Friendship in Marlowe's Dr. Faustus and The Jew of Malta.
This record, even when augmented, never indicates of course whether Marlowe struggled to form these friendships, or whether he valued them as much as Nashe and Blunt did. Nor does it reveal what Marlowe's thoughts on friendship were when he appeared to be alone facing a criminal investigation near the end of his life. (7) Marlowe's Dr. Faustus and Barabas, the Jew of Malta, appear to want--and need--friendship near the end of their life. In Dr. Faustus, Marlowe suggests that friendship, reciprocated earlier, might have saved Faustus. In The Jew of Malta, however, Barabas's yearning for Don Femeze's friendship undoes him. This ambivalence accords with Marlowe's creation of egotistical protagonists who want to stand beyond their society and yet be part of it too, if for no other reason than that they demand applause for their practice of an art: black magic and Machiavellian policy respectively. Still, both characters' involvement with friendship appears a positive phenomenon that contributes to the sense of waste in their tragic deaths. Rather than introduce here certain Renaissance contexts for understanding friendship, such as the Classical, Humanist, and sodomitical, they will be brought up when they are relevant to local interpretation, so that their value can best be appreciated.
Faustus's play-opening soliloquy stresses a scholar's solitary existence among a world of books, which have made him pre-eminent in logic, medicine, law, and divinity. Marlowe never shows or mentions the human adversaries in the Scholastic debates in which Faustus has triumphed. Playgoers sense, especially in retrospect, that these adversaries, for the doctor, are objects not much different from the hundreds of books he has digested. The fact that Faustus's "kinsmen chiefly brought [him] up," rather than his "parents base of stock" (Prologue 11, 14), isolates him from his immediate family. (8) Both parents of the individual Deadly Sins are not portrayed in the later monologues of any of the Sins except for Envy, and he wishes to live alone. Either one or the other parent is missing--or both are--in six of the word pictures that divert Faustus from repentance. (9) Stephen Greenblatt has remarked that in Marlowe's plays "we neither see and scarcely even hear of the heroes' parents." (10) Considered in this context, auditors sense that Faustus compounded the prescriptions by which "whole cities have escaped the plague" (1.1.21) more for his eternal earthly fame than for the benefit of any specific members of humankind.
Given this impression of Faustus's autonomy, playgoers and readers find surprising his admission that he needs the assistance of others to initiate him into diabolical magic. "Commend me to my dearest friends, / The German Valdes and Cornelius," Faustus tells his servant Wagner; "[Request them earnestly to visit me" (1.1.66-68). Faustus's word "dearest" stands out here, causing playgoers to suppose an intimacy among these learned companions. A social context briefly materializes around Faustus before Valdes and Cornelius arrive when Faustus says, once he has mastered magic, that he will create a brass wall around Germany and clothe public school students splendidly in silk shirts. He seems to care about protecting innocent Protestants from Catholic invaders and making poor students feel more important. But he wants to build the wall chiefly to revel in being "sole king of all our provinces" (1.1.96). Yet he never does wall Germany, and he never does improve the dress of poor students.
Faustus calls again for "German Valdes and Cornelius" to make him "blest with [their] sage conference" (1.1.100-101). Faustus's repeated terming these necromancers "German" is odd, since they are his countrymen. (11) The term, perhaps unintentionally on Marlowe's part, serves to distance them from Faustus. Viewed from an Elizabethan perspective, Germany was known for its many practitioners of the black arts. (12) When the two necromancers finally enter and Faustus exclaims, "Valdes, sweet Valdes, and Cornelius" (1.1.102), Marlowe uses one of his favorite modifiers--"sweet." (13) His calling Valdes "sweet" and this pair his "gentle friends" (1.1.113) could signal a necessary flattery (since they have knowledge Faustus wants to acquire) rather than genuine intimacy. Still, friendships among notably learned men had become especially valued during Marlowe's lifetime, mainly because of the importance it had acquired for Renaissance Humanists indebted to Classical models set forth in Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics, Cicero's "De Amiticia," and other ancient texts. For these authors, ideal friendship was a love of two men for one another found rarely, usually only once in a lifetime; the friend was another self, both of whom practiced the utmost virtue in their relationship, never using the other for selfish aggrandizement. (14) Illustrating to varying degrees these and other qualities of ideal friendship were such learned Renaissance pairs as Sir Thomas More and Erasmus, Edmund Spenser and Gabriel Harvey, and Michel de Montaigne and Etienne de La Boetie. (15) Faustus's, Valdes's, and Cornelius's companionship could be said to derive from humanistic goals, but it is radically perverted in its aim of devoting learning to the recovery of diabolical power. Cicero remarks that when friends "do something that is wrong" or "become agents of vice ... the laws of friendship have been disregarded." (16) Sir Walter Ralegh and his so-called "School of Night," a group including the "wizard earl" of Northumberland, Henry Percy; Thomas Harriot; Marlowe's friend Matthew Royden; and possibly Marlowe himself, by meeting behind closed doors and their turning to occult subjects could have offered something of a milder home-grown counterpart to the magicians' friendship in Dr Faustus.
After giving him a glimpse of the magical power to which he can introduce Faustus, Cornelius asks, "Then tell me, Faustus, what shall we three want?" (1.1.150), as though they will appear as a group in the play again enjoying their joint blasphemous success. But playgoers never see that expectation satisfied; the audience never sees the fellow magicians reappear. Valdes concludes by telling Faustus to "haste [himself] to some solitary grove" to conjure (1.1.155, my italics). The relationship of the three appears utilitarian, a quality that Classical writers on friendship say precludes its name. Faustus appears to need no companions in learning, then he does seem to need them, and then again he does not appear to require them.
Playgoers gather a similar impression of this ambiguity from the play's second scene. Two scholar friends of Faustus undercut the impression of the solitary life Faustus conveys during his grand opening soliloquy by caring enough about him to wonder what has become of him and question haughty Wagner concerning his master's whereabouts. Wagner's pedantic circumlocution--that he is at dinner--does not satisfy them. "I fear he is fall'n into that damned art for which [Valdes and Cornelius] are infamous through the world" (1.2.33-34), First Scholar worries. "Were he a stranger, and not allied to me, yet should I grieve for him. But come, let us go and inform the Rector, and see if he, by his grave counsel, can reclaim him" (1.2.35-38), Second Scholar replies. "Oh, but I fear me nothing can reclaim him" (1.2.39), First Scholar claims. "Yet let us try what we can do" (1.2.40), his fellow concludes. Marlowe emphasizes a friendship but shows neither the rector counseling Faustus nor his friends warning him against practicing the black arts. Nor does anyone report that these events have occurred. Marlowe makes Faustus appear to need friends, and yet he does not seem to need them. Faustus may tell Mephistopheles that he wants him "[t]o slay mine enemies and aid my friends" (1.3.98), but playgoers never see him ask the devil to do either, notably the latter. When he realizes that his friends might have saved him, damnation to Hell is little more than an hour away.
For much of the play, Faustus forgoes human compnionship for friendship with Mephistopheles. At least that is what he believes his relationship with a devil becomes. The word "sweet" for Marlowe, as for his contemporary playwrights, possessed many shades of meaning, among them "close," "tender," "sugared," "homoerotic," and "sodomitical." Jeffrey Masten has demonstrated as much, notably with respect to the last usage in male addresses to males in various early modern documents, including Marlowe's tragedy Edward II. (17) A bevy of commentators on this play have remarked the homoerotic, likely sodomitical friendship between Edward and his two favorites, Piers Gaveston and Hugh Spencer, Junior. (18) Seven times Edward addresses Gaveston and Spencer Junior as either "sweet friend," "Sweet Gaveston," or "Sweet Spencer." (19)
This context is relevant for assessing Faustus's friendship with Mephistopheles. "Torment, sweet friend, that base and crooked age [the Old Man]," Faustus later in the play tells Mephistopheles, "[t]hat durst dissuade me from thy Lucifer" (5.1.76-77). Considering this speech retrospectively, a contemporary playgoer or reader could detect a homoerotic overtone in the phrase "sweet friend," for he or she has heard Faustus say, in the contract-signing scene,
Lo, Mephistopheles, for love of thee I cut mine arm, and with my proper blood Assure my soul to be great Lucifer's. (2.1.53-55)
At this point, one might object that Faustus's initial request of Mephistopheles, that he supply him with a wife, as well as his desire to embrace and kiss Helen of Troy, preclude a homoerotic nuance in his calling a devil "sweet friend." Male same-sex desire nevertheless attaches itself to both pieces of evidence. Evidence exists that Elizabethans and Jacobeans were more prone to tolerate male homoerotic relationships between a sodomite and a married man or between two married men than were English men and women in later centuries. (20) Rather than to a female paragon of beauty, Faustus compares Helen to the Roman ruler of the gods: she is "[b]tighter ... than flaming Jupiter / When he appeared to hapless Semele (5.1.106-7). Faustus places himself here in the passive female sexual position. And Mephistopheles, rejecting Faustus's request for marriage, tells him nevertheless that
She whom thine eye shall like thy heart shall have, Be she as chaste as was Penelope, As wise as Saba, or as beautiful As was bright Lucifer before his fall. (2.1.158-61)
Stephen Orgel shrewdly comments that in this passage "the moral and intellectual ideal of [female] beauty is male--[bright Lucifer], This sounds like a much more attractive proposition than marriage for a truly wanton and lascivious voluptuary, especially for one with the sexual taste like Marlowe's." (21)
Widespread belief about a devil's manipulation of--in fact, involvement in--men's and women's sexual desires predisposed Marlowe's audience to hear the homoerotic overtones of the dramatic language cited in the preceding paragraph. An incubus was an evil spirit, usually a devil, thought to descend upon and have intercourse with a sleeping woman, such that a monstrous birth usually issued. A succubus was a female demon supposed to have the same effect upon a sleeping man (minus the monstrous physical issue). Sometimes a devil could impersonate or inhabit a man or woman, or even a corpse, with the intercourse performed upon a waking victim. (22) In either case, whether he or she was sleeping or awake, a prolonged kiss could damnably suck forth the victim's soul. Marlowe suggests that Helen of Troy is a succubus, for Faustus says just after Helen's kiss, "Her lips suck forth my soul. See where it flies! / Come, Helen, come, give me my soul again" (5.1.94-95). (23) Reinforcing these allusive values in Marlowe's tragedy was the godly Protestant tendency to label as sodomitical the titillation presumed to be provoked within male playgoers by seeing boys dressed in women's clothing flirting with male characters and hearing them utter obscene jests. This was considered the Devil's work, for puritanical critics believed that the theater was an ancient institution created by the Father of lies and disguise. (24)
I shall have more to say later about the possible homoerotic dimension of Faustus's friendship with Mephistopheles. For now, saying that it is a possibility is enough. Faustus may have wanted to get close to Mephistopheles partly because he felt so far from God. Could one be the friend of God? "And the Lord spake vnto Moses, face to face, as a man speaketh vnto his friend" (Exodus 33:11). (25) James implies that the faithful, righteous man can become God's friend: "And the Scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham beleued God, and it was imputed vnto him for righteousness: & he was called the friend of God" (The Epistle of James 2:23). But how can a man become the friend of a deity who seems perpetually remote? Marlowe may have thought from the Calvinist sermons of William Perkins and other godly Protestants that he heard as a Cambridge student that an angry God never gets close to humankind, as Jesus did. (26) Calvinist divines in the 1580s appeared to talk much more often about damnation, about reprobation, than they did about election and salvation. Faustus does say that "Divinity is bas[er] [than Philosophy, Law, or Physic] / Unpleasant, harsh, contemptible, and vile" (1.1.110-11). Mephistopheles apparently tells the truth when he says that Hell is wherever one cannot directly contemplate the face of God (1.3.75-84). And James expressed the truth when he wrote: "knowe ye not that the amitie of the worlde is the enimitie of God? Whosoeuer therefore wil be a friend of the worlde, maketh him self the enemie of God" (The Epistle of James 4:4). But some listeners of Elizabethan Calvinist preachers probably felt that the "amitie"--the friendship--of the world, and that of the world's master, Satan, was much easier and more satisfying to achieve than God's friendship. Aristotle had asserted that "for much can be taken away and friendship remain, but when one party is removed to a great distance, as God is, the possibility of friendship ceases." (27) A pronouncement apparently meant to apply to the god Zeus could almost certainly have been made about a significant number of Elizabethans and their Judeo-Christian God.
Until the play's last scene, the God of this tragedy, for Faustus, who may be a reprobate, appears to be a hidden God, (28) a Deus Absconditus, who seems to appear only indirectly in omens such as Faustus's suddenly congealed blood in the supernatural inscription upon his arm " 'Homo, fuge!' " during the contract-signing scene (2.1.60-81, esp. 77, 81). When God does get close to Faustus, when He shows His face to him, terrible anger blazes from it. But by then, Faustus is damned; he cannot repent. "[S]ee where God / Stretcheth out his arm and bends his ireful brows!" Faustus cries; "Mountains and hills, come, come and fall on me, / And hide me from the heavy wrath of God!" (5.2.82-83). Ironically, when the hidden God shows Himself to Faustus, He causes this sinner to want to hide himself from Him. "My God, my God, look not so fierce on me!" (5.2.120), Faustus cries out just before devils drag him off to Hell.
Marlowe at the beginning of act 4 once again refers to Faustus's scholar friends, but they do not become a dramatic reality, a stage presence. The Chorus to act 4 tells auditors that when Faustus returns to Wittenberg from his grand aerial tour of Europe and his terrorizing of the Pope and his Cardinals, "his friends and nearest companions," who bore "his absence but with grief," "[did] gratulate [rejoice at] his safety with kind words" (Chorus 4.4-6). Faustus, having been given supernatural knowledge of astrology, is said to have answered his friends' questions about this subject "with such learned skill" that they more than ever "admired and wondered at his wit" (Chorus 4.10-11). Considering that two scholars earlier worried about his immersion in black magic, one may be surprised that his friends never suspect that his insights are the result of necromancy. Significantly, playgoers never see any of these friends and companions onstage during act 4, interacting with Faustus. At the beginning of act 5, Wagner as Chorus reports that Faustus, as the end of his fatal twenty-four years draws near, attempts to drown despair in carousing and banqueting with Wittenberg students. (29) But again we never see Faustus and the students feasting. And when scholars do appear onstage with Faustus, there are only three of them. When First Scholar asks Faustus to produce the singularly beautiful Helen of Troy, he does so because he believes that their "friendship is unfeigned" and he will not deny the requests of those who wish him well (5.1.17-20, esp. 18). Playgoers for the first time hear Faustus appreciate human friendship as he perhaps realizes that Mephistopheles will soon have his due.
The pressure of this event and the vague terror concerning it condensing within Faustus prompt him to call the Old Man "my sweet friend" (5.1.58) after he tells him he sees an angel hovering over Faustus prepared to infuse him with prevenient grace if he repents (5.1.53-57). Sherman Hawkins has noted that, in this respect, "[t]he Old Man is a different kind of friend [than Mephistopheles]." (30) "I go, sweet Faustus (5.1.60)," the Old Man replies when Faustus says he wants to be alone to ruminate on his sins. As happens so often in Marlowe's plays, the modifier "sweet" signals a potentially intimate bond between characters. But Mephistopheles threatens Faustus with piecemeal dismemberment, and distraught Faustus turns on the Old Man, his renewed pact with a devil displacing a nascent one as the qualifier in his address to the demon suggests. "Sweet Mephistopheles, entreat thy lord / To pardon my unjust presumption" (5.1.70-71).
"Torment, sweet friend," Faustus pleads, "that base and crooked age / That durst dissuade me from thy Lucifer" (5.1.76-77). For comfort, Faustus craves the "sweet embracings" of the re-conjured ravishing Helen (5.1.86). But Faustus has apparently forgotten the truth he strangely told the Emperor Charles, that he cannot raise dead bodies--only their spiritual equivalents. Thus, even though Faustus exists with Helen as his paramour, she cannot really satisfy him since she, and her beauty, are ephemeral, an illusion. And so Faustus at this moment remains alone, without the sweetness of mutually experienced friendship. John Calvin had "hint[ed] that hell is terrifying because it is an experience of solipsism." (31)
So at what point does Marlowe stage Faustus's brief but meaningful achievement of friendship? The first part of the play's final scene consists of Faustus's dialogue with three scholars (5.2.1-64), presumably including the two earlier troubled about his disappearance. This prose section, almost one-half of the scene's length, concerns the mutual genuine caring of these scholars for Faustus and of him for them. When First Scholar asks Faustus what ails him, he exclaims, "Ah, my sweet chamber-fellow! Had I lived with thee, then had I lived still, but now I die eternally" (5.2.3-4). Faustus realizes that if he had not been so alone in his books and pursuit of knowledge, but bonded with these men, he would likely not have made a pact with a devil. Marlowe strengthens this possibility by having Third Scholar say, "Belike he is grown into some sickness by being over-solitary" (5.2.7-8). When Faustus confesses that he believes himself not simply precluded from salvation but damned, he bursts out, "Hell, ah, hell forever! Sweet friends, what shall become of Faustus, being in hell for ever" (5.2.25-26). He finally tells them that, to acquire his cunning, he has given Lucifer and Mephistopheles his soul. First Scholar reminds Faustus and playgoers of the companionship that might have saved him: "Why did not Faustus tell us of this before, that divines might have prayed for thee?" (5.2.44-45).
Tragically, too late now, a "sweet" friendship--a bond, a new mutual caring--has been forged between Faustus and these scholars. For the first time perhaps, Faustus thinks of the welfare of another at risk instead of himself. "Yron sharpeneth yron; so doeth a man sharpen the face of his friend" (Proverbs 27:17). Whatever the phrase sharpening a friend's face might mean, readers of the Bible generally understand this proverb to signify that it is not good to be alone, that a friend makes his companion better, most likely better spiritually. But Faustus seems to preclude this possibility. "Gentlemen, away, lest you perish with me" (5.2.49-50), he warns. "O, what shall we do to save Faustus?" (5.2.51), Second Scholar wonders. "Talk not of me," Faustus says, in a seemingly out-of-character remark, "but save yourselves and depart" (5.2.52). Until now, Faustus has collapsed in fear of the devils' threats, wishing Mephistopheles for example to persecute the Old Man who has tried to save his soul. But now his fear is not so great that he cannot think of others but tries to save them rather than himself. His admonition to his fellow scholars is easy to pass over, but it represents a breakthrough of Faustus's capacity for empathy.
Third Scholar responds to this empathy by saying, "God will strengthen me. I will stay with Faustus" (5.2.53-54). Significantly, Faustus says nothing. It is First Scholar who tells his companion, "Tempt not God, sweet friend, but let us into the next room and there pray for him" (5.2.55-57). Faustus endorses this advice, consigning himself to face Mephistopheles alone at midnight, by commanding the others that, despite "what noise soever ye hear, come not unto me, for nothing can rescue me" (5.2.58-59). Faustus's admonition, while not exactly self-sacrificial, is in that direction. He does not want his friends to die with him. This realization anticipates his anagnorisis--that rather than cursing his parents he should curse himself for his flaming end. Both this thought, and his thought for his fellow scholars, involve an uncharacteristic concern for others. And so Faustus says, "Gentlemen, farewell," and they reply in unison, "Faustus, farewell" (5.2.62-63). And so they leave the overreacher alone in his room to face his fate.
Faustus realizes a tragically brief "sweet" friendship that may have never previously existed genuinely, one that--had he vigorously sought it out earlier--might have saved him. Marlowe takes pains near the end of Dr. Faustus to make this dimension of his tragedy clear. Faustus's reluctance, or inability, authentically to confess, repent, and ask God to forgive him insures that the prayers of the scholars in the nearby room do not save him. This fact underscores Faustus's solitary plight during his passionate play-ending soliloquy. Terror-stricken Faustus strives to dissolve his solitary identity into the four elements, or into water drops and vapor, so as not to burn in hellfire. In wishing that his "soul may but ascend to heaven" (5.2.95), Faustus seems to have forgotten that he saw it sucked into the atmosphere in the vacuum created by a she-devil's kiss. God's face finally does appear to Faustus, but--as was previously noted--it is a terrifying face.
Faustus's last words, nevertheless, indirectly convey an ironic reminder of fellowship by referring to another face. "Adders and serpents, let me breathe a while!" terrified Faustus cries as he sees devils start to enter his room to bear him to Hell; "Ugly hell, gape not. Come not, Lucifer! / I'll burn my books. Ah, Mephistopheles!" (5.2.121-23). Thomas Healy has claimed that the ending of the 1604 Quarto text of Faustus is less directive than that of the 1616 Quarto text, "making [Faustus's] final cry of 'Ah, Mephistopheles' ... and what follows [in the Epilogue] less obvious." Healy asks whether that cry represents "fulfillment of terror, relief at seeing a recognized face, a conventional or unconventional damnation?" (32) If Marlowe meant for Faustus's exclamation to convey mainly terror, one would think that Faustus, horrified, would have exclaimed "O, Mephistopheles." In fact, Faustus in the 1616 text, in a speech likely revised by another hand after Marlowe's death, does say, "O, Mephistopheles." The utterance "Ah, Mephistopheles" does not convey horror, or "ultimate ... artistic satisfaction." (33) Earlier analysis of possible homoerotic, or even sodomitical, overtones in Faustus's terming Mephistopheles his "sweet friend" suggests that his "Ah" might signal erotic self-surrender. The utterance has this meaning for Wilbur Sanders, who regards it as part of a compound emotion: the "Ah" is a "cry of erotic self-surrender and horrified revulsion," reflecting "the irreducible love-hate that Faustus bears toward God and Lucifer." (34) Sanders nevertheless stresses the erotic element of this compound when he claims that Faustus's last gesture is "to embrace his demon lover." (35)
This certainly is a possible staging, one that gives the phrase "sweet friend" a conclusive meaning. But another significance of "Ah, Mephistopheles" is possible, one that a different physical gesture of greeting could reinforce. For a second, Faustus glimpses a recognizable, a familiar, face, that of one whom he had once called "sweet friend." And so he utters "Ah." The expression on this face is not like that of the wrathful God he has just seen. But that impression only lasts for a second; the face before him reforms into that of the deceiver who has lured him onto the broad highway that leads to the everlasting bonfire. The face of the familiar friend turns out to be familiar indeed, a "familiar": "a demon or evil spirit supposed to attend at a call" (O.E.D. Bsb.3). Surprised Faustus, however, at the end of his life never seems to have called this diabolical spirit, and his face and body more appropriately register terror rather than erotic self-surrender.
Harold Bloom, in his explanation for Shakespeare's presumed anxiety over Marlowe's great theatrical success appearing in the preface to his second edition of The Anxiety of Influence, notes that "Sir Francis Bacon, considering 'the action of the theatre,' brilliantly tells us: 'Certain it is, though a great secret in nature, that the minds of men in company are more open to affections and impressions than when alone.'" (36) Bacon's judgment about the gain in expressive effects of company rather than solitude on an individual is divided in Marlowe's Dr. Faustus. The company of scholars in act 5 of the play by their "sweet fellowship" prompt Faustus's expression of affection, whereas being alone before the prospect of Hell galvanizes a rush of impressions, most of them awful. Playgoers and readers realize that this frightening solitariness of Faustus is more dreadful because of the apparent absence of entry into, or the knowledge of, Faustus's inner life. Bloom argues that the Marlovian overreacher lacks the interiority of Falstaff, Hamlet, and Iago. (37)
But that is not quite true. For playgoers infer an inner life from Faustus's anagnorisis, his tragic realization that he should not curse his parents for his damnation because they begot him, but that he should curse himself, even before he curses Lucifer for "depriv[ing him] of the joys of heaven" (5.2.114-15). Reconsidered in this context, Faustus's warning his fellow scholars not to come into his room "what noise soever [they] hear" (5.2.58-59) becomes notably meaningful, for it shows special caring for his friends, for someone other than himself. Revealing a bit of an inner life, this thoughtfulness prepares for his later anagnorisis, making it more plausible. This thoughtfulness ought to qualify somewhat Clarence Green's argument that Faustus illustrates a "tragedy of individualism," of a man who "tries to make Christ his scapegoat: not the social Catholic Christ, but the individualist, Protestant Christ." (38) Had Faustus earlier been more empathetically thoughtful and socially acted out his thoughts, he--with a little help from his friends-might have saved himself. (39)
Concerning the portrayal of friendship, The Jew of Malta follows the same trajectory described by The Tragical History of Dr. Faustus. Like Faustus at the beginning of his play, Barabas, the Jew of Malta, gives the impression of self-sufficiency and yet, while isolated, he is not quite as emotionally alone in Malta as Dr. Faustus initially appears to be in Wittenberg. Nevertheless, like Faustus, Barabas engages in an unsuccessful attempt at forging a friendship, in this case not with an actual devil but with the Moor Ithamore, purchased as a slave. In the latter part of The Jew of Malta, Barabas strives even more intensely than Faustus does in the corresponding part of his play to befriend another, in this case Don Femeze, the former Governor of Malta dependent upon Barabas for his freedom from Turkish oppression. Unlike Faustus, however, who genuinely connects, even if briefly, with his fellow scholars, Barabas, deprived of either the opportunity for or the capacity of self-insight, fails to gain Femeze's friendship, his death partly a consequence of the intensity of his need for human companionship. In his attempts to befriend Ithamore and Femeze, Barabas violates not only Classical but also Machiavellian criteria for friendship.
Near the beginning of Marlowe's tragedy, Barabas verbalizes his Latin credo: "Ego mihimet sum semper proximus" (1.1.188). "I am always closest to myself," the suspicious alien pronounces. This attitude works to prohibit any real friendship, even among the members of his tribe. Three Maltese Jews try to comfort Barabas after Femeze, the Christian Governor of Malta, has confiscated their wealth to help pay the island's overdue tribute to the Turks. The quick anger with which Barabas not simply rebukes his fellow Jews but rejects them as "base slaves" (1.2.216), claiming their half losses cannot compare to his whole ruin, indicates that he likely never was particularly close to them. (40) Only one person is close to Barabas, his daughter Abigail, yet the allusion indicating his affection for her suggests that he is not so close to her that he cannot kill her.
I have no charge, nor many children, But one sole daughter, whom I hold as dear As Agamemnon did his Iphigen: And all I have is hers. (1.1.135-38)
Like Agamemnon who agreed to the blood sacrifice of his only daughter at Aulis to appease angry gods and rouse the winds to waft the Grecian Armada to Troy and the recovery of Menelaus's wife Helen, "Barabas is capable of sacrificing his daughter for an evil he considers a 'higher good."' (41) In Barabas's case, the "higher good" is his homicidal private revenge against Don Femeze.
Abigal becomes a victim of Barabas's lethal Machiavellian practice. Marlowe makes the devilish Machiavelli of the English Renaissance stage the Prologue to his tragedy. This Machiavel "count[s] religion but a childish toy" and men fools who think that murders will inevitably out (Prologue 14-17, esp. 14). The second syllable in the English spelling of his name in only surviving text of the play--"Machevil"--expresses beyond doubt the stage Machiavelli's hellish character. That Marlowe wants his playgoers to think of Barabas as a vicious Machiavellian derives from Machevil's begging them to "let [the Jew] not be entertained"--welcomed--"the worse / Because he favours me" (Prologue 34-35). Elizabethan audiences would have regarded Barabas's plot of depriving Ferenze of his son Don Lodowick by incensing Lodowick via a forged letter against his rival Don Mathias for Abigail's affection, such that they engage in a fatal duel, as unadulterated Machiavellian policy. But Barabas, by making his daughter play a partly ignorant role in this policy, misjudges the depth of her love for Mathias. When she, distraught, learns that Mathias and Lodowick are bitter enemies, she exclaims, "I'll make 'em friends again," to which Barabas replies,
You'll make 'em friends? Are there not Jews enough in Malta, But thou must dote upon a Christian? (2.3.359-62)
Barabas's initial question implies that a Jew and a Christian cannot be friends and that he has a stunted idea of friendship.
To repent her role, once Abigail hears Ithamore autonomously and foolishly boast about her father's plot against her suitors (3.3.3-38), she wholeheartedly becomes a nun in the Christian monastery that was once her father's house. Fearful that she through confession will disclose his homicidal trick to the friars there, Barabas poisons her and the other nuns by an "Italianate" means worthy of the stereotypic English stage Machiavel: a poisoned pot of rice "charitably" left on their doorstep. One could say that Barabas's policy, by depriving him of the only person who has loved him, weirdly fulfils his personal maxim: he now is closest to himself. But to draw this conclusion, one would have to overlook the presence of a new friend he has made.
G. K. Hunter has identified, Ithamore, the slave bought by Barabas, as the conventional tool-villain of English Renaissance tragedy. (42) Testing his new purchase, Barabas tries to ascertain if Ithamore can commit egregious felonies. The Moor concludes their cartoonish competition (2.3.176-214) by claiming an "Italianate" Machiavellian deed so ingenious it borders on black comedy:
Once at Jerusalem, where the pilgrims kneeled, I strowed powder on the marble stones, And therewithal their knees would rankle so, That I have laughed a-good to see the cripples Go limping home to Christendom on stilts. (2.3.210-14)
Admiring this practice, Barabas exclaims, "Why, this is something! Make account of me / As thy fellow" (2.3.215-16). Barabas's word "fellow" implies equality, partnership, with a tool-villain.
But Ithamore soon becomes much more than Barabas's fellow Machiavel. Once Abigail's lovers die and she re-converts to Christianity and Barabas fears she will undo him and so resolves upon her death, he exclaims, seeing Ithamore enter,
O Ithamore, come near; Come near, my love, come near, thy master's life, My trusty servant, nay, my second self! For I have now no hope but even in thee, And on that hope my happiness is built. O trusty Ithamore, No servant, but my friend! I here adopt thee for mine only heir. All that I have is thine when I am dead, And whilst I live use half; spend as myself; Here, take my keys--I'll give 'em thee anon. Go buy thee garments--but thou shalt not want. (3.4.13-17, 42-47)
Ithamore ascends from being Barabas's "fellow" to being his "friend" to being his "heir" (his son). It is perhaps not surprising that, planning to kill his daughter, he should fill an anticipated void by "adopting" a "son," one he wants to befriend. Later, when Barabas alludes to Ithamore's letter of blackmail, he protests to the pimp Pilia-Borza, "this angers me,"
That he who knows I love him as myself Should write in this imperious vein, Why, sir, You know I have no child, and unto whom Should I leave all but unto Ithamore? (4.4.42-46)
Barabas in this scene has not a shred of love for Ithamore, and he almost certainly is trying to get the Moor to give up his blackmail by reminding him via the pimp's report that he is the Jew's heir. But he could simply have said so. His act-four allusion to his childless state serves to suggest that it persists in his mind and thus that it more certainly contributed to his act-three burst of affection for his one-time friend. One could provisionally understand Barabas's remarkable mid-play outpouring in terms of the cliche that a pot of water boils over more quickly and violently to the degree that its lid is tight. Barabas has been so close to himself--closed in himself--that Ithamore becomes the subject of several kinds of relationship. In other words, Barabas's eruption appears to reveal an irrepressible innate need for companionship, for, most significantly, friendship.
Sara Deats concludes concerning Barabas's speech that "[t]he movement from servant to friend, the promise of adoption, and the guarantee of reward recall Christ's assurance to his disciples in John 15:15-16, a passage particularly familiar to Elizabethans as part of the ritual of The Book of Common Prayer: 'Henceforth call I you not seruants: for the seruant knoweth not what his master doeth: but I haue called you friends: for all things that I haue heard of my Father, haue I made knowen to you.'" (43) If the Jew's speech recalls these religious texts, it does so to emphasize its parody of them. Eric Rothstein, citing L. J. Mills, has argued that Barabas's and Ithamore's "appellations and protestations take on added meaning as part of a friendship tradition, in which amicus is alter ipse, and 'the sharing of property is a constant element.'" (44) Rothstein cites the language of the friendship tradition, however, to claim that Barabas is a poseur in this respect. (45) In Barabas's befriending a slave, an irreligious Moor, for the purpose of committing abject, notably grotesque evil exists farthest from Cicero's and the Classical world's true friendship between men who are equals in class, wealth, and interests, and who love each other as another self--men who love virtue for its own sake and whose rare friendship is among the most fulfilling experiences of life.
Barabas's hesitation to give Ithamore his keys and some money usually causes audience laughter; it registers his innate suspicion and--admittedly--an avaricious qualification of his claim of loving friendship. Ithamore notices this hesitation; later he complains that the Jew keeps him in rags. Nevertheless, Barabas continues to profess intense affection for his new friend:
And for thy sake, whom I so dearly love, Now shalt thou see the death of Abigail, That thou mayst freely live to be my heir. (3.4.61-63)
Many literary critics believe that both the Jew and the Moor are faking their friendship. And I would admit that there is a non-negligible degree of hypocrisy on both sides here, especially Ithamore's. But I would also argue that, having lost his only friend and daughter Abigail, Barabas's pledges involving Ithamore contain an element of truth. At least they do so at this moment.
The Jew of Malta is more than a tragedy of Machiavellianism; it is also partly a tragedy of an alien's need for companionship. Actually, the two are intimately connected. Unfortunately Barabas's friendship expresses itself in another shared Machiavellian practice, that of silencing the friars Bernadine and Jacomo. Barabas thus comes to be vunerable to his tool-villain's threatened revelation of his crimes in exchange for money. Ithamore tells his new friends, the whore Bellamira and her pimp Pilia-Borza, that Barabas and he killed both Mathias and Lodowick, poisoned the nuns, and strangled a friar. "This shall with me unto the governor" (4.4.24), Pilia-Borza says to Bellamira in an aside. Barabas then enters disguised as a French fiddler and poisons them by means of the scene involving a toxic bouquet of flowers, and yet the poison acts so slowly that, before they die, all three of them in the presence of Barabas inform Ferneze of the evil Barabas has done (5.1.7-43). Ferenze immediately arrests the Jew.
Barabas's taking Ithamore into his confidence has led to his apparent ruin. In doing so, it has made apparent his inefficiency as a Machiavel. Barabas should have poisoned his blackmailers by swifter means. Several commentators on The Jew of Malta have claimed that Barabas is an inferior, or poor, practitioner of Machiavellian policy. (46) In this respect, Alan Friedman, rather than citing Barabas as a Marlovian "overreacher," calls him the playwright's "underreacher." (47) For Lisa Hopkins, cunning Don Femeze is the successful Machiavellian of The Jew of Malta, emerging alive and secure at play's end, conclusively freeing the island from the Turkish tribute. (48) Moreover, Catherine Minshull argues that Marlowe on at least one occasion dissociates Barabas from Machiavellianism. She remarks that nowhere in Machiavelli's writings does he advocate policy as a means of attaining the sole end of material wealth, and that Barabas--contrary to what the Prologue Machevil says (49)--never states or implies that policy has helped him acquire his argosies and riches. (50) Basically, Marlowe presents Barabas as a merchant capable of taking great investment risks successfully. (51) If Marlowe criticizes anything here, it is a proto-capitalist way of unjustly acquiring incredible wealth. Furthermore, Machiavelli generally advised against the pursuit of revenge for personal reasons, Barabas's obsession. (52) Finally, Barabas explicitly renounces in act 1 the pursuit of political power (1.1.128-34), the historical Machiavelli's preoccupation. (53)
Marlowe certainly renders problematic Barabas's Machiavellian credentials. He does for many reasons, one of which is to shock playgoers by making the tragedy's professing Christian, Ferneze, the successful Machiavel in The Jew of Malta. The critics cited in the preceding paragraph judge Barabas's Machiavellianism according to the precepts Machiavelli sets forth in The Prince and The Discourses. But this Machiavelli coexists in Marlowe's play with the stage Machiavel, a diabolical character who enjoys mayhem for the sake of mayhem based on Innocent Gentillet's portrait of the Italian in Contre ... Nicholas Machiavel (1576), which Marlowe could have read in French or in an English translation. (54) Appraising Barabas's behavior according to criteria derived from Machiavelli's writings becomes increasingly possible in the latter part of The Jew of Malta, mainly because Barabas as the new Governor of Malta makes political decisions about a friendly alliance and a clever stratagem against an enemy of the state. For Machiavelli, securing and consolidating power and surviving politically dictate a ruler's friendships. (55)
Barabas violates one of Machiavelli's three pieces of advice for a new ruler thinking of befriending politically influential others. Before Ferneze can execute him, Barabas feigns his death through a soporific drink that suspends his pulse; his supposed corpse is then thrown over Malta's walls. He allies himself with the besieging Turks and discloses the existence of a secret way for them, angry that Malta's tribute remains unpaid, to enter the city and capture it. In gratitude, they make Barabas Governor of Malta. His acceptance of this appointment is surprising. Early in the play, Barabas stated,
I must confess we [Jews] 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. (1.1.128-34)
Barabas acts contrary to the insights he expresses here when he accepts from the Turks the governership of Malta. He has not thirsted for "principality," political rule, but for gold and--I am arguing--for friendship. Moreover, violence has made possible--in fact, given him--this rule, but he believes no political office obtained by violent force can be permanent. Machiavelli would likely argue that it could be, if it were preserved by occasional shrewd, non-violent acts of policy. Once he is Governor, Barabas imprisons Ferneze, his captains, and their companions. Then, speaking to himself, he remembers his insight into the instability of rule obtained by force:
Thus hast thou gotten, by thy policy, No simple place, no small authority: I now am governor of Malta. True, But Malta hates me, and in hating me, My life's in danger; and what boots it thee, Poor Barabas, to be the governor, Whenas thy life shall be at their command? No, Barabas, this must be looked into; And since by wrong thou got'st authority, Maintain it bravely by firm policy, At least unprofitably lose it not: For he that liveth in authority And neither gets him friends, nor fills his bags, Lives like the ass that Aesop speaketh of, That labours with a load of bread and wine, And leaves it off to snap on thistle tops. But Barabas will be more circumspect. Begin betimes, Occasion's bald behind; Slip not thine opportunity, for fear too late Thou seek'st for much, but canst not compass it. (5.2.27-46)
Barabas's word "policy" indicates that he believes he needs to be a shrewd Machiavel to preserve his control of Malta so that he can amass more wealth. In his third passage in The Prince concerning friendship, Machiavelli advises a prince that it is better to ally himself with the more powerful of two mutually adversarial neighboring rulers because, once the former triumphs through his new ally's aid, he will be beholden to him and want to establish a friendship, which the fear of appearing ungrateful will prevent him from dissolving. (56) The Maltese and the Turks are "mutually adversarial"; the Turks, by triumphing, have become the more powerful. Therefore Barabas should establish a friendship with them because their gratitude for his help in making their victory possible will preserve it. Admittedly, this policy mildly contradicts Machiavelli's opinion that a new ruler cannot keep the friendship of those who have placed him in office because he cannot recompense them in ways they expect. But Barabas has rewarded the Turks beyond their expectations, and befriending Ferneze, a man whom he might suspect to be his enemy, in his present situation would seemingly be much more perilous for Barabas than befriending the Turk Calymath.
But that is what he precisely does. Calling for incarcerated Ferneze, Barabas tells him that he has not forgotten that Malta made him successful. "For as a friend not known but in distress / I'll rear up Malta, now remediless" (5.2.72-73). By the overly condensed first verse of this utterance, Barabas says, "For as one not known to be a friend to Malta until distress creates the need for such friendship," he wants to help Malta. Many playgoers do not have time during the rapid delivery of this speech to parse this meaning. Some playgoers and some readers understand it to mean instead that Barabas is in distress, and that his distress causes him to need the friendship of Ferneze. Admittedly, Barabas offers to be Ferneze's friend so that he can be his agent for amassing more gold than he already has accumulated in Malta (5.2.39).
Barabas proceeds to ask Ferneze what he will give him if kills Calymath and burns the building in which Turkish troops are shut. Barabas has in mind a Machiavellian policy by which he can shift power to the Maltese and elicit gratitude greater than that of the Turks. His cunning stratagem will appear more clever than Machiavelli's recommended policy for a situation similar to that in which he finds himself. Ferneze replies that he can by "letters privately procure / Great sums of money for thy recompense" from citizens and let Barabas live as governor still (5.2.87-88). "Nay, do thou this, Ferneze, and be free," Barabas pronounces:
Governor, I enlarge thee; live with me. To walk about the city, see thy friends. Tush, send not letters to 'em, go thyself, And let me see what money thou canst make. Here is my hand that I'll set Malta free. (5.2.90-95)
By living freely as his fellow resident of Malta, Ferneze can see among his friends his new friend Barabas. But Barabas has not out-Machiavellied Machiavelli. Foolishly (as regards his Machiavellian caution), Barabas befriends a man with a permanent knowledge of how homicidally treacherous his companion can be. An authentic Machiavel would execute or at least imprison perpetually a potential adversary as bold as Ferneze. He would make friends with less threatening citizens of the city-state he now ruled. Something more than material gain clouds Barabas's Machiavellian wariness
Barabas's befriending of Ithamore reflected his human need for affectionate companionship in the wake of Abigail's betrayal and her loss. Friendship with Ferneze could, among other things, alleviate his solitary condition. Furthermore, Barabas offers to become Ferneze's friend because--as my analysis will strongly suggest--he strangely seems to want to be accepted by the very man he has wronged. Naively, Barabas remains unaware of how his need to make a friend, and prove that friendship, starts a concatenation of events that gives his new friend a fatal advantage over him. Unlike an effective Machiavellian, Barabas, apparently to impress Ferneze, tells his enemy that he will let him participate in his policy. Incredibly, dense Barabas tells Ferneze that the latter will be
present only to perform One stratagem that I'll impart to thee, Wherein no danger shall betide thy life, And I will warrant Malta free for ever. (5.2.98-101)
Whereas Ferneze will not be imperiled, Barabas will be vulnerable. Barabas's anti-Machiavellian empowerment of Ferneze makes nonsense of an underlying scheme. Concerning Ferneze and Calymath, he says,
Thus, loving neither, will I live with both, Making a profit of my policy; And he from whom my most advantage comes Shall be my friend. (5.2.111-14)
Barabas does not seem to realize that he has forfeited this choice by giving his friend, who secretly remains his enemy, complete knowledge of and control over what the Jew imagines will be a consummate act of policy. So needful of a friend is Barabas that he has committed himself to a friendship still thinking he has a choice concerning it.
Shrewdly, Ferneze has told a group of Maltese knights that, when they shall hear a cannon fired, they should come and rescue him because he may be in distress (5.4.1-7). Ferenze in fact stresses this firing. The Maltese should not "sally forth / Till [they] hear a culverin discharged / By him that bears the linstock, kindled thus" (5.4.2-4). Ferneze implies that someone, perhaps himself, will give a signal to the linstock bearer, who will light it from a nearby torch and give it to the man designated to ignite the fuse. Barabas remains unaware of this ruse. The final scene opens with Barabas directing carpenters making a "dainty gallery" whereupon the Turks will dine, whose floor will collapse into a pit containing a burning cauldron when a cable is cut (5.5.32-36, esp. 33). "For so I live, perish may all the world" (5.5.10), he says. Characteristically, Barabas has reverted to his personal philosophy: "Ego mihimet sum semper proximus" ("I am always closest to myself"). But Barabas cannot live without companions, for he has committed himself to an intricate social web by agreeing to become Governor of Malta.
When Ferneze enters with a bag containing the one hundred pounds that Barabas has told him to collect from Maltese citizens, Barabas tells him to keep it until he sees him fulfill the promise he has made. Barabas tells his friend his nasty policy, to blow up the Turkish soldiers dining in the outhouse and to cut a cable holding the trap door on the gallery floor on which Calymath and his bashaws will stand so that they fall into the seething cauldron beneath it. Incredibly, having climbed up to the gallery to inspect it before the Turks' arrival, he throws down a knife to Ferneze, giving him these directions;
Here, hold that knife, and when thou see'st he comes, And with his bashaws shall be blithely set, A warning-piece shall be shot off from the tower To give thee knowledge when to cut the cord, And fire the house; say, will not this be brave? (5.5.37-41)
This is the stratagem that Barabas earlier said that Ferneze would be present to help to perform (5.2.98-99). Thus Barabas's throwing down the knife to Ferneze is not a spontaneous impulse, but something planned, for how long one cannot tell. Barabas, refusing the collected money a second time, apparently wants his friend to witness and admire his Machiavellian policy, a falsehood--he believes--greater than any the sun ever shined upon (5.5.49-50). (57) His secret feeling of inadequacy has so driven him to seek a companion's approval that he has either lost track of where he is standing or not given its danger serious forethought. Strangely, almost clairvoyantly, Ferneze has anticipated the very means--a cannon shot--that is the signal to cut the cable. Even though Barabas is the Governor of Malta, he continues to call Ferneze "Governor," so much does he defer to his authority. (58) Marlowe thus suggests that, more than anything, Barabas wants Ferneze's acceptance of him. The need for a friend completely displaces his characteristic distrust. Ironically, standing where he is at this moment, Barabas visually illustrates his self-destructive personal credo: he could not be closer to himself.
When Calymath and his Turks are about to ascend the stairs to the gallery, Ferneze exclaims, "Stay, Calymath; / For I will show thee greater courtesy / Than Barabas would have afforded thee" (5.5.59-61). A Knight [Within] shouts, "Sound a charge there!" (5.5.63). These stage directions appear in the only text of the play: the 1633 Quarto: "A charge, the cable cut, a cauldron discovered." (59) Stephen J. Lynch notes that "[t]he sequence of events is more complex than the simple stage direction indicates." (60) Lynch describes the augmentation that modern editors of the play write into it: "Apparently Ferneze signals a knight off stage to sound a trumpet charge [5.5.104-6], which provides a signal to discharge a cannon [5.4.2-3 and 5.5.39-41] which then provides a signal for the monastery (filled with Turks) to be blown up and the Christian knights to 'sally forth' to protect Ferneze [5.4.2], Meanwhile Ferneze cuts the cable so that a trap door opens and Barabas falls into the burning cauldron below." (61) This reconstruction of offstage events, subscribed to by virtually all editors, presupposes either a Ferneze remarkably lucky in his suspicions, or one divinely omniscient. For Barabas has told Ferneze only a few moments before Ferneze signals to the knight offstage to start this chain of events that the charged cannons and gunpowder fill the monastery's basement. Prescient Ferneze has correctly suspected that Barabas will blow up the monastery and positioned one of his soldiers there to ignite the gunpowder on the arranged signal of discharged cannon from the tower, whose cannoneer understands that he must light the fuse if he hears a trumpet blowing a charge. Small wonder, then, that Ferneze should say at play's end, "So, march away, and let due praise be given / Neither to fate nor fortune, but to heaven" (5.5.122-23). Given his remarkable capitalization of his advantage over Barabas, Ferneze may--for once--actually believe that he has been God's instrument to destroy Barabas and free Malta. Marlowe's astute playgoer, however, remains doubtful.
Defiantly, Barabas dies alone, roasting in his cauldron, as he has stood alone on the hellish gallery, as he has lived alone despite his need for friendship. That Malta becomes free depends partly upon Ferneze's shrewd "befriending" of Calymath. He and his bashaws shall not be executed, but held as hostages who will be Ferneze's constrained "guests" until the Ottomans in Constantinople agree to cancel permanently the Maltese tribute. Then, he shall be returned unharmed. Such shrewd befriending is of course Machiavellian. Ferneze's prescience may stem from a Machiavellian bent of mind. Given his ambiguous representation of heaven and its deity in other plays, Marlowe almost certainly would have wanted us to doubt whether God is the friend of Ferneze. He may simply be a remarkably cunning man who knows when to seize Occasion's forelock.
Aristotle had argued that a man could not successfully befriend another virtuous man until he was peacefully a friend to himself. If a friend was another self, then it only made sense that a man first must be his own best friend--friend, that is to say, in most virtuous sense. (62) That neither Faustus nor Barabas has been a friend to himself means that necessarily he and a worthy man cannot be a friend in the Classical sense of the word. Obviously Aristotle's claim does not apply to Barabas in relation to Ithamore and Ferneze, for none of them is a virtuous man according to Aristotle's and Cicero's definitions. Whether Faustus and his scholar friends are virtuous men when he, responding to their anxiety for his welfare, trying to preserve their lives rather than his own, advises them in the last hour of his life to leave his room and never re-enter is debatable. If they achieve a virtuous friendship, it occurs for only less than two hours. If they do, by Artistotle's logic, it is because for a few moments Faustus is a friend to a better self.
Whether Marlowe, beleaguered near the end of his short life, was a friend to himself cannot be known. But the record of his last weeks as well as his death's aftermath reveals no authentic friends. On May 18, 1593, about two weeks before he died, Queen Elizabeth's Privy Councilors, for reasons unknown, issued a warrant for Marlowe's arrest. Presenting himself to them, he was told to remain in London until he was called again. He never was summoned. On May 30, 1593, Ingram Frizer invited Marlowe and two other acquaintances, Nicholas Skeres and Robert Poley, to drink and eat with him at the widow Bull's house in Deptford. They did so before Marlowe and Frizer reportedly argued over the bill and Frizer, who later successfully claimed self-defense, either fatally stabbed Marlowe or in wrestling with him saw him accidentally knife himself. (63) All three of Marlowe's companions knew him and had shady pasts, mingling often with thugs, cheats, and lowlifes of all sorts on the margin of government intelligence work or double agency. Marlowe had almost certainly served Elizabethan counterespionage officials, probably either Francis or Thomas Walsingham, as a double agent in France paid to discover Catholic spies and plots. (64) Frizer perhaps murdered Marlowe to keep him from revealing government secrets when recalled by the Privy Council. If the official ordering Marlowe's permanent silencing was Thomas Walsingham, this hypothesized scenario is particularly disturbing, for Edmund Blunt would refer to Marlowe as "our friend" in the dedicatory epistle addressed to Walsingham quoted at the beginning of this essay. (65)
Whatever the case, Marlowe certainly was not among friends in the widow Bull's house. Nor was he remembered as a friend in the days after his death. On June 2, 1593, the day after he was buried, Richard Baines disseminated a document claiming Marlowe was an atheist and a sodomite. Along with the account of Marlowe's denigrations of Moses and Christ, Baines wrote that the playwright said that the Savior was the "bedfellow" of John the Evangelist, that Christ "used him as the sinners of Sodoma," and that Marlowe praised the love of boys and tobacco. (66) Baines was, like Marlowe's last drinking companions, a predatory, devious, likely sometime government spy. Thus his portrait of the atheist sodomite Marlowe is suspect. But the playwright Thomas Kyd, called in soon after Marlowe's burial to defend himself against the charge of atheism, claimed that the blasphemous papers found in his room, wherein St. Paul was called a "juggler," were Marlowe's, and that moreover he " 'would report St. John to be our Savior Christes Alexis ... that is that Christ did love him with an extraordinary love.'" (67) If Kyd had been Marlowe's friend, as Jeffrey Masten argues, he was no longer.
Given Marlowe's plays, the record described in the preceding paragraphs is not surprising. In Marlowe's eponymous tragedy, King Edward's sodomitical friendships with Gaveston and Spencer Junior precipitate the order for his murder. The friendship Barabas strives to forge near the end of his life only leads to his undoing by his would-be companion. Hell-fire quickly extinguishes the poignant, fleeting most genuine moments of friendship Faustus had likely ever known. And Mephistopheles in his last appearance is the antithesis of the friend Marlowe may have imagined for an instant before he vanishes into Hell. If Marlowe seems especially alone in May 1593, playgoers should perhaps have anticipated his apparent solitary state. Christopher Marlowe may not have finally trusted friendship. But if he had, perhaps he might have lived long enough to have drawn Shakespeare into a protracted, intense poetic rivalry.
(1.) Charles Nicholl, Cup of News: The Life of Thomas Nashe (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1984), 29.
(2.) David Riggs, The World of Christopher Marlowe (London: Faber & Faber, 2004), 166.
(3.) Riggs, World of Christopher Marlowe, 156, 252. Also see Hugh R. Williamson, Kind Kit: An Informal Biography of Christopher Marlowe (London: Michael Joseph, 1972) 26-27, 29-30, 43-44, 102-3, 106.
(4.) Qtd. by Nicholl, Cup of News, 267.
(5.) Nicholl, Cup of News, 108, 158.
(6.) Jeffrey Masten, "Playwriting: Authorship and Collaboration," A New History of Early English Drama, ed. John D. Cox and David Scott Kastan (New York: Columbia University Press, 1997), 357-82, esp. 358-65, 378-79.
(7.) Riggs, World of Christopher Marlowe, 1-2, 4-5, 113, 294, 295-96; Tom Rutter, The Cambridge Introduction to Christopher Marlowe (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012), 17-21.
(8.) Quotations of Dr. Faustus are taken from the A-text appearing in Christopher Marlowe, Dr. Faustus A-and B-Texts (1604, 1616): Christopher Marlowe and His Collaborator and Revisers, ed. David Bevington and Eric Rasmussen (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1993), 103-98. Those of The Jew of Malta come from Christopher Marlowe: The Jew of Malta, ed. N. W. Bawcutt, The Revels Plays (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1978). Citations of Edward II come from Christopher Marlowe, Edward II, The Complete Works of Christopher Marlowe, Volume 3, ed. Richard Rowland (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1994). Editors of Dr. Faustus produce essentially one of three versions of the play: one based on the 1604 (A) text, the 1616 (B) text, or--usually--a conflated text made up of elements of the A and B texts. Michael J. Warren, in a now-classic essay, "Dr. Faustus: The Old Man and the Text," English Literary Renaissance 11.2 (1981): 111-47, notes that Fredson Bowers and Constance Brown Kuriyama, along with others, have "argued convincingly for a new recognition of the value of the A text" (112), as a prelude to his bibliographic case for "abandoning ... editing based on a conflation of texts of objects of study or as texts for performance" (112).
(9.) Constance Brown Kuriyama, in Hammer or Anvil: Psychological Patterns in Christopher Marlowe's Plays (New Brunswick NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1980), argues that "the destructive father-son relationships that characterize Tamburlaine" underscore Marlowe's "hopeless alienation from [his] father" and his inability to believe, along with Calvin, in God the Father's love for humankind (107).
(10.) Stephen J. Greenblatt, "Marlowe and Renaissance Self-Fashioning," Two Renaissance Mythmakers, ed. Alvin Keman (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1977) 41-69, esp. 55.
(11.) Marian Ransom, Roderick Cook, and T. M. Pearce, " 'German Valdes and Cornelius' in Dr. Faustus," Notes and Queries, n. s. 9 (1962): 329-31, identify these characters as actual sixteenth-century individuals--a German Antoine Cornelius and a Juan de Valdes (who served the German Charles V); they were sufficiently prominent that Marlowe may have picked up their names.
(12.) Michael Hattaway in "The Theology of Marlowe's Dr. Faustus," Renaissance Drama n. s. 3 (1970): 51-78, esp. 54, remarks that "[t]he famous German magician Henry Cornelius Agrippa was certainly known to Marlowe."
(13.) The adjective "sweet" appears to have had a special attraction for Marlowe. In its variant spellings, it occurs 213 times throughout Marlowe's works.
(14.) Aristotle, The Nicomachean Ethics, trans. David Ross; rev. by J. L. Ackrill and J. O. Urmson, Oxford World's Classics (1980; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998) 192-247, esp. 195, 196, 206, 228, 236, 246 ; Marcus Tullius Cicero, "De Senectute," "De Amiticia, " "De Divinatione, " trans. William A. Falconer, The Loeb Classical Library (London: W. Heinemann, 1927) 103-211, esp. 125, 127, 131, 133, 139, 155-56, 163, 189, 207. For a thorough description of the qualities of Renaissance friendship, see Laurie Shannon, Sovereign Amity: Figures of Friendship in Shakespearean Contexts (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2002), 2-46.
(15.) Michel de Montaigne's at times rapturous account of the seamless blending of his soul with that of his friend La Boetie, recorded in his essay "Of Friendship," The Complete Essays of Montaigne, trans. Donald M. Frame (Stanford CA: Stanford University Press, 1965) 135-44, comes closest during the Renaissance to exemplifying Ciceronian friendship.
(16.) "De Amiticia," 147.
(17.) Jeffrey Masten, "Toward a Queer Address: The Taste of Letters and Early Modern Male Friendship," GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies 10.3 (2004): 36784, esp. 371, 375, 378-79.
(18.) Gregory Bredbeck, Sodomy and Interpretation (Ithaca NY: Cornell University Press, 1991), 67-77, esp. 76; Bruce Smith, Homosexual Desire in Shakespeare's England (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1991), 209-23, esp. 220; Jonathan Goldberg, Sodometries: Renaissance Texts, Modern Sexualities (Stanford CA: Stanford University Press, 1992), 114-26; Alan Bray, The Friend (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2003), 187, 188-89.
(19.) Edward II Scenes.4.112, 140, 307; 5.59; 11.144; 17.96, 111.
(20.) See Alan Bray, "Homosexuality and the Signs of Male Friendship in Elizabethan England," Queering the Renaissance, ed. Jonathan Goldberg (Durham: Duke University Press, 1994), 30-61; Bray, The Friend, 186-87; Jeffrey Masten, Textual Intercourse: Collaboration, Authorship, and Sexualities in Renaissance Drama (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997), 36, 37-48; Masten, "Toward a Queer Address," 372.
(21.) Stephen Orgel, The Authentic Shakespeare and Other Problems of the Early Modern Stage (New York: Routledge, 2002), 228.
(22.) 22 For more on these beliefs, see Maurice Hunt, "Shakespeare's Twelfth Night and 'the Pregnant Enemy': The Devil in What You Will," The Upstart Crow: A Shakespeare Journal 30 (2011): 5-17, esp. 6-7.
(23.) There is no reason to believe that Elizabethans did not imagine a devil's intercourse to be always heterosexual. Marlowe associates Lucifer with a hideous form of sodomy in his tragic history Edward II. A character named Lightborne, assigned the task of secretly executing the presumably sodomitical king, calls for a red hot spit, a table, and a featherbed (Sc. 22.29-34). The implication of the spit is clear: a fatal ramming it up Edward's fundament as punishment for supposed sodomy. Bray has noted that Lightborne's name is "an Anglicized echo of Lucifer" ("Homosexuality and the Signs of Male Friendship," 49). Marlowe may have had second thoughts about the difficulty and disturbing sensationalism of pantomiming the use of the poker, for the upside-down table is laid upon the king and Lightborne's fellow villains get upon it and stamp Edward to death. Nevertheless the scene's overtones of demonic sodomy are clear enough.
(24.) Stephen Gosson, Playes Confuted in Five Actions, The English Drama and Stage Under the Tudor and Stuart Princes, ed. W. C. Hazlitt (1869; New York: Burt Franklin, 1964), 157-218, esp. 171, 213; Jonas Barish, The Antitheatrical Prejudice (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1981), 49-50, 60-64, 89, 90.
(25.) The Geneva Bible, A Facsimile of the 1560 Edition (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1969), 41b. Biblical quotations come from this edition.
(26.) G. M. Pincess, "Marlowe's Cambridge Years and the Writing of Dr. Faustus," Studies in English Literature: 1599-1900 33 (1993): 249-64, esp. 252-59.
(27.) The Nicomachean Ethics 204, my italics.
(28.) This is the claim of William Hamlin, "Skepticism and Solipsism in Dr. Faustus," Research Opportunities in Renaissance Drama 36 (1997): 1-22, esp. 12-13.
(29.) Sherman Hawkins, in "The Education of Faustus," Studies in English Literature: 1500-1900 6.2 (1966): 193-209, esp. 205, argues that the feasting of Faustus and fellow students extends the dramatization of gluttony seen in act 4, scene 2 in the Duchess of Van Holt's craving for grapes.
(30.) Hawkins, 206.
(31.) Adrian Streete, "Calvinist Conceptions of Hell in Marlowe's Dr. Faustus," Notes and Queries n. s. 47 (4) (2000): 430-32, esp. 431.
(32.) Thomas Healy, "Dr. Faustus," The Cambridge Companion to Christopher Marlowe, ed. Patrick Cheney (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004), 17492, esp. 183.
(33.) Patrick Cheney, Marlowe's Counterfeit Profession: Ovid, Spenser, Counter-Nationhood (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1997), 220.
(34.) Wilbur Sanders, The Dramatist and the Received Idea (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1968), 242.
(35.) Sanders, 242.
(36.) Harold Bloom, The Anxiety of Influence: A Theory of Poetry, 2nd ed. (New York: Oxford University Press, 1997), xxxvi.
(37.) Ibid., xxxv.
(38.) Clarence Green, "Dr. Faustus: Tragedy of Individualism," Science and Society 10(1946): 275-83, esp. 276.
(39.) The only claim about friendship in Dr. Faustus generally resembling my argument has been made by Ruth Stevenson in a paragraph of "The Comic Core of Both A- and B-Editions of Dr. Faustus," Studies in English Literature: 1500-1900 53.2 (2013): 401-19, esp. 415.
(40.) Julia Reinhard Lupton, in "The Jew of Malta," Cheney, The Cambridge Companion to Christopher Marlowe 144-47, focuses on the Jewish question in the play, arguing that it is about "different forms of fellowship--of social, religious, and economic association--that reconfigure" characters in fragile alliances (144). She notes that Barabas refuses to cast his lot with Malta's Jews (147). Nowhere in this essay is Lupton concerned with the subject of friendship as a form of fellowship in the play.
(41.) Alan W. Friedman, "The Shackling of Accidents in Marlowe's Jew of Malta," Texas Studies in Literature and Language 8 (1966): 155-67, esp. 159. Also see Dena Goldberg, "Sacrifice in Marlowe's Jew of Malta," Studies in English Literature 1500-1900 32.2 (1992): 233-45, esp. 233-34.
(42.) G. K. Hunter, "The Theology of Marlowe's The Jew of Malta," Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes 27 (1964): 211-40, esp. 233.
(43.) Sara M. Deats, "Biblical Parody in Marlowe's The Jew of Malta: A Re-Examination," Christianity and Literature 37.2 (1988): 27-48, esp. 29-30.
(44.) Eric Rothstein, "Structure as Meaning in The Jew of Malta," Journal of English and Germanic Philology 65 (1966): 260-73, esp. 264; L. J. Mills, "The Meaning of Edward II," Modern Philology 32 (1934): 11-31, esp. 17.
(45.) Ibid., 265.
(46.) See, notably, Catherine Minshull, "Marlowe's 'Sound Machiavel,'" Renaissance Drama n. s. 13 (1982): 35-53; and B. R. Menpes, "The Bondage of Barabas: Thwarted Desire in The Jew of Malta," Parergon: Journal of the Australian and New Zealand Association for Medieval and Early Modern Studies 20.1 (January 2003): 65-84, esp. 72-83.
(47.) Friedman, "Shackling of Accidents," 156.
(48.) Lisa Hopkins, Christopher Marlowe, Renaissance Dramatist (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2008), 35.
(49.) Machevil states that Barabas "smiles to see how full his bags are crammed, / Which money was not got without my means" (Prologue 31-32).
(50.) Minshull, "Marlowe's 'Sound Machiavel,'" 36. Also see Douglas Cole, Cristopher Marlowe and the Renaissance of Tragedy (Westport CT: Greenwood Press, 1995), 80-81; and Stephen Greenblatt, Renaissance Self-Fashioning: From More to Shakespeare (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980), 203.
(51.) Rutter, 63; Menpes, "Bondage of Barabas," 71.
(52.) Luc Borot, "Machiavellian Diplomacy and Dramatic Developments in Marlowe's Jew of Malta," Cahiers Elisabethans 33 (April 1988): 1-11, esp. 10.
(53.) Minshull notes that "Machiavelli's works teem with observations on military routes to power, yet in The Jew of Malta Barabas's lack of interest in military matters is abundantly evident" (40).
(54.) N. H. Bawcutt, in his Revels edition of The Jew of Malta, argues for this coexistence, admitting that defining how much of Machiavelli Marlowe knew firsthand is impossible (11-15, esp. 15). Barabas's and Ithamore's darkly comic competition in explaining the most egregious evil they have committed is worthy of the stage Machiavel (2.3.179-216).
(55.) Niccolo Machiavelli, The Prince, ed. Quentin Skinner and Russell Prince (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988), 7, 71, 74. Machiavelli remarks in the first instance that a new governor needs to understand that he usually cannot retain the friendship of those who have helped him to become ruler, because he cannot satisfy them in ways they expect. In the second, he explains that a ruler needs to calculate how to keep a large number of his soldiers friendly, without considering that the people may want them punished for crimes they committed against them.
(56.) Machiavelli, The Prince, 78, 86.
(57.) N. W. Bawcutt, in "Machiavelli and Marlowe's The Jew of Malta," Renaissance Drama n. s. 3 (1970): 3-49, esp. 28, argues that hosting a feast to have the guest fall into a burning cauldron is a variant of the "treacherous banquet" motif by which one destroys his political enemy, a banquet neither condemned nor recommended by Machiavelli as a policy.
(58.) Menpes, "Bondage of Barabas," 82.
(59.) Christopher Marlowe, The Jew of Malta, The Complete Works of Christopher Marlowe, Volume 4, ed. Roma Gil (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1995), 84.
(60.) Christopher Marlowe, The Jew of Malta, ed. Stephen J. Lynch (Indianapolis IN: Hackett Publ., 2009), 78.
(61.) Lynch, 78.
(62.) The Nicomachean Ethics, 228, 235, 236, 246
(63.) Charles Nicholl, The Reckoning: The Murder of Christopher Marlowe (London: Jonathan Cape, 1992), 324-37.
(64.) Greenblatt, Renaissance Self-Fashioning 220.
(65.) Nicholl remarks that "[t]]he only link [between Marlowe and Frizer] that we know for sure is that they shared the same 'master,' Thomas Walsingham" (The Reckoning 25).
(66.) Jonathan Goldberg, "Sodomy and Society: The Case of Christopher Marlowe," Staging the Renaissance: Reinterpretations of Renaissance Drama, ed. David Scott Kastan and Peter Stallybrass (New York: Routledge, 1991), 75-82, esp. 78.
(67.) Goldberg, "Sodomy and Society," 78. Kyd's "allusion ... is to Virgil's second eclogue, Corydon's lament for the unforthcoming [homosexual] Alexis," (78).
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|Author:||Hunt, Maurice A.|
|Publication:||Medieval and Renaissance Drama in England|
|Date:||Jan 1, 2016|
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