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Dead shepherd: Marlowe's mighty saw.

I feel tempted to speak in English and to derive even-thing from "may" and "might" ... (for) we have in the English "might" at once the form might and might as power, the verb and the noun, the optative subjunctive and the magic power to make or let it happen. (1)

"Dead shepherd, now I find thy saw of might" (2): By admitting his delayed reaction to Marlowe's writing, William Shakespeare's pastoral elegy for his deceased contemporary records a change of heart. There is a hint of self-rebuke in this retrospective tribute by the great survivor that complicates the truism that a poet "becomes his admirers" as the words of the dead man are "modified in the guts of the living." (3) Now, Shakespeare appears to allow in this unique act of self-correction, "I find" Marlowe's line more "mighty" than before. The "now" of the elegy is 1599, when enough time has elapsed since Marlowe's demise for the author of As You Like It to reflect ruefully on posthumous reputation, and regret that "When a man's verses cannot be understood ... it strikes a man more dead than a great reckoning in a little room" (3.3.9-12).

These two salutes to Marlowe are among Shakespeare's best-known lines. Yet it is seldom noticed how they are in contradiction, when the implied "I" of the play claims to value the "infinite riches" (4) that "cannot be understood" by those who strike the "shepherd" "more dead" through their obtuseness than the murderers who paid him his final "reckoning" in that "little" Deptford room. Of all contemporaries who wrote about the killing, "Shakespeare alone refers to the wording of the inquest," David Riggs points out. (5) But his sinister pun on Marlowe's mighty saw, the afflatus he elsewhere jokes is used by the ham actor to "saw the air" (Hamlet, 3.2.4), suggests how he came to take seriously the Marlovian hyperbole that mighty "words are swords" (1 Tam, 1.1.74), and to appreciate that the poet who had reportedly been stabbed through the eye with his own blade had cut to the quick with what he said or "saw": "Dead shepherd, now I find thy saw of might: / 'Whoever loved that loved not at first sight?'" (As You Like It, 3.5.81-82).

Shakespeare's quotation of "love at first sight" from Hero and Leander (176) is in tune with other testimony about Marlowe having the same perception of "brave translunary things / That the first poets had." (6) But this grisly wordplay on saying, seeing, and sawing also poses the jury's question of what it was the deceased saw at last sight, before the knife struck his eye. For between Marlowe's murder and Shakespeare's homage, the acuity of the poet had evidently been proved right, and biographers connect the revaluation in As You Like It to the shock of the scene outside Saint Paul's Cathedral in June 1599, when the dead man's translation of Ovid's Elegies was burned on the orders of the Bishop of London. Shakespeare's ensuing relocation to the Globe Theatre, on the south bank of the Thames, might well have been experienced as an exile like that of "the most capricious Ovid ... among the Goths" (3.3.5-6), when the Roman poet was banished to the Black Sea by Augustus. But Riggs reads a deeper alienation in Touchstone's complaint: "The force of the fool's comparison lies in the parallel lesson of Marlowe's meteoric career ... When they cross the line that separates art from politics, [poets] are in for a reckoning" (347).

Thus, when Jaques insists in As You Like It how he "must have liberty / Withal, as large a charter as the wind ... for so fools have " the Duke censures him as a mere "libertine." The satirist's appeal "for a motley coat" of princely protection had been based on the old mutual assurance between the poet and the politician that "motley's the only wear" for artistic license (As You Like It, 2.7.34-65), since "There is no slander in an allowed fool" (Twelfth Night, 1.5.80). But the burning of Marlowe's book clearly brought home to Shakespeare how this patronage system had been changed utterly by the events of 1593, when the "passionate shepherd" had at last been disabused about his courtship of the high and mighty.

Whatever it was Marlowe "saw of might," of macht, in the final seconds of his life, his last works read like the chronicle of a death foretold. For during spring 1593, he appears to have been preoccupied with the perils of patronage, and to have ironized his own position in the tragi-comic interlude he inserted into Hero and Leander concerning the swimmer drowning in the luxury of King Neptune's underwater palace, while "the lusty god" croons a song about the passion of the shepherd for a boy that sounds ominously like the poet's own greatest hit. Leander's impatient interruption, "Aye me," as "upon the waves he springs" (675-90), terminates this riskily burlesque self-parody, in which the writer appears to struggle to escape the lethal embrace of court culture, and his own creative subjection. But the "revenging malice" with which the angry monarch then hurls his mace is truly menacing; and the unintended consequence of that violence, when "the mace returning back, his own hand hit" (692-95), looks uncannily prophetic of what the jury heard at Deptford.

If Hero and Leander is, as critics deduce, a poem in which "Marlowe tries to portray what it feels like to experience this opposition" between power and imagination, or the contrary meanings of "might," the ending, in which the boy who has just escaped ravishment becomes the ravisher, shows how hard the writer found it to separate his hypothetical imaginary "might" from the imagination of material "might" itself. (7) As Graham Hammill comments, it is no coincidence that so many of Marlowe's plays turn on suicide, since he thinks of might "through self-ravishment," with characters who react to power like moths to the flame, by destroying themselves. Hammill terms this self-destructive fascination with "mighty monarchy" (1Tam, 1.1.138) "the Marlovian sublime" and remarks how the author's relationship to the mightiness that would destroy him was never exposed more troublingly than in the last moments of his final finished work, when "fully aware that Lightborne has come to kill him," Edward II responds by imagining his own death as a collaboration: (8)
   I see my tragedy written on thy brows,
   Yet stay awhile; forbear thy bloody hand,
   And let me see the stroke before it comes,
   That even then when I shall lose my life,
   My mind may be more steadfast on my God. (E2, 25.75-79)

"My father is deceas'd, come Gaveston, / And share the kingdom with thy dearest friend" (1.1). The first words of Edward II underline how Marlowe's concept of sublime power coincided with the disruption of feudal clientage networks by the centralizing politics of the absolutist state, and with the subversive "world of the favorite" that this set in train. (9) For as historians point out, this was, in fact, the first English drama to represent the European phenomenon of royal favoritism and to confront the question posed by its opening words: "What greater bliss can hap to Gaveston / Than live and be the favourite of a king?" (1.3-4). With this tragedy, Blair Worden remarks, Marlowe brought to the stage the tropes that would shape English perceptions of absolutism for a century, for the opening soliloquy "announced the birth of a literary tradition" when it launched the theme of the favorite as upstart, whose over-reaching short-circuits conventional currents of social advance. (10)

Gaveston's sneer to "leaden earls, that glory in your birth," to "go sit at home and eat your tenants' beef" (6.74-75), foretold the irresistible rise of the favorite staged in plays like The Roman Actor (1626) or Sejanus His Tall (1603). But the difference was that while Ben Jonson and Philip Massinger would decry the fall of the old patronage system, even as they dramatized the new trajectories of professional promotion, for Marlowe the creative project had come to be identified exclusively with the ascent of "that base and obscure Gaveston" (101). For by 1592, the author of Edward II had obviously decided that the preferment of an absolute king, rather than the patronage of feudal lords, was the fast route to the poetic sovereignty of his own counterfactual "might":
   It shall suffice me to enjoy your love;
   Which whiles I have, I think myself as great
   As Caesar riding in the Roman street,
   With captive kings at his triumphant car. (1.171-74)

Historians are intrigued by the ways in which the gatecrashing of the favorite was keyed to the monopolization of favor that was "a central attribute" of absolutism; and judging by his updating of the medieval Gaveston as a Renaissance playmaker, so was the dramatist. (11) Thus, Edward's invitation, which the arriviste enters brandishing in a "letter brought him from the King" (1.1.1 s.d.), is itself "a crucial written object," Marjorie Garber notes, that proclaims how the literary field inscribes "a struggle for mastery." (12) For it again echoes the pastoralism of Marlowe's most quoted work, his personal and professional manifesto, "The Passionate Shepherd to His Love." (13) In fact, Gaveston sounds as if he is critiquing the "amorous lines" of the poem (1.6)--"Come live with me and be my love / And we will all the pleasures prove" (PS, 1-2)--when he applauds "words that make me surfeit with delight! ... Sweet Prince, I come" (E2, 1.3-6).

Jacques Derrida, the philosopher of l'avenir, would have had something to say about the arrivisme of this promissory "come": "the arrival as if by an enchantment, where the poetic song, the charm and magical power are allied to kommen lassen, make come in letting come." For through repeated instances of such self-interpellation, Marlowe had returned over and again to the Ovidian hypothesis of this lyric: of a world of make-believe, where "shepherd-swains shall dance and sing," immune to economic or political realities. Yet always, until now, what he acknowledged about the structure of this virtual Arcadia as an event was how "the mighty power of its might" would be contingent on the material might he registered in the contract struck by successive patron-figures, that "Conditionally that thou wilt stay with me ... it may be thou shalt be my love" (Dido, 3.1.113, 169). (14)

As his Jupiter had let slip in the first line of his earliest play--when the King of Olympus recited "The Passionate Shepherd" to his favorite: "Come,' gentle Ganymede, and play with me: / I love thee well, say Juno what she will" (1.1.1)--for Marlowe the hypothetical "may-be" or might of art had always been conditional on the actual might of a Renaissance court. Thus, even his mightiest shepherd voiced the dramatist's own bleak assessment of the relationship of power and the possible, when Tamburlaine vainly declaimed the same poem after the death of Zenocrate: "Come down from heaven and live with me again!" In scenes like these Marlowe had consistently undermined his own most celebrated literary creation, to show how "If words might serve, our voice hath rent the air," yet "Nothing prevails" (2Tam, 2.4.117-24). So it is all the more startling when he now has Gaveston invoke this "might" as though the unlikely prospect of "Seeing shepherds feed their flocks / By shallow rivers to whose falls / Melodious birds sing madrigals" (PS, 6-8) might indeed suddenly become a practical possibility; and then has London imagined as the venue for activating such a "might," where "My men, like satyrs grazing on the lawns, / Shall with their goat-feet dance an antic hay" (E2, 1.58-59), with a further self-reflexive citation of his other most escapist text, the hedonistic Hero and Leander.
   Sweet prince, I come; these, thy amorous lines
   Might have enforced me to have swum from France,
   And like Leander gasped upon the sand,
   So thou wouldst smile and take me in thy arms.
   The sight of London to my exiled eyes
   Is as Elysium to a new-come soul. (E2, 1.6-11)

If references to "The Passionate Shepherd" and Hero and Leander identify Gaveston with the author, the fantasy of the king cross-dressed as a girl, like the "nun" (44) for whom Leander swam the Hellespont, constitutes an unprecedented sexual coming-out for Marlowe, in winch the Shepherd's ambiguous Love and androgynous Hero are both discovered to have been "buskined" players all along (31): boys disguised in "artificial flowers and leaves, / Whose workmanship both man and beast deceives" (19-20). "Not Hylas was more mourned of Hercules" (E2,1.143), Edward therefore assures his lover, when he appoints him Lord Chamberlain, in command of the English theater; and shortly afterwards it is explained how:
   The mightiest kings have had their minions;
   Great Alexander lov'd Hephaestion,
   The conquering Hercules for Hylas wept,
   And for Patroclus stern Achilles droop'd. (4.390-93)

Marlowe here provides a genealogy for same-sex desire that inaugurates "the possibility of a homosexual subjectivity," a "conscience 'gay' avant la lettre," it is claimed, three centuries before it could be named.15 This genealogy would be echoed in the allegations that the author would himself "report St John to be Our Saviour Christ's Alexis": Alexis being the boy loved by Corydon in Virgil's Second Eclogue, a model for "The Passionate Shepherd." (16) So, when we are told that "never doted Jove on Ganymede / So much as he on Gaveston" (180-81), it becomes clear that with this spectacle of sodomy and transvestism, choreographed by a Frenchman, Marlowe is flaunting the very continental "vices" its enemies associated with the playhouse, as a marker of the "Big If" of his own aesthetic might. (17) The challenge of Edward II becomes, on this view, a high-risk gamble on prospective preferment that can only have been hazarded because its creator had come to feel assured of such a royal road to power:
   I must have wanton poets, pleasant wits,
   Musicians, that with touching of a string
   May draw the pliant king which way I please:
   Music and poetry is his delight;
   Therefore I'll have Italian masques by night,
   Sweet speeches, comedies, and pleasing shows;
   And in the day, when he shall walk abroad,
   Like sylvan nymphs my pages shall be clad (E2, 1.50-57)

The self-referencing of Edward II suggests the cue for its audacity must indeed have been an opening that invested power in the dramatist, as though the "collaborative homoerotics" of the playhouse were about to be officially endorsed. (18) And Riggs supplies a context for this unlikely avowal of wishful thinking by noting that Marlowe was writing Edward II at the very time when, according to the playwright and informer Thomas Kyd, "he would persuade men of quality to go unto the K. of Scots" and that it is therefore no accident that its scenario reprises "the leading episodes of James's love affair with (his French cousin) Esme Stuart: the young king's impetuous homosexual desire, the favorite's giddy ascent to high office, the public scandal, the opposition of the peers, the kidnapping, the king's replacement of his deceased favorite with new male companions, and the king's enduring loyalty to his first love" (Riggs, 139).

Edward II predicts the 'disruption to England's patronage system that King James's favouritism would cause. But more to the point, the play also reflects the contemporary politics of Scotland in the early 1590s, when the country was "divided between two factions," with "one for the King and the other for the Queen," as English agents were reporting, after the early breakdown of James's marriage to his Danish consort Anne, when he "conceived a great jealousy of the Queen, winch bums tire more he covers it," and it was being predicted that "the end can be no less tragical than was betwixt his parents." (19)

Edward's love-letter to Gaveston echoes what literary critics have termed James's "textual intercourse" with Stuart and his later favorites, an epistolary fantasia that left the king's "interior space" open to intimacy in "unparalleled ways," as the recipients were invited to enter the privy chamber when "the king opened the door." (20) Riggs therefore speculates that Marlowe designed Edward II as an appetizer to induce James to sponsor him in a fresh start at the Scottish court, "whither Royden is already gone, and where if he had lived," so Kyd would later depose, "he told me when I saw him last, he meant to be" (qtd. in Riggs, 139).

This planned Edinburgh trajectory gains plausibility not only from a "sudden access of Scottishness" in Marlowe's references, but the implication that the poet Matthew Royden had gone ahead to seek commissions from the King of Scots. (21) For as George Chapman reminded him in the preface to his poem "The Shadow of Night" Royden had a sharp eye for the career opportunities that emerged in the manoeuvres over Elizabeth's succession, and in the 1590s coolly shifted from "ingenious Derby" (the crypto-Catholic claimant Ferdinando, Lord Strange), to "deep-searching Northumberland" (the Catholic figure-head, Henry Percy), to "skill-embracing Hunsdon" (the Queen's nephew, George Carey). According to the sleuthing of Charles Nicholl, Royden was planted in each of these households as one of Robert Cecil's "poet-spies." (22) And this was a path on which Marlowe was apparently himself now embarked, when he opened Edward II with an exuberant fanfare for the northern monarch and his brother-in-law, Christian IV, "The haughty Dane (who) commands the narrow seas" (6.167), and the clear insinuation that he would no longer serve James's English rivals, but flourish in the kingdom of this absolute new midnight sun:
   What need the arctic people love starlight,
   To whom the sun shines both by day and night?
   Farewell, base stooping to the lordly peers;
   My knee shall bow to none but to the king. (E2, 1.16-19)

"You know that I came lately out of France, / And yet I have not viewed my lord the king; / If I speed well, I'll entertain you all" (43-45): Gaveston's recall to London does appear to trumpet an upturn in Marlowe's prospects when he arrived back in England in 1592. In fact, the dramatist had been shipped across the Channel as a prisoner charged with coining, a treasonable offence for which William Cecil, Lord Burghley, had the authority to hang him. As Nicholl relates, we know nothing of Marlowe's interview with the wily old statesman at the end of January, but it should have been uncomfortable. (23) What we can guess, however, is that the accused must have had some rapport with his prosecutors, because by March 3, when Cecil paid the escort, he had been freed. "The Lord Treasurer held Marlowe in reserve,"' Riggs surmises, '"banking Ins tools'" like one of John Le Carre's spymasters" (279). Biographers therefore decode the counterfeiting scam as a cover for Marlowe's "turning" as an agent provocateur.

So, if he was being primed "to go unto the K. of Scots" on an undercover mission for Cecil, it is telling that it appears Marlowe now moved into the household of Mary Herbert, Countess of Pembroke, sister of the warrior poet Philip Sidney, and of Sir Robert Sidney, the very officer who had ostensibly arrested him for coining. For the Herberts were emerging as leading fixers for James, whose reward would be to host the monarch during his inaugural Christmas in England, with As You Like It acted for the new court at Wilton, their Wiltshire seat, and Shakespeare's actors warranted under their auspices as the King's Men. (24) Nicholl therefore shines a penetrating light on this complicity of poetry with politics: "As a poet per se, as a witty companion, as a tutor, clerk, secretary or entertainments manager, the successful writer of the day found his niche in the retinue of some noble patron or family.... The poet has an entree. He has a key to the door, and often to the intimate chambers, of the rich and the powerful, and it is precisely the rich and the powerful that the government is now so keen to keep an eye on." (25)

Marlowe's backers knew just what things "best please his majesty," as Gaveston puts it (E2, 1.70), and pushed the handsome airhead Philip Herbert as a potential favorite the instant the king came south. Their success was made public at the coronation in 1603, when the teenager "had the effrontery to kiss King James," and what "shocked the congregation was that the King merely laughed and tapped him on the cheek." (26) Philip and his brother William would each become Lord Chamberlain, in charge of the London stage, like Marlowe's Gaveston, and acquire immortality as the "incomparable brethren" to whom the Shakespeare Folio was dedicated. (27) And in a probing article, "Was Marlowe Going to Scotland When He Died, and Does It Matter?" (2006), Lisa Hopkins has detected a Herbert-inspired "conception of writing" in these last works, "with a wider perspective, and a sense of its political significance," that is "more Sidneyan" than Mariovian. (28)

So it may be significant that Edward II is Marlowe's most polished play and a text that conforms to the high-mindedness of the Wilton salon with its stress on "the quality of the poetic line" and "interest in plays as plays." (29) The countess was urging her coterie to prepare for a new dynasty with classical dramas about regime change. Mary Herbert led the way with her own closet version of Robert Garmer's Marc Antoine (1578). And Marlowe gamely entered into the imperialist spirit of this Jacobean advance-guard by dedicating himself to his benefactress in a craven Latin epistle as a poet casting off the "myrtle" and "evergreen tresses" of Ovidian love for Virgilian epic ("To the Most Illustrious Woman," 11.17-18). Yet this costume change is itself suggestive of a boy-player; and it was probably at Wilton too that he added to Hero and Leander a parable about Mercury that reads like his scheme for a career north of the border, or the plot of Edward II, when it warns that the poor scholar will be led by "discontent" with the stinginess of "great lords" to seek promotion abroad in "regions far" :
   And fruitful wits, that inaspiring are,
   Shall discontent run into regions far;
   And few great lords in virtuous deeds shall joy,
   But be surpris'd with every garish toy,
   And still enrich the lofty senile clown,
   Who with encroaching guile keeps learning down. (HL, 477-82)

The performance history of Edward II is caught up in the brief existence of Pembroke's Men, the acting company, launched as a Jacobean cultural advance-guard by the Herberts in 1592 with James Burbage in the lead, that is named on the title-page of its 1594 edition. Marlowe paid the troupe's patron the compliment of putting his namesake in charge of "triumphs and public shows" (E2, 4.349), two decades before any Herbert became Lord Chamberlain. But we know from a will drafted by one of the actors that it was Mary Herbert who pledged to sponsor Pembroke's Men, and it was doubtless the countess who subsidized their two court gigs featuring Marlowe's tragedy at Christmas. Then, after a new year run in Shoreditch, the cavalcade headed off, via Wilton, through the Herbert fiefdom of the Marches, where the earl himself held court as President of the Council of Wales. Gaveston's sugary repertoire of "speeches, comedies, and pleasing shows," was in tune with the ideological sweeteners the viceroy was presenting at Ludlow Castle, where the coming attractions included a "British" pageant of "King Arthur's knights." (30)

The Herberts' Jacobean propaganda is prefigured in the masque trailered by Gaveston, with a mooning Queen Elizabeth, travestied by a boy, savaging her leering lover: a risque send-up of Pembroke's rival, the antiunionist Ralegh. Only performers supported by a magnate like the earl, Henry Herbert, would have dared to commit such lese-majeste. Yet the fact that, after pushing on from Shrewsbury, the troupe halted suddenly in June at York, before returning south to pawn their costumes, has led researchers to view this precipitate dispersal as a result of their "desperate" finances in a year of plague. (31) Recently, however, Roslyn Knutson has maintained that "there was no theatrical crisis in the mid-1590s," and that the erratic movements of Pembroke's Men "do not mark playing conditions in 1593 as chaotic." (32) So it seems that something more urgent and unexpected than the closure of the faraway London theaters had caused the Herberts to withdraw their funding of the provincial tour of Edward II, and from the direction in which the company was traveling, it looks as if the reason for the sudden turnaround had occurred up in the north.

The Pembroke troupe's 1593 tour was taking them "to towns where their patron was influential" and the rewards were high, Knutson emphasizes. So, "What, then, was the cause of the Pembroke's return to London?" (33) The answer likely lies in the very plot of Edward II. For Marlowe's tragedy turns on an unpunctuated letter with which his murderers are incited to "Fear not to kill the king" (E2, 24.9). If Pembroke's Men had indeed been bound for Edinburgh, they had therefore been unlucky in their timing, due to the irruption of the affair of the Spanish Blanks which also involved a purloined letter and rocked Anglo-Scottish relations in the spring of 1593. The scandal broke after the interception of an agent bound for Spain with a cache of blank forms, signed by James's reigning favorite, the Catholic George Gordon, Earl of Huntly, supposed to be filled with commissions to assist a Spanish invasion of England, together with a sensational memorandum in the king's hand, weighing up the pros and cons of such a coup.

The King of Scots' confidential position paper was just what Elizabeth's ministers feared most: "a project to land 30,000 Spaniards from the Netherlands, of whom 4,000 were to impose Catholic control in Scotland, while the remainder marched south." (34) James had minuted that he would only order an English invasion, after "forewarning the King of Spain," if there was "delay" granting "my title to the Crown of England ... in the meantime I will deal with the Queen of England fan and pleasantly ... she not suspecting such a thing as she does now." (35)

Thus, even as Pembroke's Men toured the north of England with a play that valorized his indulgence to his favorites, the image of the King of Scots as the leading Protestant candidate to succeed the queen was overturned by this proof of the intimacy of favoritism and papistry. James would persist in kissing Huntly in public, "to the amazement of many." (36) So no wonder the king's cheerleaders now stopped the show. After the "Spanish Blanks," there could be no question of staging Edward II in Edinburgh, when it contained such arch allusions as the description of the "fleering Scots" chanting before "the walls of York": "Maids of England, sore may you mourn, / For your lemans you have lost at Bannockbourn" (E2, 6.165-90).

"Item: Given to my Lord of Pembroke's players in June: xl s" (37): the entry in the York City Chamberlain's 1593'accounts of the final payment to Marlowe's company on their provincial tour puts the dramatist's presence in Deptford on May 31 in a fresh perspective, if Pembroke's players were heading north as harbingers for James. Had the dramatist intended to join the actors in Edinburgh, his voyage would have taken him not only out of the reach of his assassins, but away from the playhouse audiences that Gaveston scorns, when he says of his petitioners that "These are not men for me" (E2, 1.49). For what obviously excited Marlowe about the royal road of favoritism was the chance it gave, not only to trump aristocratic patronage, but to escape democratic commercial demand; as Gaveston jeers: "As for the multitude ... I'll fawn first on the wind" (1.20-23). So the parvenu spurns a trio of commoners who represent exactly the type of playgoer that applauded Tamburlaine: a groom, a tourist, and a veteran; to make way for closet dramas in which he mimes the "Greekish strumpet" Helen (9.16).

Gaveston will present the king with "a lovely boy in Dian's shape" (1.60); and with the son of the house himself dressed as "the woman in the scene" (Coriolanus, 2.2.92), such were, in fact, the pederastic masquerades prepared for James at Wilton. (38) Marlowe's relish for reveling, "With base outlandish cullions at his heels," in the "proud fantastic liveries" (4.408-9) from Lady Herbert's wardrobe is therefore palpable. But despite forelock-touching textual nods to Wiltshire (1.127, 11.49), and its "pretty" countess (9.101), his skepticism about the earl's capacity to maintain such a "god of shapes" in the "Italian cloak" of a "dapper Jack" (4.410-12) can be guessed from the way that Gaveston is betrayed, after the play's Pembroke casually "rides home, thinking his prisoner safe" (11.117). There is an undercurrent, in fact, of cynicism about these "idle triumphs, masques, and lascivious shows" (6.156) in Edward II that suggests Pembroke's tour was only ever, for this author, a means to an end, and a stage to something better further on:
   When wert thou in the field with banner spread?
   But once, and then thy soldiers marched like players,
   With garish robes, not armour; and thyself,
   Bedaubed with gold, rode laughing at the rest,
   Nodding and shaking of thy spangled crest,
   Were women's favours hung like labels down. (E2, 6.181-86)

Did Marlowe ride "but once" with Pembroke's Men as they set out north from London, "laughing at the rest," in the "garish robes" the Herberts had provided, from the superiority of his own ulterior purposes? If he did so, he was travelling a route that was already well mapped. Thus, on September 20, 1589, the Governor of Carlisle, Henry Lord Scrope had notified the English embassy in Edinburgh that on being informed of James's "earnest desire to have Her Majesty's players repair unto Scotland to His Grace, I did forthwith despatch a sen-ant unto them where they were in furthest Lancashire." The Queen's Men were at Knowsley, where they acted for Henry Stanley, Earl of Derby, on September 13. But a month later they were being "used with great kindness and all courtesy" by the Earl of Bothwell, James Hepburn, in Edinburgh, while James escorted his Danish bride Anna from Elsinore. (39)

It had been at Elsinore in 1586 that James's future father-in-law had become the first continental ruler to host English players, a band of Derby's stars, whom Frederick II passed on to his nephew, Christian I the Elector of Saxony in Dresden. As theater historians' have lately been discovering, at a time when the older patronage system "was in an advanced stage of breaking down," and playwrights were desperately thrashing around for legitimation, Edinburgh and Elsinore became gateways to a new world of state support, where "the English comedians" would ratchet up Baroque heights of extravagance, as they shuttled between the courts of Frederick's nephews, nieces, sons, and daughters. (40)

"How chances it they travel?" asks the Prince of Denmark, as "the tragedians of the City" approach Shakespeare's Elsinore, when both then "reputation and profit was better" in London (Hamlet, 2.2.316-18). But Hamlet's question is disingenuous; for by the time Pembroke's Men took Edward II north their colleagues were already crossing regularly from Scotland to Denmark. Thus no sooner had Anna's sister Elizabeth married Duke Julius of Brunswick at Wolfenbuttel, than members of the Admiral's Company were issued passports, and on midsummer night 1592 they were acting in the palace there before the ducal newly-weds. (41)

As the author of nine plays printed in a folio in 1594, it is tempting to see the cultural politics of Brunswick's Duke Julius in the theater mania of Shakespeare's Duke Theseus, who similarly celebrates an Amazonian marriage "With pomp, with triumph, and with reveling" (Dream, 1.1.19), but who also insists that the price the actors pay when their "play is preferred" (4.2.33), is submission to his neoclassical rules. And Hamlet's haughty sermonizing against their "antic disposition" (Hamlet, 2.1.173), which "though it make the unskillful laugh, cannot but make the judicious grieve" (3.2.23), underlines how aesthetic freedom will be lost to political expedience under such regimes.

The Prince's diktat, "O reform it all together," when informed that the actors have "reformed" their old ways "indifferently" (3.2.23-34), explicitly aligns the cultural crusade to which they have been coopted with the reformed religion of the northern courts. Jonathan Goldberg therefore reads this tense faceoff as a premonition of Shakespeare's own future in absolutism's "spectral domain of shadows," where actors and artists will be "caught and tangled." (42) Yet the Player's reaction "shows an extraordinary reserve," Robert Weimann notes, which sounds all the more cagey when we consider "the extraordinary newness" of this fencing between a performer and a prince. (43) It is a backhanded compliment to Marlowe's careerism, then, when by making the Danish prince a fan of Dido, Queen of Carthage, Shakespeare posthumously awards its author the admission into the absolutist world for which he longed: "I heard thee speak me a speech once, but it was never acted, or, if it was, not above once; for the play, I remember pleased not the million. 'Twas caviar to the general. But it was--as I received it, and others whose judgements in such matters cried in the top of mine--an excellent play, well digested in the scenes, set down with as much modesty as cunning" (Hamlet, 2.2.416-22).

At the real Elsinore in 1590 James had been regaled with a double performance, in Danish and Latin, of a drama about Dido and Aeneas, and Hamlet's predilection for similar "caviar" seems to affiliate Marlowe directly with the king's neoclassical aesthetic, broadcast in his Essays of a Prentice of 1584, and with his patronizing of an "honest method" of "savoury" lines, "as wholesome as sweet, and by very much more handsome than fine." (44) For of all Marlowe's works, the Prince admires the one most like the closet dramas in "womanish toge" (Coriolanus, 2.3.105) that he is told now threaten the players (Hamlet, 2.2.328). Thus Shakespeare imagined Dido, Queen of Carthage being read in an exclusive milieu like that of James's "Castalian Band" of Scottish poets, a pleiade in which the text would be savored precisely because "there were no sallets in the lines" (421-26). So he was granting his dead competitor an international success like that of then exact contemporary, the impresario Robert Browne, who had left London for the Netherlands, and in 1590 headed a troupe at Leyden.

The Brunswick extravaganza, funded by Duke Julius's silver-mines, was Browne's breakthrough, and by 1594 he was in Kassel, "loaded with gold and silver" by the Landgraf Moritz of Hesse. (45) Over the next thirty years he and his team would entertain Henri IV at Fontainebleau, Archduke Albert in Brussels John Sigismund, Elector of Brandenburg, at Potsdam, die Emperor Matthias in Vienna, and Frederick and Elizabeth, die King and Queen of Bohemia, in Prague. But it was die Landgraf's funds that furnished these "English comedians" with an artistic program, and a base for their experiments, in the Baroque shape of die Ottoneum, a court theater Moritz built to Browne's designs in 1604 at Kassel, and named for his heir, Prince Otto. (46)

The Ottoneum survives to this day as evidence of how during Marlowe's professional lifetime the marvel of absolutist state sponsorship was offering London performers like John Dowland, not just a variant of touring but a refuge from the vagaries of touring itself. This was the milieu in which King Christian's architect and stage-designer Inigo Jones would flourish. And such was the career-move of which the dramatist was surely dreaming when he had Faustus beg his infernal masters to let him make his "merriment" out of "folly" (DF 8.55), so as to be "feasted" by "noblemen" at the "royal courts of kings" (3.2-15). The doctor's schemes to attain "the signory of Emden" (5.24), serve "Carolus the Fifth" (3.14), and "banquet and carouse" at Wittenberg (13.4) map out a European itinerary, in fact, that explains why this magus, with whom none in the Empire "can compare ... for rare effects" (10.3), devotes his precious time to theatricals, like the "merriment" he stages for the Duke of Vanholt (12.1). Thus Faustus, who desires nothing more than to "bring Alexander and his paramour" before the German Emperor "in that manner they best lived in" (10.50-52), looks like a fantastic self-portrait of the London playmaker that was suddenly made feasible when absolutist politics inverted the terms of theatrical trade with the weddings of King James and his continental relations. For then the Faustian prospects for the English entertainers must have seemed truly mighty.

When he has Gaveston swear he will be like "the arctic people" (E2, 1.16) and "bow to none but the king" (19), it sounds as if Marlowe is responding to the golden opportunity that opened for "the best actors in the world" (Hamlet, 2.2.326) to prosper in these "regions far," after the King of Scots had married a Danish princess. Anna's brother Christian would indeed shortly travel to receive the homage of the Sami: "the arctic people" who had escorted the bride and groom as they drove from Oslo Cathedral, in a procession seemingly inspired by James's reading in Tamburlaine of a coach drawn by "naked negroes" when the monarch rides "in triumph through die streets" (2Tam, 1.3.40-41), as "By his orders four young Negroes danced naked in the snow in front of the royal carriage." (47)

If the Queen's Men did stay on in Edinburgh to take part in the repeat performance in May 1590, with boys dressed as goddesses and a Bacchus throwing wine upon the crowd, Marlowe would have heard that the Africans had then to be replaced by Scottish youths wearing masks, "to make them seem like Moors and all gorgeous to the eye," because in Norway the real slaves had died of hypothermia. (48) Whether or not James Stuart had anticipated such fatalities, his cruel conceit supplied a chilling context, therefore, for Gaveston's acclamation of Edward as a king of fools, who revels in the Neronian spectacle of an actor being hunted as a beast: "And running in the likeness of an hart, / By yelping hounds pull'd down, and seem to die. / Such things as these best please his majesty" (E2,1.68-70). For such a scenario must surely have been designed to inflame the artistic ambitions of the King of Scots:
   If ever I, O mighty Gods, have done you service true,
   In setting forth by painful pain your glorious praises due;
   If on the forked hill I tread; if ever I did prease
   To drink of the Pegasian spring, that flowers without release;
   If ever I on Pindus dwell'd." (49)

James liked to represent himself as the patron of "Hymen's triumph," and "The Masque of Hymen" that the King both wrote and acted in for the wedding of his favorite, Huntly, in 1588, reveals how challenged he had been by the "Big If" of Marlowe's "mighty line," with its lament that "If all the pens that ever poets held ... If all the heavenly quintessence they still ... If these had made one poems period ... Yet should there hover in then restless heads, / One thought, one grace, one wonder at the least" (1 Tam, 5.1.161-74). (50) The royal rhymester's theory that poetry is a "willful lie," thus echoed Sidney's maxim in The Defence of Poesy (1595) that poetry "nothing affirms and therefore never lieth," and it was the poet of Astrophil and Stella (1591) he praised as "the best and sweetest writer." (51) So editors guess James was introduced to Sidney's writing when the poet's brother, Marlowe's jailor, visited Edinburgh in 1588, and "worked assiduously" to ingratiate his family with the king. (52) But his hyperbolic "if ever I" suggests he was already familiar with Tamburlaine; and that this literary overreacher, who pictured himself in his own sonnets swimming to his Danish bride like a Leander, "Eagle-like on Thetis back to flee / Where she commanded Neptune for to be / My princely guard" had recognized in Marlowe a kindred spirit in the poetics of the sublime. (53)

"Peace, ho! I bar confusion / 'Tis I must make conclusion" (As You Like It, 5.4.114-15): it cannot be chance that when James did grace the Sidney circle at Wilton, the welcome Shakespeare inserted into As You Like It was another masque of Hymen, composed as what sounds like a parody of the regal poetaster's. Then lead dramatist had been dead ten years when the project of Pembroke's Men was realized, and a Herbert was at last able to kiss a king. "They told me you salute not at court but you kiss," comments a shocked Conn, the old shepherd of the play: "That courtesy would be uncleanly if courtiers were shepherds" (3.2.44). But "If I were a woman I would kiss as many of you as had beards" (epilogue. 14), retorts the boy at the end who shows that "Your 'if is the only peace-maker; much virtue in if" (5.4.90).

As You Like It thus' concluded with its author's most willing suspension of disbelief in the counter-factual play-world of the "dead shepherd" who had begged the mistress of the house to take him in. For the sponsorship Shakespeare had himself dramatized for Pembroke's Men in his induction to The Taming of the Shrew as "a flatt'ring dream or worthless fancy" (induction. 1.40) had not, of course, saved the life of Christopher Marlowe, any more than the patronage of the Pembroke of the play had protected Gaveston.

"Was this the face / That every day under his household roof / Did keep ten thousand men?" (RJI, 4.1.271-73) asks Shakespeare's Marlovian king, and this crushing deflation of his mightiest line seems as much aimed at the system that failed the author of Edward II as at Gaveston's travesty of "the Greekish strumpet" (E2, 9.15). So, the great survivor would ground his own authority in the playhouse Marlowe spurned. Conscious of being "indifferently reformed," in theater as in religion, Shakespeare would never cease to feel how, "After a well-graced actor leaves the stage," the eyes of men "Are idly bent on him that enters next" (RII, 5.2.23). But with the yearning of the passionate shepherd now so royally rewarded, Shakespeare could elegize what might have been, and for this fleeting moment of a new dawn share with his hosts what Marlowe saw so mightily, "the miracle of a chant of enchantment, which is also a song of songs ... the mighty power of the might." (54)

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(1.) Jacques Derrida, H. C. for Life, That Is to Say ..., trans. Laurent Milesi and Stefan Herbrechter (Stanford: Stanford UP, 2006), 45-46.

(2.) William Shakespeare, As You Like It, in The Norton Shakespeare, ed. Stephen Greenblatt, Walter Cohen, Jean Howard, and Katharine Maus (New York: Norton, 2007), 3.5.81. All subsequent references to Shakespeare's works are from this edition unless otherwise noted.

(3.) W. H. Auden, "In Memory of W. B. Yeats," in Collected S hotter Poems (London-Faber & Faber, 1966), 141-43.

(4.) Christopher Marlowe, The Jew of Malta, in Christopher Marlowe: The Complete Plays, ed. Frank Romany and Robert Lindsey (London: Penguin, 2003), 1.1.37. Unless otherwise noted, all subsequent references to Marlowe's plays are from this edition. Also, unless otherwise noted, subsequent references to Marlowe's poems are from The Collected Poems of Christopher Marlowe, ed. Patrick Cheney and Brian Striar (Oxford: Oxford UP, 2006).

(5.) David Riggs, The World of Christopher Marlowe (London: Faber & Faber, 2004), 346-47. Hereafter cited as Riggs.

(6.) Michael Drayton, "To my Most Dearely-Loved Friend Henry Reynolds, Esquire, of Poets and Poesie," in Works, ed. J. W. Hebel et al. (Oxford: Oxford UP, 1931), 228-29, lines 105-10.

(7.) Graham Hammill, The Mosaic Constitution: Political Theology and Imagination from Machiavelli to Milton (Chicago: U of Chicago P, 2012), 132.

(8.) Hammill, The Mosaic Constitution, 134-35. Hammill follows Schopenhauer's definition of the "sublime" as the aesthetic contemplation of what would otherwise annihilate the will. See Arthur Schopenhauer, The World as Will and Rapresentation, trans. E. F. J. Payne (New York: Dover, 1969), 1:39.

(9.) For an authoritative overview, see John H. Elliott, introduction to The World of the Favourite, ed. John H. Elliott and Laurence Brockliss (New Haven: Yale UP, 1999), 1-10.

(10.) Blair Worden, "Favourites on the English Stage," in Elliott and Brockliss, World of the Favourite, 159-83,168.

(11.) Linda Levy Peck, "Monopolizing Favour: Structures of Power in the Early Seventeenth-Century English Court," in Elliott and Brockliss, World of the Favourite, 54-70,56.

(12.) Marjorie Garber, "'Here's Nothing Writ': Scribe, Script, and Circumscription in Marlowe's Plays," in Christopher Marlowe: A Critical Reader, ed. Richard Wilson (Harlow UK: Longman, 1991), 30-53, 49.

(13.) See R. S. Forsythe, "The Passionate Shepherd and English Poetry" PMLA 40 (1925): 692-742,699-700.

(14.) Derrida, H. C. for Life, 79nl. For the significance of the poem as a manifesto for Marlowe's Ovidian "cursus" or anti-Virgilian literary career, see Patrick Cheney, Marlowe's Counterfeit Profession: Ovid, Spenser, Counter-Nationhood (Toronto: U of Toronto V, 1997), 68-88.

(15.) Bruce R. Smith, Homosexual Desire in Shakespeare's England: A Cultural Poetics (Chicago: Chicago UP, 1994), 223; and Didier Godard, L'Autre Faust: L'Homosexualite Masculine Pendant la Renaissance (Montblanc: H & O Editions, 2001), 178.

(16.) Thomas Kyd to Lord Puckering, after May 30, 1593, in Tucker Brooke, Christopher Marlowe: A Biographical and Critical Study (Oxford: Clarendon, 1940), 243. For "Alexis," see Alan Bray, Homosexuality in Renaissance England (London: Gay Men's, 1982), 63-65.

(17.) Jonathan Goldberg, Sodometries: Renaissance Texts, Modern Sexualities (Stanford: Stanford UP, 1992), 106.

(18.) Jeffrey Masten, Textual Intercourse: Collaboration, Authorship, and Sexualities in Renaissance Drama (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1997), 37.

(19.) George Nicholson to Sir Robert Bowes, July 15, 1594, qtd. in Leeds Barroll, Anna of Denmark, Queen of England (Philadelphia: U of Pennsylvania P, 2001), 33; and John Colville to Sir Robert Cecil, July 26, 1594, qtd. in David Moore Bergeron, Royal Family, Royal Lovers: King James of England and Scotland (Columbia: Missouri UP, 1991), 55.

(20.) David Bergeron, King James and Fetters of Homoerotic Desire (Iowa City: U of Iowa P, 1999), 30-31.

(21.) Charles Nicholl, The Reckoning: The Murder of Christopher Marlowe (London: Jonathan Cape, 1992), 312.

(22.) George Chapman, preface dedicated to "sweet Matthew" his "dear and most friend," The Shadow of Night (1594), qtd. in Nicholl, The Reckoning, 257; and for Robert Cecil's "poet-spies," see Nicholl, The Reckoning, 259-60.

(23.) Nicholl, The Reckoning, 238.

(24.) E. K. Chambers, The Elizabethan Stage (Oxford: Oxford UP, 1923), 4:168.

(25.) Nicholl, The Reckoning, 227.

(26.) Ethel Carleton Williams, Anne of Denmark: Wife of fames 11 of Scotland: James I of England (London: Longman, 1970), 85.

(27.) Shakespeare, The Norton Shakespeare, 33-48.

(28.) Lisa Hopkins, "Was Marlowe Going to Scotland When He Died, and Does It Matter," in Shakespeare, Marlowe, Jonson: New Directions in Biography, ed. Takashi Kozuka and J. R. Mulryne (Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 2006), 167-82, 178.

(29.) Leeds Barroll, "Shakespeare, Noble Patrons, and 'Common' Players," in Shakespeare and Theatrical Patronage in Early Modern England, ed. Paul Whitfield White and Suzanne R. Westfall (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2002), 90-121, 102-3.

(30.) Penry Williams, The Council of the Marches of Wales under Elizabeth I (Cardiff U of Wales P, 1958), 187.

(31.) David George, "Shakespeare and Pembroke's Men," Shakespeare Quarterly 32.3 (1981): 305-23, 306; and Records of Early English Drama: York, ed. Alexandra Johnston and Margaret Rogerson (Toronto: U of Toronto P, 1979), 455.

(32.) Roslyn Knutson, "What's So Special about 1594?," Shakespeare Quarterly 61.4 (2010): 449-67, 458. For the supposed problems of the company, see George, "Shakespeare and Pembroke's Men," 305-23; Andrew Gurr, The Shakespearian Playing Companies (Oxford: Clarendon, 1996), 271-73,276-77; Siobham Keenan, Travelling Players in Shakespeare's England (Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, 2002), 37-38; and Lawrence Manley, "From Strange's Men to Pembroke's Men: 2 Henry TT and The First Part of the Contention," Shakespeare Quarterly 54.3 (2003): 253-87.

(33.) Rosalyn Knutson, "Pembroke's Men in 1592-3, Their Repertory and Touring Schedule," Issues in Review, 129-38,130,135.

(34.) William McElwee, The Wisest Fool in Christendom: The Reign of King James I and V (London: Faber & Faber, 1958), 77.

(35.) James VI, undated memorandum, Calendar of State Papers Scotland (London: Stationery Office, 1936), 10:829-33. For a discussion of the implications, see Alan Stewart, The Cradle King: A Life of James VI and I (London: Chatto & Windus, 2003), 134.

(36.) Caroline Bingham, James IT of Scotland (London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1979), 104.

(37.) Alexandra F. Johnston and Margaret Rogerson, eds., Records of Early English Drama (Toronto: U of Toronto P, 1979), 1:455.

(38.) For the sexual politics of the Wilton coterie, see Gary Waller, "The Countess of Pembroke and Gendered Reading," in The Renaissance Englishwoman in Print: Counterbalancing the Canon, ed. Anne Haselkorn and Betty Travitsky (Amherst: U of Massachusetts P, 1990), 336-43.

(39.) K. P. Wentersdorf, "The Queen's Company in Scotland in 1589," Theatre Research International6.1 (1980): 33-36.

(40.) Alistair Fox, "The Complaint of Poetry for the Death of Liberality: The Decline of Literary Patronage in the 1590s," in The Reign of Elizabeth I: Court and Culture in the Last Decade, ed. John Guy (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1995), 241. For the importance of King James's Danish family patronage network in freeing Elizabethan performers from the terms and conditions of English theater, see Peter Burke, "State-Making, King-Making and Image Making from Renaissance to Baroque: Scandinavia in a European Context," Scandinavian Journal of History 22 (1997): 1-8; Jerzy Limon, Gentlemen of a Company: English Players in Central and Eastern Europe, 1590-1660 (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1985), 3; Sebastian Olden-Jorgensen, "State Ceremonial, Court Culture and Political Power in Early Modern Denmark, 1536-1746," Scandinavian journal of History 27 (2002): 65-76, especially 68-71; V. C. Ravn,' "English Instrumentalists at the Danish Court in the Time of Shakespeare," Sammelbande de'r Internationalen Musikgesellschaftl.4 (1906): 550-63; V. C. Ravn, "Engelsk 'Instrumentalister' ved det danske Hof paa Shakespeares Tid," For Ide og Vikelighea 1 (1890) 75-92; June Schlueter, "English Actors in Kassel, Germany, during Shakespeare's Time," Medieval and Renaissance Drama in England 10 (1998): 238-61, especially 244-46; Gunnar Sjogren, "Hamlet and the Coronation of Christian IV," Shakespeare Quarterly 16.2 (1965): 155-60; and Mara Wade, "The Queen's Courts: Anne of Denmark and Her Royal Sisters--Cultural Agency at' Four Northern European Courts in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centones," in Women and Culture at the Courts of the Stuart Queens, ed. Clare McManus (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003), 49-80, especially 55.

(41.) Willem Schrickx, "English Actors at the Courts of Wolfenbuttel, Brussels and Graz during the Lifetime of Shakespeare," Shakespeare Survey 33 (1980): 153-68, 155.

(42.) Jonathan Goldberg James I and the Politics of Literature Jonson, Shakespeare, Donne, and Their Contemporaries (Stanford: Stanford UP, 1989), 203.

(43.) Robert Weimann, Author's Pen and Actor's Voice: Pitying and Writing in Shakespeare's Theatre (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2000), 153,160. Compare with Mitchell Greenburg, Canonical States, Canonical Stages: Oedipus, Ottering and Seventeenth Century Drama (Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 1994), xxvii: "Certainly in this transitional period of European history, the theater situates itself as the privileged form of representation of the emerging absolutist states ... at once strictly supervised by political and religious authorities and yet also escaping, by the ambivalent nature of theater itself, a totally complicitous relation with institutional power."

(44.) See Jane Rickard, Authorship and Authority: The Writings of James VI and I (Manchester: Manchester UP, 2007), 40-41.

(45.) "Loaded with gold and silver": Erhardus Cellius, Eques auratus Anglo-Wirtembergicus (Tubingen, 1605), qtd in Schlueter, "English Actors in Kassel," 244.

(46.) On the "English comedians," see Gerhart Hoffmeister, "The English Comedians in Germany," in German Baroque Literature, ed. Gerhart Hoffmeister (New York: Columbia UP, 1983), 146. On Moritz's 1602 tour of France, see Schlueter, "English Actors in Kassel," 250!

(47.) Antonia Fraser, King James VI of Scotland, I of England (London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1974), 52.

(48.) Stewart, The Cradle King, 120.

(49.) James VI and I, "If ever I, O mighty Gods, have done you service true," The Poems of James VI of Scotland, ed. James Craigie (Edinburgh: Blackwood, 1955-58), 2:134. Unless otherwise noted, all references to King James's poems are from this collection.

(50.) James VI and I, "Hymen's triumph," 10-11.

(51.) James VI and I, "My Muse hath made a willful lye," 1. See also Rickard, Authorship and Authority, 58; and Sir Philip Sidney, Sir Philip Sidney: Selected Writings, ed. Richard Dutton (Manchester: Carcanet P, 1987), 130.

(52.) Michael Brennan, The Sidneys of Penshurst and the Monarchy 1500-1700 (Aldershot UK Ashgate, 2006), 40,101.

(53.) James VI and I, "But what, madam, and shall I then deny?," lines 8-10.

(54.) Derrida, H. C. for Life, 79.
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Title Annotation:Christopher Marlowe
Author:Wilson, Richard
Publication:Marlowe Studies: An Annual
Article Type:Critical essay
Date:Jan 1, 2015
Next Article:Working with Marlowe: Shakespeare's early engagement with Marlowe's poetics.

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