart. He could hardly have done anything in his life but reading and writing. At the same time you find in Burton the same vast knowledge of the world and human nature as with Shakespeare, of which none ever placed their foot outside the soil of England. None of them ever "bustled abroad".
We can't decide the matter. We content ourselves with stating that it is possible, that Marlowe as a good and experienced actor on the stage of life, just as he dressed up in all the characters of Shakespeare as well as Shakespeare's own, he also could have entered into the character of the pedantic Oxonian Robert Burton in perhaps a vain effort to hide and forget himself: "Look now! I am neither Marlowe nor Shakespeare but the clergyman Robert Burton, and I prove it by telling you everything about myself, naming my parents and my brother and never mentioning Cambridge with one word!"
It's just a theory. The Marlowe theories are constantly whisked away by the fact that there is no evidence. It's true that we have no evidence, but there is also not a single piece of evidence to prove that Shakespeare or Stanley was the dramatic author, while there is more circumstantial evidence pointing towards Marlowe than to anyone else.
Most of the high quality of nobility, the dramatic tensity and elegance not to speak of all the magnificent sense of humour which characterize the Shakespeare dramas have fallen out with Burton, who instead displays a higher developed universalism and greater concentration on the deepest of all human problems, which also the Shakespeare works indefatigably grapple with: the spiritual abysses of man.
The Contribution of David Rhys Williams.
His work "Shakespeare, Thy Name is Marlowe" (1966) doesn't really offer anything new. He sums up and confirms all the research results of Calvin Hoffman's in "The Man Who Was Shakespeare" (1955) and adds a few new ones, above all the method of doctor Mendenhall. Everything seems to lead away from William Shakespeare for an author of the great Elizabethan plays to instead indicate Christopher Marlowe, "who stands alone, gloriously accused" (Calvin Hoffman). The strange thing is that all these remarkable results of research conducted since 1895 have not in any way made the Shakespeare authorities question their constantly less tenable position as maintainers of the Stratford man as author of the dramas. This can only be explained in one way: they don't want to, since they dare not risk the imagined security of their blind faith in authority.
Of course it isn't certain that Marlowe wrote everything in the dramas. We have pointed out a few weaknesses, for instance in "Timon", that could be later additions. But you can't escape the fact that Marlowe was the creator of the Elizabethan blank verse drama and that he already in "Edward II" brought this to perfection. You can't escape the fact that he alone had a motive for his death in Richard Baines' devastating denouncement of him to the Queen's Privy Council. He couldn't have continued to concentrate on dramatic poetry under such a threat. He had all the reasons in the world to free himself from all disturbances by disappearing as Marlowe to be able to concentrate on the main thing without interruptions. And you can't escape the fact that William Shakespeare does not exist as a poet until Marlowe has gone under ground.
But why Shakespeare? Here it is important to remember a few other things. Marlowe was not the only poet. Thomas Kyd was dead, but many others worked with the theatre. We must never forget the splendid and illustrious couple the Earl of Oxford and his son-in-law Lord Stanley, who according to witnesses both wrote dramas which no one knows where they have gone. Beaumont and Fletcher produced dramas unremittingly. Ben Jonson arrived later, but there were others. The Earl of Oxford had a Shake-Speare, a man shaking a spear in his coat-of-arms, and this heraldic symbol seems to have been prevalent here and there. The Time International Magazine points out quite correctly that the life of Edward de Vere was much more Shakespearian than any other contemporary person's: almost all the most dramatic episodes of the Shakespeare dramas occurred in de Vere's life. But such a colourful and self-centred Don Juan character doesn't write the world's most beautiful poetry, and those poems which have come down to us by de Vere's hand fall very far from the beauty of the Shakespearian language. De Vere may stand in the spotlight, but the observer thereof is somebody else. His son-in-law, theatrical collaborator and fellow enthusiast for the stage William Stanley must by this come under grave suspicion. Both the Stanley brothers held theatre companies, and William Shakespeare was on their payroll as an actor.
It is most probable that Shakespeare was selected as a gathering symbol for a comprehensive dramatic activity involving perhaps more people than the already mentioned. It's impossible that one man wrote everything in "The First Folio". There is a poem for example which we know for certain that was partly written by Marlowe and partly by Sir Walter Raleigh, ("The Passionate Shepherd to his Love" in the collection of "The Passionate Pilgrim"). "The First Folio" is a magnificent collection of the finest drama and poetry during the period 1593-1613, and we can't guess what number of poets might be guilty thereof. But Christopher Marlowe had once and for all created the form and was probably the only master thereof. All the others could have provided him with infinite material and ideas, he might have edited any number of works by others, but the stamp of the editor is his own.
The same perfection of form pervades Robert Burton's impressive work of erudition "The Anatomy of Melancholy", his only work, which is constructed with the same clarity of form as any Shakespeare drama. This overwhelming purity of form is impossible not to relate with the architecture of the dramas in The First Folio. Certain covert confessions in Burton's work must also cast a suspicion on the underground Marlowe.
Then we have the poems on the relatives of William Stanley, written 1632-33, which directly remind you of the Sonnets in The First Folio. Here they are:
"Ask who lies here, but do not weep.
He is not dead; he doth but sleep.
This stony register is for his bones,
his fame is more perpetual than these stones;
and his own goodness, with himself being gone,
shall live when earthly monument is none.
Not monumental stone preserves our fame,
nor sky-aspiring pyramids our name.
The memory of him for whom this stands
shall outlive marble and defacers' hands.
When all to times consumption shall be given,
Stanley, for whom this stands, shall stand in heaven."
- epitaph on the Stanley monument in Tong Church off Birmingham.
Buried are William Stanley's uncle Thomas Stanley with wife and son.
"To say a Stanley lies here, that alone
were epitaph enough. No brass, no stone,
no glorious tomb, no monumental hearse,
no gilded trophy or lamp-laboured verse
can dignify his grave or set it forth
like the immortal fame of his own worth.
Then, reader, fix not here, but quit this room
and fly to Abram's bosom: there's his tomb,
there rests his soul, and for his other parts
they are embalmed and lodged in good men's hearts.
A braver monument of stone or lime,
no art can raise, for this shall outlast time."
- epitaph on the Stanley monument in Chelsea Old Church.
Buried are William Stanley's son Edward with his two small children.
According to popular legend, these two poems were written by Shakespeare. But the tombs are from 1633. Could Marlowe have lived that long? He would then have been 69 years old. Connected to the English stage since 50 years he might very well have been motivated to celebrate the name of its greatest protector and benefactor so beautifully as is done in these remarkable obituaries, which once again remind you more of Shakespeare than Shakespeare does himself.
The son-in-law of the Earl of Oxford Edward de Vere, William Stanley himself, the sixth Earl of Derby, perhaps the most important key figure in the whole mystery, died in 1642 at the age of 81 years, a very advanced age for those times; and with him died the English theatre, which was banned and closed by the puritans, who had extolled and written outrageous lampoons on the news of Marlowe's death, this Marlowe, whom a bishop of Canterbury gave an education at Cambridge to make him a theologian, who probably was the theological pamphleteer pseudonym Martin Marprelate of Canterbury, Marlowe's home town, who always remained a name of controversy to the pious party, and who after his heydays probably returned to theology under the name of Robert Burton.
(A small parenthesis in connection with Shakespearian mysticism: The Tempest has a clear occult touch with obvious glimpses of the occultism à la mode in the 1610s, but already Pericles contains a ritual which was practised by the first freemasons, still Rosicrucians at that stage: Act III scene 2, when the presumably dead Thaïsa is resurrected from the coffin thrown into the sea. Did the Rosicrucians adopt this mysterious scene from the play, or was it the other way around?)
All circumstantial evidence indicates Marlowe. Shakespeare was the name he chose as a collective pseudonym for all the theatre enthusiasts and their united efforts to turn the English theatre into something as big and marvellous as the Greek theatre of Athens had once been. Marlowe's own sacrifice for this cause was his own good name and reputation. The sacrifice couldn't have been greater, - but he probably felt the cause was worth it: the "Shakespeare" art of the theatre has never been surpassed.
The last word has not been said yet in this Shakespeare debate, which probably never will be concluded.
The William Shakeshafte Mystery.
In this the obscurest topic of all ages you are grateful for the least ray of light enlightening us in the dense darkness surrounding the mystery of the Shakespeare dramas. Such a ray of light is the case of William Shakeshafte.
It appears from several of the plays that their author was initiated in Catholic thought and consequently would have had Catholicism for a base in his education if he wasn't a Catholic himself. In 1757 was found in the Shakespeare family house of Stratford a secret document in which John Shakespeare, father of the actor, committed himself to Catholicism. The man who seems to have won John Shakespeare over for the Catholic cause was a certain Edmund Campion from Lancaster, the Catholic heartland of England, which person appears to have surrounded himself with a circle of Catholics in Stratford. Four of the five tutors that might have educated William Shakespeare were Catholics from Lancaster belonging to this circle.
Towards the end of the 1570's there was a young actor up in Lancaster called William Shakeshafte. In 1937 the theory was presented, that this William Shakeshafte would have been William Shakespeare himself, since the name of William Shakespeare's grandfather was Richard Shakeshafte. According to this theory, John the father would have sent his son up to Lancaster to have him educated in general but also in theatre and Catholic thought, for which purpose he was given an incognito name, that of his own father, for the sake of safety. This very young actor William Shakeshafte must have been a Catholic, since he stayed within the circle of the arch-catholic family Hoghton of Hoghton Tower in Lancaster, which family would have trusted the young actor's solidarity and protected him with anonymity. We mustn't forget, that Queen Elizabeth actually executed 200 Catholics during her reign. Two of these were the brothers John and Thomas Cottom, the former a teacher in Stratford 1579-81. Edmund Campion, John Shakespeare's Catholic friend, brought them both to Lancaster and Hoghton Tower in 1580, and two years later they were decapitated in the London Tower as suspects of high treason in the name of Catholicism.
This theory would explain certain things. Above all it would explain why the Shakespearean language is so full av idioms, words and expressions typical of northern England. It would also make the link between W. Shakespeare and the enigmatical William Stanley, 6th earl of Derby, leader of the Catholics and their candidate for the throne, and also the owner of Shakespeare's theatre companies, clearer.
William Shakespeare would then by his father early have been confirmed as a Catholic, sent up by his father and his teachers to the Catholic centre of intrigue in Lancaster, early have learned to act incognito, entered the theatre world at an early stage and found this disguise a good means to protect himself and survive. He would then early have learned to avoid the mistake of Christopher Marlowe to expose himself in the middle of the stage to the envy and intrigue of the establishment with their jealousy for power sacrificing anyone who challenged their position. Christopher Marlowe exposed himself totally from the beginning hiding nothing of his sympathies and taking clear and dangerous stands, while William Shakespeare never exposed himself but remained carefully hidden all his life - and not only survived but became the wealthiest man of Stratford.
What these theories can't explain are the Shakespearian epitaphs from 1633 belonging to graves of the Stanley family, which couldn't have been written earlier. Neither can these theories explain the fact established by doctor Mendenhall, that the literary styles of Marlowe and Shakespeare are absolutely identical.
The greatest argument against that Marlowe was Shakespeare has been the Preface of The First Folio (of 1623, the year of Anne Hathaway's passing away,) in which a long row of the colleagues of Shakespeare, above all Ben Jonson, testify to Shakespeare's genuineness. Calvin Hoffman, the foremost champion of the Marlowe theory, who recently passed away but to the last claimed he was in possession of evidence that Marlowe was Shakespeare, explains these Shakespeare testimonies, that Ben Jonson wrote anything for money. It might appear more difficult, however, to explain how eventually Christopher Marlowe from Canterbury would have learned the north English dialects.
There is still no binding evidence, and the questions are more troublesome than ever: Are any of the documents in the William Shakeshafte case falsifications? Could the Catholic confession of John Shakespeare, not found until 1757, be a forgery? Could Ben Jonson really have written lies in The First Folio about his deceased colleague in so convincing a complimentary manner? And why does the poet's dark period of despairing tragedies coincide so exactly with the revolting process of William Stanley against his family, so that even the poet's last period of harmonious fairy comedies commences exactly as this process finally is agreeably settled?
A colleague of ours in England wrote, that it would be a relief if William Shakespeare was the only guilty one of Shakespeare's works, because then nothing would have to be changed. We could only assure him, that so far neither Shakespeare, Marlowe nor Stanley could be excluded as suspects in the case.
Finally the question always remains, which all three of them undoubtedly would have posed to a stupid future world of curiosity: What matter is it who wrote the plays? The only important thing is that they are alive!
Gothenburg, November 1999.
The Shakespeare Debate - A Temporary Summary.
After 3 1/2 years' discussions we find it suitable to sum up the efforts of our research so far.
We have four major candidates: 1)William Shakespeare, actually a historical person, 2)William Stanley, the leader of the Catholics in England, jurist, a cousin of the Queen's, composer, world traveller and a theatre enthusiast and director, 3)Christopher Marlowe, the creator of the Elizabethan drama, the predecessor and greatest competitor of Shakespeare, whose sudden death in a woman's establishment in Deptford, reputedly in a brawl, clearly appears to have been a set-up, and 4)Francis Bacon, politician, jurist and philosopher.
The weakest candidate is Shakespeare himself. He appears to have been no more than an ordinary theatre amateur with a striking talent for business though, who managed to make himself a considerable fortune out of anything except the theatre. He didn't possess a single book when he died and seems to have been almost illiterate.
The strongest candidate is Christopher Marlowe. It is all but proved that he staged his "death" himself to be able to quit the scene of his career, since he by his frankness and challenging way of life with very revolutionary views had made himself increasingly powerful enemies. When he disappeared he was threatened by an indictment for forgery of coins through a false denunciation of a Puritan informer and had possibly nothing better to expect in life than torture with consequent decapitation, which process his colleague Thomas Kyd already had passed and would die of. None of the other candidates for the authorship of Shakespeare's works had stronger motives to suppress his own name and person - in order to be able to continue working.
Francis Bacon can't be excluded from the investigation. During the 20th century the amassment of myths around his person has become too conspicuous to be ignored. Among other theories there is the supposition that he would have been a bastard son of Queen Elizabeth. This is proved wrong by the medical fact that the Virgin Queen died a virgin. Certain is, that Francis Bacon was a most talented and ambitious gentleman. It's not impossible that the progress of the Rosicrucians and the Freemasons originally was his responsibility. His device was that, he lived well who kept himself secret. He was probably the most manipulative power in British politics, until his ambitions fell short in 1621 when he was completely disgraced and had to resign as Lord Protector, second in power only to the Crown, commanded by his king to plead guilty of having taken bribes. Although he died most naturally (at the age of 65, when he stuffed chickens with snow in the first deep-freeze experiment and caught a deadly cold), his person has assembled more myths than any of his contemporaries for his Masonic and Rosicrucian influence. In one version even he would have survived his own staged death in order to be able to continue to work in peace. The strongest argument against his possible Shakespeare authorship is, that his style is completely alien from Shakespeare's. He is a dry philosopher concentrating on pure science and common sense, while the author of "The First Folio" is anything but dry and scientific. There is nothing less Baconian than the Shakespeare Sonnets.
Finally there is William Stanley, the sixth Earl of Derby, related with both Queen Elizabeth and Mary Stuart and as close an heir to the throne as King James. He also would have had perfect motives to bury himself in anonymity to be able to act at all, since he was not only the leader of the Catholics but their candidate for the throne. He owned the theatre company of Shakespeare and was related with Francis Bacon, he composed music himself which was published in his days, as a young man he travelled widely all around Europe and was familiar with parts such as the Hellespont, Constantinople and Cyprus, Denmark and Wittenberg besides Italy, Navarra and practically all Europe. Two epitaphs for members of his family created in 1631-32 are more obviously in the style of Shakespeare than are many of the Sonnets. When he died in 1642 at the age of 81 all the theatres of England were closed and there was civil war. This is a coincidence too curious to exclude any suspicion that the destiny of "Lord Strange" was not intimately connected with that of England. There is nothing to contradict that he could be the secret author of Shakespeare's works.
The problem is complicated further by the method of doctor Mendenhall. This American doctor in the end of the 19th century construed a method to analyse the styles of different authors in order to reveal pseudonyms. The method was 100% objective and showed clearly, that Francis Bacon could not have been the author of Shakespeare's works, while the different styles of Shakespeare and Marlowe were perfectly identical with each other. The probable fact that the same author wrote both Marlowe's and Shakespeare's works does not exclude the possibility that a third person could have written it all.
Thus far we have reached. The research continues.
Ventilating the Theories,
by Laila Roth.
In your Free Thinker Shakespeare Debate you seem to concentrate on two things: establishing 'waterproof' candidates and disproving all other candidates. I wouldn't occupy myself with either.
Instead I would like to present arguments for all four candidates, since there are arguments for all four, and in the name of justice all arguments should be investigated.
One theory remains for you to approach. It's the theory that the main characters in the Sonnets would have been the Earl of Essex and Mrs William Stanley, whom W. Stanley was jealous of since he suspected her of having an affair with Essex, which she well might have had, he being constantly encircled by beautiful bewitched women, until the equally jealous Queen Elizabeth beheaded him for having called her a living carcass. If the chief characters of the Sonnets are Essex and Lord Burghley's granddaughter, that is Mrs Stanley, the author then would of course have to be Stanley, whose love-hatred of his wife would match perfectly the sharp sonnets against "the Dark Lady", his "mistress", ending with reconciliation and resignation, just as Stanley's own life, just as the Shakespeare dramas end with the melancholy and ambiguous fairy tale comedies.
There are weaknesses in the theory of Essex and Mrs Stanley, I agree, but the theory makes sense in the context, and above all, the rank, age and character of Essex fits perfectly the Loved One in the Sonnets.
Of course, this character fits the Earl of Southampton equally well, Henry Wriothesley, "Mr W.H.", which has been the traditional interpretation of the main character; but in that case, who was 'the Dark Lady'? In my opinion, the Shakespeare theory falls on the terribly manifested jealousy in the Sonnets and certain dramas, a symptom known to have been William Stanley's but lacking in the stable family conditions of William Shakespeare. Thereby I wish in no way to disparage the Shakespeare theory. He is as good a candidate as all the others.
But John is perfectly right in finding the strongest motivation for writing under a pseudonym in Marlowe. That theory holds. As a successful dramatist he had aroused so much controversy and ire in puritan circles, that he was libelled with terrible slander about "homosexuality, blasphemy and atheism" and finally even of coining money, which must have resulted in his execution if he were brought to trial, wherefore he had every reason in the world to go underground and remain there. The gross slander has even survived until our time, so that there are even today Puritans who in the name of the only proper faith, that is loyalty to the Shakespeare orthodoxy, still love to dismiss the Marlowe theory by stating that "he was just a homosexual atheist who died in a drunken brawl". I find that surprisingly prejudicial of serious Shakespeare scholars imagining themselves to defend a proper cause.
On the other hand, I quite agree with John Bede, that the author of the Sonnets actually answers to the name of 'Will'. The last line of Sonnet 136 could hardly be interpreted in any other way.
Concerning Francis Bacon, I would like to present an objection to the reliability in the method of Doctor Mendenhall. Shakespeare and Marlowe only wrote poetry, while Bacon only wrote prose. According to the method of Doctor Mendenhall, Francis Bacon can't have written the works of Shakespeare, since his prose doesn't agree with the poetry of Shakespeare. Don't exclude Francis Bacon from the investigation on such ridiculous grounds, please.
I am looking forward to the continued development of your investigation with great interest.
- Laila Roth.
Scrutinizing the Sonnets.
The most typical problem about the Sonnets is, that the deeper you try to analyse and solve their problem, the more inaccessible and difficult the problem becomes. Here is a sketch of the palpable outlines:
The sonnets 1-19 express love of a younger man, and their message is a continuous: "Save thy beauty by begetting a son." Four fifths of all the sonnets express the same honest and self-effacing love of the same young man.
I sonnet 20 the young man is rather explicitly characterized: he has the face of a woman and the ability to attract both ladies and gentlemen. So he is rather androgynous and possesses the best traits of both sexes: he lacks female falseness and capriciousness and as a man is like "created for a woman".
In the sonnets 25-26 he humbles himself like to a lord, and these sonnets would indicate that the poet is without rank lacking "honour and proud titles", while the loved one is a lord. This would fit perfectly into Shakespeare and the dashing Earl Henry Wriothesley of Southampton, to whom the poet's two epic poems were dedicated. As is well known, the sonnets are dedicated to "Mr W.H." (Henry Wriothesley?), but a lord could never be called 'Mr'.
Then there is a crisis. In sonnet 29 the poet is hit hard by calamity, in 32 he speculates in his own death, in 34-35 he accuses the loved one for what's happened, in 41-42 there is a triangle drama between the poet, the loved one and a lady (the latter's wife?), and in 44-45 we have evidently a separation between the poet and the loved one with long distance and waters between, in 48 he leaves his most important legacy with his friend, in 50 the separation is definite: "My grief lies onward, and my joy behind", and in 56 there is even an ocean between them. All this seems to indicate a catastrophe of some kind with an exile, which would well fit in the picture of Christopher Marlowe's fate, his relationship with Sir Thomas Walsingham and Mrs Audrey Walsingham.
Sonnet 62 differs from all the others by its sudden self-love. Everywhere else, when the poet is occupied with himself, the theme is death and extinction.
69 is the first sonnet to criticize the loved one. Sonnets 71-74 are perhaps the most interesting ones in relation to Marlowe. He speaks about himself as a dead man, 73 contains the famous Marlowe signature ("consumed with that which it was nourished by"), and 74 seems directly to describe Marlowe's case, ("my body being dead, the coward conquest of a wretch's knife").
In sonnet 80 the poet suddenly has some competition: another worships the loved one, which puts our poet into the shade. Here is another constantly recurring theme in the sonnets: the poet's humility and denigration of himself unto self-effacement. In 81 he speaks again of his own death. In 83 the rival appears again and even more manifestly in 86. This has been interpreted as Shakespeare's attitude towards Marlowe, but the competitor could also be Spenser. And the object might even be Queen Elizabeth. Many candidates are possible in all the roles.
The sonnets 94-95 sound new tunes of disappointment and disillusion. In 104 the relationship has lasted for three years - and nothing has changed.
111 is a key poem and is clear evidence of the poet's social standing - he lives "on public means", which appears to illustrate the almost disgraceful social status of an actor. An even stronger expression of the poet's insecure social position is expressed in 112, where he confesses to have "a vulgar scandal stamped upon his brow".
The disillusion increases in 118-119. 125 indicates a settlement: "Hence, thou suborn'd informer! A true soul, when most impeach'd, stands least in your control."
In 127 the Dark Lady appears, who introduces a completely new development in the sonnets marked by passionate love-hatred of a most complicated kind. In 128 we learn that the loved one also is a musician. In 133 both the poet and the lover are at the Dark Lady's mercy. Then we have the 'Will'-poems, of which 136 is the only important one, where the poet actually signs himself 'Will'.
In 137 the poet sobers up, he seems to detach himself from love's cruel pranks with him, but its harassments climax in 141-143, and in 144 he makes a summary.
In 146 he has vanquished death by his love, in 147 his delusion is complete, in 152 he kills his love, but in 153-154 he resigns to the incurability of love.
That's in brief the main contents of the 154 well-composed sonnets of unequalled beauty, each one written in exactly the same form. They reveal the innermost heart feelings of an utterly sincere lover, who in his self-effacement almost degrades himself in his fervent loyalty to a beloved androgynously beautiful young man with a dark lady on the other side.
Who might this lover be then, who so passionately could be so desperately sincere in his ruthlessly self-revealing poems of unsurpassed beauty during so many years in perfect faithfulness? There is no doubt that it's the same poet who wrote all the dramas in 'The First Folio'. There is much in support of that the same author wrote all the works published in the name of Christopher Marlowe. Most of the practical contents in the sonnets seem to fit well into the puzzle of the reconstructed fate of Marlowe. But why then does he expressly state in sonnet 136 that his name is Will, that is William?
Or is it William Stanley, the sixth Earl of Derby, who hides behind all this? But nothing at all in the sonnets seems to have any bearing on any of the known facts of Will Derby's life. There is not one single reference to any geographical location, while Derby travelled extensively all over the world. Derby had a happy marriage with one single wife for more than 30 years and three sons. He was a lawyer with vast responsibilities. His known life hardly admits any spare time for a most considerable production of plays and poems, a lengthy love affair with a younger man, disasters and personal tragedies, and above all, as a peer of England and one of its richest men he totally lacked the low social position which definitely marks the author of the Sonnets.
Could it then in spite of everything be Shakespeare himself? That possibility can in no way be eliminated. The sonnet 111 clearly suggests exactly that abject social position in this period of an actor, which must have been exactly the position of William Shakespeare. It couldn't have been Will Derby's. Could it have been Marlowe's? Yes, that's also possible.
Was then the loved one Thomas Walsingham, married to Audrey, or Shakespeare's sponsor Henry Wriothesley or somebody else? In his indisputable genius, Oscar Wilde concluded that the loved one must have been an actor, and that is also a very plausible guess.
We leave our investigation for the time being at that. The reader must draw his own conclusions from our insufficient presentation of too few known facts. The Marlowe pleaders are as cock-sure as the Stanley advocates, and the Shakespeare intercessors will constantly be the greatest lot. If a fourth candidate would appear he would be most welcome. The only certain thing about Marlowe, Shakespeare and Stanley is that they all three must have been involved in the case. The name of Shakespeare is inalienably united with the dramas as a theatre man and actor, Marlowe's background as a theologist is of unmeasurable importance to the whole problem, since theology clearly dominates all the works of Marlowe and certain of Shakespeare's; and although William Stanley neither was an actor nor a theologist his importance as a theatre owner and sponsor, protector and probably financier of the whole 'First Folio' can't be ignored.
So let's not exclude anyone of these three until there is evidence enough to justify such a procedure.
John Michell's Solution to the Problem.
"Who Wrote Shakespeare?" by John Michell appeared in 1996 and is perhaps the most entertaining book written on the subject while at the same time it offers a magnificent survey of the whole problem. John Michell follows the popular path of Laila Roth in not viewing any candidate as out of the question. In his book he presents all the 63 candidates, of which at least 24 are to be considered seriously as possible sole authors of the works of Shakespeare.
His explanation to the phenomenon is briefly as follows. The brain behind it all was of course Francis Bacon, whose life program was to reform humanity by philosophy, science, law and a fourth unknown means, which then would have been the theatre, the dominating mass media of the time with its irresistible power to manipulate people's minds and ways of thinking. To that purpose he would have manufactured the Shakespeare plays. His candidature is strengthened by the fact that he was homosexual, why he had the best reason in the world to hide from it, which he publicly declared was a good thing to do.
But Francis Bacon was an official bore sitting in London all the time, while the Shakespeare dramas are brightly coloured by country life with very much sport, which is very difficult to find any trace of in the life of the bureaucrat Francis Bacon. Enter the Earl of Oxford, Edward de Vere, a hot-tempered adventurer who had spent much of his life abroad and favoured things Italian, a passionate nature who was a master of the Sonnet, who lost his father at an early stage, why his mother immediately remarried a worthless villain; and who gladly fought duels and killed a servant in the house of his guardian, Prime Minister Lord Burghley, wishing the servant had been Lord Burghley himself. Here we have the authentic Hamlet in reality dangerously raving in the corridors of the supreme power. In the 1590's he retired grieving about the injustice and persecution he had to endure and then probably wrote the embittered sonnets, which clearly are stamped by the scars of a deeply wounded and perfectly honest man's refined confessions out of extreme anguish. "Othello" and "King Lear" in the year of his death, 1604, match perfectly with the deep but noble desperation of the Earl of Oxford.
His son-in-law was William Stanley, the sixth Earl of Derby and of royal blood, who definitely can be connected with two of the dramas: "Love's Labour's Lost" and "The Tempest". "Love's Labour's Lost" occurs in Navarre at the court of king Henry IV and exposes secrets of what was practised there to such an extent, that the author must have spent some time there as an intimate resident at the court. William Stanley did this, and the play ridicules his tutor Richard Lloyd in the character of Holofernes: a silly show by Holofernes occurs as a play within the play, which in real life was a serious composition by the pretentious Richard Lloyd, William Stanley's chaperon during his journeys. The scenery in "The Tempest" is probably a small island outside the Isle of Man, which William Stanley ruled as a sovereign. Caliban is probably a characterization of the Manx people, the aborigines of Man, who had their own unintelligible language and naturally objected to the English occupation of their land. The arguments for William Stanley as the man behind "The Tempest" are overwhelming.
But still there are others. Roger Manners, the Earl of Rutland, visited Denmark, knew members of the families of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern and was one of few foreigners who were initiated in the routines at the Elsinore castle as they are presented in "Hamlet", which he consequently has to have had some share in. And then we have the remarkable genius Christopher Marlowe, for whose participation in the drama production there is binding evidence, since his and Shakespeare's style are scientifically identical, as if they had exactly the same fingerprint although two different people, which of course is absolutely impossible. The most remarkable thing is that the style of Shakespeare continues to be identical with Marlowe's long after the death of Marlowe and as long as the Shakespeare production continues. And let's not by any means forget our old friend William Shakespeare himself, the arch theatre trickster, who snatched anything from anyone and could produce a play out of anything and nothing. Whoever turned to Shakespeare with some obscure play could be certain that his identity would not be revealed: the name of the qualified manipulator Shakespeare was a warrant that the texts would pass the censorship unmolested. And let's not forget, that censorship in the reign of Queen Elizabeth I was more severe than under Stalin.
That's the solution offered by John Michell: everyone was guilty one way or another, co-operating, helping and depending on each other for the unique production of the plays. It's a very popular and amusing view which easily could be accepted by anyone. There is only one problem: it doesn't stand scrutiny.
The Shakespeare production of all the plays and poems stand widely apart from all other kinds of English literature. There were other authors and playwrights, like Edmund Spenser, Beaumont and Fletcher, Ben Jonson and later on John Milton. Even Francis Bacon wrote works under his own name which like all other works differ from Shakespeare's by a less developed style and a smaller vocabulary. The Shakespeare language is at least 50% richer than anyone else's. This sole fact indicates that there must be a single person behind it all, which immediately excludes the verbally much poorer and more limited Francis Bacon.
It also excludes the Earl of Oxford, who died in 1604, while many important Shakespeare works were written later. It also excludes the earl of Rutland, who was born in 1576 and therefore far too young to have written the early Shakespeare plays. We are then left with only three candidates: William Shakespeare himself, William Stanley and Christopher Marlowe.
William Shakespeare was a great talker and fixer and very popular as such while at the same time he was very good at making business. Among his colleagues, especially Ben Jonson, he was well known and often pointed at as the perfect theatre freak and hustler who would stop at nothing. As an unscrupulous businessman he was the perfect terminal for cautious men of genius who had good enough reasons to avoid trouble and stay out of the public life, and he shamelessly took advantage of the state of things. There is evidence that parts of "Hamlet" have been added after Shakespeare's death for the final edition of 'The First Folio' in 1623. There is much to indicate that he didn't write one word of the Shakespeare canon himself, (see next article,) and least of all the anguished Sonnets.
So we are probably left with only William Stanley and Christopher Marlowe. Here the problem is getting difficult, but we will try to solve it in time.
All We Know About William Shakespeare,
by Mark Twain.
"He was born on the 23rd of April, 1564.
Of good farmer-class parents who could not read, could not write, could not sign their names.
At Stratford, a small back settlement which in that day was shabby and unclean, and densely illiterate. Of the nineteen important men charged with the government of the town, thirteen had to 'make their mark' in attesting important documents, because they could not write their names.
Of the first eighteen years of his life, nothing is known. They are a blank.
On the 27th of November (1582) Willliam Shakespeare took out a license to marry Anne Whateley.
Next day Shakespeare took out a license to marry Anne Hathaway. She was eight years his senior.
William Shakespeare married Anne Hathaway. In a hurry. By grace of a reluctantly granted dispensation there was but one publication of the banns.
Within six months the first child was born.
About two (blank) years followed, during which period nothing at all happened to Shakespeare, so far as anybody knows.
Then came twins - 1585. February.
Two blank years follow.
Then - 1587 - he makes a ten-year visit to London, leaving the family behind.
Five blank years follow. During this period nothing happened to him, as far as anybody actually knows.
Then - 1592 - there is mention of him as an actor.
Next year - 1593 - his name appears in the official list of players.
Next year - 1594 - he played before the Queen. A detail of no consequence: other obscurities did it every year of the forty-five of her reign. And remained obscure.
Three pretty full years follow. Full of play-acting.
Then - in 1597 - he bought New Place, Stratford.
Thirteen or fourteen busy years follow; years in which he accumulated money, and also reputation as actor and manager.
Meantime his name, liberally och variously spelt, had become associated with a number of great plays and poems, as (ostensibly) author of the same.
Some of these, in these years and later, were pirated, but he made no protest.
Then - 1610-11 - he returned to Stratford and settled down for good and all, and busied himself in lending money, trading in tithes, trading in land and houses; shirking a debt of forty-one shillings, borrowed by his wife during his long desertion of his family; suing debtors for shillings and coppers; being sued himself for shillings and coppers; and acting as a confederate to a neighbour who tried to rob the town of its rights to a certain common, and did not succeed.
He lived five or six years - till 1616 - in the joy of these elevated pursuits.
Then he made a will, and signed each of its three pages with his name.
A thorough-going business-man's will. It named in minute detail every item of property he owned in the world - houses, lands, sword, silver-gilt bowl, and so on - all the way down to his 'second-best bed' and its furniture.
It carefully and calculatingly distributed his riches among the members of his family, overlooking no individual of it. Not even his wife: the wife he had been enabled to marry in a hurry by urgent grace of a special dispensation before he was nineteen; the wife whom he had left husbandless so many years; the wife who had had to borrow forty-one shillings in her need, and which the lender was never able to collect of the properous husband, but died at last with the money still lacking. No, even this wife was remembered in Shakespeare's will.
He left her that 'second-best bed'.
And not another thing, not even a penny to bless her lucky widowhood with.
It was eminently and conspicuously a business-men's will, not a poet's.
It mentioned not a single book.
Books were much more precious than swords and silver-gilt bowls and second-best beds in those days, and when a departing person owned one he gave it a high place in his will.
The will mentioned not a play, not a poem, not an unfinished literary work, not a scrap of manuscript of any kind.
Many poets have died poor, but this is the only one in history that has died this poor; the others all left literary remains behind. Also a book. Maybe two.
If Shakespeare had owned a dog - but we need not go into that: we know he would have mentioned it in his will. If a good dog, Susannah would have got it; if an inferior one his wife would have got a dower interest in it. I wish he had had a dog, just so we could see how painstakingly he would have divided that dog among the family, in his careful business way.
He signed the will in three places.
In earlier years he signed two other official documents.
These five signatures still exist.
There are no other specimens of his penmanship in existence. Not a line.
Was he prejudiced against the art? His granddaughter, whom he loved, was eight years old when he died, yet she had had no teaching, he left no provision for her education although he was rich, and in her mature womanhood she could not write and couldn't tell her husband's manuscript from anybody else's - she thought it was Shakespeare's.
When Shakespeare died in Stratford it was not an event. It made no more stir in England than the death of any other forgotten theatre-actor would have made. Nobody came down from London; there were no lamenting poems, no eulogies, no national tears - there was merely silence, and nothing more. A striking contrast with what happened when Ben Jonson, and Francis Bacon, and Spenser, and Raleigh, and the other distinguished literary folk of Shakespeare's time passed from life! No praiseful voice was lifted for the lost Bard of Avon; even Ben Jonson waited seven years before he lifted his.
So far as anybody actually knows and can prove, Shakespeare of Stratford-on-Avon never wrote a play in his life.
So far as anybody knows and can prove, he never wrote a letter to anybody in his life. So far as any one knows, he received only one letter during his life.
So far as any one knows and can prove, Shakespeare of Stratford wrote only one poem during his life. This one is authentic. He did write that one - a fact which stands undisputed; he wrote the whole of it; he wrote the whole of it out of his own head. He commanded that this work of art be engraved upon his tomb, and he was obeyed. There it abides to this day. This is it:
Good friend for Iesus sake forbeare
To digg the dust encloased heare:
Blest be ye man yt spares thes stones
and curst be he yet moves my bones.
In the list as above set down, will be found every positively known fact of Shakespeare's life, lean and meagre as the invoice is. Beyond these details we know not a thing about him. All the rest of his vast history, as furnished by the biographers, is built up, course upon course, of guesses, inferences, theories, conjectures - an Eiffel Tower of artificialities rising sky-high from a very flat and very thin foundation of inconsequential facts."
This short Shakespeare biography by Mark Twain is a psychological masterpiece, though not entirely fair. The poor poem on Shakespeare's tomb was hardly written by himself, and the two named ladies of his youth were probably one and the same with different spellings, since people in Stratford at that time didn't well know how to spell - mistakes must have been common. But the interesting detail is the masterful analysis of the will. This document is the only existing writing by Shakespeare that is proven his - it can't be disproved, even if he only dictated it. Since the same William Shakespeare has been given the honour of having written the finest collection of dramas in world literature, this will must be of singular interest, which Mark Twain duly has observed and analyzed in that context. And what are his conclusions? His logically irrefutable conclusion is that the will is composed by a consummate business man with only trivialities on his mind, the consequence of which conclusion is that this banal, dry and materialistic business man hardly could have written the greatest plays in world literature.
Mark Twain's observations have never been opposed, and logically it's impossible to refute them. It's a fact that the will doesn't mention one single book or play or poem or manuscript while it carefully details only mundane items of no human interest at all.
And Mark Twain is right also in his other remarks: there are no other facts known about Shakesperare, and all the stories about him that reached later ages were invented in the 18th century without grounds, like the ones that he was a poacher as a young man and therefore compelled to leave Stratford, that the Earl of Southampton, Henry Wriothesley, had given him £1000, that Shakespeare had played the Ghost in "Hamlet" and played it well, and that he would have fallen ill after a drinking bout with Ben Jonson visiting Stratford which would have resulted in his final illness and death, and all other spurious anecdotes. Not one of all the stories about Shakespeare which no Shakespeare biographer has forgotten to repeat has any bearing on reality. No evidence of Shakespeare's authorship to the works in his name has ever existed.
And he includes also the most suspicious circumstance of all, that no one reacted on Shakespeare's death. No one wrote any necrologue or dirge, no one came down to visit Stratford, no one broke the universal silence, as if everyone very well knew what an opportunistic freak and bad husband he had been. Only after seven years Ben Jonson broke the compact silence, who was well known for writing anything and extolling anyone if he only was paid well enough.
Mark Twain proves nothing, but his elucidation of the obvious probability that William Shakespeare surely was a good business man but hardly a poet can't be ignored. In fact, his will could be regarded as the one flaw in a perfect set-up for a phoney authorship. If William Shakespeare hadn't made that will, his authorship might never have been disputed, at least not by Mark Twain.
He was not only a splendid author of boys' books but also a prominent pioneer in the field of criminology, especially by his novel "Pudd'nhead Wilson", in which he stresses the importance of fingerprints long before they were criminologically used. His views therefore should be regarded with as much respect as if they had been presented by Sherlock Holmes. Mark Twain does not go any further, though, than to name only one person who he believed not to have written the works of Shakespeare.
We have asked John Bede for a comment, and here it is:
"Mr Samuel Clemens was unfortunately prejudiced against all things British, which bias most clearly shines through in "A Yankee at the Court of King Arthur", in which Americanisms are favoured in an almost inhumanly tasteless way while the English are ridiculed. If Mr Clemens was so prejudiced against England, naturally Shakespeare was included in that attitude, which his Shakespeare remarks could be regarded as rather obvious symptoms of.
Which doesn't mean that his views should be ignored. On the contrary, they should be considered with the highest respect, like all other views on the subject aiming at reaching a solution to the problem of who really wrote Shakespeare. One thing you never brought up in your debate, which I consider of the utmost importance, namely, that no Elizabethan poet could with any certainty be pinned down for any of the plays. Certain works are attributed to Christopher Marlowe, Ben Jonson, Thomas Kyd and others, but there is no evidence whatsoever as of who were the authors of what among at least 220 plays produced during the Elizabethan era in England."
The Secrets of Anthony Bacon.
One of the obvious things about Shakespeare's will which Mark Twain didn't call enough attention to was the most important (and perhaps the decisive) detail, that the will is completely void of love, while, if there is anything in the plays and poems of the poet, it's nothing but love. Shakespeare is almost heartless towards his wife in a way which could be called outrageous, unless it was a joke, especially viewed against the contents of a play like "Romeo and Juliet" and the unfathomable overwhelming flow of untiringly sustained love in the Sonnets.
There is another noteworthy thing concerning the candidates Shakespeare and Stanley. The world of Shakespeare drama displays a dramatically dynamic force without comparison, which thereby must have been a characteristic of its creator, who consequently must have been a rather dramatic and dynamic personality. There is no testimony whatever of such characteristics in the personalities of Shakespeare or Stanley. From the little we know about Shakespeare we get the picture of a petty bourgeois and colourless businessman, but very crafty as such, which is clearly stressed by the will. Of Stanley we have a very colourful and vivid poem about his journeys as a young man, the contours of which surely are most impressing; but not even this splendid odyssey bears any witness of any dynamic personality. He is very far from any Ulysses but appears rather like a passive tourist who is served everything since he can pay well. Stanley makes a fiery impression only in his marriage and then mostly through jealousy. About the rest of his personality we get nothing.
But the Elizabethans were among the most colourful set of people who ever wandered upon earth. They were adventurous and enterprising. Sir Francis Drake sailed around the world, Sir Walter Raleigh searched for Eldorado in South America, the Earl of Oxford had such a raving temperament that he would gladly have killed his protector, the Prime Minister of Queen Elizabeth, but killed his servant instead; as the favourite of Queen Elizabeth the Earl of Essex caused such emotional upsets and storms within the country that the whole society order was threatened and he had to be decapitated since he made life so uncertain and unsafe for everybody by his mere presence; and so on. England swarmed with dramatic personalities. Both Shakespeare and Stanley seem almost to have been peripheral exceptions to this rule.
But creative geniuses are generally never peripheral, and their activity is impossible without dynamics. For example, both Rembrandt and Sibelius worked mainly in strict isolation but found themselves nevertheless positions at the centre of the world's attention, and if they tried to exclude the world from their private universe, the world came and sought them out. Especially around the year 1600, when the Renaissance peaked and the Baroque started exploding, when the world was full of ecstatically creative artists, when a Caravaggio raved his wildest ways around Italy, Sicily and Malta, when a Rubens started spreading naked blondes all over Europe, when Giordano Bruno was burned at the stake for his maintenance of the right of science to objective thinking as more important than any religion, and when the Protestants in the North started to find freedom of conscience worth establishing as a universal ideal, the artists and their creative spirit was in their highest gear, and they were never ashamed of what they did, but rather naturally demonstrative about it.
This spirit you find no trace of in Shakespeare and Stanley, and no matter how much you look for it you only find nothing. They are void as wells of virility and spirit, except Stanley through his wealth, his marriage and his influence. There is absolutely no controversy about either of them as characters, which makes them very convenient as candidates.
Why, if all the others, and especially Essex and Sir Walter Raleigh, were so markedly volcanic and over-stimulated? It has been easy to see the Shakespeare dramas in context with both Raleigh and Essex and Oxford in view of their personal dynamics, but such associations with Shakespeare and Stanley are quite impossible to make.
Of course, Stanley had his very good reasons for absolute discretion after the fate of his elder brother Ferdinando Stanley, who was probably poisoned, and as a theatre manager with activities involving many men Shakespeare emanates a certain qualified shrewdness as well as perfect diplomacy; but they were also both young once upon a time and should have marked themselves in at least one scandal or controversy, if either of them could write any of the plays of Shakespeare.
There is only one person who fits into the most fantastically dramatic costume of the Shakespeare dramatic art, and that is Christopher Marlowe. Because of his many controversies, he is the least convenient candidate of all. You find in him not only the dynamics represented by Oxford, Raleigh and Essex but also something more, which is the psychologically most interesting matter of all.
Marlowe had a magnetism which gave rise to mixed feelings. The same magnetism was found for example in Michelangelo, Beethoven, Tolstoy and Sibelius. Even Dostoievsky had the same strange emanation of magnetism, when he worked on "Crime and Punishment" and turned his hostess completely terror-struck as he wandered around the floor above her, talking aloud about a person he had murdered. It was a radiation of fearfulness. People easily get scared of such persons and that for no rational reason. Such individuals can look dangerous and inspire fear without being dangerous at all. It's the dynamics of creative power which invests them with a unique aura which almost infallibly causes terror to ordinary people without their realizing why. It can lead to terrible misunderstandings and not seldom to fatally unjust actions against those possessed by creativity, as in the case of Giordano Bruno. The Vatican executed him just because the Vatican was afraid of him and that for no reason.
These very volcanic dynamics, which people misinterpret as something dangerous, belonged to Christopher Marlowe, which there are several witnesses of. Poor Thomas Kyd was scared to death of him and denounced him for no other reason, and that denunciation (of heresy, blasphemy and atheism) was so fatal, that Marlowe had no other choice but to go underground for good.
In the last years an archive has been opened, which had remained sealed with all its secrets of the Elizabethan court for just about 400 years. The archive contains the papers of Anthony Bacon. He was the brother of Francis Bacon, and they worked together closely during the later period of Queen Elizabeth's reign.
Of the greatest interest to our research are certain documents relating to a certain agent in Her Majesty's Secret Service called Louis Le Doux in France, since this mysterious man at the court of King Henry IV presented a rather large-scale bill of no less than 56 books from England, which bill actually was paid in his absence. What makes this matter interesting is, that these books are mainly the literary sources to the plays of both Marlowe and Shakespeare. Among other interesting items in the list is a French dictionary, which hardly a Frenchman but rather an Englishman would use in France. Whoever might this Louis Le Doux have been?
After considerable research, such a person has been found in history. He was the son of a Huguenot refugee family in Canterbury at the time when Christopher Marlowe grew up there and was of about the same age as Christopher Marlowe and might have been his friend.
The most probable thing is that Christopher Marlowe would have remembered the name and used it. All those expensive books which the Bacon brothers paid for are probably the very books that Marlowe used in his exile from England after 1593, acquired in foreign countries for English money. That this bill was found in the papers of Anthony Bacon would imply that both Anthony and Francis Bacon were very well initiated in the troubles of Christopher Marlowe and that they stood up for him and helped him, most probably supported by Lord Burghley. (Note these 56 expensive books in contrast to the fact that William Shakespeare at his death did not own one single book.) Further, there are letters by this mysterious Louis Le Doux the handwriting of which probably is the same as that of Marlowe. Thus, at last, we get glimpses into the life of Christopher Marlowe after his well arranged death.
There was another agent of the same sort named La Faye, which meaning is almost synonymous with Le Doux. There was another agent of the same sort under the name of William Hall. Christopher Marlowe probably used a number of names and alter egos during his journeys in Europe and occasionally back to England. This William Hall is documented as an agent up to the year 1603. He was sent to Prague in autumn 1593 and to Denmark in 1601, that is neatly before the final compilation of 'Hamlet'. His initials remind you of a certain "Mr.W.H." to whom the Sonnets are dedicated, "the only begetter of these ensuing sonnets", which then might be an almost too clear cipher connotation for Christopher Marlowe.
Thereby we would have an established connection not only between the Bacon brothers and Christopher Marlowe but also between Lord Burleigh with son and Marlowe, since both Louis Le Doux and William Hall were in their secret service.
But in this debate we have also found clear evidence of the Earl of Derby being deeply involved. His share in the Shakespeare dramas is so evident, that many eminent authorities of literary history have claimed, that he must have been the Poet.
At the time when the Marlowe plays were enacted all over London, the company that staged his plays was no less than the theatre company of Lord Strange, whose theatre was the newly rediscovered and restored 'The Rose'. Lord Strange was the title of the heir to the Earl of Derby, in this particular case Ferdinando Stanley, elder brother to William Stanley. So Lord Strange, alias Ferdinando Stanley, was the producer of Marlowe's plays.
This is not the only connection. Marlowe was arrested a few times by the police in street quarrels and sometimes duels. On one of these occasions his trouble was with Richard Baines, the puritan who later tried to send him to the Star Chamber. The police released Marlowe after he had stated that he was under the protection of Lord Strange.
We have here several implications of a close collaboration between Marlowe and Ferdinando Stanley. Let's not forget, that 'Ferdinand' occurs twice in the Shakespeare plays: "Love's Labour's Lost", in which Ferdinand's name is given to the character who in real life was King Henry IV of Navarre and France, and in "The Tempest", where Ferdinand is an equally sympathetic main character. One easily gets the impression, that the author gave these two characters the name of Ferdinand out of love of someone with that name. In the first of these plays, the name of Ferdinand is even given to the best of the French kings.
This Lord Strange, that is Ferdinando Stanley, died suddenly under mysterious circumstances on April 16th 1594, whereupon William Stanley, his younger brother by two years, became the new Earl of Derby and owner of the very theatre company, 'the Lord Chamberlain's Men', which then had started to stage Shakespeare plays.
That's not all. When Richard Baines' libel against Marlowe was presented to the Privy Council in 1593, one of the men in the council was no one less than the Earl of Derby. It's impossible to imagine that he would not have reacted. The playwright who kept the theatres of London going, which the Court and the whole society regularly visited and enjoyed, was here denounced for heresy, atheism and coining of money and forsworn to the death penalty at least three times over. Still, Marlowe was not arrested but only told to keep in touch. Of course, the older Earl of Derby must have had some interest in that Marlowe could continue as a dramatist.
So evidently there are many long and close connections between Marlowe and the house of Derby.
The theory has been presented, that Derby would have written also the works of Marlowe except Shakespeare's. This theory falls on the fact, that some of Marlowe's works are autobiographical, especially 'The Massacre at Paris', in which historical event Marlowe himself had had some interest as an agent and spy for England at Rheims, which is illustrated in the play, which is Marlowe's most anti-Catholic; while Derby was the political leader of the Catholics in England and thereby hardly could be critical against the Catholic Church. Also the works of Marlowe are coloured by idiomatic expressions of the university language of Cambridge, which also marks Shakespeare's works, while William Stanley was entirely an Oxford man.
Speaking of Cambridge, an interesting thing to note is, that two other Cambridge students at this time, although younger, were the Earl of Rutland and the Earl of Southampton, the famous and beautiful Henry Wriothesley, the almost certain object of the first seventeen Sonnets, since they evidently were commissioned by Lord Burghley with the intention to persuade Southampton to marry his granddaughter. It didn't come off, so the girl was married to William Stanley instead. The Earl of Rutland was the man who later on became familiar with the families of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern and the ways of the Danish court at Elsinore.
The deeper the research into the subject, the more and clearer appears the circumstantial evidence of Christopher Marlowe being the only one guilty of Shakespeare's works, and of that Shakespeare himself didn't write one word of them. The poems "Hero and Leander" and "Venus and Adonis" written approximately at the same time show by closer investigation that both poems were written as if both authors knew the other poem by heart. This is a practical impossibility, if they are by different authors, since "Venus and Adonis" was published after the supposed death of Marlowe. So they must have been written by the same man, since he only could have been as familiar with both poems as the poems show that 'both' the authors were.
Next we have the mystery of the name of 'Will'. There is evidence that Christopher Marlowe actually was called 'William' sometimes; and 'Will' at that time not only signified the 'willingness to love' but also direct sexual desire. If the author of the dramatic works of Shakespeare was anything at all, he was a lover. This could be an explanation why the poet in some of his Sonnets calls himself 'Will', since all the Sonnets are sonnets of love.
Finally we have the devastating denunciation of Marlowe by Richard Baines, here presented in excerpts:
"....Concerning his damnable judgement of Religion and scorn of God's word:
That the Indians and many authors of antiquity have assuredly written about 16 thousand years ago whereas Adam is proved to have lived within 6 thousand years.
He affirms that Moses was but a juggler and that one Harriot, being Sir Walter Raleigh's man, could do more than he.
That Moses made the Jews to travel 11 years in the wilderness (which journey might have been done in less than one year) to the intent that those who were privy to most of his subtilities might perish and so an everlasting superstition remain in the hearts of the people.
That the first beginning of religion was only to keep men in awe.
That Christ was the son of a carpenter, and that if the Jews among whom he was born did crucify him they best knew him and whence he came.
That Christ deserved better to die than Barabbas and that the Jews made a good choice, though Barabbas were both a thief and a murderer.
That if there be any God or any good Religion, then it is in the Papists, because the service of God is performed with more ceremonies, as elevation of the mass, organs, singing men, shaven crowns, etc.
That all Protestants are hypocritical asses.
That if he were put to write a new religion, he would undertake a both more excellent and admirable method.
That all they that love not tobacco and boys were fools.
That all the apostles were fishermen and base fellows neither of wit nor worth, that Paul only had wit but was a timorous fellow in bidding men to be subject to magistrates against his conscience.
That he had as good right to coin as the Queen of England, and that he was acquainted with one Poole, a prisoner in Newgate, who hath great skill in mixture of metals, and having learned some things of him he meant through the help of a cunning stamp-maker to coin French crowns, pistolets and English shillings.
That one Richard Cholmeley hath confessed that he was persuaded by Marlowe's reasons to become an atheist.
That this Marlowe almost into every company he cometh persuades men to atheism; as I think all men in Christianity ought to endeavour that the mouth of so dangerous a member may be stopped."
This is perhaps the most interesting document of the whole problem, since it is the most vivid portrait of Marlowe we have. It's like a map of his personality. This petty puritan tries his best in his hateful effort to annihilate Marlowe but succeeds in his ridiculous caricature only with the opposite. What we see is the envy of Richard Baines shining through every word against this superior talent, who so clearly discloses that he has looked through the whole of Christianity, and who is so wise and knowledgeable that he is fully aware that Indian history goes much farther back than that of the Bible. Richard Baines finds it the challenge of his life to match this superior personality whom he can't bear, why he tries his utmost to destroy him. Only one of the charges was serious in the eyes of the Queen: that of coining money. Everything could be forgiven Marlowe for the sake of his art, but it was quite impossible to allow any kind of coining or any publicity thereof. For that reason, and for his own safety, so that he could continue his much appreciated work, he had to disappear.
The initiative was probably Marlowe's own in joint deliberation with his closest sponsor and friend Thomas Walsingham, and the decisive factor was not the base libel of Richard Baines, but the denunciation by his friend and colleague Thomas Kyd. Marlowe and Kyd had lived together and worked together. In May the home of Kyd was searched by the police for forbidden pamphlets against illegal Flemish immigrants. The police found only atheistic writings. Thomas Kyd blamed them on Marlowe. Consequently Marlowe was arrested, who soon could prove that the papers were not by him. (These fatal documents still exist today and have proved to be written by no one else than Thomas Kyd himself.) But the fact that Thomas Kyd had informed against and betrayed his maybe closest friend and colleague must have given Marlowe very deep and hard feelings and a sense of having lost the ground under his feet, (the theme recurs often in the Shakespeare canon, for example in "The Two Gentlemen of Verona" from a few years after, and is the leading theme of evil in "King Lear",) and the matter was in no way easily disposed of. It was unavoidable that the police would undertake investigations into the forbidden, dangerous and illegal free-thinking activities of Marlowe, Raleigh, Harriot, the Bacons and many others. Marlowe's fate and disappearance must be viewed against the background of both Baines' and Kyd's betrayals and denunciations.
Another curious detail: Eleanor Bull, in whose house the disappearance of Marlowe was staged, had two interesting relatives: Blanche Parry, Queen Elizabeth's very closest chamber maid, and John Dee, the most famous occultist of the time. Through Blanche Perry, Eleanor Bull could at any time turn to the highest authorities of the country, that is Prime Minister Lord Burghley, who helped her with legal problems.
In relation to that we might note, that the great debut play of Marlowe's, Tamburlaine the Great, really isn't about the great Tamerlane at all but Ivan the Terrible of Russia. Marlowe's own relative, a certain Anthony Marlowe, had shares in The Muscovy Company, later on The East India Company, which had an agreement with Czar Ivan the Terrible providing them with a European monopoly on all the merchandise of all the Russias; and it was the house of that Company, owned by the merchant agent Richard Bull, husband of Eleanor Bull, which was chosen as the scene for Christopher Marlowe's extremely dramatic and well-staged exit from public life.
There was probably a ship to France with Marlowe on board on that very day, May 30th 1593, but probably the whole establishment of England knew about the operation, not only the Derby brothers and the Bacon brothers but all his friends, Prime Minister Lord Burghley with his son and most probably even the Queen, who by all means could do without Christopher Marlowe, his troubles and controversies, but not without his plays.
So we have now the possibility to ascertain Marlowe's continued existence after his death by comparing the hand-writing of Louis Le Doux with Marlowe's own. If they match each other as well as the language and style of the plays of Marlowe and Shakespeare match each other, that is perfectly, it will be very difficult to bring forth a candidate with a stronger case for the authorship of the Shakespeare poems and plays.
Comments on A. D. Wraight.
At first sight of her book "The Story that the Sonnets Tell" you get some apprehension of her method. She has divided the sonnets of Shakespeare under different headings, one part dealing with Henry Wriothesley, another part with the poet's own fate, another with the dark lady, and so on, totally cutting up the unity of the collection to place the 154 sonnets under different labels. This almost gives an impression of sacrilege, especially since the order of the sonnets probably was arranged by the poet himself for the first edition of 1609, the order creating a wonderful art form almost like a five act play. There are reasons to suppose that the poet himself never dreamed of that his sonnets would be sorted up like this in different columns.
Eventually your misgivings disappear as you read her book and understand the meaning of the division. She has lived with the sonnets wondering about their mystery for 30 years and only gradually entered on the idea to divide them under different headings just to come closer to their secret. And the result of her methodology is, to say the least, wonderful.
Just her work-out attitude is enough to raise the greatest acclamation, being of the fullest sincerity. She approaches the problem in the same way as Heinrich Schliemann decided to deal with the problem of Troy: assuming that what the poet himself has written is as close to the truth as you can get. Following that principle Schliemann discovered Troy and has Mrs. A. D. Wraight solved the mystery of the Sonnets.
The basic mistake committed by all interpreters of the Sonnets is that they have assumed that there was only one man depicted in them. Dolly Wraight has found out that they are at least three, and she has successfully identified all three of them. The first one is of course Henry Wriothesley, to whose seventeenth birthday the first seventeen sonnets were commissioned by Lord Burghley to inspire him to marry his granddaughter. But the dashing earl nevertheless failed to swallow the bait, and the girl was later married to William Stanley instead. That was one of the reasons why there were not more than seventeen sonnets written to that earl.
The second young man of the Sonnets is a certain William Hatcliffe, one of two possible 'Mr. W.H.', who in real life actually was elected a sort of 'king of beauty' in a certain society, which implies that he really must have been of some handsomeness falling in the eye of not only the poet but also of the beautiful lady Lucy Morgan, a notorious beauty, who is the dark lady of the Sonnets. Apparently Hatcliffe and Miss Morgan played the poet false with each other.
The third man is Thomas Walsingham, Christopher Marlowe's sponsor, protector and truest friend, who stood him by as he unjustly dishonoured was forced into exile, for which constancy the poet was indebted to him for the rest of his life, which the most beautiful sonnets illustrate. The highlight of the entire book is the miraculous ways in which the author succeeds in proving this man's identity.
A.D.Wraight founds her arguments on the clearest basis of solidity, her research is the most painstakingly laborious and exact during almost an entire liftetime, and her work to solve the riddle of the Sonnets is unparalleled. At the same time she continues the work of a long row of predecessors, who have shown her the way, and also their research results from many decades is gloriously exposed and brought to fruition by her work.
So her hypotheses are really not even new. Most of them have been expressed before. Her main ideas were published already in the 1950s by Calvin Hoffman but unscientifically improvised in mainly conjectures without references. One can say that she has erected a completed cathedral on the sketches and ideas of amateur architects.
The scientific pregnancy and solid methodology of her work results in a definite breakthrough in Shakespeare research. She explains all the great mysteries quite satisfactorily, and all that's still missing is only occasional small pieces.
In a sequel called "New Evidence" she goes further, analyzing the results of discovering the secret archives of Anthony Bacon, which have remained sealed for 400 years. But here the clear scientific foundation and solid methodology, which is so impressing in the Sonnets book, is not of equal ripeness. She identifies the hand-writing of the secret agent Louis Le Doux with that of Marlowe but without being able to certify beyond any shadow of a doubt that their hand-writings really are identical: this verification she leaves to future experts. Of course, there are many positive arguments for their being the same person, but it's equally probable that Louis Le Doux in fact is that very Louis Le Doux of a Huguenot family in Canterbury who grew up there at the same time as Marlowe and who later on in life might have continued to have dealings with him. There are different possibilities. Louis Le Doux might have been a fellow agent with Marlowe in France and handled their papers, which one can assume was difficult for Marlowe to do himself, since his real identity could not be discovered without risking the security of several important persons in England. Another alternative, and perhaps the most plausible possibility of all, is that Marlowe "borrowed" the identity of Le Doux, like he "borrowed" that of W. Shakespeare, like a good playwright thus entering and impersonating their characters and playing their parts. There is very much to investigate in the archives of Anthony Bacon, which still might contain any number of secrets and wonderful or controversial discoveries.
Since we definitely seem to have slipped down along the Marlowe trace in this Shakespeare debate, we might as well present the whole case again from the beginning as concisely as possible:
The Marlowe Case - Another Presentation.
It's not about Philip Marlowe, the magnificently hard-boiled detective of Raymond Chandler's, who never could solve a case so that his readers could follow or understand anything of it, since Mr. Chandler never wrote anything without considerable alcoholic preparations.
Neither is it about the severely tried partner of Scrooge's, that poor Mr. Marlowe, whom the relentless Charles Dickens condemned to walk around for ever carrying around the heaviest and direst iron chains as a warning to all living beings and especially to that poor old miser Mr. Scrooge.
Instead I will present facts in a much stranger case much further back in time, namely the case of Christopher Marlowe, born 23rd February 1564 in the same year as Galilei and Shakespeare, exactly two months before Shakespeare and five days after the birth of Galilei and the death of Michelangelo. Yes, Michelangelo died and Galilei was born on the very same day, and Christopher Marlowe was born the week after in Geoffrey Chaucer's old Canterbury as the son of a shoe-maker with interests in law; and also the mother of the poet was according to witnesses a remarkable personality. He was brought up in the shade of the cathedral and apparently proved so bright a pupil, that he was sent by the clerics of Canterbury with a scholarship to Cambridge, where as a young man he came in touch with all the leading intellectuals of the age at the court of Queen Elizabeth, first of all Sir Walter Raleigh, who searched for Eldorado in South America, and Sir Philip Sidney, whose friend was Giordano Bruno, who was burned at the stake for maintaining that earth orbited the sun instead of the contrary. Giordano Bruno's greatest challenge against his age was his insisting on the right of science to objective thinking as more important than any religion, and such thoughts were shared by all in the circles of Sir Philip Sidney and Sir Walter Raleigh, which included the free-thinker Marlowe.
He had been sent to Cambridge to become a cleric, but instead he became the first real dramatist of England creating the English verse drama, which later developed fully under the name of Shakespeare. Marlowe's first verse drama about the Albanian freedom fighter Scanderbeg is lost, but the major break-through of his art and of English drama was "Tamburlaine the Great", a titanic play in two parts and ten acts, which pretends to illustrate the great khan Tamerlane's life and deeds but which in fact is modelled on the brutal life of Ivan the Terrible. This was in 1588, the same year as the Great Armada sailed against England and met with its ruin and England was established as a major world power.
Marlowe then enjoyed five years of considerable success as a dramatist, especially with "Doctor Faustus", which two centuries later inspired Goethe to his life's work. He also wrote dramas about the massacre at Paris in 1572, about Dido and Aeneas, about the Turkish invasion of Malta, and introduced the great English chronicle plays with the impressive "Edward II", in which we already find the fully developed Shakespearean art brought to perfection. He also wrote poems of love.
In May 1593 he vanished without a trace. The story went about that he had been killed in a regular tavern brawl. His sudden disappearance was surrounded by whispers and rumours of scandals. It appeared he had been denounced to the English inquisition court, the Star Chamber, for heresy, blasphemies and homosexuality. His own closest associate, Thomas Kyd, also a dramatist, with whom he had collaborated and shared quarters, did himself accuse Marlowe of these crimes as he was tortured and ransacked, the police having found atheist writings at his place. Thomas Kyd claimed these belonged to Marlowe, who was arrested in the middle of May but released with instructions to keep in touch. It was to be expected, that if Marlowe was apprehended by the inquisitional court, also his other free-thinking friends would be arrested, which included not only Sir Walter Raleigh but also the philosopher Francis Bacon and a whole company of England's leading intellectuals. So when Marlowe disappeared he couldn't have done so at a more suitable moment. After his disappearance the inquisitors had nothing more to work on.
As late as in 1925 the coroner's report in the case of Marlowe was found. It seemed very fishy indeed: nothing in it made any sense, and there was reason to suspect a set-up. According to the report, Marlowe would have spent an entire day in the company of three notorious fellows, they would have dined together and had a nice day and afternoon at a private house in Deptford, and then suddenly there would have risen a quarrel about the bill. Marlowe would then have rested on a bench behind the three companions seated at a table with their backs towards Marlowe, who suddenly would have assaulted the middle one from behind with a dagger, whereupon this man in the middle, squeezed in between the two others, would have defended himself and given Marlowe a deadly thrust above the eye, of which Marlowe would instantly have died. The cause of death as it is explained in this coroner's report is scientifically and medically impossible.
The corpse would then immediately have been shuffled down in an unknown grave somewhere abouts there in Deptford, so that no one could locate it. The three fishy companions were all aquitted and set free almost at once. They were all in the service of Thomas Walsingham, Marlowe's closest friend and protector, sponsor and employer, cousin of the late Sir Francis Walsingham, head of Queen Elizabeth's secret service, in which Marlowe himself had been an agent on missions to France. In brief, nothing in this murder case makes any sense.
That was in May 1593. The next month there is a debutant in English literature. A poem is published which immediately becomes popular and loved for its beautiful language and love story, and the poet is a certain totally unknown William Shakespeare from Stratford, recently arrived to London, an actor about whom no one knew anything. Later it would turn out that he had temporarily abandoned his much older wife and certain economical difficulties in Stratford to try his luck in London. He would make a fortune as a broker and house proprietor, actor and director and regular theatre business man with his hands full all the time. He died in 1616. Seven years later his complete works are published, 36 plays and a collection of poems, most of the works never published before and without Shakespeare actually ever having made any claims on them during his lifetime - those which had been printed before had generally been pirated.
I just present the problem. I will say nothing more at the moment.
The Difficult Case of Sir Francis Bacon.
The only thing you can be quite sure of concerning the greatest philosopher of the Elizabethan age is that his case never can be appropriately investigated. It invites to speculation for ever.
And although he was a pioneer in so many fields, predominantly philosophy and science, in which he decisively stressed the precedence and right of lucidity and logic to religious thinking, supposition and superstition, he was remarkably inept at bringing any order and clarity into his own life in the eyes of the afterworld.
We have here one of the most complicated personalities of the Renaissance, a definite universal genius where something went wrong from the start, so that his entire life (apart from his brilliant career as a thinker and writer) became dominated by a hopeless self-destructiveness. In this he demonstrates a striking resemblance with Leonardo da Vinci, another excellent genius who excelled everyone else in all fields but couldn't complete or finish anything, leaving his life's work behind him in an inextricable chaos of brilliance.
You would think that you could have expected better of Sir Francis Bacon, since he at least reached the very pinnacle of society with finally only the king above him. He worked himself up the long way in the government service as a lawyer and had generally a difficult time but came into some fortune by the relationship with the Duke of Essex, the Queen's favourite, who took Bacon under his wings from 1591. When Essex rebelled and was decapitated, Bacon was one of the leading parties of the prosecution. (Lytton Strachey has analysed and elucidated this case in his very readable work "Elizabeth & Essex".) Bacon then rose to power under James I and got his hands full with government business from 1613, when the production of new Shakespeare plays suddenly ceased. He was made Lord Chancellor in 1618, the highest office of the realm next to the king's, in order to after only three years be completely dishonoured, bereft of all his duties and disappear from public life with his career and reputation ruined. But it was during his last five years that he wrote his most important works mainly in Latin. He died after catching a cold from a scientific experiment involving stuffing chickens with snow in order to preserve their meat: the first deep-freeze experiment.
Even during his lifetime there were some who believed he was the man behind the Shakespeare plays. There are striking similarities in their personalities and views: the same rational attitudes towards life, 1591-1613 Bacon had provedly very much spare time to be able to write any amount of extra literature, he was educated at Cambridge (which the Shakespeare plays indicate that their author was, and which William Shakespeare from Stratford wasn't,) and a number of Shakespeare key plays were first performed at Gray's Inn, where Bacon was at the centre of things.
At this point Bacon and Marlowe seem the strongest candidates in our Shakespeare debate, both having been educated at Cambridge, which several of the plays indicate that their author must have been, and which neither the Stratford man nor Derby was.
Bacon and Marlowe are also the most tragic candidates, but the fall of Bacon appears more titanic, as he at the top of his career at the age of 60 is suddenly publicly disgraced for having taken bribes as Lord Chancellor. His disgrace couldn't have been worse, and he has to survive it. He was fined £40,000, a more than astronomical amount at that time, which of course he could never pay. It was an impossible sum, and the king remitted most of it, but Bacon could never again show his face in public. His case is like a ghostly manifestation of both King Lear and Timon of Athens, although both plays were written much earlier.
This tragedy seems to have followed him into the Shakespeare debate. Towards the end of the 19th century people found out that Bacon must have been Shakespeare, and as advocates of this theory appeared great authorities like Mark Twain, Henry James, Bernard Shaw and Daphne du Maurier. But the Baconians gradually demonstrated the same self-destructiveness as Bacon himself. They lost themselves into cryptogram speculations, the belief that Bacon had left behind a lot of cipher writings, there were legends told about him of the very kind which he himself most of all had detached himself from, they tried to make him the great prophet of the freemasons in England, and all this made the Baconians appear more and more ridiculous. Other candidates, like Oxford, Derby and Marlowe, then appeared less ridiculous in comparison.
To all this comes the inevitable backstage life of Bacon. He was sickly in all his life, probably chronically neurotic and overstrung, he made himself socially impossible by his arrogant manners, (he was not at all a brilliant courtier like Leonardo da Vinci,) his overbearing ambitions made him an intolerable careerist, and like his brother Anthony Bacon he was notorious for being a homosexual, for which he was even prosecuted as a young man, just like Leonardo da Vinci. All his life he kept a small court of young men around him, mostly servants, clerks and pages, whom he shared beds with. In his forties he married a rich heiress of 14, which improved his economy while the marriage was without issue.
This backstage life, which gives us a less attractive picture of Bacon as an opportunist, egoist and materialist, is difficult to join with the exalted and self-effacing art of Shakespeare. At the most it's possible to assume that Bacon could have been the final editor of "The First Folio" 1623, but it's very difficult to turn him into the sole author of all the plays and poems. He appears as something like the Joker of the business, whose importance to the whole deck of cards is unoverstimable but at the same time undefinable.
Fact and Speculation in the Case of John Penry.
(the complete and unabridged version)
John Penry was hanged on May 29th 1593. He was no ordinary criminal but highly educated at Cambridge and Oxford with contacts among the highest in intellectual society, notably among free-thinkers like Francis Bacon and the Earl of Essex. He was a Presbyterian of honest faith and is still regarded in his home area of north Wales as a martyr. But strangest of all about this execution was, that he was not allowed to say farewell to his wife or his four daughters. He was hanged suddenly and in secret and was actually fetched without warning directly from his dinner to his scaffold. Neither was he honoured with any funeral, but his body disappeared without a trace, and no grave of his has ever become known. What heinous crime could deserve such a dishonourable dismissal? He had been too outspoken. He had dared to criticize highly honoured bishops and archbishops, and these had taken their revenge by having him libelled as a revolutionary and a dangerous traitor. One person especially had good motives for getting even with the pious John Penry, namely the Archbishop of Canterbury John Whitgift, notoriously well known as the leading witch-hunter of free-thinkers. Also John Penry had studied at Cambridge at the same time as Marlowe, they were about the same age and of the same intellectual capacity. One who fully shared John Penrys criticism of the ecclesiastical authorities was Martin Marprelate, a notorious and unknown writer of pamphlets, whose identity remains a mystery to this day. This Martin Marprelate could, in his pamphlets, call the Archbishop of Canterbury names like "Beelzebub of Canterbury", "Canterbury Caiphas", "monstrous anti-Christ", "bloody tyrant" and things like that. This Marprelate affair is an entirely local phenomenon in Canterbury 1588-89, where Christopher Marlowes family had its home and where John Penry was busy at the time. The caustic mockery of the Marprelate pamphlets is shatteringly ironic and has been compared with Jonathan Swift and Mark Twain. So they are actually funny. The essence of his argument is: NO MORE BISHOPS! He calls all the bishops of England, Wales and Ireland petty popes and petty Anti-Christs and doesnt hesitate to name them all. The chief target for this poison was the Archbishop of Canterbury, John Whitgift, who tried to answer with the full solemnity of his high office, whereupon Marprelate used his (i.e. Whitgifts) own words to ridicule him even more. The provocative unorthodoxy of John Penry was well known, since he preached in public, so it was logical to suspect him of being Martin Marprelate, especially since his writings provedly came from the same printing-press as the Marprelate pamphlets. But John Penry denied with firmness that he even knew who Martin Marprelate was, and this is accepted today as the truth, since John Penry, a solemn preacher, didnt demonstrate much sense of humour, while the mocking ironies of Marprelate are those of a clown.
It falls easier to combine the character of Marprelate with that of Marlowe. (Compare also Oliver Martext in "As You Like It".) The Marprelate mocking style is identical with what we find in Marlowes most maliciously ironic plays like Doctor Faustus, wherein he transcends all limits of decorum and decency. Marlowe might very well have been the man behind Martin Marprelates ruthless chaffing of the Anglican establishment; but he must have been aware of John Penrys criticism of the episcopal authorities, which might have served as inspiration to Marprelates boldness. But John Penry got all the blame.
His house was searched and his writings confiscated and, if he had not managed to escape to Scotland in disguise, he would have been arrested. But his trials had only started. The Queen demanded of King James of Scotland that he be extradited, but King James said he could not be found. Yet he returned to England after two years and was arrested on March 22nd 1593. They tried to convert him from the heresies of Wycliffe and Luther, but he remained firm in his Separatist convictions. On May 21st he was put to trial for "rebellion and insurrection", and his own confiscated writings were used as evidence against him, just like the writings found in the quarters of Thomas Kyd were used against that unfortunate playwright together with torture to extort confessions of heresy and conspiracy. Although nothing could be proved against John Penry, he was condemned to death for treason. He protested his loyalty to the Prime Minister Lord Burghley and the Earl of Essex, but May 25th was fixed as the day of execution. But when his family and friends came on that day to witness the execution it was postponed, and they had to return home. Instead he was executed in secret four days later without any witnesses. Perhaps the authorities feared the effects of a public execution of such a famous and revered person. It was one of the worst judicial murders of the time and, after the Mary Stuart affair, perhaps the darkest stain on the glorious reign of Queen Elizabeth.
This strange business coincides almost exactly with the arrest and murder of Christopher Marlowe, officially murdered the day after John Penry. This remarkable coincidence must give rise to suspicions. As a well-informed government spy, Marlowe must have been aware of the arrest of Penry since March and maybe even of his sentence to death. David A. More presents a theory that the body inspected by coroner Danby on June 2nd actually was that of John Penry, which during the night darkness would have been smuggled into Deptford only four miles from where John Penry had been executed on the road to Canterbury. Psychologically the theory would fit, although it seems too far-fetched to be credible: any body could have been used, and during these days of the plague there were bodies galore. A connection between John Penry and Christopher Marlowe has never been established, but if Marlowe was Martin Marprelate (and there is hardly any other candidate who would fit that clowns measure) it would be very unlikely that two secret pamphleteers using the same printing-press would know nothing about each other. Dave Mores theory suggests other theories, one of them being that Marlowe as a dramatic genius actually staged his own death, although there is no proof of it, but it's not unthinkable. Another one is that Marlowe allowed his brother of destiny, John Penry, to depart as a martyr under his (Marlowes) name. We cant here present all the various possibilities of Marlowes own attitudes to his situation and what he made of it at this point. All we can do is to try to consider all possiblities. If Marlowe knew about Penrys trial and sentence, it must have motivated him to abandon the scene. This suggests that Marlowe was part in the strange staging of the set-up at Eleanor Bulls. All that was needed to fool the coroners 16 witnesses was to inflict an extra deep wound in the head of a fresh corpse. Since John Penry was presented fully dressed, if it was he, or any hanged corpse, the jurors would not have noticed any noose marks round the victims neck and even less bothered to look for any such thing. There was no need to be particular, fresh corpses were common in those days, they appeared everywhere in Queen Elizabeths London, especially in the days of the Plague, and only in rare cases were investigations carried out and then without any exaggerated meticulousness. Further, Coroner Danby must have had access to any number of fresh corpses and, if he was in the plot, could easily have produced one. But circumstances actually point to that the dead body of Marlowe could very well have been John Penry.
Thus Marlowe, his past settled, especially his problematic associations with Penry and Kyd, could, like a phoenix, be born anew and continue his work but under completely different names than Christopher Marlowe. For he was now officially dead and liberated from the risk and burden of ever again being an embarrassment to anyone.
Although Dave Mores theory cant be proven, it certainly invites investigation.
A Shakespeare Apology,
by John Bede
With all due respect to all your candidates like Bacon, Rutland, Derby, Marlowe, Heywood, Oxford and others, but wouldnt William Shakespeare at least deserve a place in the sun along with them? After all, he has nothing else. Marlowe is credited with the invention of the Elizabethan drama in blank verse, and no honour is greater than that. Both Derby, Rutland and Oxford were Earls and couldnt get any more established nor more honourable positions in life. They got all the good things out of life without having to bother to write any ever-living poetry, which their titles and honours hardly motivated them to aspire to. As for Bacon, he rose to become the richest and most powerful man in England at that time, and more than that: of Ireland and Scotland as well, so why would he have bothered to foster ambitions to become the greatest of poets as well? It doesnt make sense. All his writings breathe unilaterally of only worldly not to say materialistic ambitions. When he blundered and lost everything all the Shakespeare tragedies were long ago written, and why would he have felt like writing such dark tragedies while being only and entirely successful?
Thomas Heywood had his own speciality of domestic plays and, like Rutland, was too young to have been capable of for instance the great Henry VI tragedies. Of course, lets give credit where it is due: Thomas Heywood continued after Jonson and Shakespeare and kept the stage going and did a marvellous lot of editing as well, probably, since he confessed to having been meddling with at least 220 Elizabethan plays. Thats a confession to respect, and there is nothing to disprove it. But he did not confess to having composed any of the Shakespeare plays.
So who is left? William Shakespeare. He has nothing left without his plays. Rob him of his authorship, and exactly nothing remains. Who can be so cruel? Especially since he actually might have written them, since there is nothing to disprove it.
I admit, there is no evidence of his authorship. His canon was published long after he was dead, and no one attended his funeral. No one praised him as a playwright before "The First Folio" seven years after his death. But all the poems and compliments of "The First Folio" can not be disproved. There is nothing, absolutely nothing to argue against their authenticity and honesty. Shakespeare might have been the sole author of the 36 plays and probably some more, and he was the first one to be acknowledged as such.
And you must admit, that there is a grain of convincing authenticity in John Aubreys anecdotes, how Shakespeare held speeches at the death of his fathers, the butchers cattle. He was handsome and of a stately figure, prerequisites for a good actor. No one has ever questioned him as an actor. Can you find a single professional actor among all the other candidates? And who but an actor could have written so perfectly for the voice?
Please grant William Shakespeare what hasnt been denied him since 1623. Why start harassing and dishonouring him now? None of the others needed the glory of William Shakespeare. They had their own glories. William Shakespeares sole glory is his plays. Dont take them away from him, please, if you are gentlemen.
Presenting a Baconian problem.
During the years 1594-96 Sir Francis Bacon made some notes in a book which he called "The Promus of Formularies and Elegancies", usually called just "Promus". For 200 years it was unknown, and it wasn't published until 1883. Since then it has been the strongest argument of the Baconians that Bacon wrote all of Shakespeare's works, since this diary happens to contain a great number of Shakespeare quotations from plays that in 1596 had not yet been written.
Of course this was an unbearable insult to all Stratfordians. It was the first great hit under the waterline in the bulk of Shakespeare orthodoxy, the acknowledged and self-evident fact since 1623 that the works of Shakespeare could have no other author than William Shakespeare. And there was no lack of arguments against the testimony of the Promus. Such quotations that were found in Bacon's diary, Stratfordians said, were daily expressions of that time used by anyone and no idiosyncratic expressions of Shakespeare's at all. And those Shakespeare quotations from the Promus which matched exactly with expressions used in the plays were less than a few. Someone else, who had been close to Bacon, might have used the Promus and its smart formulations. If you examine closely the details of the Promus you can explain away almost every indication that Bacon would have been Shakespeare.
But you can't explain everything away. Certain things are too obvious to be ignored. The Promus is written in all those languages mastered by Bacon, that is English, Greek, Latin, Italian, Spanish and French. It's exactly those languages that the writings of Shakespeare bear witness of that their author must have known. The first Stratfordian never entered a university, remained at home among the illiterates of Stratford until he was almost thirty, whiled away his time in Stratford mostly on petty processes and quarrels about money with his neighbours being otherwise busy only with his much older wife and their three children, and concerned himself in London as a practical theatre business man only with making money. He never went abroad and didn't leave to posterity one single letter or book. His own daugther couldn't even write her own name. In brief, everything speaks loudly about his being totally uneducated but having a good nose for making money.
Strangest in the Promus are all the quotations from "King Lear", which wasn't written until ten years after the Promus was penned down. There are also other links between Bacon and King Lear. The play is founded on an earlier play, "King Leir", with a difference. In "King Leir" the king does not go mad, and his daughters do not try to declare him incapacitated. Shortly before "King Lear" was written, a strange case had its course in the courts of Bacon and his colleagues: an old servant to the crown was getting soft-headed, and his two eldest daughters tried to have him declared insane, so that they could take over his property. His third daughter appealed as far as possible, trying in vain to prevent the tragedy of Sir Brian Annesley, who had served the Queen well in all his life, ending up as a publicly pronounced madman. In the height of this controversy, Sir Brian died. The name of his youngest daughter happened to be Cordell.
How many could have been familiar with this peculiar law case? Very few outside court. Most of Shakespeare's plays betray a professional familiarity with court proceedings, while William Shakespeare was just an actor and theatre business man with no legal training at all.
If Bacon really wrote Shakespeare's plays, he must have been extremely careful about hiding this authorship, since that's what he succeeded in to perfection: still today it is impossible to bind him to any of the plays and poems, although many have tried in various ways. But we can't neglect the possibility. In view of all the other things that Bacon wrote, highbrow philosophy in Latin with ambitions to reform the world, he could have amused himself with writing intriguing plays off-hand, which he then would have had every reason to keep separate from his more serious authorship. Whoever wrote them, (and the more we learn, the more the improbability appears that it was Shakespeare,) he had every reason to hide that authorship. William Shakespeare was probably the ideal play-broker who knew to keep silent about secrets that fattened his pockets.
At least it is evident that Sir Francis Bacon must have had something decisive to do with at least the final edition of Shakespeare's works. The problem is to have his part in the set-up defined - if he acted as an author or editor, partly or wholly.
"There's more to it than meets the eye."
The Perfect Set-Up.
A Summary of the (lack of) Evidence.
There is no proof that Shakespeare wrote the works of Shakespeare, and there never was. But by "The First Folio" in 1623 it was established that Shakespeare had written them, and no one objected to it. It was very safe to establish Shakespeare as the sole author in 1623 since he had been dead for seven years. No one bothered about the fact that the texts in "The First Folio" did not correspond to the quarto texts issued while Shakespeare had been alive. The first objections were raised when it was far too late to raise any objections, was the main argument of the established Shakespeare academicians. No matter how overwhelmingly logical the arguments are against Shakespeare as the author, the established Shakespeare academicians can always point at the authentic texts of "The First Folio" and say: "There you are. As long as you cant prove these texts to be wrong you have no argument. Evidence, please!" And complacently they can continue acting as established Shakespeare academicians.
But their position is untenable, and gradually they find it more difficult to defend their case. The circumstantial evidence against Shakespeare in favour of Bacon, Oxford, Derby or Marlowe is constantly getting more attention and on their nerves. The Bacon case is clear: everything points to him as the editor of "The First Folio" with the assistance of Ben Jonson, who made his career getting paid for writing lies. But there is one flaw in the Bacon case - the Sonnets, which cant be fitted into Bacons life. Concerning Oxford, no one fits the Shakespeare personality better, and "Hamlet" could be Oxfords autobiography. But there is one problem with Oxford: by 1604 he was already dead. But he had a son-in-law, a theatre maniac like himself, William Stanley, one of the most mysterious characters among the Elizabethans, who has left no trace of himself in history except some printed music, a handful of letters, some quarrels with his wife suggesting the character of Othello, a long poem about his journeys all over Europé including Turkey and Russia as a youth, the fact that Richard Lloyd (the man behind Holofernes in "Loves Labours Lost") was his tutor and chaperon on his journeys, a fabulous position as governor of the Isle of Man, the important ownership of some London theatre companies, and three sons. His brother and predecessor as Earl of Derby, Ferdinando, was one of the leading theatre enthusiasts and free-thinkers until he was poisoned by Catholics in April 1594 because he wouldnt take on their cause although he was a Catholic and cousin to the Queen. They wanted him for a candidate to the crown, and after his death they also investigated Williams possible candidature but found him too busy writing comedies. No one knows what happened to those comedies, nor have they ever been identified. The Stanley brothers also had a cousin called William Stanley in Spain who was a traitor. So Will Stanley had every reason to keep as low a profile as possible, his elder brother being poisoned and his cousin (with his own name) being a traitor. And his name always has a startling effect in Shakespeare discussions: whenever the 6th Earl of Derby is mentioned, all Shakespeare arguments fall silent. The fact that after his death in September 1642 all the theatres of England were closed down by the Puritans and the civil war started, adds to his mystery. Many high academicians and experts of literature have believed him to be the real Shakespeare, but the Sonnets dont quite fit into his life either.
Finally we have Christopher Marlowe, the main creator of the Elizabethan blank verse drama, who officially was done away with under suspicious circumstances around Pentecost in 1593. In 1905 an accidental scientific investigation conducted by Doctor Mendenhall in Boston of texts by Bacon, Shakespeare and Marlowe indicated with overwhelming clarity that Shakespeare and Marlowe used identical language and word techniques. In 1925 Leslie Hotson discovered Coroner Danbys report on the murder of Christopher Marlowe, a report which in 1925 didnt fool anyone any more, since it could scientifically be proved a fake. In 1955 Calvin Hoffman launched the theory that the murder of Christopher Marlowe had been a set-up to save Marlowes life, and he produced a body of work of 700 pages to prove it. Of course, it was only circumstantial evidence. The Stratfordians could remain calm as usual and neglect it as "no evidence". In 1995 A.D.Wraight published "The Story that the Sonnets Tell", the most thorough study of the Sonnets ever made and the only one successfully explaining the mysteries of most of them. Her work clearly shows that the Sonnets fit Christopher Marlowe perfectly and no one else.
So it all points to Marlowe having continued his work as a dramatist under the cover of William Shakespeare, maybe also under the cover of others like John Webster, perhaps collaborating with Beaumont & Fletcher, perhaps borrowing even other occasional names. If it was he, he most probably spent some years up in Lancashire under the protection of Derby, where he learnt much Lancashire expressions demonstrated in plays like "Hamlet". And most probably, Francis Bacon must have been one of his associates and maybe his protector. Bacon and Derby had much legal business together.
But the Stratfordians can remain calm. There is still no proof against Mr. Shakespeare being the sole author of the entire First Folio. Shakespeares name remains established since 1623, and things like "The Story that the Sonnets Tell", Calvin Hoffmans findings, Doctor Mendenhalls accidental research with its astonishing results that no one expected, Coroner Danbys fabrication, "Hamlet", the Sonnets, the strange fate of Marlowe - they are just stories.
The Agincourt and Balaclava day.
The first great dramatic play of the English Renaissance is The Spanish Tragedy, after his death attributed to Thomas Kyd. Its a very melancholy work about grief, injustice, madness and revenge, a perfect prelude to the great Elizabethan tragedies, offering even ghosts and a play in the play. Already here Elizabethan tragedy is ripe. But who wrote it?
Thomas Kyd himself only put his name under translations. He shared quarters with Marlowe, and most scholars believe they collaborated, for instance in The Spanish Tragedy, Arden of Feversham and The Murder of John Brewen. It is certain that Kyd did no dramatic work after the success of 'Tamburlaine in 1588. Marlowe was the star, and Kyd did not challenge him. That fact makes it quite possible that Marlowe wrote all the works of Kyd except the translations. The strong melancholy of The Spanish Tragedy also dominates many if not most of the plays under the names of Marlowe and Shakespeare, culminating in the Sonnets, the tetralogy of Henry VI and the great tragedies.
The Winters Tale is the last instance, but then it suddenly reappears in the works of John Webster and Robert Burton - after Shakespeare had retired from the stage.
There are many startling reminiscences of Marlowe in Websters three greatest plays, The White Devil, The Duchess of Malfi and The Devils Law-Case. Like Henry VIII, The White Devil has the ambition to be true to reality - and succeeds very well. Its a shattering drama about a Venetian courtesan unaware of the havoc she creates in the lives of her lovers, ruining them all; but the main character is the knave Flamineo, a clown in wit comparable with Hamlet and Falstaff, recalling the early villains of Marlowe. Already Pericles has a melancholy scent of Marlovian nostalgia - not to speak of As You Like It and other comedies.
But from where did John Webster get the story of the Duke of Bracchiano with its intimate shocking details? There is a story that Marlowe served the Bracchiano family, the duke of Orsino, whom he gives the leading part in Twelfth Night to honour him during his visit to England in 1600. This story would explain the expert knowledge from inside the family about the fatal whore of Venice in an earlier generation.
In his preface to The White Devil, John Webster explicitly states, that he wishes to be read in the lights of Chapman, Jonson, Beaumont, Fletcher, Shakespeare, Dekker and Heywood. Why does he not mention Marlowe in this context, the one dramatist he resembles the most? Maybe because he was Marlowe in disguise, a Marlowe already a professional in hiding. The one obvious characteristic of the author behind all the Shakespeare works is a complete self-effacement. Nothing is known about this John Webster, not even when he was born or when he died, and it was a name common enough.
Both the Webster tragedies also bring up Portia, from The Merchant of Venice and the wife of Brutus. In early Kyd-Marlowe literature the Portia character is mentioned as a future project. The court scene in The White Devil is in direct continuity from all the court scenes in Shakespeare - there is another even greater one in The Devils Law-Case, - and there are obvious parallels between the character of Vittoria Corombona and the Dark Lady of the Sonnets. Both the Webster tragedies also treat the most typical Marlowe theme of all - banishment and exile.
The Duchess of Malfi is even more melancholy than The White Devil; but the most melancholy work of all is Robert Burtons deeply religious The Anatomy of Melancholy, a giant work of perfection, in architecture very much reminiscent of the Kyd-Marlowe-Shakespeare-Webster drama.
If Marlowe wrote this work in his old age (quoting all the Marlowe-Shakespeare sources, especially Ovid, but Marlowe more than Shakespeare,) it would explain why he left off writing plays - he grew religious. There is an old saying, that when the devil comes of age he becomes religious.
My point is the reflection that all this overwhelming flow of eloquent melancholy in great Elizabethan literature could come from one and the same source.
If Marlowe survived 1593, he had reasons enough for melancholy. Its more difficult to find any depths of melancholy in Derby with his settled family life. Oxford did of course have reasons for melancholy, but he died in 1604, while the melancholy literature continued and grew greater without him.
I am not stating this theory as a fact. But since there are other super theories, like the super-Oxford-theory, the super-Bacon-theory and the super-Derby-theory, a super-Marlowe-theory deserves equal attention and consideration.
Oxford - the vain bully, turning his theatre company into a street gang, boasting his vanity, killing his guardian's servant for nothing, ridiculed but tolerated and given a pension of £1000 a year by the Queen - for what? For his Sonnets, that merely preluded those that followed, or for all his lost plays, finished off by others? We shall never know. But the end of his 54 years saw the Advent of Hamlet, Othello and King Lear.
Bacon - the snob, the ambitious universal genius, England's Leonardo da Vinci, scientist, lawyer and politician, but playwright? Hardly. He was too aloof for that and too busy about political intrigue against Essex, his benefactor, the romantic Earl, the embodiment of all Shakespearean heroes and the extreme opposite of all that was Sir Francis Bacon.
Derby - the stealthy Earl with the initials W.S. and the given name of Will, the owner of various theatre companies, maybe even of the Lord Camberlain's men, who staged most of Shakespeare's plays, mad with jealousy about his beautiful but wanton wife, king of the Isle of Man, the universal traveller and perfect diplomat, who left no trace of himself to posterity and whose home and library were destroyed by the Puritans - for what? For sealing the Shakespeare secret for ever?
Marlowe - the rebellious pioneer, the dramatic genius, the dynamic creator of effects, on stage and backstage, in social life and in society, who somehow got stuck in his problem with Doctor Faustus' pact with the Devil and never got out of the Devil's clutches himself.
Shakespeare - the honest business man from the country, who knew all about delivering and transacting speeches, who brought the seeds of Marlowe into the world's most lasting and beautiful winter garden, perhaps the most English of Englishmen, leaving behind him an unfathomable enigma of a perfect poker face on stage for ever.
Webster - the final dramatist, mainly interested in court cases, making a lot of fuss about women, perhaps having some difficulty with their essence, leaving behind him the deepest mystery of all - a perfected English drama of neither tragedy nor comedy but only of ambiguity, mocking posterity more than all his predecessors did, by not leaving behind him a single known fact about his life - as if he never existed.
What shall we think? Six characters, but one mystery? And what name has that mystery? Marlowe was the first to die, if he died. Oxford died at the peak of the English drama. Shakespeare died before its decline. Bacon died dishonoured in loneliness after having been the most powerful man in England. We shall never know when Webster died or if he died. And when Derby died, all the theatres of England closed down, and the final civil war broke out, destroying all evidence of who really wrote the works of Shakespeare.
More Marlowe Theories.
Of course I would never exclude Shakspere completely from any share in the honour of the excellent work of the First Folio. On the contrary, I would grant him any honour in it - except the exclusive authorship, which, mark well, he never even claimed himself.
Yes, his name was used for the plays and poems, but in those days it was common among the players to "own" the plays they acted, occasionally selling them to publishers when they needed some extra money. Thats probably how all the Quartos were published, which also accounts for their many corruptions and truncations, one example being "Richard Duke of York" published anonymously in 1595 and not published again until about 30 years later in the FF as "Henry VI part 3" by William Shakespeare. But "Richard Duke of York" is considered by experts like John Bakeless, Edward Thomas, Tucker Brooke and Allison Gaw among others to be by Marlowe, Thomas giving good reasons for his natural assumption, there being so many reminiscences of "Edward II" and the language of Marlowe. In fact, the language of Marlowes last and Shaksperes first works are so like each other as to be almost identical. For instance, "Venus and Adonis" and "Hero and Leander" are both written as if both authors knew the other poem by heart, which is pointed out by Charles Norman, who does not (in 1948) suggest they were written by the same man.
But that idea is irrejectable, since there are so many curiosities and phenomena pointing in that direction. If Shakspere wrote "Henry VI part 3" and not Marlowe, he must have stolen the entire idea and all the central scenes from Marlowe, which would make him a thief. Few would accept that. The other idea is that there must have been a singular collaboration between Marlowe and Shakspere, which possibility many would support, including myself.
But what would the nature of this collaboration have been? It would be very difficult to reconstruct and define, but it must have been very special. My theory is that it must have been one of those extremely rare coincidences of destiny, when two fates met at a crisis and joined hands to save each other from a mutual dilemma but of two very different natures.
I think a certain pseudonym called Benedict hit the point when he depicted the situation in a theatrical scene, which shows publishers brooding over the already completed printing of "Venus and Adonis", realizing they cant publish it in the authors name, since he has been totally scandalized, his name having become anathema, branded forever by Puritans as Atheist, the worst libel of all. The realism of the situation is that if they publish it in his name they wont succeed in selling a single copy.
At that moment a certain Stratford man comes to London trying his luck, having been forced to leave Stratford for its desperate unemployment situation in these difficult times of the Plague, coming to London for the sole purpose of making money in order to support himself and his family. He has done some acting, so he looks for something to do at the theatre in the precise moment when the news is spread that the great Marlowe of "Tamburlaine the Great" is dead, the whole free-thinking upper class giving a sigh of relief, since they all knew he had been under threat of arrest and torture for Atheism, Thomas Kyd having already been racked and made to confess. With the ensured total silence of Marlowe, the safety of the Walsinghams, the Cecils, the Bacons, the Catholics Oxford and Derby, Sir Walter Raleigh, Northumberland and many others was also ensured.
But who was this fresh country actor from Stratford? He was found to be a decent chap of good humour and honesty, with a nice flow of speech, a reliable actor of some talent and stability of mind. Why dont we help him along? What about using that untarnished unknown name for that exquisite poem, unpublishable in the name of Marlowe? He might need some money, Marlowe has left us so he wont object, and Sir Thomas Walsingham will surely agree. Lets give Will Shakspere a chance of making an honest career. And Will Shakspere, needing some money rather badly, was not so stupid as to decline the offer. The publishers contributed some convincing dedicatory epistle in flattery of the young earl of Southampton for his covering some of the costs - and it all turned out a greater success than expected. This started the triumphant victory path of the trademark William Shakespeare, and the honest man who had appeared on the right spot at the right moment did not object but knew how to play his part and sustain it, since his livelihood was saved.
Meanwhile Marlowe kept away most probably in Italy for many years, keeping busy writing new Italian plays in Verona and later making friends with the Duke Orsino di Bracciano, for whom he wrote "Twelfth Night" to be staged in London to welcome the Duke at the court of Queen Elizabeth for a few days around Twelfth Night in 1600. Its quite possible and even probable that Marlowe and Shakspere never met each other. The business between them was wholly transacted by agents, through Sir Thomas Walsingham and through Sir Francis Bacon and his brother Anthony, who kept up the network of all English agents around Europe. No one else needed to know except those very few who were needed to arrange delivery and production. For Shakspere, it was purely a business matter - no questions asked, since there was nothing to complain about. Mum was the only word needed to keep up business.
Enter Ben Jonson, who being so much younger knew nothing about the Marlowe crisis. So he would suspect nothing if he was told nothing. His admiration of Shakspere was totally unreserved and sincere, and there is no reason to suspect any conscious falsity on his part. He knew Shakspere from his fellow actors best side, and he did not bother about what he did not know. His style is totally alien from the Marlovian-Shakespearean romanticism, which fact marks the Marlowe-Shakespeare style more sharply as unique and united.
But of course, the show could not go on forever, and in the end Shakspere was satisfied enough to pull out of business and enjoy his last years at home without having to put on any acts any more. He had made enough money to be the richest citizen of Stratford, so he had nothing to complain of and just continued to keep his silence about the best deal of his life. He retired, and Marlowe suddenly found himself without a reliable nom de plume agent.
Will Shakspere was a most common name in those days, and it had done well enough as a trademark. Why not repeat the successful formula? Enter John Webster.
Nothing is known about John Webster. Its an even more common name than Will Shakspere, a thousand John Websters have been found from that time and many of them studied law, so it was a perfect name to use for continued concealment.
In some respects, John Webster differs from Marlowe and Shakspere. His pen doesnt flow easily, he complains himself about the slowness of his invention, his intrigues are more morbid and melancholy, and his clowns arent funny. They are just melancholy. There is a dark shadow growing ever darker on John Webster, and he hasnt left us many plays, only one handful: "The White Devil", "The Duchess of Malfi", "The Devils Law-Case", "The Fair Maid of the Inn" and "Appius and Virginia", every single one of them set in Italy, the last one being a Roman complement to "The Rape of Lucrece". Every one of them fights with the devil and melancholy, and in most of them you find the classical Marlowe-Shakespeare arguments of the problems of exile and injustice, the dominant theme of the Sonnets. All of them dramatize trials and court-cases very much reminding of those in Shakespeare, and "The White Devil" is like a dramatization of the black lady incident in the Sonnets: you recognize her at once.
So John Webster is entirely within the Marlowe-Shakespeare romantic tradition, and they have all three exactly the same human outlook, which only Jonson differs from. Webster continues harping on the old Marlowe-Shakespeare themes, he loves Montaigne and Philip Sidney (long ago dead), and there are some stunning direct reminiscences of Marlowe here and there. In his only foreword his main argument is against ignorance, thus echoing the program of Marlowe: "I hold there is no sin but ignorance," and you find everywhere in his writings that same self-destructive tendency which marks all of Marlowes and Shakespeares heroes. The "Rhymer" Webster characterizes thus:
"A rhymer is a fellow whose face is thatched all over with impudence, and should he be hanged or pillored, it is armed for it. He is a juggler with words, yet practises the art with most uncleanly conveyance. He doth boggle very often, and because himself winks at it, thinks it is not perceived: the main thing that ever he did was the tune he sang to. There is nothing in the earth so pitiful, no, not an ape-carrier, he is not worth thinking of, and therefore I must leave him as nature left him: a Dunghill not well laid together."
And this is the very Finale of his 32 "Characters", anonymously published in 1615. Whose voice is this? Havent we heard it before? Yes, its the dying Greene, cursing his own profession, entreating his "prophet Marlin" to abandon it, scolding all actors universally for their conceit. There were more echoes of it in Thomas Kyd as he denounced Marlowe to the authorities, trying to avoid further strain in show-business himself, cowardly betraying his own calling. Its the suicide monologue of Hamlet and the "tomorrows" of Macbeth. And the author is still harping on that dismal tune of total doubt through the empty name of John Webster. The disillusion is still as total as when Greene and Kyd denounced him and Baines informed against him, forcing him to renounce his own name, career and character in order to save others:
"Thus men must slight their wrongs, or else conceal them,
when general safety wills us not reveal them."
- John Webster, Appius and Virginia, act II scene 2,
which could stand as a motto for the lifes work of this romantic Marlowe-Shakespeare-Webster poet.
Another typical Marlowe reminder in Webster: in his one preface he explicitly honours all the theatre poets of his day, in whose light he wishes to be read: Chapman, Jonson, Beaumont, Fletcher, Shake-speare, Dekker and Heywood - in that order. Only Marlowe was left out, and yet no one resembles Marlowe more than Webster. The corollary is of course that Webster could have left out Marlowe because he was Marlowe.
Of course there is a lot more to it than that. This was only an introduction to the puzzle, and I have tried to make it as simple as possible, sticking only to the basics in the case. Let me just give you one more mystery.
One of the first and greatest Elizabethan plays was "The Spanish Tragedy" attributed to Thomas Kyd, who lived and worked together with Marlowe. Kyd died in 1594, and some ten years later "The Spanish Tragedy" was supplied with many extra lines. It has been assumed that they were written by Jonson, but they are contrary to the style of Jonson, who never wrote anything like them. They are rather like the fury of king Lear; but why would Shakspere have added extra highly inspired lines to a play by a dead poet whom he never knew? But many found these extra lines very Websterian in nature. So of course it was Webster. But again: why would Webster have added so mighty inspired lines to a classical play by a dead poet who died before Webster even had come of age? There is no connection, and there is no possibility to solve the riddle of those extra lines entirely in the high romantic Marlowe-Shakespeare-Webster tradition, unless you include Marlowe himself in the picture, who lived and worked with Thomas Kyd and must have loved him, no matter how much Tom Kyd later cowardly betrayed him.
This is all of course just a theory, but as a theory it will stand in the name of Marlowe against all anti-Marlovians until it is proven false.
The Gothenburg Shakespeare Symposium,May 2002.
The Shakespeare case.
1) The "Apology for Shakespeare" by John Bede was given to the audience in English and Swedish. It was considered an emotional product of wishful thinking.
2) The question was raised why Shakespeare retired so early at only 47, producing nothing at all during his last five years, in answer to which
3) the Hammerschmidt-Hummel investigation of the Shakespeare portraits was presented, which established the Chandos and the Flower portraits as genuine while the Droeshout engraving was a copy of the Flower portrait. Professor Hildegard Hammerschmidt-Hummel discovered on both the authentic portraits a swelling on the left eyelid, suggesting a problem with the tear glands, which could have been a sign of a potentially fatal cancer. A small caruncle tumour was found in the inner corner of the left eye, and finally in the Flower portrait (the later one) a lump above the left eyebrow, which a dermatologist diagnosed as a permanent inflammation while a pathologist diagnosed a probable bone tumour. All these signs of cancer problems were accentuated by the same obvious symptoms on the death-mask, once bought in London by a German and brought to Darmstadt in Germany. This would explain Shakespeares early retirement and death.
4) Mark Twains Shakespeare biography was presented to the audience in the original English version and in Swedish translation. No comments.
5) The case of John Shakespeares proved Catholicism was presented including the inconsistency of the anti-Catholic pathos of "The Troublesome Reign of King John" and "King John" - how could a member of a Catholic family rave against the persecuted church of his own family and present that argument on a public stage while he had himself reached an important and affluential social position? The argument was considered weak.
6) The brutal statistics of Pat Dooley was presented, showing ample documentary evidence of the professional authorship of 20 Leading poets of Shakespeares day but none at all of William Shakespeare. Statistics were shown to be easily manipulated by its manufacturer in whatever direction and for whatever means he would please.
7) Finally Sonnet 23 was presented as perhaps the most personal and self-revealing of them, showing the author to be least of all a central figure commanding the stage and his fellows but rather a timid backstage figure with no capacity for expressing himself except by writing, a man whose love was too great to be capable of being expressed - a sad case of inadequacy, not at all fitting any "Shake-Scene" or successful business man.
8) On the question of who was the first to doubt the authorship of Shakespeare, was presented the case of Rev. James Wilmot, (later half of 18th century) who investigated Warwickshire for materials about Shakespeare for the purpose of writing the first scientifically researched biography and found nothing and finally reached the conclusion that the author of Shakespeare was not at all from Warwickshire. As a result, the Rev. James Wilmot became the first Baconian.
The Bacon case
1) The speaker compared Francis Bacon with the Portuguese author Pessoa, who used a number of pseudonyms to express himself in writing. On his death-bed he revealed his alter egos and so was posthumously recognized. Bacon never revealed his alter egos but took them all with him in his grave. A few of them were suggested as Marlowe, Lyly, Shakespeare, Spenser, some of the works of Ben Jonson, and others.
2) The "Gesta Grayorum", "The Shepherds Calender", "Colin Clouts" and other famous anonymous works (ascribed to Spenser and others) the speaker attributed to Bacon, whom he described as conducting a writers workshop engaging a number of secretaries, like Kyd, Marlowe, Lyly and other servants and agents of the theatre like Shakespeare.
3) "Loves Labours Lost" with its Navarre settings and court mysteries the speaker attributed to Bacons years in France, describing the play as an autobiography, especially the love incident in which Jack didnt get his Jill, like Bacon didnt get Marguerite Valois (The Lady of the Glen). Also the Ophelia incident could be traced to Bacons French experiences in his youth, so he was not a homosexual or even bisexual but had had a very unlucky royal love affair. A member of the audience asked about the Holofernes character modelled on Richard Lloyd. The speaker claimed there was evidence of Bacon having been to Navarre but no evidence of any association of his with Richard Lloyd.
4) Bacon was presented as the bastard son of Queen Elizabeth and the Earl of Essex as his half-brother, another bastard son of the Queen, whom Bacon was the first to call Gloriana.
5) There is only one contemporary detailed illustration to Shakespeares poem "Venus and Adonis". It was not found in Stratford but in St. Albans, Bacons home place, not far from his home, a fresco on the wall of the tavern The White Hart.
6) Bacons strange dress in purple on his wedding was explained. Only royalty were allowed to dress in purple, and if anyone of lesser rank did he would risk his life for that. When James Stuart of Scotland inherited the throne, Bacon offered him a bargain and suggested that he would leave Englands concealed poets alone. The implication was that Bacon, as the bastard son of Queen Elizabeth, was willing to relinquish all claims to the throne to James on condition that Bacon would be allowed to continue producing whatever plays in perfect freedom of speech and conscience. James countered with another condition: that Bacon would marry a lady without rank, so that he would never be able to inherit the throne. Bacon accepted the condition - but married in purple.
7) It was well known during his life-time that Bacon produced plays clandestinely under various pen names, which is proved by the title page of "Cryptomenytices et Cryptographiae" by Gustavus Selenus 1624.
8) The greatest influence on Shakespeare´s Sonnets was exerted by the French poet Étienne Jodelle, who only published one of the six volumes of his works, which volume Bacon studied in France in the 1570s.
9) In Bacon's private notebook "The Promus" not discovered until the 1880s are found a great number of quotations from Shakespeare plays that had not yet been written when the "Promus" was penned down 1594-96.
10) The Ariel character can only have been borrowed from the work "Steganographiae" which John Dee, the Queen's astrologer, owned a rare copy of, whom Bacon visited before John Dee's library burned down. Oxford and Derby were also guests of John Dee's but after the fire.
11) Ben Jonson complained about another stealing his ideas before he had had time to fulfil them. At that time Ben Jonson lived in Bacon's house, and no other writer could have stolen Jonson's ideas and fulfilled them than Bacon, for instance "Volpone" and other plays.
12) Two different styles are found in Jonson, one fluent and one crabbed, the fluent one being Bacon's hand and the more laborious being Jonson's own.
13) Ben Jonson testified unofficially that Bacon's writings surpassed all the literature of Greece and Rome.
14) The plot of "King Lear", considerably altered from the original version "King Leir", is built on the case of Sir Brian Annesley, a loyal servant of the crown whom his elder daughters tried to have pronounced publicly mad, which only his youngest daughter tried to counteract. The case of Sir Brian Annesley could only have been known to Bacon among the Shakespeare candidates, since he was the only lawyer of them in London, where the case was tried.
The Oxford case.
1) The chief Oxford authorities are Thomas Looney (pronounced Loney) 1923 and Carlton Ogburn 1984. Thomas Looney, a teacher of Shakespeare and literature in Wales, found the Shakespeare case as presented in the plays incompatible with the known Stratford character, while he only found it compatible with Edward de Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford, a child prodigy who early produced poems and plays en masse and made himself universally acknowledged as a leading poet before 1576, especially in his art of composing sonnets - there are some 30-40 pre-Shakespearian sonnets by him and other poems, among which one of the most notable is "Women", which is an early genuine echo of Shakespeare long before the Shakespeare authorship had started. Gabriel Harvey wrote in a poem to Oxford: "Thy countenance shakes a spear..." The authorship Shakespeare is always spelt with a hyphen, which never had occurred in the Stratford Shakespeare family.
2) The Shakespeare plays represent throughout a very careless attitude to money, while the Stratford man was a perfect business man. Oxford was the opposite: he wasted his inheritance and couldn't have cared less about money. The Queen gave him a life pension taxfree of £1000 a year, which today is almost £270,000, for unknown reasons, maybe just because he was a dramatic poet who pleased her with his dashing romanticism, being also of the oldest nobility in the country.
3) Both Bertram in "All's Well that Ends Well" and "Hamlet" are obvious autobiographies of Oxford.
4) One Earl of Oxford was a favourite homosexual of King Richard II's, but he is excluded from the play.
5) The Oxford family had good reasons for hard feelings against King Henry VII, so there is no Shakespeare play with that title.
6) Oxford wrote "Romeus and Juliet" already in 1583, the first version of the famous Verona play.
7) In 1594-1604, during which period all the greatest Shakespeare works were written, Oxford lived in almost total seclusion, which was a prerequisite for these plays to be concentrated on and written with such a consummate dramatic intensity, while the Stratman at the same time worked as an actor all day and only could have written plays by candlelight at night, which would have been a very slow and troublesome work indeed, especially after long hard days of stressful work on the stage. Writing the Shakespeare works must have demanded total liberty and leisure, which was least of all available to the Stratman.
The Derby case.
1) There are evident elements of the Northern Dialect, as spoken in Lancashire, Yorkshire and Cheshire, in the Shakespeare plays. About 85% of Shakespeare's dialectal words and expressions pertain to the Northern Dialect, and about 10% more can be traced to even more northern dialects in for instance Scotland, while only very few of Shakespeare's dialectal expressions come from the Midlands, like Warwickshire, and the south of England. Derby was the only one of the Shakespeare candidates to come from the north of England. He was the son-in-law of the Earl of Oxford and like him an ardent theatre enthusiast. Also like Oxford, he had Catholic inclinations and was politically involved with the Catholic party, since they wanted him to be their candidate for the throne - he was a no more distant relative of the Queen's than King James of Scotland. His elder brother Ferdinando, the fifth Earl of Derby, was probably poisoned by Catholics in April 1594 for refusing to take any part in their political intrigues against Queen Elizabeth. This means, that William Stanley, the 6th Earl of Derby, had extreme motives to keep a low profile and avoid a public name. Among the three candidates Bacon, Oxford and Derby, the last had the most pregnant motives to conceal an authorship like Shakespeare's.
2) "A Midsummer-Night's Dream" was written and produced for the Earl of Derby's wedding January 26th 1595, and no one was more motivated to write it than himself. Theseus is a portrait of himself, and the astronomical particulars of the play binds the play to his wedding.
3) In "Love´s Labour's Lost" the character Holofernes is modelled on Richard Lloyd, Derby's tutor and chaperon on his grand European tour through also France and Navarre. No one was more motivated to ridicule Richard Lloyd as Holofernes than the young Derby, who suffered from this tedious pedant's over-protection.
4) Derby travelled through all the countries and places described in the plays with geographic expert local knowledge. Only Oxford also nearly visited all those places.
5) The first night of "Hamlet" took place at Elsinore June 13th 1585, and the first version was written in German by an Englishman. Present at the performance were among others the actors Kemp, Bryan and Pope, the kernel of all the Shakespeare theatre companies, from Lord Strange's men to the Lord Chamberlain's Men, which produced nearly all the plays of Marlowe and Shakespeare. The "Ur-Hamlet" demonstrates perfect intimate knowledge of Danish procedures at court in 1585, so it must have been written on the spot for the occasion of the inauguration of the Kronborg Castle at Elsinore. Oxford, Bacon and Shakespeare were all in England at the time, Marlowe was possibly at Rheims, while Derby was in Germany and could have visited Denmark for that period.
6) The constantly more noble character of the Shakespeare plays demonstrate ostensibly that their author must have been a nobleman. In "Richard III" one earl of Derby offers the crown to the Earl of Richmond, later Henry VII. There is no record of this in history. Only Oxford was equal in nobility with the Earl of Derby.
7) The poem "The Phoenix and the Turtle" written not later than 1591 is about members of the Derby family, namely William's half-sister Ursula Halsall and her husband Sir John Salusbury of Lleweni in Denbighshire, a poet and patron of other poets like Jonson and Chapman. The poem could have been composed already 1586 for their wedding.
8) There are no Shakespeare, Marlowe, Oxford or Bacon connections with Lancashire. There is a theory that Shakespeare was sent up there as a youth under the name of William Shakeshafte to protect him against Catholic persecutions in Warwickshire, but there is no evidence whatsoever for this. It's just a convulsive effort to explain Shakespeare's Lancashire dialectal idiosyncracies.
9) The poet explicitly states in sonnet 136: "my name is Will". Only Will Stanley (W.S.) had that name among the candidates except Shakespeare.
10) When William Stanley, the 6th Earl of Derby died, all theatres of England were closed, and the civil war broke out, which swept away all that remained of the glorious Elizabethan period with its unsurpassed theatre culture.
The Marlowe case.
The third and last day was dedicated entirely to Marlowe. The first lecture concerned the mystery and phenomenon of Monsieur Le Doulx, one of the agents of Anthony Bacon, Francis Bacons brother and in charge of the national intelligence service. In the Lambeth Palace Archives have been found the Anthony Bacon papers, a vast and intact collection of historical documents that once belonged to Anthony Bacon. Among these were found the documents of the agent Le Doulx, which among other items contained a startling bill for the purchase of books. These books were language books, religious books and historical books, which on closer scrutiny proved to constitute the basis for most of Shakespeares plays. Among them were the original stories for Othello, Cymbeline, Macbeth, Measure for Measure, Alls Well That Ends Well, The Tempest, King Lear, Hamlet, Coriolanus, Titus Andronicus, Julius Caesar, Henry IV, Henry V, Henry VI, Richard III, Loves Labours Lost, The Comedy of Errors, Much Ado About Nothing, A Midsummer-Nights Dream, The Taming of the Shrew, The Merchant of Venice, Twelfth Night, The Merry Wives of Windsor, The Winters Tale, Timon of Athens, Troilus and Cressida, Antony and Cleopatra, that is all except King John, Richard II, Henry VIII, Two Gentlemen of Verona, As You Like It, Romeo and Juliet and Pericles, or perhaps they were there also. Included in this purchased library were also the original stories for Venus and Adonis, The Jew of Malta, Tamburlaine the Great, and even Edward III, plays attributed to Marlowe or Shakespeare. In brief, the books procured by Monsieur Le Doulx were practically all the sources for the plays and poems of both Shakespeare and Marlowe. This could be regarded as a definite evidence of that Marlowe and Shakespeare were the same author and that he acted under the code name of Le Doulx.
We know that Marlowe in the 1580s worked as a confidential agent for the government and had been skilful and rewarded as such. On May 30th 1593 he was officially done away with under very suspicious circumstances, which lends credence to the story that it was a set-up to let him escape his arrest and trial by the Star Chamber, the English inquisition, which already had tortured and destroyed the life of Thomas Kyd. He would then have left England on a ship from Deptford, the scene of the "Marlowe murder", and continued his activities as agent and playwright from the continent, particularly from Italy.
In supporting evidence of that Le Doulx was Marlowe were demonstrated samples of Marlowes and Le Doulx handwritings. The two examples had been enlarged considerably and were shown together on a transparency, so that the audience could see and decide about likenesses and differences. Some letters were found to correspond, like g, y and h, while there was a difference in the leaning and character of the Le Doulx hand from Marlowes: the handwriting of Le Doulx demonstrated a more definite leaning to the right and stronger elements of self-confidence than the Marlowe hand. No definite identification with the two handwritings as one of the same could be certified. A persons handwriting changes with time, and between these two handwritings were 3-4 years.
The second lecture was an exposition of the Marlowe case and story as reconstructed and demonstrated by Calvin Hoffman and A.D.Wraight in her book "The Story that the Sonnets Tell", illustrated by those Shakespeare sonnets dealing with exile and moods of death. The lecture was delivered with considerable empathy and excellent configuration so as to convince anyone of the human pathos of the drama, and was considered the best lecture of the whole symposium.
After that there was nothing more to add for the moment, and the symposium was concluded after three days of sessions of altogether 17 hours. The lecturers were C. Lanciai (host), Anders Ekman (for Bacon), Don Mahan, Massachusetts (for Oxford) and Peter & Frieda Barker (England) for Marlowe. Other authorities used for the occasion were John Bede from Northern Ireland, Laila Roth (England) and Carl Nordling (Stockholm) for Derby and various other writers from literature and from the Internet.
The chief objection against Shakespeare were all the items and arguments brought up by Mark Twain in his Shakespeare biography, that is Shakespeares businessmans life and complete lack of any education.
Against Bacons authority were brought as witnesses the cases of Sir Walter Raleigh and Sir Henry Wriothesley. Bacon helped King James in ruining and committing the judicial murder of Raleigh without any justifiable reason; while no documents could be produced in support of the statement that Henry Wriothesley was the chief architect in the prosecution against Bacon in 1621, which ruined his career, although it was well known that Wriothesley turned Bacons enemy after the fall of Essex. Too little is known about the judicial history of Bacon, and it has very little relevance to his literary works.
Against Oxford was brought the usual argument that he died already in 1604. No argument has been found against Derbys possible authorship of Shakespeare, so together Oxford and Derby could make a very strong case for being the Shakespeare writers together. Against this stands the fact that the Sonnets, published in 1609, could only have been written by one single person, and that this person has also left his singular touch in all of the plays.
No argument has been brought to cast doubts on the suggested Marlowe case for Shakespeare, since it can neither be proved that Marlowe died in 1593 nor that he survived the Deptford incident, although the Le Doulx case could provide the evidence for Marlowes survival, if an expert graphologist could identify Le Doulx handwriting as identical with Marlowes. But some Marlovians claim that the nature and contents of Le Doulxs coffre (the books of the materials for Marlowes and Shakespeares works) are evidence enough for the Marlowe-Shakespeare authorship and that the identification of their handwritings with each other is unnecessary.
The standard of the lectures was generally considered better than that of the Marlowe Symposium, April 27th 2002, at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, by those who were there.
Comments to Arden of Feversham
This wonderful play has a unique position in early English drama by its very thorough and extremely vivid realism. Almost the only other plays to reach the vicinity of its juicy and palpable trueness to life are "A Yorkshire Tragedy" and "The Merry Wives of Windsor". The eyebrow-raising description of exact localities, like Rainham Down, the inns of "Nags Head" in London and the "Flower-de-Luce" in Feversham and the characterization of the ferry station in act IV scene 2 together with striking characterizations of secondary personages like Dick Greene and John Reede, victims both to Arden, the tailor and his sister, the simplicity of the stall-boy Michael and even the short episode with lord Cheiny endows the drama with a sense of reality so strong and authentic, that you cant resist the impression that the author must have experienced the whole story himself or at least had some very authentic eyewitnesses to recount it for him. The crime was quite sensational in its time in Canterbury and thereabouts, it was the dominating scandal of Kent at the time, and the play displays a very convincing rendering of the whole story almost to exactitude in its description of the events. Most remarkable of all, though, are the characterizations of the main protagonists, Alice Arden and the murderer Black Will. The personality of Alice is depicted with an almost lyrical empathy, she stands for the literary highlights of the play and is the psychologically most elaborated portrait. You feel with her all the way and understand her completely no matter how sharply she turns from one extreme sentiment to another in the opposite direction, from shameless criminality to humble softness, hypersensitive hesitancy and real female sentimentality and capriciousness. Her manoeuvres are so genuinely female that its difficult to imagine her part being played by a male actor.
Black Will is the contrast: a thorough villain of such dimensions, that he glories in his villainy. But worst of all is that he is intelligent and witty, he is constantly funny, and you understand his original personality from his background that he was brought up to be a professional murderer by his practical experiences in the war. The glory he made his own in the war he carries on in peacetime as a professional murderer, as if killing people in war or in peace made no difference. Together, these two are an irresistible couple.
Who, then, is the author of this uniquely social-realistic play about events around Canterbury in 1550? My conviction is that it could only be Christopher Marlowe, born and raised in Canterbury, where these events must have been the topic of ever recurring discussions by his parents and their generation during his childhood, since the scandal happened when they were in their best age, and where Alice Arden herself was burned at the stake. Richard Greene was hanged in Ospringe, from which place Marlowes father came only 10 miles from Canterbury and which today is part of Faversham, where the groom Michael and Bradshaw were publicly executed. The play bears obvious marks of having been next to self-experienced, and the closest you can get is childhood impressions of authentic testimonies. All this would fit with Marlowe but hardly with any other contemporary English dramatist.
The play also raises other discussions. The main character Mr Arden himself carries the same family name as William Shakespeares mother. Its almost impossible, though, that Shakespeare could have written the play, since he had no connections whatever with Kent. There is the well-known theory, though, that Marlowe could have been forced underground from the persecution against free-thinkers by the government, so that he could continue his poetical activities but under the cover of William Shakespeare. Marlowes personality, as we know it from other plays in his name, fits well into the character of Black Will. Its easy to guess that Marlowe could have acted that part on stage. That personality is so original that it must have made a deep impression on the audience, and Marlowe himself as its author and perhaps actor on stage could have identified himself with him. Since after the crisis of May 1593 he no longer could show in public with his real name but might have continued writing under the name of Shakespeare, he could also have identified himself with the name of Will in for example the sonnets. That could explain the sonnets 134-36 with their wordplay on the name of Will.
That the play is Shakespearean is undeniable. The sustained lyricism, the marvellous music of the language, the luscious humour, the striking characterizations - everything points to an early Shakespeare, who probably was Marlowe.
Gothenburg, February 9th, 2004.
Main Traits of the Marlowe Theory
The theory that Marlowe wrote Shakespeare did not appear in print until 1895 and then in America. The Bacon theory had already flourished for some 80 years while the Oxford- and Derby theories would come later.
The Marlowe theory was immediately denounced as an absurdity by the Stratford league on the grounds that Marlowe was dead and buried already in 1593. Eventually the coroners report on the death of Marlowe was discovered in 1925, which since then has been debated endlessly mainly since it rather obfuscates than clears up what really happened. In 1955 Calvin Hoffman, a journalist from America, proposed in a spectacular book the idea that this coroners report must have been constructed as a smokescreen solely to put an end to all further questions about Marlowe, since the details of this report appear more or less preposterous, especially the story of the mortal wound above one eye, which is exactly described and defined in the report but which experts agree on that no man would have died of.
Long before the Marlowe theory was established many had paid attention to the obvious connections and similarities between the texts of Marlowe and Shakespeare in their style and language. Today all Baconians, Oxfordians, Derbyites and Marlovians agree that Marlowe and Shakespeare must have been written by the same person, while only the Stratford league still claim that the differences outweigh the similarities. The differences are easily explained by the fact that the Shakespeare works came later and therefore are more mature.
Many claim though that the greatest argument for Marlowe and Shakespeare being the same person is in their very difference. While Marlowe is continuously boldly experimenting and tries new ways in every play, Shakespeare is fully fledged and well adjusted and seems to have found his own perfect form from the beginning. However, this very mature, perfected, highly developed and very polyphonic form is already found in the last play under Marlowes name, "Edward II". In Marlowes works you find the whole developing process to this final form while in Shakespeare you cant find a trace of that development which must have preceded that maturity. No one is born fully educated, and this is perhaps the most valid argument against that William Shakspere from Stratford could have written Shakespeare.
Could then William Shakspere from Stratford have written Marlowe? This possibility is out of the question, since we know too much about Marlowe binding him to his works while we know nothing of Shakspere binding him to his. Marlowe appears quite early a very dynamic, controversial and gifted person, who though a shoe-makers son is sent with scholarship to Cambridge to be launched on a theological career, which he interrupts to instead embark on adventure in the secret service of Sir Francis Walsingham, landing almost directly in the highest free-thinking circles of England with Sir Philip Sidney, Sir Walter Raleigh and Sir Francis Bacon in the middle. He lives with Thomas Kyd, they succeed almost simultaneously as the leading dramatists of their country, Kyd with "The Spanish Tragedy" and Marlowe with "Tamburlaine the Great", establishing the English drama in blank verse in a flamboyant theatrical style which never has been surpassed. Both dramas are extremely cruel and bloody, but while Marlowe continues to write new plays, Kyd never gets any further. Here you can trace a natural source of envy in Kyd against Marlowe, which could explain Kyds later treason against his colleague.
Marlowe is frequently in trouble with people, since Kyd is not his only antagonist. On one occasion he is involved in a deadly duel with William Bradley. No one knows who started the fight or how it started, but Bradleys real enemy was Marlowes colleague Thomas Watson, who interferes in the fight to separate the combatants (according to his own testimony afterwards), which makes Bradley concentrate on Watson, his true enemy, by whom he is killed. Both Watson and Marlowe have to stand trial for this, but they are acquitted on the grounds of self-defence. Bradley appears to have been a somewhat problematic person, he felt his life was threatened by a number of people, and its not far-fetched to be reminded of Tybalt in "Romeo and Juliet", where you find a similar triple duel.
But the most serious assault on Marlowe is the denouncement of him by Richard Baines to the Queens Privy Council, where Marlowe is accused of atheism, homosexuality and coining. Richard Baines worked with Marlowe in France as an agent spying on the English Catholics in Rheims and divulged on one occasion to Marlowe a plan to dispose of all the nuns of a convent by poisoning their drinking water. This intrigue was used by Marlowe in "The Jew of Malta", which might have infuriated Baines enough to motivate him to revenge and treason.
At the same time, Thomas Kyd is arrested for the possession of atheistic pamphlets, which he claims were written by Marlowe. Kyd is tortured and blames Marlowe. Later on he reiterates this even in writing, blaming all he has been accused of on Marlowe.
Another colleague and school fellow of Marlowes is John Penry, an outspoken presbyterian who dares to criticise the church. He is accused of being the author of the Martin Marprelate pamphlets, criticising the church and causing tremendous uproar, outrage and controversy within the church. The real author has never been found out, but their tendency and style are not far from Marlowes. John Penry is sentenced to death for his free-thinking in May 1593.
At the same time Marlowe is called on by the authorities as a result of Kyds and Baines accusations. He is required to keep in touch daily and keep himself available for questioning, which means he could expect at any time to be brought by the Star Chamber, that is the English inquisition, to stand trial. The only possible punishment for atheism was to be burnt at the stake.
John Penry is hanged, and the day after occurs that most mysterious tavern brawl in Deptford between Marlowe and three servants of his protectors, that is Sir Thomas Walsingham, cousin to his former employer, the powerful Sir Francis Walsingham. These four men have a private conference in the house of a certain widow Eleanor Bull (with court connections) which ends up in a quarrel about a small bill, in which Marlowe is killed. The Queens own coroner comes to investigate the matter and produces that strange report, which then vanishes until 1925, according to which Marlowe died of a wound by a knife above the eye. The corpse vanishes into an unknown grave, which no one ever learns anything about.
So here you find almost any number of motives for Marlowe to vanish underground preferably in a manner to avoid having any questions asked. One clique makes itself noteworthy by triumphing on the death of Marlowe, the puritan clique of bigots, who later on are to close all the theatres in England under the established dictatorship of Oliver Cromwell.
Both Kyd and Baines died the following year, reportedly in poverty, illness and disgrace. Thomas Watson died already in 1592 together with Robert Greene, another of the most important dramatists preceding Marlowe and Kyd. Immediately after the published death of Marlowe, in June 1593, appears a poem, "Venus and Adonis", by a certain William Shakespeare, whose name here appears in print for the first time. The poem has been lying waiting to be published since April. Another poem, "Hero and Leander" by Marlowe, is left unfinished at this time. Careful studies of these poems have resulted in the remark by Richard Norman 1947, who never even touched on the Marlowe theory, that "both poems were written as if both poets knew the others poem by heart". They are twin poems and yet another argument that Marlowe wrote Shakespeare.
These are the main traits of the Marlowe theory: that Marlowe was forced by circumstances with some help from his influential friends to vanish underground by the means of an extreme intrigue, since the only alternative would have been execution by the English inquisition for atheism, the worst conceivable crime at the period.
The main counter argument is that by his official end he disappears completely without a trace, as if he really was dead. The works published under his name "posthumously" never fail to point out that he is dead. The argument is answered by the explanation that he had no choice but to remain officially dead, since the least hint that he could have got away would have put the friends that helped him at risk of their lives, for instance Sir Walter Raleigh, Sir Francis Bacon, the Derby brothers Ferdinando and William Stanley (5th and 6th earl of Derby), Sir Thomas Walsingham, Sir Henry Wriothesley (the earl of Southampton) and many others. Most of these ended up in trouble anyway, while Sir Thomas Walsingham and Sir William Stanley really were the only ones who managed to avoid it both were extremely cautious and discreet persons.
There has been considerable speculation as to where Marlowe would have gone after his "getaway". According to many, he would most likely have been sent under an agents name to France, Italy and Spain, while it is equally probable that he would have found a safe haven with the Derby brothers in Lancashire Sir Ferdinando, another of his school fellows, produced his plays, and after his death in 1594 (probably from poisoning by dissatisfied Catholics who couldnt forgive him his refusal as a cousin of the Queens to be their Catholic candidate for the throne,) his brother Sir William Stanley was probably the main producer of all the Shakespeare plays, since Shaksperes theatre company The Lord Chamberlains Men mainly consisted of the players from Ferdinandos company. In his last letter about Marlowe (which is still extant) Thomas Kyd tells that Marlowe had an intention to go north to Scotland.
The only sign of any life in Marlowe after May 1593 is a strange letter by his publisher Thomas Thorpe, (also the publisher of Shakespeares Sonnets,) to one of Marlowes friends, in which he ambiguously drops a hint that Marlowe had been seen among the sellers of books in Saint Pauls Churchyard, as if he had returned.
In brief, this story is in its marvellous web of intricate intrigue such a good one, that it would be pity if Marlowe was not the man. So far though nothing has been able to disprove it.
Christian Lanciai, April 2005
John Bede's Doubts about Bacon
For two hundred years [Bacon] has been accused of three major anomalies:
1)his treason against Essex first of all, which, however, can be excused, since Essex did his utmost himself to put his head under the axe as a most injudicious top politician. Bacon has constantly been freed from that charge.
2) The second is his own downfall, when he was charged by the corrupt king of corruption and proved guilty of about 30 accusations. This mess has never been satisfactorily sorted out. He was hardly guilty of more than minor omissions, his petty offences were certainly not intentional, and his faults in this case might even be attributed to the human factor of his increasing age - he was already 60 at the time.
But the most probable explanation is that the king himself doctored his end by conspiracies through his incompetent favourite the duke of Buckingham. The corrupt king certainly had every motive to get rid of "the cleverest man in the country" who threatened his monopolies. The king was as corrupt as Bacon probably was not.
3) The third charge is the more serious one. In the case of Sir Walter Ralegh, imprisoned in the Tower since 15 years, the corrupt king asked Bacon to make a case against Ralegh so that the king could be rid of him once and for all, and Bacon actually did this. The only defence for Bacon in this case that I have found consists of disparagements of Ralegh, that he was an incorrigible pirate and other objections against his romantic character. The fact remains that he was never proved guilty in 1603 of high treason, for which he was sentenced to death, which death sentence Bacon helped the king to carry through 15 years later.
This forms my own greatest doubt about Bacon. There is a stunning likeness between the character and poetry of Ralegh and Shakespeare, the poetry of Ralegh sometimes reaches the same kind of abysmal depths as Shakespeare's sonnets, while Bacon's character is more like the opposite to Ralegh's: he was cold, sly, premeditating and cautious, while Ralegh never hid anything, stood for everything, was clearcut in his honesty and forthrightness and naïve in his good-natured trust in any man. Bacon's support of the screaming injustice of the corrupt king appears to me as the only stain on Bacon's honour and credibility and blocks my faith in him as Shakespeare.
The hoards of circumstantial evidence remain, though, and even if Bacon never can be proved to have written Shakespeare, this evidence clearly indicates at least that he must have been the man next to Shakespeare. Also Ben Jonson was very close to Bacon, and through Jonson's hands it's almost obvious that Bacon's hand was at hand in the publishing of "The First Folio", if indeed that hand was not the leading one.
The problem about Ralegh as a poet is he never wrote or published anything under his name. There is plenty of excellent poetry by him, for instance the classical ones "The Lie", "The Passionate Man's Pilgrimage", "The Wood, the Weed, the Wag", "His Epitaph" and the nymph's reply to Marlowe's shepherd, his poetry being often so surprisingly excellent, that it is to be presumed that there is much anonymous things by him that we are not aware of or published under the names of others. Oxfordians tend to confuse Ralegh's poetry with Oxford's, while there is evidence for neither, for instance "The Ocean to Cynthia". We only have to observe the magniloquence of his World History, published in twice as many editions during the 17th century as The First Folio, only the first third part having been finished, to get an idea of Ralegh's qualifications as a writer.
The fact that he had many enemies, who objected to his superior personality, was not a valid reason to commit judicial murder against him, which the king did aided by Bacon the man of law, which contaminates his reputation forever much more than both the Essex and his own case in 1621. Ralegh's guilt in the Arabella Stuart conspiracy could never be proven, the only witness against him being Cobham, a most irrational and unreliable fellow, who never gave any testimony in that affair without withdrawing it afterwards.
"Significantly, modern historical research - including a close examination of historical records in Madrid - has not uncovered a shred of evidence to support the allegations against Raleigh. Yet, even during Raleigh's lifetime, the case against him was thoroughly exposed as the invention which it plainly was. Following his conviction, and after 13 years in the Tower, Raleigh was released to conduct an expedition to Guiana, in the course of which a Spanish settlement - San Thomé on the banks of the Orinoco River, in modern-day Venezuela - was attacked. Though Raleigh claimed self-defence against an unprovoked Spanish attack, the Spanish bayed for Raleigh's blood: especially the formidable Spanish Ambassador, the Conde de Gondomar. In a written Apologia sent by Raleigh to King James, Raleigh made the telling point that, if the Spanish Ambassador sought to prove Raleigh's perfidy, nothing could be easier for the Spanish than to produce evidence of Raleigh's alleged conspiracy with them, 15 years earlier. Needless to say, no such evidence was forthcoming." (unquote)
This seems to support the legend that Raleigh was sacrificed by James I, who was confronted with a France-Spain catholic alliance threatening invasion, restoration of the Catholic Church, and a catholic monarchy. Understandably, Spain was angry about failure of its invasion fleet, plus accumulated loss of capital and self-image from state supported piracy attacks on ships and colonies by the likes of Drake and Raleigh.
Coke was his prosecutor and made the worst of it. The king wanted Ralegh executed, but Coke's prosecution was such a disaster there would have been riots and maybe a revolution if the king had had his way. He had to spare Ralegh (and the others, like Nicholas I in Russia with Dostoyevsky and others, granting a pardon and life imprisonment instead in the last moment before the execution, like a very sadistic practical joke).
Bacon had nothing at all to do with the 1603 trial.
Coke had learnt from his mistakes in the first 1603 trial and insisted on a public trial in 1618 and almost appeared in Ralegh's defence. When the king ordered a secret trial, Coke stepped down and would have nothing to do with it. Bacon also wanted an open trial but did not step down when the king insisted on sacrificing Ralegh.
The king might have blackmailed Bacon into carrying through the process, or Bacon might have had no choice but to co-operate. During his Elizabethan heydays Ralegh often rallied against Bacon and made a fool of him, but during Ralegh's time in the Tower Bacon was maybe his best friend. The more wonder that he assisted the king in sacrificing him.
There are a number of question marks in this matter. King James expressly sent out Raleigh on his Guiana mission on the condition that he would not disturb the peace with Spain, especially not in South America. We still don't know who disturbed that peace, if the British attacked San Tomé or if the Spaniards attacked the British. Raleigh was not involved in that fight. He stayed behind while the expedition up the river Orinoco was led by his trusted old time friend Laurence Keymis, an Oxford scientist, and his son young Wat Raleigh. At that time this area lawfully belonged to Britain, since Sir Walter Raleigh had claimed it for Britain on his previous journey. As they sailed up the Orinoco they were surprised to find a Spanish settlement there, from which they were attacked from behind - or which they could not pass without attacking it. The result was the devastation of that Spanish settlement and the death of young Wat Raleigh. But in the quarters of the Spanish governor of San Tomé Laurence Keymis found letters from the Spanish king in which he told his governor all the information King James of England had furnished him with to be able to settle with Raleigh's expedition. It was a kind of Hamlet case: king James sent Raleigh out on his death expedition giving the Spanish king the means to kill him on the way by betraying the whole enterprise. Instead, Raleigh's son was killed, and Laurence Keymis brought the Spanish evidence of the English king's betrayal back to Raleigh.
He was of course devastated by his son's death and held Keymis responsible for the failure. This Keymis took so hard that he shot himself. The bullet stuck in his rib and didn't kill him, so he completed the suicide by stabbing himself to death, locked up in his cabin, where he was found dead by the cabin boy half an hour later.
After the complete failure of his great Guiana expedition, Raleigh knew very well that James would not receive him well back in England. He had many options. He could have gone to America (Virginia, the colony that he had founded,) or he could have gone to France. He would have been welcome anywhere except in England. But he had given his word to his business colleagues to return, and he kept his word. Even back in England, imprisoned with a death sentence, he could have escaped to France but refrained from doing so, preferring to meet his destiny as a man of honour, refusing to spend his old age in exile and dishonour.
One of his business colleagues was Bacon, who had promised him that his death sentence from 1603 would be annulled after his expedition, whether it was successful or not. If Bacon really gave that word, he did not keep it. Evidence is lacking, but it is probable that Bacon upon Raleigh's pathetic return had forgotten all that had been said before.