While it is possible to fault certain facets of Hamlet and the Scottish Succession, it is difficult to avoid Winstanley major conclusions and, it is to these that I would direct our attention. (Cambridge, 1921)
Namely that the Author, so intensely interested in the people, politics and history of his age and so driven, by internal forces, to dramatize and yet so restrained, as he was, by the censorship of his time, devised a method of work whereby he could adapt contemporary events into a dramatic whole, that was as much mythological as psychological or historic and, in this mode, escaped the direct consequences of state censorship. The use of this methodology allowed him to invoke, in the minds and passions of his audiences, what Burke would call, "outraged moral sentiments," an innovation which, as Burke observed, made "the theatre a better school" than churches.
He managed this feat by by the skillful use of what were then well known historical parallels, effecting a kind of oblique communication about "unspeakable" things between himself and his audience. I add only that this is precisely the same method blazed by Christopher Marlowe, who, the record suggests, conveniently died a few weeks before Shakespeare’s name appeared in print, while overdue on bail for capital charges arising from his written opinions.
Visa via the plays and the method of work of the Author there is nothing about this conclusion one can fault. One can, and should fault, however, Winstanley’s failure to see that while this method allowed the plays their venue, it would simply could not have protected the Author from the implications of state censorship, which had maimed John Stubbs, tortured Thomas Kyd, murdered Marlowe (or driven him into an early exile), hanged John Greenwood and John Penry and imprisoned Hayward, Jonson, Nashe and George Chapman. Surely had the Author been invested with a flesh and blood human form, rather than with the persona of a shaking spear, he too would have paid dearly for Richard II and Rape of Lucrece, where on the allegorical level, he depicted Elizabeth as a "body dead...her blue blood turned black in every vein." (Only the allegorical nature of this poem accounts for its many editions, just as only the allegorical nature of Hayward's history of Henrie IIII accounted for its ten editions, or about the same number of editions counted for Lucrece, a rather good indication of the size and stability of this kind of Elizabethan readership.)
Moreover, in Hamlet through the use of The Mousetrap, the Author shows us precisely how he manages this in relationship to preexisting plays and tales, the very method that Winstanley and other scholars have detected in the plays and poems of Marlowe and Shakespeare, writ large. He simply lifted from some preexisting source, sometimes "writ in high Italian," as were Othello’s and The Mousetrap’s narratives, a known plot. He then molds it into a new dramatic whole, into which he has woven, from contemporary events, characters and tertiary literary sources of interest to him and to his audience, topics worthy of reflection. Topics treated dramatically so they become capable of invoking moral outrage, politically charged sentiments and, to use his own word, capable of provoking acts of "conscience" amongst his audiences.
His audience would easily recognize the parallels and puzzle over them and, meanwhile, since he was a master at this craft, he will have created mythological beings which future generations will marvel over as well. Created them as Winstanley so ably put it, via "accretions to some historic center."
The irony here is that while his target audience was a particular king and queen, Claudius and Gertrude, the social landscape has changed through "elections" to an audience of citizens rulers, who are every bit as much moved as where his original quarries.
Setting aside this important irony, we can glimpse, even clearer than Winstanley had managed, how Hamlet was, on one level, a clever defense of the helpless players, for it dramatizes for us how the poor actors were duped into becoming willing accomplices, even while still bearing the consequences of the Author's earlier machinations.
Make no mistake about it Hamlet’s message dramatizes the argument that the payers were fools (or mere pawns) in a game of dynastic politics played by a master chessman, who was not to be found among their numbers, but safely ensconced in some far away castle.
In this particular case not by Sir Gelley Meyricke, who had talked them into producing Richard II for the Essex Rebellion, and who lost his life as a consequence, but by Hamlet and, on the allegorical level, by the well concealed Author.
To be certain of this we need only notice that the players, in Hamlet , were themselves in exile in the hinterlands due to their "late invocation...", i.e., to their presentation of Richard II during the Essex Rebellion, or so scholars have maintained for many years. Here’s the full quote, it’s a classic in the oblique language forced on writers by the constraints of state censorship: the " inhibition of the players to perform in the city owing to the late innovation. " Can any speech be less specific and yet more certain? I can almost hear the echoes of the chuckles amongst those in on the wink that must have floated over the Thames.
I need not remind readers that the first Quarto of Hamlet boasted it had been "duerse times acted..in the two Vniversities of Cambridge and Oxford, and else-where," a rather clear testimony to the banishment of the players from London and a good indication of its 1601 date.
The only thing that Winstanley misses in this marvelous treatment is the immunity from prosecution afforded the author. Had "Shakespeare" been reachable or indictable, his fate would have, surely, been the same as Essex’s and Hamlet’s. Or, at the very least, have paralleled that of Dr. John Hayward and Southampton: life in prison. The fact was that no one knew or, rather, no one was saying, who Shakespeare was. Thus no charges could be brought against him. Here’s the parallel: Hamlet escaped, through his own death, the consequences of writing The Mousetrap Lesson: death is a sure fired means of eluding the consequence of altering plays with the intention of capturing a monarch’s conscience, particularly one contrived to take place before the eyes of the monarchy.
Elizabeth, as we have seen, thought Marlowe the author of Richard II and may have believed him the author of Hamlet as well. Given the earlier references to it and payments for it, and particularly that Nashe knew of it, its entirely possible Marlowe was the author of the Ur Hamlet. Indeed Marlowe was privy to diplomatic intelligence concerning James VI, as evidenced in Edward II, so he could easily have conceived of the Ur Hamlet early on, which would explain the problem of Hamlet’s two ages, i.e., 20 and 30.
Elizabeth, since she pardoned Marlowe’s slayer, certainly believed Marlowe dead and this explains, at least to his errant truant, why the crown never moved against the actor: it never supposed him the author.
In any event, Winstanley must be correct in her conclusion that the Author, faced as he was with state censorship on the one hand, and the immutable nature of history of the other, choose a working methodology exemplified and dramatized, nearly in the clear, by Hamlet's use of The Mousetrap, namely the amalgamation of contemporary history into a preexisting format, albeit, radically changed by these accretions.
While Winstanley shrinks from it, the lesson of the use of The Mousetrap was to "catch the conscience of the king." This, I suggest was also the motive of the Author. Or rather one of his many motives. He knew he had the ear of the monarch and he knew he could catch the conscience of the Queen and King, in his "abstracts of the time."
However what distinguishes these great plays from simply political volleys, is that they were conceived as part of a master plan, whereby he would present to the word, at large, 36 dramas, just as Plato had, dealing with all aspects of life. And in these dramas he had contrived a means to teach us, his future audiences, how to live and how to think, as Bloom has so cogently noted.
He did indeed accomplish this goal. The plays are mythological vessels that sail into the unmapped psyches of players and audiences yet to breathe, taking us, along with them for the price of admission. Looked at economically successful plays, such as these, are not only self-replicating, but self-sustaining. They are thus capable of exponential growth, just as an airborne virus is.
What Winstanley’s paradigm doesn’t allow her to see is that these great plays were decidedly anti-royal in their tone. How can anyone contemplate the succession of mad and nearly mad kings and queens presented to us by "Shakespeare" and come away with the opinion that royal rule is the best of all possible worlds?
_Hamlet_ ends in the hope of a new "election." What does "election" here mean? Surely it does not suppose that Fortinbras is going to be Elected king in place of Claudius, by a popular vote of people of Denmark. What it means allegorically is the Author is looking forward to the time when election, not secession, picks the heads of state. At this future time the subject or target of his plays would shift from the heads of state to the electorate. Such was the danger of these plays. They infected humanity with the Author’s dream of future republics.
He written about this time in the prose introduction to Rape of Lucrece, were he observes, in the text of the poem, that it is "the poet’s duty to wrong the wronger until he renders right" and in the oblique conversation forced upon him by state censorship, pledged to do so in the introduction, until "the state government change[s] from kings to counsels." While couched in oblique speech, that's a political manifesto and one scholars know was begun by Christopher Marlowe, who, of the two men, alone commanded the skills to have translated the sources materials of Lucrece.
The use of this key word "election," in Hamlet, at the point where the Evil Empire has been slain and the New Empire is to begin, is a critical term. And its meaning remains as simple as its definition. Hamlet, and the Author, were looking forward to a world without Kings and Queens, to a world where men like Hamlet might live in peace with women like Ophelia. A world where men and women such as Claudius and Gertrude did not rule their moral and intellectual superiors. Such was his brave new world, a world which has, through him, become our own. For we, the people, are superior in moral and intellectual fiber to our rulers, or, at least so far, have proven so, thanks to his and Hamlet’s help. They invented us and then filled our sails their proud full verse, before turning us loose to cruise on alone. And no matter where we wander we shall remember them in wonder and speak their words forever, so long as there is breath in the mouths of men. He knew this for a fact and he boasted about it repeatedly.
We owe him not only our freedoms but the very language we speak.
Having come this far and having chastised Ms. Winstanley for not seeing beyond the boundaries of her paradigm, one might ask what does the method tell us about the Author of Hamlet?
Clearly it suggests him a member of (or privy to) the highest circle of peers of England, Scotland, and Denmark, someone intimate with, at the very least, the personal intelligence and correspondence of kings, queens, lords and ladies, and very likely with their realities as well. It suggest him a Protestant, perhaps one who attended the university at Wittenberg, as Sydney and Faustus had. Perhaps, if we are to take the parallels to Opehlia’s tragic story, end and funeral seriously, as I feel we should, it suggests he lost a sister while at college who was denied burial in a churchyard and it suggests the author as at home in a grave as in a palace. Given Hamlet’s role as a diplomatic courier, we have the suggestion that the Author had been employed in similar undertakings. This furnishes him with the skinny on the high and mighties of his period, while allowing him not to be, seriously, the in the line of decent for the throne, for Hamlet is never in this line...and curiously so. He seems to be somewhat overly concerned with questions of incest, which are not of much moment to others, so we detect a kind of moralistic undertone, one which is quite apparent on the superficial level in a morality play of this nature. Can we deduce that a sister had married an uncle? It would explain his vitriol towards Claudius. We clearly perceive his bias against royalty and, as we have just pointed out, his hope for future elections. He enjoyed a familiarly with and sway over the players and the ability to revise and to draw upon materials, even when they are in a foreign language, and to transform them into new and quite dramatic modalities. He is most empathically not one of the poor players.
We are dealing with, this analysis shows, a university educated writer and linguist, very likely a playwright, who worked in the foreign service of England and who had a firsthand diplomatic knowledge of James VI, Scotland and perhaps Denmark. If Winstanley is correct of Essex, Southampton and a case load of Scottish nobles as well. To this we may add Faustus’ Germany and its Wittenberg. He seems to die from a stab wound delivered in a fight before the eyes of the Court, while intrusting his message to Horatio. (Our orator?)
The reader will see that we have painted a picture of Christopher Marlowe, to whom all of these things happened. It should be no secret I believe Marlowe wrote these plays, having escaped the consequences of state censorship through a counterfeited death and that he continued to work in the highest levels of the English secret service, writing these plays as time and circumstance permitted, with the intention of preventing an English civil war over succession and, thus, with the acquiescence of his masters the Cecils and the Pembrokes and, later, James himself.
This heretical opinion has remained with, me after long years of study, only reluctantly, and its origins are now well rooted in the diplomatic, political and literary records of the time. Records which strongly suggest that no visible author could have survived Richard II , let alone, Hamlet.
These records and these works prove the Author was not only the "realm’s highest mind" and most gifted poet and dramatist, but was also privy to diplomatic intelligence at the highest levels. Marlowe fulfills both of the requirements. Marlowe was educated at Cambridge, had traveled world for the Queen on matters of covert diplomacy. He became involved in dynastic matters when he was assigned by Lord Burghley as Arbella Stuart’s "reader and attendant." While at Cambridge, he lost a sister, Jane, to circumstances very similar to those that are dramatized in Hamlet. At age twelve, Jane Marlowe was several months pregnant and married to an "uncle." After the death of her infant, she then either killed herself or drowned and was, thus, not buried in the churchyard. Marlowe, like Hamlet, would have returned home to find the sexton digging her grave beside White Horse Lane. Marlowe is now known to have been in line to represent the Cecils before James VI in Scotland at the time of his "death" in 1593. His plays continued to appear on days of importance to him for the next 61 years and are intertwined with the registrations of "Shakespeare’s" works.. He is seen alive in the post 1593 diplomatic records, turning up at Valladolid at the same time Cervantes was there and thus making it likely that it was he who translated Don Quixote under the initials of "T. S.", long believed to have been "Thomas Shelton," the brother-in-law of Marlowe patron and friend, Sir Thomas Walsingham. Indeed Hamlet alludes to diplomatic events which took place during the summer and early fall of 1593. Events that "revenged" Marlowe’s sensational demise and cost Lord Strange, who Kyd testified had compromised Marlowe, his life. Consider the switch of diplomatic papers pulled off by Hamlet and carried out on Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, which in turn effected their own death when they arrived in England, finds an exact parallel in the fate of Lord Strange’s proxy and courier the unfortunate Sir Richard Hesketh. Hesketh had his diplomatic papers switched and for it was eviscerated alive upon his return to England in the fall of 1593. Lord Strange, it is said, died as a result. It is important to note the Cecil projector, who carried out the switch of papers, used the name "Lewknor," the name of one of Marlowe’s classmates from the King’s School, and later a name of great importance to these plays. (See Nicholl)
Scholars have always been troubled with the problem of Hamlet’s age, which seems at first to be about twenty and then later about thirty. Marlowe would have met James VI in 1593 when James was in his early 20s and, assuming, Marlowe’s post 1593 survival, would later have known him in his early 30s, at the time he ascended to the throne of England. Measure for Measure which seems a study of James I in his maturity, dates to an even later period. We know it only from the First Folio, i.e., from 1623. (A play with the same or similar name was enacted before James I, the day after Christmas, in 1604, it can hardly be the Folio’s play because that play alludes to events that came later than 1604 in James’s reign.)
Evidence of a continued interest in and noting of the royal family is to be found in The Winter’s Tale, which contains what must have been a rather obvious oblique reference to Prince Henry, delivered by the Bohemian analog of Sir Lewis Lewknor, James’ mysterious Master of Ceremonies, whose role in producing these marvelous plays has been nearly completely overlooked. The line is worth quoting, "You have an unspeakable comfort of your young Prince...a gentleman of the greatest promise that ever came into my note." An "unspeakable comfort," because to speak of it while James lived was tantamount to suicide. No one knows why "Shakespeare" stopped writing after the death of Prince Henry, in 1612, but we all know that he did. What many of us don’t know is that James, who had ordered the butchering of his boyhood hosts the Ruthvens, to be carried out in their own home, was widely rumored to have been responsible for the death of this aspiring young prince. Not much is known about Lewknor or Leuknor but it is interesting that many of Shakespeare’s plays depend upon his diplomatic translations and that he later claimed Marlowe’s MA at Cambridge, the records there upportting only attendance, not Lewknor's. The Marlowes and the Lewknors have long been connected in the history of Kent and Sussex counties, England.
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