Christopher Marlowe – Part Three of Reason 95 to Conclude that Edward de Vere was “Shakespeare”

“Christopher Marlowe became a scholar of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, whence he graduated B.A. in 1584, and M.A. in 1587. As Tamburlaine was acted in that year, it appears that Marlowe’s academic and his literary life overlapped. Little is certainly known of his later life, apart from the production of his plays and poems. He belonged to a circle of which Sir Walter Raleigh was the center, and which contained men like the Earl of Oxford …” The Chief Elizabethan Dramatists edited by William Allan Neilson, Ph.D., Professor of English, Harvard, 1911

Queen Elizabeth, flanked by Lord Burghley and Sir Francis Walsingham

Queen Elizabeth, flanked by Lord Burghley and Sir Francis Walsingham

Elizabeth I’s chief minister William Cecil, Lord Burghley wrote on June 21, 1586 to spymaster Secretary Francis Walsingham asking if he had spoken with Queen Elizabeth in support of Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford. Five days later her Majesty signed a Privy Seal Warrant authorizing an annual grant to Oxford of a thousand pounds – an extraordinary figure, especially since England was at war with Spain and desperately needed funds. The warrant, to be paid each year in quarterly installments, expressly stated that the earl was not to be called on by the Exchequer to render any account as to its expenditure – a clause which, B.M. Ward wrote in his 1928 biography of Oxford, was “the usual formula made use of in the case of secret service money.”

Oxford was playing an important but unpublicized role for Elizabeth, Burghley and Walsingham during these dangerous times when the mighty Spanish armada was about to appear on the horizon at any moment. The earl had made extensive sales of land between 1580 and 1585, indicating he had been personally financing writers and play companies, so now the otherwise frugal and even stingy Queen was compensating him for past as well as future expenses.

Walsingham caused the Queen's Men to be created in 1583

Walsingham caused the Queen’s Men to be created in 1583

Such was also the case with Walsingham himself, who had spent a decade financing England’s first official secret service all on his own, paying informants and going broke in the process. In the summer of 1582, however, the Queen, finally realizing she should invest regular sums of public money on intelligence, signed a warrant under the Privy Seal granting the Secretary a sum of 750 pounds per annum in quarterly installments – another formula to be followed exactly in Oxford’s case. In 1583 Walsingham caused the Queen’s Men acting company to be formed to promote patriotic unity during wartime, with two troupes performing around the countryside. In 1585, upon the outbreak of war with Spain in the Netherlands, annual payments to Walsingham rose to two thousand pounds; and it is “at this stage of increased funding and activity,” Charles Nicholl writes in The Reckoning, “that Marlowe enters the lower ranks of the intelligence world.”

Oxfordian researcher Eva Turner Clark writes in Hidden Allusions (1931) that the group of writers known as the University Wits went into high gear of activity during 1586 and 1587. These younger men have been viewed as those who “paved the way” for Shakespeare in the 1590s, but Clark argues that Oxford himself was the great author who, later, would revise his own plays under the “Shakespeare” pen name. The younger men in the 1580s, following Oxford’s example, were “his pupils and imitators.”


“Play after play flowed from their pens,” Clark writes. “These were chronicle plays, revenge plays, Senecan plays – mostly plays calculated to keep people at a high pitch of excitement during war time. Gathering this group of writers together, directing their work, and producing their plays on the stage was the function of the secret service office that Lord Oxford filled and upon which he spent the money that had been granted to him … In order to keep a heavy program going, he [and Burghley] appealed to recent graduates of Oxford and Cambridge, and even to those on the point of graduation, who gave promise of dramatic ability, to assist in this important work of stage propaganda.”

“Lord Oxford, as a prolific writer and scholar, an eclectic, devotee of the theatre, generous patron of literary men and musicians, drew into his orbit the best writers and wits of the day,” write Dorothy and Charlton Ogburn in This Star of England (1952). “He was the center and prime inspiration of the University Wits: such men as Lyly, Watson, Kyd and Munday – all of whom he employed – Greene, Peele, Marston, Dekker, Lodge, Nashe, Marlowe.

“Somewhat older than most of them [fourteen years Marlowe’s senior], infinitely greater than any, he attracted these intellectuals as a magnet attracts steel chips; and … he supported, encouraged, and directed these men, broadening their classics-bound culture through his knowledge of Italian, German, and French literature, as well as of feudal customs and the ways of court-life, while devoting his abundant creative energies to the production of dramas which not only entertained and stimulated the elect but also delighted and edified the intelligent though unschooled.”

Philip II of Spain  1527-1598

Philip II of Spain

Oxford had purchased the London mansion known as Fisher’s Folly to provide writing space for the younger men (Nashe referred to a “college of writers”), who apparently had been turning out anti-Spanish plays for at least several months before the Queen authorized the earl’s annual grant. On July 20, 1586 the Venetian ambassador in Spain (Hieronimo Lippomano) wrote to the Doge and Senate that King Philip had been furious over reports about plays being performed at the Elizabethan court: “But what has enraged him more than all else, and has caused him to show a resentment such as he has never displayed in all his life, is the account of the masquerades and comedies which the Queen of England orders to be acted at his expense.”

During the second half of 1586, after Walsingham had foiled the Babington plot to put the captive Mary Queen of Scots on the English throne, Oxford sat on the tribunal at her trial in October 1586, when she was found guilty of treason. Mary Stuart, mother of twenty-year-old King James of Scotland, was beheaded on February 8, 1587 at Fortheringay Castle. This virtually ensured that King Philip, with the blessings of the Pope, would send his armada to conquer England.

Portrait of Elizabeth in the 1580s

Portrait of Elizabeth in the 1580s

On June 29, 1587 the Privy Council sent orders (signed by Burghley and Archbishop Whitgift of Canterbury) to Cambridge authorities that Marlowe should receive his Master’s degree, despite frequent absences from the campus amid rumors he was a Catholic traitor – which is what he seems to have pretended to be, as part of secret service work, during visits to the English College at Rheims in Northern France, a key seminary for Catholic defectors. The Council certified that Marlowe had “behaved himself orderly and discreetly whereby he had done her Majesty good service, and deserved to be rewarded for his faithful dealings … because it was not her Majesty’s pleasure that anyone employed as he had been in matters touching the benefit of his Country should be defamed by those that are ignorant in the affairs he went about.” In a letter to Burghley on October 2, 1587, Marlowe was named as a courier in dispatches to Secretary Walsingham from Utrecht in Holland – indicating that after leaving Cambridge his travels for intelligence work were continuing apace.

The traditional story of Marlowe as a playwright is that he came down to London in the latter months of 1587 and quickly became the most distinguished English dramatist, even though he was never credited in print as an author until after his death little more than five years later.


“Since Marlowe was born in 1564,” Warren Dickinson writes in The Wonderful Shakespeare Mystery (2001), “his initial box office hit, Tamburlaine I, was first played when he was only twenty-three years old. While this testifies to Marlowe’s genius, it also indicates that he did not act alone. A young man cannot ride into London and have a hit play within a year unless he has a patron and a mentor. In fact, Marlowe went to work in Edward de Vere’s ‘play factory’ in 1586 and received the guidance and support which he needed. Since Edward de Vere was already a highly successful playwright-poet [at thirty-seven], it was natural for Marlowe to use him as a model in his writing. He may also have been influenced by the fact that de Vere was paying his salary.”

My feeling is that Oxford was giving Marlowe a kind of “cover” in London, according to the needs of Burghley and Walsingham, by taking him under his wing as a writer. To what degree Marlowe actually wrote the works for which he is credited is still, for me, a matter of conjecture – although some notable Oxfordians have already declared outright that it was Oxford who wrote those works.

World War Two Propaganda to Inspire Unity of Management and Labor

World War Two Propaganda to Inspire Unity of Management and Labor

In any case the phenomenon of “Shakespeare” was forged out of the fires of wartime. Behind the rise of the mighty warrior shaking the spear of his pen was a domestic army of literary men and artists of various kinds, all inspired and guided by their leader, Edward de Vere. Finally young men from different parts of the country — Protestants and Catholics alike, speaking different dialects that needed to be translated — descended upon London in the summer of 1588, volunteering to join together in the face of a common enemy.

The great director Frank Capra during WWII

The great director Frank Capra during WWII

[Such a “public relations” effort would be used by the United States government’s media operations during World War Two, providing work for many writers, photographers and filmmakers, enabling them to sharpen their talents and skills.]

But England’s defeat of the Spanish armada was followed by a shameful episode that might be called a “bloodbath” of those same writers. To put it simply, the government — having utilized their services, in helping England survive — suddenly (a) no longer felt the same need of them and (b) became afraid of their freedom to express themselves along with their power to influence the public. After defeating the enemy without, the government focused on enemies within.

Screenwriters, actors and directors were blacklisted and even jailed for being under suspicion as enemies of the U.S.

Screenwriters, actors and directors were blacklisted for being under suspicion as enemies of the U.S.

[Again a comparison with U.S. history in the twentieth century appears to be in order –- the blacklisting of writers and filmmakers after WWII, during the McCarthy era of the 1950s.]

The fourth and final part of Reason 95 to conclude that Oxford was “Shakespeare” will continue the story from 1589 through the high point of the “bloodbath” — the political assassination of Marlowe on May 30, 1593, followed by the first appearance of “William Shakespeare” shortly afterward in June.

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10 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. ,
    having read your exuberant self-fullfilling recommendation of Ricardo Mena as well as his kindle book I beginn to understand what is approaching us with your upcoming part 3/4/5(?) of your Marlowe Blog 95 and of the Oxford-Marlowe-Shakespeare Supergenius theory and why you need the Key witness Ricardo before you start to deconstruct Marlowe: (Ricardo with his low opinion on Marlowe: Marlowe the sodomite(4 times!),the big mouth, the brand, the anarchic, his infantile Stile and so on )

    Ricardo as your Deus ex machina : The Earl, the greatest Genius ever, the springtime of truth, the milestone towards understanding Shakespeare, etc etc ,!! Edward de Vere the real composer of Marlowe’s and Shakespeare’s works and of so many more…almost as terrific as the DINS theory Mena alone so far believes in…..The Earl , at first his long refuge in the Image of Marlowe, then ,in abondoning him in 1593, creates different new characters in the Image of Shakespeare……Quite Amazing …isn’t there a danger not to keep your feet on the ground…

    A complicated overburdened theory, in my view, not too difficult to predict, that it can hardly ever win or be defended… So endless numerous missing parts ,questions, persons, plausibilities, logics, and so on….what a shame, that the Genius dramatist, the Earl died 1604 and nobody at his age has ever noticed his charisma beyond comparison
    against your theory the Marlowe theory ( which needs only his surviving under changed Identity ..and pseudonymes) looks astonishingly simple and robust

    Wish you good luck


    • When did Marlowe write “Hamlet”?

      • As Ricardo as always defended, Oxford was both Marlowe and Shakespeare. He feels this can explain the similarities between both authors and also help us interpreting better Marlowe’s plays.

        Indeed, plays like “Dido” seem to reflect Oxford’ affair with the Queen. But this doesn’t make him Marlowe. The same way Ricardo has recently mention Donne as Spenser mentioned the affair in “The Fairie Queene” as refering to the myth of Isis and Osyris. But Marlowe as involved with Government affair and Bacon (I believe he was Spenser) was also in that situation, and other authors may have know (much ado about Cynthia and Roses in “Quest for Cynthia” by Michael Drayton. Not affirming something serious, just an idea).

        Marlowe and Shakespeare have a style somehow different. The Marlovian affair reminds me of what I have seen while studying the historical Jesus, which is what I do when I’m not into Shakespeare: there are you argue for the biblical Paul as a pen-name to Flavius Josephus based on their similar styles and vocabularies. Yet, chronologies shock and biographies too. Though this two latter fit Marlowe and Shakespeare, the theme also fail like in Josephus-Paul: homossexuality and tragedy are commun in Marlowe; Shakespeare is far more sexual, inclined to women-men or men as women, but never men-men ou women-women, and poetical. Neither Josephus is Paul or Marlowe is Shakespeare.

        We can even argue an author’s style evolved with time. Those who argue for differences between Oxford’s youth poems and Shakespeare’s works just shouldn’t be on the matter: it doesn’t take a genius to know people evolve, and a writer evolves his/her style with time and experience. So do themes. We could argue for Marlowe as Shakespeare if there was a great time between both like in Oxford and Shakespeare, time enough to improve styles and themes, but this isn’t the case: Shakespeare and Marlowe separates themselves for mere weeks.

        Hamlet was already written by 1593 and was perfomed about this time in Oxford. It is registed. And this play is much more “Spanish Tragedy”-like than Tumberlaine, for example. Oxford’s influence on Marlowe’s plays is the correct answer, I believe.

      • Thanks for this thoughtful and informative comment, Francisco. What is you opinion of the suggestion that Oxford could have written the Tamburlaine plays much earlier and finally pulled out the manuscripts for Marlowe? Is it possible that we are seeing the loud, over-the-top style of a much younger man?

  2. As always, I warn you that the Earl didn’t die in 1604.

  3. And as to the winner: don’t push too much time and/or money into your Marlowe theory. I don’t know if he existed, or not. But the works were written by Edward de Vere, and the world will see the real proof soon. I warned you, don’t blame me later.

  4. Our Oxenford died 410 years ago – on paper, to be precise.

    • Wow, I didn’t even look at the date. Good point, Sandy. I don’t think we should wait for the world to see the real proof. Deniers we always exist, the same way we deny Marlovians for example, and they us. We both have evidences to contradict each others. And yet, who is the possessor of the truth? Marlovians, Baconians, Oxfordians, Sydnites… or even Elizabetheans (I mean, those who believe the Queen was Shakespeare herself, not those who lived under her reign)! We can be wrong, as well they. Maybe the true author as not even be put up to light. I’m not saying the Oxfordian theory IS wrong, because I believe we’ve find out who the real Shakespeare was, I’m pointing out to the possibility of error and the importance of having humbleness to recognize it.

      When to your question, Whittemore, I didn’t understand well. But if I really did, then I say: Marlowe was a gifted man, he really had a gift for the theatre. He had his influences (e.g. Maquiavel) but if Oxford was some kind of master to him, it wouldn’t surprise me Marlowe as emulating Oxford until he superate himself and, with a style tipically Shakespearean based on Oxford’s works of the late 1580’s and early 1590’s (when he as going through a phase of creating Shakespeare from the ashes of Greene). So: no, Oxford didn’t write Tamburlaine early and yes, behold the excelent work of a very gifted and young man who had the patient, talent and bless to observe, analyse and copy his master’s style until he evoveld a new one by his own based on his master’s.

      • Hi Francisco, the situation is much better. The truth can be proven. Oxenford was the real author.

      • Thanks, Francisco!

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