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Helping David Riggs Get his Facts Straight


In this essay, we're going to help my friend, Professor David Riggs, get his facts straight. Which means we're going to do some good natured "nit picking."  I'm sure the gentle reader will think it bold of me to correct a professor as distinguished as David Riggs.  Or even to call him "my friend."  But we did present papers together at Cambridge (1998) and, as I recall, he attended my presentation and we've shared a table afterwards. He's likeable. He was limping at the time from an operation on his knee.  I his left?  He was working on this book at that time, so I know he's had ample opportunity to get his facts straight.  Seven years.  I also know as a scholar, David would want the mistakes corrected and must be even more mortified about them than I am.  So, just for the record, I'm not picking on Professor Riggs, whose book evidences broad knowledge, particularly his discussion of the course work at Cambridge.   I'm just trying to set the record straight, with the hope that he will correct the next edition of his work. (:} )  It seems, at least to this errant truant, important that scholars get their facts correct, otherwise we can never makes sense of these distant events. Below are scans of the cover and data page,  the colophon, so we'll all know we are on the same page.  As you can see, my copy is the American edition of 2005.

Jacket Cover Data Page

I notice the English Edition seems to have been published by Faber and Faber, which published William Urry's book, Christopher Marlowe and Canterbury (1988), long considered the definitive work on Marlowe. I'm concerned because if Professor Riggs had read Urry's book and correctly used it, most of these errors would not be in his text.  Moreover since it is in some sense a "sequel" to Urry's book, any mistakes that Urry made, which Riggs's corrects, should I think not be corrected silently and without record, but courteously and with record. Otherwise the scholarly process cannot go forward and scholars will be prone to suppose Riggs at fault, rather than Urry.   

Having digested Riggs's book, I also need to point out that his view of Marlowe is twisted, compared to Urry's.  Urry saw Marlowe as a Kentish genius whose work changed the course of Occidental civilization for the good.  Riggs, who was first attracted to that fop Jonson, sees something darker.  It's hardly ironic, because Jonson and Shakespeare were polar opposites, which is to say that Jonson and Marlowe were polar opposites.  Jonson was a sycophant who idealized the English monarchy, while Shakespeare satirized and ridiculed it at the highest levels. Nashe is believed to have written about Marlowe when he boasts:

He was no timorous servile flatterer of the commonwealth wherein the lived.  His tongue and his invention were forborne; what they thought, they would confidently utter.  Princes he spared not that in the least point transgressed.  His life he contemned in comparison of the liberty of speech.    (Unfortunate Traveller)

The same could be said of "Shakespeare."  He was no "servile flatterer of the commonwealth wherein he lived," but not of Jonson. So Riggs and I are of different political parties.  Riggs supports the established order, even when it is tyrannical, as Jonson did.  I don't, which is why I'm the exile and he's the professor. (:} )  I should add. Jonson was jailed for some minor indiscretions, while Shakespeare was not, not even for Richard II, about which the Queen shouted, "I am Richard II. Know ye not that? He that will forget God, will also forget his benefactors; this tragedy was acted 40ties times in open streets and houses."  She was quoted by her jurist Sir William Lambarde. (Chambers, SL, 176-7) and seems to think Marlowe was the author, not Shakespeare.  That's the only explanation that would explain why the actor wasn't arrested.  Hamlet thinks likewise, as we can see from his discussion of this same problem, click here.


To make a start, let's begin with Riggs's assertion that Christopher Marlowe's name "always appears in the government documents as an object of surveillance."  The reader will find it on page 183 and I scan it below so it will not be supposed I've misrepresented this claim:

Scan of page 183.

What on earth could Professor Riggs have been thinking of when he wrote, "bear in mind, finally, that Marlowe always appears in the government documents as an object of surveillance." ??  Even on this very page,  Riggs has quoted the all important Privy Council entail to Cambridge of July 1587, demanding Marlowe's degree, and attesting to his  high character.  Therein Marlowe is most emphatically not "an object of surveillance" but a trusted diplomat who has been abroad on "affairs" the Dons of Cambridge were "ignorant...about."   Yet we see Riggs maligning Marlowe by telling his readers "Burghley and Walsingham recruited many of their best informants from the ranks of the enemy."   As if Marlowe might have been recruited from "the ranks of the enemy" !  Sure, David, I hope you don't mind if I don't swallow that one.

This mistake(s) seems to be a pivotal point for Professor Riggs's interpretation of Marlowe's life and it is, I'm happy to say, flat wrong.  Against it we can and should also cite Sir Robert Sidney's dispatch about Marlowe posted from Flushing, early in 1592, where Sidney was Governor, and sent to Marlowe's master, Lord Burghley, the same person who signed the Privy Council's entail.  Sidney calls Marlowe "the scholar."  He is not the object of surveillance but part of some sort of elaborate ruse concocted to spy on Catholics (?) in the Low Countries.  It took decades to decipher all this, but even Nicholl eventually got it right in his revised edition.  It's simple to see one's way to this conclusion.  If Marlowe had really been sent home for counterfeiting, he'd have died for it.  Instead Burghley, who, as his master, was "in the know," just winked and kept on employing Marlowe at the highest possible levels of the English net.  Levels that dealt with dynastic affairs.   With Arbella and James VI.

Marlowe was not the "object of surveillance" when he was arrested for fighting in Hogs Lane along with Dr. Thomas Watson on the 18/28th of September 1589.  Nor is Marlowe "an object of surveillance" when he is mentioned by Bess, the Countess of Shrewsbury, as Lady Arbella's "attendant" and "reader," in September 1592.  A position he held, according to Bess, for "a space of three years and a half."    

So Riggs is entirely wrong-footed.  

The only time Marlowe appears in the records as "an object of surveillance" is in the Richard Baines libels, which were hanging over his head, as bogus but quite deadly charges, late in May of 1593.  Charges from which Marlowe had already been released by Lord Burghley, who knew them as false.  Just as Burghley had released him when Sidney shipped him home under arrest.  With both of these problems on the table, we can see that Riggs does not like Marlowe and is willing to slant and, sadly, falsify his commentary to make him look "poorly." I have always wondered why seemingly good persons make a habit out of libeling the dead. I suppose it is because they cannot bite back.  I, on the other hand, can.

False Quotes:

All will agree that false quotes or misattributions are a "no, no."  So it will be disturbing to discover a pattern of them in Riggs's study.  But, unfortunately, that's the case. Later I shall show Riggs falsely attributes a direct quote, allegedly regarding Marlowe's plight in May of 1593, to Queen Elizabeth, "prosecute it to the fullest," even rattling on how characteristic of her it sounds.  She never said it.  Here I will point out that Riggs begins his study by attributing to Marlowe the libelous opinions of one Richard Baines, a paid government informer and known perjurer. Nearly everywhere we look, one encounters such nonsense as:

His [Marlowe's] remark 'that all the new testament is filthily written;' simply restates, in stronger language, the academic commonplace that 'the style of the scared scripture is barbarous'.  Marlowe's crime was to broadcast such teaching, to carry the debate outside the privileged space of the university.  (91)

I know Marlowe was much in advance of his time, but even I have never suspected he could "broadcast."  Just kidding. (:} ) Riggs tells us what he means by this when he writes that "Marlowe's crime was....to carry the debate outside the privileged space of the university."  Unfortunately for Riggs, he cannot 1) prove Marlowe said anything of the kind; or 2) prove that Marlowe had been either "broadcasting" or "debating" such issues.  It is certainly true that had Marlowe gone to trial after the Baines libels appeared, say in early June 1593, he would have had to have defended himself from those allegations.  Including allegations of Arrianism.  It is also true given the corrupt system of the period, it seems likely Marlowe would not have been able to defend himself successfully.  But the fact is Marlowe never went to trial, had not been charged, then, with this or any similar crime.  Equally true there is nothing in any of his works that could be used to indict  him.  Baines is the person who attributes these opinions and loose talk to Marlowe.  It is improper, in the extreme, given the source and circumstances, for Riggs to then attribute them to Marlowe.  

One might have said, "Marlowe, intelligent beyond the norm, must have viewed the poor "Coney" Greek of the New Testament as atrocious, as did most Greek scholars of that and the present age, but with the exception of the Baines libel, he seems to have kept this and similar then dangerous opinions primarily to himself.  Tamburlaine, for example, did not have his name on it until 1604."  Riggs might have added, "Reliable sources, like Governor Sir Robert Sidney, called Marlowe a "scholar," even years after he'd left his university, and just a year before these libels appeared.  Bess, the Countess of Shrewsbury,  was so impressed about Marlowe that she wrote she had "no one" on her huge staff that could "replace him."  So we should view these libels with caution, particularly since they ring very much like similar charges leveled at other unfortunate Cambridge divines this same spring, not all of whom could have held these same opinions. The Plague had reared its ugly head in London again, that spring, and superstitious minds were blaming it on 'heretical opinions.' "  

I'm certain Professor Riggs would be quick to object if I were to publish a biography of him, which attributed loose slanders and libels against him as genuine.  This is simply not in good taste.  And it is poor scholarship.

Riggs gives the date of the first performance of Marlowe's The Massacre at Paris as "26 January" without mentioning the year.  Actually it was the 30th of January 1592/3 according to Fredson Bowes.  Bowers notes (357) that the "30th of January" was "Greg's date for Henslowe's 30th."  It may seem like a small point, but it shows Riggs was following Greg, in error, rather than taking Bowes's correction. Interestingly Riggs does not cite either Greg or Henslowe, so we must ask where did he come up with this date?  His index mentions Henslowe five times, but he does not cite his famous Diary, at least not as a primary source. Eventually I found it cited in the wrong part of his bibliography, in the Cambridge edition edited by Foakes. (Riggs's Bibliography is divided into two sections, "Manuscripts and Printed Works before 1700" and "Printed Works after 1700."  Henslowe's Diary is a primary source, regardless of who edited it and when it was printed, so it belong in the former and wasn't.) So perhaps it was Foakes who followed Greg in error?  And Riggs simply followed Foakes.  It's minor, except it point out an underlying problem. Following, rather than going directly to the primary sources. 

While this sounds like a minor point, I've introduced it only as preludes to two major lapses  to which Riggs subjects his readers concerning The Jew of Malta.  Riggs would have readers believe the Henslowe date of appearance is the most important fact about this remarkable play. It isn't.  The most remarkable facts about Marlowe's The Jew of Malta are the dates and circumstances of it's publication.  It did not appear until 1633 when someone calling himself "Thomas Heywood," brought it out.  There it was lovingly dedicated to a "Thomas Hammon" or "Hammond" of Grey's Inn.  The Dedicator writing about their life-long friendship.  Now Thomas Hammon or Hammond and Christopher Marlowe were both from Canterbury.  Both and been in the King's School together, and afterwards, together at Corpus Christi College.  It is impossible for "Thomas Heywood" to have known Thomas Hammond through the "long compass" of his years, as he claims to have.  He uses the Latin closing "Tuissimus" which I find interesting because the English term in Rhetoric "tuism" means "the use of the second person in avoidance of the first."  Adding the suffix would make it the "extraordinary use of the second person in avoidance of the first."  I like it.  I wrote it up in 1997 and published it in Oxford's widely read Notes and Queries, but guess what, Riggs's fails to mention it. 

Now the second strange fact about The Jew of Malta will be found in P. M. Handover's The Second Cecil.   Riggs's cites the book in his bibliography (387) so we must suppose he'd read it.  So let us turn to page 117, where we will discover a discussion of the use of The Jew of Malta during the Lopez trials. Lopez, it will be recalled, was a Spanish Jew accused of plotting to poison Queen Elizabeth early in 1594.  Handover devotes an entire chapter to it entitled "The vile Jew."  (111- 120).  Not only does she note that Marlowe's play was used to fan the fires, she mentions that Marlowe's friend, Nicholas Faunt, was up to his eyes in this mess.  We'll learn more about Faunt later, but as with Hammon, both men, Marlowe and Faunt, were from Canterbury and were scholars at the King 's School.  Faunt was seven or eight years Marlowe's senior, so they were not there together.  But it gets even better.  Faunt became a Parker Scholar, as Marlowe would, and matriculated to Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, as Marlowe would.  Both worked in the "special service" for the same masters.  Moreover Faunt proves to have been in Paris during the St Bartholomew Massacre, taking Walsingham's message home to Queen Elizabeth I. in his young head, as the DNB recounts.  Marlowe, of course, will write about the Massacre as if he'd witnessed it.  He may have, since with young Faunt was the much younger Thomas Walsingham, Marlowe's life-long patron and friend.  

All of this is or should be of considerable moment to a biographer of Marlowe's life, but NONE of it is to be found in Riggs.  Indeed if the reader checks Handover's Index, neither Marlowe's name nor his play The Jew of Malta will be found.  Indeed even though she mentions Faunt in the text, several times, and cites his correspondence with the Cecils, Marlowe's masters, Handover fails to Index Faunt as well.  Wouldn't you know it?  The connections to Marlowe simply don't appear in Handover's Index.  And none of this appears in Riggs.  I call it a conspiracy of silence, designed to keep modern readers ignorant of these important events.  The reader may simply wish to call it poor scholarship.  Pace.  Reading between the lines we can suggest a reason Handover did not cite Marlowe's play, The Jew of Malta.  It would appear from her discussion that The Jew of Malta contains topical allusions to the Lopez plot.  Since it didn't "break" until well after Marlowe's official date of death, we would be forced to ask how this could have happened?  So it would be best not to Index the play or any mention of Marlowe and Faunt, rather than open this "kettle of worms." 

Closing out his study (348-9) Riggs mentions both Anne Marlowe Cranford and Dorothy Marlowe Graddell, citing their deplorable records, but fails to call to mind their interest in the Windmill alehouse or tavern in Canterbury, which is mentioned by Falstaff in both 1 and 2 Henry IV, but magically moved by Stratfordians to London.   Not surprisingly Riggs, like the good Stratfordian he is, also rewrites history and concludes that Ingram Frizer was "the man who invited Marlowe to the feast and then murdered him, landed on his feet." (342) 

Keep in mind there is no evidence, whatsoever, that Marlowe was murdered.  The Inquest found Marlowe had attacked Frizer, with Frizer's own dagger, and been killed in the ensuing struggle.  But apparently Professor Riggs thinks himself qualified to rewrite history and accuse Marlowe's friend Frizer of "murder most foul."  I ask a simple question.  IF Frizer and his two companions MURDERED Marlowe, why did they stay with the body?  

Just THINK about it for a moment. The river was close to hand, they could easily have dumped him in it.  If they had planned to MURDER Marlowe on the orders of the Queen, as Riggs supposes, why didn't they walk him to the edge of the river and do it there?  Why did Frizer and the other two men, Poley and Skeres (~Skerres), stay with the body and take the heat?  There were no other witnesses.  The obvious reason is they remained with the body in order to identify it as Marlowe's.  They, and their masters, the Cecils and the Walsinghams, not the Queen, must have wanted the world to know Marlowe was dead.  It is a very odd fact.  

The Queens assassins, if she had any, would have worked out of sight and let someone else find the body.  But in that age, that might mean the body wouldn't be identified.  So any reasonable conclusion must suppose Frizer and his friends stayed with the body to testify to it that it was Marlowe's.  We don't know that it was Marlowe's.  We only know his friends claimed it was Marlowe's.  Someone wanted to the world to know or , rather, to think that Marlowe was dead.  And diplomatic scholars know who those some ones were: Lord Burghley, Robert Cecil and Thomas Walsingham.  We know this because Burghley had big plans for Marlowe that spring.  He was planning, scholars know, to send him to Scotland to be their proxy with King James VI., as Kyd tells Puckering, the Lord Keeper in his letter, "where if he [Marlowe] had lived, told me when I saw him last he meant to be."  But all this diplomatic context is lost of Riggs. Here's Conyers Read citing a Burghley to Cecil letter dated two days after Marlowe's unexpected release, (dated 22nd of May 1593).  Burghley is writing Cecil about the pending diplomatic mission to Scotland, the one they were planning to use Marlowe on:

That's from page 484 of Read's essential Lord Burghley and Queen Elizabeth

The reader will, no doubt, notice Riggs and I have different views about Marlowe's "death" and Marlowe.  Riggs believes Marlowe's powerful friends murdered him, on the orders of the Queen, and I suppose they helped him escape by falsely identifying a cadaver that was not Marlowe's as his.  The difference between our two views is that my makes sense, while Riggs's doesn't.   Riggs would accuse the Queen of England of ordering a murder and Marlowe's powerful friends of doing the deed for her, and then, stupidly, remaining with the body to be arrested.   

While I (and all other Marlovians, as we are called) suppose the best explanation of the actual circumstances suggests Marlowe escaped with his life, thanks to the intervention of his powerful friends. 

Riggs, to support his viewpoint, has claimed, falsely, that the Queen had ordered the matter "prosecuted to the full." Actually the phrase appears in a letter sent by a man (Drury) with a long prison record to Anthony Bacon several months after these events unfolded.  As Nicholl notes (302) the letter was dated "1 August 1593."  It is cataloged as LP MS 649, f 246.   I've seen it, myself.  Drury was in no position to know what the Queen said about anything.  Drury had never seen the Queen in his life.  Quoting Drury's letter, without making this context clear to the reader, is poor scholarship, to say the least.  My impression is that both Nicholl and Riggs, who share a dislike of Marlowe, have seized on this letter because they both believe, privately, that Marlowe was a lowlife like Drury.  Nicholl, the more honest of the pair, however, concedes,

The Baines 'Note' is without doubt the principal document in the case against Marlowe.  The Dutch Church libel, the 'Remembrances' again Cholmeley, the Arian tract [and Drury's letter] all these are smears by association.  They imply Marlowe's guilt.  Only Baines and Kyd come out with explicit, detailed statements about Marlowe himself, about his heresies, religious and political. In the case of Kyd these statements were written own after Marlowe's death.  They were words written under pressure.  they have the sound of a man eager to agree, to affirm, to buy his freedom by betraying another.  Kyd says as much himself in the letter to Puckering... (308)

"Under pressure" is an understatement.  Kyd was tortured by Puckering and his goons in order to produce evidence against Marlowe.  As both Kyd and Riggs must know. None of this "evidence" against Marlowe rings true.  None of it. It is or was commonplace judicial libel at the time.  The records are full of similar charges, trumped up against peaceful, religious minded men like John Greenwood and John Penry, both of whom were hanged for their "crimes."  I suspect that both Riggs and Nicholl are Catholics and they still feel they have an ax to grind against Marlowe for what they both perceive as his role in "English Catholic catching."  Down deep neither man trusts someone who would dramatize the St Bartholomew Massacre in such a way as to side with the Huguenots, as Marlowe did in his play, The Massacre at Paris.   So they secretively hate him.  

Nicholl a wordsmith of no small measure, confesses not to know what to call Marlowe other than "a spy...for want of a better word."  The better word or words are covert diplomat, geopolitical thinker, scholar, poet, playwright, and philosopher.  Or, as those who were there at the time knew, "the realm's highest mind."  Let us not too quickly pass over that quote.  Marlowe was the realm's highest mind.  And the Cecils, Lord Burghley and his son, Sir Robert, as well as Thomas Walsinghams, and the Sidney/Herberts knew it.  That this same intelligence is evidenced, writ large, in the works of Shakespeare is a most curious fact.  Carlyle says it was "Shakespeare's superiority of mind" that distinguishes him from all others.  Only Marlowe is known to have commanded that mind.  

The Marlowe-became- Shakespeare proposition becomes particularly imposing when we notice that "Shakespeare's" works first began to appear only a few weeks AFTER the "death" of Marlowe. A fact many Stratfordians, like Professor Bate, openly lie about, as we can see in his study, The Genius of ShakespeareRiggs contrives to imply that Shakespeare wrote Venus and Adonis "during this same interval" meaning, Riggs tells us, during "the prolonged closure of the theatres."  (1592/3)  Actually based on topical allusions, Venus and Adonis was first written in 1580, the year of the quakes, to which it alludes four or five times.   Since it sets in Kent, noting it's coastal and topographic features, features not found in Warwickshire, and because it casts Mary Sidney Herbert as Venus, unless we are suppose there were several blond Kentish equestrians with a passion for younger poets and the curious introversion of watching her mares mated, it is difficult to attribute this poem to the actor. Indeed it was rejected as his by the anonymous editors of the First Folio, since it was not included or mentioned. Moreover Marlowe's Hero and Leander styled itself as a sequel to Venus and Adonis, something that would be impossible if it were not also Marlowe's.  I should add, V&A, which entered history anonymously, while Marlowe was officially alive and in London, entered on William Herbert's 13th birthday, Herbert having been born on the 8/18 of April 1580 and alludes to that birth in the body of the poem, the poet contriving to have him pronounced by "Venus/Mary" as his future patron:

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."

We remind the reader Herbert was not only Marlowe's patron but Shakespeare's.  In any event, the deeper records prove that both the Cecils and the Walsinghams had much invested in Marlowe.  That either or both would have worked outside the law to extract him from the fates of Greenwood and Penry, is as certain as these things can possibly be.  The fact that Nicholl and Riggs both ignore this is worthy of note. Since Marlowe is supposedly killed in a Burghley "safe-house" by a proxy of the Walsinghams, we would be wise to suspect a ruse or machination, a deception in Deptford, but not the sort that appears to either Riggs or Nicholl.  (There is considerable irony here, Riggs and Nicholl are free to speculate Marlowe was "murdered," to even accuse Queen Elizabeth I. of ordering it, but I am not free to suppose his death was counterfeited.) 

While Riggs has grasped that Nicholas Faunt was from Canterbury, he has not understood Faunt represents a parallel life.  In fact he dismisses this likelihood.  Evidently because he doesn't know enough about Faunt.   As noted above, both were, as boys, in the King's School, both were Parker Scholarship lads at Corpus Christi, both took M.A.s and then went to work, first for Walsingham and then for Burghley. Faunt traveled the world doing secret work for his masters, but Riggs does not seem to know this and supposes rather that he worked openly and on the "clerical side" of the foreign service. In point of fact, Faunt carried Walsingham's historic diplomatic dispatch about the St Bartholomew Massacre back to Elizabeth in his young head, while he was still a King's School scholar, before he matriculated to Cambridge, proving these lads were entering the "net" while still at the King's School.  

Riggs is decades behind the learning curve on Faunt, who proves to have been sending English agents to Calais from Dover, Kent on the night of Marlowe's alleged death to meet with the returning English spy, the form Scot, Anthony Standen. Faunt was up to his ears in secret agent work.  Why doesn't Riggs know it?  Because he isn't a primary source scholar.  The records of Faunt are in the Lambeth Palace Library, but are not cited by Riggs.  Indeed Nicholl, who Riggs has certainly read thoroughly, speculates openly that Faunt was Marlowe's entree into the special service, but Riggs fails to pickup on this important lead. 

Incredibly Riggs does not mention Marlowe's Cambridge portrait.  Apparently aligning himself with those who do not suppose it was of Marlowe. I've recently proven Faunt's portrait at Corpus Christi, establishing Parker Scholars did have their portraits hanging in the Master's Hall.  Since the dates are right and it was plastered over, proving the sitter underwent some sort of catastrophic social disgrace, the portrait cannot be considered "presumptive."  It is of Marlowe.  And Riggs proves foolish to ignore it.  He does not like it, because it proves Marlowe had obtained high status among the college's scholars, at least before his downfall.  Riggs likes him better as a quarrelsome cobbler's son and closet atheist.  His book opens with a period plate depicting the conversion of St. Paul on the road to Damascus, instead of Marlowe's portrait. (4)  A certain fig to Catholicism.  Immediately below this plate, Riggs writes, "Marlowe's 'damnable Judgment of Religion' drew him into Elizabethan court politics, a snake pit that consumed the lives of many..."   

Pardon me, but what unmitigated trite. T. S. Elliot, a far more qualified expert in religion, poetry and Elizabethan literature, called Marlowe "the most Christian of his fellows."  (Collected Essays) He most certainly was.  An atheist doesn't write a drama predicated on a man selling his soul to the Dark One.  Indeed Dr Faustus perfectly encapsulates the schism between Catholicism, on the one hand, and Protestantism, on the other.  Catholics reject the notion of "salivation by grace," while Protestants accept it.  So in the final agonizing moments of the play, when Faustus is being offered salivation by grace and he refuses it, saying there isn't enough time, and meaning, for good deeds, we have on the stage the dramatization of the schism between these two powerful religions, which were then, more or less, at war with one another.  Marlowe is clearly on the side of the Protestants, he wants Faustus to take salvation by grace, as every one in the audience must have, but Faustus, a foolish Catholic, will not take it.  So much for Riggs's notion that Marlowe was a closet atheist or had a "damnable Judgment of Religion,"  there is nothing in the record that would suggest this, with the exception of the Baines libels.  

Every scrap of evidence about Marlowe's life and his works points to Marlowe's orthodoxy in what was then Anglican Protestantism.  How could an atheist have written the line delivered by Mephistopheles to Faustus, "think I who have seen the face of God am not in hell or that thee Faustus are out of it," or words to that effect?  It is beyond the reach of reason to suppose Marlowe a closet atheist. Anymore so than were his friends John Greenwood and John Penry, both of whom were with him at Cambridge, and both of whom died for their faiths that same horrible spring.  Riggs knows better than this, but he enjoys libeling a dead man, and his Protestant Queen.  This is similar to supposing him a homosexual.  This canon condemns homosexuality.  Don't take my word for it.  Here is Professor Grantley in his essay, " 'What means this Show?' "

Doctor Faustus and The Jew of Malta [and, I add, the rest of Marlowe's canon] have always posed the problem of reconciling what appears to be conventional support for the dominate social and religious order with what is known of Marlowe's life and opinions. (CMERC, 236)

Grantley, like Nicholl and Riggs, make the mistake of thinking they know about Marlowe's "monstrous opinions," from the Baines libels.  This would be a howler if it were so symptomatic of modern shoddy scholarship.   I'm not doubt Marlowe had private opinions.  Or that the plays have hidden depths.  But anyone who thinks Marlowe's opinions were correctly stated by Baines, will have to prove it before I'll bite on that one. 

At one time I thought Riggs had made a serious blunder when he wrote that Marlowe and his family had witnessed the will of Katherine Benchkin on the "19th of August" in 1585 at the home of Dame Benchkin and while there that Marlowe read her will "aloud."  This assertion will be found on page 99 and is scanned below so the reader will not think I have made this up:

From The World of Christopher Marlowe

The reason I though Riggs was wrong is because of Urry's extensive discussion, which appears on his page 57, etc.,  and which I scan below.  Urry provides two Appendixes (III and IV) covering six pages (123-9) to support his claim that Marlowe read the will aloud "on a Sunday in November".  I've always thought Urry correct, but after careful study, I have come to the conclusion that Riggs, not Urry, was correct.  I should point out that Riggs is quoting from Urry when he writes that Marlowe read the will out loud "plainly and distinctly," or rather quoting from John Moore's deposition cited by Urry.  Riggs tells us he's citing Kuriyama 2002 59-64 here.  That would be her biography Christopher Marlowe: A Renaissance Life, which I have not read.  I have, however, known Kuriyama for many years and present papers with her at Oxford and Cambridge on Marlowe.  Just for the record, since Riggs is quoting John Moore's deposition here, citing Kuriyama isn't quite as kosher as citing the actual deposition.  What one notices in modern scholarship, along with the segmentation of knowledge, and hence its diminution, is an overriding tendency for cliques of scholars to cite one another's works as soon as they appear in print.  Almost always the references or of a self-congratulatory nature, a bit of I'll scratch your back, you scratch mine.  This tendency does not bode well for future generations.  Scholarship should always reflect a preferene for the primary record, not the secondary record.  Urry furnished us with the primary record and that record made it possible for me to understand where and how he made his mistake.  Riggs doesn't do this and rather cites Kuriyama.  It's a house of mirrors. Or cards.

What I don't understand is why Riggs did not point out that Urry had blundered here. Let's follow this out.  I must apologize to the reader, but the scan of my copy of Urry's book contains my marginal notes, etc., per my habit.  I've had the book since 1988, when I picked up at the Second International Conference on Marlowe, while I was presenting a paper on Marlowe's authorship of all three parts of Hero and Leander.  That was held during the summer of 1988.  I don't remember if Riggs attended.  [My paper and my Oxford University Press essay, "Pace: A Test for Authorship Based at the Rate at Which New Words Enter a Text," which appeared in Linguistic and Literary Computing, that same summer (1988) have been recently backed up by an independent study that served as a Ph.D. dissertation at Northeastern University in Boston, this summer (2005) using compression techniques ,as the means for authorship determination.  According to this dissertation, Hero and Leander was, as my earlier study had found,  written by the author of Ovid's Elegies, all three parts of Hero and Leander.  Meaning Marlowe.]

In any case, notice at in the third and fourth line from the top I have highlighted the date Urry assigns to the event Riggs wrote about, stating it was on "the 19th of August."  Urry gives the date as "either 7 or 14 November 1585."  The reason for the ambiguity is the date was taken, according to Urry, from the testimony of John Moore, the poet's brother-in-law, and he cites that testimony:

Scan of Urry's page 57 from Christopher Marlowe and Canterbury

However if we read John Moore's testimony, provided to us by Urry, Moore does not claim Marlowe read the will aloud on "a Sunday" in November.   In fact, he testified on the 30th of November 1586, that "some what more then a twelvmonthes agon as this deponent now rememberth" the Marlowe clan gather and Marlowe read the will aloud.  Since Moore's testimony was taken on the 30th of November 1586, "somewhat more than twelve months ago," would have been August 1585.  Indeed the will is clearly dated, as both Riggs and Urry noted, on the 19th of August, "The xix day of August in the xxvijth yeare of the raigne of our Souereigne Lady Elizabeth." (123)

Urry's mistake came, I am now certain, when he attempted to tie Marlowe's presence in Canterbury to his absence in November from Cambridge.  Which is why he wrote, "beginning at Michaelmas 1585 [the Cambridge record] indicates an absence of two weeks, and this is confirmed by evidence from the Canterbury archives which shows that Marlowe had gone home."  Michaelmas is the 29th of September, so Urry figured Marlowe must have been home in November, and he may well have been, but this isn't what Moore tells us. Both Moore and the will testify that Marlowe was home in August.  Indeed Urry found a similar absence for August, so there is no problem.  Here's Urry, "Before Michaelmas 1585 Marlowe was aid only 5s. for three months and the buttery book agrees, with a lack of entries from the fourth until the twelfth weeks inclusive."  So it was during August that Marlowe read the will aloud, not during November (56).  

But why doesn't Riggs tell us he's corrected Urry?  Their books, as I have pointed out, are sequential.  So I think Riggs failed in his duty to his readers.  A simple line like, "Urry gives this date incorrectly," would have sufficed to have pointed the way.  Instead I and many like me will assume Riggs was wrong, since Urry looks, upon superficial inspection, to be right and has long been the authority here.  It may turn out that Kuriyama cleared all this up, but if she did, she must have cited Urry's mistake, which should have alerted Riggs.  Riggs's focus should have been on Urry and not on Kuriyama, if only for the fact he and Urry share publishers.

I prefer to have Marlowe home in August 1585, because that turns out to have been when Giordano Bruno left England for Paris, spending some time in Canterbury.  This confirms the fact, often speculated about by Marlowe's biographers, that the two knew one another. It is a very important discovery. Marlowe and Bruno together in Canterbury in August 1585.  And Riggs missed it.  Oddly because Riggs knows that Marlowe lifts from Bruno in Tamburlaine (178).  Indeed Riggs mentions Bruno numerous times.  His index lists eight times, but several other times he fails to index him, see 177 for example, where Bruno is the center of the discussion, but not indexed. Riggs misses it because he did or doesn't know when Bruno was leaving England.  Seems also to have missed the fact that Bruno's famous lectures at Oxford, which occurred in 1583, two years earlier, also took place while Marlowe was absent from his college.  With these two facts in mind, plus the Bruno allusions through out Marlowe's works, we can safely suppose Marlowe knew Bruno personally.

According to his Index, Riggs mentions Lady Arbella Stuart once in his narrative.  (259)  But Riggs fails to inform his readers that Marlowe has long been supposed her tutor (1937, E. St John Brooks, Times Literary Supplement).  This supposition cited, at length by Nicholl, in his afterthought on "False Trails," (340-41).  There it is rejected, I would argue, dishonestly on the grounds, "but I cannot call him Marlowe because I want him to be Marlowe" (341) has been proven by me, conclusively, in a Notes & Queries letter in September 1997.  It is customary, when scholars make proofs of this nature, particularly when they change the major thrust of a subject's life, that they be mentioned.  

They may be dismissed, for cause, but they must be cited.  Yet Riggs does not cite these discoveries.  It is true they were made by me, but this isn't the point.  They were made and they were published in a widely read peer review journal published by the University of Oxford.  Failure to mention them is either evidence of sloth and ignorance or of an underlying disagreement with them.  If the later, Riggs should have noted it in passing and cited his disagreement.  Since he didn't we must assume the former: Riggs didn't know that Marlowe had been proven Arbella's tutor.  I happen to know this to be false, since I discussed this new discovery with him at Cambridge in 1998: the scholarly record proves that Marlowe spent three and a half years working for Lord Burghley with Lady Arbella, between 1588/9 and 1592 and Riggs, rather than cite it and deal with it, choose to ignore it. What a guy.  What a scholar. Nicholl didn't want to acknowledge it because he would have to completely revise his book, but Riggs's book was still years from completion.  Riggs rejects it because he wants to mislead his readers.  The proof is exclusive because Bess's dispatch to Lord Burghley, mentions her "Morley" had been "damnified by leaving of the University."  Since the poet Christopher Marlowe is the only "Morley" to have left a university setting c. 1588, the year Bess's Marlowe would have begun working for Arbella, Marlowe was her tutor. It's big news. It completely rewrites the book on Marlowe.  And Riggs chose to ignore it.  


I should point out biographic about Arbella shows her out of London for most of this period, but not all of it.  In any case if push comes to shove Marlowe's life with Arbella would have to trump his London record.  The London Marlowe could have been someone else.  But Arbella's tutor was the Cambridge bred poet and scholar.  I've noted the new DNB has chosen to be honest about this discovery also.  Not only do the allow Nicholl to cleave to his false opinion, with out discussing the new evidence, they allow the same thing to happen in the essay on Lady Arbella's life.  There their write does not even mention Bess' letter!  Even though it plainly identifies Arbella's tutor as "one Morely."  Even if the writer did not, for some arcane reason, suppose this was the poet, the letter and the name should be mentioned. 

Naturally I'm not the only scholar Riggs slights.  Riggs mentions that Marlowe's Edward II contains intelligence about James VI. of Scotland, later James I., and Lennox, citing their passionate relationship c. 1579.  How does Riggs learn about this?  He cites no authority.  But his bibliography cites Professor Normand's essay, " "What passions call you these?' Edward II and James VI" which appeared in the important, Christopher Marlowe and English Renaissance Culture (1999).  An oversight?  Possibly.  If so, it is one that cries out to be corrected. (135)  When Riggs is touching on Faunt, he knows Faunt was from Canterbury, something Nicholl did not know, but he cites Nicholl and not Roberts, " 'The Studious Artisan," which also appears in CMERC.  Another oversight?  Again he cites Roberts in his bibliography, but not in his notes.  So this looks like a pattern and not and oversight.  Indeed we can be nearly certain of it since Riggs does not cite Richard Wilson's groundbreaking essay about Tamburlaine and Ivan the Terrible, and thus about the Muscovy Company, which also appears in CMERC.  This remarkable discovery connects the home of Dame Bull, where Marlowe was allegedly slain, to that Company and to an Anthony Marlowe, it's registered agent, who John Bakeless once thought of as Marlowe's cousin.  Again since these momentous discoveries conflict with Riggs' view, he simply fails to cite them.  The evidence for the connection is irrefutable, because it is embedded in Tamburlaine and the public records.  But the long and short of them is such that they force a revision in what Marlowe was doing at Dame Bull's that day.  They make her house out as a Burghley safe-house.  Riggs makes no mention of this even though he cites Nicholl here, who says as much himself.  (332)  There is, of course, no mention of William Urry, who proved all this in 1988 in his study Christopher Marlowe and Canterbury.  Remarkably Riggs mentions Urry only once (50) in an attempt to persuade the reader that the King's School was not a very nice place. When in fact it was one of the most prestigious grammar schools in England, as Urry proved.  Indeed Riggs does not cite E. D. Edward's essential study The King's School Canterbury, which was first to point out Faunt was from Canterbury and attended the school.(1957, 86)   What reason could Riggs have for wanting to make the King's School out as mainly for "poor boys" (50) when, in fact, as Edwards and Urry prove it catered to the rich and famous?  

Strangely absent in Riggs's bibliography are the important, even essential ,studies by Alan Haynes, the diplomatic historian and scholar, Invisible Power: A History of the Elizabethan Secret Services and The Gunpowder Plot.   Are they not mentioned because Haynes calls Dame Bull's a "Burghley safe-house" and dutifully notes that "in the spring of 1593 [Lord Burghley] was planning on using Marlowe again...[on a mission to Scotland]..."  Count on it.  Lord Burghley was Marlowe's master, at least from 1586/7, when Burghley signs the Privy Council's entail demanding Marlowe's M.A., until May 1593, proving, once and for all, that the charade in Flushing was a ruse.  As even Nicholl came to understand.  Actually Riggs and I agree on this point, because Riggs notes there is nothing in the record showing Marlowe worked with Sir Francis Walsingham, rather just with Burghley.  As with these other lapses, Riggs cites Nicholl essay in CMERC, where he recants his notion that Marlowe was sent home from Flushing under arrest, and replaces it with the correct view that this was a charade, in his bibliography, but not in the footnotes.  Indeed Riggs appears not to understand that the Flushing chapter was a ruse.  Wouldn't you know it?. 

Let's move on to something both Riggs and Urry were both wrong about.  Something as important as the possible survival of Marlowe, but much more easily verifiable.  Both claim the Privy Council was at Greenwich when Marlowe was allegedly slain on the 30th of May 1593.  Since Greenwich is only two or three miles from Deptford, Kent, where these events allegedly took place, this means Marlowe was INSIDE the verge or the 12 miles circle that surrounds the Queen.  If so it would make Marlowe's royal Inquest legal, while if not, illegalIn fact the Court proves to have been at Nonesuch.  Nonesuch is on the other side of both London Deptford, Kent. And thus, certainly by road, much further than 12 miles away.  This means Marlowe's inquest was illegal.  Moreover it means that Marlowe could not have reported in on the day of his alleged "death" because we know from his Inquest he arrived early and stayed at Dame Bull's all day.  Indeed  there is no record Marlowe ever returned to the Privy Council after his unexpected release on the 20th of May.  Neither Urry or Riggs comment on this, but it is an important, bedrock fact.  It indicates that Lord Burghley knew where Marlowe was and was excusing his absences, daily, without entry into the record.  Which is to say these facts place an entirely new light on the events of those ten days. 

While we're thinking about a lack of records, there is no record that Marlowe's friend and "killer," Frizer, was ever jailed.  Frizer, who was quickly pardoned by the Queen, who protected him by writing into the pardon that if any of Marlowe's friends should want to look into the matter, in the future, it would have come to come through Her Courts and not the local ones.  Just as Kennedy's killing was never investigated in Dallas.  Which is to say she put a lid on the case, that sealed it for four centuries.  Her writ to Danby instructed him to use "whatsoever names the aforesaid parties were known by" or words to that effect.  Telling him, I'd say, not to blow any covers.  He didn't.  Indeed his inquest just parroted back to Her what She'd told him to say.  Scholars suppose the records lost.  But we cannot be certain of this.  All we know is there is no record that Frizer was ever jailed over Marlowe's "death." 

Let's follow Riggs in his mistakes here.  He writes on page 333, "Poley's employers, the Privy Council, were holding Marlowe on a very tight leash.  He still had to report to the Palace on a daily basis." (333)  Riggs is right about the conditions of Marlowe's release, but wrong that Marlowe had been "on a very tight leash."   Riggs makes no mention that he never reported back after the 20th of May, including, of course, on the 30th of May, about which Riggs is writing here.  How can Riggs explain Marlowe's absences?  Why was there no "hue and cry" when Marlowe failed to make his daily appearances?  Failed for ten days!  It is much easier, of course, to ignore these facts than to deal with them.  So they are brushed like dust beneath the door. 

Indeed Riggs imagines, as I have mentioned above, that Marlowe was killed by the Queen's orders.  Murdered.  Imagine that.  That lovely woman ordered Marlowe's murder.  We can see Marlowe is not the only dead person Riggs allows himself to libel. If he were an English citizen this would be a criminal act. The English take such libels seriously, particularly when they apply to the Queen. A few pages before Riggs has written, "With her exquisite sense of occasion, Queen Elizabeth gave the order to 'prosecute it to the full' ".  (331)  So he can write on page 335 "Marlowe was killed just a few days after the queen's command."  What command?  ""prosecute it to the full"?  Since when does "prosecute" mean "murder"?  I've already pointed out that this quote, which Riggs clearly attributes directly to the Queen here (335) is not a quote from her at all, but something in a letter from a lowlife convict and jailbird named Drury. 

Look, the Queen had legal means for killing Marlowe.  She didn't need to dispatch assassins.  Marlowe could have been killed under torture. Marlowe could have been convicted without being allowed to talk and hanged, on short notice, as Penry was, which happened just the day before a couple of miles away. (Which is why Marlovians think Penry's body was switched for Marlowe's, particularly since Penry's body vanished, even though he'd begged Burghley to see that it was returned to his family.  I've seen the letter myself in Burghley records in the BL.)  If for some very unlikely reason she had ordered him murdered, her agents wouldn't have stayed with the body, as I pointed out above.  Assassins do their "wet work" in private and vanish into the night.  Name one assassination team that stayed with their kill.  Just one. The river was only a few yards from the scene of the crime, surely they would have walked Marlowe to the edge, done it there and tossed him in.  Old hands would have "gutted" him first, because it is the air that builds in the entrails that makes the bodies rise to the surface.  A gutted body will sink and stay down forever. No the Queen did not have Marlowe killed.  

The two official versions of Marlowe's death conflict with one another. The one delivered to the Queen says he survived his wound and died a few days later.  They cannot both be right.  But they can both be wrong.  Riggs makes a pastiche of these important facts.   I scan his paragraph below:


As we can see, the note said it was "delivered on whitsun eve" to the Queen.  That was the 2nd of June, Marlowe allegedly having been slain on Wit's Wednesday, the 30th of May 1593. (See Perfect Calendar)  and goes on to say, that Marlowe died "within three days" meaning the 6th of June.  Yet Riggs writes, "in which case Marlowe died exactly 'three days' after the Note arrived at court."  (336)  To work this slight of hand Riggs cannot quote the full text of the note which clearly reads,

A note delivred on whitsun eve last of the most horrible blasphemes and damnable opinions utteryd by xtofer Marly who since whitsonday dyed a soden & vyolent deathe.
The last line is crossed out and over it was written:

"who within iij dayes after came to a soden & fearful ende of his life.

Nicholl is honest enough to note at this point, "This is certainly more precise, but it is still wrong." (312)  Yes, it was wrong.  Marlowe did not survive his wound by three days, let alone six.  He did not die on the 6th of June, as the note implies, but according to his Inquest, on the 30th of May. Marlovians don't buy it, but then neither does Riggs.  David supposes the Queen had him murdered.  I marvel at what David will say about me when I'm dead and gone?


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