Saturday, May 29, 2010

Shapiro's Contested Will by Samuel Blumenfeld

One must thank James Shapiro for having written a book, Contested Will: Who Wrote Shakespeare? (2010), that will serve as a great source of support for the assertion that Christopher Marlowe wrote the poems and the thirty-six plays in the First Folio attributed to Shakespeare. His defense of the orthodox Stratfordian position is so feeble as to invite even more claimants to the authorship of these immortal works.

Shapiro virtually eliminates Francis Bacon and the Earl of Oxford as possible authors of the Shakespeare canon. For that we can indeed be grateful. But because he decided not to stage a full attack on the Marlovian position, he has encouraged Marlovians to press forward to find the smoking gun that will finally establish Marlowe as the greatest literary genius in human history.

The most important task for Marlovians is to come up with irrefutable evidence that Marlowe survived his supposed death at Deptford on May 30, 1593. As for this writer, proof that Marlowe lived beyond May 30, 1593, is simply the existence of those 36 plays in the First Folio, which only he could have written. He is the only one of all of the contenders who had the proven literary genius to write those works. Of course, I recognize that this reasoning doesn't suffice for many. But until we find that document showing Marlowe lived, I'd encourage everyone interested in the subject to read all the works of Marlowe and all the works attributed to Shakespeare and to study the excellent resources provided by the International Marlowe-Shakespeare Society. The Marlovian theory of authorship will then make a heck of a lot of sense (and it will certainly be an amazing intellectual journey at the very least!).

James Shapiro writes very sympathetically about Delia Bacon–no relation to Francis Bacon–whose obsession with the authorship question drove her finally to an untimely death in an insane asylum in 1859. But she is credited with having started the modern authorship controversy. However, it was the attempt by Baconians to find hidden codes and ciphers in the works of Francis Bacon and Shakespeare which led to that movement’s demise. It was more than the average reader could contend with.

As for the Oxford theory, Shapiro does an excellent job of revealing Thomas Looney’s positivist views and membership in the Church of Humanity, which apparently led to his interest in the Shakespeare authorship problem. He attempted to solve the problem by finding the one Elizabethan who measured up to his criteria for authorship: Edward de Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford.

For Looney, Shapiro explains, “The true author had to be a man whose aristocratic lineage made him a natural leader, one who–if he had been properly recognized in his time–could have changed his world. Like Comte’s great teachings, ‘Shakespeare’s’ collected works were a textbook for social and political reform: ‘How differently might the whole course of European history have unfolded,’ Looney laments, ‘if the policy of “Shakespeare” had prevailed instead of that of the politicians of his time’” (176).

As for why Oxford hid his identity as author, Shapiro writes: “There had to be a better explanation for why the greatest of poets suppressed his identity. The answer was soon found: Oxford was Queen Elizabeth’s secret lover and their union produced an illegitimate son, the Earl of Southampton. That argument, first advanced by Percy Allen in 1933, came to be known in Oxfordian circles as the Prince Tudor theory and proved deeply appealing to skeptics already convinced that conspiracy and concealment had defined Oxford’s literary life[....]To this day it has deeply divided Oxfordians" (196).

But some Oxfordians even went further in advancing the Prince Tudor theory. Shapiro elaborates: “According to its proponents, Oxford was not only Elizabeth’s lover but her son as well. The man who impregnated the fourteen-year-old future Queen was probably her own stepfather, Thomas Seymour. So it was incest, and incest upon incest when Oxford later slept with his royal mother and conceived Southampton” (196).

Many Oxfordians reject these stories. But Hank Whittemore, a New York novelist, wrote a fascinating script based on the Prince Tudor story, which he performs with much gusto at Oxfordian meetings to the delight of the attendees. I witnessed such a riveting performance in 2009 and came away with the notion that fiction, indeed, is often stranger than truth. And strange as it may seem, Shapiro himself attended one of Whittemore’s performances in November 2008 at the Globe playhouse in London.

The professor also analyzes famous men like Sigmund Freud, Mark Twain, and Henry James who rejected Shakespeare as the author. Freud saw in Oxford and Hamlet his Oedipus complex acted out; Twain took apart Shakespeare’s will and biographical data. He wrote: “All I want is to convince some people that Shakespeare did not write Shakespeare. Who did, is a question which does not greatly interest me” (141).

But from a Marlovian point of view, Henry James comes closest to our perception of the truth. In a letter to a friend, he wrote: “Still, all the same, take my word for it, as a dabbler in fable and fiction, that the plays and the sonnets were never written but by a Personal Poet, a Poet and Nothing Else, a Poet, who, being Nothing Else, could never be a Bacon" (144). (Or for that matter an Earl of Oxford!)

James further wrote: “The difficulty with the divine William is that he isn’t, wasn’t the Personal Poet with the calibre and the conditions, any more than the learned, the ever so much too learned, Francis” (144).

And so Henry James agrees with the Marlovian view that the plays and poems attributed to Shakespeare could have only been written by a professional poet with the poetic genius that none of the other contenders had.

On the subject of Calvin Hoffman, Shapiro writes: “Oxfordians looked on jealously when the self-promoting Calvin Hoffman generated far more attention than they could muster with his claims for Christopher Marlowe’s authorship of the plays–first with the publication in 1955 of The Murder of the Man Who Was Shakespeare, then with his success in securing permission to open the grave of Elizabethan spymaster Sir Francis Walsingham in a failed attempt to unearth Marlowe’s long-hidden manuscripts of Shakespeare’s plays" (201).

Shapiro got it wrong. It was Sir Thomas Walsingham’s tomb that Hoffman gained permission to open, not the grave of Elizabeth’s spymaster.

On page 211, Shapiro relates: “On July 11, 2002 in Poets’ Corner at Westminster Abbey, a memorial window was unveiled in Christopher Marlowe’s honor. His date of birth and death are given as ‘1564?-1593.’” Another bit of sloppy editing. The window actually reads: “1564 Christopher Marlowe ?1593.” The question mark relates to the date of death, not birth.

These lapses of accuracy are inexcusable for a scholar of Shapiro’s reputation and caliber. Obviously, the fact checkers and proofreaders at Simon & Schuster were not up to the job.

Nevertheless, the book is very much worth reading as the Columbia professor provides a good deal of historical background to the authorship question as well as an amusing account of the trials staged by Oxfordians before several Supreme Court justices.

But he definitely presages the decline of the Oxford movement when he writes:
For there is always a risk that new media will reorient attention to a rival and more attractive candidate–and indeed, the recent proliferation of sites on Christopher Marlowe, no doubt energized by interest in the government conspiracy at the heart of the case for Marlowe’s faked death, may be a sign that the dominance of the Oxfordian camp may not extend much longer than the Baconian one, roughly seventy years or so. Just as the Oxfordians could attract their share of celebrities, so too could rival camps. Marlovians were please to announce a new recruit when film director Jim Jarmusch told the New York Times “I think it was Christopher Marlowe” who wrote Shakespeare’s plays. (217)
As for his defense of Shakespeare, Shapiro believes that Stratfordians play into the hands of the doubters by digging for questionable autobiographical data in the sonnets and plays. Also, he believes that attempts to conceal the true authorship would have failed, for Shakespeare was simply too well known.

He comments: “The sheer number of inexpensive copies of Shakespeare’s works that filled London’s bookshops after 1594 was staggering and unprecedented. No other poet or playwright came close to seeing seventy or so editions in print–that’s counting only what was published in Shakespeare’s lifetime” (223).

He also believes that the Bard worked closely with the other members of the theater company, creating characters for specific actors who fit the parts. The professor writes:
Take, for example, the stage directions in the First Folio edition of that early history play, The Third Part of Henry the Sixth, which reads: “Enter Sincklo and Humfrey.” John Sinklo was a regular hired man for whom Shakespeare wrote lots of skinny-man parts. Shakespeare would slip again and start thinking of Sinklo rather than the character he was playing in the draft that was used to produce the Quarto edition of The Second Part of Henry the Fourth, where his stage direction reads: “Enter Sincklo and three or four officers.” (229)
But that still doesn’t explain why, according to Ben Jonson, Shakespeare’s manuscripts were so clean and devoid of blots. If Marlowe had written them, they were apparently copied by a scribe minus blots and cross-outs and delivered to Shakespeare in pristine condition. The names of actors were obviously added later on when casting decisions were made.

Shapiro also relies much too heavily on the notion that Shakespeare’s imagination was the main source of his greatness. But what he fails to address is the incredible linguistic genius of the author. Plenty of writers have imagination. But no writer has equaled “Shakespeare” in his mere command and use of the language. Marlowe had already demonstrated that literary genius in the plays written before Deptford.

Contested Will is a nice but futile attempt by Shapiro to end the authorship controversy. But with Marlowe on the ascendance, as Shapiro acknowledges in his book and in recent interviews, this is only the beginning of a whole new phase in this fascinating story. I am optimistic that evidence will eventually surface proving that Marlowe lived beyond the dubiously reported events at Deptford–lest we forget, to cite one of many questions surrounding Marlowe's alleged demise, “most of the evidence in the Coroner's Inquisition, based as it is entirely upon the word of three skilful liars, must be taken with a pinch of salt,” as Peter Farey rightly argues. When that smoking gun is found, English literature will never be the same. It would also be the Stratfordians’ worst nightmare, for scholars throughout the 20th century (many of them Statfordians) have already made the case regarding the similarities in style between Marlowe and Shakespeare, or at the very least, Marlowe’s significant “influence” on Shakespeare.

Samuel Blumenfeld

© Samuel Blumenfeld, May 2010

Samuel Blumenfeld, a regular contibutor to MSC, has authored more than ten books. His latest, The Marlowe-Shakespeare Connection: A New Study of the Authorship Question, was published by McFarland. He is a former editor in the New York book publishing industry (he edited the 1960 paperback edition of Calvin Hoffman's The Murder of the Man Who Was "Shakespeare"), and he has lectured in all 50 U.S. states. His writings have appeared in such diverse publications as Esquire, Reason, Education Digest, Vital Speeches of the Day, Boston, and many others.

See Sam on YouTube addressing the Shakespeare authorship controversy.

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Sunday, May 16, 2010

Kyd, Marlowe, Shakespeare: Who Wrote Edward III? by Daryl Pinksen

A recent announcement1 from Brian Vickers claims to have settled the longstanding mystery of who wrote Edward III.2 The play, likely written around 1590, has come down to us without attribution, but there are clues in its style that have guided speculation about its authorship. These efforts have tended to focus on Shakespeare and Marlowe as possible authors, since the play bears apparent hallmarks of their styles, expressions and diction.

Edward III is a significant play as it spans the historical gap between Christopher Marlowe’s Edward II and the early Shakespeare play Richard II. It’s a good play, good enough to be considered in the same league as the Marlowe and Shakespeare plays, but its lack of attribution has led some commentators to wonder if perhaps some third party were responsible; in the nineteenth century, J.A. Symonds speculated, without irony, that Edward III may have been written “by some imitator of Shakespeare’s Marlowesque manner."3

Vickers, noting passages in the play which reminded him of the voice of Thomas Kyd (famous in his day as the creator of the influential and successful Spanish Tragedy), used word counting software to compare the play to the acknowledged works of Kyd and Shakespeare. Vickers came to the conclusion that Thomas Kyd had written some 60% of Edward III, with Shakespeare contributing the other 40%. This raises some interesting possibilities. If Vickers is right, then it would appear that Shakespeare would have collaborated with Thomas Kyd before May 1593, and therefore before Shakespeare’s name first appeared as a writer in June 1593.

In May 1593 Thomas Kyd had been arrested after “fragments of a disputation”—portions of a book which outlined the anti-trinitarian Arian heresy—were found in his possession. He was imprisoned for some time, and according to his own account, treated harshly by his jailors. Kyd emerged from prison a scandalized and broken man, shunned by his former employer, Lord Strange (the patron of Lord Strange’s Men, the group of players which would soon evolve into the Lord Chamberlain’s Men, the company in which Shakespeare became sharer in 1594). Kyd never worked again; despite his protestations, he was unable to re-establish his reputation and win back the favour of Lord Strange or any other theatre company’s patron. By August 1594, Thomas Kyd was dead.

Vickers assigns to Shakespeare the first three acts of Edward III, plus another scene later on, suggesting that Shakespeare’s involvement predated Kyd’s. If true, this would mean that Shakespeare could have known Thomas Kyd and worked with him during the period when Kyd was associated with Lord Strange’s players. It’s an intriguing thought, and opens up wide latitude for speculation about Shakespeare’s involvement with Kyd, as well as others in Kyd’s circle, such as Lord Strange and Christopher Marlowe. There’s only one problem: there is no evidence that Shakespeare ever met Thomas Kyd. There is however, a writer who did know Thomas Kyd, and knew him quite well—Christopher Marlowe.

Kyd’s room had been searched when he fell under suspicion of being the author of the so-called “Dutch Church Libel,"4 a posted threat against London Huguenots, written in blank verse and laden with allusions to Marlowe’s plays. After his release, suspicion still hung over him and Kyd wrote to Sir John Puckering asking to have his name cleared. In the course of the conversation, Kyd revealed several details about his relationship with Marlowe, who by that time had been declared dead. The papers found in his possession that got him arrested, Kyd said, belonged to Marlowe.5 It must have gotten mixed in with his own papers, Kyd explained, during the period when he and Marlowe were writing together in the same chamber. Kyd reported—or perhaps reminded—that Marlowe had affirmed that the offending papers indeed were his.6
When I was first suspected for that Libel that concerned the State, amongst those waste and idle papers (which I cared not for) and which unasked I did deliver up, were found some fragments of a disputation touching that opinion, affirmed by Marlowe to be his, and shuffled with some of mine unknown to me by some occasion of our writing in one chamber two years since.7
What were Kyd and Marlowe doing writing in the same chamber? Marlowe, according to Kyd, was a difficult man to deal with. If they were working on separate projects, there was no need for them to work in the same space. We do not know, but it is possible that they were working collaboratively, which would explain their writing in close quarters. If so, then their collaboration might still be in existence, given that Marlowe and Kyd were arguably the most popular playwrights in London at that time.

It turns out that Brian Vickers is not the only scholar who has done computer-assisted research trying to establish the authorship of Edward III. Tom Merriam, using a different yardstick, argued in 2000 that the play was “suggestive of a Marlovian framework, reworked and added to by Shakespeare."8 Merriam and Vickers both use what appear to be sound methodologies, yet arrive at very different conclusions.9

There is a solution which might satisfy both the literary and the historical evidence, but we would need to suspend for a moment the assumption that the Marlowe and Shakespeare plays were written by two different writers. When Tom Merriam identifies passages in Edward III that are similar to Marlowe’s and other passages that resemble Shakespeare, this is exactly what we would expect if Marlowe were the writer of both bodies of work.10 The play would necessarily resemble Marlowe’s plays in some places, and in other places would resemble the plays printed in Shakespeare’s name.

And when Brian Vickers identifies Thomas Kyd’s influence in the play, there is a ready answer for this, where none exists for Shakespeare, if it were Marlowe, not Shakespeare, whom Kyd collaborated with on Edward III. Documented evidence that he and Marlowe spent time writing together in the same chamber, during the period when Edward III was created, helps support this hypothesis.

There is a real possibility that a Marlowe/Kyd collaboration happened. The work of Tom Merriam and Brian Vickers suggests Edward III may be that play.

Daryl Pinksen

© Daryl Pinksen, May 2010

Daryl Pinksen, a founding member of the International Marlowe-Shakespeare Society, is the author of Marlowe's Ghost, Grand Prize Winner of the 17th Annual Writer's Digest International Self-Published Book Awards.

See Daryl on YouTube discussing the Marlowe theory of Shakespeare authorship.

1Time Magazine. “Plagiarism Software Finds a New Shakespeare Play.” Oct. 20, 2009.,8599,1930971,00.html
2Full text of Edward III available online at Project Gutenberg.
3Brooke, C. F. Tucker, ed. 1908. The Shakespeare Apocrypha: Being a Collection of Fourteen Plays Which Have Been Ascribed to Shakespeare. Oxford: The Clarendon Press. (1967 printing at the Oxford University Press, London). p. xxii.
4See “Peter Farey’s Marlowe Page” for a transcription.
5“On 12 May, in a dark scratchy hand, one of them [Kyd’s interrogators] endorsed the document with these words:
Vile hereticall conceipts denyinge the deity of Jhesus Christ our Savior, founde amongst the papers of Thos Kydd, prisoner.
Then, in a different ink, he added: ‘wch he affirmeth that he had ffrom Marlowe’.” Nicholl, Charles. 2002. The Reckoning. Vintage: London. p. 50-51 for a transcription of Kyd’s arrest.
6Both Charles Nicholl (2002. The Reckoning. p. 353) and Constance Kuriyama (2002. Christopher Marlowe. p. 144) interpret Kyd’s claim of what Marlowe “affirmed to be his” was the opinions contained in the fragments, rather than the fragments themselves.
7Modern translation of a transcription from “Peter Farey’s Marlowe Page.”
8Merriam, Tom. “Edward III.” Literary and Linguistic Computing. Volume 15, No. 2, 2000. p.157.
9“[identifying co-authorship] is initially ‘subjective’, in the sense that all knowledge of the world is mediated through individual perceiving agents, but it can be formulated and tested objectively, once adequate methods have been evolved.” Vickers, Brian. 2002. Shakespeare, Co-Author. Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 47.
10For a discussion of the closeness of the Shakespeare style to Marlowe’s, visit
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Monday, May 3, 2010

More Doubts About Will: Enter Iago by Isabel Gortázar

In my previous chapter we have seen that, according to a Life Trustee of Shakespeare’s Birthplace,1 not until the spring of 1622, the Monument to SHAKSPEARE was finally erected in the Chancel of Trinity Church in Stratford. Had this been the only oddity in relation to William Shakespeare who had died in 1616, we might have been tempted to ignore it, but it was not the only oddity; here is another one.

The Tragedy of Othello, the Moor of Venice was entered into the Stationer’s Register (SR) by Thomas Walkley on October 6, 1621, one day after Ben Jonson was appointed Deputy Master of the Revels (DMR), and ten days after the death of Mary Sydney, Countess of Pembroke on 25th September. Othello is the only one among the 36 plays in the Canon to have been registered after William Shakespeare’s death and before the appearance of the First Folio. These and other facts lead me to believe that Marlowe re-wrote the text of The Moor of Venice, turning it into the First Quarto Othello (1Q) in the spring/summer of 1621, and revised it almost immediately after the Countess died, adding 160 lines, most of which are dedicated to Emilia, including the scene of her death.

There are two points to be made here: 1) That the text of Othello is not the same as the old Moor of Venice, by Shaxberd,2 and 2) that the 1Q is not a “cut” version of the First Folio, as most scholars maintain because this would be the only explanation for those 160 lines, had they been originally written by William Shakespeare before 1616. I will deal now with the first point and leave the second for the next chapter.

When the 1Q Othello was printed, early in 1622, it included, as we know, a villain called Iago. This villain’s name could not have been in The Moor of Venice that was performed in the court of King James in November 1604. There are two Briton kings, Jago and Iago, in Geoffrey of Monmouth’s The History of the Kings of Britain; King James descended from the Briton kings, was proud of the fact, and reading one’s family history is a universal foible. But that is not all. The name Iago derives from Iacob, and its variants in different languages include James, Iacob, Jacques, Jaime, Jacobo, Diego and Iago, these last four in Spanish.

Even if neither the King nor the Master of the Revels had ever read Monmouth’s History linking the name Iago to a Briton king, we must remember that in those days many official documents were written in Latin. In those documents, James’ name would appear as Iaco., or Iacob., both short for Iacobus; the sound of these abbreviations is phonetically almost identical to Iago. The name of Othello’s wicked lieutenant spoken in a play would have sounded to an educated audience (such as the audience at court) exactly like the Latin abbreviation of the King’s name.

As I say, Iago is one of the variants of the name of St. James the Elder. According to an Arian3 legend, James (or Iacob) was Jesus’ eldest brother who fled from Jerusalem after the crucifixion. He settled down in the northwest corner of Spain, in the place that is now known as Santiago de Compostela, a famous place of pilgrimage since the Middle Ages, well-known to Shakespeare.4 The Arian Goth5 kings who had ruled Spain for four centuries, converted to Catholicism at the time of the Arab invasion in 711 AD; eventually, Saint Iago graduated from an Arian prophet to a Catholic saint by “performing a miracle” at the battle of Clavijo (844 AD) against the Moors. He thus became the patron saint of Spain and to this day his nickname continues to be Saint Iago the Moor-killer (Santiago Matamoros).6

It would be wilfully self-deceiving to believe that King James and his courtiers would not have recognized the Spanish name of Saint Iago the Moor-killer so appropriate for Othello. The coincidence, if it were a coincidence, would be of pig-flying standards. The Peace Treaty between England and Spain was signed on August 28, 1604, and when The Moor of Venice was performed at court, in November, the court was still full of Spaniards.

In a letter to Sir Ralph Winwood (January 1604/5), Dudley Carleton, that indefatigable chronicler of court gossip, writes: "On Twelfth Night… we had the Queen’s Maske at the Banquetting House…The Spanish and Venetian Ambassadors were both present and sate by the King in State …"7 The name of Saint Iago the Moorkiller could not possibly have passed unrecognized by the Spanish Ambassador if he were also present during the performance of The Moor of Venice. Such a name, given to a villain, would be a major political and diplomatic blunder.

But even if we allow for the uncanny nature of coincidences, and even if the author pleaded ignorance, he would have been ordered to change the name. If the whole range of Shakespearian scholars propose that the name of Sir John Oldcastle was changed to John Falstaff in order to spare the feelings of the Brooke family, are we to believe that the Master of the Revels decided to ignore a name that was offensive to the King and to his guests? The author’s idea of using a Venetian story in a play to be performed in the presence of the Venetian Ambassador was probably a good one, as King James was obviously making an effort to flatter the Venetian Ambassador; but it would have been daft to flatter the Venetian Ambassador while insulting the Spanish one, by giving to the villain of the play the name of Saint Iago Matamoros.

Which, of course, means that those names would not have appeared in The Moor of Venice that was performed many times all along the reign of King James. Which also means that, had Will Shakespeare (let alone any candidate that had died earlier) decided to insult King James with his dying breath, Thomas Walkley would have kept the MS in a drawer for many years, while the original, Iago-less, Moor of Venice continued to thrive on the stage.

Looking for confirmation of my theory, I have not been able to find a single mention of the names Othello and/or Iago, in reference to The Moor of Venice in performance, on any records, accounts, diaries, or similar documents, during King James’ lifetime, not even after the publication of the 1Q and FF. The name of Desdemona appears, however, in some reports, after 1604.

Modern scholars take for granted that Othello and The Moor of Venice are one and the same play, so one may come across misleading headlines then to find that, in the contemporary document itself, only the name of Desdemona is given and the Moor has no name, while the villain is not even mentioned. The following is a good example. I quote from G. Salgado’s Eyewitnesses of Shakespeare. (Emphasis in bold).

“Othello at Oxford.” This is the modern title given to the document by Salgado. However, this is the original document translated from the Latin:
Sept. 1610
-In the last few days the King’s players have been here. They acted with enormous applause to full houses…. They had tragedies (too) which they acted with skill and decorum and in which some things, both speech and action, brought forth tears.-
-Moreover, that famous Desdemona killed before us by her husband, although she always acted her whole part supremely well, yet when she was killed she was even more moving, for when she fell back upon the bed she implored the pity of the spectators by her very face.8
As we can see, despite the deceptive headline, not only is the - supposed - name of the title role, Othello, not mentioned in the letter, but the character, let alone the name, of the villain is ignored. Can we imagine a modern spectator, after watching Othello, to focus his report on the famous Desdemona and her husband and failing to mention Iago at all? In this letter, the only name mentioned is Desdemona. Likewise, in Giraldi Cinthio’s Hecatommithi9 the men in the novella that Shakespeare used as source for The Moor of Venice have no names; only Disdemona has what Cinthio describes as an “un-auspicious name”: dis-daemonie = dis-spirited, unfortunate, witless.

Not until the 1640s have I found some items that contain the male names. One is a posthumously published poem by Leonard Digges (d.1635), prefixed to an edition of Shakespeare’s poems dated 1640, which includes the line Honest Iago, or the jealous moor. Another one is a comment by “Abraham Wright (1611-1690), Vicar of Okeham, who kept a common-place book, probably in the 1640’s, for the benefit of his son."10
Othello, by Shakespeare: A very good play both for lines and plot, but especially the plot. Iago for a rogue and Othello for a jealous husband, 2 parts well penned. Act 3, the scene betwixt Iago and Othello, and the 1st scene of the 4th Act between the same shew admirably the villainous humour of Iago when he persuades Othello to his jealousy.
This is a report in which we recognize the Othello that we know. In the 1640s, Wright goes straight to the heart of the play, which is no longer the fate of the witless Desdemona who makes the mistake of marrying a Moor, but the tragedy of Othello and the perfidy of Iago. He writes about the men and Desdemona is not even mentioned. Here we find at last that the jealous Moor has a name and also that the villain called Iago is an important character, which was not the case in the Latin letter of 1610.

In Othello, Shakespeare departs from Cinthio’s novella in many ways, introducing various changes, most of which spoil the logic of the plot and are, moreover, apparently unnecessary, unless they have a special meaning, which I believe they have. But I’ll leave it at that for the present.

Meanwhile, until somebody finds some text that includes the names of Othello and Iago in reference to The Moor of Venice, previous to the 6th of October 1621, I must infer that Marlowe drastically revised the play shortly before that date, giving the name of the king to the most treacherous character in the Canon. And the only logical explanation I can find for any author doing this would be not just that he had an axe to grind with James, but that he was, like Cassio, “past all surgery”; in other words, that his personal circumstances (such as a terminal illness, or suicidal despair), had placed him beyond caring what "King Iago’s" reaction might be.

Because, unless we accept the possibility that the author of Othello was Christopher Marlowe, perhaps kept “in the cold” till then by a deceitful King James, we find ourselves with no author. By 1621 only Francis Bacon and Mary Sidney (until 25th September) among the proposed candidates were “officially” alive. I doubt that Mary wrote the 1Q Othello and as for Bacon, neither before that time, nor, particularly in 1621 would he have dared to insult the King in that way. Having been convicted of corruption for taking bribes in May 1621, only James stood between him and imprisonment, as well as total bankruptcy, had he been enforced to pay the colossal fine demanded by his peers.

So here is the chain of events thus far:

1616: April 23rd: William Shakespeare dies.
1621: September 25th: Mary Sidney, Countess of Pembroke, dies, and, as we shall see in the next chapter, her death seems to be registered in the new 160 lines of the FF Othello, (which would mean those 160 lines were written after September 25th).
1621: October 5th: Ben Jonson is appointed DMR, and therefore responsible for the censorship of new plays.
1621: October 6th: Thomas Walkley registers the 1Q Othello.
1622: Early months: Walkley publishes the 1Q Othello under the name of William Shakespeare.
1622: March: Ben Jonson loses his job as DMR.
1622 April: The refurbishments in the Chancel begin and, apparently, the Stratford Monument is finally erected.

(To be continued.)

Isabel Gortázar

© Isabel Gortázar, April 2010

Isabel Gortázar is an independent scholar, specializing in Shakespeare and Marlowe studies. She is a member of the Board of Directors of the Marlowe Society (UK) and a founding member of the International Marlowe Society. She divides her time between London and Bilbao, Spain.

1Fripp, Edgar I. Shakespeare’s Stratford. London: Oxford University Press, 1928. pp. 72-74.
2As the name of the author appears in the Revels Accounts for November 1604.
3By “Arian” I refer to the doctrine of the Bishop Arius. (4th Century AD.)
4In All’s Well That Ends Well, Helena proposes to go on pilgrimage to Saint Jacques le Grand, the French name for Santiago de Compostela.
5Spain was ruled by Goths between the 4th and 8th Centuries. I find this interesting in reference to the line “Ovid among the Goths," in As You Like It.
6For what it is worth, the joint names of Othello and Iago give us the following anagram:
7Sawyer, Edmund. Memorials of Affairs of State (etc.). London. 1725.
8From a letter in Corpus Christi College Library: Ms ccc 304 ff 83v and 84r. Ref. G. Salgado, Eyewitnesses of Shakespeare: First Hand Accounts of Performances. 1590 – 1890.
9Giovanni Batista Giraldi, also known as Giraldi Cinthio: Gli Hecatommithi. Venice. 1565
10G. Salgado. Op. cit.

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