Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Peter Farey on Marlowe Authorship

"It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it." (Aristotle)

When you're ready to entertain the possibility that Christopher Marlowe may have written at least some of the works attributed to Shakespeare, there are many excellent resources: this blog and the website of the International Marlowe-Shakespeare Society, for starters. Peter Farey's Marlowe Page is also a must. Peter, who has contributed to this blog, has been manning the Marlovian barricades on the internet for the past 11 years. His website is a goldmine of fascinating and highly meticulous scholarship on the Marlowe theory. You may wish to start with his "Hoffman and the Authorship," "Marlowe's Sudden and Fearful End," and "A Deception in Deptford" essays.

You can also check out Peter in the PBS Frontline documentary Much Ado About Something. Click here for an excerpt (Peter appears at 1:05 and 5:24 in the clip).

I can tell you from experience that Peter welcomes quality debate on the authorship issue - he has over 4000 posts to internet newsgroups, by the way. But a gentle warning: you'd better arrive to the debate very prepared!Emmerich Anonymous Film

Click here for the blog's home page and recent content.

13 comments:

EleanorKahn said...

I've frequented Mr.Farey's website quite often in the past few years. I agree that he's very meticulous. He is a very credible resource.

THartigan07 said...

I have never (!) seen the Much Ado film. Thanks for the clip. I am familiar with Peter's work, given my "occasional" obsession with authorship. Good to see him in the movie.

Lee said...

Peter is a formidable adversary (but I'm still an Oxfordian).

Jonathan said...

Peter's website made me a Marlovian.

Anonymous said...

Looks like Bate is caught a bit off guard in that fun clip, wouldn't you all say?

Sothis said...

I've just finished reading James Shapiro's "Contested Will", and I thought it ironic that the Authorship issue in official circles seems to be how much of the Shakespeare canon was the product of extensive collaboration.

Ironic in that, even if one disagrees that Oxford/Bacon/Marlowe/whoever wrote the works and published under the name of "Shakespeare", one must still accept that large chunks of Shakespeare's work wasn't written by Shakespeare.

As a Stratfordian, this amused me.

Rado Klose said...

Dear Sothis
Does the fact that you call yourself a "Stratfordian" imply that you have studied the debate and come to the conclusion that William of Stratford best answers the facts as currently known? I would have thought if you were completely of that mind you would avoid the "ian" suffix that denotes those actively promoting other, as yet, unproven, candidates.That however is somewhat beside the point I wish to make. or the question I wish to ask. How are these multiple authors in the plays identified ? Is it by some other process than the one by which, in the early part of the last century, perfectly respectable orthodox scholars identified large chunks of or complete early plays as Marlowes? Then as now it all comes down to textual analysis surely, and these have not changed. Could you refer me to the research? ( see Alison Gaw on Henry 6). I have not read Shapiros' book but listened with interest to his interview with Mark Lawson. In spite a slight tone of patronizing nervousness ( all these people must be mad surely?) some interesting points were made. I was however struck by how Marlowe seems to have become the great unmentionable. How would you , as a "Stratfordian" , account for the fact that despite Marlowisms cropping up all over the place in the texts ( you really don't have to do that much reading, which I don't,to stub your toe on one)he is never to be be thought to be main author of any part of it? (unlike Fletcher et al), Mind you I think I know.

Sothis said...

Hi Rado,

It certainly does! I've enjoyed Shakespeare for many years and have eagerly read a great deal of critical work (particularly on Othello). My interests tend more to history than literature, however, so my "stratfordian" identity tends to rest more on my (admittedly amateur) knowledge of the period than the literature. Historically, the evidence is clearly in favour of Shakespeare, although it increasingly suggests that the corpus of solo work is much smaller than previously believed.

As to how these other authors are identified: it's a process of studying word usage (much as described by Hoffman in his Marlowe book, only these days it's computerised, and thus faster and more accurate), and is a method which has also been applied to the Bible. In his book, Shapiro gives a much better description than I could give here; and I heartily recommend it anyway.

I admit I was disappointed that Shapiro didn't give much space to the Marlowe argument; but he is specifically examining the question of why anyone wanted to believe someone other than Shakespeare wrote the Shakespeare plays. It was a fascinating argument, and one I think many Marlovians might enjoy. By the end of the book, it's clear that the Marlovian claim (as represented by Farey & Pinksen) appears to be based on far more coherent and scholarly research than that of the Baconians and Oxfordians.

Finally, I have a number of arguments to explain Marlowe's presence in Shakespeare's work... but there just isn't space to present them here (I've just begun work on a website to present them, though; maybe I'll try plugging it here when it's done ;p ). As previously mentioned, though, they are based mainly on currently available historical fact. My personal reasons are simply that I find Marlowe considerably more readable, enjoyable and accessible than Shakespeare, and with a completely different set of values as a writer.

(Note to the blog owners: have you ever considered adding a forum to your site, for indepth discussions like this?)

Rado Klose said...

Hi Sothis
I understand your point abut word usage analysis and so forth but I take it as another instance of the one eyed and one eared nature of what passes for scholarship among many "stratfordian " commentators. It seems perverse to spend the time and effort teasing out these lesser contributors and sideline the major presence. My own feeling is that, though they would never admit to it, they are rather nervous of Marlowe. I believe Shipiro dismissed him as " bit of a jerk' and in front of witnesses, you see what I mean? Since most people agree that the texts of the plays are more or less corrupt then the only place to go to look for the authorial voice is the sonnets. And of course it is here that orthodox scholars perform their most lavish contortions. The current position is,I believe , that it is the absolute height of bad taste to see them as autobiographical. For my part if they not autobiographical then they are diminished. Surely the life is where poets write from. If, for no other reason than that it brings these extraordinary poems closer to the heart, I take Marlowe as their author. You should try it. Read the factual material that is being posted on this and other sites( I'm sure you have already) and dive in. you can always swim back to Stratford and safety and nobody need ever know

Sothis said...

I'm not sure what you're trying to achieve with your post, Rado, apart from being rude to me. I think I'll leave it here, and simply refer you to the Aristotle quote with which Peter Farey opened the original blog post.

Rado Klose said...

Hi Sothis
I'm sorry you thought I was being rude , flippant maybe but not rude. I hope you will post your web site when its ready, Perhaps there you will address my question as why an earlier generation of scholars who found Marlowes' finger prints all over the early plays were wrong, i hope it wont be the old cannard about influence and imitation.As with any writer Marlowe was able to write as he did because of his educational background (assuming the biographical facts are sound) and his experiences in life. The path he took is somewhat documented, The sort of education he would have had at Cambridge was extraordinarily demanding.
Are Stradfordians saying that this was all unnecessary, irrelevant, and had no part in the plays, and that their man could slip on a Marlovian overcoat with none of the bother of making it? Sort of pick it up as he went along, Then there is the matter of the gift, putting words in an order that makes verbal music. I can think of one other example in the creative arts of two very great practitioners appearing at the same time one of whom died at about the same age as Marlowe, (Turner and Girtin) . They were both known from a young age and clearly distinctive in style. If Shakespeare had the makings of a great poet why on earth did he wait so long ( as far as records show ) to display it . In those plague ridden times best to get started young, make your mark, I would have thought. I hope you won't find the above offensive and I very much look forward to your website.

Sothis said...

Hi Rado,

Thanks; apologies for misunderstanding your flippancy.

This is too big a subject for the comments area of a blog; but I think you and I are coming from vastly different perspectives.

Anyway, I'm trying to decide whether or not to buy this book: "Shakespeare, Computers, and the Mystery of Authorship", edited by Hugh Craig & Arthur F. Kinney and published last September. I'm intrigued by the description given by Amazon, in which it claims this research has revealed Marlowe as Shakespeare's collaborator on the Henry VI plays.

Ros Barber said...

Not terribly surprising: the Henry VI plays were routinely attributed to Marlowe as author or co-author by respected orthodox scholars for some 200 years (according to David Rigss) - the situation only changing in the late 1920s when the threat of the "disintegrators" was recognised. Thanks for flagging up the book, which sounds like a must-read. Arthur F Kinney is editor of the Cambridge Companion to English Literature 1500-1600 so is thoroughly orthodox in other respects.