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.