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Christopher Marlowe and the succession to the English crown.

This discussion explores a concern that is visible in several of Marlowe's plays: the succession to the English crown. Marlowe seems to have known at least one possible contender for the succession; the question of succession is also explicitly raised at the outset of a work in which he avowed an interest, Machiavelli's The Prince; and the idea of a new ruler and the difficulties he faces in establishing his position occurs in a number of his plays. After brief discussions of selected plays, this paper focuses mainly on the treatment of the topic in Tamburlaine.


In this discussion I want to explore a concern that I think is visible in a number of Christopher Marlowe's plays: an interest in the question of the succession to the English crown. That he should have felt such an interest is unsurprising, given that the start of his writing career came very shortly after Mary, Queen of Scots was executed, effectively because of her claim to the throne. Moreover, there is clear evidence that Marlowe, by the end of his writing career if not before, had made the acquaintance of Robert Poley, who was involved in the intrigues surrounding the entrapment of Mary. It is also possible that Marlowe knew personally two other possible contenders for the succession: Ferdinando Stanley, Lord Strange, who may well have been his early patron, and Arbella Stuart. Charles Nicholl quotes Bess of Hardwick's letter to Lord Burghley concerning 'one Morley, who hath attended on Arabella and read to her for the space of three year and a half ', that is, between 1588 and 1592; and although Nicholl presents this as one of the false trails listed in his appendix, he also calls it 'perhaps the most fascinating trail, and the one I lingered over longest'. (1) The reason why Nicholl regretfully abandoned the idea was that the little evidence we have for Marlowe's whereabouts during those years does make it seem unlikely (though not impossible) that the Mr Morley who read to Arbella could have been Christopher Marlowe. However, it might just be worth noting that at least one of Arbella's two surviving letters from this period comes from London, which would dispose of Nicholl's worry about banishing Marlowe to Derbyshire for so long. (2) Finally, towards the end of his life Marlowe began to display clear signs of an interest in Scotland, home of the likeliest and indeed the eventual successor to the throne, James VI, son of Mary, Queen of Scots. Quite apart from Kyd's declaration that Marlowe intended to join his friend Matthew Roydon at the court of James VI, there is Nicholl's observation that Robert Poley, who was, of course, in the room with Marlowe when he died, was 'an old Scottish hand' who had made four separate visits to the Scottish court in the preceding year, one of them lasting two months. (3)

The question of succession is explicitly raised at the outset of a work in which Marlowe avowed an interest, Machiavelli's The Prince, in which a significant part of the narrative is devoted to analysing the reasons why Machiavelli's principal case study, Cesare Borgia, failed to inherit his father's power and lost his position after his father's death. The Prince begins by announcing that

All the states, all the dominions under whose authority men have lived in the past and live now have been and are either republics or principalities. Principalities are hereditary, with their prince's family long established as rulers, or they are new [...] with hereditary states, accustomed to their prince's family, there are far fewer difficulties in maintaining one's rule than in new principalities; because it is enough merely not to neglect the institutions founded by one's ancestors and then to adapt policy to events. (4)

The idea of a new ruler and the difficulties he faces in establishing his position dominates the Tamburlaine the Great plays, and figures too in The Jew of Malta and, to a lesser extent, in The Massacre at Paris, which closes with power passing from one dynasty to another. Succession in general, though, is a recurring topic throughout Marlowe's plays.

An interest in the question of the succession certainly seems to be alluded to in Dido Queen of Carthage, with its interest in the marriage of a queen, which we are clearly invited to read in terms of the history and public persona of Elizabeth herself: not only does Iarbas say that he will make 'all the woods "Eliza" to resound!' (iv. 2. 10), taking advantage of the fact that Dido's other name in classical mythology was Elissa, but it is highly likely that anyone costuming a fictional queen for a theatrical part would inevitably have been influenced by the kind of thing the real queen was known to wear, so Dido's visual style might well recall Elizabeth's. Marlowe also has Dido die in a fire, instead of stabbing herself, as in so many other versions of the story, most notably Virgil's. This, together with the fact that Dido's Phoenician nationality gives her the name 'Phoenissa', irresistibly associates her with the phoenix imagery beloved of Queen Elizabeth I.

An interest in the question of succession to the English crown may well be present in Edward II too, since the portrayal of a homosexual king seems to glance in the direction of James of Scotland. It even seems to surface in the apparently improbable context of The Jew of Malta, if I am right in thinking that that play can be seen as alluding to Lucas de Heere's painting The Allegory of the Tudor Succession (c. 1572). This records on the back that it was given by the queen to Sir Francis Walsingham, and bears around the frame the following verse:
 A face of mvche nobillitye loe in a litle roome,
 Fowr states with theyr conditions heare shadowed in a showe
 A father more than valyant. A rare and vertvvs soon.
 A zealvs davghter in her kynd what els the world doth knowe
 And last of all a vyrgin qveen to Englands ioy we see,
 Successyvely to hold the right and vertves of the three. (5)

Everything we know about Marlowe suggests that he may well have had a personal connection with Sir Francis Walsingham, since Marlowe seems to have been involved in espionage, which was principally directed by Walsingham.6 Constance Kuriyama has suggested that there may have been a friendship between Marlowe and Nicholas Faunt, one of Walsingham's principal officers;7 and Marlowe certainly knew Walsingham's young cousin Thomas, in whose house at Scadbury he seems to have been staying when he was arrested by the Privy Council in May 1593. It seems, therefore, that Marlowe could have seen the painting and read this verse.

There are a number of phrases in the verse that are extremely suggestive of Marlowe. 'In a little roome' is directly echoed in The Jew of Malta (and was, of course, courtesy of As You Like It, to become synonymous with the location of Marlowe's own death), when Barabas praises
 Bags of fiery opals, sapphires, amethysts,
 Jacinths, hard topaz, grass-green emeralds,
 Beauteous rubies, sparkling diamonds,
 And seld-seen costly stones of so great price,
 As one of them indifferently rated,
 And of a carat in this quantity,
 May serve in peril of calamity
 To ransom great kings from captivity.
 This is the ware wherein consists my wealth:
 And thus methinks should men of judgement frame
 Their means of traffic from the vulgar trade,
 And as their wealth increaseth, so enclose
 Infinite riches in a little room. (8)

It is usually suggested that the phrase 'Infinite riches in a little room' evokes the iconography of the Blessed Virgin Mary, (9) but the overlap with the language of the succession painting might well alert one to a parallel closer to home, with the jewel-loving, travel- and trade-sponsoring Queen Elizabeth.

Directly after his reference to 'infinite riches', Barabas says: 'Into what corner peers my halcyon's bill? | Ha, to the east? Yes: see how stands the vanes!' (i. 1. 39-40). The east is the same direction as that from which Elizabeth would be coming in the succession painting, if it were to be envisioned as a map. Certainly, in the context of The Jew of Malta, the painting's phrase 'A zealvs davghter in her kynd what els the world doth knowe' becomes wildly provocative, especially since its language is directly echoed in Abigail's reference to 'The Abbess of the house, | Whose zealous admonition I embrace' (III. 3. 72-73). So, too, does the idea of virginity, emphasized when Bernardine laments that Abigail dies a virgin (III. 6. 41), and the fact that Abigail, Elizabeth-like, plays off one suitor against the other.

Even more provocative in such a context is Barabas's remark that
 I must confess we come not to be kings.
 That's not our fault: alas, our number's few,
 And crowns come either by succession,
 Or urged by force; and nothing violent,
 Oft have I heard tell, can be permanent.
 Give us a peaceful rule, make Christians kings,
 That thirst so much for principality.

 (i. 1. 128-34)

The whole point of the succession painting is to praise the queen and laud the workings of divine providence, which have finally brought her to her father's crown; here, the winning of a crown becomes either a freak of heredity or the mark of violence, and hence transitory. Moreover, in flat contradiction to the religious sensibility underpinning the visual iconography of the succession painting, it is directly implied that kingship is a mark of the lust for power of Christians rather than any kind of manifestation of faith.

Finally, Ithamore's dismissive comment of the nuns, 'Here's a drench to poison a whole stable of Flanders mares: I'll carry't to the nuns with a powder' (iii. 4. 114-15), alludes directly to Henry VIII's contemptuous remark about one of the most spectacular failures of his succession policy, Anne of Cleves, whom he is said to have termed a 'Flanders mare'. (10) Anne of Cleves is, for obvious reasons, not depicted in the succession painting. Indeed, none of Henry's wives is; his three children are presenting as coming from him alone, with only Philip of Spain presenting an unfortunate disruption of the direct genetic link that validates succession to the English crown. Ithamore's pointed remark, however, is a direct reminder of the human cost underlying the smooth political message of the succession painting.

I have argued elsewhere that Marlowe was distinctly sceptical about the myth of the Virgin Queen; (11) this painting, with its pious message and smooth omissions, might well have served to whet his sarcasm. We know that within a year after Marlowe's death the story of The Jew of Malta was applied to the queen's own affairs when Henslowe revived the play in the wake of the Jewish Dr Lopez's alleged attempt to assassinate Elizabeth. The Jew of Malta is also clearly remembered in Shakespeare's King Lear, which directly focuses on the issue of three children succeeding to their father's crown (and to which I shall have occasion to recur later). Selim-Calymath's 'my father's cause, |Wherein I may not, nay I dare not dally' in The Jew of Malta (I. 2. 11-12) anticipates Cordelia's 'O dear father! | It is thy business that I go about' in King Lear. (12) Barabas's recalcitrance in the redistribution of wealth leaves him with nothing; he pleads vainly 'Let me be used but as my brethren are' (I. 2. 94), and his 'Of naught is nothing made' (I. 2. 106) foreshadows Lear's 'Nothing will come of nothing' (I. 1. 89). However, perhaps these two more direct applications only underlined a topical allusivity that was, in fact, already there. David Keck, arguing that Marlowe was influenced more than has been recognized by the images in Ortelius's Theatrum Orbis Terrarum, has recently suggested that 'the possibilities are ripe for critical rethinking of Marlowe's visual imagination'; (13) this might well seem to be a case in point. Equally, though, I believe it should alert us to a strong interest on Marlowe's part in the question of the succession to the English crown.

Most prominently, I think this is present in Part One of Tamburlaine. It does not seem to have been previously noticed that there are a number of suggestive likenesses between the Tamburlaine plays and various other texts that are certainly focused on the succession or on questions relating to it. The earliest of these, Thomas Norton and Thomas Sackville's Gorboduc, offers a virtual prophecy of Tamburlaine when Eubulus says:
 Lo, Britain realm is left an open prey,
 A present spoil by conquest to ensue.
 Who seeth not now how many rising minds
 Do feed their thoughts with hopes to reach a realm?
 And who will not by force attempt to win
 So great a gain, that hope persuades to have?
 A simple colour shall for title serve.
 Who wins the royal crown will want no right,
 Nor such as shall display by long descent
 A lineal race to prove him lawful king.
 In the meanwhile these civil arms shall rage,
 And thus a thousand mischiefs shall unfold,
 And far and near spread thee, o Britain land;
 All right and law shall cease, and he that had
 Nothing today, tomorrow shall enjoy
 Great heaps of gold, and he that flowed in wealth,
 Lo, he shall be bereft of life and all;
 And happiest he that then possesseth least.
 The wives shall suffer rape, the maids deflowered,
 And children fatherless shall weep and wail;
 With fire and sword thy native folk shall perish,
 One kinsman shall bereave another's life,
 The father shall unwitting slay the son,
 The son shall slay the sire and know it not.
 Women and maids the cruel soldier's sword
 Shall pierce to death, and silly children, lo,
 That playing in the streets and fields are found,
 By violent hand shall close their latter day. (14)

Tamburlaine meets this person spec with uncanny precision. Eubulus predicts a scrabble for the succession of a result of 'rising minds', and Tamburlaine's philosophy is that
 Nature, that framed us of four elements
 Warring within our breasts for regiment,
 Doth teach us all to have aspiring minds.

 (1 Tamburlaine, II. 7. 18-20)

Tamburlaine certainly has no right, and we know nothing at all of his ancestry or indeed even of his parentage. Another of Eubulus's references is to gold; Tamburlaine is undoubtedly interested in amassing gold, as we see when he has golden wedges laid out to 'amaze the Persians' (1 Tamburlaine, i. 2. 140) and when he has the body of Zenocrate encased in it. Notably, gold is also associated with another ruler of whose Scythian identity we are constantly reminded, Humber in Locrine, who declares:
 But I will frustrate all their foolish hope,
 And teach them that the Scithian Emperour
 Leades fortune tied in a chaine of gold. (15)

Our own modern association of Scythians with gold thus seems to have been already well established in the period. Moreover, in Marlowe's Tamburlaine narrative the father will indeed slay the son, though not unwittingly. Finally, the prophecy about the death of virgins is directly fulfilled in the massacre of the Virgins of Damascus.

Earlier in Gorboduc, the dumbshow before the fourth act presents the Furies driving a procession of monarchs who have slain their own children: Tantalus, Medea, Athamas, Ino, Cambyses, and Althea, who are shortly to be joined by Videna. An analogous list could be produced from Marlowe's plays and would include Catherine de' Medici, Tamburlaine, and Barabas (who, though not actually a monarch, aspires to be governor of Malta). There is also a striking correspondence between the closing tableau of 1 Tamburlaine and a recurrent motif in Gorboduc, which is that of Phaeton. Very early in the play the Chorus declares:
 This doth the proud son of Apollo prove,
 Who, rashly set in chariot of his sire,
 Inflamed the parched earth with heaven's fire.

 (i. 2. 16-18)

Not long after that we are told:
 Too soon he clamb into the flaming car,
 Whose want of skill did set the earth on fire.

 (i. 2. 330-31)

Lastly we hear:
 Lo, such are they now in the royal throne
 As was rash Phaeton in Phoebus' car

 (II. 1. 203-04)

In 2 Tamburlaine, similarly, Amyras mounts his father's chariot, but there are surely obvious doubts about his ability to control it: perilously poised on the verge of acceding to power, which he seems unlikely to be able to exercise effectively, he is in effect a Phaeton figure, unequal to the manage of his father's chariot; indeed, he is as unerringly identifiable in this emblematic role as his brother Calyphas was earlier when he was identified as a personification of sloth.

This aspect of 2 Tamburlaine may perhaps be the reason why it is so extensively remembered in at least two later succession plays. The first of these, and the more complicated of the two cases, is Locrine, the complication arising from the fact that Locrine is a reworking of an earlier play, Estrild, which actually predates Tamburlaine. Estrild appears to have been written by the Babington conspirator Charles Tilney; Benjamin Griffin has raised 'the possibility that Estrild was more politically sensitive than we might guess if we did not know who had written it', asking 'Was Estrild composed as a persuasion-piece along the lines of Gorboduc, half-warning and half-threatening on the succession question?' Intriguingly pointing out that 'Sitting in judgment on the author of Estrild was, among others, the author of Gorboduc, Thomas Sackville, Lord Buckhurst', (16) Griffin invites us to consider Estrild, and by implication Locrine, as part of a chain of edgy, potentially subversive plays about the succession.

Locrine contains typically Greenean echoes of Marlowe's mighty line, particularly as it had manifested itself in 1 Tamburlaine. The stylistic similarity is clearly audible in lines such as the following, spoken by Thrasimachus:
 I, in the name of all, protest to you,
 That we will boldly enterprise the same,
 Were it to enter black Tartarus,
 Where triple Cerberus with his venomous throte,
 Scarreth the ghoasts with high resounding noise.

 (1 Tamburlaine, I. 1. 73-77)

This is obviously an echo of 'the Scythian Tamburlaine | Threat'ning the world with high astounding terms' (Prologue, ll. 4-5), while Strumbo ludicrously terms the powerful Thrasimachus 'an abhominable chieftaine' (II. 4. 53) and refers to his enemies as 'the Shitens, the Scythians--what do you call them?' (II. 4. 62-63). There is also another possible echo when early in the play the dying Brutus speaks of 'This heart, my lords, this neare appalled heart, | That was a terror to the bordring lands' (I. 1. 20-21). Greene seems to use a very similar phrase elsewhere, and when he does so, he explicitly recalls Tamburlaine: in George a Greene, which is very probably though not certainly his, (17) the earl of Kendal orders:
 Well, hye thee to Wakefield, bid the Towne
 To send me all prouision that I want;
 Least I, like martiall Tamberlaine, lay waste
 Their bordering Countries. (18)

Perhaps, then, Tamburlaine is hovering over the Locrine passage too; and there is certainly a thematic overlap, for Locrine addresses head on the question of succession by looking at what happens when Brutus divides Britain amongst his three sons, Albanact, Camber, and the eponymous hero Locrine. Ultimately, like the Tamburlaine plays and above all like Gorboduc, it shows us a nation in confusion, and this would be something sharply resonant in the troubled and paranoid atmosphere of the 1580s and 1590s, as Sir John Harington reveals in his 1602 A Tract on the Succession to the Crown when he discusses the proposed renaming of England and Scotland if they come to be joined under James:

The offer is to chaunge the name of England and Scotland and call both by their old name of Brytaine.

This makes me call to mynde a blynde prophesye that I heard when I was a child, namely:
 After Hempe is sowen and growen
 Kings of England shall by none.

This HEMPIE they understood to signify the five Princes that last reigned by the first lettres of their name, Henrie, Edward, Marie, Phillip, Elizabeth. After which many, appleying this fantasticke prophecie to their more fantastic humors, would have it Some that the realme should be againe divided into an heptarchie or government of Seaven--Some, that like to the Low Countries wee should be governed by states others feared some conquest of the King of Spaine, whereby wee should be governed by a Viceroy, as | Naples, Sicily, and the Indies. (19)

Harington's own proposed interpretation is that kings of England will be replaced by kings of Britain, not least because 'HEMPE thus gathered will imploy the fewest halters' (p. 18); but he also makes clear that this is by no means the only possible interpretation, and plays like Gorboduc, Locrine, and Tamburlaine the Great may well be making a decision that is both deliberate and political when they refuse to offer full closure. In its use of the three sons motif, Locrine (which, after all, seems in its original form to have grown, like 1 Tamburlaine, out of the machinations surrounding the Babington plot) thus makes good use of its echoes of 1 Tamburlaine: so far from being, as Peter Berek has it, one of Tamburlaine's 'weak sons', (20) Locrine is actually a strong son in its ability to deploy Marlovian memories.

The Tamburlaine plays also seem to share imaginative terrain with a nondramatic work much concerned with the question of the succession, William Warner's Albions England. Few authors can have been so comprehensively forgotten as William Warner. When he is discussed at all, it is either as an unexciting propagandist for the Tudor regime--Helen Cooper, for instance, sees him as dutifully instantiating Elizabeth as the teleological point of his history (21)--or as a writer not fully in control of his own meaning and thus interesting only for what he inadvertently reveals, as in John E. Curran's study Roman Invasions, where we read that, 'Warner's aim is to prove that "the Britons bring | Their pedigree from Jupiter" [...] But he ends up proving that he knows Hercules and Aeneas much better than he knows Albion and Brutus'. Along similar lines, Curran contends that when he uses Scottish sources for his treatment of Voada and Voadicia, 'Warner wants to take advantage of the Scottish chronicle on his own terms, but its presence is always disruptive'. (22) In his own day, however, Warner was greatly respected: Francis Meres wrote of him that 'as Euripides is the most sententious among the Greek Poets: so is Warner among our English Poets'; (23) Gabriel Harvey noted that the Earl of Essex 'much commendes Albion's England'; (24) and we know that as late as the mid-seventeenth century, lines from Albion's England were transcribed by one of the siblings of Ann Bowyer, mother of Elias Ashmole, (25) as part of a collection of notable writings.

Most significantly, William Warner is also, along with Walter Warner the mathematician, one of the two candidates for the 'Warner' whom Kyd named as the friend of Christopher Marlowe. Walter has been considered the likelier candidate on the grounds that William was an uninspired panegyrist of Elizabeth's England. However,William Warner's writing is neither dull nor pious, but furiously alert and ironic, and he might well have made a suitable friend for the sardonic and irreverent Marlowe. Contrary to Curran's implication of incompetence, Warner is in fact a careful narrator. He does not blindly follow his sources, but sometimes chooses to omit things, and he does so particularly in questions pertaining to the succession, saying of Cordelia, for instance: 'Not how her nephewes warre on her, & one of them slew th'other | Shall followe: but I will disclose a most tyrannous mother.' (26) Equally, he notes that 'From Porrex fortie Kings in silence shall remaine' (p. 69). Of course, implicit in all these instances is the assumption that Warner's readers are likely to know what might have been expected in these sections, and that they can, accordingly, be trusted to be attentive to other omissions, nuances, and implications. In the particular instances I have cited here, it appears that Warner is more interested in disputed succession than peaceful reigns, and in monstrous women than monstrous men--two concerns that would chime with the mood of the late sixteenth century, when both the state of health of the ageing Elizabeth and the uncertainty surrounding her successor might well have given cause for alarm, not least to Warner, who had little time for the home country of the queen's most likely heir. His malice against the Scots is vividly demonstrated in such a remark as Brutus 'of the Isle (vn-Scotted yet) the Empire had ere long' (p. 62), or in his unusual decision to have Brutus land first not in Totnes but in Scotland, then to leave because it is too mountainous and hence fit only for cowards. Warner's Brutus
 views the mounting Northerne partes: These fit (quoth he) for men
 That trust asmuch to flight as fight: our Bulwarks are our brests,
 The next Arriuals heere, perchaunce, will gladlier build their
 nests: A Troians courage is to him a Fortres of defence: And
 leauing so where Scottes be now, he Southward maketh thence

 (p. 63)

The 'next Arriuals', we deduce, must have been the Scots, and they, being by nature more cowardly than the English, were 'glad' to accept those ready-made fortresses to hide in.

Warner tempers his general anti-Scottishness with cautious politeness about James VI (p. 244); but even in the continuation, written after James's ascension to the throne of England, the best he can do is to retell the story of Macbeth to stress Fleance's liaison with a Welsh princess and hence James's Welsh ancestry (pp. 377-78). The only way to rehabilitate the Scots king, it seems, is to make him not Scots at all.

The qualified rapture with which Warner treats James is firmly in line with a general scepticism about kings in Albion's England, manifested most sharply in a mischievous disavowal of the idea of the translatio imperii, so precious to early modern British monarchs, on the grounds that Ferrex and Porrex, who both died without issue, were actually the last surviving descendants of Brutus: 'And thus from noble Brute his line the scepter then did passe: | When of his bloud for to succeede no heire suruiuing was' (p. 68). This is not a totally unique view; it is, for instance, also found in Thomas Hughes's The Misfortunes of Arthur, where we read that 'There lay the hope and braunch of Brute supprest'. (27) It was, however, a minority one--compare, for example, Thomas Nashe's 'In some places of the world there is no shadow of the sun: Diebus illis if it had been so in England, the generation of Brute had died all and some' (28)--and also a risky one to express because of its inevitably anti-establishment overtones. It also does as much damage to Elizabeth as to James, since a cornerstone of her personal mythology was the Welsh ancestry that supposedly linked her to Arthur and hence to Brutus. The man who wrote these passages might indeed seem to be a candidate for the friend of Marlowe, who was also given, as in his portrait of Dido, to jibes against the queen. (29)

There appear, in fact, to be some possible references in Albion's England to Marlowe. Early in the work Warner mentions the Tower of Babel and how before it 'aspiring mindes did sleepe, and wealth was not pursude' (p. 2), which combines a phrase beloved by Marlowe, 'aspiring minds', with an image--that of the Tower of Babel--used by Kyd, the man who named 'Warner' as Marlowe's friend. Warner's reference to 'Feend got Marlin' (p. 89) might gesture in the same direction, and his comparison of Edward VI to Ascanius and Ganymede (p. 191) unites two characters from Marlowe's Dido, Queen of Carthage, while his reference to 'the bloodie Massacre at Paris' (p. 252) quotes the title of another Marlowe play.

Warner also displays in Albion's England a surprising amount of knowledge about the English Catholic community, on whom, it seems likely, Marlowe was engaged in spying. He writes of how
 When Spaniards & their Partizens eare-while should vs inuaide, In
 plotting of that Stratageme in Councell much was said: Some of our
 Queene to be destroyde, of murthring vs some spake, Some this, some
 that, but all of all an altred World to make: Least English
 Papistes, then shut vp in Elie and els-wheare, Meane time by vs
 might lose their liues, some One, by chace did feare. Which scruple
 was remoued soone by one, that well did know, Not for religion but
 a Realme, did Spayne that cost bestow.

 (p. 223 [misnumbered as 221])

In particular, Warner refers to Cardinal Allen (p. 231) and shows himself well informed about the captivity of Mary, Queen of Scots, mentioning the Catholic conspirator Charles Paget, who carried letters from Mary to the undercover government agent Robert Poley (later to be one of the three men in the room when Marlowe died). He also seems to show inside knowledge of Mary, Queen of Scots' imprisonment when he writes of her that
 Yeat Princely her allowance, and more stately, as is sayde,
 Than had she been in Scotland: nor was Libertie denayde
 Of Hauking, Hunting, and Disports: that, had she been content,
 Her merriest and securest daies a Prisoner she spent.

 (p. 244)

Warner also refers to two other men whom we know or suppose to have been connected with Marlowe, the Catholic conspirator Richard Hesket[h] and Ferdinando Stanley, Lord Strange:
 False Hesket too not falsely spake, reporting lately this,
 That such as Papists would seduce, and oft seducing mis,
 Are marked dead: For he to whom he so did say, feare I,
 Earle Ferdinando Stanley, so dissenting, so did trie,
 As other Peeres, heere, and els-where, haue found the like no lye.

 (p. 229)

This sounds like a man who has remarkably good information about the doings of the various Catholic agents, agents provocateurs, and potential Catholics in England--just the kind of information that one might expect him to have obtained from someone deeply involved in such doings. It is, therefore, notable that many of these contemporary political events and persons of which Warner registers awareness bear directly on the question of the succession.

Warner's narrative of the progeny of Brutus moves straight from the son of Locrine to Leir. As we have seen, King Lear recalls The Jew of Malta on a number of occasions. (30) Marlowe is perhaps also evoked when Lear exclaims 'To have a thousand with red burning spits | Come hizzing in upon 'em' (III. 6. 15-16). In the 2007 Royal Shakespeare Company production at least, a poker was brandished at this point by Ian McKellen's king, obviously recalling Edward II (in which McKellen had famously appeared in a 1970 TV version). Equally, when Cordelia asks 'Was this a face | To be oppos'd against the warring winds?' (IV. 7. 31-32), she neatly appropriates Dr Faustus's famous question. Most notably, there are clear echoes of 2 Tamburlaine. At crucial moments in two separate Marlowe plays, characters cut their own arms. Halfway through 2 Tamburlaine, Tamburlaine cuts his own arm for the edification of his sons (III. 2. 115-29). There is also a strikingly similar episode in the play that now seems almost certain to have followed directly after 2 Tamburlaine--Doctor Faustus when Mephistopheles tells Faustus to 'stab thine arm courageously' (A Text, II. 1. 49). In King Lear, two characters do the same. First, Edmund decides that
 Some blood drawn on me would beget opinion
 Of my more fierce endeavour: I have seen drunkards
 Do more than this in sport. (31)

Although the precise place where Edmund cuts himself is not specified in the text, the stage and editorial tradition is that it is in the arm, and there would certainly be a parallel here with the later incident when his brother Edgar declares,
 The country gives me proof and precedent
 Of Bedlam beggars, who, with roaring voices,
 Strike in their numb'd and mortified bare arms
 Pins, wooden pricks, nails, sprigs of rosemary.

 (II. 3. 13-16)

Most oddly, Lear tells the supposed Edmund, 'You, sir, I entertain for one of my hundred; only I do not like the fashion of your garments: you will say they are Persian; but let them be chang'd' (III. 6. 76-79). Why on earth should English Edmund be wearing Persian clothes, even as a means of disguise? The Arden edition suggests that this is an allusion to a visit to James's court by a Persian envoy, but it seems equally plausible to see here a nod to the prominence of Persia in the Tamburlaine the Great plays.

In turn, there is perhaps a connection between 2 Tamburlaine and an earlier version of the Lear story, The True Chronicle History of King Leir, first published in 1605 but certainly written before that. King Leir opens with a king who looks eerily like Tamburlaine, mourning the loss of a beloved wife. Later, Marlowe is directly evoked when Gonorill tells Cornwall he is
 As welcome as Leander was to Hero,
 Or braue Aeneas to the Carthage queene

 (sig. C1r)

He may also be recalled when Ragan asks the Messenger:
 Hast thou the heart to act a stratagem,
 And giue a stabbe or two, if need require?

 (sigs E1v-E2r)

This seems like a clear recollection of the lines in Marlowe's Edward II in which Spencer Junior advises Baldock that
 You must be proud, bold, pleasant, resolute--And
 now and then stab, as occasion serves.

 (III. 1. 42-43)

Finally Perillus says to Leir:
 O, if you loue me, as you do professe,
 Or euer thought well of me in my life,
 Feed on this flesh, whose veynes are not so dry,
 But there is vertue left to comfort you.

 (sigs H1v-H2r)

In 1 Tamburlaine, Bajazeth makes precisely the opposite complaint:
 My empty stomach, full of idle heat,
 Draws bloody humours from my feeble parts,
 Preserving life by hasting cruel death.
 My veins are pale, my sinews hard and dry,
 My joints benumbed; unless I eat, I die.

 (IV. 4. 100-05)

Tamburlaine has already advised Bajazeth to pluck out his heart 'and 'twill serve thee and thy wife' (iv. 4. 11-12). The Leir lines seem to represent a collapsing of these two slightly separate moments, blending together the ideas of cannibalism and of veins or sinews being dry.

Such intertextual connections between the two plays would be particularly interesting, because King Leir can be seen as more than once glancing slyly in the direction of the queen herself. Leir says
 I am as kind as is the Pellican,
 That kils it selfe, to saue her young ones liues:
 And yet as ielous as the princely Eagle,
 That kils her young ones, if they do but dazel
 Vpon the radiant splendor of the Sunne.

 (sig. B3v)

The pelican was one of Elizabeth's favourite emblems, as seen in the Pelican Portrait by Nicholas Hilliard. Another of Elizabeth's favourite emblems seems to be evoked when the Gallian king calls Cordella 'Mirror of virtue, Phoenix of our age!' (sig. E2v). Later, Mumford says:
 Now if I had a Kingdome in my hands,
 I would exchange it for a milkmaids smock and petycoate,
 That she and I might shift our clothes together.

 (sig. C2r)

Elizabeth, too, famously compared herself to a milkmaid. (32) Most interestingly, Gonorill says of Cordella:
 Here is an answere answerlesse indeed:
 Were you my daughter, I should scarcely brooke it.

 (sig. B1v)

This could be seen as directly echoing the rhetoric of the queen herself when she told Parliament that in the matter of Mary's execution 'you must take an answer without answer at my hands. For if I should say I would not do it, I should peradventure say that which I did not think, and otherwise than it might be'. (33) Gonorill's words might thus be seen as coming as close as an Elizabethan play could to referring directly to its queen, and of reminding the audience of an episode in her life that she herself preferred to discuss as little as possible.

I make no apology for the tenuousness of the connections I am proposing here. Open discussion of the succession was forbidden, so any reflection on it is perforce oblique, insubstantial, difficult to pin down. But I want to argue that if the Tamburlaine plays are intertextually connected with a group of plays explicitly concerned with the question of the succession, this is no accident, but rather an indication of what the Tamburlaine plays too are interested in. This is an aspect of the play that has not attracted particular critical attention, no doubt because of the larger-than-life and overpowering nature of the central character: when there is a Tamburlaine on stage to be looked at it, we hardly seem to be invited to contemplate who or what might come after him. And yet the play does invite us to just such contemplation. First, it does so by its own relentlessly sequential structure and, indeed, nature: the often-deplored episodic quality of the construction has the idea of what comes next inscribed at its foundations, as does the constantly appetitive nature of Tamburlaine's own quest for always one more kingdom. Secondly, it does so by introducing the motif of the three sons in the first place. This was a wholly unexpected development, for which nothing in 1 Tamburlaine had prepared, and although the fact that Marlowe had used up so much of his source material, and indeed of his hero's life, in Part One meant that he had to introduce something new, there was no obvious or logical reason why attention should switch to Tamburlaine's domestic life rather than to the public role that the first part had been at such pains to establish. Nevertheless, that is the direction in which Marlowe takes us, not least because many members of the audience were likely to know that the death of Timur was followed by a struggle for power; and Marlowe thus inevitably invites us to ask the same question as Leir and Lear: which of these three children is best fitted to succeed their father?

In asking this question, the play reaches out beyond the immediate situation to raise the whole issue of what are the proper qualities for ruling a kingdom. To some extent, all of Marlowe's plays can be seen to be asking this question, since they all focus on, or at least feature, important roles, rulers, and their children. Edward II supplements its dramatically and narratively essential account of the conflict between Edward and his wife with a less obviously called for study of Edward's relationship with his son, the eventual Edward III. The Massacre at Paris features not one but two sets of royal parents and children: the queen of Navarre and her son the future Henri IV, and the queen of France and her clutch of sons, one of whom she summarily disposes of, much as Tamburlaine does of Calyphas:
 For Catherine must have her will in France.
 As I do live, so surely shall he die,
 And Henry then shall wear the diadem;
 And if he grudge or cross his mother's will,
 I'll disinherit him and all the rest;
 For I'll rule France, but they shall wear the crown,
 And, if they storm, I then may pull them down.

 (Scene 11, 38-44)

Dido, Queen of Carthage has a childless Dido willingly mothering the son whom his actual father, Aeneas, neglects and very nearly abandons; and The Jew of Malta has both Ferneze and his son and Selim-Calymath and, by implication, his father. Only Doctor Faustus offers an exception to the rule, but it too addresses the issue head on when Faustus says 'Exhaereditare filium non potest pater nisi' (i. 1. 29). Unless what? Unless, presumably, he is unfit--which brings us neatly back to that central question of what fitness to rule actually consists of. This is one question that Tamburlaine does not, indeed dare not, answer, but it perhaps encourages its audience to ask it.


Sheffield Hallam University

(1) Charles Nicholl, The Reckoning: The Murder of Christopher Marlowe, 2nd edn (London: Vintage, 2002), pp. 340-41.

(2) See The Letters of Lady Arbella Stuart, ed. by Sara Jayne Steen (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1994). There is a letter dated 8 February 1587/8, which Steen says was written 'presumably from one of the houses of Mary and Gilbert Talbot, with whom she was then living' (p. 119); and one dated 13 July 1588 from the Talbots' Coleman Street residence in London. Nicholl assumes that 'Morley' tutored Arbella at Hardwick, although Bess's letter, or at least such part of it as he quotes, never says so.

(3) Nicholl, The Reckoning, p. 262.

(4) Niccole Machiavelli, The Prince, trans. by George Bull (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1961), p. 33.

(5) I follow Roy Strong's lineation in Gloriana: The Portraits of Queen Elizabeth I (London: Thames & Hudson, 1987), p. 71, as the best way to transcribe the four-sided (and upper case) inscription, but have amended 'Englands joy' in line 5 after consultation of the original painting (on public view at Sudeley Castle, Gloucestershire).

(6) On the question of whether Marlowe had connections with Walsingham see Nicholl, The Reckoning, p. 122.

(7) See Constance Kuriyama, 'Second Selves: Marlowe's Cambridge and London Friendships', Medieval and Renaissance Drama in England, 14 (2001), 86-104.

(8) Christopher Marlowe, The Jew of Malta, in Christopher Marlowe: The Complete Plays, ed. by Mark Thornton Burnett (London: Dent, 1999), i. 1. 25-37. (All further quotations from the plays will be taken from this edition and references will be given in the text.)

(9) See, for instance, Burnett's note on the passage.

(10) It is true that, like all anecdotes, this cannot be considered entirely reliable, but of the five uses of the term 'Flanders mare' detected by the search engine of Early English Books Online, one, in Beaumont's comedy The Scornful Lady, is sufficiently close in date to Marlowe to suggest that the phrase had an early currency.

(11) See Lisa Hopkins, Christopher Marlowe: A Literary Life (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2000), pp. 107-16.

(12) William Shakespeare, King Lear, ed. by Kenneth Muir (London: Routledge, 1989), iv. 4. 23-24. (All further quotations from the play will be taken from this edition and references will be given in the text.)

(13) David Keck, 'Marlowe and Ortelius's Map', Notes and Queries, 52.2 (2005), 189-90 (p. 189).

(14) Thomas Norton and Thomas Sackville, Gorboduc, in Five Elizabethan Tragedies, ed. by A. K. McIlwraith (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1938), v. 2. 191-218. (All further quotations from the play will be taken from this edition and references will be given in the text.)

(15) W.S., Locrine, in C. F. Tucker Brooke, The Shakespeare Apocrypha: Being a Collection of Fourteen Plays Which Have Been Ascribed to Shakespeare (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1908), II. 1. 13-15.

(16) Benjamin Griffin, 'Locrine and the Babington Plot', Notes and Queries, 44.1 (1997), 37-40 (pp. 38, 39). The claim for Tilney's authorship rests on a note that was, unfortunately, first brought to light by the known forger John Payne Collier. For the debate on its genuineness see Baldwin Maxwell, Studies in the Shakespearean Apocrypha (New York: King's Crown Press, 1956), pp. 205-06, n. 31.

(17) According to Sir George Buc, Shakespeare told him that the author of George a Greene was a minister who had also played the pinner. However, Buc also recorded below this that 'Ed. Iuby saith that this play was made by Ro. Gree[ne]', and there are certainly stylistic similarities with Greene's work; see Alan H. Nelson, 'George Buc, William Shakespeare, and the Folger George a Greene', Shakespeare Quarterly, 49.1 (1998), 74-83 (p. 74).

(18) Robert Greene, A Pleasant Conceyted Comedie of 'George a Greene', the Pinner of Wakefield (London, 1599), p. 2. (All further references will be given in the text.)

(19) Sir John Harington, A Tract on the Succession to the Crown (London: Roxburghe Club, 1880), pp. 17-18.

(20) Peter Berek, 'Tamburlaine's Weak Sons: Imitation as Interpretation before 1593', Renaissance Drama, 13 (1982), 55-82.

(21) Helen Cooper, 'The Elizabethan Havelok: William Warner's First of the English', in Medieval Insular Romance: Translation and Innovation, ed. by Judith Weiss, Jennifer Fellows, and Morgan Dickson (Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 2000), pp. 169-183 (p. 180).

(22) John E. Curran, Jr, Roman Invasions: The British History, Protestant Anti-Romanism, and the Historical Imagination in England, 1530-1660 (Newark, NJ: University of Delaware Press, 2002), pp. 106, 200.

(23) Quoted in Victoria E. Burke, 'Ann Bowyer's Commonplace Book (Bodleian Library Ashmole MS 51): Reading and Writing Among the "Middling Sort"', Early Modern Literary Studies, 6.3 (2001), 1.1-28.

(24) Paul E. J. Hammer, The Polarisation of Elizabethan Politics: The Political Career of Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex, 1585-1597 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999), p. 309, n. 213.

(25) See Burke, 'Ann Bowyer's Commonplace Book'.

(26) William Warner, Albions England [1612] (Hildesheim: Georg Olms, 1971), p. 66. (Further page references will be given in the text.) This passage is present in the earliest version of the text, dating from 1586, which took the narrative from Noah to the Norman Conquest, including Aeneas. The 1589 version was expanded to six books, including the addition of woodcut with lineage of the houses of Lancaster and York; the 1592 edition had nine books; the 1596/7, twelve books, stopping at Elizabeth; the 1602, thirteen books including the Epitome; the 1606 took the story up to James; and the final version appeared in 1612.

(27) Thomas Hughes, The Misfortunes of Arthur, iv. 2. 232. For others who took this view see Curran, Roman Invasions, pp. 137-38.

(28) Thomas Nashe, The Unfortunate Traveller and Other Works, ed. by J. B. Steane (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1972), p. 276.

(29) See Hopkins, Christopher Marlowe, pp. 107-16.

(30) The parallels between the two plays are traced more extensively in Lisa Hopkins, 'Lear, Lear, Lear: Marlowe, Shakespeare and the Third', The Upstart Crow, 16 (1996), 108-23; here I include only ones not discussed in that article.

(31) William Shakespeare, King Lear, ed. by Kenneth Muir (London: Methuen, 1972), II. 1. 33-35.

(32) See Paul Yachnin, '"Courtiers of Beauteous Freedom": Antony and Cleopatra in its Time', Renaissance and Reformation, 15 (1991), 1-20 (p. 7).

(33) Elizabeth I: Collected Works, ed. by Leah S. Marcus, Janel Mueller, and Mary Beth Rose (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), p. 199.
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Author:Hopkins, Lisa
Publication:Yearbook of English Studies
Article Type:Critical essay
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Jan 1, 2008
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