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Home :: Archive :: 2004 :: January ::
Marlowe Inquest
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 15.0142  Tuesday, 20 January 2004

[1]     From:   Thomas Larque <
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        Date:   Monday, 19 Jan 2004 17:19:28 -0000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.0131 Marlowe Inquest

[2]     From:   Thomas Larque <
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        Date:   Monday, 19 Jan 2004 18:32:01 -0000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.0131 Marlowe Inquest


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Thomas Larque <
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Date:           Monday, 19 Jan 2004 17:19:28 -0000
Subject: 15.0131 Marlowe Inquest
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.0131 Marlowe Inquest

 >>Thomas Larque writes, "...although I now have better things to do with
 >>my spare time...."
 >>
 >>OK: such as?

Bill's entire posting seems little more than a personal attack (or more
accurately an outburst of sneering).  Do I notice a touch of bitterness?

In answer to your question, if you are really interested: rather than
spending long hours every day posting to HLAS I spend most of my time
these days writing theatre reviews for "Shakespeare Bulletin" and
"Research Opportunities in Renaissance Drama", working on my part-time
undergraduate degree at the University of Kent, being ill
(unfortunately), and working for the British Shakespeare Association and
related projects, since I was appointed to the Executive Committee in
August last year.

 >>OK: Since Thomas Larque and I parried sword thrusts over our respective
 >>interpretations of *Hamlet* and concepts of *spirituality*--I have
 >>watched from the sidelines.  I have noticed that Thomas Larque's posts
 >>are becoming more voluminous and longer and longer and well, I wonder he
 >>has any "spare time" at all?

My posts have always been rather long - and some of my HLAS ones were
practically theses - but I doubt anything has changed pre- or post- my
involvement with the Bill Arnold thread, except that Bill might now be
reading my postings more carefully (or - judging by the tone and
pointlessness of this post - muttering in deep resentment every time
they appear, since I had the audacity to question his beliefs when he
knows he is right).

 >>OK: I certainly do not have enough "spare time" to read his tomes,

Then there is a simple answer.  Don't bother.  If you haven't actually
read them, then this posting seems pretty much irrelevant.  If Hardy is
happy to post my postings, and others on SHAKSPER are happy to read them
(and I have had messages of support on and off the list, both for the
recent answer to Sam Small, and for the earlier answers to a certain
Bill Arnold:  David Cohen's calling my previous posting the "best
posting ... since I've been a member of this list" is the sort of thing
that makes me very happy) then I am not sure exactly what Bill Arnold is
moaning about.  If you (meaning Bill Arnold, or anybody else) don't like
me and don't want to read my postings, or if you don't want to read
postings over a certain length, then feel free to skip over them, hit
the delete key, or (as Arnold resolutely refused to do in the thread
which seems to have upset him) tell me why you think I'm wrong.

 >>although he is welcome to published them as long as Hardy entertains
 >>them.  I just wonder: remembering my salad days at the *National
 >>Enquirer* if he is getting paid by the *word*?

No.  In short, for the moment I'm not getting paid at all (except in
kind when I get free theatre tickets, or free books, or films to review
- and then if you take account of the travel expenses, hotel bills,
postage, subscriptions, and hours of work involved, my Shakespeare work
is a huge cost to me, not a benefit).  Unlike Bill Arnold, I do not
(yet) even have a book to hawk, and am spending my time working on
Shakespeare out of pure love and pleasure.  If my sheer enjoyment upsets
Bill Arnold, then I'm very sorry for him, but I don't intend to let his
opinions make me stop.  Since Bill, given the low rate of returns for
authors, can't be making too much money out of his own book, even if it
is self-printed and he runs the company that is selling it, I would have
thought that he might understand why somebody would want to write
extensively about Shakespeare without expecting financial profit.

 >>OK: back to the "ghost"!

Hadn't we reached the point where whenever anybody asked you to justify
your opinions or answer any arguments against you, you accused them of
being a lawyer and claimed your right to silence?  Since everybody else
has said about everything that they need to say on that subject, and you
refuse to answer them, I imagine that that discussion is pretty much
dead.  I doubt that anybody wants you to restart that discussion, but if
you still feel so bitter about it then that would certainly be a more
productive reaction than posting things saying you haven't read my
posts, but are really irritated by them anyway.

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

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Thomas Larque <
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 >
Date:           Monday, 19 Jan 2004 18:32:01 -0000
Subject: 15.0131 Marlowe Inquest
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.0131 Marlowe Inquest

 >>I am intrigued to know how much Thomas, doubting gentleman that he seems
 >>to be (sorry, I couldn't resist),

Actually that made me smile.  I have always been something of a doubting
Thomas, but certainly nobody has put my hands in anything resembling
real wounds to date, in virtually any of the subjects in which I express
scepticism.

 >>will accept of the circumstances to
 >>Marlowe's death.
 >>
 >>Marlowe was a spy, yes or no?

I used to think, as do most people who read the abundant critical
literature about Marlowe, that the answer was a fairly obvious "Yes"
(since most people seem to take this as a given), but more recently I'm
not so sure.

Do we really have anything beyond the Privy Council letter to Cambridge
that suggests he was routinely spying?  Even if he did a little bit of
spying at that time - if that was the service that he did for her
Majesty - it doesn't mean that he was a professional or habitual
government agent thereafter.  I seem to remember that Constance Kuriyama
in her biography of Marlowe is convincingly sceptical about this, as
about many of the other speculations about Marlowe (but don't have the
book to hand to cite her).

The only other evidence for Marlowe being a spy seems to be that he
associated with dubious people, some of whom were agents of one kind or
another, that he knew and befriended members of the nobility, and that
he was treated with curious leniency from time to time - but while the
"spy" theory still remains a credible possibility, I don't think it is
the only possible explanation.  If you make up a theory about Marlowe's
death which depends entirely on your imagination, and then tie it to a
lot of possible but questionable assumptions that are actually rather
less well grounded than people might think, then it seems to me that you
are building your house on sand.

I would particularly point out that various parts of these suggestions
cancel each other out.  Since Marlowe was apparently supported by
various nobles, this may explain why he was treated leniently.
Marlowe's problems with the Privy Council and Frizer's relationship to
the same nobles (and possible role as a government agent) may explain
why Frizer was released so quickly, and why nobody seems to have been
too bothered by his part in Marlowe's death.

 >>He was in a spot of hot water with the
 >>Privy Council, yes?

No question about that, but what exactly does it prove?  Harold Shipman
(the most prolific British serial killer) was in so much hot water with
the country at large that the serving Home Secretary foolishly admitted
to journalists that he felt like having a celebratory drink when Shipman
killed himself in prison, and a tabloid newspaper led with the headline
"Ship Ship Hooray!", but that doesn't mean that there is any likelihood
that Shipman was murdered by the prison guards on orders from the
government, or even from Rupert Murdoch.  Princess Diana was certainly
not popular with the British Royal Family, but unless you are a follower
of Mohammed Fayed (whose grief has apparently combined with his
eccentricity) or a dogmatic conspiracy buff, this hardly makes it
impossible that she was killed in a car crash by a drunken driver, nor
does it realistically suggest that she was actually killed by MI5
assassins sent by Prince Philip or Prince Charles.

I suspect that Marlowe's situation would have put him in a bad mood.
Perhaps that explains why he hit Frizer.  Such arguments happen at
similar times in real life often enough, and there doesn't necessarily
need to be a greater connection than that.

 >>The other three gentlemen in the room with him were
 >>also fellow members of the Elizabethan MI5, yes or no?

No.  Because there wasn't one.  They certainly weren't anything as
official as professional spies.  All three may have done some work as
informers or agents, but I seem to remember that the evidence is rather
sketchy for at least one of them.  Even if they were "spies", that
doesn't stop them having a pointless argument over dinner and killing
each other for nothing.  As I've said before, I have seen very similar
cases in a very brief browse through a book of Renaissance inquests (one
where two friends, gaming, fell out over a mild personal insult and one
killed the other; another where a man who had been charged a few pennies
for his share of a meal in a tavern, despite his friends offering to pay
his bill when he refused, took out his sword and began killing the
tavern staff and guests), and Marlowe seems to have been involved in
several similarly poorly motivated violent altercations in his life, at
least one of which resulted in serious combat and death (for somebody
other than Marlowe).  Anybody who says that it is impossible to believe
that Marlowe died because two men had a fight over "the reckoning" for a
meal is quite clearly wrong.  You can believe something else if you
prefer, but the Inquest's account is just as believeable in itself as
those other inquests which involved similar circumstances but not great
writers, friends of nobles, or government agents, and which do not
therefore generate vast conspiracy theories of varying levels of enormity.

 >>And here's one
 >>just to put the cat amongst the pigeons, he was gay, yes or no?

On a purely personal level, I think he was, on the basis of the
relationship between the accusations levelled at him and the (apparent)
firmly homoerotic nature of some of his poetry.  On the other hand, we
don't really know this either, since he was being accused of just about
every possible crime by somebody who really didn't like him, and would
be paid for getting him convicted.  Ignoring the authorship question for
the moment, I think that Edward de Vere was an abuser of male children
on the basis of similar evidence, but again the accusation is made by
somebody with very good reason to accuse him of anything and everything,
so we can never be absolutely sure.  At least Marlowe's homosexuality
would not require a vast improbable conspiracy theory, which makes it
easier to accept than some other parts of the arguments presented by
those who believe that Marlowe's death was more complicated than the
Inquest would suggest.

 >>I, like Mr. Larque, am a great admirer of Charles Nichol's 'The
 >>Reckoning' and I have somewhat of a vested interest in the subject as a
 >>number of years ago I wrote a screenplay on what happened in that room
 >>(my conclusions were and are almost identical with Mr. Nichol's version
 >>of the story).
 >>
 >>I look forward to your appraisal of the evidence.

Despite Bill Arnold's scepticism, I really don't have much spare time at
the moment, so I will post this although I haven't turned the pages of
any books in order to support my opinions, and have worked entirely from
my (very fallible) memory.  I'm sure that any factual errors that I have
made will be picked up, and if they are then I'll try to get back to the
literature to see whether I was wrong and how much.  As I say, Constance
Kuriyama's book is a good place to start if you want to see some more
firmly developed sceptical arguments from somebody far more highly
qualified to have an opinion.

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

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