Sunday, February 8, 2015

“I live to die, I die to live” by Ros Barber

On Bastian Conrad’s English language Marlowe pages, I was interested to find a new claim for Marlovian theory that I hadn’t encountered before.  From 1602, the title pages of several editions of Venus and Adonis were decorated with an illustration showing a human skull with wings, balanced on the globe of the Earth, and above it an open book containing the words (in modern spelling) “I live to die, I die to live”. 

Under Marlovian theory, Christopher Marlowe faked his death in May 1593 in order to escape being executed for atheism and heresy, and Venus and Adonis was his first publication under the name William Shakespeare, so “I live to die, I die to live” might seem a very suitable motto to place upon it.

Nevertheless it is vitally important that all researchers seek to disprove their theories, especially when it comes to theories relating to the authorship question, for you can be quite sure that if you don’t attempt to disprove your theory, somebody else will, and thereby cast doubt on the quality of your pronouncements more generally.

Modern research tools such as Early English Books Online make it possible to do this rather easily, if one has access to them.  On examining every digitized title page for Venus and Adonis that is available, it was clear that this image was introduced in 1602 by the publisher William Leake. 

A 1599 edition of Venus and Adonis printed “by R.Bradocke for William Leake, dwelling in Paule’s churchyard at the signe of the greyhound” did not utilize this image.  But William Leake’s 1602 edition, and those he published subsequently, depicted the winged skull and the open book with its motto.  The reason becomes obvious almost immediately.  William Leake had moved premises and was now to be found, according to the title page, “dwelling at the sign of the Holy Ghost, in Paules Churchyard”.  The winged skull was the sign of the Holy Ghost, and “I live to die, I die to live” was the Holy Ghost’s message of everlasting life. 

A survey of other William Leake publications confirms this; for a decade from 1602, nearly all of his publications bear this image (complete with “I live to die, I die to live”) on their title pages including:
  John Jewel’s Sermons (1603)
  John Lyly’s Euphues and His England (1605)
  Henry Smith’s Sermons (1605)
  Robert Linaker’s A Comfortable Treatise (1607)
  Leonard Wright’s A Pilgrimage to Paradise (1608)

Presumably, no one is going to argue that these writers, too, faked their deaths to avoid being killed.

In 1613, Leake changed his device to a wordless, blazing book. But it’s clear that from 1602 to 1612, the winged skull with its motto that decorated Venus and Adonis and many other books besideswas simply a marker of the William Leake brand.

 © Ros Barber, February 2015


Anthony Kellett said...

Just more evidence of the integrity to be found amongst Marlovian scholars. Well done, Ros. The more false trails we eliminate, the better.

If we can't rely on most orthodox scholars, to start an earnest search for the truth, then Marlovians will have to do so, alone.

daver852 said...

Wow, that is interesting.

Morten said...

Excellent research and very credible conclusions! However, your comments about the sign of the Holy Ghost in Paul's Churchyard failed to convince me that the printer changed premises as opposed to merely changing his sign. You suggest that any link to Marlowe is purely coincidental but there is strong evidence to the contrary:

"Blunt,I propose to be blunt with you, and, out of my dulness, to encounter you with a Dedication in memory of that pure elemental wit, Chr. Marlowe, whose ghost or genius is to be seen walk the Churchyard."

There you have it, in print in 1600, two years prior to that publication of Venus and Adonis in 1602. Marlowe is in fact the "ghost" of Paul's Churchyard. :)

I think it should also be mentioned that, coincidentally or not, the motto "I live to die, I die to live" is a perfect match for the contents of Venus and Adonis:

"Do I delight to die, or life desire?
But now I liv'd, and life was death's annoy;
But now I died, and death was lively joy."

Indeed, references to life and death permeate the entire poem, and there seems to be little to prevent the printer from continuing to use the motto simply because he liked it.

Someone mentioned "false trails." I myself am pursuing a trail: the enormous influence of the prophecies of Nostradamus (referred to as the "Holy Ghost" in certain circles) on the plays of Marlowe and Shakespeare. I've summarized my findings on a web page, If anyone thinks this trail is worth following, arrangements can be made to post a synopsis of that page on this blog so that everyone could have an opportunity to explore it.


Laraine said...

Thanks for sharing the thorough research...

I'm quite taken with the possible symbolism of a winged skull representing the Holy Spirit. It seems that skull representations did appear during the Medieval/Renaissance period.

This one seems to take the spirit out of the dove... seems like something negative, though not necessarily.

(Blazing book --couldn't help thinking of the burning Koran in Tamburlaine.)

One is also reminded of the various quotes in the Bible about dying followed by everlasting life. Just heard one this past Sunday about Christ:

In (I Peter 3:1-22)
"Put to death in the flesh, he was brought to life in the Spirit"

Then from Marlowe, Faustus seems to neglect the part of the quote concerning everlasting life:

Faustus 1.1.37

(Romans 6:23) Stipendium...

The wages of sin is death (the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord)


Sonja Foxe said...

The secret does not lie in the Shakespeare Marlowe connection, but rather in the Marlowe DeVere connexion. #1 I believe wrote Skanderbeg as an entry to deVere's Fisher's Folly (Watson's a connection) produced by Oxford's Men followed by his breakthru Tamerlaine ... I also hold that Faustus HAD to be written post 1589 ... due to the monster heist of John Dee's library in that year. Marlowe archly confesses to participation in that action in that play w/the device he uses to fly up to Mt. Olympus ... this device, or its plans, stolen from Dee's library. #2 Marlowe is the Rival Poet of the Sonnets. Shaksper was an ACTOR ... and I posit (for the sake of drama) with his buddy Richard Burbage accomplished the posting of the Dutch Church libels during the lunar eclipse of May 1593

LarryP said...

Good research, Ros. I must admit I was rather excited by Bastian's discovery as I started to read.

The poem itself does contain a few interesting comments about life after death:

"But now I lived, and life was death's annoy;
But now I died, and death was lively joy."

"And so, in spite of death, thou dost survive,"

Although I suppose that can be challenged too based on the surrounding lines. Still a rather strange reference occurring as it does in the immediate aftermath of Marlowe's death.

By law of nature thou art bound to breed,
That thine may live when thou thyself art dead;
And so, in spite of death, thou dost survive,
In that thy likeness still is left alive.'

Taken in its entirety it seems to mirror the fair youth sonnets.