On the Authorship Discussion

It may just be a printing error, but the prologue’s easily recognizable ‘Corus’ is not necessarily the same character as this ‘Chorus’, Reason why this ‘contemporary witness account’ has to leave the option open of a different character. Such a different character would come with a different performer. And if this really is the case, his performance as a Sonnetteer is suggestive. The more because he takes the author’s place as a dark shadow on stage. And he has the technically better sonnet to produce.

One that features the same two flaws, but far less conspicuous 

This research has been performed throughout in the splendid isolation that is obligate for independent and creative thinking, but isolation has its drawbacks. For refuting theories on authorship, for instance, it had to resort on its performer alone. A performer who started with an open mind, but not fully unbiassed : what greater glory than in the sensational discovery of some irrefutable evidence that Shakespeare was NOT the Bard ? A target, not surprisingly, that turned out to be beyond human reach. But the hunt was no waste of time either, because falsification attempts are basic science.

Unfortunately, falsification attempts on the mainstream theory are not the only ones that can fail. Those on Bacon and Marlowe are still resisting disproof by an approach that has experienced no problems whatsoever with the other candidates. This may seem a little disappointing, but the resulting shortlist of three contestants is always to be preferred over the current longlist. And of those three contestants, Marlowe is the least likely to survive as the last man standing. Yet, he is the only contestant amongst these three to be expected to spirit himself secretly onto the stage to claim his authorship.

Occam’s Razor at the moment grants the mainstream theory to prevail. But it is a close shave, as this theory is ever balancing on the knife’s edge. Where it will remain until it is certain that no theory will ever explain the available evidence more simple. Or just better.

Occam’s Razor rules that whenever two competing theories explain the facts equally well, the simpler theory is to prevail. In any case where one theory offers a better explanation than the other, the respective levels of complexity are irrelevant. From which follows that Occam’s Razor cannot judge the truth in a theory, and doesn’t prove one right by its simplicity. It only makes the simpler of two equally strong theories to prevail until new evidence forces to reconsider the choice.

The currently available evidence fails to rule out that Marlowe returned from Deptford in excellent health, therefore the theory on his staged death in 1593 must be accepted as plausible. His de facto survival is another matter. And has no options but ‘true’ or ‘not true’. If ‘not true’, the ‘staged death’-theory must be buried with him, if ‘true’, Marlowe must have made a living. And being a born playwright, he may have been selling the occasional new play. The Shakespeare canon, as the Marlovians claim. Which must for an expert be so easy to (dis)prove, that it is surprising to find the matter still unresolved.

Working in isolation is splendid when it comes to independent thinking, but it has its drawbacks when even google is no help :
Considering the fact that Shakespeare only started to publish after Marlowe’s death, one is obliged to take the Marlovian theory seriously. At least until a careful comparison of canons on typical Marlovian details has ruled one way or the other. A kind of research that is rather common in music as a method of linking a certain musical score to a certain composer by means of his technical typicalities but that is way out of my depths. And, as far as I can judge, this research hasn’t been performed yet.

Marlowe would also need a new identity, and with sharer-player ‘Shakspere’ posing as the company’s playwright in residence, he could have been around as the real actor-playwright. Not a very good actor though, because he lacked stage experience. But with his supposed background as an undercover agent, he would have mastered the easy part of Tybalt at short notice. Especially as it is written on an actor as volatile as himself, and Tybalt is equally dangerous to his fellow citizens. A couple of years later, In Henry IV,  a very similar character enters the stage as Harry Hotspur in a more difficult part.

Funny enough, the identification as Tybalt involves a degree of falsification of the Marlovian theory, because Marlowe would be the last person to depict himself as quarrelous. But he may have depicted himself as being dead. And as being dead Tybalt is very much present in the dialogue of plenty a scene. Meanwhile, placing Marlowe on the stage of The Theatre is no problem : according to the theory, he was on Her Majesty’s service, and the master of Her Majesty’s Secret Service’s in the Queen’s Privy Council had only one string to pull to make Marlowe one of the Lord Chamberlain’s servants.

It would have been far more difficult to get him into the Earl of Derby’s service. This line of thought therefore limits the conception of Romeo & Juliet to a mere two months for writing and rehearsals. And Marlowe is ruled out as the play’s author. Unless, of course, he knew what to expect even before the Earl of Derby contracted his final illness. The coroner’s verdict was death by poison, and, judged by the symptoms, the administered dose of arsenic had been massive. Which involves Marlowe up to his neck in a second conspiracy theory. As things stand, Occam’s Razor has a sitting duck on the first one already, and at this point it lashes out at the instant. But it leaves the option of co-authorship for the new hand untouched, because that makes sense when it comes to working rapidly on a play that was already designed for a specific company when Derby’s succession became imminent. And checking Burbage’s payroll indeed produces an interesting name : Samuel Crosse.

actor ; listed among the 26 “principal actors” of Shakespeare’s plays in the First Folio, but mentioned nowhere else in the company’s documentation. He may have become a sharer in the company in 1604, but died soon after.
King’s Men personnel

Or, even better ; it doesn’t : Samuel Crosse is a blank. We know nothing about him but his name. And this name is biblical : the original Samuel was a prophet, and the source of inspiration for I & II Samuel from the scriptures. Interestingly, from I Samuel 25 onward, these books deal with the time following the prophet’s death. The surname Crosse bears some reference as well to a character who added posthumously some pages to the scriptures. And, as a signature, ‘Crosse’ stands for an unwritten name all the time. With the accession of James I he disappears from history. And another blank enters.

‘Lawrence Fletcher († 1608) was a Jacobean actor, and man of mystery. He is listed on the royal patent of 19 May 1603 that transformed the Lord Chamberlain’s Men into the King’s Men — and he is listed first, with William Shakespeare second and Richard Burbage third; significant, in the hierarchy-mad world of the time. Yet Fletcher never appears on the other documents that give later generations our limited knowledge of the King’s Men; despite his prominent position he doesn’t seem to have acted in the leading acting company of his age.

(…) Fletcher was not, or not primarily, a London actor; he had been “comedian to His Majesty” before 1603, when James I and VI was King of Scotland only.’ ……………………………… (Wikipedia)

Fletcher definitely entered Burbage’s troupe by a pulling of strings. And his prominent position on the royal patent fits nicely in with both his Christian name (‘laureled’) and the Marlovian theory. In his quality of being a ‘funny’ he must have been transferred from the London Theatre to Whitehall’s Edinburgh Station. In which case, judged by Fletcher’s position, Marlowe may have been of some value in preparing the accession of King James. While his transfer to Edinburgh itself may have been triggered by Marlowe’s single documented posthumous trace in history. If it is one :

Ieshu ples mee, how my hart trobes,
and trobes,
And then she made him
bedes of Roses,
And a thousand fragrant poses,
To shallow riueres. Now so kad vdge me, my hart
Swelles more and more. Mee thinkes I can cry
Verie well. There dwelt a man in Babylon,
To shallow riuers and to falles,
Melodious birds sing Madrigalles.

This is a fragment from section eight in the ‘corrupt’ 1602 Quarto edition of The Merry Wives of Windsor. The 1623 Folio quotes the sources in scene 3 ; 1 with greater precision, and presents the evidence more convincingly, because of scene 1 ; 3 (!) where Sir John Falstaff gets himself rid of a servant who is ‘gotten in drink’, a hot tempered ‘tinderbox’ and ‘too open’ in his petty crime.

A description that matches Marlowe’s biography to the letter. And Fallstaff concludes : ‘An old cloak makes a new jerkin : a withered serving man a fresh tapster’ (i. e. a very different servant). Which in turn sounds familiar in respect to the Marlovian theory. The 1602 Quarto, on the other hand, is in time closer to events. And already the Quarto’s scene 8 combines Marlowe’s popular Come live with me with There dwelt a man in Babylon to a quotation of
Psalm 137. The famous one on the tortures of banishment :

By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down,
yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion.

The Merry Wives of Windsor is according to The Complete Oxford Shakespeare written for the Garter Feast at Westminster Palace on 23 April 1597. In which case this song was to entertain the Queen and most of her privy council. What a scenario would it be, to have Marlowe in 1597 at court to plead his own case in the disguise of a Welsh parson (the very man to speak well of the dead). A during the song rather transparent disguise, if possible, because it would guarantee the message to come home, while none of those who could see through it (the ones knowing Marlowe to be alive) would dare to expose him.

That same year a certain Thomas Beard published the first account of Marlowe’s death. It states that Marlowe had attacked a man in the street and was fatally stabbed in self-defense. An account of events that could have been copied from Marlowe’s own written statement on a street fight he had in 1592. Interestingly, the context of Shakespeare’s quotation from Marlowe is that of a man terrorized by the prospect of an unprovoked duel to death. A duel he is determined not to fight if there is half a chance to make peace with words : by the looks of it, Shakespeare has stepped forward as an unbiased witness to Marlowe’s admirable character. But, as if an unmarked grave in a Deptford churchyard is not enough to keep the lid on Marlowe’s coffin down, Francis Meres – like Beard a clergyman and a schoolmaster – gives in his Palladis Tamia from 1598 an account of his death that would cure any friend from speaking on Marlowe’s behalf. According to Meres he was stabbed by a rival (perhaps used for ‘companion) in homosexual love. And Meres is not above kicking a man who is already down for eternity, because the rival, to his credit, is claimed to have killed Marlowe for his blasphemy and atheism. Crimes on which the authorities back in 1593 had been unofficially informed by the same source that had reported Marlowe’s homosexuality.

‘The Baines-note’ ; a copy of the full report by Richard Baines on Marlowe as preserved in the files of the Privy Counsel.

It is not recommendable to speak out for an enemy of the state, and Marlowe did definitely qualify for being one. If not by being labelled a homosexual then at least by being labelled an atheist : next fragment from The Merry Wives of Windsor is not in the 1602 Quarto. But in the 1623 First Folio it is linked to the Marlowe song, because it is in the eight scene as well. The eight scene from the end this time :

You say he has been thrown in the rivers : and
has been grieviously peaten, as an old ‘oman : methinks
there should be terrors in him, that he should not come:
Methinks his flesh is punished, he shall have no desires.

The terror is Falstaff’s, who has made good his escape from a jealous husband in the wife’s laundry basket at one occasion, and in an old woman’s dress at the other. And the connection between him to make in the right laundry an old woman, and Bardolph to make in an old cloak a fresh tapster is obvious. The words themselves come from the Welsh parson again. And he seems in this later version to respond on Marlowe’s behalf on the allegations by Meres. A rearguard action, as there is no reason to expect Marlowe, after the beatings by Meres and Beard, ever to return from the rivers of Babylon, let alone from the rivers of Tartarus.

Tartarus is where all flesh is cured from its desires. The First Folio is more open about such desires when the final scene arranges two of the play’s three rivals for the love of ms. Anne Page a same sex marriage. Still, the 1602 Quarto has the happier end, when it comes to combining Marlowe’s alleged homosexuality with Marlowe’s alleged blasphemy :

He hath got the maiden, each of you a boy
To waite vpon you, so God giue you ioy.

But in the end it is the First Folio to win on points, because it has scene 4 ; 1. In there, young William Page demonstrates his little Latin to that same Welsh parson, Sir Hugh Evans, who in this additional scene turns out to be not just a clergyman, but Windsor’s schoolmaster as well. Curious, isn’t it?