NOTE: Due to the incompatibilty of different browsers, footnotes and references are not included in this online sample, but will be published in the book, along with supplementary appendices.
This poem is written in "iambic pentameter" the meter used by Marlowe in most of his poems and plays, including those written as "Shake-speare."
by David A More
To all you “Shakespeare” fans out there I say:
The Stratford actor never wrote a play,
Oh no. Kit Marley (known as “Marlowe”) wrote
Four centuries ago, the words we quote
From Hero and Leander, Lucan's First Book
(Translated from the Latin)--Have a look
At Ovid, too, and Venus & Adonis,
Rape of Lucrece, The Shrew, Merchant of Venice,
Romeo and Juliet, Coriolanus,
King Lear, the famous Tragedy of Hamlet
Six King Henry plays, Richard 3 and 2,
The Tempest, As You Like It, Much Ado,
Twelfth Night, King John, the dark tale of Othello--
In brief, most lines in the Folio
Of 'Shakespeare' Plays and scores of Sonnets too,
Plus other famous verses you may know:
Whoever loved, that loved not at first sight?
Have you ever heard this saw of might?
It's one of many Christopher did write.
Now I invoke Calliope, the muse
Of poetry for potent words to use,
And phrases fresh (like water clear and cold),
Plus a plot that's straightforward and bold,
To tell “the second greatest story ever told.”
So, listen up, if you have ears to hear--
Kit Marley used the pseudonym Shake-speare,
And William Shakspere's name procured a share,
Though unaware of whom he stood-in for:
The greatest poet of his time for sure.
At the age of only 23,
Kit Marley shook London society
With Tamburlaine the Great, which 'blew away'
All other English dramas of the day.
His “blank verse” plays were cutting edge,
When he was under-30 years of age:
The Jew of Malta has a dark tale to tell
About a vengeful machiavel;
And Kit wrote Doctor Faustus, who ends in hell,
And Edward Second, royal homosexual.
None stood above Kit in dramatic art.
On top of that, he played a secret part
In England's anti-Catholic war: a spy
Who gave true service to the Queen, no lie.
But his belief in Jesus Christ fell short,
According to a slanderous report
Made by another agent of the court:
The hearsay was heresy--dangerous it said,
The upshot was a dagger in the head.
But Marley's 'sudden end' did not mean dead,
His death was faked by well-connected friends,
And Kit kept writing plays (as genius would),
While Will congenially did what he could.
Then why (you wonder) do I call him Marley?
To simply set the “poetry bar” low?
Because it sounds like Raleigh and Lord Bur'ley?
No – because he spelled it that way early
In life, when he was brash and surly,
And his hair was bushy, kind of curly--
Well before receding like a wave,
Or ocean tide, to hide his face, and save
His breath, and punish Marley just the same--
Thru banishment and trashing his good name:
Changing 'Marley' to 'Marlowe' on title pages,
So his name's remembered for the Ages.
And trusted agent of the Queen, he was
Accepted in the high-brow company
Of Countess Mary Herbert's muse, whose honey
Inspiration filled Kit Marley's cup
Throughout his life, until his jig was up;
And Philip Sidney, Mary's brother, poet-knight,
Whose Page Marley may have been (or not);
And Earl of Essex, Robert Devereux
(To whom the Queen herself could not say 'no')
And Francis Bacon, giver of advice
To Henry Wriothesley, Earl of great price,
Who was so kind to poets, and so nice,
That “Shakespeare” dedicated poems to him twice;
And Ferdinando Stanley, Derby's Earl of parts,
Patron of theatrical and Catholic arts;
And Walter Raleigh, man of Renaissance,
A gifted dilettante par excellence;
And Henry Percy, called the Wizard Earl
Because he studied Bruno's many worlds;
And Thomas Walsingham, Kit’s patron,
And mysterious Mr. Matthew Royden,
And Latin poet-scholar Thomas Watson,
And laurel-headed Georges: Peele and Chapman;
And Philip Henslowe, Impresario,
Whose notes reveal so much of what we know
About the London theater business then;
And his son-in-law, Edward Alleyn,
Who triumphed in the role of Tamburlaine.
And George Carey --an associate
And member of the Raleigh clique with Kit
Who eventually became Lord Chamberlain,
Whose famous company of acting men
Included William Shakspere--Stratford's own--
Whose greatest role, as yet, has not been shown:
As a secret literary front
For a (said-to-be-dead) man who didn't want
To be–nor could he be--popularly known,
Although in death his fame lived-on in print
Thanks to Thomas Thorpe and Edward Blunt
(Two publishers who knew of Marley's stunt).
Kit knew these worthies well, except for Will,
Until he fell from grace into the hell
His friends devised to please his enemies,
Seeking thereby the gods (and God) to please,
While saving Kit from certain prosecution
For heresy – and painful execution.
The equation was simple. Do the moral math:
Instead of ridding the great Marley’s mouth
Of breath—they'd banish him for life ‘til death,
And send the poet down another path
To save him from Archbishop Whitgift's wrath,
Because his work was valued in small circles
Of rich, free-thinking, intellectuals
(Such as the Herberts, Walsinghams and Cecils)
Who all believed that Marley was a vessel
Filled with nectar, sweet and overflowing.
Mr. Marley, sir, your spear is showing:
Gri[p]ped in an armèd hand; [yourself] behind
[You] leave unseen, save to the eye of mind.)
A savvy man, who came to power early,
Rising to become Lord Treasurer;
And Francis Walsingham--two measurers
Of probabilities, and weatherers
Of Catholic ‘Bloody’ Mary’s storm together.
Lord Bur'ley'd been in power ever since
Elizabeth (in innocence) assumed her father's sins,
Ascending to half-brother Edward's throne
When she was 25 years old. Too young
To rule the land without advisers strong
And wise, to offer guidance and insight--
And thwart what stratagems the Catholics might
Devise to seize her doubtful Divine Right,
Since she was child of mistress Ann Boleyn,
The second wife of Henry 8th, whose sin
Engendered a new Church. Henry was no dope--
He made his Bishops wealthy like the Pope,
And expropriated Old Church properties--
A trend displeasing Catholic dioceses
From coastal Spain to France's Pyrenees.
The Queen's chief spy, Sir Francis Walsingham,
Shared with Bur'ley duties at the helm,
As Secretary of the threatened realm.
And twice he saved Elizabeth from plots
By men in thrall of Mary Queen of Scots.
The Queen made Walsingham Ambassador
To smooth discord between contending factions,
But the Catholics didn't trust him and took action--
Killing Huguenots by thousands nationwide.
The Duke of Guise believed God 'on his side'.
Well, Francis Walsingham was horrified,
Surprised no one supplied him advanced word
On what went down, before it all occurred.
So after that, the Catholics made him nervous,
He organized an English Secret Service.
Paid for out-of-pocket with his monies--
Thirty-nine agents in 9 countries.
To Italy and France his spies were sent
Where English-speaking Catholic converts went
To hear the Latin Mass, and in True Faith convent,
At seminary schools in Rome and Rheims
Where papists trained their undercover priests
To preach to English 'peeps' of Catholic Feasts,
And keep the Saints and Martyrs in their hearts
And Latin Mass in English-speaking parts.
In February, Christopher was born,
In the Cathedral town of Canterbury, Kent
(Where Queen Elizabeth occasionally went).
Here “the muses darling” got his start,
Exposed to music, poetry, and art;
And William, two months later that same year,
Was born to John & Mary Shakspere,
In a small village in Warwickshire,
Where her Majesty not once appeared,
Because there wasn't much to see there--
Unlike romantic Canterbury, where
The Faithful pilgrims high and low were sent
To see “the holy blissful martyr’s monument.”
Like any boy in any Age, Kit played
Outside with friends, and sometimes disobeyed
His mother (Kate, a Dover girl, portrayed
It seems, in some of Christopher's first plays),
While John, his dad, made leather goods and shoes,
And paid his Canterbury cobbler dues,
So Christopher could enter The King’s School,
And not take up his father’s cobbler tools.
Some claim young Kit was Philip Sidney's page
In Paris --with him on that day of rage
On the Feast of St. Bartholomew,
(When he was 8) in 1572.
The Massacre at Paris is the play
Kit Marley penned in memory of that day.
As Philip's page, he would've learned some things,
Which may explain how Kit got into Kings
At 14, for a spell, with much success--
For he excelled in reading Latin texts,
And singing, and facility with verse--
So well, Archbishop Parker blessed his purse:
And so, at 16, Marley headed north
To be a scholar of Divinity,
And study Anglican theology
At stately Cambridge University,
In December 1580 A.D.
A long days journey north of Canterb'ry,
In podunk Stratford-on-the-Avon,
Where Will (arrayed in blood-stained apron)
Soliloquized while killing calves and capons.
Nine years before, his dad had been on top:
As Stratford's Bailiff, an important job.
But John Shakspere's good luck went south,
So Will (another hungry mouth)
Dropped out of school at twelve or thirteen tops,
Following the downfall of his pops.
Whatever schoolbook sentences Will learned
Occurred before his father's fortune turned –
Since no books were available, it's true,
For home schooling, if he wanted to.
The printing press was then quite new:
Our modern public library unheard of,
And William's parents didn't read a word of
English--or the languages of love.
He'd have to buy a book, or borrow from a friend
But his unlettered chums had none to lend,
And no bookstores could be found there then,
If he'd had sufficient cash to spend
On Latin poetry, a history tome
In Greek, or English tract to read at home,
If Will could read those antiquated tongues--
Unlikely, since his schooling wasn't long.
Tush. No matter. Soon, his ears pricked up
To Love’s music, between hiccups.
Engaged to one, but wed another without banns?
Well first Ann Whatley got to Will,
Then but 18, and hot to spill
His seed into a wet and willing wench.
But soon Willie was called before the bench,
Because another Ann named Hathaway
Had William in the family way:
The two of them got married right away,
And daughter Sue was born in half a year.
By 1585, two more kids appeared:
(The twins, Hamnet and Judith, so-named
After a long-time neighbor and his dame--
No connection to the Hamlet play
Which hadn't yet been written, anyway.)
So there's our altar-hero, only 21,
Possessed of wife, three kids, and no books--none!
Which causes one to wonder, all in fun.
Perhaps our William joined an actors' troupe,
To 'scape the wife and baby poop.
Three kids under-3, at that young age,
Might spur a man to flee the cage,
And be a player on a Strange stage,
Or battle Spanish Catholics overseas.
(Low Countries war would be a breeze,
Compared to wife and three babies.)
No one is certain how he came into
Such prominence as he would later do.
For now, let's leave him at a meal with Ann,
The twins, and 3-year-old Susannah,
Or belching beer with friends for fun,
Or poaching Lucy's deer without a gun.
I'm poking fun at Will, but it's the truth:
His town was small, its residents uncouth.
At 21, Kit Marley got around--
In secret agent's academic gown.
His study of Theology prepared him for
The role of spy in the religious war
To gain poor souls--and garner rich terrain
In England, France, Italy, and Spain.
Cambridge provided fertile common ground
Where homegrown boys like Christopher were found
And groomed for the clandestine underground
By men behind the throne, to keep the crown--
By whom I mean Bur'ley and Walsingham
Who orchestrated deadly stings and scams
Against home enemies – and those abroad –
Who sought to kill the Queen to please their God
And put the crown upon a Catholic head
Should, suddenly, Elizabeth fall dead.
Stood first in line to England's throne, some said.
Her co-religionists abroad all claimed
The crown for Mary Stuart in God's name.
Now here's her story, how she came to blame.
As France's King Francis's widowed dame,
Marie returned to Scotland to be Queen--
Where life got gothic, like a movie scene!
First, she wed a royal 'wannabe',
A twit of the nobility, Lord Darnley:
And darn, that Darnley killed her closest friend
While she was pregnant, unable to defend
As David Rizzio was brutalized
By Darnley and his men before her eyes.
An embryonic King inside her belly,
Queen Mary’s swollen legs turned into jelly.
You think that's horrible? There’s more to tell:
Lord Darnley soon got killed by Earl Bothwell,
Who kidnapped widow Mary—who swooned and fell
In love with Bothwell, then married him as well!
In brief, her choices chafed the Scottish Earls,
Who chased her southward to a safer world--
To England, where her cousin 'Liz'beth ruled,
For refuge, but the unchaste Queen was fooled--
Imprisoned for no crime for nearly twenty years,
Because of English Crown succession fears.
Elizabeth's advisers thought she sought it,
'Though no charge of anything was brought
Against the shut-up Queen, ‘til she got caught
In a dirty machiavellian plot.
“Machiavellian” means expedient,
Deceitful, dirty tricks--obedience
To principles described by Machiavelli,
The sage of politics in Italy,
Whose masterpiece of strategy, The Prince,
Gave power-minded readers helpful hints--
And frankly, Walsingham's fingerprints
Were all over Machiavelli’s book:
He practiced covert war—did what it took.
Sir Walter Raleigh: soldier, poet, knight,
Explorer, courtier, husband, father, writer--
Was said to head a so-called “School of Night”
Along with several other leading lights
Who shined in England's dark church-state.
According to a book by A.D. Wraight,
It boasted the best minds in all the nation--
The science seekers of that generation:
This “School” laid down no rules, nothing formal--
Just brilliant minds all doing what was normal:
Thinking freely, with no dogma fetters,
Sharing thoughts in person and in letters
“To the vital warmth of freezing science”
Burning with learning, fueled by self-reliance.
Occasionally a few would get together
To take-in someone's brand new play or lecture.
Was the Royal Patent to explore
Th' Trans-Atlantic Ocean's distant shore
To colonize the land they called “Virginia”
<>The settlers landed on the banks of Carolina,
Intending to be seeds of a new nation,
To found an English colony, a station
In the battle against Spain at sea
By seizing ships (pirate diplomacy)
Off Florida and the CaribBEan Sea--
Years before Jamestown, or Plymouth Rock--
But all they found in Roanoke was bad luck:
No military fort, Just human bones
On the marsh beach, bleached by sun.
A man was pierced by arrows as he drank
Some water at a nearby riverbank.
Suppressing fear, the stranded planters hoped
John White would get to England soon for help.
It could've been a landscape painting scene:
114 settlers, last seen
All gathered at the shore, waving goodbye
To watercolor artist White, whose eye
Fixed on his daring daughter Eleanor,
Standing bravely stranded on the shore
(A fetus in her belly) cold and tearful
Hoping her dad will give the Queen an earful,
And get provisions for them--and a ship.
White sailed 4,000 miles, a month-long trip.
Is that of Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots,
Confined for 16 years within the walls
Of castles in North England, ‘though no law
Was broken by the Scots’ unbroken Queen
(Unvisited by royal kin, or seen
By young King James (Darnley’s and) her son.
Her plight much-moved Anthony Babington
And 13 of his idealistic friends--
Young Catholics whom the very dangers led
To grisly ends. And Mary lost her head.
Talk about a harrowing tale! Here's how
The Virgin Queen’s men took the harlot Queen down:
In 1586, Walsingham framed
A double-cross on the man above-named
By sending men to Babington one day:
Two spies who knew exactly what to say:
Namely, Nich'las Skeres and Robin Poley,
Who swore to God to love Queen Mary wholly,
Which Babington swallowed--hook, line and sinker,
(Not knowing Poley was a bloody winker,
A double-dealing Machiavellian thinker.)
So it was secretly arranged for words between
The Plotters and the imprisoned queen
To be conveyed in kegs of beer, concealed,
And treason was eventually revealed--
Which panicked Babington, who tried to scram
And plea bargain with Francis Walsingham--
To no avail. Too bad. For Anthony and friends
Were given rope enough for gutsy ends:
First they were hanged, but kept alive,
Then sliced open, and quartered with knives,
Their entrails set aflame before their eyes,
And mutilated genitals stuffed in their mouths
For the titillation of the crowd.
Their property by law went to the crown.
For Mrs. Babington, tough luck--
Sir Walter Raleigh got her home and stuff.
The families of the suckered men received
No succour from Lord Bur'ley or the Queen.
They lost their family heirlooms, land and homes--
All bestowed on Raleigh, although Walsingham
Was the man who brought about the scam!
(But he would get revenge on Raleigh soon,
By sending Walter’s Roanoke folks to doom.)
Queen Mary’s trial came six months later:
Her sentence was unnerving: “Decapitate her.”
Assigned during those early years, because
Not much was written down--except for this:
He did Her Majesty good service
In 1586, away from University,
Possibly at Rheims, two months or three,
Pretending to be Catholic possibly.
In any case, the deans did not agree
That Marley should be given his M.A.
(Imagine Christopher’s shocked look,
After all the books he'd read.) It took
A letter to the university
From the Privy Council and Lord Bur'ley
To alter the decision of the Deans
By mentioning Kit's service the Queen
“Their Lordships thought [it] good to certify”
To his “good service [for] her Majesty”
Such “faithful dealing” ought to be “rewarded.”
Thus was Kit's M.A. Degree awarded.
Lord Bur'ley surely knew, what he’d been up to
During those weeks away from Cambridge U,
When a machiavellian coup de grace
Went down (to Queen Mary Stuart's loss).
Lord Bur'ley was Kit Marley’s main boss--
The Queen's top man--a Privy Councillor--
And, of Cambridge U, the Chancellor!
From a bullet in the thigh at Zutphen?
It took six months to get his body in a vault,
For whatever reason, or whoever's fault.
Was it Philip's debts? Or was that pretext
To defer his burial ‘til February next--
Until the week the Queen of Scots was offed--
A funeral with heads of State well-coiffed.
Sidney, the sonneteer, had briefly ruled
The poet scene! Oh yes, Philip fulfilled
The duties of a poet-courtier,
Political adviser, and brave soldier.
A hero for the Anglo-Prot nation,
His voice was heard against Spain's domination,
In favor of New World colonization.
He fully blessed Sir Walter’s colony
At Chesapeake, a brisk economy
To flourish mightily for years to come,
And to become a new “... emporium
For the confluence of all nations
That love or profess ...virtue or commerce.
And to stop the Catholic axis advance:
The Spanish-Roman, Jesuit alliance
Which had the goal of global dominance.
Today, Phil's funeral seems like P-R
To celebrate an English superstar,
Devised by Francis Walsingham, himself,
To put his son-in-law’s cadaver ‘on the shelf’
Six months, until Queen Mary was beheaded
(Supposedly since Francis was indebted)
Then have a showy funeral procession
To overshadow Mary's execution.
I tell you now--or fail analysis:
Poley and Skeres, who hoodwinked Babington
In service of Sir Francis Walsingham,
Later helped get Marley's “murder” done
In service of Lord Bur'ley and his son.
That's all I'll say on Marley's end for now
(As to who, where, when, and how)
Because another subject must be sung--
About the Separatists, and one who hung
For Marley's benefit. It won't take long.
Another faction had to be undone:
Besides the roaming Romans, men within
The English Church refused to say “Amen”
To hierarchic practices and rites
Not followed by disciples of the Christ.
For when the Protestants first put the crown
Upon Eliza's head, they soon put down
All doubts about church rites in every town,
Through sanctioned prayer-book liturgy:
Meaning zero preachers, just “dumb clergy”
Reading from the Book of Common Prayer,
And puppet Bishops – repetitious sayers
Of formulaic phrases, propped by Law.
Many sought the prideful Bishops’ downfall,
Including John Penry and John Udall,
And Henry Barrow and John Greenwood,
Who did everything on earth they could
To bring about religious tolerance--
Along with fellow Separatists, Puritans,
Congregationalists and Presbyterians.
These learned, dedicated preachers tried
To teach the Bishops better rules, supplied
By Christianity's New Testament:
Such as, God’s holy preachers need no vestment.
The man Elizabeth had
The task of silencing effectively
The opposition's voice, lived lavishly,
Like Royalty, a prodigal spendthrift--
A certain stiff Archbishop John Whitgift.
Whose task it was to stifle all dissent
In print against the Church Establishment.
Archbishop John was quite a potentate--
In charge of all the Anglican episcopate.
He even executed one some think a saint.
Maybe you think it’s Marley, but it ain’t.
He stuck his Welsh neck out, and tried
To sharply criticize Church polity
In The Exhortation and The Equity.
The upshot of John's argument was this--
Amend the Roman Catholic hierarchic
Structure of the English Church right quick.
Penry believed he could convince the Queen
To make the changes needed for a clean
Renewal of her Church establishment,
If given leave to voice his argument
Against the Bishops, in her Royal presence.
He hoped to give the prelates simple lessons,
Like the Gospels and Epistles teach,
And state the need for learned Christian preachers
Who speak Welsh in Wales to native speakers.
(As Penry might have stated (tongue-in-cheek):
English ain’t the language that God speaks
In the land of daffodils and leeks.)
John Penry entered Cambridge when Kit did--
When both of them were 16-year-old kids
Intending to become men of the cloth
By working hard at school, avoiding sloth.
But John was not a literary wit
Like Kit. His eye fixed on a church pulpit.
The Welshman was a family man. His wife,
Fair Eleanor and he gave righteous life
To four sweet girls, with names of divine scope:
Safety, Comfort, Deliverance and Hope
The girls were called, to help the couple cope
When the family was on the run
In Scotland, fearing 'Bishop Whitgift's gun--
Which is metaphor, of course, because
Archbishop Whitgift's deadly weapon was
The dreaded royal Court of High Commission,
Which acted like the Spanish Inquisition,
To stamp out anti-factions and division,
Through torture and confinement in a prison.
To overcome this state was Penry’s mission:
Replace oppression with true Christian vision,
Based on the Bible’s plan and admonition.
The Court of High
Commission was set-up
By 12 Bishops in clerical get-up,
(Robes, big hats and staffs, that sort of stuff)
To force fanatic nonconformists to ‘shut up’--
To stop protesting the Official Faith.
At this High Court, no one pled 'the 5th':
Defendants had to speak against themselves,
Or give the name and deeds of someone else,
By means of painful torture if it helped
To unlock lips, or loosen silent tongues,
By stretching limbs of one in question, hung
For long stretches of time, taken aback
By a contraption called 'the rack'.
Doctrine-wise, but not so anti-Catholic
As Walsingham and Bur'ley, whose fix
It was to jail and re-convert the Jesuits.
So Catholic priests routinely were arrested,
Thrown into jail, their faith severely tested
By Richard Topcliffe, sadistic with a knack
And private torture chamber with a rack.
Since he was on the Queen's payroll,
He had no fear for his immortal soul--
Sometimes he'd visit her and tell
Her tales of corporal punishment and hell.
Was execution. Ancient precedent
Dictated hanging, disembowelment
And quartering. Or burning at the stake
Might be the fate for doctrinal mistake,
As with a “heretic” named Francis Kett,
A visionary preacher burned to death
For doubting Jesus (His Divinity), yet
“Blessed be God,” said Kett, to his last breath.
And yet, the man Black John desired to get
His hands on most, was not Penry or Kett,
But one who used the pseudonym “Marprelate,”
Whose satire mocked Whitgift, who tried to quell it
Literarily. And so I’ll tell it.
With scores of vessels threat'ning England's shore,
An Armada 'neath the cliffs of Dover--
Fought-off by English navy ships (never
Braver sailors) --and inclement weather.
Spain's ships sailed 'round to Ireland's coast
Where they foundered at great cost.
A landed enemy took pot-shots at Bishops,
In satirically persuasive essay tracts,
In which the writer revealed ribald facts
About the Bishops, making smart-ass cracks
About their ignorance that couldn't be ignored!
Oh yes, “Martin Marprelate” made holy war
On Archbishop Whitgift, and adjured
The Bishops under him (who lived like kings)
To change their ways, give up their gawdy rings.
Marprelate taunted Whitgift, urging “Sir John”
(“The Canterbury Caiphas”) to 'bring it on'.
So Whitgift hired Thomas Nashe's wit,
Who smartly answer Martin's words with it--
Out-quipping the satirical Marprelate
In a pamphlet called An Almond for a Parrot.
And then an all-out search of homes was made
To find the stealthy printer Walde-grave,
Detain the suspects, confiscate the press,
Interrogate until someone confessed.
This plan was carried out with small success:
Martin's identity remained unsolved,
Because so many people were involved.
Tom Nashe believed John Penry was to blame--
And others have suggested other names,
Believing Marley wrote the first two tracts,
The other four by friends, to hide Kit’s tracks.
The first “Martin Mar-prelate” texts were penned
Expressly by the author for his friend –
A man of great learning--Anthony Bacon,
Francis's brother, who years before had taken
Leave of home for Switzerland and France,
In order to improve his circumstance
By meeting deep thinkers and leaders there,
Like Beza, Montaigne, and Prince Henry Navarre.
In world affairs, the Bacons had few betters,
As Robert Devereux's most shrewd abettors:
Advising Earls of court matters in letters.
More on the Bacons and the Cecils later,
'Cause the curtain’s rising at The Theater,
In five-beat lines of rhymed iambic meter.
Enough about old England’s civil woes,
Let’s hear about those London theater shows.”
And so, with no further ado, here goes:
On stages far and near, plays for years
Were done by companies of players
Under the patronage of wealthy peers,
From Oxford-, Pembroke-, and Derby-shire.
Each company pursued its own agenda:
Art for art's sake, or courtly propaganda.
Stage-plays could be 'morality' or 'mystery',
Conveying tales of Virtue or Church history,
While other plays were entertaining 'toys'
Performed at class establishments by boys.
The first theater was built in Southwark, London,
When Kit was 12, by James Burbage and sons:
The handsome up-and-coming actor, Dick,
And cunning Cuthbert, who kept books and fixed
The theater’s stage props when they broke,
And even coached new actors who misspoke.
Young Cutty was a smart, ambitious bloke.
The new establishment was named The Theater.
A decade later, a competitor
Named Henslowe built one on another street
(The Rose, he called it) with more seats.
Whenever Henslowe hired a play-writer,
He'd make a note, to know how much was paid
To whom, and how much money each play made.
With entries back to 1591,
The theater maven rose to the occasion,
Employing the Lord Admiral's acting men,
Featuring his son-in-law, Edward Alleyn,
Who triumphed in the role of Tamburlaine
On the brand new theater stage, The Rose,
For which Kit Marley wrote successful shows
Alone, or in collaboration with
Young writers now referred to as the “wits”
By whom, I mean Tom Nash and Robert Greene,
George Peele, Tom Kyd and Francis Bacon, lean
And mean, who teamed up for dramatic scenes
When patronage demanded--which made sense--
Since well-wrought scripts commanded recompense.
Born to wealth and privilege, Edward DeVere.
Was Ned the noted poet without peer
As his proponents say? The answer's “No”
As his biography will clearly show.
There is no way, no sliver of a chance
He lacked the talent, heart, and circumstance.
But in his youth the Earl could joust and dance!
At 12, young Edward lost his dad,
And gained the ancient Earldom his dad had.
But the 17th Earl of Oxford was cad --
The record shows his actions mostly bad.
Although he had a flair for the dramatic,
Beyond that fact, his case is problematic.
It’s true he paid for complimentary verses,
And scenes his group of players could rehearse,
(His comedies were judged “among the best.”
Read Ogburn if you want to know the rest.
This much I'll state, and won't equivocate--
Unless a well-versed Oxfordite relates
In verse the story of their candidate,
Accounting for the facts, exactly zero,
That Oxford's Earl was any kind of hero--
These verses vaunt a man superior DeVere
The muses' darling, also known as “Shake-speare.”
With two parts of Tamburlaine the Great
About the Scourge of God, who conquers all,
And knows neither defeat, nor tragic fall.
At the start, The Prologue proffers this:
From jigging veins of rhyming mother-wits,
And such conceits as clownage has in pay,
We'll lead you to the stately tent of war,
Where you shall hear the Scythian Tamburlaine
Threatening the world with high astounding terms,
And scourging kingdoms with his conquering sword.
View but his picture in this tragic glass,
And then applaud his fortunes as you please.
A sequel came, by popular applause,
Because the general welcomes [it] receiv'd,
When [Tamburlaine] arrived last upon the stage
Made Marley's “blank verse” plays the latest rage
(An emperor paraded in a cage!)
But one more thing, before we turn the page:
We should give ear to mighty Tamburlaine,
(First played by youthful “shake-scene” Ned Alleyn)
Provide a rationale by which to gauge
His ruthlessness and lust for dominance
In words inspiring and elegant:
Nature, that fram'd us of four elements
Warring within our breasts for regiment,
Doth teach us all to have aspiring minds:
Our souls, whose faculties can comprehend
The wondrous architecture of the world,
And measure every wondering planet's course
Still climbing after knowledge infinite,
And always moving as the restless spheres,
Will us to wear ourselves, and never rest.
These words describe Kit Marley's spirit best.
At home in Stratford, poaching deer?
Working as a glover, like his pere?
This we know for sure about our man:
Age 25, shacked-up with Ann,
Three little kids, and zero land.
Perhaps young William had a plan
To travel two days’ journey south
To London, England's largest town
And be an actor--learn to smile, frown,
While speaking words by others written down.
Although his reading wasn't up to speed.
Within a decade, Shakspere had it made--
A one-tenth share of Globe Theater trade,
A Big House in his town, up on a hill,
And London colleagues calling upon Will
To come up with a play occasion’ly,
Which he accommodated easily,
Because he knew a man who knew Kit Marley.
But back in '89, Will, he
Was still in Stratford with his family,
Considering career change, possibly--
For he appears in London nine years later,
Associated with the new Globe theater.
And yet no scholar can adduce a fact
About how Shakspere ever learned to act
(Of evidence of this there is a lack.)
We'll take another look at Will with tact
When we to Stratford town come back.
But now it’s time to tumblicate on Tom,
And Tom, and Tom, and Tom, and Tom…and Tom
In sketches roughly touching on their links
To Christopher--immortalized in ink:
Here's Tom Nashe,
a close associate
Of Kit – a fertile and prolific wit.
Tom kiddingly called Marley “alchemist
Of eloquence who outbrav'd better pens
By swelling bombast of bragging blank verse.”
His explosive prose was never terse.
More on the greatest Thomas later. First,
Let’s meet the other Thomases in ruffs,
And how they link to Marley, off the cuff.
Tom Lodge in this hodge-podge--or lodge
Him nigh to Munday, or another drudge.
This Tom wrote prose and practiced medicine.
Later, we will add the parts found missin’
From his novel, Rosalynd, which Kit
Retold in the stage play, “As You Like It”
(See the essay “As You Lie, Kit.”)
Time to meet the next Tom on our list.
To be “among the best” of dramatists
On critic Meres's list -- Thomas Kyd,
Who wrought revenge plays like the Romans did.
This Tom would write two tortured damning letters
To Lord Puckering, the Keeper, while in fetters,
Implying Marley was a royal traitor,
A secret Scot succession schemer
Intemperate hothead, atheist blasphemer.
Kyd died without a patron one year later.
The not-so-famous Thomas Watson:
Noted knave and English sonneteer,
And Latin verse-writer extr'ordinaire,
Inspiring aspiring “Shake-speare”
Who ('twas said back then) was Watson’s heir,
Writing plays “among the best,”said Meres.
Tom was a literary pioneer.
And author of Artis Analyticae Praxis,
In Latin words, grammar, and syntax,
Over my head, so here's some bio-facts:
This Thomas mastered Math, astronomy,
Solar optics and geography.
Tom Harriot joined Walter Raleigh's quest
To outfit pilgrim ships and send them West
To launch a colony in the New World,
At Roanoke, as yet totally unspoiled
Before the hated Spanish flag unfurled.
He wrote a long, inaccurate account longhand,
A Briefe and True Report of the New…Land
Of life among the natives – a ‘puff piece’
In fact, the settlers didn’t have much peace.
An indictment against Kit later supposes
Tom’s miracles surpassed the prophet Moses,
Since he made thorns appear a bed of roses.
The one who liked Kit Marley’s poems best
Was Walsingham, preferred above the rest
As “Shakespeare” publisher Ned Blount attests.
His entrance to this story is belated,
But Thomas Walsingham and Kit were fated
Early in their lives to meet as spies--
Two smart guys, in their early twenties,
Hustling to make some Royal money
As agents for Sir Francis, young Tom's cousin--
Intelli-gents from Cambridge, two of a few dozen.
At 28, Tom gained the family estate
In Kent – land, mansion, ornate gate:
The very place where four years later, Kit,
While visiting as Thomas's house-guest
Was found and placed under sudden arrest.
But when it seemed that Kit might be bereft
Of breath, Tom helped fake his best friend's death.
Return to Marley hangin' on Hog Lane
One London afternoon in '89,
Big-time playwright, rightly feelin' fine--
Like writin' down another mighty line,
When he's accosted by a William Bradley,
Who’s furious at Kit's friend Watson--badly
Wants revenge, but takes-on Kit instead.
The two of them begin to fight with swords
When Tom shows up, Bradley shouts these words:
“Art thou now come? I’ll have a bout with thee.”
But Watson dueled more skillfully and killed
In self-defense—or so the poets told
The jury and the judge, Sir Roger Manwood.
Tom did what any self-protecting man would.
Despite this, both got sentenced to do time
In Newgate Prison, for the uncivil crime
Of murder and disturbing civil peace.
Tom Watson served 4 months, and Kit three weeks.
While William's still in Stratford with his fam.,
And Penry pines in Scotland on the lam,
Marley is in London in a jam--
In ‘rapic’ poetry, with lines enjambed
As creeks at flood will overflow a dam.
Alas, their plight is painful to evoke:
Since the Armada threat required ships,
It took 3 years for White to make the trip
Again to Roanoke, crossing the great sea.
His grand-daughter, Virginia Dare, was three--
But when he finally he got there--where was she?
Everyone was gone; nothing to see
Except “CROATOAN” carved into a tree.
The group had vanished into history.
Now here our narrative must clearly state
The murky causes of the settlers' fate.
According to The Mystery of Roanoke,
It's no secret Walsingham was broke
And out-of-pocket for his spy network.
Stings like Babington's hurt his net worth.
So when the Queen gave Babingon's estate
To Walter, Francis felt he should retaliate
By scuttling Raleigh's New World expedition--
Subtracting from success by one addition:
A Captain 'on the take' to not take
The hapless settlers to the Chesapeake.
But leave them at a hot and hostile beach,
With neither help nor fresh supplies in reach.
Alas too soon by
Destins fatal knife
Sweet Meliboeus is deprived of life.
“That though great Meliboeus be away:
Yet like to him there many still remain,
which will uphold her country from decay.”
These somber words Tom Watson did convey
Because a friend and legend passed away,
Francis Walsingham, the machiavel,
And then he names Mr. William Cecil
AKA Lord Bur'ley, the Queen's apostle,
AKA “old Damon” whom she knows of old
For such as Nestor was to Grecian's guide:
Worth ten of Ajax, worth all Croesus' gold,
if his deserts in balance could be tried.
Damon is he that counsels still aright,
and heedfully [preserves] Diana's store:
And wakes when others rest themselves by night,
we Arcads called him Cecil heretofore.
In short, Lord Bur'ley's leadership inspired
Watson when the spymaster expired.
The torturer Dick Topcliffe was rehired
By Lord Bur'ley--and he was never fired.
Kit Marley had play-writing on the brain:
He wrote alone, or in collaboration with
Dramatic 'wits' like Thomas Nashe and Kyd,
To prop the ruling class and make some quid.
Beyond Tamburlaine, in his own name,
Kit's credited with five plays for the stage:
Including Dido, Queen of Carthage,
An early play performed by boys on stage.
And Massacre at Paris, by actors of Lord Strange
The Jew of Malta, Doctor Faustus, Edward 2nd,
All played before the date his death is reckoned--
But not in print until this poet rare
Allegedly stopped breathing common air.
Yet, all the plays--one quality they share:
Recurring themes and phrases we can hear
Reprised in plays ascribed to Will Shake-speare
Like fingerprints resounding in the ear.
Repeatedly, Kit Marley quotes himself,
If it were someone else, it would be pelf!
Kit englished Ovid's Latin poems of Love
And Part of Lucan's Civil War in Rome
(Line by line translated, finely combed).
He also authored Hero and Leander,
818 lines of “Shakespeare” standard:
Deserving of its standing on the shelf
With Venus and Adonis (also by himself).
So now it's time to take a longer gander
At the tale of Hero and Leander--
A myth-filled mirror psychological,
With mirthful wordplay that's ironical,
And metaphor and words rhetorical--
A love-story that's tragical and tender,
About a virgin, Hero, nun of Venus,
Who shyly eyes Leander's keenness,
Yes, to be with her, and feel the “we-ness.”
And Hero felt the same, and craved his “he-ness”
Surrendering her sense of separate “me-ness”:
Hero Leander is, Leander Hero;
Such virtue love hath to make one of two.
If, then, Leander did my maidenhead git,
Leander being myself, I still retain it.
But first, Leander talked and talked and talked
Persuading willing Hero if she balked.
Want details of that evening's tryst? They kissed
And knew a night of love-making and bliss.
Sweet are the kisses, the embracements sweet,
When like desires and affections meet.
Of course, the envious gods and meddling Fates,
They dashed the love-birds hoped-for second date.
But that part of their story has to wait
For five more years, 'til 1598,
Because Kit wrote another amatory
Narrative, another rhyming story
Showing gods of Greek mythology
Involved in love-plots on humanity.
A masterpiece of narrative in verse,
Venus and Adonis is the first
True tragi-comic love-po'm Kit had written,
Where Pre-Christian Divinities are smitten
By Love for human virtue, form and beauty:
So goddesses and gods feel it's their duty,
Yes, to sate their lust for human booty.
If Kit liked boys, or had a comely lass?
Since many gents were on the homo side
It's possible the poet took a ride
Upon a youthful actor’s front or back:
I say this, not to titillate or shock,
But simply to evaluate, take stock
Of Marley's liking cock or cunt sex,
By putting it into … a cultured context.
Sodomy was judged a(n) heinous crime
Although performed by men since ancient times.
Supposedly, Kit made a pederasty joke
That 'those who don't love boys, and smoke
Tobacco pipes' are fools. And so, today,
Some homosexuals claim Kit was ‘gay,’
But he more likely swung the other way.
To tell the love-live of our hero, Kit,
Requires terms both sweet and passionate,
And phrases fragrant as a thousand posies
Clutched with lilies, marigolds and roses--
Metaphors that cause the hormone juice
To flow as if by pheromones induced:
But, so this narrative is not x-rated,
I’ll speak of Marley’s stage career instead
And list the plays he penned when in his twenties,
With summaries, and helpful comment’ries.
For all my new-age, post-mod, readership:
The printing press was like the internet
To ignorant Elizabethans, yet
Their writers lacked the freedom to express
Opinion on Her Majesty's success,
Or who'd succeed her, their best guess
(Thanks to Henry 8, a royal mess)--
A censorship none dare transgress.
A careful watch was kept by Stationers,
Who registered all manuscripts, while Players
Answered to the Master of Revels,
Who censored plays portraying social evils,
Like scenes of sudden government upheaval.
If a stage-play sounded critical
Of government officials, or political,
Or was perceived to be inimical
To church-state status quo, it had to go.
The players would perform a different show,
Or modify the scenes to please, just so.
On stage and print, despite such censorship,
A brilliant wit like Thomas Nashe could slip
A dig, small heap of praise, or slyly hip
Allusion to some well-known person or event:
A playwright understood--to circumvent
The censor's strict intent, and still be relevant,
Meant cloaking “here and now” things of the Age
In past events and places on the stage.
It's said that Tamburlaine was Walter Raleigh,
Polonius in Hamlet was Lord Bur'ley
And Doctor Faustus doubled as John Dee;
The character Hamlet, deeply troubled prince,
Was actually the Scots' King James. The hints
Were obvious to playgoers of ‘92
If they were ‘in on it’ and had a clue.
Bards borrowed plots and stories from the past,
To make it possible to write plays fast,
And hit the boards before a reference passed
Into oblivion, where nothing lasts.
A record of his burial survives.
And words by fellow poets still alive:
To Watson, worthy many epitaphs
For his sweet Poesi for Amyntas Tears
And joys so well set down.
Soon after Tom was buried the ground
A lengthy Latin poem by him was found
For Countess Mary Herbert of Pembroke,
Whose praises all the literati spoke,
So Marley wrote a Preface to the book
In polished Latin verse, with lyric grace:
This is how A.D. Wraight translates:
Delia born of laurel-crowned race...
You are imparting now to [my] crude pen
Breathing of high and mighty rage...
So will I (Kit wrote)...on the first page
Of every poem invoke thee ...to my aid.
Mary Herbert's muse was for the Ages,
Kit testifies in lofty Latin phrases,
Her two sons later followed her tradition
By sponsoring the Shake-speare first edition.
And promises to extol his muse's praises.
Prodigiously productive Robert
Descended from the tower of academe
To write first-person journalistic prose,
And English history plays for Henslowe's Rose.
And thus did Robin eke-out a bare living:
Money enough for women, wine and herring,
But the struggle made him bitter and erring:
At the end of his life, Greene gave Kit shit
In a moralistic book, A Groatsworth of Wit--
Accusing our hero of being “atheist”
In print, which didn't help Kit's cause a bit.
“Wonder not, thou … gracer of Tragedians,”
The author posed in prose death-bedian,
That he (Greene), would praise and glorify
Almighty God, tell a different story
Than what he boasted of in younger days,
When he was writing pop stage-plays,
Believing God was just an ancient craze.
Greene cautions Kit against Machiavelli,
Whose Policy upsets the social belly,
“What are his rules, but … mockeries?” he asks.
For this and more, Greene takes the 'Wits' to task:
Telling Nashe, Kit Marley and George Peele
To use their skill with quills for things more real
Than writing dialogue for Henslowe’s stage.
In Groatsworth Greene's friends all felt his foul fettle,
Some said the true author was Henry Chettle.
No hint of Will Shakspere in London, no--
Until a scholar noted a false clue
By Robert Greene in 1592:
I mean “shake-scene” the “upstart crow”
Beautified by writers' feathers, so
It seems to point at Stratford Will, but no!
Another actor better fills the bill:
The actor Greene alludes to's Ned Alleyn;
In Wraight's analysis, it's all explained.
In fact: no solid note of Stratford Will
In London 's found 'til '94 – or later still.
How he did, eventually, you'll know,
How Will became a player in the show
If you read this saga's second part,
In which the poet “Shake-speare” gets his start.
Only a toe or two of Will's will fit
Into this “Part One” shoe cobbled for Kit.
Where Marley got in trouble once again
In ‘92, for coining a Dutch shilling
Just one year before his sudden “killing.”
It seems that Marley’s nemesis, Dick Baines,
And Kit were int'rested in making coins,
And sought a local goldsmith’s expertise
To satisfy their curiosities,
Or so they told English authorities
When the two of them got busted.
It seemed like neither of them could be trusted.
Words between the spy duo were flying:
Each accused the other one of lying,
Both were put out on the next boat
To England bound, with an advis'ry note
Explaining what the two had been about.
But owlish Bur'ley didn’t give a hoot:
No punishment was meted out or paid:
Coincidence? Or spy plot Bur'ley laid?
Archbishop Whitgift's men were on his tail,
Pursuing Penry purposely-- for jail;
But the pursuit produced them no avail,
For Penry disappeared without a trail.
The Welshman'd fled to Scotland for a spell,
With four young daughters, and his wife El,
Though he continued writing, truth to tell
(Theses Genevenses, Welsh translation,
For all the people of his native nation).
Eventually, John headed back to London
Since he got a special invitation
Asking for his family's participation.
In planting seeds for a new nation,
Joining with the Stepney congregation.
In a few months, John faced incarceration,
A trial, and a death sentence for “treason.”
His righteous words disturbed the peace
Of Whitgift and his Bishops in their fleece.
They captured John in March of '93,
And marched him into church-state custody,
Since private words discovered in his study
Implied Her Majesty to be ungodly.
John said he didn’t mean it, but too late:
His sentence was to hang, asphyxiate,
Unless some high-placed friend could obviate
The punishment, as had been done for Udall,
The theologian Separatist, that Fall.
But things did not look promising at all:
In April '93, John Greenwood and Henry Barrow,
Separatists who talked the straight and narrow
Path of righteousness, were executed
Their crime? “seditious books” distributed.
Intervention couldn’t save them: They hanged.
Their fellow followers were shaken. They sang
New hymns to Him who saved all nations.
But John regretted his repatriation.
Kit Marley dared ordain another vision,
Based on myth invention and revision
Of Fairie Queene's Virgilian Ideal fervor
Voiced by poet Edmund Spenser for
Diana, Queen Elizabeth Tudor.
Kit's model was another Latin master,
Who, like him, faced personal disaster:
I mean the banished Roman poet Ovid--
Instead of Spenser's praise of England's good
Kit Marley pressed for Counter-Nationhood
In Tamburlaine of godless rectitude.
He had a hack scratch verses on a church
Invoking Marley's hero to besmirch
The poet's name. A crude and “lewd”
Offensive poem by Richard Baines, who'd
Once been linked with Marley to the crime
Of coining, but now counterfeited rime:
“You strangers that do inhabit in this land,
“Note this same writing, do it understand.
“Conceive it well, for safeguard of your lives,
“Your goods, your children, and your dearest wives.”
For forty-nine more lines the Huguenots,
(Dutch Protestants) were damned by this have-not
In wretched verses signed “Tamburlaine”
As if by Kit, but actually by Baines.
For writing those “lewd verses” on the Wall.
His house was searched, his documents inspected:
Under a pile, they found what they expected:
An essay excerpt on the heresy
Of Arian (denying Trinity,
Maintaining only ONE Divinity).
Tom Kyd denied the document was his:
“It must belong to Kit Marley” he says,
“We shared a writing chamber for a year,
And Marley must've left that paper here.”
Yet (tragically) Tom Kyd was ‘taken in’,
For torture and intense interrogation.
The Council moved to legal action fast,
A warrant signed for Christopher's arrest,
Which spelled out where the poet stayed
At Scadbury, Tom Walsingham's estate.
Squeezed until he breathed some names, such as
The one's in Raleigh's School of Night. You know:
The ones who worshiped Universe like Bruno.
You remember what was said about the School of Night?
Well more evidence now comes to light
Since Marley read a sermon to this group,
A radical one, with the inside scoop
About a new Brunovian Republic
With Religious Freedom. No such luck
Until America--the Constitution--
When the colonists invented a solution
To the conflict between Church and State:
Simply (one from the other) separate!
In the dispute between those who knelt
In Church of England pews and those who felt
The Roman Pope was due obedience,
The School of Nighters sat not on the fence:
To them, the Christian faith was sheer nonsense--
The fuzzy wool that gathers on the Lamb
Of God--and church religion a mere sham.
Elizabethan England was a cauldron
Of free-thinking dissident expression.
Kit Marley harped on ignorant religion,
Made fun of it in plays and conversation,
And brought to bear his powers of persuasion,
By showing outright fabrication,
In the Holy Book of Christian nations.
Remembrances of Chumley's words and matters.
Which states that Kit spoke potently against
The Scriptures and The Trinity nonsense,
Based on old religious arguments,
And backed by scientific evidence.
Now hear the claim of “curs-ed” Chumley, who
Sayeth and verily believeth,
That one Marlowe is able to show more
Sound reasons for atheism than
Any divine in England—(or man)
Is able to give to prove divinity
& that Marlowe told him (in sincerity)
That he hath read the Atheist Lecture
To Sir Walter Raleigh and others.
In May, The Council, after little parley,
Signed a warrant of arrest for Marley,
Dropped its net upon the muses darling
And Sheriff Henry Maunder saddled up
For Scadbury where Marley had skedaddled.
And thither Maunder headed hurriedly
To take Kit into Council custody.
And Robert Cecil twiddled his moustache,
He signed his name with flourish and panache,
Rememb'ring Audrey Shelton, her fine ass.
At his friend Walsingham's country estate,
Away from Whitgift's witch-hunt (and the Plague
Which closed down all of London's stages),
Composing lines of poetry for pages
Of his latest love tale for the ages:
Hero and Leander, sea-crossed lovers
Who die after they dive beneath the covers.
So there's Kit Marley, on a late-May day,
With Walsingham, his friends, and company,
(Including Thomas's new lady Audrey)
Reciting from his poem, some high-tone bawdy
Lines by wet Leander, wide awake:
“If not for love, yet, love, for pity sake,
Me in thy bed and maiden bosom take.
At least vouchsafe these arms some little room,
Who, hoping to embrace thee, cheerly swum.
This head was beat with many a churlish billow,
And therefore let it rest upon thy pillow.”
George Chapman lapped it up, a local fellow
Poet in the wings--a mindful heeder.
Audrey shifted, gazed at a bird feeder;
She liked to listen, not much of a reader.
But when her mind began to drift and wander,
Who should catch her eye, but Sheriff Maunder
Walking up the path to the front door.
Knock. Knock. Kit paused at a caesura--
At the point where Hero's on the shore--
His mouth dropped. What next, he wasn't sure.
Of his examination by the Council.
We know Marley was freed without ado,
On one condition: that he promise to
Remain nearby, available each day,
In case the Councilors had more to say.
* * *
You can imagine: Marley's world turned
Upside down! Being hanged or burned
Like Francis Kett, was not the fate he'd earned
By being the Queen’s agent for eight years,
And writing History plays before "Shakespeare's".
Within ten days, Kit Marley turned up “dead.”
Of a two-inch stab-wound in his head,
Yet --even after this—poor Thomas Kyd
Was kept and questioned, tortured on the rack
So he would ‘dish the goods’ on Kit. In fact,
Tom wrote of Marley’s blasphemy and jests
(Like Jesus loving John the Baptist best)
And of his plans to go to Scotland (spying,
Or sucking up to James to be twice king)
In letters to Lord Keeper Puckering.
So why was Puckering so fixed on Marley,
While the poet walked away Scot-free?
Why wasn't Marley also put to rack,
(To rat on Raleigh, or Tom Harriot, perhaps)
Instead of asked politely to come back?
It makes no sense, unless the Council gods
Gave Christopher a triple-headed nod,
A secret ‘off-the-books’ covert arrangement,
Involving banishment, life-long estrangement.
And just to ‘seal the deal’, make sure it stuck,
They’d kill him with a feathered quill-pen’s stroke.
Did Devereux (the Earl of Essex) plead
Kit’s case to soften-up the tough old Queen?
Had Bur'ley coughed-up politic advice?
He’d bailed out Kit before--not once, but twice!
Would not great men help cushion Marley’s fall?
Sir Walter Raleigh joined with Devereux that Fall
To save the preacher Nicholas Udall.
Would they do the same for Kit? Stand tall?
No reason why they wouldn't, none at all.
Imagine please this closed-door bedroom scene:
Lord Bur'ley counsels mercy from the Queen.
“Banished for life,” she answers, sounding mean.
“Like that poet from Rome--Ovid, the lover,
Away from my realm Marley goes forever.”
A sentence with a precedent, in fact--
A month before, the Council passed an Act
Aimed at non-conformists' banishment
Under certain circumstances, which leant
Some legal pretext to Marley's punishment.
And John Whitgift, the Archbishop, got
Kit Marley's voice silenced for good, he thought.
To kill Kit Marley legally? Yes, very!
Exile was not severe enough, back then,
For one espousing “anti-Christian” doctrine
Although Marley was not the anti-Christ
He did mock hypocrites and criticize
Some biblical mistakes and tall-tale lies.
So death alone would do--or a good sham.
But whose decision was the Deptford scam?
Lord Bur'ley’s? Thomas Walsingham’s?
Or was the hoax the poet’s own idea?
Self-abnegating rite of suicide?
The death of public self by legal quill,
A quasi-execution by act of will?
Classical heroes played out such behavior:
Suicide like that of Christ, the Savior,
But with a philosophic twist to savor:
Like poisoned Socrates, or chaste Lucrece,
(Who killed herself on purpose, to erase
The stain of Tarquin’s tyranny and sin.)
Or the Latin poet (Seneca's kin)
Who wrote of Roman Civil Wars—Lucan,
Who 'took his medicine' and didn't hide,
When ordered by the law to suicide
For plotting death to Emperor Nero.
Perhaps Kit chose the same—to be a hero.
When plans were made to get Kit out of town,
But given those who were involved, it might
Have been at Essex Place, a late May night:
A richly-furnished room in candlelight,
Where Marley's plight is spelled out by the Fates
“Banished for life” the Earl of Essex states,
“By order of the Queen, so save your breath,”
...Banish[ed], Kit says, Be merciful, say ‘death,’
For exile hath more terror in his look,
Much more than death.
“Beware your wish,” the Earl admonishes
The poet, who looks back in astonishment.
“Your death is just what Archbitch Whitgift wants.
“But banish'd satisfies the Queen--" "That cunt,”
Inserted Tony Bacon, adjutant
Of Essex, mental giant, and a runt.
“--Not dead, and so the game is on.
“We've got your back, you genius paragon!
“Even Bur'ley is on board. We plan
“To bring in Ingram Frizer, Tom's man;
“My trusted servant, shady Nich'las Skeres,
“And Robin Poley, Bur'ley's chief espier,
“Like Nicholas and Ingram, a top-notch liar.
“Together they will fake your murder well,
“Conspiring a story they can tell.”
Then Francis, Bacon's brother, he broke in
With prose, since that's what he spoke in.
“Every man is ... architect of his ... fortune,
“For no man prospers so suddenly
“As by errors of others....”
Said the wiser of the Bacon brothers.
But Thomas Walsingham, he bluntly spoke
“Be not mistaken, Bacon. An ad hoc hoax
“Must be devised and implemented soon
“Since Venus & Adonis goes to print in June.”
“It's registered anonymously, see?
“Only five weeks ago, by yours truly.
“But since it's sure to bring its author fame,
“We need a plausible new writer's name,
“And someone to substantiate the claim--
“For those who buy the poem will want to know
“Who it was written by, if not Marlowe.”
“Oh yes! Like me, you'll need a nom de plume,”
Said Thomas Watson, entering the room.
“Something catchy like 'Willobie Bloom'
“Eternal life, a blossom from a tomb.”
“Yo Tom,” speaks Kit, “We all thought ye were dead!”
“I am,” Tom says, “Dee's messing with your head.
“Unless I also faked my death six months before,
“Another exile fled to distant shore.
“And fruitful wits, that in aspiring are,
“Shall discontent run into regions far.
“Where I continue writing learned poems
“And plays until safely returning home.”
With that, ingenious Thomas disappeared.
“Shakespeare [they said] was Thomas Watson's heir.”
“'Will' has an edge of action done with skill.
“William. Whilom. Formerly. At times
“My verse is blank, sometimes the couplets rhyme;
“My rhetoric is pointed, like a lance;
“My phrases: swords shaken at ignorance;
“My quill, a spear enforcing thunder-claps....
“I will (Achilles-like) shake spears. Perhaps
“No better name than 'William Shake-speare'
“To cover for my amorous first heir
“For Henry. Then, in coming months I'll toil
“On a graver poem in rhyme-royal,
“Retelling Ovid's story of Lucrece,
“The Roman matron raped, who found peace--
“And saved face--by suicide. A trace
“Of my sad fate I'll leave between the lines,
“My face unseen, save to the eye of mind.”
“A man named 'Will Shakspere', we'll try to find,
“Your age --29– with face unlined,”
Said Tony Bacon, brilliant mastermind,
As he studied Walsingham’s behind.
And then Kit Marley's eye appeared to glint.
A nearby candle flickered, nearly spent,
Consumed by that which it was nourish'd by,
Still smarting from his enemies' blind lies
Kit catches his friend Walsingham's kind eyes,
Then translates banish'd Ovid's famous lines:
“The living, not the dead can envy bite,
“For after death all men receive their right.
“Although death rakes my bones in funeral fire,
“I'll live, and as he pulls me down mount higher.”
For Christopher to be reported dead
In a knife-fight, stabbed above the eye,
As Skeres and Poley both would testify.
But not Kit's head, another's would be struck:
A man his age, a prisoner out of luck:
I mean John Penry, Church-reforming 'Saint'
In Newgate prison, voicing his complaint
To both the Earl of Essex and Lord Bur'ley,
Seeking help, so he’d treated fairly.
John had no clue whatever of the need
They had for a cadaver that could bleed
From a two-inch knife-wound in the head:
A lifeless ‘stunt-man’, so to speak, instead
Of Marley (lying nere the bed, it said).
Although his written pleas gave Penry hope,
Unfortunately, for John, it was 'no soap':
No matter how persuasive his appeal,
His fate, like Kit’s, was permanently sealed
By a machiavellian ‘backroom deal’
Because John's corpse would adequately do
For the jury of 16 to view:
He was the age and status of our hero,
The chances of discovery were zero:
The eyewitnesses were seasoned spies
Who made a lifelong living telling lies--
And the Cor'ner, one of Bur'ley's guys.
The man who had dead bodies handy
The Royal Coroner, named William Danby,
As trustworthy a man as can be, surely--
A longtime colleague of Lord Bur'ley.
His task was simple: render an opinion
On cause of death, after an inquisition.
And just in case the facts should leave some doubt,
The Queen herself made sure to spell it out,
A few weeks afterwards, in legal parlance
To state that Ingram Frizer’s act of violence
Was done to Christopher in self-defense.
So on May 29, in early evening,
Shortly after Penry finished dining,
The night before Kit Marley's sudden end
Two miles away, at nearby Deptford Strand,
With no notice to his wife, or warning,
John was taken to St. Thomas Watering
Immediately for hanging, but no quartering.
John's wife and daughters naturally were worried;
They didn't get to see just where he had been buried,
Because his corpse was carted that same night
To ‘stand-in’ as the victim of a knife-fight
24 hours later – after rigor mortis
Ran its stiff-to-slackened-muscles course.
When Frizer, Skeres and Poley testified
To “self-defense,” they lied. The jurors ‘bought it’.
Thanks to William Danby, no one caught it.
To help ensure the final inquest verdict
The office of the Queen itself asserted
Jurisdiction--and the cause of murder,
Stipulating self-defense. They heard her:
Ingram Frizer was set free on the double,
Then right away he got back into trouble.
Archbishop Whitgift wasn’t satisfied--
Kit's nemesis Dick Baines was authorized
To list Kit’s quips and outright blasphemies
Against Christianity, and jokes
Like loving boys and pipe tobacco smoke,
And spoken doubt about the holy Bible
(Its time-frame wholly unreliable)
And the new church liturgy not viable.
Baines swore Kit admired Catholic Mass,
Thought Protestants were hypocrites and asses.
This 'dangerous... mouth must be stopped', he wrote,
The kind of stuff that got old Whitgift's goat!
You can read it for yourself, quote for quote.
But note! The Note was copied for the Queen:
Phrases and dates were changed. What does it mean?
Treasonous and lewd remarks were cut,
And the date Kit's mouth finally got shut
Does not fit the date he was interred.
Plus, “Violent and fearful death” was altered
To “sudden and fearful end of his life.” Key words
Were cut--“violent” and “death”--which blurred
The true result of Kit's last day in Deptford.
Historian Nicholl suspects deliberate fudging,
A “tidying up” to remove some smudging,
Yo, Nicholl's view of Christopher is grudging!
Either the Queen was blatantly deceived,
Or, Her Majesty also believed
Kit's death sentence deserved to be reprieved.
An actor writing plays for cash, not glory,
Kit Marley, murdered in a “tavern brawl,”
About a bill for food and alcohol;
And Ingram Frizer got a royal pardon,
England got its own exiled Bard,
And Christopher's good name got slandered hard:
They said, at death, he cursed the name of God!
Aye! The bad ink that our hero got
Inspired sheets of plays without a blot:
Great Tragedies and Comedies with plots
About false death, exile and reconciliation,
And History plays about the English nation,
Renowned today for their supremacy,
(Obtained by Will Shakspere in secrecy)
Revealing Marley's re-invented self:
You'll find them on the 'William Shakespeare' shelf.
TO BE CONTINUED
Part One of The Marliad will be published in
May 2012 by Marlovian Books. .
Available in Book Format Only