Sunday, December 4, 2011

A Case for Marlowe - Made Simple by Anthony Kellett

Editor's Note: Anthony Kellett recently explained the case, regarding Marlowe’s disappearance, for those relatively new to the subject. From a transcription of that brief talk, I have produced this guide, both for those to whom it was originally aimed or for more experienced readers wishing to undertake a similar task.

Have you ever heard of a principle called Occam’s razor? Put simply, it says that the solution requiring the least number of assumptions or leaps-of-faith is probably the closest to the truth. Not “certainly,” by any means, but “probably.”

First, it’s fair to say that the “Shakespeare-style” of plays, in blank verse, was popularised by a man called Christopher Marlowe, who commenced his playwriting probably seven or eight years before anyone uttered the name “Shakespeare,” in this context. Bearing in mind that both men were born in 1564, whilst Marlowe was starting his writing career, roughly when he’s taking his master’s degree at Cambridge University, Shakespeare was in Stratford, his twins were being born and he was probably working in his father’s glove shop. I have to say “probably” because we simply don’t know.

One of the world’s leading Shakespearian scholars, Professor Stanley Wells (who believes the Stratford man wrote the works), said of Marlowe that if he and Shakespeare had stopped writing in 1593, and I quote: “We would now regard Marlowe as the greater dramatist. The achievement of Marlowe was greater than that of Shakespeare, by that age. Marlowe has a string of great plays: Faustus, Edward II, two parts of Tamburlaine, Jew of Malta; marvellous poem the ‘Hero and Leander,’ a lot of good translations as well.” Wells added the bit about translations because Marlowe made some of the first translations of Lucan and Ovid (supposedly Shakespeare’s favourite Latin poet) into English. Wells categorised Marlowe as “a very rapid developer” and Shakespeare as “a late developer.”

Now, there are a couple of things which are interesting about that summation of Marlowe. First, is that by 1593, the Shakespeare plays, which Wells believes existed, are Two Gentlemen of Verona, Taming of the Shrew, the three parts of Henry VI, Titus Andronicus and possibly Richard III. And yet, Wells still considers Marlowe’s the greater output, which gives you an idea of these plays’ quality. The second interesting thing is that even though many believe these few plays were all written and performed by 1593, no one (as far as we know) had ever mentioned a man called Shakespeare. If this is true, that Shakespeare was unknown, then any reasonable person in the audience would probably have believed them to be by the same author or authors (since they often collaborated on plays) as, say, Edward II or Doctor Faustus. I am simply going back to Occam’s razor here, as to what is most likely and requires least assumptions. It may not be true, but it is most likely.

Before I go any further, what you should also know about Marlowe is that he seems to have been a government agent, starting during his time at Cambridge. Apparently, he was involved in undercover work for Francis Walsingham. When Walsingham dies, Lord Burghley appears to have taken over “employment” of Marlowe. It is also worth you knowing that Marlowe’s patron and, it appears, good friend, was Thomas Walsingham, a young relative of Sir Francis.

Now, in April 1593, an entry appears in the Stationers register, a kind of copyright register, if you like, for a new poem called “Venus and Adonis.” There was no author mentioned, but it was a companion piece to Marlowe’s “Hero and Leander.” The problem is, Marlowe’s “Hero” was not published and wouldn’t be for another five years, and, at best, was only known to a few close friends. Most reputable scholars believe the author of “Venus and Adonis” must have been familiar with “Hero and Leander,” because of its style and a number of allusions it makes. In view of this, by Occam’s razor, again, and in the absence of further information, anyone would assume this was Marlowe’s work – unless one believes it was just a coincidence that someone else wrote a companion piece to “Hero and Leander,” without knowing it existed or what it contained? This is simply not probable.

Then, on May 20, 1593, Marlowe, staying with his friend Thomas Walsingham, has an arrest warrant served against him. It was probably the result of him being suspected of heresy, a capital offense. Strangely, Marlowe was not kept in prison, but was instructed to report, each day, until the Privy Council could see him. About three days later was possibly his first appearance before them, but he was still not imprisoned.

By the 28th of May, a report is completed into Marlowe’s heresy and was delivered to the Privy Council. Marlowe, it seemed, was in deep trouble. But, before he could be brought before the council again, Marlowe went to a meeting. He met with three men – two of whom worked as confidence tricksters for his friend and patron, Walsingham; the third, like Marlowe, was an intelligence agent. Without knowing anything more, it is difficult to imagine this was a chance encounter, but when you add the fact that they met, for eight hours, at a private house, owned by Eleanor Bull (a relative of the Queen’s closest attendant, Blanche Parry, a relative of Lord Burghley), situated near the docks at Deptford, it becomes extremely suspicious.

Burghley was one of the most powerful men in England. He would have known Marlowe was in deep trouble because he was a member of the Privy Council. So, with Marlowe probably facing an imminent death penalty, why would he meet three professional confidence tricksters and fraudsters, employed by Marlowe’s employer, and by his friend, in a Burghley-linked house near Deptford docks?

Yes, it could be to enable him to escape, or it could be to have Marlowe murdered. But really, if he wanted to murder Marlowe, why would Burghley arrange that in a house so connected to him; hire three tricksters, not murderers; and then why would they take eight hours to do it when a lone assassin could have done the deed in any dark alley in London or on a quiet lane near Walsingham’s country house, with little fuss? And why would Marlowe’s friend Walsingham get involved in that? Walsingham was still being lauded as Marlowe’s friend and patron, some five years later, by Marlowe’s literary friends. So, whilst the possibility still remains, it does not seem the logical conclusion and is almost completely nonsensical.

No, by Occam’s razor, again, if we have three professional deceivers, whom we must assume are friendly to Marlowe, his employer and his patron (unless we make unfounded assumptions that they weren’t), arranging to meet him for what might be the last time, before his arrest and subsequent execution; and they meet at a “safe-house” next to the sewer-infested Deptford docks (rather than Walsingham’s country estate, where three of the four, one assumes, would have regularly gathered anyway), the only sensible conclusion is that it was to arrange Marlowe’s escape – conveniently near the Thames and numerous ships.

The trouble is, if you just let Marlowe escape, then he will be known to be at large, and any Tom, Dick or Harry could be his downfall. Even worse, Marlowe’s capture could lead to problems for everyone else involved, which is just not feasible. So, the only viable solution was not merely an escape, but a faked death and new identity so that Marlowe would not be hunted.

This is Elizabethan England, not the dark ages. If you fake a death, first you need a body. There are several theories about this, not least is the disappearance of the body of a man executed nearby the previous day. His family was not told that his already delayed execution was to go ahead; it happened, strangely, late in the day, around 6pm, and without any notice. The family could never discover what happened to his body. Either way, whether you believe this version or another, it is not beyond the wit of man to assume that these powerful, connected people could provide a body.

Unfortunately, there is a bigger hurdle: the problem of the coroner. When someone was killed, the local coroner would be called to hold an inquest. This would be fatal to this plan. He would almost certainly spot any inconsistencies between the body’s physical appearance and the story explaining his death. The only solution would be to have control of the coroner, and the only coroner likely to be a candidate would be the Queen’s coroner, William Danby. He had jurisdiction over all deaths occurring within a 12-mile radius of the Queen’s court (wherever that was at the time). We know the Queen was at Nonesuch Palace on this day.

Now, which was the dock, as far as possible down the River Thames, but still within 12 miles of the Queen? It was Deptford. This solution may also answer another question requiring explanation. The question is, “Why did this deception (if that’s what it was) take place anywhere near London?” If the plan was to spirit Marlowe away, as quickly as possible, then why not go to Tilbury, or somewhere already well on the way to safety. One possible reason is the need to use the house of a trusted owner, but the fact that Danby would preside is far more essential. It also happens that Danby would have been responsible for the “missing body” of the prisoner, executed the previous evening. Is that not convenient?

So, what other problems remain? We supposedly have the body of England’s leading poet in our possession; so what happens if he, like Chaucer, gets paraded up to Westminster Abbey for burial in front of all his friends and relatives? Well, we just bury the body immediately, before they have a chance. What if they decide to dig him up? Well, we bury it in an unmarked grave. In fact, we throw him in a common grave (maybe the plague pit) and see if they want to go digging in there.

So that’s what happens; they take the body, purported to be “Marlowe,” and just dump England’s greatest playwright in a Deptford Churchyard pit, before anyone that might know him gets the chance to view the body. The only people that identified the body as Marlowe were the three men he met at Deptford. Doesn’t that sound a little strange to you? What would Thomas Walsingham, his friend and patron, think of that? More than that, what would he do when he discovers that his servant, Frizer, was the man who supposedly killed Marlowe? The answer? He did nothing. Frizer was pardoned and went back to working for Walsingham. Does this sound like the behaviour of a friend and patron? I can only understand that response if either, Walsingham wanted Marlowe dead (already acknowledged as highly unlikely), or he knew he was still alive. Which do you think is most likely, by Occam’s razor?

There are many questions that surround this, obviously, and it is very far from proved. Even amongst those that believe Marlowe survived, there are disagreements about who would or could have organised it – but that gets far more involved.

Now, if we leave that there, for the time being, and just put it down as “a bit fishy,” we then come back to this chap Shakespeare, of whom no one has ever heard, at this point.

Remember I mentioned that anonymously registered companion piece to Marlowe’s “Hero and Leander,” called “Venus and Adonis,” that would sensibly be thought to be by Marlowe? Well, less than two weeks after Marlowe’s disappearance, that piece gets published. Except that it appears as written by some chap called William Shakespeare, and he calls it “The first heir of my invention.” That is the first time Shakespeare’s name ever appears, anywhere, in connection with any writing, of any sort – at the ripe old age of 29, no less.

If this is written by the guy from Stratford, we have absolutely no idea how he got from that glover’s shop in Stratford, 7 or 8 years earlier, to being able to produce poetry of the highest degree of complexity; not only matching the quality and knowledge of perhaps the greatest poet in England, but also writing in Marlowe’s style and a companion piece to Marlowe’s great, but unpublished, poem. Now, by our old friend Occam’s razor, what do you think is the most probable explanation of that, by introducing the least amount of speculation and leaps of faith?

At the end of the day, amongst those who doubt Shakespeare’s authorship, there are very few claiming to have all the answers, or that believe the case is resolved in favour of some other candidate. In fact, the only people, who seem to believe that, are those believing it was the Stratford man; they seem to think they have “won” something, so have no reason to enter the debate. But this is not about winning or losing; it is about establishing the truth.

I’ll tell you the bizarre thing:  anti-Stratfordians, as we are called, are likened to supporters of “intelligent-design” rather than “evolution,” cranks and conspiracy theorists. Well, we have one group, which wishes to examine and debate real observations and real evidence in the real world, whilst another group wishes to take its beliefs on faith and has an attitude that says, “We don’t know how he did, but he just did.” You tell me, which group are the Darwinians, and which are the religious zealots?

© Anthony Kellett, 2011  was Marlowe shakespeare?

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Jim said...

Two things about Marlowe's Hero and Leander

1. Leander was taken as Ganymede and kept alive by Helles Bracelet. Original story has no such thing. "Ganymede Helles Bracelet" is an anagram of Mary Sidney Herbert. Marlowe was saved by Mary and became her Ganymede with hell's bracelet to bind his writing arm. (detail)

2. Two marigolds share one root in the emblem of Hero and Leander, one facing the Sun and the other low at night lighted by five torches. "Marigold Sunne" spells Mary Sidney; "Marigold low torches" spells Christopher Marlowe except P, which is mended by five as Phi, the reason to have five torches. Marlowe tried to tell the world that he and Mary are one. (detail)

Many such anagrams exist by Marlowe and Mary's Wilton House (Mr. W. H.) using Shakespeare as their pen name. Pembroke had the power to deal with Oxford or Bacon (and she won). Ben Jonson was loyal to the Herberts, that is how Marlowe linked with Jonson.

Claire Hayward said...

"Ganymede Helles Bracelet" is not an anagram of "Mary Sidney Herbert". See "An anagram is a type of word play, the result of rearranging the letters of a word or phrase to produce a new word or phrase, using all the original letters exactly once."

For the same reason, nor does "Marigold Sunne" spell "Mary Sidney". You are closer with "Marigold low torches" but that is because you have chosen the phrase in order to get a match. This is not the automatic phrase that anyone would come up with looking at that particular engraving. Therefore utterly useless as an anagram (even if it was one).

Anagrams are not are useful way forward when trying to make a case for Marlovian theory; it has been proved time and again that the English language is flexible enough to make anagrams supporting almost any theory you entertain. Even more so if you break the rules of what constitutes an anagram to the extant that you are doing.

Sam Blumenfeld said...

Very well done, Anthony. One should also be aware that Burghley was also Chancellor of Cambridge University, and that his son Robert Cecil attended it while Marlowe was there. Also, the Earl of Southampton was there while Marlowe was at Corpus Christi. Indeed, Marlowe may have tutored the Earl at the behest of Burghley,the Earl's guardian. That might explain why Venus and Adonis was dedicated to the Earl years later.

Jim said...

Yes, strict anagrams are easy and useless. Wilton House poets used one-way anagrams, like Thomas Middleton's crickets to critic. In this way they could seal messages easier and safer.

Middleton: "Thou breedest crickets, I think, and that will serve for the anagram to a critic." They didn't follow the orthodox.

"Marigold Sunne" may be a twist, or not; try another. Mary protected Marlowe after his fake death. Sonnet 112 tells how Marlowe arranged his "dispense" but fell into a profound abysm.

Dispense is to make a special arrangement whereby the penalty of a law is remitted in his case (OED 4); "profound Abisme" can spell Mary Sidney, whose protection is profound but dark forever. (sonnet 112)

Without Pembroke and Ben Jonson, the set-up of Shakespeare's monument and epitaph would be hard for Marlowe.

Claire Hayward said...

Jim: '"profound Abisme" can spell Mary Sidney'

Oh come on. There's not following the orthodox, and then there's totally making stuff up. Conventional anagrams might be "easy" but your method - sorry, actually, is there any kind of method? - is so easy as to be utterly meaningless. Following your examples 'Jerusalem's King' can spell 'Father Christmas'. Proving absolutely nothing, other than my wish to bend evidence to suit my argument.

Dan Sayers said...

Thanks Anthony - it's good to hear a version of how to present the Marlovian theory as a genuine rational likelihood. Your last paragraph is spot on.

I don't think the case for Marlowe can be proved, but it seems stronger to me than the case for Shaksper. That there is no acceptance of any doubt at all by Stratfordians is really quite ludicrous: such unswerving dogma should be an embarrassment to serious scholarship.

Jim: no. Just no. Especially in response to a post about the logical strength of the Marlovian argument.

daver852 said...

What annoys me most about Stratfordians is their tendency to confuse speculation with fact. We don't know that William Shakespeare attended the Stratford grammar school; if he did, we don't know if he received an "excellent education" there (the frequent change of headmasters indicates some problems); we don't know that he was the target of Greene's attack in "A Groatsworth of Wit;" we do not even know for certain if this man could read and write. It is perfectly acceptable to indulge in speculation, of course, but it should not be presented as fact. Marlovians are by far the most meticulous in documenting the facts that support their hypotheses; if one sticks to the facts, Marlowe emerges as by far the most likely candidate to be the author of the Shakespearian canon.

Jim said...

Claire: "Jerusalem's King" to spell "Father Christmas" lacks of F, C, H, T.

Dan: "profound Abisme" contains all letters needed to spell "Mary Sidney" (y and i interchangeable in Elizabethan times). The method is to spell the target name fully. If you check my links will see. This logic applies to all my anagrams, without a letter missing.

About Marlowe's Fake Death

No name no authorship, Marlowe knew that. If he intended to reveal the truth, he must seal his name the same logic in many places, and told his story the same time.

Apparitions in Macbeth
- Armed Head: using Marlowe's (armed) brain without his face and body.
- Bloody Child: Marlowe's rebirth "none of woman born" in 1593, a bloody fake death untimely ripped.
- Crowned Child with Tree in hand: a martyr walked and worked like Jesus. Tree is the cross on which Christ was crucified (OED 4a). It's also a wordplay of Christ-opher Marlowe (Christ-to-fall mar-low), Marlowe the god of plays (to come) but marred and low as a child now.

Birnam and Dunsinane
Witches' praises to Macbeth can spell Christopher Marlowe. Macbeth's fear of "Birnam Dunsinane" can spell Mary Sidney. The repeating of Birnam and Dunsinane in the play is a hint. The two name were carefully selected to compose the anagram. In record Macbeth did not fail in Dunsinane but Lumphanan.

Dan Sayers said...

Jim - there are so many things wrong with your "one-way anagrams" as a methodology that I'm not going to attempt to argue with you. It does make me sad that you have spent time pursuing this. Thankfully, the Marlovian case rests on more than spurious hidden messages and weak plot analogies. It's great that you want to contribute to the field, but I think you need a much more effective filter on what is useful and relevant.

Anthony Kellett said...

Moreover, I do not believe anagrams are of much use, when making a verbal presentation at, say, a dinner party; which is what I addressed, in this "talk".