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The Simple Little Marlowe Story

Once upon a time a genius child was born to a family of lowly cobblers in Canterbury, England. The date was 1564.  Twenty-nine years later and forced into exile, he would become the writer William Shakespeare. 

He was baptized Christopher Marlowe.  He was quickly noticed by local clergy and teachers, who predicted, correctly, that he would become the "realm's highest mind."

His unique and formidable aural powers were encouraged. He was rescued from the poverty and baseness of his home.  He was groomed by the high and mighty who had great plans for him.  He was, in this regard, not unlike Leonardo da Vinci, before him, and Mozart, after him.

A human cam recorder, young Christopher found work in her Majesty’s Secret Service, even as a lad, as had his friend Nicholas Faunt.  Faunt's parallel life offers scholars many insights into Marlowe's course.  Like Faunt, young Marlowe traveled the world. He interacted with its rich and famous. He learned its languages. People marveled at him. He could sing like song itself.

And when he began to write English, he wrote it better than any man before or since. His sixteen line poem, "Come live with me and be my love," would have earned him a place among men of English letters had all this other writings been lost or so notes Swinburne. 

His mathematical powers were equally acute.  Thomas Harriot, England’s resident mathematical genius, considered him an equal. His knowledge of geography, customs and languages became unrivaled. He painted effortlessly and was soon a first rate musician as well.  He and the fortifications expert, Ives, were friends and shared manuscripts.  He became a swordsman and street fighter.  And a wooer of women.

But he dreamed of things that were forbidden. Of Republics and secular states without kings, where ignorance was the only sin and religion a childish toy.  He was as much an American as Thomas Payne, who signed himself, in Common Sense, an Englishman, when he abolished the notion of "the divine rights of kings" by citing arguments first advanced in Midsummer Night’s Dream.  Professor Patrick Cheney writing in his remarkable recent study of Marlowe's canon, Marlowe's Counterfiet Profession, Ovid, Spenser, Counter-Nationhood, shows how Marlowe's works championed a "counter-nationhood" which "subverted royal power with what Ovid calls libertas."

While still an adolescent he began to write plays. Famous Victories of Henry V was his first. It becomes the source play of Shakespeare’s mature Henriad. Its sets in Kent, his home of record, and features roles for his cobbler father and mother, Alice Arthur, of Dover.   During his teens he would write a dozen of these delightful plays, anonymous plays that "Shakespeare" will return to in his maturity: Taming of A Shrew, Timon, ms., Richard III, King John, Arden of Faversham, King Leer and the Woodstock and Ironside manuscripts. All are Kentish, either directly or indirectly. Several share interlocking characters, several feature cobblers and all are frequently claimed as Shakespeare’s.

Marlovians scholars can prove they were more likely all young Marlowe’s. In 1580 Marlowe went off to Cambridge on a scholarship devised to furnish future Archbishops for Canterbury, the same scholarship Faunt had gone to Cambridge on. Though a candidate for holly orders, his commitment to covert diplomacy and to public drama proved overridingly strong.  So like Faunt he gave up a religious life and focused on covert diplomacy.  Faunt had become the private secretary for Sir Francis Walsingham, COE of England's Secret Service.  Indeed it was Faunt who wittnessed while still a King's School lad the St.  Bartholomew Massacre and carried Walsingham's message about it back to Elizabeth, in his head.  The same massacre Marlowe dramatized in his play of similar title, as if he'd witnessed it.  Had he?  Was he there along with Faunt, Thomas Walsingham and Philip Sidney...we'll never know since these matters were secret but we do know all three lads were there.  So Marlowe's presence as a companion to young Sir Thomas Walsingham, later his patron and friend, is certainly possible.

Securing his MA only with the help of the Privy Council, which certified Marlowe had been successfully employed by the Queen on covert matters and that is "was not her Majesties pleasure that anie one emploied as he had been in matters touching the benefitt of his Countrie should be defame by those that are ignorant in th' affairs he went about," Marlowe left Cambridge to work as the "reader and attendant," for Arbella Stuart, then first in line as Elizabeth’s successor.  This was the highest possible placement for young Marlowe and assures us of the faith that Lord Burghley, Master of Wards, had in Marlowe.  Intelligence from this assignment winds up in 1 Henry VI, suppressed from publication for thirty some odd years to protect his identity.  Additionally Arbella quotes from Lucan's Civil Wars, which Marlowe translated.

By 1593 his fame as a play-maker, poet and translator was well established. So was his utility to the Cecils, who, with the death of Sir Francis Walsingham, ran Her Majesty’s Secret Service. They had come to his aid more than once, good proof that they continued to regard him as their most valuable player.  However during the pogrom spawned by the plague in the spring of 1593, Marlowe, a freethinker, found himself in inextricable domestic circumstances at the hands of what we would call right winged religious zealots, who believed the plague was God's punishment on London for harboring freethinkers. 

Diplomatic historians know this problem loomed just as the Cecils were planning to send Marlowe to King James’ court in Scotland on the issues of the Spanish Blanks. 

Since intelligence from this assignment to King James VI, later James I, ends up in no fewer than five of "Shakespeare’s" plays, including Hamlet, we can reasonably suppose that Marlowe somehow completed this duty.  We can also note that it successfully adverted an English civil war over succession, which was not only the subject of the history plays, but of Marlowe's translation of Lucan, i.e., the civil wars of Rome.  Further evidence of this assignment is to be found in the parallels between Edward II in Marlowe's play and James VI, as now fully outline by scholars in the recent Christopher Marlowe and English Renaissance Culture

His domestic enemies, who were ignorant in the Queen phrase of his diplomatic work and nationalism, felt he’d abandoned their faith and trust and were out for his blood. They were wholeheartedly determined he wouldn’t go to Scotland and begin to dabble in the succession and dynastic affairs.

So it was that Marlowe was arrested on trumped up capital charges which included heresy. The Cecils acted promptly and released Marlowe (then 29) on his volition, unheard of, given the severity of the charges. (This was at least the second time the Cecils had promptly released Marlowe from capital charges, Lord Burghley having done the same thing when he was "deported" by Sir Robert Sydney from the Netherlands in 1592.  He jumped his bail immediately and ten days later was supposedly stabbed through the face while fighting with friends and employees of his patron, Sir Thomas Walsingham, himself a frequently suggested scion of the Secret Services.

No gravestone was set over his body.  No interment record for his friend, the Protestant theologian and martyr, John Penry, hanged the day before and two miles away, can be found.  Marlovians believe Penry's body was substituted for Marlowe in the same fashion as the famous switch in Measure for Measure. 

In any case, his alleged slayer and former friend quickly returned to work for his patron, with the Queen’s pardon for his actions in his back pocket. Over the killing would hang an explicit provision of the Queen that no further review of the circumstances could be broached in the local courts, a provision similar to the equivalency of the modern British Secrecy Act.  It has withstood all efforts to remove it for the past four centuries. The Queen’s order expressly forbids further local inquiry into the events of 30 May 1593. Why?  Obviously because they were of her liking and because they had to do with dynastic affairs: the succession of the crown to James I.  No mission was more important, no secrets more dangerous to the future of the realm.

Marlowe's friend, Nicholas Faunt, was deployed on covert matters during that same period and has been traced to Dover, Kent, a few hours coastal sailing from Deptford, Kent, where Marlowe was supposedly stabbed to death, on the same evening.  Faunt could have been any where in the world, doing anything his masters requested, but he proves to have been dispatching English agents to France on the following day, ostensibly, on other maters.  

 Faunt then returned home by the long inland route taking him through his and Marlowe's native Canterbury. Correspondence addressed to Faunt by Nicholas Bacon, often of a personal nature, curiously makes no mention of Marlowe’s sensational death.  Why?  Did these hidden or "secret" men know something we didn't?

Ten days later the first work of Shakespeare, the eloquent Kentish poem, Venus and Adonis, made its appearance.  Its sequel, Hero and Leander, said Marlowe's, was not published for five years, when it would be openly dedicated to Marlowe's friend and patron, Sir Thomas Walsingham.  Venus and Adonis was dedicated to Marlowe's Cambridge fellow, the lovely young Earl of Southampton, had Marlowe tutored him for Burghley, who was, as Master of Wards, in charge of Southampton's education?  The name "Shakespeare" was added to the dedication page of the first edition of Venus and Adonis and does not thus appear until several weeks after Marlowe's official date of death.   This addition to the text is clear, since its verso is blank and the folded page which precedes is blank also, a dedication page that isn't hastily inserted is "woven" into the text as is the dedication of Rape of Lucrece, which appeared a year later. 

It remains a complete mystery how Marlowe could have written a sequel to Venus and Adonis,  (i.e., Hero and Leander) given the fact that it did not appear in print until after his official date of death. Indeed works under Marlowe’s own name were to appear, on significant dates, for the next 68 years.  One of them, The Jew of Malta, was dedicated to an old King's School and Cambridge classmate, Thomas Hammon, in 1633 the dedicator musing about their life-long friendship, albeit under the pseudonym of "Thomas Haywood."  He signs himself under the Latin closing "Tuissimus" which looks like a play on the English term, "tuism," which means, "the use of the second person in avoidance of the first."  One can almost hear him chuckling. 

Marlowe appears alive in the diplomatic records on several occasions after 1593, beginning in 1599, when he resurfaces at the Spanish university Valladolid on the same day he supposedly died or vanished on in 1593, i.e., 20/30 May.

With him at Valladolid was Cervantes, then working on Don Quixote. The matchless English translation of Don Quixote, written in the highest Elizabethan prose on record, turns up under a nom de plume, a few years later: Thomas Shelton.  This nom de plume  was fabricated on a personality long supposed to have been the brother-in-law of Marlowe’s patron, Sir Thomas Walsingham, with whom Marlowe had been staying at the time of his final arrest on 18th of May 1593!  Thomas Shelton has been conjecturally supposed to have been the brother of Audrey Shelton, Walsingham's lovely young wife, to whom parts Two and Three of Hero and Leander  were to be amorously dedicated in 1598, under the name of George Chapman.  Who was Thomas Shelton?  Was he with Cervantes at Valladolid?  Scholars of this puzzle believe the two writers actually collaborated on Don Quixote, i.e., "Shelton" and Cervantes. 

Hero and Leander is a self-proclaimed sequel to Venus and Adonis yet there is no question that Marlowe was, at least officially, dead before Venus and Adonis was published. Just as there is no question that many of the plays found in the 1623 First Folio of Shakespeare were significantly modified after the actor’s death in 1616, including Othello, which wasn’t published until 1622. Who made these late modifications to "Shakespeare’s" works, many of them on the face of the 1622 quarto of Othello? How did Marlowe know about Venus and Adonis’s success?  Why was the publication of his sequel suppressed for five years, giving Venus and Adonis a "free run?"  Generally speaking only an author has the motivation to suppress a sequel until the first part has had its "run."   A competing writer has every possible motive to edge in on his competitor's market. 

Marlowe’s translation of Dido’s Death surfaced in 1622, assigned "to the one that hath no name." Where had it been all those years?  Marlowe's last known work, the lost play The Maiden's Holiday, (not to be mistaken for Shakespeare's lost play The Maiden's Tragedy) surfaced on 8/18 April in 1654.  That was 65 years to the day from the date of the appearance Venus and Adonis and 30 years (to the day) from the date of Two Noble Kinsmen, said the last play of Shakespeare.  Who was tracking these important dates?   Why do three works said Shakespeare's appear in sequential years on 20/30 of May, said to be the dates of Marlowe's last official appearance before the Privy Council and the date of his official "death"?  These three works include the highly autobiographic Sonnets, which speaking of the poet's death at the hands of a "wretch's' knife" and his subsequent exile and estrangement from an illicit son with the initials of "W. H."

The only member of the peerage with those initials who fits the biographic facts was William Herbert, who was born on 8/18 April in 1580.  Thus making the registration of Venus and Adonis to have fallen on his 13th birthday, while Marlowe was officially alive and well and in London.  The poem is Kentish in in allusions and locales and seems to allude to Herbert's birth and to a pledge by Venus of his future patronage:

Venus salutes him with this fair good morrow: Oh thou clear god, and patron of all light, From whom each lamp and shining star doth borrow The beauteous influence that makes him bright, There lives a son that sucked an earthly mother, May lend thee light, as thou dost lend to other"

That this boy becomes the Earl of Pembroke who did in fact support Marlowe and Shakespeare's work is as certain as these things can be.  It is also certain that his mother, Mary Sydney Herbert was married to the Second Earl of Pembroke, who had been infertile through two previous marriages and many affairs.  How did Mary solve his problem?  Mary and young Marlowe prove to have been in Canterbury in July 1579 when Mary conceived William Herbert, was Marlowe William father as the author of the Sonnets seems to believe?  Was this the relationship which spawned them?  Was this the relationship which caused Pembroke to exclude these poems from the First Folio?

But of what use are "once upon a time stories," even when they are truthful?

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