|Kit And Will
||[Jul. 26th, 2017|09:09 am]
I've been looking at the case for Christopher Marlowe having faked his death and come back as Shakespeare. Verdict: unprovable but not implausible. There are no clinchers.|
Marlowe and Shakespeare were the same age. Marlowe died at 29 having already established himself as playwright, poet and man about town whereas Shakespeare was a late developer, and only appeared as an author- with the Marlovian Venus and Adonis- a couple of months after Marlowe's death. The one takes up where the other finishes.
I read Marlowe's Edward II. It's has all the qualities we call Shakespearian- the poetry, the stagecraft, the ability to see all sides of a question, the mastery of pathos- and resembles Richard II to the point of making the later play seem like an imitation or riposte- but one that improves on the original- which is not something one expects a mere copyist to pull off- unless of course- it were a case of a master in competition with himself.
So either we have two great writers- of an age- with remarkably similar skill-sets- the one beginning his career just as the other cashes in his chips- or else...
To what end, and how, would Marlowe have pulled this off? Presumably to throw the authorities, creditors, etc., off the scent - but then why return to exactly the same milieu as before, doing the same job, mixing with the same crowd and writing in what you consider the same style? Wouldn't people have noticed that Chris and Will were the same person?
At the time of his death Marlowe was effectively out on bail, having been accused of blasphemy- which was liable to the same penalties as treason- and had very good reason to disappear.
The theory goes that he was also a government agent- sufficiently valued by his employers for them to fake up a murder/unfortunate accident to get him off the hook. Once he was safely "dead" he went into exile- most probably to Italy. He continued to write- and his manuscripts found their way back to London- where an obliging theatrical entrepreneur called William Shakespeare was happy to act as his front.
Very few people needed to know about this arrangement- or suspected that anything was amiss. Kit was dead and Will was a witty, clubbable man, perfectly plausible as an author.
I'll leave it to Occam's Razor, in this case. :-)
On the one hand it doesn't matter in the least. We have the plays and who cares who wrote them! On the other hand it's interesting...
No, nothing can be proved either way but having been an avid student of Shakespeare and having presumed to teach courses in his work, Will is Will for me and nobody has held a candle to him since. This is, of course, a purely personal observation and I think that Will took notice of his contemporary's art and carried on in that vein. That said, there are baptismal records for each of them and a coroner's inquest into Kit's death by stabbing.
No-one doubts that Will and Kit were separate persons. The Marlovian case is that Kit went into exile- where he carried on writing- while Will- the theatrical entrepreneur- pretended to be the author of the plays and poems he sent home.
There are good reasons for believing the reports of Kit's death were faked up. Kit was a valued government agent with good reasons for wanting to disappear. The men who were with him at the time of his death were also government agents and/or professional conmen. The coroner who presided at the inquest was an associate of Kit's employer Thomas Walsingham, and could well have been in on the fix.
I guess I'm not much for conspiracy theories though as old ones go, it is intriguing.
Kind of an interesting idea, sort of an Elizabethan witness protection plan with a change of identity, given Kit Marlow's espionage work. Of course the London theatre scene backstage would have been pretty small then, so surely someone would have noticed? Especially given that plastic surgery was not yet invented?
Of course going abroad and posting back manuscripts would be quite possible.
Edited at 2017-07-27 07:09 am (UTC)
I think that's what would have happened. Kit is living abroad, working for the government- and sends manuscripts home- possibly in the diplomatic bag. Will- the theatrical entrepreneur- receives them and passes them off as his own. Maybe Will is already a bit of a writer- botching up old plays and such- so no-one turns a hair when he starts producing masterpieces. The players notice (and this is on the record) that Will's scripts are very neat and tidy- with no crossings out or revisions- and perhaps that's because they're fair copies- in Will's hand-writing- of Kit's messy originals.