It Was Marlowe A Story of the Secret of Three Centuries
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Title: It Was Marlowe
A Story of the Secret of Three Centuries
Author: William Gleason Zeigler
Release Date: August 29, 2018 [eBook #57810]
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It Was Marlowe.
A Story of the Secret of Three Centuries.
Wilbur Gleason Zeigler.
“It is not for any man to measure, above all it is not for any workmanin the field of tragic poetry lightly to take on himself the responsibilityor the authority to pronounce what it is that Christopher Marlowe could nothave done.”—Algernon Charles Swinburne.
COPYRIGHT, 1895, BY
WILBUR GLEASON ZEIGLER.
All rights reserved.
TO MY WIFE,
WHOSE PRAISE IS AMPLE MEED
FOR MY WORK;
TO THE MEMORY OF MY MOTHER,
THE ONE WHOSE ENCOURAGEMENT WAS THE
KEENEST SPUR FOR BEST EFFORT,
THIS BOOK IS AFFECTIONATELY DEDICATED.
June 8, 1898.
TABLE OF CONTENTS.
To make him famous.
A number of years ago I read the plays of ChristopherMarlowe; and as evidence of the impressionthey made upon me, there is still among my recentnotes gathered for this romance, the extracts Ithen wrote down from his Tamburlaine and Faustus.There was something in them to excite morethan the passing interest of a boy; and for a longtime I mourned over the accepted account of theuntimely, and disgraceful ending of that unfortunatepoet—“our elder Shelley,” as Swinburne hastermed him. Later the Bacon-Shakespere controversyattracted my attention; and while I becameskeptical concerning the authorship by WilliamShakespere of the dramas that bear his name, Icould not attribute them to the pen of FrancisBacon.
There are many reasons for my disbelief, in thesolution of the mystery as presented by the Baconians,but it has not arisen from my failure to studythe proofs and argument. One reason, however,must be mentioned. A man, so solicitous of hisvifame as to leave it in his will “to foreign nationsand the next ages,” would not, if he had writtenthe plays, have departed this life without somemention of them. Whoever wrote them was notblind to their merits; and of his knowledge oftheir enduring quality we have the author’s ownopinion in the lines:
Of princes, shall outlive this powerful rhyme.”
Shakespere also left a will, as mean and pettyin its details of “gilt boles,” “wearing apparrell”and money to “buy them ringes,” as though conceivedby a tiller of the soil whose eyes had neverbeen raised above his plow-handles. It had beencarefully prepared three months before his death,and subscribed while his “mind was yet unclouded;”but, as in the case of Bacon, we listen vainlyfor one word from the testator concerning thegrandest productions of all time. Ye who havesweat in striking “the second heat upon the Muse’sanvil,” think of the utter indifference of both thesemen concerning the “living lines” of Hamlet andof Richard!
With the fame of Shakespere thus rudely shaken,and that of Bacon firmly set upon the enduringmonument of law and philosophy which he alonehad raised for himself, I began groping for a solutionof these mysterious questions. Who wrotethe plays? Why was their authorship concealed?
As to the first inquiry, my belief that ChristopherMarlowe could have written the plays, hadviihis life been sufficiently prolonged, was supportedby the opinions of Phillips, Collier, Dowden,Malone, Swinburne and Dyce [notes 1-6.]
This belief was founded upon the striking similarityof the strongest portions of his acknowledgedworks to passages of the Shakespere plays;the tendency of each to degenerate into pomposityand bombast in passages of tragic pathos [note7]; the similar treatment of characters, and thelike spirit that pervades them. (The Shakespereplays, free as they are from any trace of a handduring the period when it was moved by an immaturemind, seem like a continuation of the worksof the earlier master, and evolved when the authorwas at the meridian of his power.)
It has been said that “Marlowe could not don alternatelythe buskin and the sock,” and that he“never attempted to write a comic scene,” and thusit would have been impossible for him to have writtenthe light and witty portions of the plays. Theconclusion of Bullen, above quoted, is not wellfounded. There are comic scenes in Faustus, andoriginally there were like scenes for “vain, conceitedfondlings” in the “stately history” of Tamburlaine.
Against the theory of the authorship of Marlowe,was the record of his death in June, 1593,when at the age of 29 years, a period of life all tooshort to have enabled him to have produced much,if any, more than the work which is known, beyondreasonable doubt, to be his. The accredited accountviiiis that he was slain with his own sword in atavern brawl. Upon a careful examination of allthe reports, I found them loose and contradictory.In September, 1593, Harvey wrote that his deathwas from the plague [note 8]; in 1597, Beard, thePuritan, wrote that he was killed in the streets ofLondon [note 9]; in 1598, Meres referred toBeard’s account without correcting it [note 10];in 1600, Vaughn wrote that he was killed by “onenamed Ingram” [note 11]; in 1600, Rowland attributedthe death to drinking [note 12]; about1680, Aubrey wrote that he was the victim of thefamous duel of 1598, when Ben Jonson killed hisadversary [note 13]; and the burial register ofthe parish church of St. Nicholas, in Deptford,contains the entry that he was slain by FrancisFrazer [note 14].
But no investigation brought to light what becameof his slayer. There is no record yet discoveredof his escape or trial. Although BenJonson was thrown into prison and “brought nearthe gallows” for his duel on Bunhill, the allegedslayer of “kynd Kit Marloe” appears to have vanishedso utterly that it was not until within thelast quarter of this nineteenth century that evenhis name written in the burial register became correctlyknown to the world.
It might be said that this obscurity concerningthe death of Marlowe was occasioned by the dearthof facilities for the conveyance of news, but we cannot close our eyes to the fact that it was not anixignorant age, but one of criticism, violent controversialcorrespondence, and pamphleteering.And then it was not the case of an obscure personsuddenly removed from the walks of life. Althoughviolently attacked a few years previouslyby contemporaries [note 15], for his allusion to“the jigging veins of rhyming mother-wits” [note16], and for the innovations that his geniusbrought about upon the English stage [note 17],the height of his fame and the reverence in whichhe was held by the English intellectual world wasshown by Petowe, Chapman, Peele, Blunt, Harvey,Chettle, and Drayton [notes 18-24]. It waspraise that emanated from the lips of these poetsand writers before the close of the year 1600. Tothem he was “the famous gracer of tragedians,”“the highest mind that ever haunted Paul’s,” the“king of poets,” “the muses’ darling,” that“Free soul whose living subject stood
Up to the chin in the Pierian flood.”
How striking appears this praise when contrastedwith the meager contemporary notices ofShakespere by obscure writers [note 25]!
Among this crowd of admirers we catch noglimpse of the man from Stratford-on-Avon, whomthe most devout of his followers recognize, in theearliest of the plays, as merely a “pupil” of “theearlier master.” If it were his voice that wasthen uttering the “parrot-like note of plagery,”1xhow unpardonable seems his silence, standing, ashe did, in the presence of the mighty dead!
These tributes to the memory of Marlowe, allwith the omission of the exact nature of his death;and on the other side, the full but contradictoryreports by rancorous Puritan scribblers, of thekilling of “this barking dogge,”2 led me irresistiblyto an answer to the second question. Why wasthe authorship of the plays concealed?
The most plausible answer was that that masterspirit labored until his death under some tremendousfear. What else but the fear of arrestand capital punishment for some crime could havekept him silent until, unwarned and unprepared,he entered “the undiscovered country?”
Was it not