Candidates for Shakespeare

Christopher Marlowe

Christopher Marlowe, playwright, (b. 1564, the same year as Shakspere, d. 1593 just as Shakespeare ‘materialised’). Marlowe was 29 when he died, except that “he didn’t die” and “HE wrote Shakespeare thereafter”. As a claim for authorship, it is described as an elaborate hoax on the part of the aristocracy. It is an extraordinary claim, based on several presumptive assertions – that Marlowe wrote Shakespeare BEFORE 1593, and that Marlowe wrote Shakespeare AFTER 1593, and that Shakspere was a provincial nonentity, some-time actor and scribbler. Shakspere was not a University ‘wit’, not ‘tutored in further education’, and someone who could not possibly have gone on from 1593 to produce a further flow of plays successful and worthy of genius. And that Marlowe was a paid spy, in the government’s pocket and willing pridelessly to hide away and accept this secondary, anonymous role after years of adulation!

Mind you, Marlowe was the son of a humble village cobbler and his attaining University was a fine, substantial step in his education. But hardly to his personal development. He was roisterous and boisterous, blasphemer, drunk, pederast and still a lyrical dramatic genius – on that dramatic side, he is often seen today as OTT (over the top).

His rapid success and an either uncaring or egotistical understanding that he was indeed ‘the real bridge’ between ‘medieval and modern’ in Elizabethan terms and therefore very special, leader of the “new wave” in theatre, could have virtually unhinged anyone – hence his dark delusions leading into entrapment and employment by the Elizabeth / Walsingham secret service, and all the blind often dangerous alleys that ego fascinates us into.

Though some realistically today see his Works as “over-rated”, his “life and talent were spectacular” and he is the truly professional candidate in this great Detective Story. His productive, high quality imaginative work is illustrated by his Cambridge career. From there emerged “Doctor Faustus”, a secular and metaphysical vision of a seeker after truth selling his soul to the Devil.

Questions arose why Marlowe, an atheist not believing in heaven or hell, worked so hard to depict so convincingly man’s hell “under the controlling limitations of divine law”?

It was performed in London, while he was at Cambridge. If Marlowe didn’t believe in hell, and the play was not autobiographical, then the dramatic picture he painted, it was said, could be only as a result of tortured visions or a magnificent creative imagination?

(Such questions were asked later, about Shakespeare, particularly with the Sonnets: actual experience or the abundant, fertile imagination of the true poet?)

Remarkable poetry and dramatic power inherent in “Doctor Faustus”, despite an ill-constructed storyline, affected the actors and well as audiences – some of each even seeing ‘devils’ in the place of performance. At Dulwich, goes the story, Ned Alleyn playing Faustus was so shaken he decided there and then to “found a College to God”... and, true to his word, later Dulwich College came into being.

Then in 1587 came Marlowe’s Tamburlaine the Great, “blazing poetry and un-coherent construction” yet 200 performances in London, the people-stunning event that truly broke with the past and opened the future: it went on into that long run... influencing appreciative, and (word of mouth publicity) waiting-to-be informed/transfixed audiences... Marlowe was “this atheistic gracer of tragedies”, the genius, the mysterious – the “ultimate ghostwriter” if he had lived and “become” Shakespeare.

But WHY write “Shakespeare”? It makes more sense that he contribute to his rivals expanding canon? In the glow of his (Marlowe’s) current successes... by offering largesse AND thus influencing more audiences?

Many of Shakespeare’s plays and Sonnets, and even outlines of Venus, and Lucrece, might well have been completed by Shakspere from 1587-92, but slow to be staged or known. But WHY would Marlowe have written them, under alias? His own name, garlanded with “provocative artistry” was grand and secure - why would Marlowe have allowed them out not under HIS name before/by his death in 1593? Could it have been that Shakespere’s potential attracted Marlowe’s jealousy? Were aristocratic names being bandied about, promising the less difficult, “more attractive and witty” Shakespeare favour and support?

Concluding the Marlowe career... from Faustus, the The Jew of Malta, to the Massacre at Paris, his successes resounded before and during Shakespeare’s emergence. His last play, Edward II, was, say the modern knowledgeable, his best – near perfect.

He impacted on audiences “ferociously”, but the Works of the truly gifted Shakespeare were equally impactful and offered even greater dimensions in subtlety and sensitivity, and in spirituality (as Marlowe was an avowed, active atheist?).

Whatever truth, Shakspere who followed the great literary and playmaker Marlowe would have been grateful. His early Titus Andronicus owes much to Marlowe (and Kyd). How sad, as it has been noted, that in 1593, “Marlowe died with half his music and cosmography in him.”

Additional notable points

  • Marlowe was a brilliant writer, a seasoned professional, and a tempestuous character, rather than “a noble sensitive dilettante”
     
  • His writing style can be analysed, on the basis of known works published. This was done and, just maybe, similarities Shakespeare-Marlowe can be attributed, ascribed to the aspirant Stratford man’s admiring competitiveness
     
  • The Mendenhall system, applied to the writing of Marlowe and Shakespeare, based on a regular word-length which all writers theoretically display, demonstrated an astounding, almost EXACT match, just not found with others
     
  • In fact, when applied to Bacon-Shakespeare, the statistical test involving examination in both cases of 200,000 words, showed that Bacon used far longer word-lengths. Yet, of all these great names, Bacon had in his Promus the only ‘working notebook’ extant to us
     
  • As we would say, today, not exactly space-science, but interesting, in both cases
 


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See also She Died Twice
A dramatisation of the story of the death of the Quaker Mary Dyer in 1660

 



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