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Home :: Archive :: 2003 :: January ::
Re: Shakespeare and Marlowe
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 14.006  Wednesday, 1 January 2003

[1]     From:   Claude Caspar <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 31 Dec 2002 09:20:10 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.2487 Re: Shakespeare and Marlowe

[2]     From:   Philip Tomposki <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 31 Dec 2002 15:17:55 -0500
        Subj:   Frontline Does Marlowe

[3]     From:   Dave Kathman <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 31 Dec 2002 19:42:37 -0600
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.2487 Re: Shakespeare and Marlowe


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Claude Caspar <
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Date:           Tuesday, 31 Dec 2002 09:20:10 -0500
Subject: 13.2487 Re: Shakespeare and Marlowe
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.2487 Re: Shakespeare and Marlowe

What is alarming about such pursuits, as if we are really living in a
world of eternal return, is that close examination of the writing styles
explodes the possibility, something meticulously well-documented for all
with eyes to see, ears to hear.  Marlowe's imagination cannot be
confused with Shakespeare's, though seeing how WS was influenced by, and
used, Marlowe is extremely crucial for an understanding of Shakespeare's
development. Bloom's recent book is very good here. It is irrelevant
when Marlowe died in this regard, though had he lived we would all have
benefited from his genius.  Such issues separate those who really have
read & read well.

"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 admired 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.
What is beauty, saith my sufferings, then?"

See Swinburne's sonnet on this Marlowe gem.

Christopher Marlowe (1882)

Crowned, girdled, garbed and shod with light and fire,
Son first-born of the morning, sovereign star!
Soul nearest ours of all, that wert most far.
Most far off in the abysm of time, thy lyre
Hung highest above the dawn-enkindled quire
Where all ye sang together, all that are,
And all the starry songs behind thy car
Rang sequence, all our souls acclaim thee sire.
"If all the pens that ever poets held
Had fed the feeling of their masters' thoughts,"
And as with rush of hurtling chariots
The flight of all their spirits were impelled
Toward one great end, thy glory -- nay, not then,
Not yet might'st thou be praised enough of men.

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Philip Tomposki <
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Date:           Tuesday, 31 Dec 2002 15:17:55 -0500
Subject:        Frontline Does Marlowe

Ed Taft writes "Frontline is usually well researched, thorough, and
reliable, in my experience. But if the title of this program's next
piece is "Much Ado about Something," I fear that this excellent series
has dropped the ball. If only the writers had used the real title of
Shakespeare's play!"

Ed, I guess you missed Frontlines previous foray into this topic when
they got snookered by the Oxfordians into putting on a dreadfully
misinformed screed for you-know-who.  The producers even 'edited'
Puttenham by conflating two sentences from different essays on different
topics into a single statement.

Frontline is not the only 'legitimate' news outlet to fall into this
trap.  The New York Times and Washington Post have both printed articles
by writers who, either out of bias or ignorance, produced poorly
researched pieces supporting the anti-Stratfordian case.  There is, of
course, the 'dog-bites-man vs man-bites-dog' issue.  Shakespeare wrote
Shakespeare may be true, but it's not news.  Apparently the editors and
producers are more interested in gaining readers/viewers than presenting
a balanced accurate account of the facts.

I'm no right-wing anti-press fanatic.  However, it has been my sad
experience that whenever I've seen or read a story in the media where
I'm familiar with the facts, the reporting invariably has been
inaccurate and misleading.  Reporters are writing stories as much as
Shakespeare did, and often take as many liberties as the bard does in
his 'Histories".  Sorry Ed, in the news as with everything else, the
motto is caveat emptor.

From Russell MacKenzie Fehr "While I've been hyperbolic, the people who
say that Marlowe wrote Shakespeare's works tend to have, on average,
even worse arguments than those who claim Oxford wrote them. "

Actually, I think the Marlovians produce a better scenario than Oxford's
partisans.  It's complete lunacy, of course, but once you get past the
nutty premise, it's more logically consistent than the mishmash of
conflicting arguments put forth by Oxfordians.

Philip Tomposki

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Dave Kathman <
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Date:           Tuesday, 31 Dec 2002 19:42:37 -0600
Subject: 13.2487 Re: Shakespeare and Marlowe
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.2487 Re: Shakespeare and Marlowe

Claude Caspar wrote:

>I see (here in Washington, DC) that PBS' Frontline is having a show on
>"Much Ado About Something"- Marlowe as possible author of you know what.
>Should be worth seeing, though I am surprised this dog still hunts.

It doesn't.  This is a film made by Mike Rubbo, an Australian filmmaker,
on a shoestring budget provided by the Australian Broadcasting Company;
it was not made by Frontline or PBS.  Rubbo became enamored of the
Marlowe-wrote-Shakespeare idea and talked to various Marlovian
eccentrics (an oxymoron, I know) as well as some real scholars such as
Jonathan Bate and Stanley Wells.  The latter get short shrift and are
not edited in a very flattering way; the Marlovians got to spout their
ideas, including some outright factual falsehoods, with little
substantive rebuttal.  I was supposed to be interviewed for the film as
well, but Rubbo had to cancel at the last minute because of some sort of
emergency back in Australia, and he never did get to me.  Too bad,
because I would have rebutted most of the common antistratfordian
canards which are trotted out.  Rubbo is a fairly nice guy personally,
but not a critical thinker.  He seems to have gotten most of his
knowledge of Elizabethan literary history from antistratfordian sources.

Rubbo did send me a video of the finished film.  It's entertaining as a
portrait of an eccentric subculture, but the alarming thing is that some
people actually take the Marlovians in the film seriously.  I had a
mini-debate with Rubbo on the New York City NPR station last February,
when the movie was being released theatrically in the United States.  I
don't think he was particularly happy at being challenged so much.

Russell Mackenzie Fehr wrote:

>Odds are, this is going to be someone who lives in this mother's
>basement claiming that he (for some reason there tend not to be too many
>notable anti-Stratfordian women) has evidence that Marlowe wasn't really
>murdered.

Actually, one of the main Marlovians interviewed in the film, Dolly
Wraight, is a woman.  She has died since the movie was filmed in the
summer of 2000.

>The chief problem with this can be summed up with two
>questions "Who was murdered, then, instead of Marlowe?" and "Why doesn't
>Marlowe's name ever come up again?". And, to respond to answers I'm
>already hearing "No, it couldn't have been Shakespeare, the painting we
>have of Marlowe and the engraving of "young Shakespeare" in the First
>Folio look nothing like each other", and, "Even if someone who knew him
>didn't say "Saw Marlowe, though he's been calling himself Shakespeare
>lately", certainly the Court (and for the theories to work, he'd have to
>still be employed as a spy, otherwise, the Court wouldn't have protected
>him) would have mentioned him in some document by name".
>
>While I've been hyperbolic, the people who say that Marlowe wrote
>Shakespeare's works tend to have, on average, even worse arguements than
>those who claim Oxford wrote them.

That's true in a way, but in a way they're also harder to argue
against.  To take the Marlovian scenario at all seriously, one must
believe that Marlowe's death was somehow faked despite the explicit
evidence of the coroner's inquisition, the burial record, and the many
subsequent mentions in print of Marlowe's untimely death.  Once somebody
makes that leap, however, they can basically make up anything they want
for Marlowe's imagined life in exile writing the works of Shakespeare.
With the Earl of Oxford, they have to deal with the inconvenient fact
that he died in 1604, that he wrote many letters in the 1590s, none of
which mention plays or poetry, and so on.

Edmund Taft wrote:

>Frontline is usually well researched, thorough, and reliable, in my
>experience.

Not in this case.  It's the usual antistratfordian claptrap, and the
reaction of any Shakespeare scholars who watch it will undoubtedly be
either bemusement (at the idea that anybody could take this stuff
seriously) or annoyance at the way the Marlovians make stuff up and
twist the facts.

>But if the title of this program's next piece is "Much Ado
>about Something," I fear that this excellent series has dropped the
>ball. If only the writers had used the real title of Shakespeare's play!

I suspect that somebody at PBS has antistratfordian sympathies, since
Frontline also did a dreadful program in 1989 which was highly
sympathetic to Oxfordians (and which resorted to outright fabrication of
"evidence").  It's really a shame, because this kind of thing just
destroys their credibility with anybody who knows about Shakespeare and
Elizabethan literary history.  I certainly don't trust anything I see on
Frontline unless I know about the subject independently.

Dave Kathman

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