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I have feelings about this

They are now saying that Marlowe will be credited with collaborating with Shakespeare on several plays.

You guys have probably seen this and read it already. It is new to me this week. And I have feelings. I cannot seem to link to the article so I am going to quote from it.

'Carol Rutter, professor of Shakespeare and performance studies at the University of Warwick, told BBC News: "It will still be open for people to make up their own minds. I don't think [Oxford University Press] putting their brand mark on an attribution settles the issue for most people."

But it is clear Shakespeare did work with several other figures in theatre at the time, she added.

"I believe Shakespeare collaborated with all kinds of people... but I would be very surprised if Marlowe was one of them," she said.

"The reason for that is that while these were being written, Marlowe was the poster boy of theatre writing. Why would he agree to collaborate with a non-entity of an actor?"'

So Marlowe will be credited as a co-author on Henry iv, to start with.

I have no trouble at all believing that Kit Marlowe would have co-authored with WS. He worked with actors constantly. They were the pointy end of what he was trying to do. There is no reason to think he did not respect them. And it is true that the Elizabethan's were preoccupied with social class. But these guys invented upward mobility.

Marlowe and WS were exactly the same social class. Kit had more education, because he was lucky enough to get the Parker Scholarship to take him through what I would call middle school, high school, and college.

I bet when Marlowe met WS he saw, not a non-entity, but another writer. They were the same age down to months. Shakespeare feels older to us because he lived to be older. I think we all sort of imagine him as middle aged and balding, patient, fatherly, paunchy, conservative. It is true that he avoided knife fights. We can be grateful for that at least.

But we have to imagine him as a roaring boy at this time, a young man full of swagger. Nice to think about.
And in any case, Kyd was the most famous author then. Spanish Tragedy was a blockbusting hit. Kyd and the actors were mobbed in the street. It did not stop Kyd from rooming with Marlowe, who was much less famous.

My own belief is that they all knew each other. They lived in a dense busy world crammed into a little space. They understood each other better than anyone on the outside understood them. When they disagreed it was almost as family.

Here are the interconnections, as I understand them:

WS and Marlowe on Henry 1v
WS and Kyd on part of the middle of Spanish Tragedy (maybe)
Marlowe and Kyd lived together in 1592-3. There is no reason to think that they never bounced things off each other.
Nashe and Marlowe worked together on something, I forget what
Nashe and Jonson on Isle of Dogs. (Later, after 1593, because Jonson was younger.)

This is not to say that I have any doubt about the Shakespeare 'authorship question.' I believe he sat down with his own hands and wrote his plays. But I don't think he did it in a total vacuum. I think he talked ideas with other writers, and probably with the actors too. Picture a culture sort of like Hemingway in Paris maybe? Lots of writing, but also lots of sitting around and drinking, people watching, laughing, fighting.

I am glad that they had the warmth of friendship for a little while. Their lives were not easy. They all had bad times too.


( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
Oct. 24th, 2016 04:24 pm (UTC)
I am quite sure WS and CM knew each other well. I always think of the little aside about 'as deadly as a great reckoning in a little room.

Ooh! Just found this.

Oct. 25th, 2016 01:07 am (UTC)
That little room quote fills my nose with tears every time.Kit was so young. Such a stupid waste.
Oct. 25th, 2016 12:43 am (UTC)
I've actually met several of the experts cited in this (and Carol Rutter, for that matter. One of her daughters was in the same class at school as one of mine.) John Jowett is the world expert on the text of the plays, so I'd be inclined to take any claim he makes seriously. Martin Wiggins, (technically my personal tutor at the moment, though he's never shown any sign of realising this) is the expert on the chronology of the period - I did a class of his on the pre-1600 Shakespeare last year, and he was very clear that only a few scenes of Henry VI (i)are by Shakespeare, and that it was actually written after Parts 2&3 to cash in on their success. This is not at all a controversial view - it's only the crediting of Marlowe that is new, and JJ is very convincing about such arcana as frequency of unusual words, words and phrases used in other Marlowe plays and so on.

I tend to agree with you - London theatre in the early 1590s was a pretty small world and more or less everyone in it knew everyone else. It was taken for granted that a play could have additions, deletions, restructurings by whichever playwright was around at the time. Marlow may have been to Cambridge, but there's not much evidence he held himself as superior to other writers, unlike Greene for example.
Oct. 25th, 2016 01:03 am (UTC)
Greene was just a miserable guy much of the time. I picture him as very hard to get along with.

The atmosphere I imagine them working in reminds me of the early hothouse days of TV. Everything in a rush, and everyone staying up all night smoking and trying to top the previous outrageous idea!

I like to think they had a good time. There was so much sadness bearing down on them.

I like the idea of studying word frequency. I suppose it must have been much harder before the advent of computers. It is so amazing what can be learned now.

Thank you for writing back and telling me all about these experts.

Do you think we will find other things out there written by Kyd? I would be curious to read them...
Oct. 25th, 2016 12:47 am (UTC)
Fascinating stuff. I'm skeptical about the "co-author" claim -- not that I don't agree that they probably knew each other and talked shop, but it's not historically accurate to impose our current notions of authorship on the past. I just don't think there's enough evidence to decide that Marlowe was a "co-author" in the way we use the term. (Still, it's not my period, so I really shouldn't be spouting opinions.)

I saw a production of Spanish Tragedy when I was in grad school. Intriguing.

Edited at 2016-10-25 12:50 am (UTC)
Oct. 25th, 2016 01:06 am (UTC)
I am humbled by the enormous mountain of what do not know. I agree that they did not look at authorship the same way we do.

I would so love to someday see a production of Spanish Tragedy!
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )