The Death and Posthumous Life of Christopher Marlowe

composite photo shakespears MarlowePreface: How this book came about

My interest in Kit Marlowe really began in 1972 when I was living in Washington DC. My recently retired father, my mother, and my younger brother, Alex, were then living in Annapolis, Maryland, about an hour’s drive away, on the shores of the Chesapeake Bay. On one of the family gatherings that summer, I told everybody about an interesting book I had just read, Calvin Hoffman’s best­seller The Murder of the Man Who Was Shakespeare. It had never occurred to me – or most people – that William Shakespeare of Stratford might not be the author of those great plays, like Hamlet and Othello, we all learned at school.

Well, for me Hoffman’s book was an eye-opener, to say the least. It made for interesting conversation for a couple of weekends. Alex was particularly intrigued. He asked to borrow my copy of the book. I didn’t see it again for 35 years. During those years Alex finished at Harvard (where he was one of the editors of the Lampoon). Later, he got interested in films. Thereafter he has worked on and off as a free-lance script-writer for the movie industry, as well as a writer-editor, notably of a series of books published by Penguin, entitled “The Wit and Wisdom of…”. Subjects of that series were various, from Abraham Lincoln and Will Rogers to Eleanor Roosevelt and Harry Truman, but one of them was Samuel Clemens, a.k.a. Mark Twain.


Mark Twain, as it happens, also made rather a point of not believing that William Shakespeare wrote the works published under his name. In his small book Is Shakespeare Dead? (1909) he wrote “So far as anybody actually knows and can prove, Shakespeare of Stratford-on-Avon never wrote a play in his life …  He ought to have explained that he was a nom de plume for another man to hide behind” {Twain, 1909 #474}

. . . .

So, as a retired professor, with 50 years of experience as a researcher in several fields, and time to spare, I decided to dig deeper into the authorship question. My approach is strictly historical – literary evidence is not my forte and is consequently not considered except in a few footnotes. This book is the result.


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