September 12, 2003,       2,188 words.


The Short Case for Christopher Marlowe's Authorship of Shakespeare's Canon


I’m here to tell the story of how Marlowe became Shakespeare.

It is an old story that goes back to 1593 when Marlowe supposedly died and "Shakespeare" materialized, out of the either, to take his place.

The timing is crucial. Marlowe is said to have died on 30th of May 1593 and Shakespeare’s name appears on Marlowe’s poem Venus and Adonis a week or so later.

Scholars can tell the name was hastily inserted into the volume by way of a dedication to Southampton, a person Shakespeare could not have easily known, but who overlapped at Cambridge with Marlowe.

Marlovians suppose Marlowe’s death was faked either by himself or with the aid of his powerful friends, ala Measure for Measure. And for much the same reasons. Marlowe had been unjustly accused of capital crimes and was then overdue on an appearance bond. Had he returned he almost certainly would have been racked and tortured and perhaps burnt at the stake, as several of his friends were. Summarily hanged at the very least.

No conclusive forensic evidence confirms Marlowe’s death. An official communiqué delivered to the Queen on "whitsun eve last, three days later, contradicts the inquest findings. Both official records cannot be correct, but both could easily be wrong.

Medical and jurisdictional questions have proven the inquest void or nullified. Worse the only conceivable reason for the witnesses and participants in the "death" to have remained with the body, rather than dumping it in the river, was to "identify" it.

Marlovians suggest it was the body of a friend, John Penry, who was unjustly hanged the evening before, just a few miles away, a body that is missing from English interment records.

The continuation of Marlowe’s works under the name of "William Shakespeare" suggests he left the realm during the spring of 1593 and went to France, and from thence to Scotland. There he made an important political ally in King James VI, later James I.

Through this connection he was able to secure positions for himself and several of his classmates, including Lewis Lewknor, Robert Boyle and Benjamin Carrier. Lewknor became James’ still mysterious Master of Ceremonies. Boyle became the powerful Earl of Cork, while Benjamin, inexplicably, became Chaplin to James I, and much later defected to Rome. 

Thomas Hammond, to whom Marlowe’s The Jew of Malta was lovingly dedicated to in 1633, forty years after Marlowe’s death, appears to have remained a lifelong friend. The record proves them townsmen and students together at both the King’s School and later at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge.

Four of Shakespeare’s plays reflect his first hand experience in Scotland and his deep personal knowledge of King James. A knowledge that has recently been discovered fossilized or embedded in Edward II.

Based on the locales of the plays, we suppose Marlowe also spent considerable time in the Mediterranean, in Malta, Venice, Padua and Ferrara. All indicative of continued service in the diplomatic corps. He had with his assignment to Lady Arbella Stuart, moved into strategic duties. Which is to say he had become involved in the dynastic intrigues that would shape Western Civilization for centuries to come. As "the realm’s highest mind" Marlowe’s geopolitical knowledge, mastery of languages and foreign customs and mores was second to none. He easily qualified as the Cecils’ most valuable player. (MVP)

James’ gullibility and his munificence is quickly illustrated in the case of Henry Wotton, a Kentishman Marlowe would have had much in common with. Wotton barely escaped with his life during the aftermath of the Essex Rebellion which had been fueled with multiple performances of Richard II. He effected his escape to France in 16 hours! Not bad before the Chunnel.  In exile he had traveled to Scotland with the pretense of taking James VI "antidotes" for an imaginary poison that was hypothetically to be used against James.

Wotton lived incognito as an Italian in James’ court with no one the wiser, pretending not to know English. Later when James VI become James I, he offered Wotton any ambassadorship he pleased and Wotton wisely took Venice, the locale of several of Shakespeare’s plays. Wotton eventually did service for James in Bohemia and Vienna, the scene of Measure for Measure. Marlowe would have faired equally as well.

Meanwhile judging from the plays, Marlowe traveled Europe for the Cecils and perhaps for the Bacons. He periodically returned to England. He continued to write plays and to translate diplomatic works. Several of which were published anonymously by his publishers and dedicated to Southampton and Pembroke, Marlowe’s friends and patrons. This definitively links the four principals in the "Shakespeare" hoax. Links them to a high level diplomatic translator who was a persona non grata.

By 1598, when his Hero and Leander appeared, he seems to have been repatriated behind the scenes, because it is openly dedicated to his friend and patron Sir Thomas Walsingham. Walsingham, a familiar of the Queen, and a year Marlowe’s junior, would not have allowed this dedication to stand had Marlowe not been privately repatriated, for the simple fact that it would have harmed his standing at Court.

Upon the death of Elizabeth and with the rise of James VI as James I, (1603) the English political climate changed drastically. For many it was the start of a new era. During this period, came "Shakespeare’s" dominance of the London theater, at a time that corresponds with the rise of the King’s Men and thus of the actor, William Shakspere.  Within that period James’ young son, Prince Henry, became the hope of many liberal thinking Englishmen.

Shakespeare lets us know that he’d closely observed Prince Henry in a clever aside hidden in the opening passage of The Winter’s Tale, where he has Archidamus, a Master of Ceremonies, tell us that he had been attentively observing young Prince Mamillius, who he calls "an unspeakable comfort." Unspeakable because to speak of his succession was to invite death upon one’s self.

Unexpectedly Prince Henry died under circumstances that implicated his father in 1612 and after this tragedy "Shakespeare" wrote no more. Prior to this James had been heard grumbling ominously, after watching Prince Henry’s retainers fawning over the handsome young Prince at Court, "will he bury me alive?" After Henry’s death, James became the only Scottish king to live out his natural life in several centuries. Even his Queen, Anne, accused him of having had a hand in the death of Prince Henry. Oddly the young Prince, who patronized the arts and the theaters to the lavish extent of creating a sort of second Camelot, didn’t know either of the Shakespeares.

In 1609, three years before Henry’s death, the Sonnets, said Shakespeare’s, appeared in print. They tell the story of Marlowe’s life, his scandalous death, his burial in a common grave and his exile. Acrostics embedded in them identify Marlowe's mentor, Thomas Watson, as the poet's mentor (76). They strongly suggest William Herbert, to whom they were dedicated, as his illicit son. This connection is possible for Marlowe, since Herbert’s mother and Marlowe can both be placed in Canterbury at the time of Herbert’s conception. 

Herbert is the dedicatee of the First Folio, the book which authenticated Shakespeare’s plays, but which excluded entirely the poetry, including the Sonnets. The only conceivable reason to have excluded these great poems was that they cast doubt on the Actor’s authorship...a proposition only put forth by the First Folio’s infomercials. As far as the record goes, no one in London, prior to 1623 ever thought the worldly author, Shakespeare, was the rustic actor, Shakspere.

The Sonnets materialized on 20/30 May 1609 or sixteen years to the day from the date of Marlowe’s release from the Privy Council’s deadly summons and/or his "death." On that same day in 1599 a scholar calling himself Christopher Marlowe and claiming to be from Cambridge, appeared at Valladolid, Spain and overlapped there with Cervantes. Once believed to have been another Cambridge scholar of the same name, that Marlowe proves dead in 1596, his will witnessed by Hugh Holland, the same man who would sign one of the First Folio’s eulogies to "Shakespeare" in 1623.

When this Christopher Marlowe returned to England in 1603 he was widely believed to have been the Poet, according to Tucker Brooke in his The Life of Christopher Marlowe. But this cannot be the case if the poet died in 1593. So we must ask ourselves a question, if English citizens alive in 1603 thought the Poet had returned to England why should we doubt it? This would certainly explain why his works continued to appear under his name and dedicated to his classmates on carefully orchestrated days for the next 51 years.

It would also solve the riddle of who translated Don Quixote since this Marlowe proves at Valladolid while Cervantes was there and the alleged translator, "Thomas Shelton," warrants a nom de plume, still unidentified. The pen name was comprised of the first and last names of Marlowe’s patrons SirThomas Walsingham and Lady Audrey Shelton. Intriguingly the publisher of Don Quixote was, wouldn’t you know it, none other than Edward Blount, Marlowe’s publisher and later the publisher of the First Folio of "Shakespeare."

I’ve mentioned the Sonnets appeared on 20/30 of May and why that day was of great importance to Marlowe. On that same day in consecutive years appeared Anthony and Cleopatra and Pericles, under the hands of separate publishers. The first work said Shakespeare’s, Marlowe’s poem Venus and Adonis, had appeared on William Herbert’s 13th birthday, Herbert having been born on the 8/18 April 1580. The last work said Shakespeare’s, Two Noble Kinsmen, appeared on that same day in 1634, 18 years after the actor died. Marlowe’s last known work, The Maiden’s Holiday, appeared on that day in 1654, the year Marlowe would have turned 90, two of his sisters living into their late 70s and early 80s, proving the family carried the genes for longevity.

Marlowe’s Edward II entered history on the same day it opens on, i.e., 6 July, while Shakespeare’s 1 Henry VI also entered on the day it opens on, i.e., Saturday the 8th of November 1623, Henry V having been buried on Saturday the 7th of November in 1422. Or two hundred and one years earlier. If I may be forgiven an aside. Scholars know the Folio was a year late in coming into print. This raises the likelihood the registration had been planned for 7 November 1422 or two hundred years to the day from the opening of Henry VI.

Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream, which depends on its plot for the events surrounding the baptism of Prince Henry, which took place in Scotland midsummer of 1594, entered history on the 8th of October 1600. A day of no obvious connection to these events. Except this is the date given by North, in his translation of Pultarch's Life of Theseus, as the date set aside by Athenians to celebrate the founding of their Republic. Dream has long been identified as a "founders’ play," so the date is intentional. It is analogous to our July the 4th.

Clearly the conjunction of intentional registrations in the works of Shakespeare and Marlowe link both canons as the work of the same man. A man who appears to have lived sixty years beyond the official date of his own demise. This supposition is supported by the fact the Sonnets recount the life of Marlowe and not that of the actor. Several period plays including The Famous Victories of Henry the Fifth and 2 Henry IV, also clearly allude to Marlowe’s post 1593 survival. Famous Victories mentions the date, 20/30 May and the town of Deptford, Kent in line. 2H4 alludes to Marlowe’s survival in ii, 2, when he contrives to have the Hostess recall Falstaff received his nearly fatal head wound on the 30th of May, or Wits Wednesday, as she called it. Falstaff was, we must remember, Prince Henry’s tutor and, hinted, father. All these facts suggest that Christopher Marlowe became the writer William Shakespeare.

Two additional points need to be made in closing. Queen Elizabeth I was first to suspect Marlowe as Shakespeare as we can see from her remarks quoted in the aftermath of the Essex Rebellion when she identified the author as a man who had forgotten god and one who was about to forget his benefactors. Only Marlowe fits this criteria. Essex had most certainly forgotten his benefactors and was never accused of forgetting God. So it is clear from this Elizabeth believed Marlowe the author of Richard II.

Lastly Marlowe’s lifelong friend, townsman and alliums, Nicholas Faunt, has been discovered ushering English agents to France on the morning of 31 May 1593. The purpose was to link them up with Anthony Standen, the English spy returning from Spain, with whom Marlowe was scheduled to meet before traveling to Scotland on the issue of the Spanish Blanks. Faunt proves in Dover, Kent, about fifty miles of costal sailing from Deptford, Kent. And he took the long way home through Canterbury after this intrigue. Evidently to visit and pass along the news. So the case for Marlowe is ironclad, rock solid and daily growing.  

Meanwhile new period evidence reinforces the case against the actor.  It has surfaced in a period annotation that suggests him Stratford's Roscius, but failed to mention him as a playwright, i.e., as a Seneca or Plautus.  Again no one appears to have known Shakspere as an author until after 1623 when the First Folio's infomercial proclaimed it.

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