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Home :: Archive :: 2004 :: January ::
Marlowe Inquest
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 15.0113  Thursday, 15 January 2004

[1]     From:   Thomas Larque <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 14 Jan 2004 13:02:35 -0000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.0094 Marlowe Inquest

[2]     From:   D Bloom <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 14 Jan 2004 07:39:38 -0600
        Subj:   RE: SHK 15.0094 Marlowe Inquest

[3]     From:   Bob Grumman <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 14 Jan 2004 08:41:12 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.0094 Marlowe Inquest


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Thomas Larque <
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Date:           Wednesday, 14 Jan 2004 13:02:35 -0000
Subject: 15.0094 Marlowe Inquest
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.0094 Marlowe Inquest

 >Thomas Larque refers to "Proponents of vast conspiracy theories" in
 >regard to comments on the death of Marlowe.
 >
 >I hope he was not referring to mine

No, certainly not.  I was a long term resident on HLAS - the Shakespeare
Newsgroup - (although I now have better things to do with my spare time)
and the sort of conspiracy theories that I was coming across there were
what I principally had in mind.  The sort of conspiracy theories that
involved a major government cover-up by major nobles and legal
officials, complete with imported (famous) hanged corpses to substitute
for Marlowe, the jury's failure to notice the marks of hanging justified
by some very dubious interpretation of the historical records describing
Coroner's inquests (which actually required the body to be viewed naked,
but which the conspiracy nuts would prefer to claim allowed the jury to
view the body only when it had already been sewn into a shroud, which
would have made the presence of a jury completely pointless).

There are more sensible conspiracy theories, such as the one put forward
by Charles Nichols, but I have to admit to being rather dubious even
about these - although I admire Nichols's book and his scholarship,
while rather obviously not admiring the proponents of theories that
follow the sort of pattern set out above.

Thomas Larque.
"Shakespeare and His Critics"       "British Shakespeare Association"
http://shakespearean.org.uk           http://britishshakespeare.ws

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           D Bloom <
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Date:           Wednesday, 14 Jan 2004 07:39:38 -0600
Subject: 15.0094 Marlowe Inquest
Comment:        RE: SHK 15.0094 Marlowe Inquest

Philip Tomposki responds to my complaint that the explanation of the
killing of Marlowe, as derived from coroner's report, doesn't work:

"Actually, it works quite well.  In 'The Reckoning' Charles Nicholl
suggest (and I agree) that Frizer's wounds, long, shallow gashes,
suggest he was being pummeled with the hilt of the knife.  This means
the point is up and would be moving toward Marlowe on the upswing.

"Now try this, swing your arm down as if you were striking someone.
(Please use an imaginary knife - the Thane of Cawdor has one he can lend
you.)  At the nadir of your stroke, pull your forearm back as if being
pushed away by your victim.  You'll find the knifepoint strikes your
face near the eye.  (At least it does for me.)  Hemmed in by Skeres and
Poley, Fizer can only turn halfway and raise his arm to ward off the
blow.  If he happens to push Marlowe's arm away at the beginning of the
upswing, Marlowe's own movements contribute to the force of the blow."

It may not matter, but it seems to me that he is visualizing someone
*standing* behind someone else and attacking them, not lying on a bed.
It's the latter that bothers me, not the idea that Frizer might have
killed Marlowe more or less accidentally. It's hard to do anything while
lying on bed (except the obvious), even while "leaning forward." If
Marlowe swung at Frizer while still lying essentially prone, where would
Frizer's injuries be? And where would Marlowe's eyes be if Frizer stood
and whirled in place, as he would have to do? This is what I can't make
work.

Was Marlowe actually *sitting* on the bed and then leaned forward in the
sense of making a kind of crouching attack? It would still be difficult
for him to harm Frizer except on the back, but he could do something
injurious. Frizer might then have reached back to swat (the presumably
quite drunk) Marlowe, but having his knife in his hand, jabbed it into
the other man's eye deeply enough to kill him.

I can make all sorts of scenarios work if Marlowe is standing or even
crouching behind Frizer, but not if he is lying on his back or side.

Cheers,
don

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Bob Grumman <
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Date:           Wednesday, 14 Jan 2004 08:41:12 -0500
Subject: 15.0094 Marlowe Inquest
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.0094 Marlowe Inquest

SNIP to:

 >my response was strictly technical. That
 >is, either there's something wrong with the coroner's report or there's
 >something wrong with my visualizing of it.
 >
 >If the former, that does not necessarily mean anything more than that
 >Frizer et al. testified in a way that exonerated them from any blame,

Or that whatever happened was difficult to put into words, but that they
did well enough in orally explaining what happened--as well, probably,
as acting it out--to convinced the jurors they were giving a reasonably
close approximation of what actually happened.

 >and that the coroner was happy to accept it even if it didn't quite make
 >sense (as suggested). If the latter, then I was concerned to get a
 >clarification.

I find Philip Tomposki's explanation (from Nicholl) very persuasive.  I
hadn't heard before that Marlowe was apparently thumping Frizer with the
butt of his knife.  Didn't Nicholl describe it differently in the first
edition of his book.  I also thought Marlowe was trying to stab him.
But even that didn't contradict the coroner's report for me since who
knows what might happen in some kind of fight like that: Frizer somehows
awkwardly for the knife, is very strong and twists his arm enough to get
the dagger pointing upward, the drunken Marlowe slips in a weird way,
Frizer shoves the knife arm away and up, and it catches Marlowe just
where it had to to kill him.

It's a case by case sort of thing, it seems to me.

Another point of disagreement is how long it would have taken Marlowe to
die.  I believe the coroner's report suggests it happened quickly but
that experts say it should have taken longer.  Maybe the reverse.
Anyway, I think NO coroners' reports are ever perfectly accurate, so
there will always be details conspiracy buffs can have their kind of fun
with (which is not to say that everyone who questions a coroner's report
is a conspiracy buff).

--Bob G.

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