William Shakespeare: The Conspiracy Theories – Part 3

(continued from Part 2 ) As long as her leading advisers are unsure of whom they can trust, the queen refuses to make a decision. Walsingham knows he only needs patience and time to win over the critical voices in the council.

Hampton court is also the sight of state celebrations. Her father Henry VIII, himself a musician, composer and poet, used to invite artists from all over Europe, to demonstrate England’s cultural superiority. Elizabeth II uses these festivities which often last for several days, for political purposes. For example, to examine potential marriage candidates. But the excessive festivities at court, only disguise a smoldering conflict between the comparatively small country of England and the big powers of the continent. Walsingham bears a great responsibility. His spies notify him that Phillip the II of Spain is preparing a big armada for war against England. So there are still challenges for Christopher Marlowe the spy. But the rumors the he might be a double agent have not abated. Marlowe is absent from university for a significant period of time and Cambridge refuses to award him, his master’s degree.

Giles Milton: “When one reads Marlowe’s plays and other documents about him, it becomes clear that one is dealing with a rebel and an outsider. Marlowe is unconventional in his lifestyle and is unconventional in his politics. One wonders how he managed to keep the support of such influential men, as his spy master, Sir Francis Walsingham.”

Walsingham persuades the queen to intervene on Marlow’s behalf. A letter to Cambridge University drafted by her advisors confirms that Marlow had done her majesty good service and deserves to be rewarded for his faithful dealing. As a consequence, he does receive his degree and suspicion against him is averted. But will he thank his patron for his help?

The young poet has returned from his foreign assignment. He lives in London together with his friend, Thomas Kyd, also a poet. And again there are rumors that a privileged master of arts is leading a hedonistic life, propagating erratic ideas. At the time when the queen is not just head of state but also supreme head of the church, such behavior can easily be interpreted as high treason. Marlowe had already written several plays, all of them are in a radically new dramatic style. His blank verse is for the verve and energy. His plays deal with the most explosive topics of his time, religion, power and violence. It’s not unlikely that his plays were authored by several people in collaboration. Some scholars think that various authors might well have had a hand in writing Shakespeare’s plays.

Giles Milton says: “In Shakespeare’s time, the idea of copyrights simply didn’t exist. Collaboration was the norm. It’s quite likely that Marlow and Shakespeare met and it’s also likely that Marlow had a hand in helping Shakespeare with his plays.”

To Shakespeare, Marlow must have been the dominant man of the theatre. Although they are the same age, Shakespeare is completely unknown, a newcomer. Marlow in contrast, comes from an elite university, moves in the highest social circles and is already a celebrated poet. Shakespeare’s plays seem to take Marlow’s style further. Taking it to a new level. But could it be possible that all these plays are written by Marlow Himself, and not by Shakespeare.

The quest for an answer to this question leads us back to the political turmoil of those days, and back to the English secret service. Marlow not only enjoys the protection of the head of the secret service, Sir Francis Walsingham but also that of his relative, Thomas Walsingham who works for the secret service too. Meetings are frequently held at his country house in Kent, a day’s travel from London.

Spring 1593. Thomas Walsingham’s friends are an illustrious crowd. Among them is Sir Walter Raleigh, a favorite of Queen Elizabeth’s, and perhaps a lover. He founded the first English colony on American soil, Virginia, a tribute to the virgin queen, and with him, the history of England as a global power begins. However, Raleigh has powerful adversaries at court who suspect that he and his friends are engaged in subversive activities. Due to their pre occupation with critical theology, state theory and alchemy, they are perceived as a secret circle that was later to be known as the school of night. Some historians say Marlowe was connected to this circle. An informant denounces Marlowe to the Privy Council. He had called Christ a bastard, and his mother a whore, and was trying to convert influential people to atheism. Such blasphemies are punishable by death. The summons to the Privy Council means that not just Marlowe, but all the member of the school of night are in danger.

A few days earlier, a raid on the room previously shared by Marlow and his friend, Thomas Kyd. Pamphlets are found denying the divinity of Jesus Christ and questioning the authority of the church. Under torture, Thomas Kyd accuses his friend Marlowe of writing the blasphemous texts. It is clear what Marlowe can now expect. Kyd dies from the torture. Marlowe is charged with high treason. He and His friends might be charged with execution. Thomas Walsingham needs to escape the threat to him and his circle from his rivals. It is not for the nothing that he has the best of contacts with the secret service. He knows that Marlowe must be removed from the scene, but how? Charges against Marlowe could be taken up again at any moment, with nothing to stop his immediate arrest, leading to his execution. But then something completely unexpected happens. Marlow is murdered. The coroner’s report of the event is discovered in an archive in 1925, and it seems to raise more questions than it answers. It reads, Christopher Marlowe, Ingram Frizer, Nicholas Skeres and Robert Poley meet at a house of a certain Eleanor Bowl, a widow in Deptford in county Kent. After lunch and a walk in the garden, they return to the house for dinner at around 6 o’clock. In the course of the argument over a bill, Christopher Marlowe grabs a dagger of Ingram Frizer who sits in front of him, and maliciously gives him two wounds to the head, whereupon Ingram Frizer in an act of self-defense manages to reclaim his dagger from Marlowe, and strikes him with a mortal wound over his right eye. Christopher Marlowe dies immediately.

Marlow is dead. Literary London cannot believe it. No one else has such talent, such charisma. Can anyone fill his shoes?

“ Shortly after Marlowe’s death a short poem appears called Venus and Adonis. It had been registered some months earlier anonymously, now it’s published bearing the name, William Shakespeare. Why? And is it not strange that the complete unknown suddenly bursts into the London stage with plays such as Henry VI and most famously, Romeo and Juliet.”

The answer to the question can perhaps be found in the accounts of witnesses recorded by the queen’s coroner shortly after Marlowe’s death. They describe in detail how the argument between Marlowe and his friends developed in the afternoon of May 30th 1593. However none of the witnesses who signed the report was present during the events. Nobody knew Marlowe personally. And the course of the events portrayed seem very unlikely.

Continued: Shakespeare Conspiracy Theory Part 4