Marlovian theory

Marlovian theory

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The Marlovian theory with regard to the Shakespeare authorship question
Shakespeare authorship question
Image:ShakespeareCandidates1.jpg|thumb|alt=Portraits of Shakespeare and four proposed alternative authors.|Oxford, Bacon, Derby, and Marlowe have each been proposed as the true author...

 is a fringe theory
Fringe theory
A fringe theory is an idea or a collection of ideas that departs significantly from the prevailing or mainstream view in its particular field of study. Examples include ideas that purport to be scientific theories but have little or no scientific support, conspiracy theories, unproven esoteric...

 that holds that the Elizabethan poet and playwright Christopher Marlowe
Christopher Marlowe
Christopher Marlowe was an English dramatist, poet and translator of the Elizabethan era. As the foremost Elizabethan tragedian, next to William Shakespeare, he is known for his blank verse, his overreaching protagonists, and his mysterious death.A warrant was issued for Marlowe's arrest on 18 May...

 did not die in Deptford
Deptford is a district of south London, England, located on the south bank of the River Thames. It is named after a ford of the River Ravensbourne, and from the mid 16th century to the late 19th was home to Deptford Dockyard, the first of the Royal Navy Dockyards.Deptford and the docks are...

 on 30 May 1593, as the historical records state, but rather that his death was faked, and that he was the main author of the poems and plays attributed to William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare was an English poet and playwright, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world's pre-eminent dramatist. He is often called England's national poet and the "Bard of Avon"...


Marlovians (as those who subscribe to the theory are usually called) base their argument on the apparent anomalies surrounding Marlowe's alleged death, and on what many scholars see as the obvious similarity between Marlowe's work and the works of Shakespeare, together with the coincidence that Shakespeare's works began appearing only after the apparent death of Marlowe.

The traditional argument against this is that Marlowe's death was accepted as genuine by sixteen jurors at an inquest held by the Queen's personal coroner, that everyone apparently thought that he was dead at the time, and that there is a complete lack of direct evidence supporting his survival beyond 1593. While there are similarities and influences between Marlowe and Shakespeare, Marlowe's style — and indeed his whole world view — are too different from Shakespeare's to be compatible with the claims of the Marlovians. All the direct evidence points to Shakespeare as being the true author.


The first person to propose that the works of Shakespeare were by Marlowe was Wilbur G. Zeigler, who presented a case for it in the preface to his 1895 novel, It was Marlowe: a story of the secret of three centuries and the first essay solely on the subject was written by Archie Webster in 1923. These two were published before Leslie Hotson's discovery in 1925 of the inquest on Marlowe's death. Since then, there have nevertheless been several other books supporting the idea—a list is given below—but perhaps the two most influential were those by Calvin Hoffman
Calvin Hoffman
Calvin Hoffman, born Leo Hochman , was an American theater press agent and writer who popularized the notion that playwright Christopher Marlowe was the actual author of the works attributed to William Shakespeare...

 (1955) and A.D. Wraight
Dolly Walker-Wraight
Dolly Walker-Wraight was a British school teacher and writer, notable for her support of Marlovian theory, the view that Christopher Marlowe was the true author of Shakespeare's works.-Life:...

 (1994). Hoffman's main argument centred on similarities between the styles of the two writers, particularly in the use of similar wordings or ideas—called "parallelisms". Wraight, following Webster, delved more into what she saw as the true meaning of Shakespeare's sonnets.

To their contributions should perhaps also be added that of Michael Rubbo
Michael Rubbo
Michael Dattilo Rubbo is an Australian filmmaker who has written and directed over 50 films in documentary and fiction....

, an Australian documentary film maker who, in 2001, made the TV film Much Ado About Something in which the Marlovian theory was explored in some detail, and the creation in 2009 of the International Marlowe-Shakespeare Society which has continued to draw the theory to the public's attention.

Marlowe's death

As far as is known and generally accepted by mainstream scholars, Christopher Marlowe died on 30 May 1593 as the result of a knife wound above the right eye inflicted upon him by Ingram Frizer
Ingram Frizer
Ingram Frizer, died August 1627, was an English gentleman and businessman of the late 16th and early 17th centuries who is notable for killing playwright Christopher Marlowe in the home of Eleanor Bull on 30 May 1593...

, an acquaintance with whom he had been dining. Together with two other men, Robert Poley
Robert Poley
Robert Poley was an agent employed in the secret service of Queen Elisabeth I, being principally employed by the so-called 'spymaster', Sir Francis Walsingham...

 and Nicholas Skeres
Nicholas Skeres
Nicholas Skeres was one of the four men present at the house of Eleanor Bull in Deptford, on the occasion of the death of the famous poet and playwright Christopher Marlowe...

, they had spent that day together at the Deptford home of Eleanor Bull, a respectable widow who apparently offered, for payment, room and refreshment for such private meetings.

The inquest

Two days later, on 1 June, the inquest was held in the same house by no less a figure than the Coroner of The Queen's Household, William Danby, and a 16-man jury found the killing to have been in self defence. The body of this "famous gracer of tragedians", as Robert Greene
Robert Greene (16th century)
Robert Greene was an English author best known for a posthumous pamphlet attributed to him, Greene's Groats-Worth of Wit, widely believed to contain a polemic attack on William Shakespeare. He was born in Norwich and attended Cambridge University, receiving a B.A. in 1580, and an M.A...

 had called him, is alleged to have been buried the same day in an unmarked grave in the churchyard of St. Nicholas, Deptford. The Queen sanctioned Frizer's pardon just four weeks later.

Most scholars would now agree the official verdict into Marlowe's death on May 30, 1593, was to some extent untrue, in that they conclude Marlowe's stabbing was not accidental, as claimed by the witnesses, but deliberately planned. Of those books or articles written about—or including an explanation of—Marlowe's death over the past twenty years or so, most of the authors believe that the witnesses were probably lying. Usually they maintain that it was in fact a political murder, citing the fact that two of the 'witnesses' (Robert Poley
Robert Poley
Robert Poley was an agent employed in the secret service of Queen Elisabeth I, being principally employed by the so-called 'spymaster', Sir Francis Walsingham...

 and Nicholas Skeres
Nicholas Skeres
Nicholas Skeres was one of the four men present at the house of Eleanor Bull in Deptford, on the occasion of the death of the famous poet and playwright Christopher Marlowe...

) were or had been agents in the pay of members of the government. Some commentators have found details of the killing itself unconvincing.

However the basis of the Marlovian theory takes this supposition to another level and asserts Marlowe's entire death was a deception.

Marlovian claim of means and opportunity

It's generally accepted that Marlowe had been employed in some capacity as a secret agent, both by Francis Walsingham
Francis Walsingham
Sir Francis Walsingham was Principal Secretary to Elizabeth I of England from 1573 until 1590, and is popularly remembered as her "spymaster". Walsingham is frequently cited as one of the earliest practitioners of modern intelligence methods both for espionage and for domestic security...

 and by the Cecils (Lord Burleigh and his son Robert Cecil
Robert Cecil
Robert Cecil may refer to:*Robert Cecil, 1st Earl of Salisbury , statesman, spymaster and minister to Elizabeth I of England and James I of England...

), so he could therefore, theoretically at least, call on powerful friends. He was also in deep trouble at the time of his death. Accusations of his having persuaded others to atheism were coming to the Privy Council thick and fast and, whether true or not, he was certainly suspected of having written an atheistic book which was being used for subversive purposes. For such crimes, trial and execution would have been almost guaranteed. Within the past two months, at least three people, Henry Barrow
Henry Barrowe
Henry Barrowe was an English Puritan and Separatist, executed for his views.-Life:He was born about 1550, in Norfolk, of a family related by marriage to Nicholas Bacon, and probably to John Aylmer, Bishop of London. He matriculated at Clare Hall, Cambridge, in November 1566, and graduated B.A. in...

, John Greenwood
John Greenwood
John Greenwood was an English Puritan divine and separatist.-Life:The date and place of his birth are unknown. He entered as a sizar at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, on 18 March 1577-1578, and commenced B.A...

 and John Penry
John Penry
John Penry is Wales's most famous Protestant martyr.-Early life:He was born in Brecknockshire, Wales; Cefn Brith, a farm near Llangammarch, is traditionally recognised as his birthplace. He matriculated at Peterhouse, Cambridge, in December 1580, being then probably a Roman Catholic; but soon...

, had gone to the scaffold for offences no worse than this. Marlovians contend therefore that Marlowe can be said to have had a strong motive for finding a means of escape.

The witnesses

Marlovians suggest it is significant that every person involved in the incident seems to have been associated in one way or another either with his friend and patron Thomas Walsingham
Thomas Walsingham (literary patron)
Sir Thomas Walsingham was a courtier to Queen Elizabeth I and literary patron to such poets as Thomas Watson, Thomas Nashe, George Chapman and Christopher Marlowe. He was related to Elizabeth's spymaster Francis Walsingham and the employer of Marlowe's murderer Ingram Frizer...

  (Frizer and Skeres) or with his employers the Cecils (Poley, Bull and Danby). They point to the lengthy period (10 hours) in which the four men remained together at Eleanor Bull's house that day, and suggest this seems unnecessary if the intent had been simply to dispose of Marlowe. The most likely reason for the get-together, they say, would have been to save him in some way from the peril facing him. They claim that the faking of his death is the only scenario to fit all of the facts as known. That Poley, Frizer and Skeres all made a living from being able to lie convincingly may have been relevant too.

The coroner

Support for the possible involvement of people in high places (whether it was to have Marlowe assassinated or to fake his death) has recently come to light with the discovery that the inquest was probably illegal. The inquest should have been supervised and enrolled by the local County Coroner, with the Queen's Coroner being brought in by him only if he happened to know that it was within 12 (Tudor) miles of where the Queen was in residence (i.e. that it was "within the verge") and, if so, for it to be run by both of them jointly. Marlovians argue that therefore the only way for Danby to have finished up doing it on his own—given that it was only just within the verge, the Court in fact some 16 of today's statute miles away by road—would be because he knew about the killing before it actually occurred, and just "happened" to be there to take charge. If there was a deception, they say, Danby must have been involved in it and thus almost certainly with the tacit approval of the Queen. This does, of course, give as much support to David Riggs's theory that the Queen ordered Marlowe's death as it does to the faked death theory.

The body

If a death is to be faked a substitute body has to be found, and it was David A. More who first identified for Marlovians a far more likely "victim" than had been suggested earlier. On the evening before their 10 a.m. meeting at Deptford, at a most unusual time for a hanging, John Penry
John Penry
John Penry is Wales's most famous Protestant martyr.-Early life:He was born in Brecknockshire, Wales; Cefn Brith, a farm near Llangammarch, is traditionally recognised as his birthplace. He matriculated at Peterhouse, Cambridge, in December 1580, being then probably a Roman Catholic; but soon...

, about a year older than Marlowe, was hanged (for writing subversive literature) just two miles from Deptford, and there is no record of what happened to the body. Also of possible relevance is that the same William Danby would have been responsible for authorizing exactly what was to happen to Penry's corpse. Those who reject the theory claim that there would have been far too many obvious signs that the corpse had been hanged for it to have been used in this way, although Marlovians say that Danby, being solely in charge, would have been able quite easily to ensure that such evidence remained hidden from the jury.
Marlovians go one step further, and argue that if Frizer, Poley and Skeres could lie about what happened, they could just as easily have been lying about the identity of the corpse itself. In other words, that although they claimed it was Marlowe's—and as far as we know they were the only ones there in a position to identify him—it was in fact someone else's body that the jury was called upon to examine.

Marlovians acknowledge their argument has changed over the years from (1) thinking that because, in their view, he wrote Shakespeare his death must have been faked; to (2) challenging the details of the inquest in an attempt to show that it must have been; to (3) claiming that the circumstances surrounding it suggest that the faking is the most likely scenario, whether he went on to write 'Shakespeare' or not.

However, this remains a fringe view within academia. In his Shakespeare and Co., referring to the documentation concerning Marlowe's death, Stanley Wells
Stanley Wells
Stanley William Wells, CBE, is a Shakespeare scholar and Chairman of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust.Wells took his first degree at University College, London, and was awarded an honorary DLitt by the University of Warwick in 2008...

 reflects the view of virtually all scholars that Marlowe did die then when he wrote: "The unimpugnable documentary evidence deriving from legal documents ... makes this one of the best recorded episodes in English literary history" and "Even before these papers turned up there was ample evidence that Marlowe died a violent death in Deptford in 1593."

The "Shakespeare" argument

The mainstream
Mainstream is, generally, the common current thought of the majority. However, the mainstream is far from cohesive; rather the concept is often considered a cultural construct....

  or Stratfordian view of course is that the author known as "Shakespeare" was the same William Shakespeare who was born in Stratford-upon-Avon in 1564, moved to London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

 and became an actor
An actor is a person who acts in a dramatic production and who works in film, television, theatre, or radio in that capacity...

, and "sharer" (part-owner) of the acting company called the Lord Chamberlain's Men
Lord Chamberlain's Men
The Lord Chamberlain's Men was a playing company for whom Shakespeare worked for most of his career. Formed at the end of a period of flux in the theatrical world of London, it had become, by 1603, one of the two leading companies of the city and was subsequently patronised by James I.It was...

, which owned the Globe Theatre
Globe Theatre
The Globe Theatre was a theatre in London associated with William Shakespeare. It was built in 1599 by Shakespeare's playing company, the Lord Chamberlain's Men, and was destroyed by fire on 29 June 1613...

 and the Blackfriars Theatre
Blackfriars Theatre
Blackfriars Theatre was the name of a theatre in the Blackfriars district of the City of London during the Renaissance. The theatre began as a venue for child actors associated with the Queen's chapel choirs; in this function, the theatre hosted some of the most innovative drama of Elizabeth and...

. However Marlovians assert that there is no direct contemporary evidence for the person named Shakespeare having actually written any of the works attributed to him after his death. They suggest the name 'Shakespeare' may have been only a "front" for the real author.

A central plank in the Marlovian theory is that the first clear association of William Shakespeare with the works bearing his name was just thirteen days after Marlowe's supposed death. Shakespeare's first published work, Venus and Adonis, was registered with the Stationers' Company on 18 April 1593, with no named author, and appears to have been on sale—now with his name included—by 12 June, when a copy is first known to have been bought.

Unlike any other 'alternative Shakespeare', Marlowe was a brilliant poet and dramatist already and was the main creator of so-called "Shakespearean" blank verse drama. If his death had been faked, Marlovians point out that he would have had far better reasons than any other authorship "candidate" both for continuing to write plays, and for being compelled to do so under someone else's name.

Their argument remains highly contentious and is currently accepted by no mainstream scholars of Shakespeare's life and work. Stanley Wells summarizes the reasons why Shakespearean scholars in general utterly reject any such idea: "All of this [documentary evidence of his death] compounds the initial and inherent ludicrousness of the idea that he went on to write the works of William Shakespeare while leaving not the slightest sign of his continuing existence for at least twenty years. During this period he is alleged to have produced a string of masterpieces which must be added to those he had already written, which no one in the busy and gossipy world of the theatre knew to be his, and for which he was willing to allow his Stratford contemporary to receive all the credit and to reap all the rewards."


As discussed above, this is a much-disputed area. Much has been made—particularly by Calvin Hoffman—of so-called "parallelisms" between the two authors. For example, when Marlowe's "Jew of Malta", Barabas, sees Abigail on a balcony above him, he says
But stay! What star shines yonder in the east?
The lodestar of my life, if Abigail!
Most people would immediately recognize how similar this is to Romeo's famous
But soft! What light through yonder window breaks?
It is the East, and Juliet is the sun!
when she appears on the balcony above. There are many such examples, but the problem with using them as an argument is that it really is not possible to be sure whether they happened because they were by the same author, or because they were—whether consciously or unconsciously—simply copied by Shakespeare from Marlowe. It is worth noting, however, that Marlowe is the only contemporary dramatist from whom Shakespeare appears to 'copy' so much, and that the influence Marlowe had on Shakespeare is universally acknowledged.

With stylometric approaches (see Stylometry
Stylometry is the application of the study of linguistic style, usually to written language, but it has successfully been applied to music and to fine-art paintings as well.Stylometry is often used to attribute authorship to anonymous or disputed documents...

) it is possible to identify certain characteristics which are very typical of Shakespeare, such as the use of particular poetic techniques or the frequency with which various common words are used, and these have been used to argue that Marlowe could not have written Shakespeare's works. In every case so far where these data have been plotted over time, however, Marlowe's corpus has been found to fit just where Shakespeare's would have been, had he written anything before the early 1590s as all of Marlowe's were. On the other hand, whereas stylometry might be useful in discerning where two sets of work are not by the same person, it can be used with less confidence to show that they are. This was something that T.C. Mendenhall
Thomas Corwin Mendenhall
Thomas Corwin Mendenhall was an autodidact US physicist and meteorologist.-Biography:Mendenhall was born in Hanoverton, Ohio to Stephen Mendenhall, a farmer and carriage-maker,...

, whose work some Marlovians have nevertheless thought proves their theory, was at pains to point out.

As for the less quantifiable differences—mainly to do with the content, and of which there are quite a lot—Marlovians suggest that they are quite predictable, given that under their scenario Marlowe would have undergone a significant transformation of his life—with new locations, new experiences, new learning, new interests, new friends and acquaintances, possibly a new political agenda, new paymasters, new performance spaces, new actors, and maybe (not all agree on this) a new collaborator, Shakespeare himself.

Shakespeare's Sonnets

The current preference among Shakespearean scholars is to deny that the Sonnets are autobiographical. Marlovians say that this is because—other than the references to his name "Will" and a possible pun on "Hathaway"—there is no connection between what is said in the Sonnets and anything that is known about Shakespeare's life. In contrast, assuming that Marlowe did survive and was exiled in disgrace, Marlovians claim that the Sonnets reflect what must have happened to him after that.

In Sonnet 25, for instance, a Marlovian interpretation would note that something unforeseen ("unlooked for") has happened to the poet, which will deny him the chance to boast of "public honour and proud titles", and which seems to have led to some enforced travel far away, possibly even overseas (26–28, 34, 50–51, 61). They would note that this going away seems to be a one-off event (48), and whatever it was, it is clearly also associated with his being "in disgrace with fortune and men's eyes", his "outcast state" (29), and his "blots" and "bewailed guilt" (36). The poet also says that he has been "made lame by fortune's dearest spite" (37). Each one of these segments, along with many other throughout the Sonnets, might be seen by a Marlovian as reflecting some aspect of Marlowe's alleged faked death and subsequent life.

Marlovians also claim that their interpretation allows more of Shakespeare's actual words to be interpreted as meaning literally what they say than is otherwise possible. For example, they can take "a wretch's knife" (74) to mean a wretch's knife, rather than assume that he must have really meant Old Father Time's scythe, take an "outcast state"(29) to mean an outcast state, not just a feeling that nobody likes him, and accept that when he says his "name receives a brand" (111) it means that his reputation has been permanently damaged, and not simply that acting is considered a somewhat disreputable profession. Jonathan Bate nevertheless gives reasons for Shakespeare scholars claiming that "Elizabethans did not write coded autobiography".

Clues in the plays

Faked (or wrongly presumed) death, disgrace, banishment, and changed identity are of course major ingredients in Shakespeare's plays, and Stephen Greenblatt puts it fairly clearly: "Again and again in his plays, an unforeseen catastrophe...suddenly turns what had seemed like happy progress, prosperity, smooth sailing into disaster, terror, and loss. The loss is obviously and immediately material, but it is also, and more crushingly, a loss of identity. To wind up on an unknown shore, without one’s friends, habitual associates, familiar network—this catastrophe is often epitomized by the deliberate alteration or disappearance of the name and, with it, the alteration or disappearance of social status."

Whilst noting the obvious relevance of this to their own proposed scenario Marlovians do not seek multiple parallels between Marlowe's known or predicted life and these stories, believing that the plays are so rich in plot devices that such parallels can be found with numerous individuals. On the other hand there are some places where they point out how difficult it is to know just why something was included if it were not some sort of in-joke for those who were privy to something unknown to most of us.

For example, when in The Merry Wives of Windsor (3.1) Evans is singing Marlowe's famous song "Come live with me..." to keep his spirits up, why does he mix it up with words based upon Psalm 137
Psalm 137
Psalm 137 is one of the best known of the Biblical psalms. Its opening lines, "By the rivers of Babylon..." have been set to music on several occasions....

 "By the rivers of Babylon...", perhaps the best known song of exile ever written?

And in As You Like It (3.3), Touchstone's words "When a man's verses cannot be understood, nor a man's good wit seconded with the forward child, understanding, it strikes a man more dead than a great reckoning in a little room", apparently referring to Marlowe's death, are puzzled over by many of Shakespeare's biographers. As Agnes Latham puts it, "nobody explains why Shakespeare should think that Marlowe's death by violence was material for a stage jester."

External evidence

The main case against the 'faked death' theory is that, whilst there is evidence for Marlowe's death, there is no equally unequivocal counter-evidence that he survived, or did anything more than exert a considerable influence on Shakespeare. So far the only external evidence offered has been in the form of claiming that someone who was alive after 1593 must have been Marlowe, or finding concealed messages on Shakespeare's grave, etc.

Identity after 1593

Various people have been suggested as having really been the Christopher Marlowe who was supposed to have died in 1593. Some examples are a Hugh Sanford, who was based with the Earl of Pembroke at Wilton House in Wiltshire, a Christopher Marlowe (alias John Matthews, or vice versa) who surfaced in Valladolid in 1602, and a Monsieur Le Doux, a spy for Essex, but working as a "French tutor" in Rutland in 1595. There was also apparently an Englishman who died in Padua in 1627, and said by the family he lived with to be Marlowe (even if this was not necessarily the name by which he was generally known), but no search has as yet come up with any confirmation of this, and if Don Foster's hypothesis is correct that the "begetter" of the Sonnets may have meant the poet himself, then Marlovians would assert that "Mr. W.H." was not a misprint, as Foster suggests, but merely showed that the identity being used by Marlowe in 1609 (including the name "Will"?) most probably had those initials too.

Hidden messages

Many anti-Stratfordians search for hidden messages in the form of acrostics and transposition ciphers, although this approach is not so popular with Marlovians.

Peter Bull nevertheless claims to have found such a hidden message deeply concealed in the Sonnets, and at least two Marlovians—William Honey and Roberta Ballantine—have taken the famous four-line "curse" on Shakespeare's grave to be an anagram
An anagram is a type of word play, the result of rearranging the letters of a word or phrase to produce a new word or phrase, using all the original letters exactly once; e.g., orchestra = carthorse, A decimal point = I'm a dot in place, Tom Marvolo Riddle = I am Lord Voldemort. Someone who...

, unfortunately coming up with different messages. Anagrams as such are useful for conveying hidden messages, including claims of priority and authorship, having been used in this way, for example, by Galileo and Huygens
Huygens is a Dutch patronymic surname, meaning "son of Hugo". People with the name Huygens include:People* Constantijn Huygens , Dutch poet and composer...

, but—given the number of possible answers—are really of use only if there can be some confirmation from the originator that this was the one he meant.

Another method for finding hidden messages, however, lies in interpreting passages that could be construed as ambiguous, since a favourite technique of the poet/dramatists of the time was irony, the double meaning or double entendre—i.e. playing with words.

For example, orthodox scholars often cite the poems in the First Folio as evidence for Shakespeare, such as Jonson's introductory poem describing the engraved portrait as having "hit his face" well, his eulogy that calls Shakespeare "sweet Swan of Avon", and Digges's line that refers to when "Time dissolves thy Stratford monument". Yet Marlovians say those can each be interpreted in quite different ways. The "face", according to the Oxford English Dictionary (10.a) could mean an "outward show; assumed or factitious appearance; disguise, pretence". When he writes of "Swan of Avon" we may choose to take it as meaning the Avon that runs through Stratford, or we may think of Daniel
Samuel Daniel
Samuel Daniel was an English poet and historian.-Early life:Daniel was born near Taunton in Somerset, the son of a music-master. He was the brother of lutenist and composer John Danyel. Their sister Rosa was Edmund Spenser's model for Rosalind in his The Shepherd's Calendar; she eventually married...

's Delia, addressed to the mother of the First Folio's two dedicatees, in which he refers to the Wiltshire one where they all lived:
But Avon rich in fame, though poor in waters,
Shall have my song, where Delia hath her seat.
And when Digges writes "And Time dissolves thy Stratford monument", one Marlovian argument says that it is quite reasonable to assume that he is really saying that Time will eventually "solve, resolve or explain" it (O.E.D. 12), which becomes very relevant when we see that—whether the author intended it or not—it is possible to re-interpret the whole poem on Shakespeare's monument ("Stay Passenger...") as in fact inviting us to solve a puzzle revealing who is "in" the monument "with" Shakespeare. The apparent answer turns out to be "Christofer Marley"—as Marlowe is known to have spelt his own name—who, it says, with Shakespeare's death no longer has a "page" to dish up his wit.

The Hoffman Prize

Calvin Hoffman, author of The Murder of the Man who was Shakespeare (1955), died in 1987, still absolutely convinced that Marlowe was the true author of Shakespeare's works. Anxious that the theory should not die with him, he left a substantial sum of money with the King's School, Canterbury—where Marlowe went as a boy—for them to administer an annual essay competition on this subject. The Trust Deed stipulated that the winning essay should be the one:
...which in the opinion of the King's School most convincingly authoritatively and informatively examines and discusses in depth the life and works of Christopher Marlowe and the authorship of the plays and poems now commonly attributed to William Shakespeare with particular regard to the possibility that Christopher Marlowe wrote some or all of those poems and plays or made some inspirational creative or compositional contributions towards the authorship of them. (Emphasis added)
The adjudication of the prize has always been delegated to an eminent professional Shakespearean scholar and, despite Hoffman's clear intentions, the winning essay has very seldom espoused the Marlovian cause, the prize usually going to essays along entirely orthodox lines. The prize is of several thousand pounds (UK).

A further stipulation of the initial Trust Deed was that:
If in any year the person adjudged to have won the Prize has in the opinion of The King's School furnished irrefutable and incontrovertible proof and evidence required to satisfy the world of Shakespearian scholarship that all the plays and poems now commonly attributed to William Shakespeare were in fact written by Christopher Marlowe then the amount of the Prize for that year shall be increased by assigning to the winner absolutely one half of the capital or corpus of the entire Trust Fund...
The amount in this case would run into hundreds of thousands of pounds.

The original hopes of Hoffman himself may have been largely ignored, but the benefit of this has undoubtedly been that far more research into Christopher Marlowe has resulted, and several books about him produced which would probably not have been written otherwise.

'Marlovian' publications – in chronological order

  • Wilbur Gleason Zeigler, was Marlowe: a story of the secret of three centuries (1895). (Fiction, but with a foreword seriously proposing the idea)
  • Archie Webster, Was Marlowe the Man?, The National Review (1923) Vol.82, pp. 81–86.
  • Calvin Hoffman, The Murder of the Man who was Shakespeare (Julian Messner, 1955).
  • David Rhys Williams, Shakespeare, Thy Name is Marlowe (1966).
  • Lewis J.M. Grant, Christopher Marlowe, the ghost writer of all the plays, poems and Sonnets of Shakespeare, from 1593 to 1613 (1967).
  • Honey, William. The Shakespeare Epitaph Deciphered (1969).
  • Honey, William. The Life, Loves and Achievements of Christopher Marlowe, alias Shakespeare (1982).
  • Louis Ule, Christopher Marlowe (1564–1607): A Biography (1992).
  • Wraight, A.D. The Story that the Sonnets Tell (1994).
  • Wraight, A.D. Shakespeare: New Evidence (1996).
  • Zenner, Peter. The Shakespeare Invention (1999).
  • Alex Jack, Hamlet, by Christopher Marlowe and William Shakespeare – 2 vols. (2005) (related website)
  • Rodney Bolt, History Play (novel) (2005)
  • Samuel Blumenfeld's The Marlowe-Shakespeare Connection: A New Study of the Authorship Question (McFarland 2008 ISBN 978-0-7864-3902-7) (related website)
  • Daryl Pinksen, Marlowe's Ghost: The Blacklisting of the Man Who Was Shakespeare (IUniverse, 2008 ISBN 0-595-47514-0) (related website)

Other theories about Marlowe's death – since 1992

  • Charles Nicholl, The Reckoning: the Murder of Christopher Marlowe (1992) pp. 327–9.
  • Curtis C. Breight, Surveillance, Militarism and Drama in the Elizabethan Era (1996) p. 114.
  • Paul E.J. Hammer, 'A Reckoning Reframed: the "Murder" of Christopher Marlowe Revisited', in English Literary Renaissance (1996) pp. 225–242
  • J.A. Downie, 'Marlowe, facts and fictions', in Constructing Christopher Marlowe, eds. J.A. Downie and J.T. Parnell (2000) pp. 26–27
  • M.J. Trow, Who Killed Kit Marlowe? A contract to murder in Elizabethan England (2001) p. 250.
  • Charles Nicholl, The Reckoning: the Murder of Christopher Marlowe (2nd edition, 2002) pp. 415–7.
  • Constance Brown Kuriyama, Christopher Marlowe, A Renaissance Life (2002) p. 136.
  • Roy Kendall, Christopher Marlowe and Richard Baines: Journeys through the Elizabethan Underground (2003) pp. 272–9.
  • Alan Haynes, The Elizabethan Secret Services (1952), (2004) pp. 121–2.
  • David Riggs, The World of Christopher Marlowe (2004) p. 334.
  • Park Honan, Christopher Marlowe, Poet & Spy (2005) p. 354.

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