A Contemporary Allusion to Marlowe Rediscovered:
Recently Stratfordians have suggested, yet again, that it is "almost
certain" that Greene referred to Shakespeare writing long before Marlowe
This simply is not true, as I and many others have pointed out. However in reviewing
the evidence I noticed a previously unremarked upon allusion to Marlowe and a
very favorable one at that.
Here’s how this evidence shakes.
The alleged allusion to Shakespeare occurs in "Greene’s" _Groatsworth
of Wit_. It has been cited by numerous authorities for several
centuries. It was entered for publication on 20 September 1592, shortly after Green’s death. On its own testimony it represents what one might
call a "death bed repentance" and "warning" to others.
There are, however, several problems. Given the circumstances of Greene’s
death, it seems unlikely he spent his last weeks writing
pamphlets. Worse Henry Chettle, a writer and publisher, tells us in his _Kind-heart’s
Dream_, which entered on 8 December 1592 that _Groatsworth of
Wit_ was printed, not from Greene’s holograph, but from his, Chettle’s:
"About three months since died Mr. Robert Greene, leaving many papers
in sundry booksellers’ hands, among others his ‘Groatsworth of Wit," in
which a letter, written to divers play makers, is
offensively by one or two of them taken; and because on the dead they cannot be
avenged, they wilfully forge in their
conceites a living author [i.e., me, Chettle] and after tossing it two and fro,
no remedy but it must light on me. How I
have all the time of my conversing in printing hindred the bitter inveying
against schollers, it hath been very well knowne, and how in that dealt I can
sufficiently proove. With neither of them that take office was I acquainted, and
with one of them I care not if I never be. The other, whome at that time, I did
not so much spare as since I wish I had, for that, as i have moderated the heate
of living writers, and might have usde my owne discretion, I am as sory as if
the originall fault had beene my fault, because myselfe have seene his demenour
no lesse civil, than he excelent in the quality he professes;—besides, divers
of worship have reported his uprightness of dealing, which argues his honesty;
and his facetious grace in writing that approves his Art."
It is agreed, so far as I know, by all serious authorities, that the three writers
were Marlowe, Nahse and Peele, as Diana Price notes in _Shakespeare 's
Unorthodox Biography_. (27) Chettle continues:
"I had only in the copy his share, it was ill written, as sometimes
Greene’s hand was none of the best, liscensed it must be, ere it could be
printed which could never be if it might not be read. To
be frief I writ it over, and as near as I could, followed the copy, only in that
letter I put something out, but in the whole book not a word in, for I protest
it was all Greene’s, not minenor Master Nashe’s, as some unjustly have
It is sure from this _Groatsworth of Wit_ was
printed from a document wholly in the hand
of Henry Chettle, not Greene, and that Nashe (and others) had complained publicly
that it was more of Chettle’s making than Greene’s. Indeed modern
authorship studies have suggested the work
was, in all probability, entirely Chettle’s. Warren B. Austin, for example,
subjected it to what is called a stylometric study
in 1969 using a corpus of 43,190 words from Chettle and 104,596 from Greene. He
concluded the lexical and linguistic evidence suggested Chettle four to one. (_A
Computer-Aided Technique for Stylistic Discrimination. The Authorship of
Green's Groatsworth of Wit._) As Price has pointed out, "Austin’s conclusions are slowly gaining acceptance."
She cites D.
Allen Carroll’s critical edition of Groatsworth of Wit (1994),
who concluded "while Greene may have had something to do with the writing
of Groatsworth, Chettle certainly did."
Price goes on to
point out how modern biographers of Shakespeare have substituted
his name for the unnamed writers alluded to by Chettle and, perhaps, by Greene. For example Kay writes:
"Chettle concedes the good opinion held
of Shakespeare by "divers of worship." Yet as we
have seen nowhere does Chettle or Greene refer to Shakespeare. Price, quoting
Erne (434) notes perceptively: "The
redirection of Chettle apology to Shakspere is a slight-of-hand resulting in
what one recent critic described as ‘mythography
at its best," and one that has ‘far- reaching implications."
indeed it does.
It is the kind of "mythography" that Stratfordianism feeds upon.
I am here, however, to redirect our attention to what Chettle has said about
the three unnamed writers, generally taken to have been Marlowe, Nashe and Peele.
Nashe is named, at least indirectly, as we have seen. If we retreat to Greenwood’s
account of this same problem we’ll discover that Fleay, in his then
authoritative, _Life of Shakespeare_ ,(119) wrote:
"The line "o, tiger’s heart wrapt in a woman’s hide’
occurs in _Richard, Duke of York_ (commonly but injudiciously referred to as the
True Tragedy), a play written for Pemroke’s men, probably in 1590, on which
Henry VI was founded. It is almost certainly by Marlowe, the best of the three
whom Greene addresses. I n December Chettle issued his King-heart’s
which he apologises for the offense give to Marlowe in the Groatswroth of
Fleay then quotes as applying, not to Shakespeare, but to Marlowe, the lines
we have quoted above and which I re-quote below:
"The other, whome at that time, I did not so much spare as since I
wish I had, for that, as i have moderated the heate of living writers, and might
have usde my owne discretion, I am as sory as if the originall fault had beene
my fault, because myselfe have seene his demenour no lesse civil, than he
excelent in the quality he professes;—besides, divers of worship have reported
his uprightness of dealing, which argues his honesty; and his facetious grace in
writing that approves his Art."
Indeed these lines must, as I shall point out, refer only or exclusively
to Marlowe. How do we know this? We know this because since Fleay and Greenwood wrote, the Privy
Council’s entail, concerning Marlowe and demanding his MA from Cambridge, has
been discovered. It was conclusively and exclusively shown to apply
to Christopher Marlowe, the poet, by Prof. Leslie Hotson (Ph.D. Harvard) in his
book, _The Death of Christopher
Marlowe_, (1925). A scan of the primary document appears at the end
of this discussion, here is the transcription:
"Whereas it was reported that Christopher Morley was determined to
have gone beyond the seas to Reames and there to remaine, Their L(ordship)s
thought good to certefie that he had no such intent, but that in all his
accions he had behaued himself orderlie and discreetelie wherebie he had done
her ma(jes)tie good seruice, and deserued to be rewarded for his faithfull
dealinge: Their L(ordship)s request was thst the rumor thereof should be allaied
by all possible means, and that he should furthered in the degree he was to
takethis next Commencement: Because it was not her ma(jes)ties pleasure that
anie one employed as he had been in matters touching the benefitt of his
Countrie should be defamed by those that are ignorant in th'affaires he went
Peter Farey,, reminds us, "This had been signed by the 'Lord Archbishop'
(Whitgift), 'Lord Chancelor' (Hatton), 'Lord Threasurer' (Burghley), 'Lord
Chamberlaine' (Hunsdon) and 'Mr Comptroler' (Crofts'. It is worth remembering
that Lord Burghley was also Chancellor of the University!" (Emphasis is
These men were undoubtedly the "divers of worship" to whom Chettle
was alluding. Who else would fit this descriptions but the Lords of
the Privy Councils, one of whom was Marlowe's Archbishop and another of whom,
Lord Burghley, his master.
Indeed they did attest to
Marlowe’s "uprighteness of dealing, which argues his
honesty." Their phrase, as we have seen, was "his
Clearly Chettle knew of this important entail to Cambridge, at least
indirectly. It was a "public document" and must have, as I have
explained elsewhere, broken over Cambridge like a cannonade. Here the Cambridge
ready to deny Marlowe his degree and suddenly, out of the blue, comes a demand
from the Privy Council, alluding to the Queen’s displeasure, and signed by the
Lord Chancellor of the University. (No marvel Peter Farey used an
exclamation point.) It must have been gossiped about
frequently and, even five years latter, was
on Chettle’s mind.
In any case the evidence is quite sound the allusion to _Richard,
Duke of York_, i.e., "tiger's heart wrapt in a player's
hide," was an
allusion to Marlowe 's work and it is equally certain that Chettle apologies to Marlowe
in the above quoted passage, just as Fleay
thought in his _Life of Shakespeare , as noted by
This allusion is an important one. It needs to be included in any biography of Marlowe because it assures us of his
high standing among playwrights or "play makers," as Chettle calls them, of his
age. Here is the full quote again:
The other[ i.e., Marlowe], whome at that time, I did not so much spare as
since I wish I had, for that, as I have moderated the heate of living writers,
and might have usde my owne discretion, I am as sory as if the originall fault
had beene my fault, because myselfe have seene his demenour no lesse civil, than
he excelent in the quality he professes;—besides, divers of worship have
reported his uprightness of dealing, which argues his honesty; and his facetious
grace in writing that approves his Art."
Let’s put this in modern parlance. Chettle, a publisher and writer, has
known, face to face, Christopher Marlowe. But not known him as well as he
would have liked. He, Chettle, has taken heat for some of the things these
writers have written, but only at his own discretion, i.e., on his own
terms. He is sorry now about the fallout from _Groatsworth_,
particularly as it impacted Marlowe. Marlowe, who he knew face to face,
i.e., "because myselfe have seene his demenour no lesse civil," is in
Chettle’s opinion, "excelent in the quality he professes," i.e., in
Beside his own opinion, Chettle reminds readers that he knows of the Privy
Council’s opinion of Marlowe, which he alludes to in the phrase "divers
of worship have reported his uprightness of dealing."
This phrase can only allude to Marlowe and can only allude to the Privy
So all in all it is a clean sweep for Marlowe.
It is Marlowe who wrote Richard,
Duke of York, for Pembroke’s men, it was thus Marlowe who was the
source of the line "O tiger’s heart wrapt in a woman’s hide."
We know Marlowe and not Shakespeare was writing during this period for Pembroke’s
men, because of the attestation to this on the title page of Edward II,
Marlowe’s play. Shakespeare never wrote for Pembroke's men, so far as
these matters can be known.
More we have a face to face recognition for Marlowe, by Chettle, who says
"because[I] myselfe have seene his demenour no lesse civil."
Chettle gives us a glowing description of Marlowe metal as a writer, calling him
"excelent in the quality he professes." And Chettle
reminds his readers of the Privy Council’s
entail to Cambridge demanding Marlowe's degree and certifying to his
"honest dealing." This allusion, as Fleay understood, could only
have applied to Marlowe and it is proven by the Privy Council entail now part of
the public record of Marlowe's life.
This provides us with direct evidence for Marlowe at least one more of Price’s
categories, particularly category seven, "commendatory verses, epistle or
epigrams contributed or received," and perhaps categories two and three as
Below this the original Privy Council entail:
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