Monday, December 10, 2012

Peter Farey Is Co-Winner of Hoffman Prize a Second Time

Last Wednesday's edition of The Times newspaper contained an announcement that our regular contributor Peter Farey had been awarded a half-share in the 2012 Hoffman Prize. Regular readers of the blog will know that this is the second time that he has achieved this, so we asked him the following question:

Q: Peter, congratulations on co-winning the 2012 Calvin and Rose G. Hoffman Prize for a Distinguished Publication on Christopher Marlowe. You had previously won the award in 2007 for your essay "Hoffman and the Authorship." Your entry this year was entitled “Arbella Stuart and Christopher Marlowe.” Can you briefly summarize the essay for us?

PF: Thanks, Carlo.  I am of course delighted to be successful a second time, although my subject is not quite as contentious this year, having a less obvious connection with the dreaded "authorship question."

In Charles Nicholl's mostly excellent book The Reckoning, he added an Appendix of what he called "false trails," one of which concerned a man called "Morley" who had for some three and a half years "read to" – in other words tutored – Arbella Stuart.  A direct descendant of Henry VII, and first cousin to James VI of Scotland, she was born in England, and probably the most likely person to accede to the throne of England if James was barred as a foreigner.  Nicholl considered the question of whether this Morley could have actually been our Christopher, but he reluctantly concluded that "the balance is probably against the tutor being Marlowe," and Sarah Gristwood, author of the most recent biography of Arbella, agreed with him.

The main reason for their conclusion – a view apparently shared by most of Marlowe's other biographers – was that for most of the period in question (1589–1592), Arbella was probably in Derbyshire when we know Marlowe to have been occupied elsewhere. By taking a close look at Arbella's travels away from Derbyshire at other times, however, my essay challenges the assumption that she must have been constantly in Derbyshire during this period, and finds that it is certainly need not be the impediment that the biographers seem to assume.

We also know that the tutor Morley had left university – which, given the role we are talking about, would almost certainly have been either Oxford or Cambridge – a year or two before 1589. I therefore looked at all those coming down from either of them in the preceding twenty years, who had a name which might be morphed into "Morley" and who was not known to be otherwise engaged between 1589 and 1592. Only one person fitted the bill – Christopher Marlowe.

I am not the only Marlovian to have studied this question over the years, of course, and much of what I mentioned had already been noted by others. Ros Barber included (and argued for) the idea in her The Marlowe Papers, for example, and John Baker had a letter about it published in Notes & Queries as well as posting an essay on his website. What I tried to do, therefore, was to put all of the relevant information together  – with a few additional findings of my own – in such a way that it would be hard for anyone not to conclude that Morley the tutor most probably was Christopher Marlowe, placed to spy on Arbella by the Queen's right-hand-man, William Cecil, Lord Burghley.
 © The Marlowe-Shakespeare Connection, December 2012

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Mysterious Connection Between Thomas Nashe, Thomas Dekker, and T. M.: An English Renaissance Deception?

Christopher Marlowe’s friend, the brilliant humorist Thomas Nashe, often got himself into trouble with authorities. His problems worsened in the summer of 1597, when he was banished from London for co-authoring a “seditious” play. Two years later, he was banned from publishing altogether. Donna Murphy’s The Mysterious Connection Between Thomas Nashe, Thomas Dekker, and T. M.: An English Renaissance Deception? presents substantial linguistic evidence that Nashe reentered London under the name “Thomas Dekker,” that he permanently assumed the identity after he could no longer publish under his own name, and then “killed” himself off. We recently caught up with Donna Murphy to discuss her latest book.

Q: What methodology did you use?

DM: I ran word juxtapositions in the works of Nashe and Dekker through the searchable Early English Books Online database. A large pile up of uncommon juxtapositions between works by “both” authors, plus style similarities, provide reasonable grounds for suspicion. These similarities occur across such a chronologically diverse range of works as to make the explanations of imitation or parody quite unlikely. I used the same methodology to locate other works by Dekker/Nashe, including pieces attributed to T. M., Adam Evesdropper, Jocundary Merry-brains, and Jack Daw.

Q: That all sounds fascinating, but this is a blog about Christopher Marlowe. Why should Marlovians care about Thomas Nashe?

DM:  One reason is that Marlovians believe Marlowe pretended to die yet continued writing, employing William Shakespeare as his front man. My book claims that his friend Nashe did so too, with a twist. In Nashe’s case, I believe he became “Dekker,” who “came to life” in historical records January, 1598.

Q: Didn’t Marlowe and Nashe write Dido, Queen of Carthage together?

DM: So it says on the play’s title page, but there is no hint of Nashe’s style in Dido, and I concur with many others who don’t think Nashe co-authored it. Extensive research convinces me, however, that they often worked together. Although only Marlowe’s name is on the title page of Doctor Faustus, for example, for numerous reasons I view Nashe to have been responsible for much of its prose humor. With the caveat that neither of the two extant versions of Doctor Faustus contains exactly the original version, and thus could have been revised by others, in the 1604 version (Romany and Lindsey Penguin edition) I would tentatively assign to Nashe Scenes ii, iv, vi, vii.109-62, viii.50-99, ix (except for ix.36-41), and xi.1-28, 35-85, and Marlowe the remainder.

Q: What implications does a Marlowe/Nashe partnership have on the Shakespeare authorship issue?

DM: If you get to know Nashe and his writing style by reading my book, you will start to wonder whether some of the verbage in Shakespeare that doesn’t “sound” Marlovian may have been written by Nashe. That’s the topic of my next book, in which I present linguistic evidence that certain anonymous and Shakespeare works were a collaboration between Marlowe and Nashe (I’ll also discuss works I view as by Marlowe without Nashe).

Q: Thanks, Donna.  By the way, blog readers can read a PDF with the table of contents and first twenty pages of the book, as well as order it, by visiting Cambridge Scholars Publishing and entering The Mysterious Connection under “Title.”

© The Marlowe-Shakespeare Connection, November 2012

Donna N. Murphy specializes in researching the authorship of works written during the English Renaissance, and her most recent article is “‘The Life and Death of Jack Straw’ and George Peele” in the December 2012 issue of Notes and Queries. She is a co-winner of the 2010 Calvin and Rose G. Hoffman Prize.  

Sunday, November 25, 2012

The Marlowe Papers on Guardian Book of the Year List!

 A book that has most impressed.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

On Blank Verse: a Question for Ros Barber

Q:  Ros, one of the popular criticisms made against anti-Stratfordians is that we are snobs by not accepting that a virtually uneducated man like Shakespeare could have written the greatest plays of the western world.  One line of reasoning, however, that doesn't get enough attention, in my opinion, is that the 37 plays attributed to Shakespeare were written in blank verse - something that most people don't really understand, to be perfectly candid. Now, Ros, you are an accomplished poet and your wonderful novel The Marlowe Papers is in blank verse.  You are also highly educated.  So tell me, how difficult would it be to write a whole play in blank verse?

RB:  Blank verse, which is often confused with free verse, is a metrical form: essentially, unrhymed iambic pentameter.  It is a far subtler and more complex creature than most people realize.

Many people who know a little about it assume that it’s simply a matter of counting syllables (ten) or counting stressed syllables (five), and alternating the stress.  But a line of blank verse might have as many as thirteen syllables, and between four and seven stressed syllables, and still be iambic pentameter.  Conversely, it is possible to write an unrhymed ten-syllable line with five stresses that isn’t blank verse.

I’m wary of getting too far into the technicalities, but to give you some idea of what’s really involved in writing good blank verse, let me explain a little more.

Blank verse consists of lines of five metrical "feet" of which three out of five are iambs (having the stress pattern weak-STRONG) but the other two feet in the line can have different patterns of either two or three syllables:

anapest: weak-weak-STRONG   (e.g. in a TREE)
trochee: STRONG-weak               (e.g. UNder)
dactyl: STRONG-weak-weak      (e.g. CERTainly)
pyrrhic: weak-weak                      (e.g.  in a)
spondee: STRONG-STRONG      (e.g. BIG BANG)

However, these can’t be substituted into two of the five positions randomly: there are combinations that work, and combinations that don’t. And to make it more complex, you can also have a single unstressed syllable tacked onto the end of the line (called "hypermetrical" as it is "outside" the metre), giving what is called a "feminine" line ending.   One must also bear in mind that the stress pattern of an individual word can change in context.

Writing one line of passable blank verse isn’t difficult, but Shakespeare’s plays range from 1,800 to 4,000 lines in length and are, I think we can agree, more than passable.  Another aspect of blank verse mastery not yet mentioned is enjambment (the running of a line into the next); something that Shakespeare handled well from the outset and used with increasing frequency as he matured – but which Ben Jonson never seemed to master.

We have no evidence that William Shakespeare attended school at all, but assuming he attended Stratford grammar (a not unreasonable assumption), most scholars believe he left by the time he was thirteen or fourteen as the result of his father’s waning fortunes.  An Elizabethan grammar school education was certainly a very good education, but is it a sufficient foundation to create a master of blank verse?  Ben Jonson was educated at Westminster grammar school, and did not proceed to university.  His blank verse is exceedingly clunky, and very often not blank verse at all, as in this extract from Volpone:

Now, room for fresh gamesters, who do will you to know,
They do bring you neither play, nor university show;
And therefore do entreat you, that whatsoever they rehearse,  
May not fare a whit the worse, for the false pace of the verse.1

For all that Jonson was a brilliant satirist, his metrical skills were limited, and his lack of ability in this area is probably part of the reason why his work is rarely performed today.

The reason why most scholars insist genius-level blank verse plays can be written by a relatively uneducated man is simple: if you begin with the belief that Stratford Will wrote the plays, the plays are the evidence of his capabilities. Their firm belief (which they consider "fact") creates the proof.  As with many authorship arguments, the logic is entirely circular.

Marlowe, though not the first person to write blank verse drama,2 was the first to write it so successfully that others were moved to emulate him.  He managed to make it lively rather than ponderous, and his first effort, Dido Queen of Carthage,3 is usually considered to have been penned while he was a student at Cambridge.  There are numerous clues throughout Shakespeare’s works that the author had a university education, from the Cambridge-specific vocabulary identified by Boas in the 1920s4 to a reference to a notorious Cambridge don and plays performed only at that university5; in my view, the author’s complete mastery of blank verse is another of them.

 © The Marlowe-Shakespeare Connection, October 2012

Ros Barber's The Marlowe Papers has been hailed by Martin Newell of the Sunday Express as "the best read, so far, this year."  The novel will be released in the U.S. by St.Martin's in January. Dr. Barber holds a PhD in English Literature, is joint winner of the Hoffman Prize for a distinguished work on Christopher Marlowe, and is a founding member of the International Marlowe-Shakespeare Society.

1This extract is not blank verse, not only because it rhymes, but because it is not (anywhere near) iambic pentameter. "False pace of the verse" is right:  the lines scan very badly, and three of them have seven, rather than five, metrical feet.  Though these four lines might be seen as a self-referential joke, Volpone drifts into and out of iambic pentameter throughout. The meter is, in fact, extraordinarily ragged except for the very regular metrical sections where the content is correspondingly lifeless.  Jonson, for all that he had educated himself to a high level after grammar school and had an extensive library, never mastered blank verse.  See the text of Volpone at
2Gorboduc (1561), by Thomas Norton and Thomas Sackville, was the first.  See the text at
3See the text of Dido Queen of Carthage at
4Boas, Frederick S. (1923). Shakespeare & the Universities, and Other Studies in Elizabethan Drama.  Basil Blackwell: Oxford, pp. vii. 272.
5See "Shake-Speare a Cambridge University Man" in N. B. Cockburn's (1998) The Bacon Shakespeare Question: The Baconian Theory Made Sane. Limpsfield Chart: N.B. Cockburn.

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Friday, October 12, 2012

Ros Barber at the Rose Theatre

"The latest Marlowe Society lecture was delivered by Ros Barber who talked about her new book The Marlowe Papers to a rapt audience at The Rose theatre in London at the end of September."

Click here for The Marlowe Society's review of the event. 

Monday, September 17, 2012

The Independent Review of The Marlowe Papers

"Marlowe's passion infects the page; Barber's skill draws the fever."

For James Urquhart's review of The Marlowe Papers, click here.

You can order Ros Barber's novel The Marlowe Papers on  A Kindle edition is also available at  U.S release by St. Martin's is January 2013.

Click here for our May Q & A with the author!

Monday, September 3, 2012

Was the Monument Altered? by Peter Farey

I do wish that Oxfordians and, alas, even some Marlovians would stop claiming that the original Shakespeare monument in Stratford-upon-Avon differed in some significant way from the monument as it is now.  It didn't.1

It is, of course, very easy to see how such a belief came about, and it is in fact one that I myself held for a while after first reading Charlton Ogburn's Oxfordian book The Mystery of William Shakespeare,2 as the earliest published picture of it was indeed very different. This had appeared in Sir William Dugdale's Antiquities of Warwickshire, published in 1656, and was produced by the engraver frequently used by Dugdale, Wenceslaus Hollar.

The main differences seem to be these:
  • The main body of Hollar's monument is only about 30% taller than it is wide, whereas the present monument is some 75% taller.
  • In Hollar's etching, the small boys (putti) are sitting on the cornice with their legs dangling over the edge of it, but now they are not. Each now appears to be sitting on something, rather than on the cornice itself. Although not easy to see, the one on our left is still holding a spade, and the other – shown by Hollar as holding an hour-glass – now has, according to Samuel Schoenbaum,3 an inverted torch in his left hand and his right hand resting on a skull.
  • Above the leafy capitals, the tops of the two columns, which nowadays are plain, have the faces of lions or some such large cat adorning them in Hollar's version.
  • In the earlier version, a solemn droopy-moustached figure of Shakespeare is shown resting his hands on a plump sack of some sort, with knotted corners, where today there is a fairly flat cushion with tassels at the corners. In the modern version a fatter-faced Shakespeare with a Poirot-type moustache and goatee has a pen and paper, which are missing in the earlier one, and he seems to be wearing an "undergraduate-type" gown of some sort, rather than just the jerkin of the earlier illustration.
  •  The curved "ceiling" of the alcove, undecorated in the Hollar etching, now has what seem to be gilded Tudor roses embellishing it.
  • The greatest difference, however, is that in Hollar's etching the whole structure is clearly shown as standing on the floor, with three "feet" (two at the front and one at the back) on what must presumably be a triangular base. Nowadays it is half-embedded in the wall some eleven feet above the floor, the weight in fact being mainly taken directly by a remodelled window-sill, and three consoles (brackets) fixed to the wall.
Dugdale wasn't the only person to provide illustrations showing such differences, however. In Nicholas Rowe's 1709 Some Account of the Life &c. of Mr. William Shakespear, a different engraving by Gerard Van der Gucht had all of the differences noted above, despite there being a few minor changes to the Dugdale illustration, as did the engraving by Charles Grignion in John Bell's 1786 "literary edition" of Shakespeare, although the lions seem to have mutated into dogs and the spade into an arrow.

With three such "witnesses" testifying to the existence of such an earlier version of the monument, it might appear that there can really be no doubt of the fact. If so, the whole thing must have been completely rebuilt some time after 1786, to make it 45% taller in relation to its width, to have a rectangular rather than a triangular base, and to be hoist into a new location eleven feet up the wall, resting upon a new shelf created by taking a great chunk out of the existing window-sill and wall below. In the process they must have completely scrapped the former putti and replaced them with new ones, added Tudor roses to the architrave, and taken a new piece of limestone to create a brand new bust (with a different head, a gown, a hand designed to hold a quill, a piece of paper and a cushion with tassels).

Unfortunately, there is no record whatsoever of such work being undertaken, and in any case, would it not be reasonable to ask the simple question of why they would have found it necessary to make all of these very expensive changes?

There is something else which is very strange about this, however, because over sixty years before Grignion's illustration, and five years before the second edition of Dugdale's Antiquities (with the same illustration as before), Alexander Pope's 1725 edition of the Works was published, with an engraving by George Vertue showing it much as it is today, wall-mounted and with the occupant using a cushion to support the paper he is writing on.4 Although Vertue gets a few minor details wrong – apparently allowing himself artistic licence – even the size of the stones in the wall is accurate.

Furthermore, in 1737 Vertue sketched Edward Harley, second earl of Oxford (by the second creation), his patron, standing in front of a wall-mounted monument which, along with the surroundings, all looks fairly similar to how it does today.

Unless, as some Oxfordians actually do,5 we subscribe to the ludicrous idea that Vertue simply imagined it all, and that these imaginings were subsequently turned into reality, we must deduce that Grignion's engraving was based not upon first-hand observation, but upon those earlier ones done for Dugdale and Rowe. And if he did this, then it seems quite possible that Van der Gucht had based his 1709 Rowe illustration upon Hollar's in exactly the same way.

It would therefore appear that by 1725 the monument was more or less as it is today, with a rectangular base (rather than a triangular one) set into the north wall of the chancel, its weight now taken mainly by the base of the window-sill cut away to accept it.  If Hollar's version is correct, then those major changes must have been undertaken some time before 1725, and (as it was said to be "in" the north wall) the alcove presumably left by its removal invisibly repaired.

Once again, however, there was not a word in the records to suggest any such major changes to the church's fabric. The only time since 1621/2 when some notable renovation took place was in 1749. According to Joseph Greene, the church parson and headmaster of the grammar school, in 1746 an acting company performed a play (allegedly Othello) in Stratford to help towards the "repairing of the Original Monument of the Poet."  The benefit was for "the curious original monument and bust (that). . . is through length of years and other accidents become much impaired and decayed."6  In 1748,  Greene writes of "repairing and re-beautifying" the monument, proposing that the painter John Hall do the work, provided "that the monument shall become as like as possible to what it was when first erected," and in 1749 Greene said it had been "repaired and re-beautified." Questioned about the stone used in the original, he apparently replied: "I can assure you that the bust and cushion before it (on which as on a desk this our poet seems preparing to write) is one entire limestone . . . ," adding that "... really, except changing the substance of the Architraves from alabaster to Marble; nothing has been chang’d, nothing alter’d, except supplying with original material, (sav’d for that purpose,) whatsoever was by accident broken off; reviving the Old Colouring, and renewing the Gilding that was lost."

In other words, too little and too late for the significant changes we are discussing.

So just when were those changes made? We might have been left in this quandary, had it not been for a discovery made by Charlotte C. Stopes and revealed in 1914. The original sketch by William Dugdale, upon which Hollar had based his engraving, still exists. George Greenwood (1925) also mentioned it, but it was not until Diana Price included a photograph of it in her 1997 article "Reconsidering Shakespeare's Monument" that the first glimmering of light began to appear. It is the missing link in a pictorial equivalent of the game "Chinese whispers."

Looking at Hollar's etching and the monument as it appears today, what we find is that Dugdale's sketch is like a bad drawing of both of them. Going back to that list of differences we see:
  • The drawing is so roughly done that one would not expect the ratio of width to height to be at all accurate anyway. The lines of the structure are actually impossible, like a drawing by M.C. Escher.
  • He is certainly responsible for the putti being shown sitting on the edge of the cornice with their legs dangling over it (three legs in one case!), but they do both appear to be sitting on something else as well, as they are now. The hour-glass is particularly interesting, since there is no sign of any such thing in his left hand today, but Vertue did show one on the cornice next to the other boy. Schoenbaum says that the right hand putto is holding an inverted torch, and Vertue apparently guessed that they might have both been holding lighted torches the right way up at one time. That Dugdale missed the skull next to the other boy, which is not all that obvious from ground level, is hardly surprising.7
  • He certainly included some squiggles at the top of the columns, and one can see that (rather like a Rorschach test) the one on our left could be interpreted as the head of a large cat of some sort, but the one on the right is far less identifiable. Perhaps a Tudor rose? He left out the ones which now appear on the "ceiling" of the alcove.
  • The figure in the drawing could be resting his arms upon a sack, a pillow or a cushion, the corners of which are either tied up or decorated with tassels according to however one chooses to interpret it. It really is far from clear, as are the facial features and the question of whether or not he is wearing an academic type of gown. Dugdale has omitted the real quill pen (which may have indeed been missing at the time) and the piece of paper (perhaps too dusty to see?), but this seems rather unimportant, given that at some point he has written above the sketch, "In the North Wall of the Quire is this monument fixed for William Shakespeare the famous poet."
  • Perhaps of the greatest importance, however, is that what Hollar interpreted as three feet (two at the front and one at the back) free-standing on the floor, can just as easily be seen in the sketch as those three consoles fixed to the wall which Vertue showed it resting on, and which are of course how it is today. The drawing has none of the indications which Hollar used to show it was standing on the floor. So this must be just what he imagined Dugdale to have intended.
It therefore seems perfectly clear to me that what Dugdale drew (rather badly) was a monument which in all major matters was much as it is today. Unfortunately, it contained several errors, which Wenceslaus Hollar – who clearly never saw the monument itself – copied, and also ambiguities (like those three "feet") from which Hollar made the wrong choice. Neither Gerard Van der Gucht nor Charles Grignion can have actually visited the place either, so they simply copied Hollar, whilst varying the detail just enough to avoid charges of plagiarism.

In fact, the first actual illustrator to visit the monument and record it relatively accurately was George Vertue. Not that his version was entirely correct either. The stained glass windows are omitted, the head has been replaced with one apparently based on the so-called Chandos portrait, he uses italic script for the inscription and, as mentioned earlier, he has the putti holding lighted wands or torches. All of these seem to be quite deliberate, however, and well within what he would have considered acceptable artistic licence.

So, just like the "Francis Archer" who for several years was believed to have been the killer of Christopher Marlowe, the man clutching a sack of wool or corn in some earlier version of the monument also turns out to be a myth. 

 © Peter Farey, September 2012

Peter Farey has been manning the Marlovian barricades on the internet for the past 14 years.  His Marlowe Page  is one of the most respected sites about Marlowe on the web.  He is a founding member of the International Marlowe-Shakespeare Society. 

1It is stated as a fact in the "Declaration of Reasonable Doubt" and in the Shakespeare Authorship Coalition's "Exposing an Industry in Denial." I am actually not aware of the idea appearing in any Marlovian publication other than when Peter Barker gave it as a fact in Mike Rubbo's film Much Ado About Something, but I nevertheless find the theory being argued by fellow Marlovians every so often
2Ogburn, Charlton (1988). The Mystery of William Shakespeare. London: Cardinal. p.159
 3Schoenbaum, Samuel (1987). William Shakespeare: A Compact Documentary Life. Oxford University Press. p.308. One can't help remembering that the title of the Introduction to Charles Nicholl's The Reckoning was "A Torch Turning Downward," relating to the motto on the putative portrait of Marlowe at Corpus Christi, and the similar version Quod me alit me extinguit. Just a coincidence
 4Dugdale's Antiquities was reissued in 1730, still with the same floor-standing version. The editor, Dr. William Thomas, assured his readers that he had tried to make sure that there were no "manifest mistakes." As the evidence from George Vertue shows, he doesn't seem to have made a very good job of it, at least as far as this monument is concerned. 
5For example, Richard Kennedy in his 2005 "The Woolpack Man" and Richard Whalen in his 2005 "The Stratford Bust: A Monumental Fraud," both of whom completely ignore the problem posed by those three floor-standing feet. 
6Fox, Levi, ed. (1965). Correspondence of the Rev. Joseph Greene, 1712–90. London: HMSO. 
7The positioning of the putti seems to be fairly flexible. When the monument was vandalized in 1973, and the opportunity taken to spruce it up again, they were in fact replaced on the wrong sides of the coat of arms, with the right-hand putto on the left and vice versa. Amazingly, it was three years before anybody noticed!