Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Did Christopher Marlowe Fake His Death?

Read Ros Barber's piece "Did Christopher Marlowe Fake His Death?" in today's Huffington Post. Ros, a regular contributor to this blog, is the author of The Marlowe Papers and a founding member of the International Marlowe-Shakespeare Society.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Romeo and Juliet and Marlowe and Nashe by Donna N. Murphy

Marlovians have long maintained that Christopher Marlowe, about to be imprisoned and probably executed as a “heretic,” faked his own death and afterwards wrote work that was published under the name “William Shakespeare.” My research has additionally found linguistic evidence that Marlowe’s friend Thomas Nashe, like Marlowe hounded by the Church of England, pretended to die and assumed the identity of Thomas Dekker (see The Mysterious Connection between Thomas Nashe, Thomas Dekker and T. M.: An English Renaissance Deception?). In The Marlowe-Shakespeare Continuum, I maintain that Marlowe and humorist Nashe co-authored plays, including some within the Shakespeare canon. Following is a selection of material from my chapter on Romeo and Juliet.

In Romeo and Juliet, the excellent plotting, the poetry of love, and the language of the nobility is, in my view, Marlowe’s, but Nashe penned lines by servants and by Mercutio, who even as he is dying makes a pun, “Tomorrow you shall find me a grave man.” Listen, and you can hear the difference1


Romeo. But, soft! What light through yonder window breaks?
It is the east, and Juliet is the sun!
Arise, fair sun, and kill the envious moon,
Who is already sick and pale with grief,
That thou her maid art far more fair than she. (II.i.44-48)

Mercutio. The pox of such antick, lisping, affecting fantasticoes, these new turners of accents!—‘By Jesu, a very good blade!—a very tall man! A very good whore.’—Why, is not this a lamentable thing, grandsire, that we should be thus afflicted with these strange flies, these fashion-mongers... (II.iii.26-31)

Romeo and Juliet and Marlowe

Marlowe’s work is tied in rare ways to Romeo and Juliet. To demonstrate this, I ran word juxtapositions through the Early English Books Online-Text Creation Partnership (EEBO), a searchable database made up of over 32,000 texts of works written from 1472 to 1700 at the time of my study. I have adopted the following EEBO terminology: “fby.10” = “followed by,” the second term follows within ten words of the first term; “near.20” = the second term occurs within twenty words either before or after the first; and “*” = a placeholder for endings.

1. Shakespeare and Marlowe works contain the only two occurrences in EEBO of Gallop* apace near.100 Phoebus* near.100 night*. The speakers in both excerpts express their desire for night to come quickly by telling Phoebus and his horses to “gallop apace” through the sky.

Romeo and Juliet:

Gallop apace, you fiery-footed steeds,
Towards Phoebus’ lodging. Such a waggoner
As Phaëton would whip you to the west
And bring in cloudy night immediately.
Spread thy close curtain, love-performing night,
That runaways’ eyes may wink, and Romeo
Leap to these arms untalked of and unseen. (III.ii.1-7)

Marlowe’s Edward II:

Gallop apace, bright Phoebus, through the sky,
And dusky night, in rusty iron car,
Between you both shorten the time, I pray,
That I may see the most desirèd day
When we may meet these traitors in the field. (Sc. xvi.44-8)

2.  Romeo and Juliet and Marlowe's translation of Lucan’s First Book sport the only two occurrences in EEBO of Cloud* near.100 meteor* near.100 torch* near.100 night*. The passages also juxtapose “day,” “light,” and “east.” Now, works did circulate in manuscript, but it is worth noting that Lucan’s First Book, Marlowe's The Jew of Malta, and Marlowe's Hero and Leander were unpublished when Romeo and Juliet was written.

Romeo and Juliet:

Romeo. No nightingale. Look, love, what envious streaks
Do lace the severing clouds in yonder east.
Night’s candles are burnt out, and jocund day
Stands tiptoe on the misty mountain tops.
I must be gone and live, or stay and die.
Juliet. Yon light is not daylight; I know it, I.
It is some meteor that the sun exhaled
To be to thee this night a torchbearer
And light thee on thy way to Mantua. (III.v.7-15)

Marlowe’s Lucan’s First Book:

And sundry fiery meteors blazed in heaven,
Now spear-like, long, now like a spreading torch;
Lightning in silence stole forth without clouds,
And from the northern climate snatching fire
Blasted the Capitol; the lesser stars,
Which wont to run their course through empty night,
At noonday mustered; Phoebe having filled
Her meeting horns to match her brother’s light,
Strook with th’ earth’s sudden shadow, waxèd pale;
Titan himself throned in the midst of heaven
His burning chariot plunged in sable clouds,
And whelmed the world in darkness, making men
Despair of day, as did Thyestes’ town,
Mycenae, Phoebus flying through the east. (529-42)

3.  Below are the only two occurrences of “Sweetest flower near.20 field” in EEBO for forty years before and after the excerpts were written.  Romeo and Juliet is describing Juliet, who is not quite fourteen, while The Jew of Malta’s subject, Abigail, is scarce fourteen. This juxtaposition seems to indicate the same mind at work.

Romeo and Juliet:

Death lies on her like an untimely frost
Upon the sweetest flower of all the field (IV.iv.55-6)  

Marlowe’s The Jew of Malta:

A fair young maid, scarce fourteen years of age,
The sweetest flower in Cytherea’s field (I.iii.13-4)

4. Following are two out of three of the occurrences of “amorous rite*” for forty years before or after the works’ composition. The third occurrence is in George Chapman’s play All Fools, printed in 1605.

Romeo and Juliet:

Lovers can see to do their amorous rites (III.ii.8)

Marlowe’s Hero and Leander:

Some amorous rites or other were neglected (Sestiad II.64)

5. Other striking parallels include:

Romeo and Juliet:

But soft, what light through yonder window breaks?
It is the east, and Juliet is the sun. (II.i.44-5)

Marlowe’s The Jew of Malta:

But stay, what star shines yonder in the east?
The lodestar of my life, if Abigail. (II.i.41-2)

6. Romeo and Juliet:

Come, death, and welcome (III.v.24)  

Marlowe’s Edward II:

Then come, sweet death, and rid me of this grief (Sc. xxvi.92)

7. Romeo and Juliet:

Eyes, look your last!...
The dashing rocks thy seasick weary barque! (V.iii.112, 118)

Marlowe’s II Tamburlaine:

Now, eyes, enjoy your latest [last] benefit
Through rocks more steep and sharp than Caspian cliffs (V.iii.224, 241)

In Romeo and Juliet, Romeo refers to viewing his deceased wife, Juliet, in the last scene of the play, before he kills himself. In II Tamburlaine, Tamburlaine refers to viewing his deceased wife, Zenocrate, in the last scene of the play, before he dies.

Other Marlowe Connections

Beyond linguistic ties, biographical connections exist as well. Juliet was sixteen years old in the main source for Romeo and Juliet, Arthur Brooke’s poem The Tragical History of Romeus and Juliet, and scholars are not sure why Shakespeare made her younger. According to the play, Juliet was born on Lammas Eve (August 20). As Louis Ule noted, Marlowe had a sister named Joan (or Jane) who was baptized on Lammas Eve and married young, at age 12 ½. She died in childbirth a year later, when she was the same age as Juliet.2 Marlowe had a personal reason to view the death of a newly married girl not yet fourteen years old as particularly tragic.

In 1589, Marlowe got into a fight with William Bradley for an unknown reason. Marlowe’s friend Thomas Watson came upon them and drew his sword, saying that he did so to separate them and to preserve the peace. Marlowe withdrew and Bradley and Watson dueled, with Watson stabbing Bradley to death, he said, in self-defense. Marlowe’s biographer John Bakeless suggested that this incident inspired the scene in Romeo and Juliet where Romeo comes between the dueling Mercutio and Tybalt in order to separate them, instead giving Tybalt an opening to stab Mercutio to death.3
Romeo and Juliet’s tone is quite different from The Tragical History of Romeus and Juliet, which took a medieval, moralistic approach. In his Epistle, Brooke droned on about “A couple of unfortunate lovers, thralling themselves to unhonest desire; neglecting the authority and advice of parents and friends; conferring their principal counsels with drunken gossips and superstitious friars (the naturally fit instruments of unchastity).”4 Instead, the tone of Romeo and Juliet is of an impetuous, exuberant, passionate young love: exactly the same tone as Marlowe's Hero and Leander. Indeed,  Harold R. Walley envisioned Shakespeare penning Romeo and Juliet with Hero and Leander at his elbow.5
Shakespeare squirreled away two sonnets in Romeo and Juliet — poems of fourteen lines that express a single thought. The first is in the Prologue, and the second is cleverly incorporated into the lovers’ first meeting:

Romeo. If I profane with my unworthiest hand
This holy shrine, the gentle sin is this:
My lips, two blushing pilgrims, ready stand
To smooth that rough touch with a tender kiss.
Juliet. Good pilgrim, you do wrong your hand too much,
Which mannerly devotion shows in this.
For saints have hands that pilgrims’ hands do touch,
And palm to palm is holy palmers’ kiss.
Romeo. Have not saints lips, and holy palmers, too?
Juliet. Ay, pilgrim, lips that they must use in prayer.
Romeo. O, then, dear saint, let lips do what hands do:
They pray; grant thou, lest faith turn to despair.
Juliet. Saints do not move, though grant for prayers’ sake. 
     Romeo. Then move not, while my prayer’s effect I take. 

Paul H. Kocher and Roy T. Eriksen located sonnets within Marlowe’s plays I and II Tamburlaine.6 For example:

Marlowe’s I Tamburlaine:

What is beauty, saith my sufferings, then?
If all the pens that ever poets held
Had fed the feeling of their masters’ thoughts,
And every sweetness that inspired their hearts,
Their minds and muses on admirèd themes;
If all the heavenly quintessence they still
From their immortal flowers of poesy,
Wherein as in a mirror we perceive
The highest reaches of a human wit;
If these had made one poem’s period,
And all combined in beauty’s worthiness,
Yet should there hover in their restless heads,
One thought, one grace, one wonder at the least,
Which into words no virtue can digest. (V.i.160-73)

While Marlowe’s sonnets were unrhymed, he proved himself a master of rhyme in Hero and Leander, and included the paired sake/take line endings found in Romeo and Juliet.

Marlowe’s Hero and Leander:

If not for love, yet, love, for pity sake,
Me in thy bed and maiden bosom take (Sestiad II.247-8)

Romeo and Juliet and Nashe and Dekker

While much of Romeo and Juliet is Marlovian, portions are just as surely Nasheian or, as Stanley Wells responded to his own question about where the Bard derived the style of the Nurse’s speech at I.iii.12-60, “I suspect it is relevant that, at about the time the play was composed, Thomas Nashe was demonstrating his capacity in what he calls the ‘extemporal vein.’”7

Let us begin by discussing two rare similarities in EEBO shared by Romeo and Juliet, Thomas Nashe and Thomas Dekker (whom I find to have been one and the same person).

1. In Nashe’s Have With You to Saffron-Walden we hear: “Then there would be old scratching…Not Tibault or Isegrim, Prince of Cats, were ever endowed with the like Title./ Respondent. Since you can make so much of a little, you shall have more of it,“A common Mountebank Rat-catcher,” and “What a stomach I had to have scratched with him” (H3r-v, L1r, O4r). Nashe sometimes worked from memory without double-checking for accuracy, a trait editor Ronald B. McKerrow found disturbing as this made it difficult to identify references in Nashe’s works.8 Here Nashe misremembered “Tybert,” the name of the cat in William Caxton’s 1481 translation of the moral fable Reynard the Fox, as “Tibault.” As Joan Ozark Holmer pointed out, Nashe derived “Isegrim” from the name of a female cat in William Baldwin’s Beware the Cat, a book which also contains the phrase “prince of cats.” Holmer maintained that Nashe’s “prince of cats” is a vocative addressing Gabriel Harvey, whom Nashe later called a “rat catcher.”9

In Romeo and Juliet appears “Benvolio. Why, what is Tybalt?/ Mercutio. More than Prince of Cats,” plus “Tybalt, you rat-catcher…Good King of Catsscratch a man to death” (II.iii.17-8 and III.i.74, 76, 101). Here the thinking is quite like Nashe’s. Tybalt, like Gabriel Harvey (as Nashe portrays him), is an arrogant enemy. “Prince of cats” and “rat catcher” refer to the same person, Tybalt in Romeo and Juliet and Harvey in Have With You to Saffron-Walden, although in neither instance are these epithets located near each other, as might be expected if one author were copying another. Both works collocate “prince of cats” and “more,” and both equate scratching with fighting.

Finally, in Dekker’s Satiro-Mastix, we find “A Scratching of men’s faces, as though you were Tyber the long-tail’d Prince of Rats” (L3v), addressed to the arrogant enemy, Horace. Again there is a faulty memory, with “Tyber” instead of “Tybert.” Tyber is associated with scratching men, as Tybalt “scratched” Mercutio. The juxtaposition of the name “Tyber” with “prince of rats,” however, takes us back in indirect fashion to Nashe’s commixture of the same two sources: Caxton’s Reynard the Fox for Tiber/Tibault, and Baldwin’s Beware the Cat for prince of cats/rats. To me, the same mind appears to be at work in all three pieces. These are the only appearances of Tib* near.30 prince* of rat*/cat* in EEBO.

2. The first quarto of Romeo and Juliet, Nashe and Dekker all share the rare word “fantastico*.” Romeo and Juliet: “The Pox of such limping antique affecting fantasticoes these new tuners of accents” (1597 Quarto E1v). The First Folio version of Romeo and Juliet has “phantacies” (II.iii.27), but this is often emended to “fantasticoes” because it makes better sense. In Nashe’s Have With You to Saffron-Walden is: “These new fangled Galiardos, and Senior Fantasticos, to whose amorous Villanellas and Quipassas, I prostitute my pen in hopes of gain” (E3v). The word also occurs in Dekker’s Old Fortunatus: “I have reveled with kings, danc’d with Queens, dallied with Ladies, worn strange attires, seen fantasticoes” (E1r). I find but one other appearance of “fantastico(s)” in an English sentence in EEBO, The Good Woman’s Champion by I. A., 1650. The Romeo and Juliet and Old Fortunatus occurrences are the only examples listed in the Oxford English Dictionary.

Bawdy Language

3. Romeo and Juliet is Shakespeare’s bawdiest play, and Nashe was a notoriously bawdy author. He wrote a sexually explicit, humorous poem which circulated in manscript (it was far too risqué to have been approved for publishing) about a man’s visit to a brothel entitled The Choice of Valentines. Compare Romeo and Juliet: “I conjure thee…By her fine foot, straight leg and quivering thigh/ And the demesnes [region] that there adjacent lie” (II.i.18-20) to Nashe’s Choice of Valentines: “First bare her legs, then creep up to her knees./ From thence ascend unto her manly thigh./ (A pox on ling’ring when I am so nigh)” (102-4), and Nashe’s Have With You to Saffron-Walden: “In the demesnes or adjacents” (M3v).

4. Both Shakespeare and Nashe associate “setting up one’s rest” with resting little during the night because of a couple’s love-making. Romeo and Juliet: “The County Paris hath set up his rest/ That you shall rest but little” (IV.iv.33-4) vs. Nashe’s Terrors of the Night: “You that are married and have wives of your own, and yet hold too near frendship with your neighbors; set up your rests, that the Night will be an ill neighbor to your rest” (H2r).

5. Both Shakespeare and Dekker mix the proverb about the weakest going to the wall with the female sex to create bawdy puns. Romeo and Juliet: “Samson. I will take the wall of any man or maid of Montague’s./ Gregory. That shows thee a weak slave, for the weakest goes to the wall./ Samson. ‘Tis true, and therefore women, being the weaker vessels, are ever thrust to the wall; therefore I will push Montague’s men from the wall, and thrust his maids to the wall” (I.i.10-7) vs. Dekker’s The Bloody Banquet: “Oh always the weakest goes to the wall, as for example, knock down a sheep and he tumbles forwards, knock down a woman and she tumbles backwards” (C2v). The same type of sexual punning occurs in Nashe’s Choice of Valentines: “Poor Priapus, whose triumph now must fall,/ Except thou thrust this weakling to the wall” (257-8). Priapus is the god of male genitalia. Note also Nashe’s Preface to Astrophel & Stella: “No bones to take the wall of Sir Philip Sidney” (M2v).

Assorted Similarities

6. Romeo and Juliet: “For then she could stand high-lone” (I.iii.38) vs. Dekker’s Blurt Master Constable: “When I could not stand a high-lone” (D2v). Stand*/stood near.20 high lone is rare in EEBO. “High lone” means alone, without support.

7. Romeo and Juliet: “Let wantons light of heart/ Tickle the sense-less rushes with their heels” (I.iv.35-6) vs. Dekker’s Blurt Master Constable: “Lady, bid him whose heart no sorrow feels/ Tickle the rushes with his wanton heeles” (A4v). Rushes near.30 tickle* near.30 wanton* is also rare in EEBO.

8. Romeo and Juliet: “Then music with her silver sound—/ Why ‘silver sound’, why ‘music with her silver sound?’…It is ‘music with her silver sound’ because musicians have no gold for sounding./ Then music with her silver sound” (IV.iv.154-5, 165-7) vs. Dekker’s Old Fortunatus: “Here’s no sweet Music with her silver sound” (B3v). The source of “Music with her silver sound” is The Paradise of Dainty Devices by Richard Edwards, 1585; the phrase is otherwise rare in EEBO.

9. Romeo and Juliet: Mercutio. You gave us the counterfeit fairly last night./ Romeo. Good morrow to you both. What counterfeit did I give you?/ Mercutio. The slip, sir, the slip” (II.iii.42-6) vs. Nashe’s The Unfortunate Traveler: “Aye me, she was but a counterfeit slip, for she not only gave me the slip” (F1v). Both excerpts pun by mixing the expression “to give the slip,” meaning to escape, with the knowledge that a counterfeit coin is called a “slip.”

10. Romeo and Juliet: “Nay, good goose, bite not.” (II.iii.73) vs. Nashe’s Strange News: “Good bear, bite not.” (T3v), repeated two times in Have With You to Saffron-Walden (T3r) after Gabriel Harvey criticized Nashe for the phrase in Pierce’s Supererogation.

11. Romeo and Juliet: Nurse. My fan, Peter./ Mercutio. Good Peter, to hide her face, for her fan’s the fairer face” (II.iii.98-100) vs. Dekker’s The Shoemaker’s Holiday: “Wife. I must get me a fan or else a mask./ Roger. So you had need, to hide your wicked face” (III.ii.45-6).

For additional similarities between Romeo and Juliet and the works of Marlowe, Nashe and Dekker, and for more in-depth explanation, please see the chapter about the play in The Marlowe-Shakespeare Continuum: Christopher Marlowe, Thomas Nashe, and the Authorship of Early Shakespeare and Anonymous Plays.

© Donna N. Murphy, January 2014

Donna N. Murphy is the co-winner the 2010 Calvin and Rose G. Hoffman Prize for a Distinguished Publication on Christopher Marlowe.

1Sources for quotes: Christopher Marlowe. The Complete Plays, edited by Frank Romany and Robert Lindsey (New York: Penguin Books, 2003); Christopher Marlowe. The Complete Poems and Translations, ed. Stephen Orgel (New York: Penguin Books, 2007); and William Shakespeare, The Complete Works, general editors Stanley Wells and Gary Taylor (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005). For Thomas Nashe and Thomas Dekker, sources are the original works in The Early English Books Online database, usually the first editions. Spelling and orthography have been modernized.
2Louis Ule, Christopher Marlowe (1564-1607). A Biography (New York: Carlton Press Corp, 1995), 2-3.
3John Bakeless, Christopher Marlowe: the Man in his Time (New York: William Morrow and Company, 1937), 157.
4Arthur Brooke, Brooke’s ‘Romeus and Juliet,’ ed. J. J. Munro (London: Chatto & Winders, 1908), epistle To the Reader, as quoted in Harold R. Walley, “Shakespeare’s Debt to Marlowe in Romeo and Juliet,” Philological Quarterly 21 (1942): 257-67, 259.
5Walley, 267. Others have speculated that Shakespeare wrote Venus and Adonis with Hero and Leander nearby.
6Paul H. Kocher, “A Marlowe Sonnet,” Philological Quarterly 24 (1945): 39-45, 39-40; and R. T. Eriksen, “Marlowe’s Petrarch: In Morte di Madonna Laura,” Cahiers Élisabéthains 29 (1986): 13-25.
7Stanley Wells, “Juliet’s Nurse: the uses of inconsequentiality,” in Shakespeare’s Styles, ed. Philip Edwards, et al (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1980), 51-66, 64.
8See discussion in Donald J. McGinn, “Nashe’s Share in the Marprelate Controversy,” Publications of the Modern Language Association of America 59 (1944): 952-84, 972-3.
9Joan Ozark Holmer, “Nashe as ‘Monarch of Witt’ and Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet,” Texas Studies in Literature and Language 37 (1995): 314-43, 315-7.