Last summer, as part of the Colorado Shakespeare Festivals “Original Practices” there was a production of Henry VI Part 3.
Original Practice’s Production are plays done as Shakespeare would have done them. There is no artificial sound or lighting, no amplification, and with whatever costumes are on hand. Actors are given only their lines and cues, rather than complete scripts, and a mere 20 hours of rehearsal.
In November, 2016, Oxford University Press released its new edition of the complete works of William Shakespeare and credited Christopher ‘Kit’ Marlowe as being a co-author on the three Henry VI plays based on scholarship and 21st-century computerized tools to analyse texts. The edition’s international scholars say Shakespeare’s collaboration with other playwrights was extensive.
This year as its Original Practices play CSF will perform “Edward III” for the first time in the festivals history.
Many scholars accept both Shakespeare and Thomas Kyd had a hand in writing the play. And yet, scholars dispute which playwright wrote the biggest part of it.
In these playwrights’ time England was in the midst of the bloody religious wars of the Reformation. Elizabeth I. Pope Pius V had ordered the excommunication, overthrow and murder of Elizabeth I.
The Privy Council/Star Chamber, became England’s version of the Inquisition. People perceived as religious or political opposition to Elizabeth I, The Church of England, the established order, were horribly tortured, broken, imprisoned for life.
Shakespeare and his London playwright contemporaries, Christopher Marlowe, Ben Jonson, Thomas Kyd, lived in fear of the police knock on the door in the middle of the night, the dungeon, the torture chamber, the ‘justice’ of the Privy Council/Star Chamber.
Thomas Kyd was one of the most important figures in the development of Elizabethan drama. Some scholars believe he was the author of a Hamlet play pre-dating Shakespeare’s, which is now known as the Ur-Hamlet.
On May 12,1593, Kyd, was arrested for allegedly posting “divers lewd and mutinous libels” around London.
He would later say he had been the victim of an informer.
His lodgings, which he had shared with Marlowe, were searched. A tract was found that was said to be “vile heretical conceits denying the eternal deity of Jesus Christ…”
Kyd was tortured, and he broke.
He told his torturers the tract belonged to Marlowe. He said Marlowe was a blasphemous traitor, an atheist who believed Jesus Christ was a homosexual.
Kyd died from his injuries less than a year after being tortured.
Marlowe was summoned by the Privy Council/Star Chamber.
He was born in 1564, the same year Shakespeare was born. When Shakespeare arrived in London and the city’s world of theater, sometime around 1590, Marlowe was the most prominent, celebrated, business-savy playwright in town.
At the very least he was Shakespeare’s biggest literary influence. And yet, there are prominent Shakespearean scholars who claim Marlowe was much more than this.
Elizabeth’s spymaster was Francis Walsingham, outwardly a diplomat and adviser to the queen, and yet, more importantly, Elizabeth’s fixer who made the the legal execution of Mary Queen of Scots in 1584, happen.
For foreign covert missions, he preferred to use Englishmen rather than foreigners. Often the cover for these spyies was that they were Catholic exiles. He preferred to recruit his spies from among the impoverished lower class undergraduates at the great universities of Oxford and Cambridge.
Marlowe would have been an ideal candidate.
He took many extended, unexplained leaves of absence from the university He spent much more money than a poor student on a scholarship would have.
University authorities found out that during an extended leave of absence he had gone to a Catholic English College in Douai (a school established on the continent for the education of English Catholic exiles by Philip II of Spain). There, students were recruited and trained to be Catholic secret agents in England.
Marlowe was rumored to be planning to convert to Catholicism.
He was only able to graduate because of a letter received from the Privy Council (of which Walsingham was a member) commending Marlowe for performing an unspecified “good service” for the Crown.
This “service” probably involved revealing the identity of Catholic secret agents sent to England.
After Kyd’s torture induced confession in May 1593, Marlowe was taken before the privy chamber. He was released. But he was commanded to report to the authorities, “each day there after until licensed to the contrary”.
On the night of May 30, 1593, Marlowe was staying in a boarding house, outside of London.
This boarding house was a “safe house” for British secret agents.
He was probably preparing to flee England. The three people he met at the boarding house there would have been the right people to arrange this. They were Robert Poley (a diplomatic courier), Ingram Frizer (another agent of Walsingham) and Nikolas Skeres (a con man and associate of Frizer).
At this time Marlowe, was a tried and proven British secret agent. And yet, he was also an atheist, and homo-sexual. He knew members of the British Aristocracy who were also atheists and homosexuals.
The official story is that there was an argument about the bill. Marlowe drew Frizer’s knife and attacked him with it. Frizer struggled with him in self defense, and as a result Marlowe was fatally stabbed in the eye.
He was 29.
Fizer, admitted killing Marlowe. Yet he was acquitted of the murder.
And the coroner’s report is suspect. Rules of investigation were not followed, and the body was never independently identified by someone other than the three people at the scene of the crime.
The body was buried before anyone, other than the coroner, could get a close look at it.
Since the 18th Century theories have been proposed that Marlowe’s death was faked.
Some believe he went to Italy and continued to be a playwright and secret agent until he died in Padua, Italy in 1627.
The plays he wrote couldn’t be signed by Christopher Marlowe. He sold these plays to William Shakespeare, who would heavily edit and rewrite Marlowe’s plays, sign them and produce them at the Globe Theatre.
Some things supporting this theory is that Shakespeare received no more than the equivalent of a seventh or eighth grade education, He was taught Latin. And yet, Shakespeare’s plays seem to be written by a very educated person who had a knowledge of Latin, French, Italian and Greek, such as Marlowe.
Shakespeare never went to Italy. Yet a lot of the plays are set in Italy. The author of the Shakespearean plays set in Italy had a detailed knowledge of Italy’s geography, art and culture.
The author of these plays, set in Italy, was also influenced by Italian Theater.
The Shakespearean Italian plays are often about exiles, false identity, people who are believed to be dead who are very much alive.
‘Love’s Labour Lost, is a play set in Italy being performed by the CSF 2018.
In this play is a reference to the ‘School of Night’.
The School of Night was a intellectual coterie led by Sir Walter Raleigh. It was also called the ‘School of Atheism’. The group was said to include poets and scientists such as George Chapman, Thomas Harriot, and Christopher Marlowe.
Many of its members were said to be homosexuals.
In Act IV, scene III of William Shakespeare’s play Love’s Labour’s Lost, the King of Navarre says “Black is the badge of hell / The hue of dungeons and the school of night.”
Some scholars believe this passage reveals the hand of playwright/secret agent Christopher ‘Kit’ Marlowe.