Sunday, September 27, 2009

The Wrong Candidate? by Peter Farey

Are Oxfordians backing the wrong candidate? Click here for a fascinating analysis of how Marlowe compares with de Vere on Shakespeare authorship criteria.

Click here for the blog's home page and recent content. Ian McKellen, Edward II, Godot

19 comments:

BrynMawr9549 said...

love this chart, Mr. Farey!

Duffy said...

It's about time someone did this. I have always been a little confused by the cult of devere.

Jonathan said...

I'm sure the Oxfordians won't like this. But they need to see this. For me, the major issue with Devere is his poetry. Nothing extraordinary; certainly not Shakespearean.

Howard Schumann said...

The case for Marlowe is certainly reasonable. He was the most renowned writer of the candidates mentioned and, perhaps because of his early death, has become a very romantic figure, the Elizabethan equivalent of James Dean. He lived at the right time to be considered. His language was poetic and elegant and could easily be called "Shakespearean". As mentioned, he wrote plays about tragic heroes who gave their lives to passion and ambition. Moreover, there is definitely something fishy about the circumstances of his death and his survival and exile must be considered as a possibility. Does that mean I support the theory? No, it doesn't and here are ten reasons why not:

1. Shakespeare-like plays were presented at court as early as the 1570s, which pre-dates Marlowe by two decades.

2. Marlowe is so distinctive a poet and dramatist that it is hard to believe he could have also been Shakespeare.

3. Marlowe is not noted for comedy; certainly great comic figures like Falstaff, Rosalind, and Beatrice seem to be beyond his scope.

4. Marlowe has no biographical connection to the plays.

5. The plays and poems are written from the vantage point of a nobleman. As the son of a small-town tradesman, Marlowe would have had a profoundly different social perspective.

6. If Marlowe had survived and kept writing in exile, why is there silence from the time of Shakespeare’s "retirement" in 1609 until his (Marlowe's) alleged actual death in 1627?

7. All plays attributed to William Shakespeare were published anonymously from 1593 to 1598. Why was this the case if Marlowe was using Shakespeare's name as a cover for his own work?

8. The first 120 or so sonnets were written in the early 1590s at the time when marriage between Henry Wriothesley (to whom the sonnets are dedicated) and Elizabeth de Vere was being proposed. In 1592, Marlowe would have been 28 years old, hardly in a position to address a young earl in terms of intimate endearment and longing, or offer fatherly advice to a nobleman about who he should or shouldn't marry.

9. The sonnets tell us that the poet was in his declining years. He was "Beated and chopped with tanned antiquity", "With Time's injurious hand crushed and o'er worn", in the "twilight" of life. The last sonnet clearly referring to events consequent on the passing of Elizabeth was in 1603. At that time, both Shakespeare of Stratford and Marlowe would have been only 39, hardly in the twilight of life.

10. No evidence has yet to be found that proves Marlowe lived past the year 1593.

Indeed, the year 1604 seems to have been some sort of a watershed.

No source for any Shakespearean play is dated after 1604.

No sonnets were written after 1604.

Between the years 1593 to 1604, seventeen plays attributed to Shakespeare were published. From 1605 to 1623 there were only five, said to be collaborations.

What happened in 1604? For starters, the Earl of Oxford, Edward de Vere, died at his home in Hackney in June.

Peter Farey said...

The limit on length for these comments means that I am going to have to split mine into two parts. Sorry!


Howard Schumann said... The case for Marlowe is certainly reasonable. He was the most renowned writer of the candidates mentioned and, perhaps because of his early death, has become a very romantic figure, the Elizabethan equivalent of James Dean. He lived at the right time to be considered. His language was poetic and elegant and could easily be called "Shakespearean". As mentioned, he wrote plays about tragic heroes who gave their lives to passion and ambition. Moreover, there is definitely something fishy about the circumstances of his death and his survival and exile must be considered as a possibility.

P.F. Thank you Howard. I'm delighted that an Oxfordian is not only following what we are getting up to here, but actually prepared to contribute to it. Very astute of you to go on the offensive, of course, rather than make what would have to be a futile attempt to refute what I actually said in the article!

H.S. Does that mean I support the theory? No, it doesn't and here are ten reasons why not:

P.F. Oh, excellent.

H.S. 1. Shakespeare-like plays were presented at court as early as the 1570s, which pre-dates Marlowe by two decades.

P.F. I don't think so! Plays with similar titles to those of Shakespeare may have been, but the only plays that we know to have been truly "Shakespeare-like" were those of Marlowe. As Swinburne put it: "The father of English tragedy and the creator of English blank verse was therefore also the teacher and the guide of Shakespeare."

H.S. 2. Marlowe is so distinctive a poet and dramatist that it is hard to believe he could have also been Shakespeare.

P.F. Funny that. We Marlovians have no trouble at all believing it. Just as we believe that the same person wrote Titus Andronicus, Love's Labour's Lost, Romeo and Juliet, 1 Henry IV, Troilus & Cressida and Hamlet.

H.S. 3. Marlowe is not noted for comedy; certainly great comic figures like Falstaff, Rosalind, and Beatrice seem to be beyond his scope.

P.F. He didn't do it, therefore he couldn't do it and never would be able to do it? Oxfordians would give their right arms for the evidence of their candidate's ability to develop from play to play that Marlovians enjoy. Here's what Charles Norman said about Marlowe's Edward II: "Only 5 years had elapsed since Tamburlaine, but there is here a development as impressive as Shakespeare’s was to be - perhaps it was more impressive."

H.S. 4. Marlowe has no biographical connection to the plays.

P.F. One of the two greatest weaknesses in the Oxfordian case is their utter reliance on this chimaera. The plays are choc-a-bloc full of stories which feature faked - or wrongly presumed - death, disgrace, banishment, changed identity and a yearning to be pardoned, all of which match to a tee what Marlovians claim happened to Marlowe. So what? Anything you want to find can be found in the plays if you look hard enough.

H.S. 5. The plays and poems are written from the vantage point of a nobleman. As the son of a small-town tradesman, Marlowe would have had a profoundly different social perspective.

P.F. Marlowe would have written from the social perspective which he was required to write from. Given that his circle of acquaintances included some of the greatest statesmen, aristocrats, scientists, philosophers and writers of the time, I rather suspect that he would have had a far better understanding of just how 16th/17th century nobles behaved than any of us can possibly know.

(contd.)

Peter Farey said...

H.S. 6. If Marlowe had survived and kept writing in exile, why is there silence from the time of Shakespeare’s "retirement" in 1609 until his (Marlowe's) alleged actual death in 1627?

P.F. Some of those involved in the original deception were still alive and in positions of power. And what would be the chance of James I happily accepting the idea of an (albeit unjustly reputed) atheist, heretic, blasphemer and sodomite as the "Soul of the Age"? Of far more interest is what possible reason there might have been for an already disgraced Oxford not to have received at least this one post-mortem accolade? Although I think that Ben Jonson indicated that Marlowe was still alive when the First Folio came out, I would need rather more information before accepting the alleged 1627 death in Padua.

H.S. 7. All plays attributed to William Shakespeare were published anonymously from 1593 to 1598. Why was this the case if Marlowe was using Shakespeare's name as a cover for his own work?

P.F. You tell me. According to your argument it happened to Oxford's plays for even longer!

H.S. 8. The first 120 or so sonnets were written in the early 1590s at the time when marriage between Henry Wriothesley (to whom the sonnets are dedicated) and Elizabeth de Vere was being proposed. In 1592, Marlowe would have been 28 years old, hardly in a position to address a young earl in terms of intimate endearment and longing, or offer fatherly advice to a nobleman about who he should or shouldn't marry.

P.F. The first 17 sonnets were considered in my tabulation. The rest were written over a period of many years, and the precise relationship between the writer and the written-to one of the great mysteries in literature, which no Oxfordian explanation comes anywhere near solving.

H.S. 9. The sonnets tell us that the poet was in his declining years. He was "Beated and chopped with tanned antiquity", "With Time's injurious hand crushed and o'er worn", in the "twilight" of life. The last sonnet clearly referring to events consequent on the passing of Elizabeth was in 1603. At that time, both Shakespeare of Stratford and Marlowe would have been only 39, hardly in the twilight of life.

P.F. Ever heard a teenager describing someone in their twenties? He's older than the addressee, that's all. It's hyperbole.

H.S. 10. No evidence has yet to be found that proves Marlowe lived past the year 1593.

P.F. No indeed. Every year in the UK some 50 people are discovered having tried to fake their own deaths. How many more are not discovered?

H.S. What happened in 1604? For starters, the Earl of Oxford, Edward de Vere, died at his home in Hackney in June.

P.F. Yes he did. That's the killer for Oxfordians. Watch this space for the second of those two major weaknesses. Meanwhile, any chance of you actually acknowledging how far Marlowe outstrips Oxford on each of Roger's criteria?

Peter Farey

Passingthru said...

first time here--Marlovians do have more fun!!!!!

Howard Schumann said...

Thank you for your exhaustive non-answers. Now the language in the Sonnets are “hyperbole” because you cannot explain certain uncomfortable facts about the poet being weary with age and lame or the fact that in 1592 a 28-year-old Marlowe would have been in no position to offer marital advice to a nobleman. Was Marlowe in a position to have “borne the canopy” (Sonnet 125)?

You say that because Marlowe has no comedic characters to compare with Falstaff, Rosalind, and Beatrice, that does not indicate he couldn’t have done it. What kind of an argument is that? The fact that I haven’t written a symphony doesn’t mean I couldn’t do it. On the other hand 1598 Meres singled out Oxford as being best for comedy.

There are too numerous examples of Oxford’s connections to the plays that to call it a chimera is simply to avoid the issue. Just to mention a few, Oxford and Hamlet being stripped by pirates, several examples in the plays of the “hidden bed trick”. Two separate sources recorded that de Vere conceived his first child by unknowingly sleeping with his wife when he thought he was with a mistress.

Shakespeare was apparently able to see its dramatic potential, using the bed trick as a device in both Measure for Measure and All’s Well That Ends Well. Likewise, mirroring Oxford’s relationship with his wife Anne, in play after play, the male protagonist conceives a strong animosity toward a devoted wife, imagining her unfaithful to him on flimsy grounds, only to be later overwhelmed with remorse: Imogen in Cymbeline, Hermoine in The Winter’s Tale, and Desdemona in Othello.

An incident at Gad’s Hill in King Henry IV, Part 1 between Gravesend and Rochester is remarkably similar to an incident in the exact same location in May of 1573 where two of Lord Burghley’s men, suspected of spying on Oxford, were attacked by three of Oxford’s men. Perhaps anything you want to find can be found in the plays if you look hard enough, yet this does not explain why so many of the incidents mirror events in Oxford’s life.

I could go on but space is limited.
Thank you for your exhaustive non-answers. Now the language in the Sonnets are “hyperbole” because you cannot explain certain uncomfortable facts about the poet being weary with age and lame or the fact that in 1592 a 28-year-old Marlowe would have been in no position to offer marital advice to a nobleman. Was Marlowe in a position to have “borne the canopy” (Sonnet 125)?

You say that because Marlowe has no comedic characters to compare with Falstaff, Rosalind, and Beatrice, that does not indicate he couldn’t have done it. What kind of an argument is that? The fact that I haven’t written a symphony doesn’t mean I couldn’t do it. On the other hand 1598 Meres singled out Oxford as being best for comedy.

There are too numerous examples of Oxford’s connections to the plays that to call it a chimera is simply to avoid the issue. Just to mention a few, Oxford and Hamlet being stripped by pirates, several examples in the plays of the “hidden bed trick”. Two separate sources recorded that de Vere conceived his first child by unknowingly sleeping with his wife when he thought he was with a mistress.

Likewise, mirroring Oxford’s relationship with his wife Anne, in play after play, the male protagonist conceives a strong animosity toward a devoted wife, imagining her unfaithful to him on flimsy grounds, only to be later overwhelmed with remorse: Imogen in Cymbeline, Hermoine in The Winter’s Tale, and Desdemona in Othello.

An incident at Gad’s Hill in King Henry IV, Part 1 between Gravesend and Rochester is remarkably similar to an incident in the exact same location in May of 1573 where two of Lord Burghley’s men, suspected of spying on Oxford, were attacked by three of Oxford’s men. Perhaps anything you want to find can be found in the plays if you look hard enough, yet this does not explain why so many of the incidents mirror events in Oxford’s life.

Peter said...

Howard Schumann said...
Thank you for your exhaustive non-answers.

P.F. Given that you decided to ignore nearly all of the issues raised in my response to Roger's list, I find that a tad ironic! Thank you nevertheless for being prepared to continue discussing this, Howard. Frankly, we should do it more often!

H.S. Now the language in the Sonnets are "hyperbole" because you cannot explain certain uncomfortable facts about the poet being weary with age and lame...

P.F. That is an explanation, just as "metaphor" is an explanation of his using the word "lame". They may literally tell us something about the poet, but it's rather more likely that they don't.

H.S. ... or the fact that in 1592 a 28-year-old Marlowe would have been in no position to offer marital advice to a nobleman.

P.F. I see no reason for rejecting the widely held belief that the first 17 ("marriage") sonnets were commissioned by Burghley for Southampton's 17th birthday. The age of the poet he chose is of course irrelevant, but the fact that Marlowe had been working for Burghley and was already known to be a fine poet certainly isn't.

H.S. Was Marlowe in a position to have "borne the canopy" (Sonnet 125)?

P.F. Wrong canopy, Howard. Eleven of the fourteen lines refer to the Holy Communion service in the Book of Common Prayer, so this is the canopy held over the host when carried in procession. With the subjunctive use of "Were't ought to me..." the poet is asking if it would matter to him whether he carried it or not (as it did matter to the "fools of time" in the previous sonnet). He makes no claim that he had ever actually done so.

H.S. You say that because Marlowe has no comedic characters to compare with Falstaff, Rosalind, and Beatrice, that does not indicate he couldn’t have done it. What kind of an argument is that? The fact that I haven’t written a symphony doesn’t mean I couldn’t do it. On the other hand 1598 Meres singled out Oxford as being best for comedy.

P.F. Shakespeare created no characters like Touchstone, Feste or Lear's Fool before the arrival of Robert Armin in 1599. Would this mean that he was incapable of writing such parts before that? Marlowe wrote parts ideally suited to the acting talents of Edward Alleyn. Would "Shakespeare" have not taken similar account of his actors' special abilities?

Yes, there are various ways in which events in Oxford's life may be reflected in the plays. If we know about these events, however, who is to say that they weren't quite widely known at the time, and just picked up by the author, whoever he was? But can't you see how utterly trivial this argument is anyway? We are discussing one of the greatest exponents of the English language of all time, and all you want to talk about where he got the detail for his some of his sub-plots!

Peter Farey

Anthony Kellett said...

Peter is far more qualified than me to enter a debate about Oxfordian claims; and I am sure he will respond to the points here, as he sees fit.

However, one point, that "1598 Meres singled out Oxford as being best for comedy" is not really giving a true picture is it? He was one of an extensive list and not "singled out" at all. Moreover, to which play was Meres referring? On second thoughts, perhaps he had read Oxford’s poetry!

I do not know your personal explanation of Oxfordian theory, for there seem to be many, but how do you explain this supposedly anonymous author being included at all; side by side with his pseudonym? That is not a rhetorical (or sarcastic) question by the way; I am keen to hear your explanation for that.

Howard Schumann said...

Of course of all of this is speculation and I don't know what Meres knew or what he didn't. In his 1991 article "The Case For Oxford", Tom Bethell writes, "It can be argued, however, that Meres either knew Oxford's secret and kept it or innocently believed that Oxford and Shakespeare had separate identities. If he knew the secret, he was presumably discouraged from revealing it by the same social system that prevailed upon Oxford to hide his identity."

While Oxford is mentioned among other dramatists, it is noteworthy that Oxford is the only playwright whose plays are unknown (at least under his own name), and for whom not even a title survives! Makes you think, eh?

Foxboro5 said...

Marlovians vs. Oxfordians!

Anthony Kellett said...

You are, of course, correct to say that this is speculation and it would be unreasonable (and nonsensical) to expect you to provide evidential proof of what Meres did or did not know. I think one has to be a Stratfordian to make such claims. However, it is incumbent upon us to attempt a reasonable explanation for Meres’ opinions.

As you say, Tom Bethell writes, ‘It can be argued, however, that Meres either knew Oxford's secret and kept it…”. Please; can you argue that for us?

Tom Bethell continued, "…or [Meres] innocently believed that Oxford and Shakespeare had separate identities.” So, can you explain how Meres believes Oxford to be one of those “best for Comedy” when you go on to claim that, “it is noteworthy that Oxford is the only playwright whose plays are unknown (at least under his own name)”?

The fact that “not even a title survives” is not a particularly significant claim because (subject to your explanation) at least one did exist, as Meres attests. Perhaps (I am speculating) it was not worthy of saving. It did make me think; I must admit.

Anonymous said...

I wish I had this before deciding to spend $ on Sobran's book.

mariner said...

Mr. Farey,

I'm intrigued by this statement:

That there must have been a falling-out with Burghley and a switch of the exiled Marlowe's allegiance from him to Essex in the mid 1590s is very much in accord with the Marlovian evidence.


I haven't seen much about this. Can you point me toward some discussion?

Peter Farey said...

Certainly.

Most Marlovians would assume that the combination of Marlowe's apparent connection with Burghley over the years and Robert Poley's involvement in his faked death would suggest that Burghley (among others) was behind the saving of his life.

Yet it would seem that in 1595 Marlowe returned to England and was given support not by the Cecils but by Essex's 'spymaster' Anthony Bacon. He was found a temporary position as a French tutor (with the name Le Doux) at the stately home of Sir John Harington in Rutland, before being despatched to the continent on an intelligence-gathering mission for Essex.

Not all that long after this we see Burghley apparently being ridiculed as Justice Silence (also from Stamford, Lincs.) and as the old bore Polonius (or Corambis, a play on the Burghley motto cor unum, via una, 'one mind, one way').

You can read about Le Doux in Chapters 2 and 3 of the essay "A Deception in Deptford" on my website, although since writing that I have found one particular part of the evidence probably invalid, as I explain in my "Le Doux's coffre but whose papers?", The Addendum concerning Montanus could be relevant too.

Hope this helps.

Peter Farey

mariner said...

Thank you, sir.

I had read of Marlowe's possible appointment (as LeDoux), but missed the Essex connection.

I have read that Marlowe was jailed in London ca 1605, and Robert Cecil paid for his release. Perhaps after a dalliance with Essex he re-established his relationship with Cecil?

Peter Farey said...

I guess that you are referring to the "Christopher Marlowe, alias Mathews, a seminarie preist" who was in the Gatehouse prison from 3 August until 23 September 1604. Although I personally don't think that this was in fact the poet/dramatist, I know that there are some Marlovians who do. I nevertheless think it quite possible that Marlowe returned to the Cecil fold (if he had ever really left it!) after the deaths of Essex and Anthony Bacon in 1601. In fact, unpleasant as it may seem, I even wonder whether he might not have been the person close to Raleigh who was said to be informing Cecil about his activities in June 1603. See Addendum 2 (William Hall) in my "A Deception in Deptford".

Peter Farey

mariner said...

Wow!

Yes, that's the incident I was thinking of.

Thanks again.