Saturday, November 19, 2016

Go Shakespeare! Beat Shakspere!

In order to fairly and accurately assess evidence of Christopher Marley's authorship of poems and plays attributed to the writer known as "William Shakespeare" it is crucial not to make the mistake of referring to the actor William Shakspere as "Shakespeare" for two important reasons.

The actor's name was Shakspere, as shown on his baptismal and burial records—and  all other legal and family documents. Never in his lifetime was he called "Shakespeare" (not until 7 years after his death in the First Folio of 1623). Nor was he ever honored or acknowledged as "the soul of the age" in his lifetime. His death in 1616 passed without public notice. No one from the worlds of publishing or theater commented on or lamented his passing. Hardly the kind of send-off one would expect for the Star of Poets.

The statement "Shakespeare wasn't Shakespeare" creates a logical double-bind, the mind instinctively rejects such a proposition. However, it is far less confusing and more to the point to say "Shakspere wasn't 'Shakespeare'" if that is your belief.

Moreover, Marley had dibs on the name "Shakespeare"! Prior to his untimely murder at the age of 29 in 1593, he had written a long poem about Venus and Adonis. Following his 'death', it was published with no name on the title page, but with a dedicatory epistle that was signed "William Shakespeare" (He could hardly sign his own name.) A second narrative poem Rape of Lucrece was published the following year. As a result, until about 1598, the author Shakespeare, was known primarily as a premiere poet. Plays were secondary, published anonymously or not at all.The fact that most of the plays in the Shakespeare First Folio had not been previously printed attests to this.

In fact, the actor did not make his entrance as an author until the First Folio, when the legend was born—seven years after the Shakspere's death. And the Shakspere=Shakespeare myth was born.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Stop Calling Shakspere "Shakespeare"

The following anonymous comment to P. Farey's essay "Prosecute it to the full" in MSC blog illustrates a key reason why it matters what name we use when referring to the Stratford actor.
"But I think you guys do need to recognise that *superficially* it sounds supremely nuts to say 'Shakespeare didn't write his plays, Marlowe did'. Because an obvious first reason for assuming authorship is the presence of the name on the title page. That's not a small, irrelevant, detail. It's pretty darn big and important. To suggest anything but the simplest explanation for that fact requires a very very good reason.

As it happens, you do possess some very intriguingly good reasons. And because the data is actually so good, if you confine yourselves to simply presenting it in as un-contrived and un-adorned way possible, it will sell itself, despite the obvious initial sense of 'wtf'?"
So if you love Marlowe and want his reputation and credit to be restored, then stop calling Shakspere Shakespeare!

The man from Stratford (whose name was pronounced Shakspur) never spelled his name that way and was never seriously thought to be an author of plays or poetry by anyone during his lifetime; nor was the possibility even hinted at in 1616 when he died. Not until the "rash enterprise" known as the Shakespeare First Folio was published in 1623 did the man from Stratford become identified as the pseudonymous author known as WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE.

Similarly, the belief that Christopher contracted with Shakspere to be his front is nonsense. There was no need. The Earl of Southampton had Marlowe's back in the first few years, when the two classic epic narrative poems, Venus & Adonis and The Rape of Lucrece, made the name "Shakespeare" famous. No plays were printed with name "Shakespeare" on the title page until 1598, (coincidentally the year Edward Blount gave Marlowe a proper literary burial in his dedicatory epistle to Sir Thomas Walsingham, but that's another story).

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Fooled by the Folio

The paradigm is shifting. Current Shakespeare scholarship is catching on: "For many in the profession today, Shakespeare was not an author with a literary career but because constructed as such in the 1623 First Folio and then by subsequent generations." Shakespeare and Spenser: Attractive Opposites, Oxford U. 122 (page link)

This is because—during his lifetime—there is no evidence that Stratford's William Shakspere had a literary career. When he died in 1616 not a single literary tribute, nor epistolary reference, was offered by any contemporary poets; nor was there so much as a prosaic mention by anyone in the town were he'd lived most of his life. William did not become known as the author until the "rash enterprise" known as the Shakespeare First Folio in 1623.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Remembering Christopher Marlowe, 1564-1593(?)

Monday is Memorial Day in the U.S. ... Originally, the 30th day of May was set aside to honor those killed in the Civil War, but now its memory extends only from WWII to more recent conflicts.

To me (and most Marlovians) however, May 30 stands out as the official date of Christopher Marlowe's "sudden and fearful end" in 1593.

The phrase "Remember Christopher Marlowe"  on the plaque at King's School, Canterbury,  (shown here in 1993 with the great Marlovian scholar Dolly Walker-Wraight) was the theme of a  citywide memorial of Marlowe's passing 400 years earlier—and a celebration of his genius.

But did Marlowe die in 1593? Ever since Calvin Hoffman made an international splash with his book The Murder of the Man Who Was Shakespeare in 1955, many have come to doubt that claim due to the suspicious circumstances of the murder and curious facts regarding the inquest. Even more doubters were created by the pro-Marlovian documentary Much Ado About Something, broadcast in 2001. The next year, Marlowe's murder was further questioned at prestigious Poets' Corner in Westminster Abbey, where a plaque dedicated to Marlowe was installed with a QUESTION MARK before the date! The interrogative would have been better placed after his death than before his birth, but point taken.

So, on May 30, take a moment to remember "the muses' darling" —an atheist martyr whose early exit from life set the stage for his pseudonymous rebirth as the author known as "Shakespeare.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Marlovian poem wins 2nd Prize in "Bard Battle"

Last month, some lines excerpted from The Marliad (an epic essay in verse) won 2nd prize as a stand-alone entry in the Fort Collins, Colorado, public library's annual poetry contest. It wasn't quite as satisfying as winning the coveted Hoffman Prize, or another prestigious literary award, but it's a step in the right direction!

The Case of the Murdered Bard

To all you Shakespeare fans, I dare to say
The Stratford actor never wrote a play,
No way: Kit Marley (known as “Marlowe”) wrote
Four centuries ago the words we quote
From the collection called the Folio
Of Shakespeare Plays—and scores of Sonnets, so
Listen up! The evidence makes clear
That Marley used the pseudonym Shakespeare
Which worked out well for Mr. Will Shakspere,
Whose name got him a sinecure and share
Of ticket sales at the Globe Theater door—
Although not knowing whom he stood-in for:
The greatest poet of his time for sure.

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 good service to the Queen, no lie.
But his belief in Jesus Christ fell short,
According to a sland'rous, signed report
Addressed to Privy Councilors at Court
(A list of blasphemies Kit spoke in sport).
The hearsay was heresy—dangerous it read:
His mouth must be stopped. (His words had 'street cred')
The upshot was a dagger in the head
Two inches deep, the Royal Inquest said.

But Marley's sudden end did not mean dead,
Because another head got stabbed instead—
That of a Welsh reformer with bad luck,
Into whose cadaver the blade stuck.
In fact, Kit Marley's murder in a fight
Was faked by friends who had their story tight—
And tacit right (per royalty's discernment)
To end his plight and foil his internment.

The punishment for blasphemy was certain—
A tragic scene before the final curtain—
Burned to death—or strangled by noose end—
Would be his mortal fate. (Oh, Muse forfend!)
The plan to rescue him had no loose ends—
The jury bought the story they confabbed,
How Christopher allegedly got stabbed
By his companion in a "tavern brawl"
About the tab for food and alcohol.

Th' equation was simple. Do the moral math:
Instead of punishment to take his breath,
They banish him for life and fake his death;
Thus saving Kit from certain prosecution
For heresy—and painful execution—
So he'd continue dishing-out sublime
And timeless poetry while in his prime:
The greatest poet-playwright of all time.
© 2016 Christopher Marlowe More

Sunday, May 8, 2016

A Marlowe's-eye view of a mysterious poem in the Bodleian First Folio

Award-winning novelist and Marlovian scholar par excellence, Dr. Ros Barber has written an analyis of a unique poem contained in the Bodleian Shakespeare First Folio employing a "Marlowe-shaped lens" and the result is ... Marlovian gold! Whoever wrote the poem (sometime between 1668-1700 Barber reasons) carefully removed Ben Jonson's verses on the Folio engraving of Shakespeare and replaced them with the verses you see here.

Dr. Barber interprets the poem line-by-line, concluding it's about Marlowe—his leap from life to death and back again—and how he surpassed his own famous (pre-1593) achievements in later life, using the pen-name Shakespeare! Read Ros Barber's persuasive essay available now on her website.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Mr Quotable

With 1282 quotations cited in the Oxford English Dictionary, Marlowe is its 335th most frequently quoted source. I'm not sure who # 334 is, but Kit would certainly have passed whoever had he not been killed in that tavern brawl at age 29. ... He might even have passed the #2 position occupied by his great rival, himself.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Audrey in the the house

As the number of views for WTF Shakespeare grows, I've been wondering what persons and demographic groups comprise its repeat readers (as opposed to, say, those who were searching for Marc Maron's WTF podcast finding this by happy accident). Having a particular audience in mind helps the writer find greater focus and that other thing, you know.
Well, I am pleased to announce and introduce the audience I've conjured up. Her name is Audrey, an audiologist from Austin, Texas, but originally from Australia where she  viewed Mike Rubbo's audacious documentary Much Ado About Something 15 years ago. She has been pro-Marlovian ever since.
Although we agree on the basics of "Marlovian theory of Shakespeare authorship," Audrey and I disagree on some key (and controversial) details of the poet's story—especially the role of George Chapman as a possible "front" for Marley's more ambitious literary projects such as his completion of Hero and Leander and prefatory dedication to Lady Audrey Walsingham, wife of Marlowe's good friend, Thomas Walsingham).  My new BF Audrey will learn, "Shakespeare" was not the only authorial iron the poet had in the fire.
Like a handful of other Marlovians, I maintain it was Marley himself who wrote the continuation and dedication, not Chapman, whereas "Audrey Austin" thinks the styles are too different. Although she hasn't read the final four sestiads of Hero & Leander, she cites as evidence some lines from novelist Ros Barber's fictional telling of Marley's afterlife, in which Barber's protagonist claims that George "adds more wordage than the story needs/ alters [the] structure and destroys the tone,/ then dedicates it to [Tom Walsingham's] recent bride [Audrey]."

All of this Barber's fictional Marlowe finds highly offensive--and of course it would be highly offensive if Chapman's involvement transpired the way Barber presents it in her novel. But did George Chapman compose the final four sestiads of Hero & Leander. More importantly, did George compose the long and highly personal dedication to the wife of Marley's 'best friend'? It makes no sense that he would do either (if Marlowe was still alive), as I will demonstrate to Audrey from Austin—and the rest of my audience—in a future post.


Yo Audrey, a man in Germany publishes a blog about Marlowe/Shakespeare with some pretty far out stuff, but interesting. Without reading more carefully (not anytime soon), no comment on the validity of his research or conclusions. I will say his website needs work (I should talk!) Most recently he posts a about Polimanteia, a book published in 1595 (two years after Marley's murder) containing on the earliest mentions of a poet "sweet Shakespeare". The author of the book (signed W.C.) has been persuasively argued to be either William Covell or William Clerke.

I think the author of the blog Mr. Bastian Conrad (who opts for Clerke) may be on to something worthwhile with his detailed analysis of Polimanteia showing how it reveals Marley's other pseudonyms. Are you familiar with Bastian's work, Audrey? I've reached out to him for a synopsis of his findings. I'll let you know what I find out.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

If you arrived at the WTF Shakespeare blog after clicking (or one of its sublinks), it was because traffic to the Marlovian domain has been redirected to this address while the Marlowe Lives! website gets a long-needed redesign and update.

During this process the domain could be redirected elsewhere temporarily. Possibly the Marlowe Society (England) or the Marlowe Society of America would be interested in a permanent redirect since the term "Marlovian" does not necessarily equate him with Shakespeare. Either way, this blog will continue to grow— along with Marlowe-Shakespeare studies around the globe.

Friday, March 25, 2016


It has been a long-held belief among Shakespeare authorship doubters that Audrey, the character in As You Like It, is a symbol for Audience. Quoting Oxfordian Alex McNeil, who writes: “The very name Audrey is significant. Although, as a proper name, its derivation is Anglo-Saxon, Shakespeare may be suggesting a connection to the Latin verb audire—to hear—from which the familiar words “audience,” “audit,” and “auditory” are derived. Shakespeare’s dramatic words were written, of course, but they were written to be heard by an audience."

Some Marlovians concur with McNeil's belief, including Wraight. But as McNeill points out the two words come from different roots. Audrey is actually a form of the name Ethelred or Ethel. Although some critics are awed (so to speak) by the sound of the word, there is no need to ignore or dismiss an obvious biographical connection: the name of the wife of the author's best friend to whom a recent continuation of his masterpiece, Hero and Leander, had been recently dedicated!

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Watson's heir

Among the archived essays in the Marlowe-Shakespeare Connection blog is an article by Ros Barber, an excerpt from her Ph.D. dissertation on Marlowe in fact and fiction. The essay concerns the well-known lines in the margin of a book by William Covell, Polimanteia (1595).

All praise
Sweet Shak-

The meaning of 'Marlovian'

Sure it's kinda catchy and only one word, but not as accurate, because technically "Marlovian" is a critical term referring to Christopher Marlowe's art in general. As in "the protagonist is a typical Marlovian over-reacher" or "Marlovian wordplay." But back in 1993 when the Marlowe Lives! PR campaign was launched (to commemorate the 400th anniversary of his alleged murder) the phrase seemed an apt name for the newsletter. As a result, the term has come to mean "one who believes that Christopher Marlowe wrote the plays attributed to Williams Shakespeare," but a more accurate term for that would be a "Marlowe-Shakespearean" not as catchy, but clearer.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Shakspere vs. Shakespeare

The long ago quote about the plays of Shakespeare not being written "by Shakespeare, but by another man of the same name" gives a chuckle to Stratfordian loyalists—and to appreciators of ironic bon mots—but substitute the actual spelling of the actor William's surname—Shakspere— and the remark's amusing absurdity vanishes. "The plays of Shake-speare were not written by Shakspere" (but by a writer in need of a good pseudonym).

If the actor had actually written the plays, someone would have mentioned it when he died in Stratford in 1616—or during his lifetime. But no one did.  It wasn't until the 1623 Collected Plays that the two entities (Shakspere and the Shakespeare Plays) were deliberately conflated.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Pseudonym? Or pseudo man?

Which came first ... the Shakespeare name or the Shakspere man? Do any Marlowe-Shakespeareans (still) believe that a genius like their hero would choose an uneducated person like William Shakspere to pretend to be the author of the dedicatory prefaces he penned to the Earl of Southampton to launch Venus and Adonis and Rape of Lucrece his two epyllia in 1593 and '94? Clearly there was no need for a fake person at that time, especially considering that the addressee of the Dedications, a fellow Cambridge M.A., Henry Wriothesley knew Marley and his situation. But even if he didn't, would Stratford Shakspere be the man to present those mini-epic masterpieces? No, he wouldn't.

Meres on Shakespeare
There was no need for a theatrical front until later in the decade in 1598, when it became clear that Shakespeare-the-pseudonymous-poet would write plays for the Chamberlain's Men. This didn't fall in place immediately; theatrical companies were reorganized. But the first Shakespeare plays in print were pseudonymously printed. Romeo and Juliet, Richard III, Merchant of Venice, etc. No need for a front until 1598, with the publication of Francis Meres' famous list of Shakespeare plays, and the first printing of a "Shakespeare" play: Loves Labours Lost by "W. Shakespere." This is also the time William got a 1/10th share of ticket sales along with several other shareholders.

It seems likely that William was invited to join the acting company because of his ambition, but more importantly because of his surname. However, it is possible that he was already part of the company as far back as 1594. Either way, Shakspere had nothing to do with the dead poet choosing his homophonic pseudonym—Will Shake-Speare—the best possible name he could have chosen.

There's a longer essay on this topic by Cynthia Morgan in The Marlowe Studies.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Frizer or Freezer? Poley or Pooly?

The estimable scholar and biographer Charles Nicholl in public discussion about Marlowe with Ros Barber can't decide how to pronounce the names of two of the people with Marlowe on his final day (the story goes). After all these years of studying the case of Marlowe's murder, Charles still hasn't settled on how to say the names. Even Ros follows suit after awhile. It's Nicholl's style, attention to details. But are such repeated pronunciation quibbles a rhetorical choice intended to reflect Charles' balanced assessments of more weighty evidence? I believe so. The clips are out of context, but you get the idea.

The Case of the Murdered Bard

My local library is sponsoring a 4th Annual "Battle of the Bards" Poetry Contest for poems up to 50 lines. I submitted two excerpts from The Marliad (my verse essay-in-progress). One is a 50-line summary of my solution to the case of the murdered bard. The shorter of the two submissions is reprinted here. Wish me luck, a $75 Visa card goes to the winner. It's not the Hoffman Prize, but still.  © 2016 David A More.

The Bard Canard

False History chronicles the Shakespeare story:
An actor writing plays for cash, not glory;
And Marlowe murdered in a “tavern brawl”
About a bill for food and alcohol.
The murderer received a royal pardon;
And England got its own exiled bard.
But 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 fake death, exile, reconciliation—

And History plays that praise the English nation,
Renowned today by world-wide acclamation.
Revealing Marley's re-invented self,
You'll find them on the “William Shakespeare” shelf.

© 2016 David A More

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Not THAT Cheney, Not THAT Republican

Marlowe was a Republican says Prof. Patrick Cheney, in his book Marlowe's Republican Authorship: Lucan, Liberty and the Sublime, in which he presents evidence that "Marlowe is the pioneer author in the literary writing of English republicanism," inspired and schooled by the Roman example, especially Lucan. Of course, his republicanism continues to be expressed in the Shakespeare plays as well, as Prof. Hadfield documents in his book, Shakespeare and Republicanism. A PDF chapter of his book is available from Cambridge University Press. ... Another example of "Shakespeare" following in the footsteps of his great progenitor.

Monday, March 7, 2016

John Baker's Home Razed; Home Page Rises

As some of you may know, I was instrumental in getting John Baker on the internet in 1995 while visiting his home in Centralia, Washington. I came up with the "School of Thought Emporium" as a humorous working title, but John being John, he ran with it and added to the website for many years, until personal problems forced him to relinquish the server space. 

Anyway, through the miracle of the Internet Archives Wayback Machine, I was able to retrieve the entire site, without many photos unfortunately, but the bulk of John's idiosyncratic body of work remains as it was originally posted.  The site is a bit of a mess by 2016 standards, but those problems can be cleaned up.

I mentioned personal problems in the first paragraph. John has had a very difficult time in recent years, losing his home and his business among other things.
Although I've made sporadic attempts to locate him I haven't been able to track him down. A couple of years ago I drove to his home in Centralia (with my son Chris in tow) and found the house abandoned.
Since that time, it's been torn down. I've been trying to reach him through a mutual contact on Facebook without success so far.

The last time I spoke to John I told him of an idea I had for publishing a small collection of his best essays with the title Baker's Dozen: 13 Essays on Marlowe and Shakespeare. To that end I'm posting John's entire website to the Marlovian website for your perusal. (If you find any essays particularly worthwhile or particularly worthless, please let me know in comment. I'll be digging into them myself as time permits.)

A Marlowe blog by any other name

With the recent closing of the Marlowe-Shakespeare Connection blog it seems timely to revive the original Marlovian blog (the web's #2 (dormant) blog about Christopher Marlowe). However, since Blogger won't update the template to something more up-to-date, I've created a new blog with a better look and kick-ass name. WTF, right?! The WTF Shakespeare blog will post notes and essays by myself and others on Marlowe and Marlovians in the news.