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Home :: Archive :: 1995 :: September ::
Re: Marlowe/Comics Part 1
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 6, No. 0693, Tuesday, 19 September 1995.
 
(1)     From:   Chris Gordon <
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        Date:   Sunday, 17 Sep 95 14:24:49 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 6.0692   Some Assorted Questions
 
(2)     From:   Ron Macdonald <
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        Date:   Sunday, 17 Sep 1995 15:39:09 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Fictional Marlowe
 
(3)     From:   Jeremy R. Jacobs <jrjst7+@pitt.edu>
        Date:   Sunday, 17 Sep 1995 23:57:48 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 6.0692   Some Assorted Questions
 
(4)     From:   David Jackson <
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        Date:   Monday, 18 Sep 95 10:15:19 est
        Subj:   Re: SHK 6.0692   Some Assorted Questions
 
(5)     From:   David Evett <R0870%
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        Date:   Monday, 18 Sep 1995 13:51 ET
        Subj:   Marlowe fiction
 
 
(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Chris Gordon <
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Date:           Sunday, 17 Sep 95 14:24:49 -0500
Subject: 6.0692   Some Assorted Questions
Comment:        Re: SHK 6.0692   Some Assorted Questions
 
For Lawrence Manley:
 
There are several good novels related to Christopher Marlowe that I've read
over the last year or so; they include:
 
Judith Cook, *The Slicing Edge of Death: Who Killed Christopher Marlowe* (check
out the mystery section of your library/bookstore if you can't find it in
mainstream fiction)
 
George Garrett, *Entered from the Sun* (which takes place a number of years
after Marlowe's death and focuses on its double protagonists, but is quite
wonderful)
 
And, absolutely the best of all (IMHO), Anthony Burgess, *A Dead Man in
Deptford.* This was Burgess's last novel, published in Britain in 1993 and only
just published in the U.S. (to the everlasting shame of American publishing,
which doesn't have much to be proud of these days)
 
Marlowe also appears as a character in a fantasy novel by Lisa Goldstein called
*Strange Devices of the Sun and Moon,* in which the fairy queen herself comes
to Elizabethan London.
 
Comic books:
 
I've seen a "new" Classics Illustrated version of *Hamlet* that's quite good,
and someone whose name escapes me (Ian Pollock???) did a remarkable illustrated
*King Lear* (in somewhat more elaborate comic book format--more like *Maus*
than the Classics Illustrated series).
 
Hope this helps! --Chris Gordon, University of Minnesota
 
(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Ron Macdonald <
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Date:           Sunday, 17 Sep 1995 15:39:09 -0500 (EST)
Subject:        Fictional Marlowe
 
Lawrence Manley asks for "explicitly fictional (as opposed to allegedly
biographical) treatments of Christopher Marlowe.  Chris Gordon and I seem to be
the resident insatiable consumers of fiction based on the life and times of
Christopher Marlowe.  Some time ago, she recommended Judith Cook's novel _The
Slicing Edge of Death: Who Killed Christopher Marlowe?_ and I, partly to
express my gratitude, countered with George Garrett's _Entered From the Sun_, a
novel set in the wake of Marlowe's death.  Then there's Anthony Burgess's last
novel, the posthumously published _A Dead Man in Deptford_, now available in
this country in paperback, and well worth the price.  I can recommend all
three, though I'm a bit unsure about what Lawrence Manley means by "explicitly
fictional" and "allegedly biographical."  All three novelists mentioned here
have considerable knowledge of the historical record and manage to weave it
into their tales, making the distinction between their work and, say, Charles
Nicholl's exercise in historical speculation, _The Reckoning: The Murder of
Christopher Marlowe_, less clear-cut that it might otherwise be.
 
                                         --Ron Macdonald
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(3)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Jeremy R. Jacobs <jrjst7+@pitt.edu>
Date:           Sunday, 17 Sep 1995 23:57:48 -0500
Subject: 6.0692   Some Assorted Questions
Comment:        Re: SHK 6.0692   Some Assorted Questions
 
Professor Manley --
 
Regarding fictional treatments of Christopher Marlowe, I'm aware of
_Entered from the Sun_ by George Garrett, _The Reckoning_ by Charles Nicholls,
and the recent _A Dead Man in Deptford_ by Anthony Burgess. All of these focus
on the murder of Marlowe; _Entered from the Sun_ does not purport to be a
biography while _The Reckoning_ does. About _Dead Man_ I can say nothing, since
I haven't a copy at hand. But read on, because the two questions you posed DO
have a connection.
 
I'm in the middle of trying to assemble one (or more) papers on the subject of
Shakespeare and Comic Books. My point of focus is on a currently running comic
called _The Sandman_, which is written by Neil Gaiman and published by DC
Comics. Shakespeare himself has appeared as a character within the book on two
occasions: Issue 13, "Men of Good Fortune", concerns a pair of immortal
characters who meet for drinks every hundred years. Their 1589 meeting
introduces the titular character Sandman (or Morpheus or Dream, the
anthropomorphic personification of dreams) to two playwrights, Kit Marlowe at
the height of his career, and Will Shakespeare at the shaky start of his own.
Dream establishes a deal with Shakespeare -- two plays celebrating dreams, one
at the start of WS's career, the other at the end, in exchange for the ability
to write plays that will live on in human memory across the ages. Issue 19, "A
Midsummer Night's Dream", presents the first performance of Shakespeare's
earlier play celebrating dreams, performed outdoors before an audience of
fairies, including Titania and Oberon themselves. The issue presents both a
look at the performance, and a peek backstage, and is very intriguing in its
view of Elizabethan theatrical practice. The murder of Marlowe, presented by
Gaiman as explicitly political, plays a substantial role in the story, since
Dream is the first to inform Shakespeare of the death of his friend and rival.
Anyway, the issue marked an important point in the history of the comic, and
comics in general, since the issue won the 1991 World Fantasy Award for the
Year's Best Short Story, the first comic book ever to do so, and the last,
since the stunned Convention organizers altered the rules to forbid further
nominations of comic books in major categories (amazing how it's always the
ones on the fringe who are the most reactionary). Since that point, _Sandman_
has acheived enormous popular and critical success in the field, allowing
Gaiman unprecedented freedom in his work, and making him one of the most
awarded authors in comic book history.
 
These stories, and Shakespeare and Marlowe's appearances, are not merely
incidental to the comic, but key elements of both the overall storyline and the
themes of the book as a whole. It is worth noting, incidentally, that the final
issue, #75, due out in a few months, will present the second commissioned play,
_The Tempest_. It's beyond my present 12-am-and-supposed-to-be-grading-papers
sensibility to condense all my research into something e-mail worthy, but if
you are interested I can send you some further notes later this week.
 
The two issues (13 and 19) are almost unavailable for individual purchase, but
they are easy to find in trade paperbakc reprint collections entitled,
respectively, _The Doll's House_ and _Dream Country_. Any good comic book store
or some book stores should be able to help you, or you can order them from
Warner Books.
 
All of the above hardly exhausts the topic of Shakespeare and Comic Books, but
it surely has exhausted me. Let me know if I can be of further assistance.
 
(4)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Jackson <
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Date:           Monday, 18 Sep 95 10:15:19 est
Subject: 6.0692   Some Assorted Questions
Comment:        Re: SHK 6.0692   Some Assorted Questions
 
Re: Marlowe/comics
 
I believe Anthony Burgess' lats novel, whose title escapes me, is about
Marlowe. The book is still in hardcover and on sale at most decent bookstores,
I think.
 
As for Comic Books, the revived Classics Illustrated (the originals of which I
have to admit I loved as a child--they were my introduction to much of the
Western Canon, as H.B. would no doubt be overjoyed to hear) a few years ago
came out with versions of Hamlet, Macbeth, and several others. I can't remember
whether they were complete text versions, but I suspect that they were. I also
have a full text comic book of Twelfth Night, from a British publisher, in a
very fin-de-20th siecle, post-punk graphic style. I'll post the publisher's
name when I find it.
 
(5)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Evett <R0870%
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Date:           Monday, 18 Sep 1995 13:51 ET
Subject:        Marlowe fiction
 
Lawrence Manley asks for information about fictional treatments of Marlowe.
Anthony Burgess' last novel, _A Dead Man in Deptford_, tells the Marlowe story
in the first person.  It revisits the violent, word-crazy Elizabethan England
B. first explored in _Nothing like the Sun_, though more coolly; his Marlowe is
a man distanced by his intellect from his own emotions, which are nevertheless
powerful and finally destructive. It's very tempting to see a lot of B. himself
in his central character--including the bisexuality that B. only apparently
confessed to late in his life.  There are at any rate interesting pages
imagining homosexual feelings and behavior in the 1580s.  The least satisfying
aspect of the novel, in my judgment, is its treatment of Marlowe the
playwright.  But I enjoyed it, and would recommend it to students wanting a
fuller sense of the place, the period, and the people.
 
On the subject of Burgess--and the mysterious borderlands between biography and
fiction--I recommend Paul Theroux's witty, hilarious memoir-short story,
recounting the relationship between Burgess and a fictionalized if not
fictitious American admirer, in that summer issue of _The New Yorker_ devoted
to books--my copy's elsewhere so I can't give you the date, but I seem to to
recall late June or early July.
 
Dave Evett
 

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