Christopher Marlowe: The Man Who Wrote Shakespeare by John Barber - Read Online
Christopher Marlowe
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In October 2016 a story was reported in most popular newspapers that using old-fashioned scholarship and 21st-century computerised tools to analyse texts a team of international scholars have established that Shakespeare’s collaboration with other playwrights was far more extensive than has been realised until now.

Christopher Marlowe’s hand in parts of the Henry VI plays has been suspected since the 18th century but this marks the first prominent billing in an edition of Shakespeare’s collected works.

The two dramatists will appear jointly on each of the three title pages of the plays in the latest edition of New Oxford Shakespeare, a landmark project to be published in October 2016.

2016 is the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death. Imagine that Christopher Marlowe did not meet his death in a tavern brawl on 30 May 1593 but with the aid of the secret service escaped to Italy and an innocent stranger killed in his place.
Many believe that the Shakespeare canon was written by another person or that many of his plays were collaborations.

One such was Calvin Hoffman a retired American theatre critic who had written a book in 1955 called The Man Who Was Shakespeare. It was inspired by the research of J Leslie Hotson who had uncovered the true story of the inquest following Marlowe’s murder in a Deptford tavern which raised many doubts about the established view of events and the evidence of the witnesses.

Basing his research on this new evidence Hoffman proposed that Christopher Marlowe continued to write whilst in exile in Padua, Italy. In 1984 Calvin Hoffman even went to the extremes of trying to excavate the Walsingham family tomb in Chislehurst, Kent in the belief that papers confirming his theory ware buried with Marlowe’s mentor Thomas Walsingham.

I wrote this essay as an entry to the Calvin Hoffman Prize which is open every year to anyone who can prove that Marlowe either contributed to the works of Shakespeare or could have possibly written the entire canon.

I did not win any prize and the essay is more a flight of fancy written with tongue slightly placed in cheek. However the more I wrote the more credible the theory became.

Christopher Marlowe had worked on behalf of the Elizabeth’s secret service since his days at Cambridge. He spent time Rheims where there was a Catholic Seminary. His absences caused the authorities to refuse his MA but following a letter from some of the highest ranking members of Church and State confirming his secret work, the degree was awarded.

The events of 30 May 1593 at the house of Dame Eleanor Bull in Deptford have been the subject of much speculation down the centuries. Was Marlowe murdered to prevent him confessing secrets under torture, or was his death faked and he was smuggled out of the country by members of the secret service?

Published: John Barber on
ISBN: 9781476151427
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The essay that follows was submitted as an entry in 1997 for The Calvin and Rose G Hoffman Prize for Distinguished Publication on Christopher Marlowe.

I first heard of Calvin Hoffman in 1983 following a series of news articles published in the UK Guardian newspaper. Calvin Hoffman was at that time 75 and a retired American theatre critic. He was in the UK to further investigations into his belief that far from being killed in a pub brawl in Deptford in 1593 Christopher Marlowe was helped out of the country and from a place of exile continued to write plays which were published and performed under the authorship of William Shakespeare.

Calvin Hoffman had written a book published in 1955 entitled ‘The Man who was Shakespeare’ which owed a lot to the investigations of J Leslie Hotson and his own book published in 1925 entitled ‘The Death of Christopher Marlowe’.

The purpose of his visit was to try and locate papers in the Walsingham family vault in St Nicholas Church, Chislehurst Common, Kent. He believed that documents had been buried with Sir Thomas Walsingham who was Marlowe’s patron that might include originals of all Shakespeare’s plays or some previously unpublished works of Marlowe. He had been granted permission in 1956 but had found the top of the tomb empty. He was unable to enter the vaults below as the church had not given permission for a deep search.

But the latest attempt at a detailed search had to be called off as the vaults were considered too cramped for researchers to reach the crushed Elizabethan coffins believed to be at the bottom.

Calvin Hoffman’s research was not restricted to England. He had received notes from a journalist friend that stated that a sixteenth century resident of Padua, Italy called Petro Basconi had left papers stating that an English writer by the name of Marlowe had lived with him as a recluse until dying in 1627.

The notes added that the writer ‘had to leave England’. They were passed down the Basconi family and were said to have been shown during the eighteenth century to a British Ambassador to Italy who said that he was ‘afraid to tamper with a matter so dear to the English heart’.

Unfortunately Calvin Hoffman did not know where in Padua to start looking.

What he did do was to establish a trust fund administered by King’s School, Canterbury where Marlowe had attended to provide the prize for an annual essay. The prize would be awarded to the essay ‘which in the opinion of The King’s