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.


Ros Barber said...

Donna, your work is most interesting, but for me your insistence that Nashe co-wrote the Shakespeare canon and that Nashe was also Dekker very much confuse and weaken your case. However, I find that a blessing, as it simply underlines my conviction that most stylometric studies are deeply flawed.

The problem as always is how to tell authorship from influence/reference. Nashe is clearly affected by the work of his contemporaries, but how are the sections you quote evidence of self-quoting rather than Shakespeare- (and Marlowe-) quoting? Romeo and Juliet was widely known by the time Nashe wrote 'Have With You To Saffron Walden' - and it's perfectly easy to read his Tybalt/Prince of Cats reference as exactly that - a reference. It is entirely in keeping with his style to throw in smatterings of (mis-) quotations from the work of his contemporaries. He does it with Gabriel Harvey all the time; but this isn't evidence that he was the author Gabriel Harvey.

As to seeing Mercutio as written by Nashe just because the style of his dialogue differs from that of Romeo, this is surely just characterisation. Any skilful author knows that one's characters must speak idiosyncratically, just as real people do. The sure mark of an unskilled author is that all their characters sound the same. Did the author of Shakepeare's works occasionally adopt a 'Nasheian voice' for some of his characters? Of course. Does this mean that he was Nashe? No. Does it mean that he knew Nashe? Possibly. Does it mean that he read Nashe? Quite likely. But none of this is viable evidence for Nashe's co-authorship of the Shakespeare canon.

Here is the blessing: had you concentrated only on Marlowe's stylistic synchronicities with Shakespeare, many Marlovians would be gratefully jumping on your work and insisting it is *proof* of his authorship. With your additional work on Nashe and Dekker, we can see that it doesn't prove authorship, only influence, and we can apply our (thus enhanced) scepticism to other stylometric studies by Stratfordian scholars.

Donna Murphy said...

Dear Ros,

First of all, "stylometrics" to me means studies based on counting linguistic preferences ("pish," "i'th," "'em"), counting contractions; counting function words (“and,” “but,” “in”),or lexical words (conjunctions, pronouns, prepositions), or performing principal components analysis derived from applied linear algebra, to find the most frequent words and filter out the others. I believe stylometrics can be flawed when it assumes than only one hand was involved in the writing or editing of a piece, especially given how common co-authorship was during the period we research.

What I do is not stylometrics, but rather a branch off of parallels, with the difference that I try when possible to perform the negative test--to make sure the word juxtapositions were quite uncommon during the era.

It was parallels between Marlowe and Shakespeare that got Calvin Hoffman and many others excited about the Marlovian theory. Parallels enabled Donald J. McGinn to find that Thomas Nashe wrote the anonymous "An Almond for a Parrot," G. D. Monsarrat to find that John Ford wrote A Funeral Elegy by “W. S.," and various scholars to find that George Peele co-authored "Titus Andronicus"--these are widely accepted attributions.

Yes, one author can influence another, and I see examples of this in Renaissance literature. But fine authors develop their own style, while "Shakespeare" over and over again is "influenced" by Marlowe and Nashe, and the same is true of Nashe and Dekker. Have you read my book on Nashe and Dekker? I'd be happy to chat with you about it via email. It's a shame you dismiss the exhaustive research in it so lightly.

Some scholars, by the way, have proposed that "Romeo and Juliet" was written after "Shakespeare" read "Have With You to Saffron Walden." As for characterization, notice that sometimes, in scenes with Mercutio, Romeo doesn't "speak" like Romeo, i.e., poetically, but rather like Nashe, as in what's sometimes labled II.iii, sometimes II.iv, and contains Romeo's line "O single-soled jest! solely singular fo rht singleness." Here I would argue that Nashe wrote the whole scene, including Romeo's lines.

And while it's true that Nashe and Harvey threw in smatterings of each other's language, they did so to criticize each other's language as part of an ongoing dispute. I think it's inappropriate to use what they did as a reason to throw the baby out with the bathwater.

I most happily stand by my research.

daver852 said...

I have also thought that there was more collaboration between Nashe and Marlowe than is usually thought. Many passages in "Romeo and Juliet" do sound exactly like the sort of thing Nashe would have written, and there are similar passages in other plays as well. And I don't think it is debatable that Nashe and Marlowe knew each other. Probably at Cambridge, and certainly in London. The famous "Queen Mab" speech is obviously lifted from Nashe's "The Terrors of the Night," and Romeo's description of Mercutio as "A gentleman, Nurse, that loves to hear himself talk, and will speak more in a minute than he will stand to in a month," fits Nashe to a tee. There's also the fact that Nashe's name appears on the title page of "Dido, Queen of Carthage." Not proof, per se, that Nashe and Marlowe wrote the play together (some say Nashe finished the play after Marlowe's supposed death), but very suggestive that they did. As far as Nashe and Dekker being the same person - well, I am still trying form an opinion on that. I'm not saying it's impossible, but to me it seems improbable.

Rado Klose said...

Hi Donna .
I have often wondered how these collaborations could have worked.( Was there, for example, an equivalent of the Brill building?) It seems to me that the writers concerned must surely have shared " a room for writing" . How else could they have traded speeches and ideas . The problem in the case of R&J is surely the accurate knowledge of Italian locations identified by Roe. It is thought that the plays' composition dates are circa 1590 /95 , first Quarto '97. One can see how this could fit with a recently exiled Marlowe but then would Nash have added his lines? I'm intrigued

Donna Murphy said...

Dear Rado,
You ask a very good question, which I will do my best to answer. A best guess for the date of composition of "Romeo and Juliet" (R&J) is between March 25, 1595 (because a book by Saviolo on fencing which heavily influenced R&J’s fencing terminology was published in Julian calendar year 1595) and Aug.5, 1596 (when a ballad about “Romeo and Juliet” was published; in the play’s source he was “Romeus”).

A. D. Wraight and Peter Farey have for various reasons quite reasonably proposed that one Monseiur Le Doux was Christopher Marlowe operating under a pseudonym (see and Le Doux resided at Sir John Harington’s home Burley-on-the-Hill in Rutland beginning no later than October 1595, came and left a few times starting Jan. 25, and left for the continent again on March 10, 1596. During this period Marlowe and Nashe could have “shared a room” to write R&J. It is worth adding that Ronald B. McKerrow found that Nashe wrote for Shakespeare’s company before July 1596.

Le Doux seems to have been an intelligencer for Anthony Bacon and the Earl of Essex. An intelligencer coming and going to England could have found opportunities while in England to work with others and disperse his plays.

Dave, you’re right about the relationship between the “Queen Mab” speech and Nashe’s "Terrors of the Night." For more on this, see: Joan Ozark Holmer, “No ‘Vain Fantasy’: Shakespeare’s Refashioning of Nashe for Dreams and Queen Mab,” "Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet: Texts, Contexts, and Interpretations," ed. Jay L. Halio (Newark: Univ. of Delaware Press, 1995), 49-82.

As for "Dido, Queen of Carthage," I concur here with various scholars who do not find Nashe’s hand in it—his style is nowhere evident, nor do I find shared uncommon word juxtapositions between it and Nashe’s work. Their names together on the title page could, though, be taken as a subtle clue that Marlowe and Nashe sometimes wrote together.

Anthony Kellett said...


If your earliest date for the composition is widely accepted, insofar as it is restricted by Saviolo’s publication, then I would have thought that could be disputed quite easily; except in the event that book contains some extraordinary item; or ‘Shakespeare’ quoted passages verbatim, so that the book itself is critical. Even then, I would not think it implausible the date could be much earlier. I will rehearse a (not-exhaustive) plethora of close connections with the theatre world and ‘Shakespeare/ Marlowe’ connected persons, but won’t for the sake of brevity support them. You will just have to take my word for it, but I am fairly sure I could provide adequate evidence if you require.

Vincentio Saviolo arrived to teach his techniques in London in 1587; but his Paduan fighting style was known in London from at least the 1570s, introduced by Rocco Bonnetti, at that time. Bonnetti was married to a relative of James Burbage, and his college was originally started in the building which later became the first Blackfriars Theatre. In 1576 Bonnetti appears to have been in the service of Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester. Perhaps originally a spy in the service of Catherine di Medici, by 1583 he served Francis Walsingham, carrying letters from Scotland used in uncovering the Throckmorton plot. Bonnetti was a close friend of French Ambassador Mauvissiere, who made representations to Walsingham on Bonnetti’s behalf. Perhaps significantly, the teacher of Mauvissiere’s daughter was one John Florio, from 1583 to 1585; and another significant character, Giordano Bruno, worked at the French embassy at the same time

Bonnetti died in 1587 and it is possible that Saviolo arrived that same year to continue Bonnetti’s college, in some sense. By 1591, Saviolo was based near the sign of the Red Lion and within a ‘bow shot’ of the Bell Savage; an inn with strong theatrical connections and a venue for fencing demonstrations. The comedian Tarlton performed at the Bell Savage, and was also a fencing master.

Saviolo seems to be well known by John Florio, who mentions him and some of his techniques at length in his ‘Second Frutes’ (ch.7) of 1591; where ‘Giordano’ asks ‘Edward’ who teaches him; Vincentio Saviolo being the ‘VS’ referred to by Florio. It seems Saviolo was a member of the church where a former minister had been Florio’s father. Perhaps this is a further connection between them; though it is difficult to know which was the chicken or egg, in the respect, given the earlier likely connections of Florio and Bonnetti.


Anthony Kellett said...


Also, I would point out that the second of the two books in Saviolo’s 1595 publication is called ‘Of Honour and honourable Quarrels’. There was an interesting Stationer’s Register entry, in 1589:

Stationers Record reads :

13 Decembris [1589]

Ric Jones - Entred for his copie, by warrant of master FFLOWERs letter, and under the Wardens handes : The Booke of Honour and Armes wherein is discoursed the causes of quarell, and the nature of Injures with their Repulses with the meanes of satisfaction and pacification &c. vjd

I do not think it improbable that this was an earlier version of the work; which might explain the first publication having two books, perhaps? Even if this was never published, it does not eliminate the possibility that it was distributed to pupils.

I could go on (and on) about more on this, but I will finish with a few excerpts of his dedication of the 1595 work to the Earl of Essex. This seems to demonstrate a proper connection to the Essex, too, and even various members of his circle of friends. Moreover, the final quote hints Saviolo may have come to England specifically under Essex’s protection:

“I have thought good to dedicate the same unto your honor, as unto him whose bountie most bindeth me…at the request of certaine Gentlemen my good friends, & to make the world witnes of my gratefull minde towards them for the many curtesies which I have received at their handes since my first comming into this Countrie…whose benigne protection and provision for strangers, maketh you reported off as theyr safe sanctuary.”

In view of all this, and how well-known these Paduan techniques may have been amongst a relevant group of people, I cannot see how it could be claimed Marlowe (or Shaksper, for that matter) could not have had a working knowledge of them before Saviolo’s book was published. Notwithstanding this, Marlowe might even have picked them up in Padua, of course; where these techniques where common place, with numerous schools teaching them in the late 16th century.

Donna Murphy said...

Dear Anthony,

You are a wealth of information! I am poorly positioned in South Korea to further research this subject, but the source of my information is Joan Ozark Holmer, “‘Draw, if you be Men’: Saviolo’s Significance for Romeo and Juliet,’” Shakespeare Quarterly 45 (1994): 163-89. You may well know more than Holmer about this, but it’s worth reading if you haven’t already done so. I can get a copy to you if you wish.

As for other factors that have been employed in an attempt to date "R&J," the Nurse says of Juliet, “‘Tis since the earthquake now eleven years, And she was weaned” (I.iii.25-6). England experienced an earthquake in April, 1580, so scholars at first proposed a date of composition of 1591. Sarah Dodson, however, found that there were two landslips in England in January 1583 and August 1585, and Sidney Thomas noted that an earthquake occurred on the European continent on March 1, 1584. It might be argued that the 1584 earthquake, which raised the water levels of Lake Geneva in Switzerland and was also felt in Italy and France, would be the one most likely to be mentioned by a nurse living in northern Italy. If so, the Nurse was speaking in 1595.

Lastly, certain similarities between "R&J" and "A Midsummer Night’s Dream" cause some to think the two plays were written around the same time. David Wiles makes a fairly convincing case that "MND" was written for the February 19, 1596 Carey-Berkeley wedding, for which the astronomical conditions precisely fit the prevailing circumstances of the play ("Shakespeare’s Almanac: 'A Midsummer Night’s Dream,' Marriage and the Elizabethan Calendar." Cambridge: Brewer, 1993).

Yes, dating the Shakespeare plays can be such a pain. If only each play in the First Folio had been accompanied by its date of first performance. : )

Donna Murphy said...

I have posted two articles in reponse to Ros Barber’s comments. For those who doubt the possibility that Thomas Nashe assumed the identity of Thomas Dekker, I really do suggest reading my book on the subject, “The Mysterious Connection Between Thomas Nashe, Thomas Dekker, and T. M.” For a short discussion of one of the mysterious connections, however, please read “Who Wrote the 1603-4 Humorous Pamphlets?” at

I agree that a skillful author can write characters who speak in different fashions from each other, but that doesn’t explain why one character would speak in two different voices within one play. Please read “When Prince Harry Sallies Forth in Two Voices” at

Anonymous said...

Didn't Greene call Shakespeare an "upstart crow, beautified with our feathers"? Sounds like he was overborrowing. And we've lost many plays from those days, so who knows how deep it goes.

SydArthur said...

Dear Anonymous . . .

Greene not referring to Shakespeare:

Morten said...

I agree with Ros: correlations between Romeo and Juliet and Marlowe / others can only prove influence, not authorship. Much harder to explain is profound Nostradamus influence on both Marlowe and Shakespeare. For illustrations, see