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Home :: Archive :: 1996 :: July ::
Re: Shakespeare and Marlowe
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 7, No. 0511.  Wednesday, 10 July 1996.

From:           Thomas Bishop <
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Date:           Tuesday, 9 Jul 1996 17:17:10 +1000
Subject: 7.0507  Re: Shakespeare and Marlowe
Comment:        Re: SHK 7.0507  Re: Shakespeare and Marlowe

Well, not only does that ball roll, it bounces! In some cases into the hazard.
So here's an attempt at angling your various giraffes.

Of course, I had no intention of neglecting or discouraging attention to other
forms of intertextuality or source-study in asking questions about how
Shakespeare might have read or felt or even acted his way through Marlowe. But
we need to extend the same form of courtesy to this sort of enquiry as we do to
others, within its and their limits. It's not really true that the critical
profession gives more rewards to people who write on what Shakespeare did with
Marlowe than on what he did with, say, obscure Latin primers or diaries by
colonial adventurers or ponderous alchemical treatises (the answers will be
found on page 34 of this reply). It is not, I think, even the case any more
that a dull study on Shakespeare is more sure of reward than an epochal one on
Burton or Amelia Lanyer or broadside ballads. And I think this is a good thing.
(But that's another issue.)

So yes, the use of commonplace-books may have made a difference to how writers
went about composing and thought about their sources. G.K. Hunter argued as
much many years ago in tracing what Seneca meant to the period. But did this
practice have the same effect on the work of -all- writers? On a known
commonplacer like Webster the same as on an iconoclast rebel like Marlowe? Is
there only one model or practice of composition in any period? I beg leave to
doubt. In order to understand the political history of the Elizabethan period,
we need in fact to know quite a lot about the House of Lords, as well as about
the Commons, and about people who never got near either. I would only make the
same sort of plea for the study of sources, springs, influences, pre-texts and
origins. There are many kinds of dialogue, too, to return to my own proposed
figure, as anyone knows who's ever sat in a crowded cafe with half an ear open.
Whether Greene's "Light in Troy" is an "adequate" account of "the real
practices of reading and composition in early modern England" I do not know.
Adequate to what? I'm not sure what such an account would look like. Probably
like the Collected Works of Erasmus. That there is more to say than Greene says
I would agree, but this is only to say that the matter is not closed. How could
it be? Greene's is certainly an interesting, learned, detailed, careful,
stylish, moving and, as far as I can see, in its own measure, true account of
the matter. Can one fairly ask one writer for more?

It also seems to me a little unfair to accuse Bloom of being "aristocratic"
here, a term loaded with all kinds of political baggage that have little to do
with his views, on poetry or politics. He claims no more than that his interest
is in poets reading poets as poets. It doesnt make much sense therefore to
object that poets also read other things. He has never denied that they do. But
poets certainly do, will-they nill-they, find poetry in other poets. And most
poets I know of find the experience of this poetry compelling in one way or
another: Chaucer with Dante, Milton with Moses, Shelley with Aeschylus, Rich
with HD. It -might- make sense to ask whether poets always find poetry -only-
in other poets, and to this I would want to answer "no". But these things are
very hard indeed to trace (Lowes did it with Coleridge, with wonderful
results), and one is entitled to ask whether such appropriations aren't in fact
conditioned by a precedent experience of poetry anyway. One -may-, of course,
refuse to speak of "poetry" in this way at all, but then one has to engage with
Dr. Bloom at a much deeper level than this. In something like these terms, I
would be prepared to argue that Shakespeare responded to Marlowe.

The "yellow sands" were something of a throwaway, though I would add that if
Virgil was their remoter forebear, they get sea-changed in both latter poets by
the association with lovers. As for whether asking about Shakespeare and
Marlowe is parochial, again, it rather depends who draws (and beats) the parish
bounds. I have no quarrel with asking about other writers, (allez-y, les
gars!), yet it seems to me undeniable that Shakespeare knew Marlowe and was
interested in his work, so I dont see why we shouldnt talk about it. SHAKSPER
does sometimes get rather dull around this time of year. And no-one volunteered
to join my heavy-metal band last year.

Nor do I think there's a single Marlovian style. But I'll allow that
Shakespeare had actually a better, or at least a fuller, idea of what "Marlowe"
was in 1592 than I do, since he actually knew him, and I dont. And it didnt
take cultural studies to teach me that influence is a subtle process, though if
other people did learn that from it, I can only cheer. But perhaps I did
overstate a little. Chalk it up as provocative rhetoric if you will. But as to
making overgeneral claims: nothing would give me keener pleasure than a
detailed working-through of some specific examples. (Well, almost nothing).

And as for Vincent Mooney's comments.....I think I'll take up fishing.

"Bait the hook well, this fish will bite"

Tom Bishop

Oh, and the answers are: T.W. Baldwin, Stephen Greenblatt, Frances Yates.
 

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