Peter Farey and A.D. (Dolly) Wraight made the case for the agent "Le Doux" mentioned in the papers of Anthony Bacon in 1595-1596 being Christopher Marlowe. See chapters 2 and 3 of Farey's A Deception at Deptford for a summary of the evidence for this argument as it has stood until now. Farey argues that Le Doux's first name may have been Louis (also spelled Lois or Loys or Louys) based on a 16th-century wax seal in the British Library of a man in Elizabethan clothing with a baboon's face, with the name "LOIS LE DOULX".
Farey put forward some ideas about where the name Louis le Doux came from. Recently I discovered another very likely source of the name: It is the French rendition of the name of the mid-16th century Italian author Lodovico Dolce.
The key find is the book Anciens Inventaires et Catalogues de la Bibliotheque Nationale, Volume 1. On pp. 404-408 of this book is the "Catalogue de Poetes Italiens," which includes both Latin and Italian poets. On p. 406 are two items under the heading "Loys Le Doux": Le sacripant de Loys le Doux, en rithme and Les transformations de Loys le Doux. The appearance of the name in a list of Italian poets pointed me toward Lodovico Dolce: "Louis le Doux" is precisely how his name would be translated into French. Farey clinched the case by pointing out to me that both Sacripante (a "chivalric romance") and Le Transformationi (a translation of Ovid's Metamorphoses) were indeed works by Lodovico Dolce.
The next question is, naturally, are there any connections to link Lodovico Dolce to Christopher Marlowe? Indeed there are. Dolce wrote a tragedy Didone in 1547, four decades before Marlowe wrote his play on the same topic. The book Christopher Marlowe: the Plays and Their Sources by Vivien Thomas and William Tydemam gives Dolce's play as the 5th of five sources for Dido, Queen of Carthage. (As an aside, Dolce's Didone itself was influenced by the work of Giovanni Giraldi Cinthio on the same topic. That is of interest to Shakespeareans because Cinthio's Hecatommithi contains tales that anticipate the plots of Measure for Measure and Othello. They were translated from Italian into French and Spanish by Shakespeare's time, but not into English. That raises the question of how William Shakespeare of Stratford could have accessed them, but there is no question about Marlowe's access to them if he was Le Doux: Hecatommithi was one of the books listed in the Bacon papers as belonging to Le Doux.)
There is another connection between Dolce and Marlowe that is particularly relevant because it relates directly to another nickname for Marlowe that is already well known. Dolce's most famous work was L'Aretino or Dialogo della Pittura. "L'Aretino" refers to his close colleague Pietro Aretino. This name will be familiar to scholars of Marlowe: On pp. 54-55 of Charles Nicholl's The Reckoning: the Murder of Christopher Marlowe, there is a long passage about Thomas Nashe's The Unfortunate Traveller (completed 27 June 1593) explaining how "Nashe's tribute to the great Italian dramatist, Pietro Aretino, proves to be a sidelong epitaph for Christopher Marlowe." Nicholl cites the same comparison already made by Gabriel Harvey in Four Letters in 1592, an attack on both Nashe and Marlowe: Harvey refers to Nashe by the nickname "the Devil's Orator" and to Marlowe by the nickname "Aretine." Harvey continued this tirade against Marlowe as "Aretine" in another work dated April 1593 but not published until after Marlowe's reported death. Nicholl concludes Nashe's references to "Aretine" in The Unfortunate Traveller would have been clearly understood by his audience as a tribute to Marlowe.
Thus we have a connection between an already well-known nickname for Marlowe and the name "Louis le Doux," via Dolce's famous work L'Aretino. Since Marlowe had already been given as a nickname an English version of the name of an Italian author who inspired him, it would have been entirely in his witty character to adopt as a pseudonym a French version of the name of another Italian author who inspired him and who had a connection to Aretino. Marlowe's friends in his literary circles would get the reference, but other people would not — an excellent choice for a pseudonym!
The Italian origin of the name Louis le Doux fits well with the existing evidence for the Marlovian theory. Marlovians believe it is likely Marlowe went to Italy in the years immediately after his faked death, since Shakespeare's Italian-themed plays begin appearing around that time. Marlowe's adoption of an Italian poet's name, in the guise of a French translation, when he returns to England two years later, fits this theory well.Emmerich Shakespeare kill Marlowe?
© Edward G. Clybourn, September 2011
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