Monday, November 17, 2008

On Marlovian research and "Mr. W.H.": a question for 2007 Hoffman Prize winner Peter Farey

Peter Farey's Marlowe Page is the gold standard for Marlovian research, and we are honored that Peter has taken a few moments to chat with MSC. By the way, you can catch Peter in Mike Rubbo's film, Much Ado About Something.

Q: Peter, your essay "Hoffman and the Authorship," joint winner of the 2007 Hoffman Prize and available on your website, is truly a brilliant piece of scholarship, and I encourage all those interested in the Shakespeare authorship question to read your meticulous and compelling work and to spend time on your exceptional Marlowe Page. Your essay certainly makes the case that there is, to quote you, "sufficient reason" to conclude that Marlowe could have authored the Shakespeare works.

What's one piece of evidence that you're still on the hunt for? Obviously, there are many, but is there one in particular that really fascinates you? Is it Marlowe in Italy, for example, after his alleged "murder"/the Deptford incident?

Peter: Thanks for your kind remarks about the website, Carlo. I'm very flattered, and if they don't get more people visiting it I don't know what will!

Your question is an interesting one since it raises the issue of what is, for me, the main difference between my own approach and that of most other anti-Stratfordians. Whereas the norm is indeed for people to go off in search of evidence to support their theory, as your question implies, I much prefer to adopt what is the (rather more scientific?) approach of trying to prove it, or bits of it, wrong. This is why other Marlovians tend to find me as severe a critic of their ideas as I am those of any other authorship candidate's proponents.

So where does any new stuff come from? It usually arises as the result of my exploring those things which orthodox scholars themselves find puzzling. For example, it was my trying to find a sensible interpretation of the poem on Shakespeare's Stratford monument, about which there is no scholarly consensus, that resulted in my stumbling upon it really being a riddle telling us that Marlowe is "in" the monument with Shakespeare. Similarly, it was by reframing the contentious biographical question of just how Marlowe came to be killed at Deptford—to asking instead what the most probable reason was for those people to have met there that day—that I discovered that it had to be to arrange a faked death for him whether he continued as a poet/dramatist or not. A third example: scholarly uncertainty about just which "canopy" Sonnet 125 referred to led to my finding a completely different meaning for the poem, one that in fact shows the author to have been an atheist.

But how did I try to prove myself wrong, as I claim that I do? Mainly by posting my ideas on the internet long before I had really worked them out in detail. For the past ten years or so every single idea that I have eventually posted on my website has been subjected to the most rigorous challenge by newsgroup opponents, some of whom are very knowledgable indeed, and very capable of ripping apart any theory which is not based upon accurate information and logical reasoning. I can assure you that the arguments I present on my website would have been very different indeed if I hadn't exposed them to this examination first. In fact I wish that all of our Marlovian colleagues would follow a similar path, whether publicly or in private, before publishing!

So where does this leave us in terms of your initial question? Is there something I am "still on the hunt for" in particular? I think it would be in pursuit of an answer to the scholars' perennial problem of just who the "Mr W.H." mentioned in the dedicatory epistle of "Shakespeare's Sonnets" really was. As I explain in my essay "Hoffman and the Authorship," I'm sure Don Foster is right in saying that contemporary usage means that it must have been the poet himself. Given in addition that Ben Jonson's eulogy in the First Folio seems to indicate that the poet (if Marlowe) was still alive when it was published ("though thou had'st small Latin and less Greek"), and that the Avon referred to may well have been the one next to which the two dedicatees of the First Folio lived rather than the Stratford one, was there a "Mr. W.H."—other than William Herbert himself, of course—living at Wilton, seat of the Earl of Pembroke, at the time? If there were, I'd put my shirt on his really being a surviving Christopher Marlowe!

© The Marlowe-Shakespeare Connection, November 2008

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Anonymous said...

"Mr. W.H." is one of the great mysteries, but if I read Mr. Farey correctly, that it is Marlowe, then would it place Marlowe back in England?

Anonymous said...

Keep up the good work, Mr. DiNota!

Anonymous said...

"w.h" as marlowe is interesting, hope pete can prove it

Anonymous said...

neat stuff, peter the detective hot on the case!

Anonymous said...

great post great blog

Anonymous said...


I see you taking some heat on WH on some websites. Good luck on that.

Anonymous said...

Peter Farey is scrupulous and convincing. His theory on the message hidden in Shakespeare's monument was very convincing and idn't seem forced at all, unlike similar arguments from Oxfordians, who take any place where Shakespeare used the word "ever" and say that it really means "E. Ver" and somehow twist the sentence into meaning that Edward de Vere wrote Shakespeare's works. Farey is one of the best Marlovian voices out there!