Q: Sam, I was re-reading Robert Ornstein's essay "The Tragic Theology of Dr. Faustus" (PMLA, Vol.83, No. 5, Oct. 1968) and I was struck by his last few lines: "If [Richard] Baines's account is accurate, Marlowe, in the last weeks of his life, courted the stake by publicly and repeatedly declaring atheistic and treasonous libels. And finally, in a drunken, almost suicidal quarrel (which he seems to have provoked), he found a lasting escape from the vexation of his own thought." I know you disagree with Prof. Ornstein here. The blog has examined the possible staged death of Marlowe in detail, but could you comment on the matter of Richard Baines and his infamous "Note" that accused Marlowe of atheism and blasphemy?
Sam: I adamantly disagree with Robert Ornstein, who obviously did not dig enough. Marlowe was not courting the stake by publicly and repeatedly declaring atheistic and treasonous libels. First of all, all of these accusations about Marlowe have come from his enemies. Baines, who once wanted to poison everyone at the Rheims Catholic Seminary, can hardly be trusted, and all of these negative accusations came mainly from Baines who was a double agent. He accused Marlowe of counterfeiting, but Burghley knew that Baines was lying. Also, there is no evidence, other than the phony Coroner's Inquest, that Marlowe was engaged in a drunken, suicidal quarrel with anyone. The Deptford "quarrel" was obviously a staged episode to justify Marlowe's "murder." The body that the Coroner inspected, I theorize, was not Marlowe's but John Penry's. When you accept as gospel truth what Marlowe's enemies said about him and what the Coroner's Inquest said, then you simply accept what the history books have reported about all of this. Obviously, after seven years of research, I have come to a very different conclusion.
© The Marlowe-Shakespeare Connection, September 2008
Click here for Sam's 3/21/09 post on Baines.
Click here for the blog's home page and recent content.