Calvin Hoffman (born Leo Hochman) died in the late 1980s, absolutely convinced that Christopher Marlowe was the true author of the works attributed to William Shakespeare. This was a belief that he had held for over fifty years and to which he had dedicated much of his life during that time.
Perhaps fearing that the theory might go to the grave with him, however, in 1984 he reached an agreement with the King's School Canterbury - where Marlowe himself had been a pupil - that he would bequeath sufficient money for them to administer an annual competition for an essay on the subject, as a memorial to him and to his wife Rose G. Hoffman.
The original Trust Deed(1) stipulated that the winning essay should be the one:
...which in the opinion of the King's School most convincingly authoritatively and informatively examines and discusses in depth the life and works of Christopher Marlowe and the authorship of the plays and poems now commonly attributed to William Shakespeare with particular regard to the possibility that Christopher Marlowe wrote some or all of those poems and plays or made some inspirational creative or compositional contributions towards the authorship of them.
Hoffman's intention was, of course, that this would encourage people to look for further evidence in support of his theory. In fact, the Trust Deed even states that:
If in any year the person adjudged to have won the Prize has in the opinion of The King's School furnished irrefutable and incontrovertible proof and evidence required to satisfy the world of Shakespearian scholarship that all the plays and poems now commonly attributed to William Shakespeare were in fact written by Christopher Marlowe then the amount of the Prize for that year shall be be increased by assigning to the winner absolutely one half of the capital or corpus of the entire Trust Fund...
However, unfortunately for Hoffman - and as can be seen quite clearly above - the lawyers who helped him draft that first part of the Deed worded it in such a way that it did not specify which side of the argument the essay should support. This means that after his death, and when the Trustees announced the first of these essay competitions in December 1987, they felt quite justified in inserting the following rider:
Essays will be judged on their scholarly contribution to the study of Christopher Marlowe and his relationship to William Shakespeare, whether or not they support the view that Marlowe was partially or wholly responsible for the works attributed to Shakespeare.
In the context of the Trust Deed's actual words, this obviously means that one may argue either for or against Marlowe's authorship of Shakespeare's works. In fact as the competition's first adjudicator, Stanley Wells, confirmed only last year, Hoffman "left all his estate to the King's School, Canterbury to found an annual prize for contributions to the debate".(2) The ambiguity of this rider's wording has nevertheless allowed it to be interpreted instead as meaning that the winning essay need not even consider the Shakespeare authorship question at all. The announcement of this year's competition made no mention of William Shakespeare whatsoever, and the title of last year's winner was "When Did Marlowe Write Dido, Queen of Carthage?".
This essay is nevertheless an attempt to meet the requirements of the Trust Deed as Hoffman intended. It accepts the virtual impossibility of any single essay ever meeting the criteria given in the second part, as quoted above, so its purpose is simply to convince the reader that the basic idea behind Hoffman's beliefs should have the status of a legitimate academic topic, rather than being automatically thought of as just another crackpot conspiracy theory, as it certainly has been up until now.
CALVIN HOFFMAN'S ARGUMENT
Support for the overall conclusion Hoffman arrived at in his book(3) need not necessarily imply an acceptance of the various arguments he employed in reaching it, most of which were in fact quite weak.
A particular problem is in the importance he attached to Marlowe/Shakespeare parallelisms, not to mention his having included in his list quite a few that were either obvious quotations or deliberate parodies of Marlowe's original words. Hoffman assumed that the parallelisms provided a clear proof that they must have been by the same author. He did not apparently consider the amount of 'borrowing' that might have been done by everyone at the time, nor examine how many parallelisms there were within Shakespeare's own work - in other words, how much Shakespeare did or did not have a tendency to use his own expressions more than once. Based upon these parallelisms, however, together with a general but debatable claim that the styles of Shakespeare and Marlowe were the same and upon a belief that because no records of his schooling survive Shakespeare had no schooling to speak of, Hoffman felt able to state "...it MUST be Marlowe!". And the rest of the book then looked for evidence to support that claim, and picked only those bits of the opposing evidence with which he felt able to deal.
Assuming with rather too much certainty that Marlowe was homosexual, his whole theory as to what actually happened at Deptford developed into Marlowe being saved by Thomas Walsingham, whom Hoffman took - with no evidence at all - to be his homosexual lover. The Sonnets were therefore addressed to Walsingham, even though he was about a year older than Marlowe and the Sonnets' addressee quite clearly much younger. Much of his case assumed things for which there is no evidence, such as claiming that Skeres and Frizer "have killed before" or, as with the schooling, that absence of evidence is evidence of absence. Shakespeare and Marlowe never having met, for example.
Sadly, Hoffman also misrepresented the work of T.C. Mendenhall rather badly. He said that Mendenhall had claimed to prove certain things, which he had certainly not, and implied that Mendenhall himself had concluded that Marlowe and Shakespeare must have been the same author, which he did not. Mendenhall just drew attention to the surprising similarity in their 'word length' profiles, having already pointed out that such similarity should not necessarily be taken as proof of anything.(4)
So where does this leave us in considering "the possibility that Christopher Marlowe wrote some or all of those poems and plays or made some inspirational creative or compositional contributions towards the authorship of them"? Perhaps the main thing really lacking in any of the evidence presented by Hoffman or in the books of those who have followed him is anything which at the time actually said that he did.
Therefore let us look first of all at something which, albeit cryptically, can be shown to fill this gap - the Stratford Monument.
THE STRATFORD MONUMENT
Referring to Shakespeare's monument in Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-upon-Avon, Stanley Wells says that the English inscription on it "somewhat cryptically calls on the passer-by to pay tribute to his greatness as a writer" but admits to being rather unsure as to what some of it means.(5) In fact he is one of the very few Shakespearian biographers to say anything at all about it, other than to provide an illustration or, usually with their own unexplained corrections, to offer a straight transcript.
What is certainly not widely known is that it is possible to read the whole poem - but only the earliest accurate copy that we have of it - in a way that is completely different to the one(s) usually assumed for it.
All that is needed to enable one to see that new meaning is to change the assumed context. In this respect it is not unlike The Naughty Lady of Shady Lane, a popular song back in the 1950s that made one think it was indeed about a 'naughty lady', but which turned out eventually to concern a baby only nine days old. Such phrases as "liquid refreshment", "powder and fancy lace", "needs someone to change her" and "things they're trying to pin on her" all took on a totally different meaning once the new context was revealed. In this case the epigraph changes from being a simple eulogy - if rather strangely worded and punctuated - to being a riddle.
The earliest clear representation we have of the inscription was given in the 1896 edition of Halliwell-Phillipps's Outlines of the Life of Shakespeare. It was white on black and, with these reversed, looked like this.
Here is as accurate a transcript of it as is possible if the differently sized capital letters are represented by upper and lower case ones and no attempt is made to replicate the many ligatures used. The letters 'u' and 'v' were interchangeable so, for readability, whichever is the more appropriate is given, and the 'y\s' and 'y\t' changed to the more recognizable 'this' and 'that'. 'Sieh' is usually assumed to be an error for 'sith', meaning 'since'.
Stay Passenger, why goest thou by so fast?
read if thou canst, whom envious Death hath plast,
with in this monument Shakspeare: with whome,
quick nature dide: whose name, doth deck this Tombe,
Far more, then cost: Sieh all, that He hath writt,
Leaves living art, but page, to serve his witt.
To obtain the complete change of meaning, all we need to do first of all is to interpret some of the words in a different, though certainly no less valid, way:
READ becomes "To guess, to make out or tell by conjecture... who..." (OED 1.b), rather than "To inspect and interpret in thought (any signs which represent words or discourse)..." (OED 5.a).
WITH is taken to be a separate word, as it is of course shown, meaning "In the company, society, or presence of" (OED 22.a), rather than a part of the word 'within' "In the inner part or interior" (OED 1.a).
QUICK is revealed as "In a live state, living, alive" (OED 2.a), and not "Mentally active...; of ready apprehension or wit" (OED 21.a).
TOMBE goes back to being "A place of burial;... a grave." (OED 1.a), rather than the monument, as it is usually - with no other known example for a wall-mounted memorial - taken to be.
HE is someone whose name is hidden as a rebus - a bit like a cryptic crossword clue - which is contained in the words "whose name, doth deck this Tombe, Far more, then cost", and not the name before that, which is of course Shakespeare's.
SIEH ALL is another type of rebus, this time commenting on that name, and based upon the letters that are there, rather than there being an error of any kind.
Depending upon how one would normally interpret the last line - and opinions do vary on this - it may also be helpful to know that at that time BUT also meant "without" or "unprovided with" (OED A.2).
The result (with those two rebuses still unsolved) is:
Stay Passenger, why goest thou by so fast?
Make out, if thou canst, whom envious Death hath placed
with, in this monument, Shakspeare: with whom
living Nature died: [rebus - name]
[rebus - comment]. That HE hath writ
leaves Art alive, without a page to serve (up) his wit.
Now let us solve the rebuses. Before doing so, however, it might be helpful to see a contemporary rebus, as John Aubrey called it in his Brief Lives item on Sir Walter Ralegh, whose surname is of course the answer:
The enemy to the stomach and the word of disgrace
Is the name of the gentleman with the strong face.
Notice how the name is split into syllables, with a clue to each part ('raw' and 'lie'). The first rebus works in a similar way, the name being apparently split into three parts, "whose name, doth deck this Tombe, Far more, then cost". To solve this, one needs to find possible answers for the first part before moving on to the second, and a possible answer for both of them before moving on to the third. Only when all three parts 'work' can that answer be accepted as most probably correct.
The monument is mounted on the North wall of the chancel in Holy Trinity Church, and is situated above Shakespeare's grave - although this does not have his name on it, only the famous poem, updated here only to the extent that the other was:
Good frend for Jesus sake forbeare,
to digg the dust encloased heare:
Bleste be the man that spares thes stones,
and curst be he that moves my bones.
Whose name doth deck this tomb (i.e. the grave)? 'Jesus' is the only one there. So whose name is Jesus? The most obvious answer is 'Christ'. And which names begin with 'Christ'? There are Christa, Christian, Christiane, Christie, Christina, Christine, Christopher, and possibly others.
The next bit is 'Far more', marked out by those rather strange but helpful commas. Can this help us decide which of those names it is? The ways names were spelled then were not necessarily the way we would spell them today. 'Far more' contains the letters O,F,E and R, which would - used as a partial anagram - complete the name 'Christofer', and this was certainly a spelling used at the time.
This leaves the letters A, R and M, however, which means that, whether in this order or not, the person may have a surname starting with these three letters. As far as it has been possible to discover, the only 'Christofer' to whom this could apply is Christopher Marlowe. Neither the Encyclopaedia Britannica nor the new Oxford Dictionary of National Biography offers any alternative, either among the entries or in the full text.
This will only be right, of course, if the last bit - "then cost" can provide the last syllable of Marlowe's name, which - given their spelling - could be 'len', 'ley', 'lin', 'loe' or 'low(e)', all of which had been used for his name at times. A 'lay' (or 'ley') according to the OED (n7 4) was "an impost, assessment, rate, tax", which - as anybody who pays one will confirm - is certainly a cost. The word 'then' must therefore be a conjunction indicating that this is the last part of the clue, rather than meaning 'than', as it is usually - and by no means incorrectly - interpreted.
In the absence of any better suggestion, therefore, the answer must be "Christofer Marley", which happens to be exactly how Christopher Marlowe signed his own name, and how the Privy Council minutes referred to him 10 days before his disappearance at Deptford.
This "sudden and fearful end" was nearly 23 years earlier, however, so what is going on? The next rebus, "Sieh all", apparently tells us. In this case the word 'rebus' is used in the more usual sense, also around at that time, in which saying out loud what is actually seen gives the answer.(6) The letters of 'HE IS' in reverse order - or 'returned', as they would have put it at the time (OED II 8.b) - are 'SIEH'. So "Sieh" tells us "He is returned". With 'Sieh', however, is the word 'all'. He is returned with 'all' - 'withal', meaning (OED A.1.b) "in spite of all". In other words, in spite of everything we had heard, Marlowe has returned - may even be still alive?
So the result is now:
Stay Passenger, why goest thou by so fast?
Make out, if thou canst, whom envious Death hath placed
with, in this monument, Shakspeare: with whom
living Nature died: Christopher Marley:
He is returned in spite of all. That HE hath writ
leaves Art alive, without a page to serve (up) his wit.
One may well argue about what this actually means, but it is not hard to find a meaning fully in line with Hoffman's belief. Art (Christopher Marlowe) is still alive, but is commemorated in the monument too, whilst Nature (William Shakespeare) - the living face of the author - is now dead. So the former is now without anyone to dish up his 'wit' for him.
At this stage, and despite the extremely low probability of being able to find by chance anything as complete as this, or as relevant to the circumstances in which it is found, many still claim that they are not convinced, that it is still too improbable to be true, that it must all be just a coincidence, or that it is simply the result of some Calvin Hoffman follower seeing what he wants to see in it. Some, less justifiably, reject it simply because they do not like what it seems to be saying. This is why two stages must be completed before one can be confident that any apparently hidden message is genuine. The first is to make sure that the message does actually say something meaningful, is as grammatical as might be expected in the circumstances, and has been arrived at fairly. It is reasonable to claim that these criteria have been met. The second is to show that the alleged message cannot have happened just by chance.
For such an obviously expensive project, the number of features of the inscription and grave which are rather strange or unusual is quite exceptional. Here they are:
Yet each of these anomalies helps the riddle to 'work', either with regard to its apparent meaning, its overall solution (and the concealing of it), or its survival. In other words, they represent the compromise the author had to make to cover and protect both the overt and the covert meanings. The odds against every single anomaly both helping the riddle and having happened accidentally are huge, and are alone enough to demonstrate that the riddle did not happen by chance.
Something else quite extraordinary has been noticed, however. Each of the six words shown above as needing a different interpretation is 'flagged' by having a 'wrong-sized' initial capital letter. The words 'read', 'with' and 'quick', despite beginning a line of verse - and there being no recognizable pattern to this - have no initial capital, whereas the words 'Tombe', 'Sieh' (if meaning 'sith') and 'He' do have one where it would not usually be expected, even in those days when 'correct' capitalization was far less well-defined than it is now. The odds against this alone happening accidentally are over 20 million to one, and it must therefore have been done as some sort of clue to be given to selected people to help them solve it.
We can therefore be sure that the possibility of such a meaning being found by anyone, regardless of their views on the authorship of Shakespeare's works, came from something other than random factors, and it is beyond reasonable doubt that the designer of the epigraph intended to say that Christopher Marlowe was commemorated in it too. The question of what he actually meant by this, or whether he was in any position to know what he was talking about, may still be open to discussion, but the fact that he not only said so but said so intentionally has to be irrefutable.
The main objection to the Monument's apparent claim that Christopher Marlowe 'is returned' and 'hath writt' anything needing Shakespeare as a 'page' to 'serve' it, is that there is a detailed report from a coroner's inquest into his death - which, having been on 30th May, 1593, was before almost anything of the Shakespeare canon was written. Any claim that he nevertheless lived beyond that date must therefore give good reasons for doubting the legitimacy of that inquest.
Fortunately, considerable doubt has already been cast upon it by most of the authors who have published theories about Marlowe's death over the past fifteen years. Obviously, one must avoid accusations of circular argument by excluding the theories of anyone following Hoffman's lead, but that still leaves theories from Charles Nicholl (two different ones),(8) Curtis C. Breight,(9) Paul E.J. Hammer,(10) J.A. Downie,(11) M.J. Trow,(12) Constance Brown Kuriyama,(13) Alan Haynes,(14) David Riggs(15) and Park Honan.(16) Of these, only Downie and Kuriyama accept the story at face value.
Once one has acknowledged, as most of them do, that the report of the inquest was possibly based upon lies, then the actual scale of those lies is really immaterial. In particular, and as Hoffman claimed, the witnesses could have been lying not only about what happened, but also about exactly whose body it was that the members of the jury were called upon to examine.
Where Hoffman went wrong was in arguing from his belief that Marlowe wrote the works to saying his death must therefore have been faked, when in fact a strong case can be made for such a faked death, whether there was any subsequent connection with the works of Shakespeare or not.(17)
It is usually acknowledged that Marlowe was already in a dangerous position at the time of that meeting in Deptford. Under torture, Kyd was accusing him of atheism,(18) and he had been arrested and let out 'on bail' by the Privy Council some ten days earlier.(19) But far worse accusations against him, in the form of the Baines Note and the Remembrances (see below), were already in the hands of the authorities, and he was unlikely to remain free for much longer. Just how much danger this meant he was in is uncertain. The version of the Baines Note that would have gone to the Privy Council and probably to the Queen had been edited to remove all except the accusations of blasphemy and atheism, and this was not necessarily enough to have hanged him. True, he may well have been tortured to 'persuade' him to recant, but assuming that this persuasion worked - and it usually did - he would not have been executed.
If we examine other documents related to this event, however, we discover that a far more serious charge was facing him - of having written material that was seditious. And for this crime no fewer than three people had been executed already within only the past two months.
Thomas Beard claimed that Marlowe: "...fell (not without just desert) to that outrage and extremitie, that hee denied God and his sonne Christ, and not only in word blasphemed the trinitie, but also (as it is credibly reported) wrote bookes against it..." (20) With the possible exception of the plural he uses, it seems from what follows that this was almost certainly true.
Among the accusations being levelled at Marlowe at the time of his death was the one in the Note (21) by Richard Baines: "That one Ric Cholmley hath confessed that he was persuaded by Marlowe's reasons to become an atheist." This accusation is echoed in the anonymous document referred to as the Remembrances,(22) also in the hands of the authorities at this time, and in which this Richard Cholmeley's atheism is again portrayed as being the result of Marlowe's reasoning: "'That he saieth & verely beleveth that one Marlowe is able to show more sounde reasons for Atheisme then any devine in Englande is able to geve to prove devinitie".
In August 1974, S.E. Sprott discussed a letter written by a certain Thomas Drury to Anthony Bacon on 1st August 1593,(23) transcribed it (an extraordinarily difficult job, given Drury's appalling handwriting) and showed how it indicated that Drury had probably been responsible for the Remembrances.(24)
His argument was that, in the letter to Anthony Bacon, Drury had complained that he had not been rewarded for certain work he had done, which included: "a libel by my means found out and delivered, a vile book also by my deciphering taken and a notable villain or two which are close prisoners and bad matters against them of an exceeding nature."
Sprott pointed out that these bad matters could well have been the Remembrances, since they start off with the description of certain libellous verses for which Cholmeley had been responsible, and tell of the taking of the banned book An Epistle of Comfort into Custody. He also noted that Cholmeley and his sidekick Henry Young had indeed been arrested a month earlier.
In his book The Reckoning, Charles Nicholl accepted Sprott's finding, and in fact added to this the details of another letter from Drury, written to Sir Robert Cecil a little later, which - if he noticed it, Nicholl fails to mention clearly - did actually confirm it.(25)
Written from prison, some time between 1st and 17th August, the letter said: "I am committed from my Lord Chamberlain for abusing him unto you, as also for wicked speeches that could say I was able to make any counsellor a traitor: only this I do presume, that I told your honour it was others' practices and lies also and not my own..." (26) and this clearly relates to that part of the Remembrances, which says of Cholmeley that: "he saith he doth entirely hate the Lord Chamberlain & hath good cause so to do and that no men are sooner devined & abused than the Counsel themselves; that he can go beyond & cozen them as he list."
Adding this to the similarities that Sprott identified, it seems even more probable that Drury wrote the Remembrances, in fact sending them to Sir Robert Cecil as well as to the main addressee, the Lord Keeper of the Privy Seal, Sir John Puckering.(27)
Constance Kuriyama(28) and Park Honan(29) nevertheless reject the idea that Drury wrote the Remembrances, claiming it to be impossible, partly because Cholmeley had apparently sounded out the author of the report accompanying them as to whether he wanted to join Cholmeley's "crew", which would never have happened to Drury, and partly because the style of the Remembrances is very different to the style and highly idiosyncratic spelling of Drury's letter to Bacon. Since we can have no idea what Cholmeley's real intentions were in sounding him out, nor how much help Drury had - from Baines for example - in the writing of the Remembrances, these arguments seems very weak when compared with those supporting his authorship of them.
There is further confirmation of Sprott's findings, in fact. Drury's letter to Bacon continues: "Then, after all this, there was by my only means set down unto the Lord Keeper (&) the Lord of Buckhurst the notablest and vilest articles of Atheism that I suppose the like was never known or read of in any age, all which I can show unto you. They were delivered to her Highness and command given by herself to prosecute it to the full." (30)
Charles Nicholl thinks that this means the Baines Note,(31) and Constance Kuriyama and David Riggs agree, but this cannot be right. It clearly refers to the 'report' mentioned above,(32) which was filed right next to the Remembrances, and gave details of Cholmeley's atheism - "feareful horrible and damnable speeches" which the writer "feare(s) to rehearse". It is undated, so there is in fact no reason to think that it actually accompanied the Remembrances, as Kuriyama claims it did, and could have been "after all this" as Drury in fact said. It was initially addressed to Justice Young, who was reporting to the Lord Keeper about this particular matter and who had indeed been responsible for Cholmeley's arrest.
This report - unlike the Baines Note - is all about Cholmeley and his "damnable crew", and in his letter to Bacon, after referring to those "vilest articles of Atheism" he carries on speaking not of anything to do with the Baines Note but of what must be the same "damnable sect". He says that, since the arrest of the "notable villain or two" (i.e. Cholmeley and Young), "there is old hold and shove for to get the book that doth maintain this damnable sect which book I presume there would be given great sums for and large promises offered in like manner, but none of those will I trust."
There had been no mention of any 'sect' before this in his letter, so it must have been in the document he has just referred to, which emphatically rules out the Baines Note, and confirms that it was the follow-up to his own Remembrances that he meant. He goes on: "But if I may secretly confer with you, I and one that I have brought with me, a merchant, will give you such light as he and I can bring you to the man that doth know who did write the book and they to who it was delivered as also who read the lecture and where and when."
There is no doubt, therefore, that Drury - and others - believed Marlowe to have written an atheistic book being used as an instruction manual by an irreligious and subversive sect whose plans were: "to draw Her Majesty's subjects to be atheists and after Her Majesty's decease to make a king among themselves & live according to their own laws." Such a book had probably not been printed, but was being disseminated by being read aloud to others. In this letter to Anthony Bacon he pretends not to know who wrote it, or who had been reading it as a lecture,(33) but he is obviously referring to what he himself had written about Cholmeley to Sir Robert Cecil in the Remembrances: "That he saith & verily believeth that one Marlowe is able to show more sound reasons for Atheism than any divine in England is able to give to prove divinity, and that Marlowe told him that he hath read the atheist lecture to Sir Walter Ralegh & others."
Further support for such a book's existence also appears much later in the commonplace book of Henry Oxinden.(34) He tells of one Simon Aldrich, who was at Cambridge some six years after Marlowe's time there. Aldrich apparently told Oxinden: "that Marlowe was an Atheist and wrote a book against the Scriptures, how that it was all one man's making; and would have printed it, but it could not suffer to be printed."
So it seems to be quite certain that there was such a book, that Marlowe had written it, and that he had indeed presented it as a lecture to Sir Walter Ralegh and others.
Further confirmation comes from Richard Baines's original statement that:
this Marlowe doth not only hold the(se opinions) himself, but almost into every company he cometh he persuades men to atheism, willing them not to be affeared of bugbears and hobgoblins, and utterly scorning both God and his ministers, as I, Richard Baines, will justify & approve both by mine oath and the testimony of many honest men, and that he saith likewise that he hath quoted a number of contrarieties out of the Scripture which he hath given to some great men who in convenient time shall be named. When these things shall be called in question, the witness(es) shall be produced.
Who might these great men be? Presumably anyone who has been said to be part of Ralegh's alleged School of Atheism,(35) which could include the Earl of Northumberland, the Earl of Derby, and the Lord Chamberlain's heir, Sir George Carey.
How would such a book have been viewed by the Queen, her Privy Council, and the Court of Star Chamber? First, we need to look at what was happening at that time. On 23rd March, 1593, a couple of months before the events at Deptford, Henry Barrow and John Greenwood - apparently a friend of Marlowe's while they were at Cambridge - had been sentenced to death and, on 6th April, were executed. Their offence had been advocating and trying to set up a church separate from the established Anglican one. Taking the New Testament as a guide, their ideal church made no distinction between clergy and laity and stressed the autonomy of each congregation. Barrow - initially persuaded by Greenwood - had written several works advocating congregational independence. These views were considered seditious, so they were both tried under an Act of 1581 against the writers of seditious books and were sentenced accordingly.(36)
It is easy to see why the government might fear such ideas, since so much of the State's authority depended upon an established church. How much more dangerous, therefore, must atheism have appeared to them. What Marlowe would have been advocating was a belief which, from the government's point of view:
The alleged crimes of Barrow and Greenwood (as with those of their fellow-seperatist, John Penry, who was executed on 29th May) really were fairly inoffensive compared with this.
Marlowe was a brilliant writer, with the ability to work on people's thoughts and feelings at a very deep level. Whether or not they thought he was right in what he believed (or however much, as we shall see shortly, he had "done her Majesty good service" in the past) was irrelevant, and he simply could not be allowed to carry on like this.
It is therefore obvious that Marlowe was in very great trouble indeed. He certainly could not be seen to remain unpunished, and he had to be silenced - permanently. It is clear that he would need powerful friends to help him if he were to be saved; and if no way of saving him were found it is clear that he would have had to follow Barrow, Greenwood and Penry to the scaffold.
Marlowe had certainly been able to call upon powerful support in the past. In the minutes of the Privy Council for Thursday 29th June 1587 is the famous note, backing him against the Cambridge authorities who would have denied him his M.A.
Whereas it was reported that Christopher Morley was determined to have gone beyond the seas to Reames and there to remaine, Their Lordships thought good to certefie that he had no such intent, but that in all his accions he had behaved him selfe orderlie and discreetlie wherebie he had done her Majestie good service, & deserved to be rewarded for his fathfull dealinge: Their Lordships request that the rumor thereof should be allaied by all possible meanes, and that he should be furthered in the degree he was to take this next Commencement: Because it was not her Majesties pleasure that anie one emploied as he had been in matters touching the benefitt of his Countrie should be defamed by those that are ignorant in th'affaires he went about.(37)
To this are appended the titles of the Lord Archbishop (John Whitgift), Lord Chancelor (Christopher Hatton), Lord Thr[easur]er (William Cecil), Lord Chamberlaine (Henry Carey) and Mr. Comptroler (James Crofts), but it is clear that it would have been William Cecil, Lord Burghley - and/or the absent Sir Francis Walsingham - for whom he would have been doing her Majesty good service.
In 1592, Burghley seems to have come to his aid again. Marlowe was sent back from Flushing under arrest for coining, an offence which could carry the death penalty,(38) and accusations that he intended to go to the enemy or to Rome. He was delivered to Burghley, for whom it is generally thought that he may have still, or again, been working at the time, and, if he was indeed forced to go to prison as a result - although there is no evidence that he was - we know that he was walking free within a very few months.
Even at the end there is continued evidence of work for the government, or more probably for the Cecils, father and son. As we have seen already, when reporting on the recently deceased Marlowe, apparently to Lord Keeper Sir John Puckering, Thomas Kyd wrote: "He wold perswade with men of quallitie to goe unto the King of Scotts whether I heare Royden is gon and where if he had livd he told me when I sawe him last he meant to be." (39)
For the third time, there is this apparently pretended intention to 'go to the other side' so this does sound suspiciously like further work for the Cecils, but this time related to the succession to the throne, a subject upon which the Queen had imposed a total ban. Even if they had had no desire to save him from execution - which seems most unlikely - they would therefore have had a good reason for not wanting him tortured, when he could perhaps have given far too much away about their current activities.
The question, then, is whether the Cecils were powerful enough to have saved him again on this occasion; and the answer is - probably not. Burghley had, in fact, tried to save Barrow and Greenwood, but without success. In a book about the third person executed, John Penry, Albert Peel wrote: "Burghley remains an enigmatic figure. He gave the Puritans much support - he is said to have helped hundreds - and it is clear that Penry counted on his protection. No doubt he would have saved Penry if he could. Perhaps he intended to. But Whitgift was too quick for him, and no doubt enjoyed scoring off 'the old fox'." Thomas Phelippes, writing on 7th April (1593) said "the reprieve (sic) of Barrow and Greenwood had been due to Burghley, who "spoke sharply to the Archbishop of Canterbury, who was very peremptory, and also to the Bishop of Worcester, and wished to speak to the Queen but none seconded him. The executions proceeded through the malice of the bishops to the Lower House"." (40)
A further point, however, and it is certainly an important one, is that if Marlowe was indeed behaving and writing in this way, and notwithstanding any previous relationship, the Cecils would have certainly wanted to ensure, one way or another, that he was silenced once and for all.
Possible corroboration of Marlowe's continued involvement in the Cecils' work comes from the Privy Council's order for his arrest, which commands the arresting officer to "repaire to the house of Mr Tho: Walsingham in Kent, or any other place where he shall understand where Christopher Marlow may be remayning, and by vertue hereof to apprehend, and bring him to the Court in his Companie." (41)
This knowledge that Marlowe was probably staying with Thomas Walsingham - first cousin once removed of the late Sir Francis - showed a familiarity with Marlowe's movements. It also indicated that he and Thomas were friends, which is confirmed by Edward Blount, who, in the dedication of his 1598 publication of Marlowe's Hero and Leander to (the by now 'Sir') Thomas Walsingham, wrote of: "our friend...that hath beene deare unto us" in whose "...life time you bestowed many kind favors, entertaining the parts of reckoning and woorth you found in him, with good countenance and liberall affection".
Thomas had worked for his father's cousin Sir Francis for some time, and was even well known to - and apparently liked by - the Queen. Since inheriting Scadbury from his brother Edmund in 1589, however, he had retired from government service, and Sir Francis had died the following year, so it is unlikely that Thomas still retained much of the political clout that he might have had in earlier days, even if he was almost certainly making sure that he kept an ear close to the ground regarding the current political scene.
Park Honan has pointed out how the politically ambitious Walsingham may well have been concerned at the damage to his own reputation that could be done by Marlowe's outspokenness, and might have also welcomed any clear plan for silencing him.(42) We may nevertheless reasonably assume that not only the Cecils, but Walsingham too, would have wanted if at all possible to help Marlowe rather than harm him.
It is generally agreed that Marlowe was one of the group of writers, scientists and philosophers gathered around the Earl of Northumberland and Sir Walter Ralegh. Few of these were involved in activities that would allow them to be much help to him at this time, however, and were even themselves viewed with considerable suspicion by Archbishop Whitgift and his heresy-hunters. Although Ralegh retained his seat as a member of parliament, he had been banished from the Court in disgrace at this time, and could have provided little help for his friend.
Having identified Ingram Frizer as the one who killed Marlowe, Leslie Hotson went on to discover that Frizer was at around this time not only the 'servant' of Thomas Walsingham, but also involved with him, to a certain extent, in obtaining money from a young man by false pretences. The young man was Drew Woodlef, who was bound 'unto a gentleman of good worshipp' for the sum of £200, and the gentleman in question was Thomas Walsingham. If indeed Frizer did kill Walsingham's friend Marlowe, he continued none the less to have a close association both with Thomas and, later, his wife Audrey, for many years. There is no record of his ever having served anyone else. We can therefore see that whatever the purpose of the meeting at Deptford was, it is most unlikely to have been one of which Thomas Walsingham would have disapproved.
Frizer's main partner in such financial dealings, however, was Nicholas Skeres, who was the one first to identify and then to lure these young targets into Frizer's trap. In addition to this, Skeres had in the past been involved in intelligence work. His name has been connected with the so-called 'Babington Plot' against the Queen's life, as one of Sir Francis Walsingham's agents provocateurs. He is described as being a servant of the Earl of Essex, and one might assume that this was for some similar activity. A thorough search of the voluminous papers of Anthony Bacon, the Earl's principal 'spymaster', reveals not a single mention of Skeres, however, so it would appear that, if so, his service was at a very low level. Paul Hammer has also shown how intermittent any such service seems to have been.(43) Whatever his alleged loyalty to Essex, however, one would expect his true loyalty to be with the people he is dealing with day to day in some money-making racket. Although M. J. Trow seems to get the dates wrong (Woodlef was bound on 29th June 1593 to pay Walsingham by 25th July 1593) he nevertheless puts it quite well: "In any case, as is likely from the coney-catching incident on the gull Drew Woodlef a year later, it is reasonable to suppose that Skeres and Frizer were a team by May 1593; hire one and you hire the other." (44)
Following the death of Sir Francis Walsingham in 1590, Robert Poley continued to operate as an agent within the orbit of the Cecils. Nicholl describes his situation in 1593 thus:
Poley's particular speciality was the Low Countries, to which he travelled frequently in these years. Just over a month after Marlowe's deportation [from Flushing in 1592] he was himself posting to Brussels about 'Her Majesty's special affairs'. The warrant for this trip was signed by Lord Burghley. He was not, primarily, a spy there: his Catholic cover had been blown after the Babington affair, and his name bruited about as a government agent. He was now in a more supervisory role: an operational chief or section head, running a small intelligence network in the Low Countries, and reporting to Vice-Chamberlain Heneage and the Cecils.(45)
Boas records several payments made to Poley, as listed in the Declared Accounts of the Treasurer of the Chamber. Most of these were for his acting as an accredited messenger to and from English ambassadors, state agents, and courts abroad, and were usually signed by the Vice-Chamberlain, Thomas Heneage. One of these is of particular interest, as it is dated two weeks after the events at Deptford:
To Robert Poolye upon a warrant signed by Mr vicechamberlayne dated at the Courte xiimo die Junii 1593 for carryinge of lettres in poste for her Majesties speciall and secrete afaires of great ymportaunce from the Courte at Croyden the viiith of Maye 1593 into the Lowe Countryes to the towne of the Hage in Hollande, and for retourninge backe againe with lettres of aunswere to the Courte at Nonesuche the viiith of June 1593, being in her Majesties service all the aforesaid tyme - xxxs.(46)
The last statement is unique among the warrants listed, and clearly tells us that Poley was on duty that day at Deptford. And if he was on duty, it was almost certainly on behalf of Lord Burghley and/or Sir Robert Cecil and, barring accidents, whatever happened there that day was therefore most probably what they would have wanted to happen.
Even if she did not witness the actual event, the other person who is most likely to have been around at the time was the owner of the house where it all happened - the widow Eleanor Bull. One of the Queen's closest companions over many years was her chief Gentlewoman-in-Waiting, Blanche Parry, who was related to Eleanor Bull (née Whitney). In her will, Blanche had made a bequest to her, referring to her as her 'cousin'. Interestingly, Lord Burghley had referred to Blanche as his 'cousin' too. As Nicholl says:
There is a point at which family connections grow tenuous, but technically speaking Eleanor Bull was related to Lord Burghley and the truth about Eleanor Bull - what little we know of it - helps us reconstruct something of the tone of that day in Deptford. It takes us beyond the blandness of the official story, beyond the obscuring mythology. Marlowe died not in a tavern or bawdy-house, but in the house of a local official's widow. His hostess was a woman of standing, both by birth and marriage. She was someone who could call on court connections if she needed, someone who might serve court connections if they needed.(47)
Whether or not widow Bull's house - at Deptford 'Strand' and therefore probably with convenient access to the river - had ever been used by her 'cousins' as a safe house, we may never know. What is clear, however, is that if the Cecils had wanted somewhere reasonably secluded for the arrival and departure of their agents, or for some other secret purpose, this house - with an owner whom they could trust completely - could well have been ideal. She could also, of course, have made sure that nobody else was around at such times who could not be equally trusted.
We are now in a better position to consider the various reasons proposed for those four people to have met at Deptford that day, and to decide which purpose is the one that best explains the whole event.
William Vaughan,(48) said that "one Ingram...had invited him thither to a feast" (we may wonder in this case why there should be any argument over the bill). Whether this is the best word or not, however, it is clear that the story as presented in the inquisition suggests that it was mainly a social gathering of some sort. Hotson even had it taking place in a tavern and turning into a scene of drunkenness. Working against such an explanation, of course, is the dire situation that we now know Marlowe to have been in. It is very difficult to see him wanting to attend any such event with the very real threat of torture, trial and execution hanging over his head - as he must have known from his daily contact with the Privy Council, particularly Sir Robert Cecil.
Similarly, Poley is known to have been not only on duty, but also carrying important letters "in poste" (i.e. in a hurry) between the Netherlands and the Court. That he might without permission stop off on the way back for a relaxing day with a few friends, followed by a further week off after the inquest before delivering them, is simply out of the question. Furthermore, although more easily explicable, there is no evidence to suggest that they were friends anyway. Poley may have come across Skeres during his time on the 'Babington' case, and perhaps knew Marlowe, if our poet was still involved in secret work, but there is no known reason at all for him ever to have met - let alone become friendly with - the alleged host Ingram Frizer. Such evidence that we do have of Marlowe's usual acquaintances - scientists, explorers, fellow-writers and stationers - give a fairly clear idea of how he liked to socialize.
Was it a business meeting? If so, what business? Frizer and Skeres were heavily involved in the Drew Woodlef scam at the time, which had nothing to do with Poley or Marlowe. And Poley was rushing back with his important letters from the Hague, which as far as we know had nothing to do with any of the rest of them. Marlowe may perhaps have had some reason for dealing with Poley, but why on earth the other two?
No, although their 'bosses', Walsingham and the Cecils, apparently got on well (I exclude Essex, for the reasons given above), there is no obvious business that they are likely to have had in common that would have required such a meeting. And, in any case, such meetings seldom resulted in the slaughter of one of those present, which should perhaps be considered rather more seriously than it has been.
Paul Hammer's suggestion, mentioned above, that the meeting was called by Frizer and Skeres to "brow-beat" Marlowe into repaying some debt fails satisfactorily to explain why Poley was there (Thomas Walsingham would have surely been a far better bet if it was to ensure 'fair play'), why it took all day, why it was at Eleanor Bull's house and, most of all, why they actually killed him - the worst possible outcome for everyone. Park Honan, suggesting that Frizer killed Marlowe to prevent the sullying of Walsingham's reputation, has this taking place at a meeting in which Poley was supposed to be briefing Marlowe about a planned trip to Scotland.(49) Why Frizer would want Poley present to witness the murder, or Poley want the other two present at such a top secret briefing is not explained.
Those who suggest that the meeting was actually set up to have Marlowe murdered really have to address, and provide satisfactory answers to, all of the following questions:
The main objection to this, however, has to be in the selection of these three people as assassins, none of whom was as far as we know ever involved in violence of any kind other than this. As Constance Kuriyama puts it:
Although some will undoubtedly continue to resist the conclusion most forcibly suggested by the available evidence, the one person in the party at Deptford who was most likely to attack another person physically was Christopher Marlowe.(50)
Given, as we have seen, that these three people were most probably there at the behest of the Cecils and Thomas Walsingham, then by far the most likely reason for their get-together was in some way to help Marlowe escape the extreme peril he was in.
It is indeed possible that they intended to work out together just how this was to be done, but really this just does not fit. If there was planning to be done, it would have been earlier, and either at the next level up - by Robert Cecil most probably - or by Poley alone. This was a job for a professional agent, not for a couple of con-men, no matter how skilful they were in that area. That the meeting actually resulted not in his escape but in his death might need a bit of explaining too.
If assistance were required, it is very difficult to imagine what need there would be for more than one person to help him, or why they all had to meet up at Deptford Strand. Robert Poley was fully competent, and certainly knew the secret ways into Scotland and the Low Countries, for example, if Marlowe had been headed in either of those directions.
Again, one must ask the question 'Why all day?'. If they were waiting for the high tide, which was at about 10.45 p.m. on that date, why had they arrived so early? And if that was not the reason, what were they waiting for? And, if the intention was to save him, we might again reasonably ask why his body finished up lying there when he himself should have been long gone?
So were they there to fake his death? This would indeed be a way of saving Marlowe both from torture and from death, which, as we have seen, would have been the most likely objective of those men for whom the three people there with Marlowe would have had most loyalty, and could also put a curb on that behaviour of his which was potentially damaging to them.
It is the only option which explains the need for three people: if a killing in self-defence were to be claimed, there would have had to be a 'killer' and at least two witnesses. It is also clear that if this should appear before a jury, the people involved would have to be consummate liars, which all three of them are known to have been at a 'professional' level.
It would, however, have been possible to fake his death in less elaborate ways than this. Could they not, for example, have had some unknown plague victim wrongly identified, or told everyone that he had fallen from a ship and that the body was lost at sea? If it was a faked death, therefore, it was clearly seen as essential that there should be unassailable proof, apparently accepted by the Queen herself, that he had in fact died. It would certainly have provided the perfect answer to anyone who later suspected that they may have seen him, and also suggests that such an apparently undeniable confirmation that it had happened was required at the highest level.
Again we have to ask why it would have required them to be there all day. It has been suggested that they were waiting for the high tide, but there is really no reason why Marlowe could not have caught the morning one. In fact, there would have been no need for Marlowe to have been there at all really; he could have left much earlier, and even from somewhere else. It could also perhaps be that they were waiting for the body (or for the victim?) to turn up, but this timing would have been excessively risky, and has an unpredictability about it which is unlikely to have been acceptable if everything else had been so carefully organized. There is another possible reason, in fact a more likely one, which is considered later.
It is nevertheless clear that a faked death is the only option to fit the facts as we know them. In particular, it has massive supporting evidence in the otherwise highly improbable dead body. The major problem with this theory, of course, is how those involved might most easily, and without too much risk, have managed to get hold of a substitute body, and pass it off as Marlowe's.
Hoffman thought that some passing sailor might have been killed to provide the corpse, but such an idea really has to be rejected: no Cecil or Walsingham, and certainly not any secret agent in his right mind, would have agreed to such a course of action. If you need a fresh corpse, you find someone who, for whatever reason, is going to die anyway. Shakespeare understood this, as we see from Measure for Measure, in which it is suggested that the head of the condemned prisoner Barnardine should be used in place of Claudio's. Would they not recognize him? No, says Shakespeare (4.2.174):
death's a great disguiser; and you may add to it.
Such as with a mortal dagger wound to the eye?
On the evening of 30th May 1593, the Queen and her court were at Nonsuch Palace, near Epsom in Surrey. In fact a meeting of the Privy Council took place there early the following morning. Nonsuch is just under 13 miles, as the crow flies, from Deptford Strand, and around 16 miles by road. Our statute mile was not defined until 1593, or in general use till much later, however, and Deptford Strand would have been shown on most maps as less than twelve miles from Nonsuch. It would therefore have been judged to be just within "the verge" which was the area circumscribed by an imaginary circle of twelve miles radius around the Queen's person.
When we look at the coroner's inquisition, we find that it does indeed say no fewer than four times that the stabbing occurred infra virgam (within the verge). Why? What difference would it make? The answer is that whenever such an event occurred within the verge it was necessary for the Coroner of the Queen's Household to be involved in dealing with it. That is what happened this time, although William Danby did not perform the inquest with the local coroner, which as it was not within a royal palace he should have done, whether it was within the verge or not. He actually replaced him, thus actually rendering the whole inquest legally null and void. What possible reason can he have had for doing this? And how could it have come about? Of some relevance, perhaps, is the fact that he and Lord Burghley had been close colleagues for at least four years, and could even have been old friends, having been contemporaries at the Inns of Court together some fifty years earlier.
There would, of course, be a considerable advantage in having the coroner on one's side and operating alone. He could ensure that the timetable fitted the requirements, that the 'correct' verdict was reached, that the 'view' of the body was sufficiently restricted, and even that the jury contained nobody who knew either the supposed victim or the real one. An important contribution could have also been in providing a fresh corpse of just the right age.
As was referred to earlier, John Penry had been executed the day before.(51) The execution took place at St. Thomas-a-Watering, which is only two miles as the crow flies from Deptford, and nobody knows what happened to his body. What we do know, however, is that as this was within the verge, William Danby may well have been able to claim some responsibility for deciding just what happened to it. In fact, one of Danby's titles was Coroner of the Marshalsea, where Penry had been held, and from which he had been taken for execution.
Penry's trial before the Queen's Bench had started on 21st May, and he was condemned to death on the 25th. For some reason, and most unusually as there was to be no reprieve or appeal, there was a delay of four days. Then suddenly, on Tuesday 29th May, without any warning and therefore without his wife, family or friends knowing what was going on, he was carted away - at what was also a most unusual time for an execution - to be hanged. John Waddington described what happened next:
He was led at five, from the prison in the High-street, Borough, to the fatal spot. A small company of persons, attracted by seeing the workmen preparing the gibbet, had collected together. Penry would have spoken, but the sheriff insisted, that neither in the protestation of his loyalty nor in the avowal of his innocence should he utter a word. His life was taken and the people were dispersed. The place of his burial is unknown.(52)
There are, of course, countless numbers of people whose place of burial is unknown. This case, however, is rather different. In John Penry we have one of the most important martyrs of congregationalism. His wife and daughters had tried desperately, but without success, to be allowed to visit him, and would certainly have sought equally hard to find out where he had been buried. And if they had succeeded there is no doubt at all that we today would have known where that was.
St. Thomas-a-Watering, where John Penry was executed, is no more than two and a half miles by road from Deptford Strand, but it might have been thought better to wait until after dark before delivering the body there. It is of course possible that Frizer and Skeres were responsible for this part and actually stayed at Deptford overnight.
Using the body of a hanged man in the faking of someone's death must pose certain problems, particularly if the hanging had occurred a day earlier than the alleged killing was supposed to have taken place.
It is therefore quite clear - if Penry's body was used - that people had to be prevented from looking too closely at it, and that this would have been impossible to achieve without the full-scale involvement, and coronatorial autonomy, of William Danby. As we noted above, however, the norm would have been for the County Coroner to be told, and for him to bring in the Coroner of the Queen's Household to hold the inquest with him if he believed it to be appropriate. To ensure that Danby not only held the inquest but did so on his own, therefore, would have been a problem in itself. So let us see - if it was indeed a faked death and if Penry's body was used - just how it might have been done.
First of all, we need to meet someone else who, whether wittingly or not, could have had a significant part to play in the story - the lord of the manor of Deptford, Christopher Browne. Until his death some three years earlier, Eleanor's late husband, Richard Bull, had worked for him as his sub-bailiff.(53) In addition to his responsibilities as lord of the manor, Browne was employed as Clerk of the Greencloth - a sort of internal auditor for the Queen. As such, he was a member of the Queen's Household, under the Lord Steward, and thus also a colleague to the Coroner of the Queen's Household, William Danby.
If, as seems likely, William Danby lived at Woolwich,(54) five miles or so east of Deptford, he would pass it on his way home, so it is easy to see him finding some pretext for stopping off at his colleague's house, then being invited for supper, and, depending upon how late it was, perhaps even to stay the night. The manor house itself was Sayes Court which, as can be seen from Plate 3 in Nicholl's The Reckoning, where it appears at the bottom of the map, was no more than a few hundred yards from any dwelling in Deptford Strand.(55)
Returning to Widow Bull's house, let us hear how they might have described what happened next, assuming that she was involved in the deception too. This would be how the five of them might have told it, of course, and is presumably nothing like what actually happened when no one else was present. News of Danby's arrival at Sayes Court would have been what everyone was waiting for.
Widow Bull was sitting quietly in her living room, when suddenly she heard a great commotion from upstairs, where her four 'paying guests' had been occupying themselves since supper. Robert Poley appeared and told her that something terrible had happened. Apparently Christopher Morley (as they called him) had had too much to drink, attacked Ingram Frizer with a dagger, and Frizer, trying to protect himself, had accidentally stabbed Morley in the eye with it. It looked as though it might even have killed him.
She rushed upstairs, to find Morley lying motionless on the bed, with a very nasty wound above his eye, and Frizer sitting at the table, blood pouring from wounds to his scalp. Nicholas Skeres confirmed Poley's account, adding only that there was now no doubt that Morley was dead. Realising that, as she was the only Deptford resident there, it was probably her duty to raise the necessary 'hue and cry', she suggested that they all come downstairs, and she would lock the body in the room, leaving everything exactly as it was, so that nobody could claim that it had been interfered with in any way before the authorities arrived.(56)
Once downstairs, they started to clean and dress Frizer's wounds. Poley pointed out that Frizer would be able to plead self-defence - which, given his wounds, it certainly was - provided he made no attempt to escape, and Frizer assured them that, even if he had felt like it, he wasn't going anywhere. Poley and Skeres told Eleanor Bull that they would nevertheless make sure he didn't, while she went for help.
Clearly a full-scale hue and cry for the 'pursuit and apprehension of the offender' would have been foolish, but she knew that it was necessary to get the neighbours involved somehow. Two or three of them were therefore asked to come in and help 'guard' Frizer and the body (a duty which, as the latter was safely locked away, just meant sitting with the others) while she went, taking the key with her, to alert the authorities.
Not knowing exactly whom to tell first, she decided to go to the lord of the manor, Christopher Browne, whom she knew quite well as her late husband's employer, and who lived nearby. It was quite a surprise, therefore, to find that the very person who apparently should have been informed - the Coroner of the Queen's Household, William Danby - was there with Browne. Having heard her story, he said that as this had happened within the verge, in other words within twelve miles of the Queen - which he knew to be the case, having just travelled from the Court - it was in fact his responsibility to view the body and to hold the inquest in sight of it. From this moment on, therefore, he took charge.
Before leaving Sayes Court manor house, however, he wrote a letter to the Bailiff of the Hundred,(57) briefly explaining what had happened, and ordering him to arrange for a few of his men to go to Widow Bull's house, to escort Ingram Frizer to gaol, and to provide a guard for the next day or two. He was also as soon as possible to start organizing the jury for the inquest, which would be on Friday morning.(58) There was nothing else required of him for the time being, but, if he thought there was, he must check it out with Danby first. A servant was dispatched to the Bailiff's house with this letter.
Next, Danby and Eleanor Bull went to her home, where he had a quick look at the body and heard the accounts of those who had been there. Once the guards arrived, he allowed the neighbours to go home, sent Frizer off to gaol, presumably insisting that he be used kindly, and left the others downstairs, while he went up (with Eleanor Bull's help) to 'view' the body properly. They removed all of the clothing,(59) and he examined the corpse thoroughly, noting that the only injury to it was the one above the right eye.
When he had finished, and promising her that she would receive some recompense from the parish, he asked Mrs Bull for a clean linen sheet,(60) in which - having washed the blood from the body as best they could - they completely 'wound' it (i.e. rolled it up), ready for burial. Having also removed or covered the blood-stained bedclothes, they then put the body back on the bed.(61)
He then locked up the room, made sure that Poley and Skeres(62) had somewhere to sleep and would be available for the inquest, and left the guard with strict instructions that nobody else was to enter the room where the body was. Mrs Bull would keep the key and, in the very unlikely event that it proved necessary to enter the room, they must go in together, and neither of them must touch the body in any way. He then went back to Sayes Court for the night, continuing his journey to Woolwich the following day.
On the Friday morning he returned to Mrs Bull's house to find the jurymen beginning to assemble. It was the coroner's right to have the final say as to who would be in the jury, so he briefly interviewed each of them and, having rejected one or two, was left with the sixteen we know about.
The room containing the body was quite small, and it was hard for everybody to squeeze into comfortably, let alone to hold an inquest in, so this was to be held in the large room downstairs.(63) They all had to view the body, however, so they gathered round while Danby showed it to them, tugging the sheet down far enough for everyone clearly to see the wound above the eye.(64) He assured them that he had examined the body thoroughly, that the dagger wound would certainly have been enough to kill him, and that he had no doubts at all as to what had caused the death.
Once everybody had viewed the body in this way, Eleanor Bull finished knotting the winding-sheet, and the rest returned to the larger room for the inquest, where they heard the evidence of Frizer himself and the two witnesses (who had also identified the body) and returned the verdict as reported in the coroner's inquisition.
The body being ready for disposal (and presumably the relevant people having been warned), there was now nothing to prevent the burial being carried out almost immediately, and once Danby had signed the necessary document this is indeed what happened.
This is pure speculation, of course, but if a faked death was the most likely reason for those four men to have met there that day, and if it was John Penry's body that they used, this indicates how it would have been possible for them to get away with it. It is in response to the many arguments that have been offered as to why the faking of his death, and especially using Penry's corpse, would have been impossible.
Lord Burghley and William Danby, both now in their seventies, had given a lifetime of loyal service to their Queen, and it seems impossible that either of them would have put his whole career - possibly even his life - at risk just to save one poet/dramatist, even if he was the most brilliant one of his day, and no matter what 'good service' he had done her Majesty in the past.
The most likely situation would therefore seem to be that the Archbishop of Canterbury, John Whitgift, wanted Marlowe tried and executed, and that the Queen agreed with him. The Cecils, however, managed to persuade her that faking his death could be just as effective - that he could be forced to refrain from ever again propagating his atheistic views, and would be seen by her subjects to have suffered God's punishment for his blasphemy and heresy. She therefore agreed to this as a compromise, but to appease Whitgift also insisted that the records would show beyond any doubt that he was dead, he would be banished the country (albeit under some sort of control?), and must never under any circumstances, of course, write another word as Christopher Marlowe.
In doing so, she would also of course ensure that a blind eye be turned to Danby's overstepping his authority, and to any other possibly unforeseen complaint.
There are four main questions, all of which have to be satisfactorily answered if we are to decide which is the most probable explanation of what happened at Deptford on that day in May 1593. Why did it involve these particular people and no others? Why was it at that particular location rather than anywhere else? Why did it take all day, and how was it that anyone died as a result? And why did William Danby not only officiate, but do it on his own? Extraordinary as it may seem, the only scenario to answer all four of these questions as it stands is that of the faked death. In particular, it provides one explanation for all of the following teasers:
Addressing a conference on Christopher Marlowe at Corpus Christi, Cambridge, a few years ago, the previous year's joint winner of the Hoffman prize declared (somewhat ungratefully, I thought!) that anybody who believes that Marlowe wrote Shakespeare's works "must have cloth ears".
It is of course true that much of Marlowe's language - especially in Dido and the two Tamburlaines - is easily distinguishable from most of Shakespeare's. Where this claim goes wrong, however, is in its underlying assumption that any such differences in style necessarily indicate different authors. To take a very simple illustration of how such thinking might be erroneous, let us look at just the two function words 'most' and 'then', (65) and the relative frequency with which Marlowe and Shakespeare used each of them. Roughly matching the different sizes of their known canons, Marlowe uses one or the other of these words 587 times, and Shakespeare 3559 times. In Marlowe's case, however, the word 'most' accounts for only 11.4% of that total, whereas for Shakespeare it is roughly three times larger, at 34%.
In fact this is a very good way of distinguishing Marlowe from Shakespeare, since every one of Marlowe's plays has a 'most' percentage of less than 15% and all except three of Shakespeare's more than 15%.(66) This difference is highly significant statistically, and the probability of it having happened by chance so low as to be virtually impossible.(67)
Does this mean that the works must have been by different writers, however? Not if the probable date of authorship is considered too. See Figure 1 below. The Marlowe plays are indicated by the black circles, and Shakespeare's the white squares. The trend over time is clearly discernable even without calculation.(68)
Another good example would be in the degree to which each uses run-on lines (enjambments) and feminine endings. Marlowe, for example, uses them on average about 13 times in each 100 lines of verse whereas Shakespeare's average figure is over 40 per hundred. This is a difference which with even more precision distinguishes the plays of Marlowe from those of Shakespeare. Plot these against time, however, and again a very different picture appears. (See Figure 2 below and Appendix 1 for the supporting figures for both graphs).
Using a ratio of the frequencies of two single words, or the tendency to use certain poetic techniques, is about as simple an illustration of stylometrics as it is possible to get, and most serious attempts to use such an approach to differentiate between authors naturally use far more sophisticated techniques, such as neural network programming, multiple regression analysis, or a 'basket' of different distinguishing features.
Where Marlowe and Shakespeare are concerned, however, if those techniques take no account of the date of writing and any possible trend in Shakespeare's works, as illustrated by the somewhat naïve examples above, they will be wrong. Any possibility that it is the effect of time rather than authorship that is being measured must be eliminated before any claims about the latter can be made.
Unfortunately this has so far not been done by any of those claiming stylometrically to have eliminated Marlowe as a possible Shakespeare authorship candidate, such as Gary Taylor(69) or Ward Elliott and Robert Valenza.(70)
This principle is not restricted to such less obvious differences, however. Rightly or wrongly, the styles of Marlowe and Shakespeare have been said to differ in many ways, and as with the ones discussed above we must decide whether time (which would include changed circumstances) could have explained the differences as well as any supposed change of author would. Here are some:
It is important to keep two different arguments separate at this point: first, that Marlowe couldn't have played any part in the writing of Shakespeare's works because he was dead, and second that Marlowe couldn't have played any part in the writing of Shakespeare's works because of differences like these. It is the second we are concentrating upon here, and is concerned with what would have been possible if he had survived.
It was argued earlier that his 'death' in 1593 was faked (probably with the tacit approval of the Queen and certain members of the Privy Council) and that he was in fact sent into exile overseas, where he remained for a couple of years at least. It is also claimed elsewhere(71) that he then managed, with the help of friends, to sneak back into the country incognito and, under assumed identities, to remain hidden away mainly at the stately homes - and possibly even under the protection - of some members of the landed gentry and aristocracy. Meanwhile, it had been arranged that he would supply the newly created Lord Chamberlain's Men with plays, via the actor and aspiring playwright, William Shakespeare.
There are many features of this situation which could have had a marked effect upon the nature of the plots, themes, characters, and style he would now use.
The enforced overseas travel would have provided an opportunity to explore new cultures, new ideas, new forms of theatre, new languages and new literature. With the enforced abandonment of many of his former circle of friends and acquaintances, we may assume the creation of a new circle, with new knowledge, new interests and new enthusiasms; also, after his return, a resident's access to huge and up-to-date libraries, such as those of his former friend Henry Percy, Earl of Northumberland, at Petworth or Syon House.
The complete upheaval of his life, and the deep emotions associated with that, cannot have failed to affect his personal reaction to some of the situations he chose for his characters - banishment being the obvious example.
A new 'political agenda' could have been significant too. If the Cecils, for example, were behind his disappearance, part of the deal may well have been the inclusion as required of certain sociopolitical messages in the plays, and the exclusion of some others. Similarly, the Burbages' requirements (e.g. plots, numbers, staging) were probably quite different from Henslowe's.
New actors would also have created new requirements and new opportunities. Just as Shakespeare's clowns changed radically when Will Kempe was replaced by Robert Armin, so better 'female' actors could have had a massive effect, as would the change of leading actor from Alleyn to Burbage. In particular, new actors would have affected the type of characters he chose to write about, and thus their ways of interacting with the audience and with other characters.
It goes without saying that to write in a style which was recognizably Marlovian (other than as that old-style Player?) would have risked giving the game away, and if, as is also possible, Shakespeare actually collaborated with Marlowe in some way, we can currently only guess at what his input would have been, and thus his impact upon the whole style.
Under these circumstances it would have been quite extraordinary if there had not been differences between what we think of as Marlowe's particular approach and that which we associate more with the post-1593 'Shakespeare'. Having said that, we must not lose sight of how similar the early Shakespeare was to Marlowe. Jonathan Bate, in a chapter(72) based upon his own Hoffman prize winning essay, in fact visualized three stages: "(1) imitation, (2) parody, and (3) outstripping."
Although reluctant to leave any of Shakespeare's sonnets with no biographical explanation at all, most Shakespearian scholars nowadays tend to deny that the Sonnets are autobiographical. Hoffman's followers ('Marlovians') say that this is because - other than the references to the name 'Will' and a possible pun on 'Hathaway' - there is no apparent connection between what is said in the Sonnets and anything that is known about Shakespeare's life. In contrast, assuming that Marlowe did survive and was exiled in disgrace, Marlovians claim that the Sonnets reflect precisely what must have happened to him after that.
One has only to take as a starting point that he usually means what he actually says, rather than what he must have meant if he was who most people think he is. For example, take "a wretch's knife" to mean a wretch's knife, rather than assume that he must have really meant Old Father Time's scythe; take an "outcast state" to mean an outcast state, not just a feeling that nobody likes him; and accept that when he says his "name receives a brand" it means that his reputation has been permanently damaged, and not simply that acting is considered a somewhat disreputable profession.
In Sonnet 25, for example, we find that something unexpected ("unlooked for") has happened to the poet, which will deny him the chance to boast of "public honour and proud titles", and which seems to have led to some enforced travel far away, possibly even overseas (26-28, 34, 50-51, 61). We get confirmation that this going away was probably a one-off event (48), and whatever it was, it is clearly also associated with his being "in disgrace with fortune and men's eyes", that "outcast state" (29), his "blots" and "bewailed guilt" (36).
What he most enjoyed about his past life seems, according to him, to have been the reason for his downfall - "Consumed by that which it was nourished by" (73) or Quod me nutrit me destruit, as Marlowe's putative portrait at Corpus Christi, Cambridge, puts it. In fact he thinks that, just like Marlowe, he will be remembered as having died a cowardly death, knifed by some base 'wretch' (74).
There is some concern that the identities of either the poet or the addressee might be discovered (76), but presumably not by the latter's friends and descendants, for whom his name at least will have 'immortal life' because of these Sonnets (81). However, even though the poet says that the poems will last for all time, he knows that for some reason he will not be remembered as the author of them (81).
In Sonnet 110, we finally discover just what apparently caused the disgrace and "outcast state" mentioned earlier, what the "vulgar scandal" (112) is, and how it is that his "name receives a brand" (111). Not only has he "looked on" spiritual truth "askance and strangely", but publicly expressed these views in a way that defiled and cheapened them. He now regrets this, and blames having to get his living from the public for these "public manners". There is also a possible reference ("ore-greene my bad") to an attack on him by Robert Greene for those views (112).
For him, there is no God but his friend, and no Heaven to be found but in his bosom (110). Christian ritual is of no importance to him; nor are any actions based upon the assumption of an after-life, in which he apparently doesn't believe (125).
One or two of these claims may need a bit of explaining, so let us start by taking a look at that last one, Sonnet 125.
Were't aught to me I bore the canopy,
With my extern the outward honouring,
Or laid great bases for eternity,
Which proves more short than waste or ruining?
Have I not seen dwellers on form and favour
Lose all, and more by paying too much rent
For compound sweet; forgoing simple savour,
Pitiful thrivers in their gazing spent.
No, let me be obsequious in thy heart,
And take thou my oblation, poor but free,
Which is not mix'd with seconds, knows no art,
But mutual render only me for thee.
Hence, thou suborned Informer, a true soul
When most impeached, stands least in thy control.
This is an unsettling poem. It appears at first sight to be comparing the way in which courtiers can go dangerously wrong in pursuing the monarch's favour with the relative safety of Shakespeare's 'worship' of his friend. One is nevertheless left with the feeling that there is something missing, that there is more to it than that. Why should a suborned informer appear so suddenly and unexpectedly in the last couplet, for example, and why does the otherwise irrelevant service of Holy Communion seem to be of some inexplicable importance?
Making it potentially even more confusing is that there are throughout the poem far more possible references to the Eucharist than any commentator on the Sonnets has apparently noticed so far. In fact no fewer than eleven of the fourteen lines can be shown to have some connection with it. Let's see.
Line 1 - "Were't aught to me I bore the canopy" - The more recent editors of the Sonnets usually prefer to interpret this canopy as the one carried over James at his coronation. This did happen, of course; it relates back to the 'pyramids' of Sonnet 123; and the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) also supports such an interpretation: "1.a. A covering or hangings ... held over a person walking in procession". Among the other possibilities, however, is "1.b. A covering over ... the Host when borne in procession", which, whilst not mentioned by Kerrigan(73), Blakemore Evans(74), Vendler(75) or Duncan-Jones(76), is given a passing mention by Booth(77) and Ledger(78). Could Shakespeare's canopy have been one of the type used in a Corpus Christi procession - not seen in England since before Elizabeth's accession - instead?
Line 2 - "With my extern the outward honouring" - None of the above-mentioned editions has anything to say about a possible connection of this line with the Communion Host, but in fact the whole idea of 'inward' versus 'outward' honouring was crucial in describing how the Catholic sacrament differed from the Protestant. Derived, it seems, from Calvin (and see the first quotation from Hooker for line 5, below), the 1604 amendment to the Catechism included the following Q&As: "Question. How many parts be there in a Sacrament? Answer. Two; the outward visible signe, and the inward spirituall grace...Question. What is the outward part or signe of the Lords Supper? Answer. Bread and wine, which the Lord hath commanded to bee received. Question. What is the inward part or thing signified? Answer. The Body and Blood of Christ..." Those who believed that the bread and the wine became important in themselves were, according to the Protestants, simply honouring "the outward visible sign" and missing the point as far as the "inward spiritual grace" was concerned.
Line 3 - "Or laid great bases for eternity" - Again, although a connection with the Eucharist has been found in other lines, nothing is mentioned in any recent edition about this line in particular. All commentators, if they consider it at all, take the 'great bases' to be either physical ones - e.g. for those pyramids or columns - or symbolic, as for his poetry, or some unknown deed of valour. Yet the following quotation (in fact originally from 1 Timothy 6) can be found in the 1559 Book of Common Prayer - Holy Communion (BCP-HC from now on): "Charge them whyche are ryche in thys worlde, that they be ready to give, and glade to distribute, laying up in store for them selves a good foundacion, against the time to come, that they may attayne eternal lyfe." It really is hard to think of a better conversion into an iambic pentameter of the words "laying up...a good foundation...that they may attain eternal life" than "Or laid great bases for eternity".
Line 5 - "Have I not seen dwellers on form or favour" - In the context of Holy Communion, 'form' seems to have been an important concept related to the nature of the sacrament itself, as the following quotations ('form' OED 4.b) show: "1597 Hooker Ecclesiastical Polity. v. lviii. §2 To make complete the outward substance of a sacrament, there is required an outward form, which form sacramental elements receive from sacramental words", and "Ibid. vi. iv. §3 Forasmuch as a sacrament is complete, having the matter and form which it ought". For Catholics, of course, the matter itself changes form. As for 'favour', the BCP-HC has "...thou doest vouchsafe to fede us, whiche have duly received these holy misteries, with the spiritual fode of the moste precious body and bloude of thy sonne, our saviour Jesus Christ, and doest assure us therby of thy favour and goodnes towarde us...". This does not seem to have been noticed either, although Booth does refer to use of the word 'dwell' in the BCP-HC.
Line 7 - "For compound sweet; forgoing simple savour" - Ledger goes into some detail about the 'compound' and 'simple' pairing, and Kerrigan and Blakemore Evans, connecting this with Line 10, quote Leviticus 1:13 as "an oblation made by fire for a sweet savour unto the Lord"; but no editor seems to have noticed just how often the phrase "sweet savour" appears in the Old Testament (Genesis once, Exodus 3 times, Leviticus 16 times, Numbers 18 times, and Ezekiel 4 times) and all 42 of them describe a sacrifice to God.
Line 8 - "Pitiful thrivers in their gazing spent". Booth comments that 'pitiful' might actually mean 'full of piety' (and, by reversing this, we can see how Dogberry was actually calling Conrad 'pitiful' when he used these words to describe him). Booth and Ledger both refer to the word 'gaze' in the BCP-HC, but a reference that is possibly more relevant than theirs is in the 49 Articles, particularly Article 25: "The Sacraments were not ordained of Christ to be gazed upon or carried about", and (although the word itself is not used this time) Article 28: "The Sacrament of the Lord's Supper was not by Christ's ordinance reserved, carried about, lifted up, or worshipped". So are the "dwellers on form or favour" full of piety, but wasting whatever 'credits' they gain by spending their time in worship?
Line 9 - "No, let me be obsequious in thy heart" - Booth and Duncan-Jones point out that the word 'obsequious' is also especially associated with remembrance of the dead, but no commentator seems to have noticed the following from the BCP-HC: "take and eat this in remembraunce that Christ died for thee, feede on him in thine heart...", words which are certainly reflected in this line.
Line 10 - "And take thou my oblation, poor but free" - Here at least is one line where all of these commentators, except Vendler - who, to be fair, doesn't really discuss this sort of thing - make some reference to a religious connotation, i.e. that of the word 'oblation'. Duncan-Jones says of it: "offering, especially in a religious context, as in the offering of sacramental bread and wine to God (OED 2,3)", while Booth, Blakemore Evans and Ledger quote the BCP-HC, which says that Jesus, on the cross: "made ther (by his one oblation of himself once offered) a ful, perfect and sufficient sacrifice, oblation, and satisfaction for the synnes of the whole worlde".
Line 11 - "Which is not mixed with seconds, knows no art" - Ledger, Booth and Duncan-Jones point out the use of the word 'seconds' to refer to a lower quality flour, and the first two also make the connection with Communion bread, and the words in the BCP-HC that it should be the "purest wheat bread which may conveniently be gotten". Of more importance perhaps is the biblical term "meat offering" - which, paradoxically, is not actually of meat - as in Leviticus 2:1: "And if thou bring an oblation of a meat offering baken in the oven, it shall be unleavened cakes of fine flour mingled with oil, or unleavened wafers anointed with oil." The 'seconds' in this case would have referred to leaven (OED 1 - spec. a quantity of fermenting dough reserved from a previous batch...)
Line 12 - "But mutual render, only me for thee" - Again, Ledger quotes the BCP-HC's "DERELY beloved, for asmuche as our dutye is to rendre to almighty God our heavenly father most harty thanckes for that he hathe geven his sonne our Sauiour Jesus Christ not onely to die for us, but also to be oure Spirituall fode, and sustenaunce, as it is declared unto us, aswel by Goddes worde, as by the holy sacramentes of his blessed body and bloud..." and Booth refers to "And here we offer and presente unto the, O Lord, our selves, our soules, and bodies, to be a reasonable, holy, and lively sacrifice unto thee". The biblical quotation (Matt.22:21) also comes to mind: "Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's; and unto God the things that are God's".
Line 13 - "Hence, thou suborned Informer, a true soul" - It is quite surprising, given Booth's careful examination of the undoubted references to the Eucharist, that neither he nor any of the commentators following him have apparently worked out just why mention of a "suborned Informer" would be appropriate at this point. Yet perhaps the most famous suborned informer in Christendom was intimately connected with the Last Supper, and is indeed mentioned in the Communion service itself: "Therfore if any of you be a blasphemer of god, an hinderer or slaunderer of his worde, an adulterer, or be in malyce or envye, or in anye other grevous crime, bewaile your Sinnes, and come not to this holy table, lest after the taking of that holy sacrament, the devil enter into you, as he entred into Judas, and fil you full of al iniquities, and bring you to destruction both of bodye and soule."
All of the commentators referred to above consider, and in Vendler's case apparently dismiss, the possibility that the "fools of time" mentioned in the last couplet of the previous sonnet (124) could have been religious zealots who died for their faith, probably - but not necessarily - Catholics, and maybe even those involved in the Gunpowder plot. But although Duncan-Jones and Ledger see a possible connection between the 'fools' and the 'canopy', nobody sees a link between what such people were prepared to die for, and the form of worship symbolised by the use of a canopy over the Corpus Christi Host. What Shakespeare could be saying is that, unlike them, such matters are of no importance to him.
Whether or not this is the sort of canopy he meant, however, there really can no longer be any doubt at all that the Holy Communion service plays a major part in this Sonnet, and that line 3 ("Or laid great bases for eternity") must be based upon those words from the service quoted above. The quotation was "Charge them whyche are ryche in thys worlde, that they be ready to give, and glade to distribute, laying up in store for them selves a good foundacion, against the time to come, that they may attayne eternal lyfe", and the overlaps of 'laying/laid', 'foundacion/bases' and 'eternal life/eternity', in just a six-word line, simply cannot be coincidental. Given the other BCP-HC connections, we can state with complete confidence that it is a rendering of the second part of that quotation into iambic pentameter. And this gives a clear context and meaning for the whole line.
The following line is "Which proves more short than waste or ruining?", so it is interesting to see what happens if we take the original words, and follow them with "which proves...". It would go: "laying up in store for them selves a good foundacion, against the time to come, that they may attayne eternal lyfe, which proves...". In this case, 'which' could possibly refer to the "laying up", the "good foundacion", or the "eternal life". By changing 'laying' from a verbal noun to a verb, and 'foundacion' (singular) to 'bases' (plural), however, this is no longer so.
The only one it can reasonably refer to is 'eternity', meaning eternal life, and the only way in which eternal life could prove shorter than "waste or ruining" is if it turns out not to be 'eternal' after all. Shakespeare must therefore be saying that there is no such thing. It might be argued that Sonnet 55 refuted any such suggestion with the line "So til the iudgement that your selfe arise", but now it seems more likely that this was ironic. There will be no such day. One is reminded of that Johnnie Mathis record that was popular in the late fifties - "Until the twelfth of never, and that's a long, long time". Similarly, Sonnet 146 ("And death once dead, there's no more dying then") may well be rather less Christian than some have argued - not unlike the sentiment expressed by the Bishop of Carlisle in Richard II (3.2.176-181) in fact, where we find - perhaps surprisingly for a bishop - little if any 'religion':
To fear the foe, since fear oppresseth strength,
Gives in your weakness strength unto your foe;
And so your follies fight against yourself.
Fear, and be slain. No worse can come to fight;
And fight and die is death destroying death,
Where fearing dying pays death servile breath.
What he is therefore saying in Sonnet 125 is that, for him, his friend is his only God, and if he is going to offer himself as a sacrifice it will be only to him. This is, of course, hugely heretical - something that was hinted at in Sonnet 108 ("I hallowed thy fair name") and in the preceding Sonnet 124 if, as now seems probable, he was referring to his "dear love" rather than "policy" as "that Heretic". Such beliefs could well get him into real trouble if some 'Judas' informed on him (again?), so by having a different meaning available for the Sonnet as a whole he could always deny that that this was what he ever had in mind.
He had called his friend a "god in love" in Sonnet 110, which is also worth looking at.
Alas, 'tis true, I have gone here and there,
And made myself a motley to the view,
Gored mine own thoughts, sold cheap what is most dear,
Made old offences of affections new.
Most true it is, that I have looked on truth
Askance and strangely. But, by all above,
These blenches gave my heart another youth,
And worse essays proved thee my best of love.
Now all is done, have what shall have no end;
Mine appetite I never more will grind
On newer proof to try an older friend,
A god in love, to whom I am confined.
Then give me welcome, next my heav'n the best,
Even to thy pure and most most loving breast.
Whilst there is little doubt that this follows on from the unfaithfulness referred to in Sonnet 109, there is a fairly clear religious aspect to it too. This suggests that all of the behaviour he engaged in while he was going 'here and there' should, if possible, be connected in some way with the Sonnet's conclusion that the addressee is a 'god in love'. (An idea that carries on into 111, in fact, where - still presumably as a god - he is asked to "chide with" the goddess Fortune. Booth says:
The construction [of line 13] also calls a reader's attention to the broad implications of what would otherwise register as a mere hyperbolic gesture. The strangeness of the phrase makes a reader pay attention to the word heav'n, and - particularly in context of welcome - makes it difficult for him to keep the rhetorical gesture and the passion it expresses safely isolated from the perspective of philososophically higher goals - notably reception into heaven (into Abraham's bosom); moreover, when a reader's understanding momentarily stumbles over my heav'n, the religious pertinence and the common religious context of many of the ideas and some of the language of the preceding lines is activated - at least to the extent of being perceptible as a structural theme: for instance, by all above in line 6, what shall have no end (9), which echoes "world without end" in the Christian liturgy, and line 12, which has reminded many commentators of sonnet 105 and of the first commandment.(79)
So where does this religious theme come from? In view of what Sonnet 125 has been seen to say about the after-life, it must be the 'truth' in line 5 which he has looked at askance and strangely. 'Truth' must mean (OED 11.a) "spec. in religious use, spiritual reality as the subject of revelation or object of faith...". He has looked at this truth 'askance' (with disdain or scorn, OED 2) and 'strangely' - (In a manner so unusual or exceptional as to excite wonder or astonishment, OED 5).
When he says that it is his 'thoughts' which he has gored (defiled) and sold cheaply, these are the thoughts he is talking about. What he now regrets is that, rather than keep this at a high intellectual level as it was to start with, he has gone 'here and there', making a fool (a motley) of himself in the eyes of the world, just as Marlowe was accused of doing by Baines and Kyd - making cheap, offensively blasphemous, jokes about it all wherever he went.
He has made old offences (blasphemy and heresy) of new affections (OED 5. esp. State of the mind towards a thing; disposition towards, bent, inclination, penchant. e.g. 1481 Caxton Myrrour i. v. 20 It was all their affeccion, intencion and reson to knowe god). Genuine "there is no God" atheism was still a relatively new concept at that time. He has also 'gone here and there' with 'worse essays', of course, and it is these which have made it clear to him that his friend is the nearest thing to a god that he has, and his friend's breast the nearest he will ever get to heaven.
In the following Sonnet (111) he says that his "name receives a brand", so we might wonder whether this in some way reflects Francis Bacon's essay Of Atheism, in which he wrote: "for that all that impugn a received religion, or superstition, are by the adverse part branded with the name of atheists."
Since it also contradicts most readings, let us consider the claim that in Sonnet 25 we find that something unexpected ("unlooked for") has happened to the poet, which will deny him the chance to boast of "public honour and proud titles". As printed in the original quarto, the first four lines are:
LEt those who are in fauor with their stars,
Of publike honour and proud titles bost,
Whilst I whome fortune of such tryumph bars
Vnlookt for ioy in that I honour most;
Note that in the original version there is no comma at the end of the third line, after 'bars'. Yet most of the editors mentioned above insert a comma at that point. Why? It is because they take 'unlooked for' either as adjectivally referring to the poet himself, and meaning 'unregarded', 'unnoticed', or 'out of the public eye', or they take it to be adverbially related to the verb 'joy', and meaning 'unexpectedly' or 'beyond expectation'.
As far as the first of these is concerned, the OED offers no support for such an interpretation. 'Unlooked ' has the following definitions: (OED 1.b) "Not looked at, on, to, etc.; unregarded, unheeded, unexamined" and (OED 2) "Not looked for; unexpected, unanticipated. (In predicative use sometimes quasi-adv.)". Unlooked for is therefore the second of these, a meaning which is supported in all of the other cases where Shakespeare uses the phrase too.
Where these editors also go wrong, however, is in simply treating it as an adverb ('unexpectedly') and taking no account of that bit "in predicative use". They try to make "unlooked for" and "unexpectedly" equivalent, but they are not. We can say "He died unexpectedly", but not "He died unlooked for", at least not without changing the meaning. The phrase "unlooked for" must have a noun or noun-substitute as a subject to lock on to as an adjective even though we can say it is functioning adverbially.(80) In this case, since we have already seen that it wouldn't have meant 'unregarded' or 'not in the public eye', and 'unexpected' would make no sense with 'I' as the subject, we must look for some other noun to lock on to. Which has to be 'fortune'. It is unlooked for (i.e. unexpected) 'fortune' which bars him of such triumph. In other words something unexpected has happened to the poet, which will deny him the chance to boast of "public honour and proud titles".
Let those who are in favour with their stars
Of public honour and proud titles boast,
Whilst I (whom fortune of such triumph bars
Unlook'd for) joy in that I honour most;
The book of Shakespeares Sonnets was registered with the Stationers' Company on 20th May 1609: "Tho. Thorpe. Entred for his copie under the hands of master Wilson and master Lownes Wardenes", and was printed "By G.Eld for T.T.", who is naturally assumed to be the Thomas Thorpe who registered it, and also the "T.T." who signed the well-wishing message printed after the title page, as shown below.
Calvin Hoffman took the "only begetter ...Mr. W.H." to be the inspirer of the Sonnets who, as we have seen, he believed to be Thomas Walsingham, the "W.H." coming from the (if hyphenated) name 'Walsing-Ham'. In his "Master W.H., R.I.P.",(81) however, Don Foster made the following comments concerning the phrase "to the only begetter":
As it happens, Thorpe's contemporaries had precise notions of what constituted "begetting" a text. According to this popular conceit, only the (pro)creative author may be called a "begetter," and then only if the textual offspring was self-begotten, upon the author's own "Fancy" or "Mind" or "Brain" or "Invention." Translators do not qualify - nor do commentators, publishers, patrons, paramours, scribes, inspirers of poetry, or purloiners of manuscripts. With but one unremarkable exception, nowhere do I find the word begetter, father, parent, or sire used to denote anyone but the person who wrote the work.
As far as I can discover, nobody has ever challenged this actual statement, even though subsequent editors tend to have either rejected or ignored it because it is difficult to see how "Shakespeare's Sonnets" could have been written by a "Mr W.H.". Most of the commentators mentioned above also take the meaning to be that of "inspirer" instead. G. Blakemore Evans(82) takes issue with Don Foster's solution (that the 'W.H.' is a misprint), making much of the one exception (from Samuel Daniel's Delia), although Foster made it fairly clear that the normal usage is being reversed by claiming that the inspirer was the 'true' author. He also rejects Foster's suggestion that "Our ever-living poet" must therefore mean God rather than the author himself.
Thorpe does nevertheless seem to be saying that the one and only author of the Sonnets is "Mr W.H.", but this is of course not the problem for Marlovians that it would be for others. As Foster puts it(83) "One hypothesis, which I leave for others to expound, is that Shakespeare was not the author of Shake-speare's Sonnets." If Marlowe had indeed survived and was now living under an assumed identity, then there is no reason at all why his name could not have had the initials "W.H.", even with the first name 'Will'.
Nor need there be any problem with "our ever-living poet" either. As Foster points out, "In a fairly extensive search, I have not found any instance of ever-living in a Renaissance text to describe a living mortal".(84) To use it to describe someone whom the world believed to be dead, but who in fact was not, would therefore be nicely ironic. What this is doing is wishing the poet not eternal bliss, but (despite the poet's claims) the same immortality he has promised to the addressee in sonnets such as 81:
Your monument shall be my gentle verse,
Which eyes not yet created shall o'er-read,
And tongues to be your being shall rehearse
When all the breathers of this world are dead.
You still shall live - such virtue hath my pen -
Where breath most breathes, even in the mouths of men.
All of this seems rather over the top if it is Thomas Thorpe actually writing it, however, and his being the adventurer who is "setting forth" also depends upon a rather awkward requirement that the transitive meaning, 'publishing' be used without any object. But is he the actual well-wisher, or could he instead be just passing the message on for someone else?
The Sonnets were entered in the Stationers' Company Register on Saturday 20th May 1609. Just three days later, Tuesday 23rd May, the second Virginia Charter was granted:
and that suche counsellors and other officers maie be appointed amonngest them to manage and direct their affaires are willinge and readie to adventure with them; as also whose dwellings are not so farr remote from the cittye of London but that they maie at convenient tymes be readie at hande to give advice and assistance upon all occacions requisite.... And further wee establishe and ordaine that Henrie, Earl of Southampton, William, Earl of Pembrooke, [followed by fifty other named people] shalbe oure Counsell for the said Companie of Adventurers and Planters in Virginia." (85)
Note those 'adventurers'. This must have been quite big news, and it seems unlikely that anyone other than those members or the voyagers themselves would, without good reason, have spoken of himself as an "adventurer ...setting forth" that May.
Given that the two most popular candidates for the Sonnets' "fair youth" are the first two names on that list, might not the "well-wishing adventurer" in fact be one of them? If we take it, as seems quite likely, that the poet had been sending them to his friend over many years, is it not possible for the latter to have had them published as a gift to him now, whilst taking care to protect his own identity? The strange order of the dedication makes it look as if the the adventurer is Thorpe, but with the poem split at the only space there is, between "W.H." and "ALL", and the blocks of text before and after "WISHETH" swapped to the more usual order,(86) the message "T.T." is passing on is much clearer.
Whoever it was that changed the words on the Baines Note from 'violent death' to 'fearful end of his life' seems to have been operating to a rule "If you can't tell the truth, but don't want to lie, equivocate", and this is an approach which we have come across time and again in the hypothesis discussed above. We have seen it possibly at work in the words of the Stratford monument, in the Sonnets themselves, and in Thorpe's dedication.
To combat those who claim that Shakespeare was not the real author of the works, orthodox scholars cite the many title pages giving his name, together with the First Folio. In this, they point out such things as Jonson's saying that the engraved portrait "hath hit his face" well, that he called Shakespeare "sweet Swan of Avon", and that it refers to when "Time dissolves thy Stratford monument". Yet it is quite possible to interpret each of these in a quite different way too. The "face", according to the OED (10.a) could mean an "outward show; assumed or factitious appearance; disguise, pretence". When he writes of "Swan of Avon" we may choose to take it as meaning the Avon that runs through Stratford, or we may think of Samuel Daniel's Delia, addressed to the mother of the First Folio's two dedicatees, in which he refers to the Wiltshire one:
But Avon rich in fame, though poor in waters,
Shall have my song, where Delia hath her seat.
And when Leonard Digges writes "And Time dissolves thy Stratford monument", it is quite reasonable to assume that he is really saying that Time will eventually "solve, resolve or explain" it (OED 12).
In a nutshell, there is hardly any direct evidence for William Shakespeare's authorship of the works bearing his name that would not be just as easily explained by a scenario in which Christopher Marlowe acted as a ghost writer for him, secretly providing him with scripts for plays which would eventually be presented - possibly with considerable input from Shakespeare too - as being by "William Shakespeare" alone.
One last point. Christopher Marlowe was supposedly killed on 30th May 1593, and within two weeks Richard Stonley - interestingly an employee of Lord Burghley - had bought fresh off the press a copy of the brand new poem, Venus and Adonis,(87) described in its dedicatory epistle as the "first heir" of "the invention" of William Shakespeare. Bearing in mind what has been said above, it is easy to define "invention" not only as "The faculty of inventing or devising" (OED I.4), but also as something (or someone) which has been invented - a new poet/dramatist, "William Shakespeare".
On the title page of Venus and Adonis is a quotation from Ovid's Amores - in fact from the last few lines of Book One. Here is how Marlowe himself translated it:
Let base-conceited wits admire vilde things,
Fair Phoebus lead me to the Muses' springs.
The quoting of this is often taken to be a reference to the worthlessness of the playwright's verse when compared with true 'poetry', but it is worth looking at how Marlowe's translation continues over the next six lines, in fact to the end of Book One.
About my head be quivering myrtle wound,
And in sad lovers' heads let me be found.
The living, not the dead, can envy bite,
For after death all men receive their right:
Then though death rakes my bones in funeral fire,
I'll live, and as he pulls me down, mount higher.
One doubts whether any words of Ovid could have been chosen which are more relevant to the situation postulated here. We have seen that the poem on the Stratford monument can be read as a riddle telling us that Christopher Marlowe is in some way 'in' the monument with Shakespeare, and that the chances of this having happened accidentally are virtually non-existent. We have seen that the most probable reason for that gathering at Deptford when Marlowe was allegedly killed was the faking of his death. And we have seen that the Sonnets tell a story which - whilst appearing to have nothing in common with what we know of Shakespeare's life - matches very well indeed what must have been Marlowe's situation following such a faked death.
One eminent Shakespearian scholar is reported to have said that even if Shakespeare stood up in his grave and denied that he had written the works, nobody would believe him. Whether he is right or not, it would certainly be virtually impossible in a single essay to "furnish irrefutable and incontrovertible proof and evidence required to satisfy the world of Shakespearian scholarship that all the plays and poems now commonly attributed to William Shakespeare were in fact written by Christopher Marlowe" as Hoffman hoped.
What this essay has tried to do, therefore, is simply to convince the reader that there is in fact sufficient reason to to think it could be true for the theory to be considered appropriate for academic discussion. Park Honan referred to the "infinitessimally thin possibility that Marlowe did not die when we think he did", and that "[h]istory holds its doors open".(88) If this essay has even shifted that perceived probability from "infinitessimally thin" to "very thin" it will have done its job.
© Peter Farey, 2007
1 Made between Leo Calvin Hoffman and The King's School on 1st May, 1984.
2 Stanley Wells, Shakespeare and Co. (2006), p.101.
3 Calvin Hoffman, The Man Who Was Shakespeare (1955) p.224
4 T.C. Mendenhall, 'The characteristic curves of composition' (1887) in Science, Vol.IX no.214 (supplement) pp.237-249. And 'A mechanical solution of a literary problem' (1901) in The Popular Science Monthly, Vol.LX no.7, pp.97-105.
5 Stanley Wells, Shakespeare for all Time (2002) pp.45-8.
6 Mark Bryant, Dictionary of Riddles (1994), Cassel, p.40. The simplest example is probably 'IOU'.
7 Samuel Schoenbaum, William Shakespeare: A Compact Documentary Life (1977), p.310
8 Charles Nicholl, The Reckoning: the Murder of Christopher Marlowe (1992) pp. 327-9 and (2002) pp.415-7.
9 Curtis C. Breight, Surveillance, Militarism and Drama in the Elizabethan Era (1996) p.114.
10 Paul E.J. Hammer, 'A Reckoning Reframed: the "Murder" of Christopher Marlowe Revisited', in English Literary Renaissance (1996) pp.225-242.
11 J.A. Downie, 'Marlowe, facts and fictions', in Constructing Christopher Marlowe, eds. J.A. Downie and J.T. Parnell (2000) pp.26-27.
12 M.J. Trow, Who Killed Kit Marlowe? A contract to murder in Elizabethan England (2001) p.250.
13 Constance Brown Kuriyama, Christopher Marlowe, A Renaissance Life (2002) p.136.
14 Alan Haynes, The Elizabethan Secret Services (1952), (2004) pp.121-2.
15 David Riggs, The World of Christopher Marlowe (2004) p.334.
16 Park Honan, Christopher Marlowe, Poet & Spy (2005) p.354.
17 Most of the following 20 pages repeats much of an earlier entry for the Hoffman prize, "Marlowe's Sudden and Fearful End", but updated to incorporate and respond to more recent biography.
18 BL (British Library) Harley MS.6849 f.218r,v.
19 National Archive, formerly Public Records Office (PRO) Privy Council Registers, PC2 / 14 / 381
20 Thomas Beard: Theatre of Gods Judgements (1597).
21 BL Harley MS.6848 f.185-6.
22 BL Harley MS.6848 f.190r,v, 'Remembraunces of wordes & matters against Ric Cholmeley'.
23 Lambeth Palace Library (LPL) Bacon Papers MS.649 f.246 (In the quotations related to this, all of the spelling has been modernized, and some of the punctuation).
24 S. E. Sprott: 'Drury and Marlowe', in Times Literary Supplement, 2 August 1974
25 Charles Nicholl: op.cit. (1992) pp.378-81. Although the 2002 edition had much more to say about Drury, he still seemed not to have appreciated the importance of this connection.
26 Historical Manuscripts Commission (HMC) Cecil Volume IV pp.366-7.
27 Charles Nicholl: op. cit. (2002), p.323.
28 Constance Brown Kuriyama, op. cit. p.150.
29 Park Honan, op. cit. p.338.
30 i.e. the matter should be fully pursued, not, as some interpret it, that a person should be prosecuted.
31 Charles Nicholl: op. cit. (2002), p.377.
32 BL Harley MS.6848 f.191. See also Charles Nicholl: op. cit. pp.338-340.
33 Constance Brown Kuriyama (op. cit. p.146) says that, as Marlowe was dead, "Drury had no reason to be coy about naming him". This misses the point, which was that Drury was attempting to sell this information to Anthony Bacon, who, as far as he knew, would not yet have been privy to it.
34 BL Add. MS.28012, quoted in Frederick S. Boas: Christopher Marlowe: A biographical and critical study (1940) p.110.
35 Anon., based upon Persons's Responsio ad Edictum Elizabethæ, (1592) quoted in Nicholl, op. cit. pp. 363-4. Ralegh was indeed investigated at Cerne Abbas a year later, but no charges were brought as a result.
36 Encyclopaedia Britannica, under 'Barrow, Henry'.
37 PRO Privy Council Registers PC2 / 14 / 381 (29 June 1587)
38 BL Harley MS.6848 f.154. English coins had been counterfeited, if not 'uttered' (put into circulation). That they would therefore have carried the Queen's image made this 'petty treason' - a capital offence.
39 BL Harley MS.6849 f.218v .
40 Albert Peel: The Notebook of John Penry 1593 (1944) p.xxii.
41 PRO Privy Council Registers PC2 / 20 / 374 (20 May 1593).
42 Park Honan, op. cit. pp.342-3.
43 Paul E. J. Hammer: op. cit. p.231.
44 M. J. Trow: op. cit. p.242
45 Charles Nicholl: op. cit. p.299.
46 Frederick S. Boas: Christopher Marlowe: A biographical and critical study (1940) p.267.
47 Charles Nicholl: op. cit. pp.42-3.
48 William Vaughan, The Golden Grove (1600).
49 Park Honan, op. cit. pp.345-6.
50 Constance Brown Kuriyama: op. cit., p.140
51 The possibility that John Penry's dead body was substituted for Marlowe's at the inquest was first suggested by David A. More in his essay, Drunken sailor or imprisoned writer? , printed in The Marlovian newsletter, 1997
52 John Waddington: Penry the Pilgrim Martyr (1854) p.204. It is possible that Penry's body was said to be going for anatomical dissection after his execution, as the law did allow four such corpses a year to be used in this way.
53 Willam Urry, ed. Andrew Butcher: Christopher Marlowe and Canterbury (1988), p.85
54 Ibid., p.92
55 Charles Nicholl, op. cit., Plate 3,between pp. 176 & 7. The map covers about one third of a mile from left (north) to right, and about half a mile from the top (east) to the bottom. The original was drawn by the diarist John Evelyn, who actually lived at Sayes Court some thirty years later.
56 According to R. F. Hunnisett (The Medieval Coroner (1961), p.11): "It was the responsibility of the townships to guard dead bodies from their discovery until the coroner's arrival".
57 Not to be confused with the Bailiff of the Manor, Sir George Howard, who acted as a sort of superintendent for the lord of the manor, and to whom Richard Bull had reported. See Urry, op. cit., p.85
58 As R. F. Hunnisett, (op. cit., p.13) , puts it: "Before setting out to view the body the coroner had to order the sheriff or hundred bailiff to summon a jury for a certain day; in practice the order was almost always given to the hundred bailiff."
59 If we assume that it had not already been removed as a perquisite for the hangman - as seems to have been quite usual - in which case a spare set of Marlowe's clothing would have been needed.
60 David Cressy: Birth, Marriage and Death: Ritual, Religion and the Life-Cycle in Tudor and Stuart England (1997) p.430: "A bed sheet would suffice - either the linen the party died in or a better piece from the household stock".
61 Hunniset's words (op. cit., pp.13,19) make it fairly clear that, while it was obviously essential for the coroner to have seen the body naked, this was not necessarily the case for the jury, unless the wounds they had to see made it unavoidable.
62 As possible accessories, they may have also been imprisoned until bail could be arranged, but no record to this effect has been found. If not, the fact that Poley thus had a full day free, yet still made no effort to deliver to Court the urgent letters he was carrying from The Hague is perhaps also worth noting; and it may suggest that - if they existed at all - he had not yet received them, and had to return to The Hague to pick them up once this was over.
63 Hunnisett (op. cit., p.20) reports relocating after having seen the body as having become standard practice by then.
64 The rate at which bodies change after death varies so much with the circumstances that by then (and without a modern autopsy) it would have been virtually impossible for a juror in these circumstances to be sure that the time of death was some 64 hours earlier, as Penry's was, rather than about 38 hours earlier, as Marlowe's should have been. Derrick J. Pounder gives us all of the details we might need (if not wish!) in his excellent essay at http://www.dundee.ac.uk/forensicmedicine/llb/timedeath.pdf.
65 As we saw with the monument, the spelling 'then' was at that time also used to mean what we would nowadays spell 'than'. Only those words also spelt 'then' in a modern edition are included here.
66 The exceptions are 3 Henry VI, Titus Andronicus, and The Taming of the Shrew, each of which has in the past been attributed in large part to Christopher Marlowe anyway.
67 Using Fisher's Exact Test, for a [1211, 2348, 67, 520] table, the 2-tail p-value = 2.56882e-32
68 In fact the Shakespeare figures alone give a very respectable linear R2 value of 0.63 as a measure of the trend's validity.
69 Gary Taylor, 'The canon and chronology of Shakespeare's plays', pp.81-2, in Stanley Wells, Gary Taylor et. al., William Shakespeare, A Textual Companion (1987, 1997).
70 Ward E.Y.Elliott & Robert J. Valenza, 'And Then There Were None: Winnowing the Shakespeare Claimants', Computers and the Humanities, 30 (1996) pp.191-245.
71 A.D. Wraight, Shakespeare: New Evidence (1996) and my A Deception in Deptford (http://www2.prestel.co.uk/rey/title.htm), chapters 2 and 3.
72 "Marlowe's Ghost", in Jonathan Bate's The Genius of Shakespeare, 1997, p.107.
73 John Kerrigan, The Sonnets and A Lover's Complaint, Penguin Books, 1986
74 Gwynne Blakemore Evans, The Sonnets, New Cambridge Shakespeare, 1996
75 Helen Vendler, The Art of Shakespeare's Sonnets, Harvard University Press, 1997
76 Katherine Duncan-Jones, Shakespeare's Sonnets, The Arden Shakespeare, 1997
77 Stephen Booth, Shakespeare's Sonnets, Yale University, 1977
78 Gerard Ledger, Shakespeare's Sonnets, on-line at http://www.shakespeares-sonnets.com.
79 Stephen Booth, op. cit., p.358.
80 I am grateful to someone posting to the humanities.lit.authors.shakespeare newsgroup under the pseudonym "Buffalo" for clarifying how this works.
81 Donald W. Foster, 'Master W. H., R. I. P.', Publications of the Modern Language Association of America, 102 (1987), p.44
82 G. Blakemore Evans, op. cit., p.115.
83 Don Foster, op. cit., p.48.
84 Ibid. , p.46.
85 Text from http://homepages.rootsweb.com/~tmetrvlr/hd4a.html.
86 Don Foster, op. cit., p.44.
87 Katherine Duncan-Jones, Ungentle Shakespeare, The Arden Shakespeare, 2001, p.63.
88 Park Honan, op. cit., p.355.
APPENDIX I - Data for Figures 1 & 2 (Return)
|Dido Queen of Carthage||1586.0||3||40||6.98%||1735||147||8.47|
|Tamburlaine the Great (part 1)||1587.0||6||55||9.84%||2320||387||16.68|
|Tamburlaine the Great (part 2)||1588.0||2||55||3.51%||2325||365||15.70|
|Doctor Faustus (see note)||1589.0||15||126||10.64%||2095||182||8.69|
|The Jew of Malta||1590.0||12||70||14.63%||2380||245||10.29|
|The Massacre at Paris||1592.0||5||47||19.62%||1061||155||14.61|
|Two Gentlemen of Verona||1590.5||10||52||16.13%||1638||465||28.39|
|The Taming of the Shrew||1590.5||7||63||10.00%||2022||532||26.31|
|Henry VI (part 2)||1591.0||14||52||21.21%||2611||619||23.71|
|Henry VI (part 3)||1591.0||5||86||5.49%||2901||656||22.61|
|Henry VI (part 1)||1592.0||16||69||18.82%||2675||458||17.12|
|The Comedy of Errors||1594.0||13||41||24.07%||1533||397||25.90|
|Love's Labour's Lost||1594.5||52||73||41.60%||1734||338||19.49|
|Romeo and Juliet||1595.0||16||84||16.00%||2567||527||20.53|
|A Midsummer Night's Dream||1595.0||21||47||30.88%||1544||259||16.77|
|The Merchant of Venice||1596.5||20||64||23.81%||2025||770||23.85|
|Henry IV (part 1)||1596.5||13||71||15.48%||1683||479||28.46|
|The Merry Wives of Windsor||1597.5||9||38||19.15%||240||102||42.50|
|Henry IV (part 2)||1597.5||39||73||34.82%||1492||534||35.79|
|Much Ado About Nothing||1598.0||24||52||32.58%||720||281||39.03|
|As You Like It||1599.5||36||66||35.29%||1143||424||37.10|
|Troilus and Cressida||1602.0||34||65||34.34%||2251||1070||47.53|
|Measure for Measure||1603.0||54||46||54.00%||1666||760||45.62|
|All's Well that Ends Well||1604.5||41||36||53.25%||1482||763||51.48|
|Timon of Athens||1605.0||35||38||47.95%||1673||886||52.96|
|Antony and Cleopatra||1606.0||60||60||50.00%||2772||1857||66.99|
|The Winter's Tale||1609.0||54||72||42.86%||2166||1498||69.16|
Dates based upon those given in Gary Taylor, 'The canon and chronology of Shakespeare's plays', in Stanley Wells, Gary Taylor et. al., William Shakespeare, A Textual Companion (1987, 1997), and C.F. Tucker Brook's 1930 Life of Marlowe.
The Doctor Faustus figures are based upon E.D. Pendry and J.C. Maxwell, Christopher Marlowe, Complete Plays and Poems, Everyman, 1976, and (for the 'most/then' figures) the totals of both A and B texts.
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