Monday, June 23, 2008

More of Marlowe's Friends in High Places: The Cecils, En Breve

William Cecil (also known as Lord Burghley) was Queen Elizabeth's chief advisor and the most powerful man in her government. According to Samuel Blumenfeld in The Marlowe-Shakespeare Connection: A New Study of the Authorship Question, the beginning of the relationship between Burghley and Marlowe is not clear, "but it may well have begun when Marlowe was a mere boy of eight and recruited as a page for Philip Sidney, in whom Burghley had taken great interest." Given Burghley's close ties with Sir Francis Walsingham, Elizabeth's spymaster, we should not be surprised by Burghley's further interest in Marlowe as an intelligence asset. In fact, writes Blumenfeld, when Cambridge was denying Marlowe his MA degree due to excessive absences and because it was suspected that he may have converted to Catholicism, Burghley intervened. His signature appears on a letter from the Privy Council to the university, stating that Marlowe had been in loyal service to Elizabeth and should be granted his degree. According to Blumenfeld, "That letter from the Privy Council with Burghley's signature on it, is evidence of what was certainly a close working relationship between the young poet and the most powerful man in the realm." We should also consider that Burghley's son Robert (the future secretary of state for Elizabeth) was at Cambridge with Marlowe and was also a protege of spymaster Francis Walsingham. As Blumenfeld writes, "[T]he friendship between Marlowe and Robert Cecil would be crucial in the events that would take place in 1593 . . . Whose idea it was to stage a phony death for Marlowe, we do not know. But it may have been the inventive Marlowe himself or perhaps Robert Cecil who had become adept in the spy business with its phony identities and passports." Fascinating.

© The Marlowe-Shakespeare Connection, June 2008

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7 comments:

Sebastian said...

Do we know of a movie on Marlowe's life? I know of the documentary "Much Ado About Something," but has Hollywood tried anything? Thanks.

Christine said...

I don't know of a movie. First time on, cool blog!

avi said...

this is an interesting website. makes me want to read more marlowe

Carlo D. said...

we're still waiting for the ultimate movie on Marlowe . . as far as documentaries, Mike Rubbo's "Much Ado About Something" is the best.

Anonymous said...

http://www.goldbergweb.com/en/magazine/composers/2005/12/38613_3.php
was Marlowe the author of the anonymous lyrics in Dowland's songs? Both knew Robert Cecil; and it explains the remarkable melancholy of the Dowland lyrics.

Carlo D. said...

Re: Dowland, a Marlovian scholar wrote to me the following, concerning the goldbergweb.com bio mentioning Dowland and Caccini:

"Someplace, sometime, Marlowe must have met Giulio Caccini, surprisingly also known as Julio Romano (not the painter/sculptor) musician and author of ballads. Kit uses this confusion of names to create Hermione (a ballad and a statue) in Winter’s Tale. The words of the ballad, (composed to the rime of Rogero) are from a Kentish Song known as the Jealous Husband from Margate. (See WT, V. 2 lines 20 onwards for a first approximation to this curious clue.)"

But as far as Marlowe and Dowland knowing one another, I can't say. Rodney Bolt in History Play (whose interview with me will appear on Jan. 5) "conjectures" a relationship bet. the two.

Anonymous said...

marlowe's friends are a fascinating bunch; he was one well-connected guy.