The Preview

Christopher Marlowe
Christopher Marlowe (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’m sorry, but I think you’re in my seat. OK, let’s
have a look at your ticket. Oh yes, that’s it, you
need to move along one. Thanks very much,
no harm done.

Ah, looks like it might be a full house tonight.
Maybe it’s the intrigue surrounding the play.
What do I mean? Well, you know – Cardenio,
and all that. One of his supposed ‘missing’ plays.
Apocrypha, I believe that’s the right term,
although that word always sounds so medicinal
to me! Anyhow, what I mean is, it all seems a
little too suspect, if you want my opinion,
something they’ve cobbled together from
various sources, though I’m sure it will be
enjoyable all the same. Better than reading Don
Quixote again, at any rate! What was that? You
think it is pretty close to the original? Right. Well,
we will see. I mean, who among us has read the
original? Oh, I see. Mn.

But then of course, there are still those who
believe he never wrote any of those plays.
And you must admit, you can see where
they’re coming from, can’t you? Well, he was,
after all, relatively uneducated, say compared
to Fletcher, even Ben Jonson. Could he really
have written Hamlet or King Lear, or described
places like Italy so well without ever setting
foot there? I have my doubts.

I say, are you feeling alright? You’re looking a
little off colour.

Actually, if you don’t mind me asking, have I
seen you here before? Maybe in town
somewhere. I thought so! I do apologise if I’m
staring but there’s something about your face,
your eyes. That hairline. And the beard. Wait!
Do you know, you’re the spitting image of that
portrait of… they found in Corpus Christi…

© copyright David Francis Barker 2012

* some time ago we went to see the play Cardenio at Stratford, which was based on parts of a play which may have been written by Shakespeare, which itself was based on Cervantes’ Don Quixote. I imagined myself in the theatre talking to the ghost of Christopher Marlowe, who some believe to be the real Shakespeare. Complicated, it is! But then real history always is, not like the myth that we are presented with most of the time at school and elsewhere…


19 thoughts on “The Preview

  1. I don’t know whether I believe that or not to be honest. Marlowe’s death is rather suspect and there are many holes in Shakespeare’s life but it’s very complex. Even if Marlowe had written all of Shakespeare, then Shakespeare is still ‘Shakespeare’!


  2. ha who is to say…and the answers are lost to history..a fun imagining talking to him…ha, on the color change…smiles…and the realization of just who you might be talking to…smiles…


  3. i dont know if that last comment went through, it did not show up…a fun piece…i guess the answers are los tto history…interesting to imagine talking with the ghost…i like the reveal in the fading color and then the resemblence…


  4. The best part of history is always the mystery! Love this conversation, feel as though I’m a ghost myself eavesdropping from the seat behind…if we were to solve the mystery…the conversation wouldn’t have been as nearly compelling! Bravo!


  5. This is hilarious, the kind of conversation overheard in theatre bars. I don’t really care who wrote them, so long as I can revel in the language. Does that make me one of your philistines?


  6. beautiful poem David.loved the conversation
    agree with what you wrote about the history in school books..every nation has its interpretation of history
    there is a lot that has happned in past and it is not to you to choose and interpret what suits your palate or sensibility and feed to your kids….
    seriously the way people twist things to look hero specially the wars


  7. Well, I don’t believe that Marlowe was the real Shakespeare – for one thing he died too young, and his work, such as it is – while funny, great, inspired – well, is not Shakespeare!

    That said, I really enjoyed your poem! I had not heard of this play at all. Very cool, and a very cool conceit here.


  8. I really enjoyed this conversation…truth be told, I learn a lot by eavesdropping! I was in the Huntington Library bookstore the other day and almost purchased a book discussing some of the literary mysteries, including the controversies of “who wrote Shakespeare.” It looked so interesting and I almost took it home and then reconsidered! I can’t even keep known facts straight, so I was just certain I’d only become even more confused! This piece of historical conversation and conjecture is very interesting and I hope you might do more from time to time! Debra


  9. Hi! Thanks very much for your comments. Although I’m not saying that Marlowe was the actual author of Shakespeare, there are some very interesting arguments going around currently.
    1. The circumstances of Marlowe’s death, when you look at them, are very odd indeed. The inquest into his death was not discovered until 1925 and everyone involved in his death were the who’s who of Elizabethan intelligence! Strange, especially as it was very handy for him to disappear at such at time 1593, as he was being investigated for, among other things, being an atheist.
    2. I take your point about Marlowe’s work not being like Shakespeare – this is certainly true if you compare, say, Marlowe’s Edward II with King Lear. However, if you compare say, Faustus with Titus Andronicus, which is a later Marlowe play with the earliest known Shakespeare, there is much more similarity in style. In fact, there have been studies (not publicised too much) which show that Marlowe’s style and Shakespeare’s are virtually identical. Henry VI parts 1, 2, 3 were all thought at one time to have been written by Marlowe, so similar were they in style.
    3. The first known Shakespeare work, the poem Venus and Adonis, was first published anonymously a few weeks before Marlowe’s death. It was then republished two weeks after Marlowe’s death under the name of Shake-speare (hypenated!).
    4. The sonnets, normally attributed to Shakespeare, tell a story of someone who is extremely emotional, anguished, and apparently in exile for some time. Yet we know very little of Shakespeare’s life. What little is known is that he was from Stratford, and was very litigious and materialistic, but someone to do with London also, and the playhouses. If however, as some conjecture, Marlowe did survive and faked his death (as some think), then the story of the sonnets would fit him hand in glove.
    Sorry to go on! I could’ve got a lot further but I just wanted to illustrate to you some of the argument I have been reading about. Whilst I am not saying that Marlowe wrote Shakespeare, I am remaining open minded to that possibility. After all, we do know that our most recent history in many cases has turned out to be lies, so why shouldn’t some of the more distant history also be fiction?


  10. And that is why history is so fascinating … beyond or below or above the ‘facts’ …thinking of real people … as flawed as any we know … but especially those who created wonderful things out of being flawed … with genius mixed in … Love what you created here out of your experience … connecting the present to the past, as it always is connected. Especially in its mysteries.


  11. interesting post , David. There have been more questions indeed if Shakespeare really wrote his own work or if he was a copy cat. We will never know for sure of course but after reading up on the facts of Romeo and Juliette not that long ago and if I add your findings to it , I do believe that it might be very well true that he did not write his own work. .

    Ciao, Francina


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