Synonymity

In the race to complete a list of 100 reasons why Oxford did or did not write Shakespeare's plays, Hank Whittemore's site has taken a strong lead in the final straight and now looks certain to beat us to the magic figure. We are becalmed on #95. In his Reason #95 Hank's attention falls on the relationship between the Earl and Christopher Marlowe as he advances his theory of how a young, up and coming playwright like Kit would have got his start in the cauldron of Elizabethan theatre. 

A young man cannot ride into London and have a hit play within a year unless he has a patron and a mentor. In fact, Marlowe went to work in Edward de Vere’s ‘play factory’ in 1586 and received the guidance and support which he needed. Since Edward de Vere was already a highly successful playwright-poet [at thirty-seven], it was natural for Marlowe to use him as a model in his writing. He may also have been influenced by the fact that de Vere was paying his salary.”

This is the magic spell Oxfordians use to perform their version of metempsychosis, the transmigration of one playwright into another.

The process must have its faults as they always transmigrate into the Earl of Oxford.

What doctrine call you this, Che sera, sera,
What will be, shall be? Divinity, adieu!
These metaphysics of magicians,
And necromantic books are heavenly;
Lines, circles, scenes, letters, and characters;
Ay, these are those that Faustus most desires.
O, what a world of profit and delight,
Of power, of honour, of omnipotence,
Is promis'd to the studious artizan!
All things that move between the quiet poles
Shall be at my command: 

Marlowe's Faustus surveys his unlocked horizons


With an acute irony of which he is totally unaware, Hank berates Stephen Greenblatt for colouring his biography of Shakespeare with speculation, then invents a 'play factory' run by Oxford, entirely unobserved by history, before embarking on the task of replacing Greenblatt's version of biography with an infinitely more speculative fantasy which rockets out of the known factual universe, beyond the bounds of possibility, into a galaxy of misapprehension, far, far away.

Not only was Edward De Vere not a successful playwright, there is little evidence that he was any sort of playwright. It seems clear that he attempted a few devices for the court, one of which famously miscarried, but there isn't the smallest trace or hint of any work for the professional theatre. And the idea that Marlowe based his style on De Vere's work is laughably speculative given that not a single word that Oxford wrote, even for the court stage, has survived. The idea that Marlowe was a lowly apprentice to a producer of courtly spectacle whimsy, rather than a great dramatic innovator, is daft enough on its own.

Amongst the many impossible inconsistencies, Hank claims that 'A young man cannot ride into London and have a hit play within a year unless he has a patron…' Yet history shows us that this is exactly what happened with Marlowe and all the other Elizabethan playwrights lucky enough to have an early hit. There are no examples of professional playwrights with patrons on which to base such a rule. Professional playwrights, writing for the professional theatre, earned their corn by selling their work to Henslowe or Burbage, not from patrons. Henslowe and Burbage wanted a packed house, not a flowery emblem on the script's frontispiece. And although mentoring is more likely to have been available than patronage, pioneers in this new industry would have to be fairly philanthropic to spend their time mentoring their newly-arrived competition.

The rule is simply another piece of Oxfordian fiction created to enable more Oxfordian flights of fancy. A foundation for more houses of cards.

Watson can be viewed as one of many “intermediaries” linking Oxford and Marlowe by just one “degree of separation” – making the odds overwhelmingly in favour of Edward de Vere and Christopher Marlowe not only knowing each other but working together on plays such as Tamburlaine the Great, Parts One and Two and on poems such as Hero and Leander.

Without the assistance of a single scrap of evidence, the idea of 'degrees of separation' has enabled us to leap smartly from one conclusion to another, thereby attributing Marlowe's early success to the 'overwhelming' likelihood of collaboration with the Earl of Oxford'. In their qualification of Oxfordian evidence, the words 'overwhelming' and 'non-existent' have magically become synonymous.

The target of all this deviant ideological and geographical chicanery, of course, is not the man from Canterbury but the man from Stratford. In an open-handed gesture, Hank freely admits that he is not yet convinced that Great Oxford wrote both men's work.

This is an attempt to prove that Marlowe was incapable of jumpstarting a career in the London theatre to reinforce contentions that the manner of Will's appearance on the London scene was equally impossible. A few more paragraphs into this string of fabrications and mere feelings are being offered as evidence: 

My feeling is that Oxford was giving Marlowe a kind of “cover” in London, according to the needs of Burghley and Walsingham, by taking him under his wing as a writer. To what degree Marlowe actually wrote the works for which he is credited is still, for me, a matter of conjecture – although some notable Oxfordians have already declared outright that it was Oxford who wrote those works.

Our feeling, Hank, is that you are making it up as you go along. We have a feeling that, far from being his pupil in a play factory, Kit Marlowe is yet another theatre pro who Oxford would have crossed the street to avoid.

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