Reason 95 – Part One – Why Edward, Earl of Oxford was “Shakespeare” — the Shadowy and Elusive Figure of Christopher Marlowe

This series now confronts the immortal but shadowy figure of Christopher Marlowe, the Cambridge student and government spy who was stabbed to death at age twenty-nine on May 30, 1593 – just when the initial copies of Venus and Adonis, carrying the first appearance of the printed name “William Shakespeare,” were on their way to the London bookstalls.

"Tamburlaine" was printed in 1590 without an author's name (click on image to enlarge it)

“Tamburlaine” was printed in 1590 without an author’s name (click on image to enlarge it)

Even though Tamburlaine the Great had drawn great crowds to the Rose from 1587 onward, Marlowe’s name had never appeared on any published work during his lifetime. Given that audience members seldom if ever cared to know who wrote the plays they attended (the way we seldom care to know the screenwriters of our movies), the commonly held assumption that he was “the toast of the town” as a popular playwright must be a fantasy.

Ironically, however, at the very moment of Marlowe’s death in 1593 the “Shakespeare” name was being launched as that of a new, heretofore unknown poet whose highly cultured narrative poem would soon be a bestseller reprinted over and over again. In fact the name of Shakespeare, on the dedication to Henry, Earl of Southampton, quickly did became the toast of the town, at least for those who could buy books and read them.

Dedication of "Venus and Adonis" in 1593 to Southampton with first printing of the Shakespeare name

Dedication of “Venus and Adonis” in 1593 to Southampton with first printing of the Shakespeare name

The nature of the relationship between “Marlowe” and “Shakespeare” has generated much academic uncertainty and perplexity. Scholars and biographers have pondered and dissected the inextricable entanglement of those two famous names, and of the works attributed to those names, without consensus. Oscar James Campbell in his trustworthy & valuable Reader’s Encyclopedia of Shakespeare (1966) notes the confusion:

“Because the chronology of the composition of Marlowe’s plays and those of Shakespeare is uncertain, and because of the dearth of information about Shakespeare’s activities during the ‘seven lost years’ [1586-1592], it is impossible to discuss with precision the literary interrelationship of these two playwrights … Whatever their personal relationship, it is demonstrable that Shakespeare knew Marlowe’s plays and poetry. There are hundreds of verbal echoes and dozens of comparable scenes and situations in the works of the two men. Frequently it is difficult to guess who is echoing or borrowing from whom…”

The traditional idea is that Will Shakspere of Stratford, being the same age as Marlowe but newly arrived in London, was so inspired by Tamburlaine’s commanding eloquence and unrelenting violence that soon he began to write parts one, two and three of Henry VI and then got to work on his own bloody play, Titus Andronicus. Exactly how such a miracle might have occurred – amid Shakspere’s supposed acting career, his moneylending activities, and so on – is beyond words.

With the Admiral's Men at the Rose

Edward Alleyn as Tamburlaine, with the Admiral’s Men at the Rose Playhouse

But Stephen Greenblatt in Will in the World: How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare (2004) betrays no perplexity and no trouble at all comprehending the miracle. He imagines — he fancies, he supposes, he conjectures — that, just when Shakspere was “finding his feet in London,” he must have noticed the hoopla over Tamburlaine and “almost certainly saw the play.” And this “may indeed have been one of the first performances he ever saw in a playhouse – perhaps the first.”

Yes, and on the basis of what we see in the early plays, this “appears to have had upon him an intense, visceral, indeed life-transforming impact.”

(Hmmmm. The transformation — in just a few years — would have been from a young man who had never been inside a packed London playhouse to a dramatist not only surpassing Marlowe himself, but, of course, becoming the greatest playwright of the English language! By 1595 he would have turned out both Richard II and Richard III and, by 1598, completed no less than twelve plays including Love’s Labours Lost, Romeo and Juliet , King John and The Merchant of Venice!]

The 2007 production directed by Michael Kahn for the Shakespeare Theatre Company in Washington DC

The 2007 production directed by Michael Kahn for the Shakespeare Theatre Company in Washington DC

“Shakespeare had never heard anything quite like this before,” writes Greenblatt as he imagines the Tamburlaine experience, “certainly not in the morality plays or mystery cycles he had watched back in Warwickshire. He must have said to himself something like, ‘You are not in Stratford anymore.’”

[Do I hear a song coming on …?]

Attending this play among the groundlings at the Rose, and staring up at Edward Alleyn playing Tamburlaine, was a “crucial experience” for him and a “challenge” that “must have been intensified when he learned that Marlowe was in effect his double: born in the same year, 1564 …”

Okay, enough! Enough of this imaginative fiction run rampant…

Let us return to 1593, when the sophisticated and highly cultured narrative poem, which “Shakespeare” called “the first heir of my invention,” was instantly popular among university students, aristocrats and even members of the royal court including young Henry Lord Southampton, to whom it was dedicated. This blockbuster would be joined in 1594 by an even more brilliant poem – Lucrece, also dedicated to Southampton, whose primary source was the story as told by Ovid in his Fasti, a work that would not be translated into English until … 1640!

We shall need even more imaginative fiction to explain how the young Warwickshire fellow pulled that rabbit out of the hat…

The first time Marlowe's name on this poem is in 1598...

The first time Marlowe’s name becomes linked to this poem is in 1598…

On September 28, 1593, the unfinished manuscript of another narrative poem, Hero and Leander, was entered at the Stationer’s Register by John Wolf, who described it as “an amorous poem devised by Christopher Marloe [sic].” But something happened to stop Wolf from printing the poem and it was five years until the initial edition was published by Edward Blount in 1598, attributed to Marlow; and this was followed in the same year by another edition from publisher Paul Linley, who advertised it as “begun by Christopher Marloe [sic] and finished by George Chapman.”

“Marlowe’s Hero and Leander is the best of the Ovidian romances,” Campbell writes. “It contains the most successful combination of the genre’s distinctive characteristics: descriptions of natural beauty, voluptuous development of erotic situations, and an ornate style. These are also the elements of which Shakespeare composed Venus and Adonis.”

hero and leander

Imagine that! Marlowe and “Shakespeare” were both writing the same kind of long, romantic, sensual, erotic poem based on Ovid; they were writing and/or completing their similar narrative poems at virtually the same time, in the year of Marlowe’s untimely death, when “Shakespeare” forged ahead by getting his masterful “first heir” into print and taking over the poetical limelight from there on.

Marlowe’s name appeared in print for the first time in the following year, 1594, when the play Edward II was published as by “Chr. Marlow” and another play Dido, Queen of Carthage was published as by “Christopher Marlow and Thomas Nashe.”

“No play of Marlowe’s is more closely related to one of Shakespeare’s than is Edward II to Richard II,” Campbell writes. “For decades scholars assumed that Marlowe’s was the first significant English chronicle history play, and that therefore he taught Shakespeare much.

“Recently, however, it has been established that Shakespeare’s Henry VI trilogy antedates Edward II; in other words, Shakespeare helped Marlowe; the combination of Shakespeare-Marlowe helped Shakespeare in Richard II.”

Reflecting the aforesaid academic perplexity, Campbell adds in classic understatement: “The intricacies of these interrelationships are detailed and complex.”

Part Two will look at the elusive, shadowy figure of Marlowe from a different angle, beginning to resolve this confusion by arranging the puzzle pieces — the seemingly inscrutable facts of the history — in a new way, bringing into focus of what I suggest to be the contours of a true, clear picture.

Reason 94 to Believe that Edward de Vere the Earl of Oxford was “Shakespeare” — Acknowledged Sources of the Plays Include the Works of Many of the Writers under His Patronage and Guidance

“Men can always be blind to a thing, so long as it’s big enough” – Chesterton

The bottom line of this post is that many of Shakespeare’s immediate or contemporary “predecessors,” cited by scholars over the generations as providing source materials for the great author, in fact gained their subject matter and learned their skills from Edward de Vere. As we look through various editions of the Shakespeare works, there emerges (seemingly from between the lines) a clear pattern of Oxford’s silent but hugely influential presence – like some towering and pervasive ghostly figure who has gone virtually unnoticed, simply because no one has been looking for him. So let us begin again…

Reader's Encyclopedia of  Shakespeare - edited  by O. J. Campbell

Reader’s Encyclopedia of Shakespeare – edited
by O. J. Campbell — one of the best books on the bard

A powerful reason why Edward de Vere Earl of Oxford was “Shakespeare” is that the identified sources for many of the comedies include literary or dramatic work by writers who worked under his patronage and guidance. Based primarily on two major reference works – The Reader’s Encyclopedia of Shakespeare edited by Oscar Campbell and Dating Shakespeare’s Plays edited by Kevin Gilvary, here are ten such plays in alphabetical order:

As You Like It – The direct and primary source is Rosalynde, Euphues’ Golden Legacy, a prose romance by Thomas Lodge, written by 1587. Lodge followed the euphuistic literary movement (aimed at refining and enriching the English language) of which Oxford was the leader. The earl’s secretary John Lyly had published two Euphues novels in 1579-1580; and As You Like It contains several thematic links with Lyly’s court plays such as Sappho and Phao, Galathea and The Woman in the Moon. In addition the play James IV by Robert Greene, another writer in Oxford’s orbit, contains forerunners of As You Like It’s feminine characters and is also notable for using the similar setting of rural England.

Indispensable for all kinds of solid information

Indispensable for all kinds of solid information

The Comedy of Errors – Once again, writings attributed to Oxford’s personal secretary Lyly are identified as sources used by the Shakespearean dramatist. “The rhetorical features of the comedy betray the influence of John Lyly that was strong during the formative years of Shakespeare’s art,” Campbell writes.

Love’s Labour’s Lost – This play contains “many features of the euphuistic style made fashionable by the publication of John Lyly’s Euphues, the Anatomy of Wit,” Derran Charlton and Kevin Gilvary report. H.R. Woudhuysen observes that parts of the play are “reminiscent of the court comedies and the prose romances of John Lyly,” who dedicated Euphues his England (1580) to Edward de Vere.

The Merchant of Venice – Considered a likely source is Zelauto, the Fountain of Fame (1580) by another of Oxford’s secretaries, Anthony Munday, who dedicated it to the earl. Details of plot, character and language in Munday’s work are paralleled in the Shakespearean play – including the usurer’s daughter and her marriage, as well as the two ladies who disguise themselves as lawyers. And it appears that Portia’s speech about the “quality of mercy” was influenced by the judge’s pleas for mercy in the same work by Munday, who referred to himself in the dedication as “Servant to the Right Honourable the Earl of Oxenford.”

The Merry Wives of Windsor – According to Philip Johnson, the treatment of Falstaff by the ‘fairies’ in the final scene appears to parallel the episode of Lyly’s play Endimion in which the soldier Corsites is pinched by fairies. Johnson also notes that some influence on Falstaff “may have been derived” from the character of Captain Crackstone in Munday’s Fedele and Fortunio (1585), a translation from Luigi Pasqualigo.

Geoffrey Bullough's multi-volume series on the sources -- a great library resource

Geoffrey Bullough’s multi-volume series on the sources — a great library resource

A Midsummer Night’s Dream – H.F. Brooks and C.L. Barber agree that this play also reflects the court dramas attributed to Lyly, who also acted as Oxford’s stage manager for plays performed at Blackfriars and the royal court. Geoffrey Bullough believes that Lyly’s play Endimion influenced the Shakespearean play. H.F. Brooks and Nevill Coghill have observed that the dramatic structure of the Dream by Shakespeare is similar to a combination of leading features in Munday’s play John a Kent and John a Cumber.

Much Ado About Nothing – The English source of this Shakespearean play appears to be Fedele and Fortunio (1585) by Oxford’s secretary Munday, who would have adapted it from an Italian play, Il Fedele, written in 1579.

The Tempest – The play Friar Bacon and Friar Bungay (c. 1591) by Oxford’s protégé Robert Greene “bears some primitive and remote resemblance to The Tempest,” Campbell writes, “and is one of the earliest examples of the successful interweaving of a subplot with the main story.” In addition, Greene’s play The History of Orlando Furioso (1594) drew from Ariosto’s work of that name (1516); and in their game-changing book On the Date, Sources and Design of Shakespeare’s “The Tempest (2013), Roger Stritmatter and Lynne Kositsky show how that Italian epic poem is itself an important source of this Shakespearean play (and of Much Ado, for example).

The Two Gentlemen of Verona – Geoffrey Bullough notes some common techniques in Two Gentlemen and the comedies and romances of Lyly; and he believes that Lyly’s novel Euphues, The Anatomy of Wit (1579), inspired (and perhaps dictated to him) by Oxford, his employer, comes closest to this Shakespearean work. “Shakespeare’s debt appears in the courtly atmosphere of Lyly’s romance plays,” Noemi Magri writes; and C. Leech, editor of the Arden edition of Two Gentlemen, notes “many incidental echoings” of Lyly and that the Launce-Speed dialogue in Act Three, Scene One contains a major “crib” from Lyly’s romantic comedy Midas, played in 1591 by the Paul’s Boys for Elizabeth at court.

All the Varioriums of all the plays, poems and sonnets are gold mines of info!

All the Varioriums of all the plays, poems and sonnets are gold mines of info!

(The title of Two Gentlemen is suggestive of Munday’s play Fidelio and Fortunio, the Deceits in Love Discoursed in a Comedy of Two Italian Gentlemen. R. Hosley, an editor of Munday’s work, suggests that Fidelio and Fortunio was acted before the Queen by Oxford’s company of child actors called Oxford’s Boys.)

The Winter’s Tale – Campbell writes, “The source of the main plot is Robert Greene’s novel Pandosto, or the Triumph of Time,” printed in 1588. The Shakespearean play carries over all the characters in Pondosto except one (Mopsa)! “There has been considerable disagreement among scholars as to the relationship of Greene and Shakespeare,” Campbell observes. “If, as many scholars have believed, Shakespeare began his career by revising other men’s plays, then it is probable that some of these plays were at least partly Greene’s.”

(Some Oxfordians – notably Stephanie Hughes and Nina Green – have set forth impressive arguments that “Robert Greene” was but an early pen name used by Oxford before “killing him off” in 1592, prior to adopting the “Shakespeare” pseudonym. In any case, one of Greene’s earliest books – Card of Fancy, printed in 1584 – was dedicated to Oxford as “a worthy favourer and fosterer of learning” who had “forced many through your excellent virtues to offer the first-fruits of their study at the shrine of your Lordship’s courtesy.”)

Oxfordian editions of the plays are coming forth... (See Amazon.com)

Oxfordian editions of the plays are coming forth…
(See Amazon.com)

Meanwhile The Winter’s Tale owes much to the use of Greek Romances. In that regard, two contemporary writers linked to Oxford contributed suggested sources: Angel Day, who published an English translation of Daphnis and Chloe in 1587; and Thomas Underdowne, who translated Heliodorus’ Aethiopica in 1569, when he dedicated it to nineteen-year-old Oxford, writing of the earl’s “haughty courage joined with great skill, such sufficiency in learning, so good nature and common sense” among other virtues. Eddi Jolly, noting the influence of Aethiopica upon The Winter’s Tale, observes that “the entire moving force is a king’s jealousy.”

Another Oxfordian edition -- with more sources than orthodox editions have acknowledged

Another Oxfordian edition — with more sources than orthodox editions have acknowledged

This rundown is about as brief and compact as I could make it; however, I cannot resist citing one of my favorite influences upon “Shakespeare” by a writer working under Oxford’s patronage: The sequence of 100 consecutively numbered sonnets or “passions” entitled Hekatompathia, or the Passionate Century of Love by Thomas Watson, who dedicated it to Oxford in 1582, thanking the earl for having “perused” the work in manuscript. (Oxfordians have suggested that Oxford wrote the prose “headers” or brief scholarly notes for each of Watson’s sonnets; and, too, they have suggested that Edward de Vere wrote the entire “century” or 100-sonnet sequence himself.) The point here is that, when I set forth the 100-verse sequence of Sonnets 27 to 126 as the centerpiece of SHAKE-SPEARES SONNETS of 1609, in my edition The Monument, citing Watson’s sequence as a precedent, it was unknown to me that someone else had already made the same observation nearly seventy years earlier!

It was Edgar Fripp, an orthodox scholar, in his work Shakespeare, Man and Artist of 1938, who wrote: “Centuries or ‘hundreds’ of literary pieces were in fashion – of Songs, Sonnets, Prayers, Sermons, Hymns, Sentences, ‘Flowers,’ ‘Points of Husbandry,’ Emblems, Medical Observations, or what not … The Hekatompathia or Passionate Century of Love by Thomas Watson, otherwise a Century of Passions, may have served as a model for Shakespeare’s Century of Sonnets … Shakespeare’s Sonnets 27-126 are a Century.”

hek TP WEB4

(Moreover it was suggested in The Monument that Shakespeare’s “century” of 1609 is divided into two parts: Part One, the eighty sonnets 27-106 and Part Two, the twenty sonnets 107-126; and Watson’s sequence of 1582 is also divided into two parts, in the same way, as Part One, Sonnets 1-80 and Part Two, Sonnets 81-100. I suggest that Oxford structured the Shakespearean sonnet sequence in direct reflection of the Watson sequence, in order to steer us back to Passionate Century , where we would find him!)

In addition to the Arden, Riverside, Penguin and other editions of the Works, here are just some of the other books that include Shakespeare sources:

This book represents  the most significant example of what results when the orthodox version of Shakesepeare's sources is examined from a fresh perspective!

This book represents the most significant example of what results when the orthodox version of Shakesepeare’s sources is examined from a fresh perspective!

Anderson, Mark, “Shakespeare” by Another Name, 2005

Bullough, Geoffrey, Narrative and Dramatic Sources of Shakespeare, 1958

Chambers, E.K., The Elizabethan Stage, 1923

Clark, Eva Turner, Hidden Allusions in Shakespeare’s Plays, 1931; reprint 1974

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