A Deception in Deptford - Preface


"Marley was dead, to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that. The register of his burial was signed by the clergyman, the clerk, the undertaker, and the chief mourner. Scrooge signed it. And Scrooge's name was good upon 'Change' for anything he chose to put his hand to. Old Marley was as dead as a door-nail." (A Christmas Carol)

Very few deaths can have been reported or interpreted in as many different ways as that of Christopher Marlowe (or, as he signed himself, 'Christofer Marley').

Regrettably, this paper gets us no nearer to knowing exactly how, or indeed when, Marlowe really died. On the other hand, with the evidence presented here, the one thing we can now state with a high level of confidence is that, whoever the body belonged to that was viewed by the jury at the inquest on 1st June 1593, it was not that of the poet/dramatist Christopher Marlowe.

While researching The Story That the Sonnets Tell (1995) in Thomas Birch's Memoirs of the Reign of Queen Elizabeth, A. D. Wraight came across references to an agent employed by The Earl of Essex in 1595/6, and called Monsieur Le Doux. As there were also mentions of an English agent using the name Monsieur La Faye, Wraight wondered if Le Doux might not be an Englishman too (in fact Christopher Marlowe). I followed up this lead with Wraight, and we found and investigated nearly twenty different documents mentioning Le Doux in the Bacon Papers in Lambeth Palace Library. This analysis seemed fully to support Wraight's hunch, and we wrote it up for the book Shakespeare: New Evidence.

I went on to write a paper, Marlowe & Shakespeare & Monsieur Le Doux, taking this theme further, and suggesting other pseudonyms under which Marlowe probably worked, both before and after his alleged death. The following paper is a much revised version of that one, but adds new evidence seeming to confirm that, two years after his supposed death, Marlowe was still very much alive.

Christopher Marlowe was a born poet/dramatist, so one cannot help wondering whether he was able simply to stop writing plays in 1593, or if he managed to find a way of carrying on somehow. In his recent book The Genius of Shakespeare, Jonathan Bate has a Chapter entitled "Marlowe's Ghost". He says: "Shakespeare, I suggest, only became Shakespeare because of the death of Marlowe. And he remained peculiarly haunted by that death. In 1593 the chance of death gave Shakespeare the opportunity to emerge from the shadow of Marlowe's mighty line; but for many years afterwards the Canterbury grammar school boy (born 1564) continued to haunt the Stratford-upon-Avon grammar school boy (born 1564)".

An obvious reason may be that, as Marlowe apparently survived 1593 and was therefore not a genuine 'ghost', he became to a greater or lesser extent Shakespeare's ghost writer. I also, therefore, present evidence indicating that this almost certainly was the case.

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