On the Strange History Of Othello
The biographic and
academic struggle over Othello is nearly the equal of this unforgettable
drama, it teams with petty jealousies and convoluted intrigues; it boils with
hidden problems and controversial solutions.
Perhaps it is because a careful study of Othello, and its history,
explodes the Stratfordian myth, for it proves the Author a well-traveled
linguist, grounded in classical studies, heretical
and seditious religious and social opinions, and privy to what was then
diplomatic intelligence. Even more
controversially, a diligent analysis suggests he survived until 1623, as
attested to by the First Folio’s revisions to the 1622 text of Othello.
How could the actor, confidently dead for six years, have made these
important revisions? How could the actor, sans education, leisure or dilatory
time, travels and diplomatic contacts have written this marvelous play?
A play that is best categorized as a diplomatic docudrama dealing,
head-on, with murderous and perverse passions simmering within a strata of
society about which the lowly were to hazard no opinions, let alone, published
ones. Let us make no mistake
about it, Othello remains, even today, a radical play pitched against
male arrogance and domestic violence perpetrated on helpless wives by their
dysfunctional and tyrannical husbands. Wives
who, according to their own account, are as sentient as their husbands and, in
this particular case, guiltless parties, the victims of deliberate slander. The
Stratfordian paradigm, which views the plays intentionaless and benign, and
throttles debate to the contrary, must ostrich like, ignore most of Othello’s
was Othello and how did the Author learn of him? Had the Author journeyed to the distant locales where Othello
takes place? Namely to far away
Venice and Cyprus? Or had he merely
read about Othello in Giraldi Cintho’s popular collection the Hecatommithi
or Hundred Tales? (1565) Did he
simply imagine himself in Italian and Mediterranean climes? How did he come to know, so precisely and so correctly, about
the governance of Venice, its senate of the night and its military
expeditions to Cyprus? How did
know, for example, that the Duke, Senators and “Officers” voted to
dispatch Othello to his battles as opposed to simply ordering him off? All of scene four (Act One) takes place in the high
camber of Venice’s senate, and was, in all respects an accurate account of a
Venetian council of war, into which he would thrust the personal saga of
Iago’s plot against Othello, as spearheaded first by Desdemona’s father,
Brabanito and later, unwittingly, by Cassio and Desdemona.
Had he merely read and studied Sir Lewis Leuknor’s translation of
Contarini’s Commonwealth and Government of Venice (1595) or had he
traveled there to observe its political institutions, first hand, for himself? How can we possibly know at this late date?
And why should one opinion be held over the other?
It is certain he did not simply chance over the Duke’s summation of
Othello’s defense, from Brabantio’s wild charges, in Cinthio’s tale.
These lovely thoughts are entirely his own: “If virtue no delighted
beauty lack, Your son-in-law is far more fair than black.” (i,3,290) Craig, like most editors hedges his bets when he
mentions that Cinthio’s tale had not been translated into English by reporting
that no translation has been discovered. He
nevertheless seems to believe “the play retains from its source a
realistic manner and atmosphere not elsewhere found in Shakespeare.”
Impossible of course, since Othello’s debt to Cinthio reduces
its source to a mere shadow. The flesh and blood of Othello is all of the
Author’s doing. Even a detailed
review of the Italian will not supply the diligent with Othello’s
ambiances, let alone its complexities.
did he learn about the naval and occupational wars with Cyprus?
Why did he add the subplot dealing with Montano into his mix?
The Author makes Montano the governor of Cyprus and scholars have some
reason to suspect he was a historic figure there, but can cite no source for
Shakespeare’s knowledge of him.
Had he been reading Alexandre Silvain, The Orator , or the “harangues
militaries,” mentioned as possible sources for various scenes in both Coriolanus
and The Merchant of Venice?
The book surfaced in an inventory of books and secret dispatches
belonging to Bacon’s mysterious agent, Monsieur le Doux, who appears, on the
basis of this library, to have been an English scholar passing himself off as a
Perhaps he was a student of Nicholas Faunt’s Diplomatic Manual of
Europe, a condensation of Sir Edmund Tyllney’s Diplomatic Manual of
Faunt was Christopher Marlowe’s predecessor at both the Kings School
and Cambridge and, like Marlowe, a
recipient of the Parker Scholarship, devised to train scholars in theological
and political propaganda, and perhaps, covert actions.
All these touches evidence, prima facile, the Author’s deep interest in
diplomatic or international affairs and prove a similar professional level study
of the governance and customs of foreign nations, principalities and their
principle figures. A similar study is proven, writ large, through out his
for the tale of Othello, it is absolutely certain he read about Othello
‘s story line, or plot, in the original Italian as we shall prove in a moment.
Meanwhile Hardin Craig reminds us that underlying Othello’s plot
was the story of the “Venetian nobleman, Christopher Moro, commandant in
Cyprus, who returned to Venice in 1508 having lost his wife.”
“Christopher Moro” is a cognomen which would have caught the eye of
Christopher Marlowe, the Cambridge trained scholar and covert diplomatist, whose
fondness and knowledge of Malta and Cyrus has been well established.
It would, presumably, have been of equal interest to anyone as keen on
Marlowe and his works as was the Author of Shakespeare’s plays, who constantly
has his characters quoting or alluding to both.
who broke with the consensus view to remind us of Christopher Moro, was savaged
by Stratfordians, when he announced, over the objections of the consensus, that
the manuscript of Henry IV, known as the Dering copy, represented a
pre-quarto version of Henry IV, when it was one part, not two.
The manuscript surfaced in Pluckly, Kent, the home of Marlowe’s
Cambridge professor and mentor, Thomas Harris.
Henry IV and its sequel, Henry V, evidence, writ large, the
Author’s command of Anglo/French affairs and military history, including the
inter-workings of councils of war. A
similar knowledge is displayed in Marlowe’s earlier diplomatic docudramas,
and, thus, watershed archetypes, Edward II and The Massacre at Paris.
Several of these history plays, including, Edward II, Edward III,
Richard II, I Henry VI and Henry V open on historic days and turn up,
we suggest intentionally, on the same day that the Stationer’s Registry.
Proof the Author stood behind their registrations.
Version and the Ocular Proof:
case Oxfordians are, thus, not the only group to experience the ire of
Stratfordian apologists, as proven by Craig’s ostracism and his own published
account of the “danger [which
befell him for being] responsible for published disagreement with great scholars
whose standing as scholars and whose contributions to our knowledge of
Shakespeare we…profoundly respect.”
Indeed Dover Wilson never fully recovered from his opinion that the
Author of Othello had not only read Cinthio’s story in the original
Italian, but also carefully perused Giraldi’s far more erudite Dissocro,
a philosophic study of stagecraft and drama.
Wilson’s proof, since it is conclusive, bears repeating.
hinges on an interesting amplification stemming from Othello’s demand of Iago
for the “ocular proof” of Desdemona’s infidelity, and, thus, the
infamous handkerchief. This is the only time the author uses the word
“ocular” in his canon of nearly a million words.
It is the same word used by Cinthio, in the phrase, “se non mi
fai..vedere cogl’occhi..,” whereas the French translation provided only,
“si tune me fais voir.” 
So it stands as certain as these matters can be that the Author read this story
in the original Italian. And read
it in such depth and detail that this single pivotal phrase hung in his mind, a
phrase that almost sings in the fluent conversational Italian of Cinthio.
This does not, of course, fit into the historicity of the rustic actor,
but fits well with Marlowe, Bacon or Oxford all of whom could read and write
Italian. Dover Wilson, who studied
the matter closely, agrees. Wilson
writes, “and if Shakespeare read Italian, it is more than likely that he was
familiar with the Discorso in which Cinthio expounded his theory of
Humorously, for only a Stratfordian would make a leap of this nature,
since the Discorso was not a popular work, like the Hundred Tales.
It had, and still enjoys, only the most narrow of academic readerships.
None one knows how many copies of it could have made it to London by
1605, but none have been cited. Yet
the proof is certain that the Author read Cinthio’s Discorso.
Where did he read it? How
had he heard of it? Equally as
conclusive cases have been made for the Author’s reading, in the original
Italian, of Ariosto’s Orlando Furioso and its progenitor, Boiardo’s Orlando
The Farrara Connection: Or
the Rhemis, Valladolid and Farrara Triangle:
In any case, a
double connection to Cinthio is thus certain and should alert scholars to the
possibility that the Author had traveled to Farrara, Italy, the home of the
University of Farrara where Cinthio taught and where his manuscripts had been
Perhaps the Author had Ferrara in mind in the opening lines of Othello
when he causes Iago to label Michael Cassio, somewhat cryptically, as “a great
arithmetician.” Farrara had a great arithmetician named for that city,
Lodovico Farrara, or the same Christian name which appears in the character list
just above this line, as a “kinsman to Brabanito.”
He had solved the bi-quadratic equation.
To bring the underlying or allusional locale of Farrara, Italy into even
clearer focus, we need to recall that in that same opening character list is the
name of Iago’s wife, Emilia. As
it turns out, Emilia is the Italian “see” or province, in which Farrara,
Italy lies. Likely the Author
knew all this because he’d visited the area himself.
Indeed Farrara’s river the Po, appears several times in these works,
making it certain this was another course the Author knew well. Stratfordians
ignore this content because their paradigm will not allow the Author intention,
travels or a classical education. For
Stratfordians these astonishing parallels are nearly as meaningless as the
works, which they believe were written for gain, not fame.
Interestingly Marlowe has been placed a Rhemis and Valladolid so
Farrara would hardly be out of character.
Marlowe, himself a gifted
arithmetician and friend of the English mathematician Thomas Harriot, would have
known of Lodovico Farrara’s solution first hand.
Invention, Adaptation and Dependence:
turning dross to gold:
It should always asked, of this Author, how much of his story wells up
from his underlying source or sources, in this case in Cinthio’s story?
Rest assured these names and allusions to Farrara do not appear in that
source. Indeed the Author has
transformed the entire tale into a new and far more complex drama.
Harold Bloom writes, “Even a brief glace at Shakespeare’s source in
Cinthio reveals the extent to which Iago [and thus the play] is essentially
Shakespeare’s radical invention, rather than an adaptation of the wicked
Ensign in the original story. Cinthio’s
Ensign [unnamed] falls passionately in love with Desdemona, but wins no favor
with her, since she loves the Moor. The
unnamed Ensign decides that his failure is due to Desdemona’s love for an
unnamed Captain (Shakespeare’s Cassio), and so he determines to remove this
supposed rival, by inducing jealousy in the Moor and then plotting with him to
murder both Desdemona and the Captain. In
Cinthio version, the Ensign beats Desdemona to death, while the Moor watches
Thus the entire play has been transformed by the Author into the present
drama, where Desdemona is smothered by Othello, while it is Iago, the Ensign,
who beats, or rather stabs, his own wife, Emilia, to death, after her spirited
defense of Desdemona’s innocence and, her equally spirited, invective against
Iago’s guilt. The entire Emilia/Desdemona relationship, so vital to our Othello,
is thus absent in the original and the rest has been significantly changed.
Moreover, it is precisely this relationship, between Emilia and
Desdemona, which is significantly revised by the Author via some 160 new
lines for its 1623 appearance. Bloom
writes passionately, “Iago, even more totally the master of his play, is at
last undone by Emilia, whom Shakespeare revised into a figure of intrepid
outrage, willing to die for the sake of the murdered Desdemona’s good name.”
The charges stand as a clear indication that the development of the
Emilia/Desdemona relationship was of continued importance to its author, if not
to Stratfordians. Bloom notes heretically, “the revisions made between the
Quarto’s text and the Folio’s enlarge and sharpen our sense primarily of
Emilia, and secondly of Othello and Desdemona, but hardly touch Iago.”
Thus Greg’s watershed opinion, speculating that the source of the
differences between the two texts resulted from the collation of a fuller or
more complete manuscript, is entirely unraveled by Bloom’s simple
consideration of what happens in the new lines: they revise.
So they cannot be the result of simple and earlier cutting.
Anagrams and Hidden Story Lines:
Emilia’s name is the Author’s, as were Lodovico, Cassio, Iago and, most
importantly, Othello, who is simply called the “Dark Moor” by Cinthio. Since
the names originate within the Author’s invention, it is appropriate that
scholars should take deliberate note of them.
Do they have classical referents or do they, like Cordelia and Caliban,
conceal hidden and playful anagrams? While
no classical parallels come easily to mind, Othello’s name is a perfect
anagram for the theme of this great play: O to hell.
Not suprisingly no Stratfordian seems to have noticed it.
After all, anagrams presuppose intention and internationality is
proscribed by the Stratfordian paradigm, never mind the twenty thousand or so
puns hidden away in the canon. Iago,
the driving force of the play, also yields to a playful anagram:
A I go. When combined or
taken in tandem, we have A I go o to hell. Cassio and Roderigo have names loaded with homosexual
undertones which prove absolutely necessary to explain the motivation of
Iago’s passionate hatred for his former master, signaled to us in Iago’s
early and seminal line “I follow him to serve my turn upon him.”
Othello and the Phaedrus:
level of Othello springs straight out of Plato’s homoerotic dialogue,
the Phaedrus, the dramatic conversation between Socrates and the lovely
boy Phaedrus, which takes place outside Athens, while the two speakers cavort
beside a babbling brook. Stratfordians
make little mention of the homosexual undercurrents in Othello patterned
so closely on the Phaedrus, which means they are forced to ignore, both
Sir Lawrence Olivier’s memorable performance in his film, as well as, much of
the dialogue of this marvelous play. Curiously
even the brilliant Bloom misses this under story in favor of the more
traditional foregounding involving Iago’s simple disappointment at being
passed over for Cassio. Curiously
because its a foregrounding he catches in The Winter’s Tale, which he
calls, “partly a study in repressed homosexuality.” All this is very curious because Bloom correctly connects
Leontes’ homosexual motivation to his “virulent jealously” which he then
says “is another order than Othello’s.”
Not so, one of Othello’s most guarded motivations, is that he does not
like supposing that his wife may have done with Cassio what he has done with
Cassio, a theme all too common among jealous husbands whose Ids have been
throttled by the errant opinions of a similarly dysfunctional St. Paul.
Othello aside, this repressed homosexuality or memory of expressed
homosexuality, whichever, is certainly Iago’s hidden motivation.
This traditional foregrounding will do nothing to explain the homosexual
undercurrents so obvious, upon reflection, in Othello.
I will spare us a tedious
line by line digression proving this point, but I will direct our attention,
momentarily, to the pivotal scene where Iago confesses to Othello that he had
been sleeping recently with Othello’s ancient, or Lieutenant, Cassio.
(O I c ass) In hushed tones
Iago confesses to Othello that Cassio, in his restless slumbers, had “kissed
me hard, As if he plucked up kisses by the roots That grew upon my lips.
Then laid his leg Over my thigh, and sighed and kissed [me more]…”
(iii,iii,422) An analysis of this
nature brings into focus the underlying homoerotic aspects of Othello,
which is clearly patterned on the Phaedrus.
Its good evidence the Author read Plato and likely in the original, since
it is only in the original Greek that this aspect of the Phaedrus is
inescapable. Roderigo’s name is
equally interesting from this perspective, as is the infamous “wound” of
Cassio. It being said that Iago has
cut off Cassio’s leg, but in fact, this is an impossible chore to accomplish
with a single slice of a knife, unless of course “leg” is a euphemism for
the male sex organ, which would explain Cassio’s instantaneous exclamation,
“I am maim’d forever.” (v,1, 25). This
interpretation would also explain Cassio’s remarkable recovery from so severe
a wound as the loss of a leg.
The Author’s Theological
Or Smoke signals from Hell:
As remarkable as all this is for a rustic, slenderly educated actor supposedly
writing for momentary pecuniary gains and pence, the appearance of another
device in Othello smacks of the Author’s classical education and indeed
of his extensive theological footing. We
learn more about this education from Desdemona’s seemly contextual lines when
she’s made to remark, “as I am a Christian, If to preserve this vessel for
my lord…. strumpet, I am none.”
These lines are an allusion to I Thessalonians 4-9, as Craig has noted.
Bloom has pointed out that Iago’s famous line “’I am not what I
am,’ deliberately repeals St. Paul’s “By the grace of God I am what I
am.” Its not the first time the
Author has intentionally repealed St. Paul, since Bottom’s dream gives us a
similar reversal or parody of 1 Corinthians 2:9, one Bloom calls
“audacious” rather than heretical, which it certainly was.
The question is how did an exposed Author manage to avoid the
consequences of plays of plays as heretical as Marlowe’s?
For the record is clear than Marlowe was enveloped for similar opinions. Indeed according to Bloom, Marlowe’s tragic death, at the
hands of Elizabeth’s agents, was constantly on Shakespeare’s mind.
In his consideration of Measure for Measure Bloom writes,
“Perhaps Shakespeare should have called the play Like for Like, but he
chose to forgo his hidden blasphemy of the Sermon on the Mount, just
sufficiently veiled, to escape his own regime’s frightening version of the law
of talion, which had murdered Marlowe and broke Kyd, barbarities that we can
assume still weighed upon Shakespeare, even as he lived through his too brief
final days in Stratford.”
We must therefore add yet another certain plank in our case against the
consensus opinion on the Stratford player.
His religious opinions, as evidenced through out his plays, were neither
ordinary nor acceptable to those of his community or “regime” as Bloom calls
it. The junta that hunted down
Marlowe and tortured Kyd, would have loved to have laid hands on the Author of
these “hidden blasphemies.” But apparently he was more securely hidden, or out of reach,
than were they.
Bloom reminds us that Shell’s opinion of Measure for Measure was “a comic rebellion against authority that [was] its best shield against censorship or punishment….Shell [proposes] the mad law against fornication is Shakespeare’s paradigm for all societal laws, his make-believe foundation for civilization and its discontents.” In his discussion on Othello Bloom notes, almost casually, “Nor is Shakespeare (or Iago) any kind of heretic; I am baffled when critics argue as to whether Shakespeare was Protestant or Catholic, since the plays are neither.” But this naivety will not do. In Shakespeare’s England one had to be Protestant or die or live an exile. In those days the Tower of London wasn’t a tourist attraction but the staging area for what is properly being called “the theater of hell.” Elizabethans believed those with grotesque opinions should have bodies to match and commanded the means to make it so. One hastens to add that Shakespeare’s sort of Biblical heresy, which strikes at the Bible and what Marlowe called its “folk fables,” which ridiculed laws against fornication and reversed St. Paul’s vision, is not necessarily, the same sort of heresy that denies God, in this aspect Bloom is undoubtedly correct. Indeed while both Marlowe’s plays and Shakespeare’s drip with hidden contempt for Biblical stories, both evidence a clear favoritism for a faith in God or “gods” and goodness, which is best classified as deism. Perhaps even, in a hidden sense, a deep personal faith in Christ. However either viewpoint was heretical at the time and many a subject paid for his or her opinions with their lives. None of this fits within the Stratfordian paradigm, which must see Othello, one of the greatest plays in the English language, as the result of a “hempen homespun,” with little or no interest in theological matters and whose sole motivation for writing these dramas was pecuniary or economic. We know better: these plays contest with Biblical commandments and what were then societal norms for the primacy of the human spirit, as Bloom and others have noted. The Bible is interested in winning converts into another kingdom; the Author was interested in building the sort of “souls” that are able to thrive in this kingdom. His role was to engage us in these deep psychological and moral dramas, dramas we already all know by rote. So we are not here to see what happens to Romeo and Juliet or even to Othello and Desdemona, for this we know, so we are here to see what happens to us when we see what happens to them. For as Burke wrote “the theatre is a better school of moral sentiments than churches where the feelings of humanity are thus outraged.” Burke, of course, was a post Shakespearian figure and thus a product of Richard II and Othello.
Registration Trail: Intention
begging for Attention:
Already we have vaulted over Stratfordian fences and expanded the context of Othello far beyond what the consensus interpretation allows. Our next observation takes us even further. An early Revels’ Account shows a play of a related title performed on Hallowmas Day (1 November 1604). The entry reads “Banketinge house att Whiehall called The Moore of Venis,” before King James I. There is no proof, however, this earlier play was actually either Q1’s or the Folio’s version of Othello. The great Shakespeare scholar Malone, was long convinced that Othello was the last (and greatest) of Shakespeare’s plays. He reversed himself only when the Revels’ Account surfaced and backed off some when it was suspected to have been a forgery. Malone may have acted prematurely, however, since several threads suggest a much later date for Othello. (Indeed “the Moore or Venis” could have been a lapse for The Merchant of Venice.) Here's how this works out in the remarkable publication history of Othello . The play did not appear until 1622 or six years after the actor’s death:
It did not surface on simply any date, but on the 47th
birthday of Southampton, 6 October 1621. Who
was keeping track? It is the third
work associated with Shakespeare to appear on Southampton’s birthday, the
first two having been Rosalynde, the second,The Spanish Tragedy.
Midsummer Night’s Dream, a founder’s tale dealing with
Theseus, the founder of Athenian democracy, entered on 8 October 1600, or the
same day Plutarch notes the Athenians set aside to honor Theseus on, the same
day he is said to have returned to Athens from his victory over the Mentor.
Stratfordians have paid no attention to the possible significance of
these registration because their paradigm supposes he took no interest in their
registration, a suggestion trivialized by the intentional registration of MSD,
not to mention the Sonnets, Anthony and Cleopatra and Pericles,
all three of which appeared on 20/30 May in consecutive years at the hands of
Venus and Adonis, which includes a promise to the poet of a future
patron, entered history on 18 April 1593, young William Herbert’s 13th
birthday. William Herbert remains
the poet’s only acknowledged patron, having been born on 8/18 April 1580,
during the series of Kentish earthquakes alluded to four times in Venus and
Adonis. Two Noble Kinsmen, the
last known work of Shakespeare, entered on the 8/18 April 1634, proof someone
had been tracking this important date for forty-one years.
the actor’s death and the appearance of the First Folio no formal eulogies
were made to what should have been a major national tragedy, given the
popularity and status of Shakespeare’s works.
Indeed the case is certain that Othello ‘s address to the reader
is the first mention (from his publishers) of the Author’s death.
(Think of it for a moment. Six
full years had passed. Numerous
editions of his quartos had been issued. Yet
not one mentions his death, worse half a dozen editions were published with
false dates on their title pages, making them appear as earlier editions.
Think of it. No memorial
wording is a curious four word phrase, penned, supposedly, by Thomas
Walkly, Othello’s publisher, more of a statement than a notice and
anything other than a eulogy. It
reads, “the author being dead…”
That’s it. England’s
preeminent poet and dramatist passes and all her native pens have to say is
“To set forth a booke without an Epistle, were like to the old English
proverbe, A blew coat without a badge, & the author being dead,
I thought good to take that piece of worke upon mee:”
It almost makes one wonder what the Author was doing when he wasn’t
in Othello: Letters
seems to have been doing was editing the First Folio.
For when it reprints Othello, just a year later, from this same
1622 edition, it has been significantly revised, on its face, by someone writing
as if he was the Author.
Stratfordians have devised ingenious theories to account for these changes,
including rediscovered manuscripts and tireless, but anonymous, editors who
laboriously collated these sheets with the quarto’s text.
However this nonsense will not do, since the revisions are clearly
revisions, as Harold Bloom has noted. Indeed
Greg nearly came to the same conclusion himself, for he has noticed that there
are several changes to what were certainly compositor mistakes, where the
reviser has not troubled himself to check the original reading, but simply
rewritten the line on the face of the 1622 quarto.
The problem is that he has done such a good job of it that “it is by no
means easy to decide which reading is superior.”
Indeed Greg writes, “a whole essay might be written on this single
Unfortunately Greg did not live to complete this task and Stratfordians
have, predictably, overlooked this exciting lead, with the exception of Harold
Bloom who saw straight to its heart: “Iago…is…undone by Emilia, whom
Shakespeare revised into a figure of intrepid outrage.”
Post 1603 Allusions In Othello:
Jacobean Time Travel:
late date can also be discerned by at least two
internal allusions that assure us the play dates to a period far removed from
the consensus view of 1603/4. One
is Othello’s loaded phrase
from Othello’s own lips, “I will a round unvarnished tale deliver,”
(I,iii,90), apart from doing nothing to dispel the building homosexual currents,
its a quote from Don Quixote not published, even in Spanish, until 1605,
and not translated into English until 1612.
Its appearance in Othello is suggestive of a date nearly a
decade later than the consensus opinion.
I’d like to follow out the led to Don Quixote,
for a moment, before pressing on with Othello, since it impacts the
authorship question. Part Two did not appear, in Spanish, until towards the end
Its English translation
followed in 1618. The
English translation, long believed to have been by
“Thomas Shelton,” has recently been proven to base on a nom de
plume. “Thomas Shelton,”
who was long supposed the brother-in-law of Marlowe’s patron Sir Thomas
Walsingham, has proven to be a fictitious person.
Curiously Marlowe, said to have died in 1593, reappears in the diplomatic
records at Valladolid at the same time that Cervantes was there.
Cervantes, we know, was working on Don Quixote (1599-1602) which
Carr claims has English, not Spanish, roots.
While it was long believed this was another Christopher Marlowe from
Trinity College, the Trinity scholar proves dead in 1596, his will and inventory
witnessed by Hugh Holland.
The same Hugh Holland who would later pen a eulogy to Shakespeare added
to the First Folio’s advertisements. So
who translated Don Quixote into what has been said the highest English
prose of the period?
It must have been Christopher Marlowe, but which of the dead Marlowe’s
This quote from Don Quixote and other
allusions in Othello play havoc with the Stratfordian timetable, which
suggests the play was written c. 1602.
For example, a line in Othello can be dated with considerable
authority to sometime after 1611, when James I instituted a change in heraldic
coats of arms creating the order of baronets, who bore the device of “the
bloody hand of Ulster.” These new baronets included Sir Edward Dering, in whose
collection the manuscript of Henry IV, was to survive.
The same Sir Edward Dering, who attended Marlowe’s King School and
university and whose ledger holds an excited utterance recording the purchase of
two copies of the First Folio. It
reads, “two copies of I Shakespeare’s plays.”
That’s right “I Shakespeare’s plays.”
There is no crosscut or blot. Dering’s
phenomenal library did not survive in tact, but a catalog list proves it
contained over 250 Elizabethan playbooks, along with the priceless manuscript of
Othello’s lines read: “A
liberal hand. The hearts of old gave hands, But our new heraldry is hands,
not hearts.” (iii,iv,46-7) Some
Stratfordians cite it and suggest its link to 1611, but have nothing else to say
I say it proves Othello posts dates 1603, not to mention 1611, a
period the actor was believed to have been in retirement in Stratford, based on
the Mountjoy deposition.
What the Revisions Tell Us:
So we now have evidence not only of the Author’s classical education,
an education which included Plato’s Phaedrus, the works of Cinthio,
Cervantes and travels in Italy, to Ferrara, and, very likely, onwards to Venice
and Cyprus, along with his studies of professional level diplomatic, military
and naval histories and, quite likely, on site tours, but also of his post 1622
survival. Indeed Stratfordians have
been carefully ignoring evidence of an even later venue for the Author.
The drama involves the, so called, Perkins Copy of the Second Folio,
published in 1634 or a decade after the First Folio’s publication.
This unique copy, discovered by John Payne Collier, in the mid-1800s,
contains over 20,000 emendations in what looks like the Author’s hand.
It is for certain an Elizabethan hand, which wrote, as if it were the
author’s, in 1634, as now determined forensically by modern science.
In order to avoid confronting the implications of this discovery,
Stratfordians libeled and slandered the reputation of Collier, labeling him and
these priceless emendations false.
A modern investigation of this sordid chapter of scholarly misdeeds has
pointed the purloin finger squarely at the Sir Fredrick Madsen of the British
Library and Museum.
Now buttressed by modern scientific studies of the ink, Stratfordians can
only ignore this ugly chapter of their past by deliberate oversight.
However this avoidance only compounds the problem, a problem which
challenges the very root and branch of Stratfordianism.
Nothing about Othello, as we have seen it to be, fits well with
the consensus view of a rustic actor who died in 1616 without ever revising his
plays. Perhaps the least damaging
way out of his problem would be for Stratfordians to concede the play to Oxford,
Marlowe or Bacon, any one of who could, more likely, have written it than
William Shakespeare. At first blush
Bacon seems the most plausible, since he was the only one of the three
officially alive in 1623. However,
if the Author must survive until 1634, as suggested by the changes to the
Perkins Folio and the carefully orchestrated appearance that same year of Two
Noble Kinsmen, then Marlowe becomes the most likely, if for no other reason
than only Marlowe had a valid reason to fake an earlier death.
This suggestion is supported by numerous outside considerations: Marlowe
reappears in the post 1593 diplomatic record; the plays of Shakespeare contain
covert diplomatic intelligence of the sort found in Marlowe’s plays which
Nicholl refers to as a “collusion” between Marlowe’s two worlds; Marlowe
had two sisters who lived beyond the 1630s, proving he carried the genes for
longevity; Marlowe’s play, The Jew of Malta, had materialized out of
the blue in 1633, dedicated to his classmate and friend, Thomas Hammon, who
attended both Kings School and Corpus Christie College, Cambridge with Marlowe,
the dedication speaking of a life-long friendship between the two through out
the long compass of their years, and reentered the historical record on
Hammon’s birthday (20 November 1632), after first entering history on 17 May
1594 or one year to the day from the date of Marlowe’s final arrest;
and lastly, Marlowe’s works continued to appear, on carefully
orchestrated dates, until 1654, the year he would have turned 90.
We are not, however, following this thread in this paper to its logical
conclusion. Our intent had been
merely to demonstrate, conclusively, that the Stratford man, as evidenced by his
biography, cannot have written Othello, arguably the most resplendent
jewel of the First Folio.
Long ago William Hazlitt wrote “that the character of Iago [and thus of
the play, Othello] belongs to a class of characters common to
Shakespeare, and at the same time peculiar to him---namely, that of great
intellectual activity, accompanied with a total want of moral principle, and
therefore displaying itself at the constant expense of others, and seeking to
confound the practical distinctions of right and wrong, by referring them to
some overstrained standard of speculative refinement.”
Hazlitt is wrong only in his assertion that this type of character and
play is peculiar to Shakespeare, for it is quite certain that the description
quoted above matches very well with what is called Machiavellianism, a type of
character and drama championed by Christopher Marlowe.
Indeed Bloom is constantly reminding us of parallels between Iago and
Marlowe’s Barabars. This
highly intellectual and overtly Machiavellian content to Shakespeare’s plays,
seen in Hamlet, Prospero, Edmund and Iago, seems entirely out of character for
the sort of canon a rustic Stratfordian actor might have produced on his own. Could it be that deeper than plummets sound lies a level the
rustic Stratfordian could never have reached?
A level teaming with classical knowledge and intellectualism, perhaps
even of the darker Machiavellian sort?
Indeed Bloom, who in his hubris supposes Iago to be the archetype of this
sort of human character, has forgotten what he wrote about Marlowe’s “murder
by the government in early 1593.”
Marlowe did indeed work for ruthless men who had closely studied
Machiavellian ways and means. No close student of Marlowe’s early works can miss the
parallels to the far more mature Othello.
Indeed Bloom believes that Shakespeare’s
next towering villain, Edmund, was patterned on Marlowe!
So I think we need look no further than to Walsingham’s and later to
Cecil’s covert foreign service for the role models of Iago and Edmund.
And perhaps, tragically, to Marlowe himself.
Plato and the First Folio:
Greek Philosophy and Elizabethan Drama:
We have already pointed out that Othello is indebted to Plato’s
Phaedrus and we have also established that the First Folio’s version of Othello
appears to have been radically revised from the Quarto’s version.
So one may ask, are there any other indications that Platonic materials
or knowledge is reflected in the First Folio, erudition that would not have been
within the reach of the humble actor? This
line leads us to one of the most unusual facts regarding the First Folio.
It carefully prints what we would call a “table of contents” which
divides the plays into three roughly equal categories: comedies, histories and
tragedies. If one can but count, it
will be noticed there are 35 plays listed.
This is precisely the same number of dramatic dialogues in Plato’s
canon. Is it possible then, that
the First Folio was devised, by its author, to emulate Plato’s canon?
Scholars of these matters know Plato’s canon was conceived to contain
36 plays, unfortunately one has been lost.
Interestingly if one bothers to count the plays actually included in the
FF, it will be discovered that there are 36 plays or precisely the number of
dramatic dialogues Plato intended for his works to include.
The missing Folio play, Troilus and Cressida, does not appear in
the table of plays. It does,
however, appear first among the tragedies or precisely where it rightly belongs,
since it is not a history. No
one knows why it wasn’t included in the catalogue.
But its addition to the tragedies pushes their number to 12. Twelve evenly divides 36 into three groups and suggests
that an equal, tripartite, or Platonic, division of the First Folio plays can be
broached. To accomplish this two of
the fourteen comedies have to be moved into the category of “histories.”
As it turns out, two of them were published, in quartos, as “true
There is no law, after all, that history can’t be funny.
Why all the confusion? Clearly
a First Folio that contains precisely 36 plays, equally divided into three
categories, cannot be the result of aimless economic necessity.
This explains why plays certainly his, such as Two Noble Kinsmen
and Pericles, were excluded from its pages.
They do not fit within the intentional framework, just as the unrevised Othello
did not fit. So the precise nature
of the First Folio was hidden from casual readers. Why? To preserve the myth of the rustic actor.
The Exclusion of the Poems: Poet
I am not:
preservation also required that the highly autobiographic poems be excluded,
poems the Stratfordians are forced to conclude reflect a fictional biography.
This context challenges, prima fascicle, the myth. So despite the fact that these poems place the poet among the
highest echelon of poets and would have enhanced the quality of the First Folio,
they were orphaned without a word. We must remember that Jonson’s Folio, said
the model of Shakespeare’s, did contain his poems.
So what is so radical about their biographical contention? They prove the
author well educated, well traveled and exiled.
Worse they conclusively identify him as the de facto father of an
illicit son among the peerage bearing the initials of “W. H.”
The sole candidate remains Sir William Herbert, who backed the
publication of the First Folio.
Oxford and Bacon seem to be excluded here, since neither could have had
an illicit son who “outranked” them. Indeed
a study of English peers proves only young William Herbert bore these
Winding down his discussion of Macbeth, the ever insightful Bloom
remarks, “Sonnett 146 impresses me as rather more Platonic than Christian.”
Indeed it is in Macbeth we find the allusion to Plato’s cave and
shadows, when we read, “life is but a walking shadow…”
Not an illusion, nor a dream, but a Platonic shadow.
Anyone remotely familiar with Shakespeare’s canon must know that his
mind constantly returned to the theme of what Howard White calls “the
repatriation of the returning exile.” A
theme any true Platonist recognizes immediately as the return of the philosopher
into the cave of shadows. We can
all be very happy the Author came back to live with us, for, as Bloom notes, we
owe him our humanity. Or if we are
women, we owe him our sisterhood.
Conclusion: No Quarter for the Stratford Man:
For years Stratfordians have imagined that the actor wrote the plays, quickly and on the fly, more or less backstage, between acts, motivated solely by a desire for momentary pecuniary gains, for pence, not for fame, and that he forgot about these priceless works nearly as quickly as he churned them out. We have seen this view is quickly proven false by a thorough consideration of Othello. Not only has he lovingly returned to revise the interrelationships of its characters, evidently as a ghostwriter, but its classical and “diplomatic” foregrounding proves enormous and far beyond the means of the lowly Stratford man and London actor. Additionally its hidden homosexual and theological contents were clearly designed to appeal to elite audiences not supposed to have attended the clapper-clawed performances at the Globe. It assures us that it’s Author “work[ed] by wit, not witchcraft and [that] wit requires dilatory time,” as Iago advised the every-ready Rogerigo. As anti-consensus spokesmen, we must simply continue to point out the shortcomings of the majority’s paradigm, one that completely fails to explain the overburden found in any serious consideration of Othello, let alone the canon. Whoever Shakespeare was, his superiority of mind remains his most notable characteristic. Marlowe, widely known as” the realm’s highest mind” is the only person certain to have commanded his qualifications.
Return to John Baker's Home Page:
 Carig, Complete Works, 944, emphasis mine.
 Francis Griffin Stokes, Who’s Who in Shakespeare, 219. Historical or not, Montano as Othello’s predecessor and former governor of Cyprus, is hardly a rude mechanical, he joins the many elite figures who “Shakespeare” deals with on a familiar basis.
 John Russell Brown, ed., Merchant of Venice, 1981, Arden Shakespeare, xxxi.
 A. D. Wraight, Shakespeare New Evidence.
 Tanner, Constitutional Documents England and W. R. Streitberger, Edmond Tyllney, Master of the Revells and Censor of Plays, A Descriptive Index to his Diplomatic Manual on Europe.
 Christopher Marlowe and English Renaissance Culture (CMERC) 26-36.
 Craig, Complete Works, 944.
 Bloom, Shakespeare The Invention of the Human.
 Baker, “Found Shakespeare’s Manuscript of Henry IV”, Elizabethan Review, Spring 1996.
 Urry, Marlowe and Canterbury. Curiously Thomas Harris turns up in Virginia with Marlowe c. 1616 on the college lands of Henricus, the first English college in America.
Harrison, Complete Works.
 Craig, William Shakespeare Hamlet The First Quarto 1603, i.
 Wilson, Othello, Cambridge, xv-xx.
 Ibid, xix.
 Ibid., .
 Lodovico was a common Italian name, and the author gives us no further indication that Lodovico Farrara was intended.
 Marlowe has been placed a Rheims and Valladolid so Farrara would hardly be out of character.
 Chambers, Short Life.
 SIH, op.cit., 436.
 Ibid., 442.
 See ahead.
 Bloom, 448.
 White, Copp’d Hills Towards Heaven, Shakespeare and the Classical Polity.
 Op.cit., Works.
 Ibid., 363.
 CMERC, “The Stage, the Scaffold and the Spectators,” 124.
 Dr Faustus, for example, will not save himself via “grace” and thus dies and goes to hell. Faustus is thus clearly Protestant and not Catholic as theological propaganda.
 I am thinking here of T.S. Elliot’s description of Marlowe, “the most thoughtful, the most blasphemous (and, therefore, probably the most Christian) of his contemporaries.” See Elliot’s, “Shakespeare and the Stoicism of Seneca,” Collected Essays.
 See Urry, CMC, on the fate of the two divines, John Greenwood and John Penry
 Reflections on the French Revolution, in Works (Boston, 1865), III, p. 338.
 ST alludes to Southampton’s 19th birthday, upon which it was contrived to enter, in line.
 These dates are fraught with significance for Marlowe and his friends, because these are the dates that ended his official life.
 Marlowe’s last known work, the lost Maiden’s Holiday also entered on this same day in 1654, marking the end of a registration pattern that spans 65 years or well within the productive period of a single individual.
 William Basse’s sonnet to Shakespeare’s death is cited, by Chambers, as lying between 1616 and 1623. To me it seems nearly certain it was written after Ben Jonson’s remarks in the First Folio became public, since Basse alludes directly to them. The “water poet” John Taylor mentions Shakespeare as among dead poets in 1620, but this is hardly a eulogy. (See Chambers, Short Life, 217/8).
 Willson, Othello, op.cit., 122.
 Greg, The Shakespeare’s First Folio
 Op.cit., emphasis mine.
 ] Encyclopedia Britannica, Vol. 5, 164.
 Hyperlink to Bacon…Francis Carr…
 Hottson, The Death of Christopher Marlowe, 1925, 61.
 Correspondence from Trinity and a personal records check 15 August 1999.
 Link to the Bacon cite, Francis Carr…
 Harrison, op.cit.
 T.S. Lennam, “Sir Edward Dering’s Collection of Playbooks, 1619-1624,) Shakespeare Quarterly, 16 (1965), 145-53.
 Harrison, op.cit.
 Chambers, Short Life,
Ganzel, Fortune & Men’s Eyes, The Career of John Payne Collier, Oxford, 1982/
David C. Jenkins,“The John P. Collier Ink-Syndrome,” Literary Research, Spring-Summer 1988, 95-122.
 Ganzel, op.cit.
 Hoffman, The Man Who Was Shakespeare, 1955.
 The Jew’s first public performance, recorded by Henslowe, fell on 26 February 1592, Marlowe’s 28th birthday. Henslowe revived the popular play on 19 May 1601, eight years to the day after Marlowe’s final arrest.
 Baker, N&Q, 1997.
 Bloom, op.cit., 432.
 Op.cit., 64.
 Taming A Shrew and Merchant of Venice, entered under the title “The Jew of Venice,” see Gregg, op.cit.
 Marlowe knew Herbert’s mother, dedicated amorous love poems to her and had secured the patronage of his family, according to the title page of Edward II, a patronage alluded to by the First Folio.
 Arthur F. Kinney, Titled Elizabethans….1558-1603.
 Op.cit., 520.
 Greg, op.cit.