Sunday, December 7, 2008

The Marlowe Papers: a question for British poet Ros Barber

We caught up with British poet Ros Barber, whose latest collection of poems, Material, a Poetry Book Society Recommendation, is available for pre-order on Amazon. Her poetry has been published widely in newspapers and poetry journals, including The Daily Telegraph, The Independent on Sunday, London Magazine, and The Forward Book of Poetry. She is presently working on The Marlowe Papers, a novel which supports the Marlovian theory.

Q: Ros, thanks for joining us. The Marlowe Papers sounds fascinating. When and how did the idea first germinate?

Ros: The Mike Rubbo documentary, Much Ado About Something, was shown on BBC4 in November 2005. At the time I was looking for an idea big enough and interesting enough for a Creative Writing PhD; something that required some serious academic research so I'd have a chance of getting it funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council. The Rubbo film was my first real contact with the idea that anyone other than Shakespeare wrote Shakespeare - and I was intrigued by how it would feel to be this genius writer who is forced by impossible circumstances into letting someone else take credit for his work. In the documentary, Jonathan Bate says something like "it's a ludicrous idea, but it would make a great work of fiction." That was my lightbulb moment. I spent four months putting the proposal together (including finding a supervisor who was happy to support my research of such an academically unpopular theory), and five more months waiting for the outcome of the funding application. Happily it was positive, and I've been researching and writing The Marlowe Papers on an AHRC grant since autumn 2006.

Q: That's wonderful. Care to share some of your thoughts on the research you've come across that really resonates with you? Anything specifically that jumped out at you?

Ros: I was really surprised to find evidence that doubt about Shakespeare's authorship began in the very year that the name "William Shakespeare" first appeared on a publication (1593), and that rather a large body of evidence of early authorship doubt is currently unacknowledged in the academic establishment. There is a lot of interesting evidence that has been overlooked by orthodox Shakespeareans - not because there's any kind of "conspiracy" but simply because that is how the human brain is wired up: we don't tend to see things that fall outside our belief systems, since cognitive dissonance leads our brains to filter out perceptions that conflict with what we already believe we "know." The fact that authorship doubts arose amongst some of Shakespeare's most knowledgeable contemporaries is, in my view, the strongest argument that the authorship question should be admitted as a viable subject for academic research and debate.

Q: Is it true you're writing a lot of this novel in blank verse?

Ros: So far, all of it is in iambic pentameter, with the majority being blank verse and the occasional lyrical rhyming piece or sonnet thrown in. Blank verse seemed the most appropriate form for a novel about Marlowe and Shakespeare, given that I'm very comfortable writing that way. Shakespeare's later plays weren't entirely in blank verse, of course, and I've given myself permission to break into prose if the situation seems to require it. But so far it hasn't. My biggest challenge to the blank verse form was writing a duel scene, but I tried prose and it didn't work. In the end I found the energy of the scene sprang directly out of the tension created by attempting to contain high emotion in a regular five-foot line. You'd think prose or free verse would be easier - but for me, it isn't.

Q: Ros, we really appreciate your taking the time. We wish you luck with The Marlowe Papers. Please come back again?

Ros: I'd be very happy to. Thanks, Carlo.

© The Marlowe-Shakespeare Connection, December 2008

Click here to learn more about Ms. Barber. Emmerich Rylance

Click here for Ms. Barber's video interview on the Marlowe-Shakespeare theory.

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


Christine said...

Interesting point about how our brains are wired.I've enjoyed visiting this website.

Anonymous said...

cool photo, cool interview, cool blog

Anonymous said...

awesome- simply awesome, man o man very cool

Anonymous said...

looking forward to the book. I see that Ros will be presenting on this @ London School of Econ. Dec. 17

Anonymous said...

a nice interview with provocative mind food.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

i want to have a drink with ros!