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Producing Marlowe : A Postmortem Review of a Renaissance Playwright

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Producing Marlowe : A Postmortem Review of a Renaissance Playwright
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   Hiroshima University: Studies in Language and Culture , 1995  Note: In this copy the pagination is different from the srcinal article and some small changes have been made.  _______________  Producing Marlowe:A Postmortem Review of a Renaissance PlaywrightThomas Dabbs That there he did in trial of his art, I leave untold: your eyes shall see perform ’d. Included in almost every critical discussion of Marlowe’s poems and plays have been abundant observations concerning the playwright’s artistic, political, and philosophical intentions. Because so little is known for certain about Marlowe’s actual artistic opinions, most of these observations are necessarily drawn from evidence within the plays and poems which have been ascribed to him. However, critics have traditionally overlooked or down-played certain features of the publishing history of Marlowe’s works during the Renaissance which indicate that the playwright actually had little to say about how his works were presented in print. Considering the way in which Marlowe’s life and work have been preserved for us, there seems to be less connection between the playwright and the works ascribed to him than many critics have traditionally assumed. The modern emphasis on Marlowe’s biography srcinates in a report by the late-seventeenth-century  biographer, Anthony a Wood, who, in his  Athenae Oxonienses  (1691), includes a discussion of Marlowe’s reputation as an appendage to the life of Thomas Newton. In this account, which is reported nearly one hundred years after Marlowe’s death, Wood asserts that Marlowe was an atheist and an infidel who was killed during a highly intriguing affray:For so it fell out, that he being deeply in love with a certain woman, had for his rival a bawdy serving-man, one rather fit to be a pimp, than an ingenious amoretto as Marlow conceived himself to be.Whereupon Marlo taking it to be an high affront, rush’d in upon,to stab him with his dagger: But the serving-man being very quick, so avoided the stroke, that withal catching hold of Marlo’s wrist, he stab’d his own dagger into his head, in such sort, that not withstanding all the means of surgery that could be wrought, he shortly after died of his wound before the year 1593 (vol. II col. 9).This excerpt from Wood’s widely known biographical dictionary basically assembles and repeats obscure and unreliable accounts which were provided throughout the late-sixteenth and seventeenth century (see Beard and Meres below). 1  Wood’s 1691 report was itself repeated and supplemented by a variety of scholars and critics (who often looked no further) throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. 1. The phrase “notwithstanding all the surgery which could be wrought” is plagiarized from an earlier more obscure account.   Dabbs, Producing Marlowe: 2 Although Wood was thoroughly discredited by James Broughton in 1830, fragments of information from this spurious early account were repeated throughout the nineteenth century and to some extent our understanding of  Marlowe is still influenced by them. Regardless of Broughton’s research, which was recorded in one of the more distinguished literary journals of his period, 2  many Victorian critics later maintained, for instance, the rival love story in their accounts of the playwright simply because they were inclined to provide a Romantic persona for Marlowe. For the most part, the Victorian Marlowe was a character straight out of a Byronic closet drama--an embellishment of early gossipy and vindictive accounts of a seemingly compulsive and ill-fated dramatic poet.Through the research of Tucker Brooke, Leslie Hotson, Frederick Boas, Mark Eccles and others, the biographical misnomers which have surrounded Marlowe’s life and death were largely corrected during the first half of the twentieth century. We know now that Marlowe’s death was not the result of a duel with a rival lover and that the “bawdy serving man” was not a pimp but a yeoman who was connected, like Marlowe, to Sir Thomas Walsingham. Nonetheless, we are still left with an intriguing but only partial portrait of Marlowe--one that still draws inferences from biographers who often supply the missing features themselves. Moreover, twentieth-century scholarship has not yet completely broken free from the interpretive priorities of Victorian literary investigations of the playwright. Specifically, critics are still eager to establish a definitive biography for Marlowe on the bases of inferential evidence that has  been gathered either from his works or from other, more obscure, sources. This is characteristic of nineteenth-century critics such as Edward Dowden who echoed Wood’s account when he stated that Marlowe had behind him. . . . terrible religious and political battles, and the downfall of a faith. For his [Marlowe’s] own part, taking art as the object of his devotion, he thrust all religions somewhat fiercely aside, and professed an angry Atheism. The Catholic hierarchy and creed he seems to have hated with an energy profoundly different from the feeling of Shakspere, distinguished as that was by a discriminating justice (Dowden 438). Dowden attributes these personal sentiments to the playwright on little evidence other than what he could surmise from reading Marlowe’s works. 3  While few scholars are now naive enough to make a major biographical point either from spurious  biographical information or from the playwright’s renderings of various dramatic and poetic themes, certain crucial biographical points are still widely accepted on little evidence. For instance, it is still generally believed that Marlowe’s translations of Ovid were written during his Cambridge period on the  basis of the fact that they have, according to Boas, “defects of scholarship and style which are marks of immaturity” (Boas 30). Boas’ interpretation of the translations, therefore, are guided by the pre-conceived notion that they were written by an immature and impressionable student. Like Dowden, Boas also  presents a persona for the young Marlowe by suggesting that reading Ovid must havestirred responsive chords in the breast of the young English poet [Marlowe], preparing to try his wings, and interested from the first in metrical experiment (33).Boas therefore projects artistic sentiments onto Marlowe on the basis of no evidence other than his assumed date for the composition of the  Elegies . Boas’ reading of Marlowe’s translations of Ovid is encompassed by a tenuous but strong belief in the playwright’s srcinal artistic sentiments. While Boas and others have provided valuable reference sources, one wonders whether there are interpretations of Marlowe’s work which have been overlooked merely because many Victorian and early-twentieth-century critics have primarily concerned themselves 2. The Gentleman’s Magazine .3. Dowden was perhaps projecting his own concerns onto the life of the playwright. He professed atheism at one  point of his life and, being reared an Irish Protestant, did not think highly of Catholic hierarchy.   Dabbs, Producing Marlowe: 3 with Romantic notions about the author’s artistic intentions. It is doubtful that we will ever know what influenced Marlowe to translate Ovid in the way that he did. This does not mean, however, that these translations and other works by Marlowe are immune from certain cultural forces which occurred outside of the text. If Marlowe had been alive when most of his works were published and personal commentary had survived which would illuminate his purposes, then this information certainly would be fair game. However, particularly in the case of Marlowe, one should immediately be conscious of social,  political, and economic forces which may have affected the srcinal publication and reception of his plays and poetry. It is the purpose of. this paper to clarify the nature of Marlowe’s corpus by focusing on how his life and works were published and received during the decade after his death and also to call attention to several interesting bibliographical events during these years which may influence our understanding of his works. Apparently no work with Marlowe’s name on it appeared during his lifetime. Both parts of Tamburlaine  were issued anonymously in1590 and 1593.  Edward II   and  Dido, Queen of Carthage  were  printed in 1594 after Marlowe’s death.  Hero and Leander   was issued both in its incomplete form and with Chapman’s continuation in 1598. The First Book of Lucan  was published in 1600 and the first edition of  Faustus  in1604. The Jew of Malta  is preserved only in the 1633 quarto and The Massacre at Paris  and Ovid’s  Elegies  are not dated. Everything we know about the Marlowe’s publication record indicates that the author had almost no say in the printing of his works. Even in the case of Tamburlaine , which was the only work by Marlowe  printed during his life, the printer, Richard Jones, admits to making some editorial adjustments. In a  prefatory note to the 1590 edition of Part I, which he addresses to “Gentlemen Readers, and others that take pleasure in reading Histories," Jones says:I have purposely omitted and left out some fond and frivolous gestures, digressing and, in my poor opinion, far unmeet for the matter, which I thought might seem more tedious unto the wise than any was else to be regarded. Though haply they have been of some vain-conceited fondlings greatly gaped at, what times they were showed upon the stage in their graced deformities, nevertheless now, to be mixtured in print with such matter of worth, it would prove a great disgrace to so honorable and stately a history (Bowers55).Therefore, it seems that Jones, perceiving his market to be made up of primarily “Gentlemen Readers,” made some substantial editorial changes which significantly altered the written version from the actual  production. Also, it is apparent that Jones made these changes on the sole authority of his own “poor opinion” which, no doubt, was greatly influenced by the prospect of making the text more attractive and more salable. Indeed, one report of his career states that Jones typically “printed and published. . . curious literature, most of it of a popular character” (Dictionary 159). Tamburlaine  would have certainly fit this description. However, in a current and standard classroom edition of Marlowe’s plays, J. B. Steane calls Tamburlaine  the play in which Marlowe shows most consistent intensity, most sustained imaginative  power and most generously expended poetic resources. It is a “quite extraordinarily strong and individual creation. . .” (17). Much of what Steane finds to be“consistent” and “sustained” about the play, however, may not be what was srcinally Marlowe’s “individual creation,” but the result of certain modifications made by the printer. Generally, what has been omitted from critical readings of Tamburlaine  has been the fact that the authoritative quarto is, in fact, a collaboration which was tailored for an audience of educated readers who might purchase such a work. According to a reliable coroner’s report, Marlowe was slain by Ingram Frizer on May 30, 1593, at Deptford. His career as a playwright had only lasted six years and, after his untimely death, the bulk of his work was left to be edited and printed by the those who had possession of various portions of his literary estate. Moreover, it is certain that sixteenth-century printers and publishers did not have the same regard for authorial intention that we have today. It is more accurate to say that most of Marlowe’s work was   Dabbs, Producing Marlowe: 4  printed during the 1590s for whatever profit could be made from it. The publication of the unfinished  Hero and Leander  , which is covered below, is a possible exception. The news of Marlowe’s violent death seemingly brought the playwright some success from a  publishing stand point.  Edward II   was entered by William Jones to the Stationer’s Register on July 6, 1593, just over a month after the Deptford affray (STC 17437). The earliest known quarto of the play was  printed by Jones in 1594. However, Greg, Brooke and others, using as evidence a manuscript transcript dated 1593, have suggested that a first, now missing, edition was printed during the same year. 4  The first and only edition of  Dido  was printed by “Widow Orwin” for Thomas Woodcocke in 1594 ( STC   17441). 5  Moreover, the STC suggests that The Massacre at Paris  was printed by Edward Allde for Edward White in 1594 ( STC   17423). Bowers, however, dates the Massacre from mid- to late 1593 to 1594. Finally, The  Jew of Malta  was entered in the Stationers Register on May 17, 1594, but so far as is known no edition was published ( STC   17412). 6  Regardless of the numerous questions which surround the printings of these works, they all appeared, in some manner, within a year and a half of Marlowe’s death. While one cannot conclusively say that much of Marlowe’s corpus drew interest as a direct result of the sensation his death created, it is certain that a variety of publishers felt that the majority of the plays ascribed to him were marketable shortly after his death.7 This fact leads one to think, too, that the critical emphasis which has been placed on establishing exactly when Marlowe actually wrote his plays and  poems has been too narrow. Specifically, there are other considerations which have broader implications than merely determining the nature of Marlowe’s “art.” For instance, perhaps Marlowe’s works were part of a socio-economic phenomenon in which publishers were trying to capitalize on the news of his death. Perhaps the reason that we have copies of these plays, therefore, is a direct result of this unhappy event. Several years after Marlowe’s demise, the author soon found his way into another marketable component of sixteenth-century publish-ing, the Puritan tract. Unfortunately for the playwright, his first  biographer was Thomas Beard, who includes Marlowe as a character in his Theatre of Gods Judgements  (1597):It so fell out that in London streets as he purposed to stab one whome hee ought a grudge unto with his dagger, the other party perceiving so avoided the stroke, that withall catching hold of his wrest, he stabbed his owne dagger into his owne head, in such sort, that notwithstanding all the meanes of surgerie that could be wrought,  hee shortly after died thereof . . . and together with his breath an oath flew out of his mouth . . . . But herein did the iustice of God most notably appeare, in that he compelled his owne hand which had written those blasphemies to be the instrument to punish him, and that in his braine, which had devised the same (lib. 1, ch. XXV; my italics, see note 1).This report was followed in 1598 by Francis Meres’ in his  Palladis Tamia , which was less preachy but equally sensational:As the poet Lycophron was shot to death by a certain riual of his: so Christopher Marlowe was stab’d to death by a bawdy seruing man, a riuall of his in his lewde love (quoted from Boas 280).Finally, in 1600, William Vaughan provided a less condeming but more accurate account in his Golden Grove , in which he marks the correct place (Deptford) and a rough description of the fact that Marlowe 4. See Bowers vol. 2, 4.5. Although Marlowe is given top billing for Dido on the title page, the play was written in collaboration with Thomas Nashe.6. Perhaps both The Jew of Malta  and  Faustus  would have been released and printed as well if they were not, as Bakeless notes, still stage successes during this period (Bakeless vol. 1 297, 360).   Dabbs, Producing Marlowe: 5 had been gaming and not dueling when he died (Boas 281). Vaughan roughly corresponds with the coroner’s report and other, more recent research. The damage, though, had been done because it was not the latest and most accurate report but the first two which formed the core of Wood’s 1691 account. The rumors that Beard and Meres sponsored seem to have affected Marlowe’s marketability by 1598, although one can only assess this phenomenon by using recorded or extant editions. Tamburlaine , which had gone through three printings from 1590 to 1597, was apparently not printed again until 1605.  Edward  II  , which was printed in1594 and 1598, was not issued again until 1612. To our knowledge, no play by Marlowe was printed between the years 1598 and 1604. Marlowe’s poetry was a different matter, however, because Edward Blount, the printer whose name we recall from his involvement in the printing of the first folio of Shakespeare, took it upon himself to defend the playwright. According to Sidney Lee, Blount, who was the same age as Marlowe, was a friend of the playwright in “some non-professional capacity.” Moreover, Blount “resented the efforts of prudish critics, in subsequent years, to defame his friend’s work by exaggerating the defects of his moral character” (Lee 429). Acting on his own, Blount procured the  Hero and Leander   fragment from Thomas Wolfe and published the unfinished version in 1598. To this edition, he affixed a dedication to Thomas Walsingham (Bowers 425). In order for the arcane message of the dedication to be understood, however, one should know that Marlowe and Ingram Frizer (the man involved in Marlowe’s murder) were both attached to the Walsingham family. Moreover, according to Boas, Frizer “retained his connexion for at least ten years after the Deptford homicide” (282). This said, it is difficult to believe that Blount was attempting to flatter Walsingham with the following macabre references to the deceased: Sir, wee thinke not our selves discharged of the dutie wee owe to our friend when wee have brought the breathlesse bodie to the earth; for albeit the eye ther taketh his ever farewell of that beloved object, yet the impression of the man that hath beene deare unto us, living an after life in our memorie, there putteth us in minde of farther obsequies due unto the deceased. And namely of the performance of whatsoever we may  judge shall make to his living credit and to the effecting of his determinations prevented by the stroke of death. . . . I cannot but see so far into the will of him dead, that whatsoever issue of his braine should chance to come abroad, that the first breath it should take might be the gentle aire of your liking. . . . (Bowers 430).This is no doubt a thinly masked and sour reference to Marlowe’s death,thought to be an assassination by many twentieth-century critics, and to either Walsingham’s complacence or his participation in it. The allusions to the “stroke” of Marlowe’s death and the “issue” of Marlowe’s brain are clearly recalling the stab wound that Marlowe reportedly received above his eye. We will perhaps never know Blount’s true  purposes, but there is in this dedication and in the fine poetic fragment which follows a type of public reprieve for Marlowe. Having accomplished his task, Blount then transferred copies of  Hero and Leander   and of Marlowe’s translation of Lucan (both of which Blount had secured from Wolfe) to Paul Linley. Linley then brought out another 1598 edition of Marlowe but included the first printing of Chapman’s long continuation of the  poem (Bowers 425). The dedication to Lady Walsingham that Chapman provides for this edition is far more poised and literary:I present your Ladiship with the last affections of the first two Lovers that ever Muse shrinde in the Temple of Memorie; being drawne by strange instigation to employ some of my serious time in so trifling a subject, which yet made the first Author, divine Musaeus, eternall (Bowers 455).

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Jun 13, 2018
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