Stratfordians are uniformly silent regarding James I's mysterious Master of Ceremonies, Sir Lewis Leuknor.
Since he was in charge of producing many of Shakespeare's greatest plays, one supposes there would be, at the very least, passing mention of him in either Chamber's Life of Shakespeare or in Schoenbaum's more recent, Documentary Life. Yet a check of the index of both of these works proves that Sir Lewis Leuknor is missing from these authoritative treatments. Why?
Leuknor's diplomatic translations are mentioned by Shakespearian scholars, because they are known to underlie several of the plays. He was, for example, listed as the translator of Contarini's The Commonwealth and Government of Venice (1595) which Othello and The Merchant of Venice make considerable use of.
Moreover Leuknor's analogs appear in cameo roles in several of Shakespeare's plays, including The Winter's Tale, where his Bohemian analog is caused to remark on a young prince who resembles Prince Henry. In Twelfth Night he is cast as the memorable Sir Andrew Aguecheek. As Aguecheek he bears a remarkable resemblance to Christopher Marlowe, for he is said to have been a street fighter, who narrowly escaped death in one such fray. Like Marlowe, he is bashed in head and returns from the dead. His description of himself is worth quoting, "I am a fellow o' the strangest mind i' the world. I delight in masques and revels sometimes altogether." In Winter's Tale his name is "Archidamus," anagram for the phrase, "hid C Mar as u."
Leuknor appeared out of the blue in 1603, when James I appointed him his Master of Ceremonies, because of his "good education and experience" and instruction in foreign languages and customs. (See W. R. Streitberger, Edomond Tyllney...)
As a matter of fact no record of Leuknor's Cambridge education is extant.
|Letter from Oxford University confirming what we've noted.|
He is said by the DBN to have been from Sussex, but there are no extant birth records for him in the community of his supposed nativity.
A man of similar name was in Marlowe's class at the King's School in 1579/80 and another of these names was responsible for the switch in diplomatic papers carried out at Cecil's command on the unfortunate Sir Richard Hesketh, a diplomatic courier and friend acting for Lord Strange. Due to the switch, Hesketh was discovered, "interrogated" or "tortured" and then hanged, eviscerated alive and afterwards quartered at St. Albans. Lord Strange died soon afterwards, presumably of poison. But men may have been implicated in Marlowe's arrest, since Kyd suggested that it was Lord Strange who fingered Marlowe. Much of this is discussed by Charles Nicholl, who names one "Samuel Lewknor" as the Cecil projector responsible for much of this plot. Curiously Nicholl does not mention Lewknor's name in his index, under either spelling.
I think it is high time scholars looked into the life of "Sir Lewis Leuknor."
Two tidbits of titillating significance. Leuknor was knighted alongside Marlowe's attorney John Smith and created Master of Ceremonies on 21 May 1603...or ten years to the day from the date of Marlowe's final appearance before the Privy Council. He was imprisoned in the Tower on that same day in 1625 by King James, for a trivial offence, for which he was promptly released. Could this be a pattern or a signal?
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