Tag Archives: marlowe

Shakespeare, Marlowe and the pageboy guy

So the world is talking about Shakespeare’s collaborations, and this girl couldn’t be happier. We’ve long known that Will’s plays are full of interpolations from other writers, but to have Kit be specially credited warms my heart.

Because the whole point of Rival Poet is that Will needs help. His hand, his country manners, his lack of brashness, his dialect, his tendency to give up… he wouldn’t have got anywhere without his best friend Richard, his loyal company from whose voices he crafted his characters, and above all, without Kit.

And neither would I.

You see, Kit is the person I never can be, but sometimes wish I could. He’s my secret animus and the man of my dreams – literally. When I was eighteen, I started having this recurring dream about a tall guy with a pageboy cut – which was sometimes a bright green – who just sort of moved through the dream and was cool and mysterious and intelligent and wore a Sherlock style coat. Irresistible. I always woke up with a feeling of yearning. I wanted that man to be real. I wanted him in my life.

But not as a partner. I wanted to be him.

So for me the “pageboy guy” has become the symbol of a side I never reveal. He’s the part of me that speaks through my less-than-considerate characters. He’s Becca in Pax, and maybe Nathan. He’s Laila in All You Can Eat and Garangjas in Last Communion. But above all, he’s Kit Marlowe.

MAJOR RIVAL POET SPOILERS AHEAD. If you want to avoid them, scroll until you see the cover and then continue reading below it.

SPOILERY STUFF:

There was an earlier version of Rival Poet where Kit actually died for real. A non-romance version, obviously. But he continued haunting me. There was a niggling doubt at the back of my head. I didn’t want him dead. I also didn’t want to buy into some stupid conspiracy theory and ruin the part of the plot where losing Kit was the breeding ground for all of Will’s tragedies. To say I had cognitive dissonance is an understatement.

And then finally, I brought him back. I sometimes wonder if it was the right thing to do, but the answer is always the same: yes. Because he does live on. Just like Shakespeare, Marlowe is as alive today as he was four hundred years ago, and I needed that scene, that (slightly twisted) riding-into-the-sunset-and-living-forever scene that can be taken as face value, but which also has a more symbolic meaning that nudges the reader and says, “You know? Wink, wink.”

Rival Poet ARe

OKAY, NOW IT’S JUST NON-SPOILERY STUFF 🙂

So yeah, seeing people today be all excited about how my two favourite boys collaborated on a bunch of plays is a joy for me, because I’m personally convinced they did. Will and Kit go together like the two halves of my soul: the middle-aged woman who guards her tongue, and the devil-may-care shadow with the artsy coat who laughs at everything.

I even wrote a song about it. Now, I’m not a flawless singer, and I’m definitely not a pianist, but I do consider myself an amateur composer. (Can’t write novels all the time, you know?) So here it is, in all its do-I-really-remember-the-chords glory: my tribute to Kit Marlowe.

Lyrics below.

 

PAMPERED JADE

He steps out of the shadows like
An impish sprite on the lookout
For a narrative to hijack
’Cause he didn’t have enough time
In his own lifetime
To fill the world with his words
And he will not be able to sleep soundly
In his grave until

He has conquered all the world
Like the pampered jade he is
He’s been made immortal by
Another Helen’s kiss
His cry will be Come live with me
All through the night
’Cause whoever loved
That loved not at first sight?

So here I am, in this song
I suppose it’s about me
But if you look, I’ll be gone
’Cause I’m strange and elusive
Now you see me, now you don’t
I’m the Magus, I’m the Puck
I am Mercury, I bring a message from the gods

I have conquered all the world
Like the pampered jade I am
I’ll be made immortal by
The kiss from another man
My cry will be Come live with me
All through the night
’Cause whoever loved
That loved not at first sight?

I am back from Hades
And I know you can’t resist
So come with me and we will get
Fictionally pissed

’Cause you can conquer all the world
Like the pampered jade you are
You’ll be made immortal by
The kiss from a shooting star
Your cry will be Come live with me
All through the night
’Cause whoever loved
That loved not at first sight?

Being gay in Elizabethan times

This post and some links in it contain advertisements for my books.

In sixteenth century England, sodomy was a capital offence, but maybe not for the reasons we think. It wasn’t just about homosexual behaviour, but about sexual debauchery in general. It had nothing to do with who you were (there was no such thing as “a homosexual” then), it was just something you did. Anal intercourse was a sin partly because it avoided conception and was only done for fun, no matter who you did it with.

For this reason, you could be hanged if you practised it, at least in theory. There aren’t many records of such executions, but this can have other reasons: records can burn or otherwise disappear. From what we can surmise, though, it seems the authorities mostly chose to look the other way. Maybe that’s understandable. I mean, if they had to hang every Tom, Dick and Francis who did something sexually questionable, they wouldn’t have the time to focus on the really important stuff like wars, would they?

Curiously though, they looked more sternly on the offence if you combined it with coining and atheism. To a 21st century person, this is completely baffling. What do sodomy, coining and atheism have to do with each other, after all?

Well, as this article and this book put forward, sodomy, like atheism, could be used as a symbol for antisocial behaviour in general. Also, funnily enough, coining and sodomy were viewed as two sides of, forgive the pun, the same coin. Lots of fascinating reasons are laid out in this article, but one aspect touches on the current view (of some!) that gay people somehow have an agenda to spread homosexuality to straight people. The Elizabethans believed that you could be “contaminated” by it, and that by practising sodomy, instead of creating children, you created new sodomites. If you also created fake money through coining, that was taken as further proof, because look, you’re making more of something bad, and it’s the same thing, right?

Right. In hindsight, many beliefs can look downright silly, but just try to view our own times with a future person’s eyes. Won’t they find a lot to laugh about?

Anyway, back to the sixteenth century. Poet Kit Marlowe was accused of sodomy, atheism and coining, and some believe that these are the things that led to his death. I won’t comment on that in this post, since it would completely ruin Rival Poet for you, should you ever wish to read it. I will say, however, that the accusations smack of truth. His poem Hero and Leander is nothing short of a gushy Leander fan letter, and Hero is described mostly through her clothes.

Exhibit A, Leander:

His body was as straight as Circe’s wand;

Jove might have sipt out nectar from his hand.

Even as delicious meat is to the taste,

So was his neck in touching, and surpast

The white of Pelops’ shoulder: I could tell ye,

How smooth his breast was, and how white his belly;

And whose immortal fingers did imprint

That heavenly path with many a curious dint

That runs along his back…

Okay, we get it. He was delicious enough to eat.

On to exhibit B, Hero:

The outside of her garments were of lawn,

The lining purple silk, with gilt stars drawn;

Her wide sleeves green, and border’d with a grove,

Where Venus in her naked glory strove

To please the careless and disdainful eyes

Of proud Adonis, that before her lies;

Her kirtle blue, whereon was many a stain,

Made with the blood of wretched lovers slain.

No need to go on, we get the picture: Marlowe liked a bit of flair on a gal, but the gal herself? Barely there.

Another prominent person to be accused was Edward de Vere, the seventeenth Earl of Oxford. This guy, held by some to be the true author of Shakespeare’s works, was charged for raping his boy servants. Not just sodomy, then, but pederasty. Insert horrified gasp here. Our revered perhaps-Shakespeare, a child molester?

But wait a minute. The men who accused him may have had a bone to pick with the earl. It’s the old Michael Jackson conundrum: how can we ever guess the truth about an alleged crime committed by a rich and famous person when 1) the law tends to be lenient towards them just because they are rich and famous, and 2) people tend to accuse them of crimes in order to bring them down and/or get at their riches? Add to this that the crime in question happened more than four hundred years ago, and all we can do is speculate. In the end, Oxford was acquitted, but we can’t know why.

For my part, I chose to exploit this little historical nugget in Rival Poet. I’m not saying Oxford really did it, but I used it to add some tension to my plot and to strengthen one of my themes.

Also, as a devout Stratfordian, I guess I’m not above a little bitching…

Shakespeare’s arch enemy?

This post and some links in it contain advertisements for my books.

While I was researching for Rival Poet, I ran across a really interesting article by David Kathman about Shakespeare’s Stratford acquaintance Richard Field. The article makes a compelling case for Shakespeare getting some help as a green playwright just arrived in London.

Field was the son of a Stratford tanner, and he was three years older than Will. They probably went to school together for a while, and then in 1579, Field went to London to be a printer’s apprentice. When his master died, he took over the business together with the widow. Among the books he printed, there are several that may have been used as sources by Shakespeare. He also printed Shakespeare’s first poems, Venus and Adonis and The Rape of Lucrece. Therefore it’s not a big leap to assume that they knew each other.

However, many who acknowledge this connection routinely paint printer Field as a friend, and I wanted to do something different. After all, there are thousands of books about Shakespeare, so if you do embark on yet another story, you need your own twist. Add to this that every story needs a villain.

Therefore I decided that Dick Field wasn’t really a friend, but a childhood enemy, a bully who almost stopped Will from writing at all. While staying true to the known facts, I made Dick a different kind of catalyst for the budding poet, hopefully resulting in a more interesting plot.

_______________________________________________________________________________

The rope cut into his throat. Not tightly enough to choke him, but not loosely either. Dick took a step back and surveyed his work. “So, Willie… you going to tell Master Jenkins about this, then?”

Will tried to shake his head, but stopped when the rope chafed at his neck.

“That’s right, because I know for a fact that our teacher hasn’t been to church for… what is it, six Sundays in a row? Naughty, naughty…” Dick laughed. His minions joined in. “If you think that godless man will help you, you’re in for a disappointment.”

Will’s mind was racing too fast. He was tied to a tree and couldn’t move, so his only way out of this was through words. But what words? What could he say that would melt the stony heart of the tanner’s son?

Blurting the first thing he could think of, he said, “I’m not like Master Jenkins.” The words hurt his throat. “I’m not a recusant.”

At once, Dick’s eyes narrowed. With a sickening twist of the stomach, Will knew that he had made a mistake, but it was too late to take it back.

“You think you’re pretty smart, don’t you? Re-cu-sant. Wow. Good boy, to know such fancy words. Just like Master Jenkins. You’d make a lovely couple, you would.”

Dick’s fist landed in Will’s belly. Completely unprepared for the blow, Will’s bound body tried to double over, and his spine slammed into the tree trunk.

“Well, we can’t have men marrying boys in a proper God-fearing town like Stratford,” Dick sighed, feigning remorse. “Sodomy is a capital offence, you know. We’ll just have to hang, draw and quarter you. So tell me, Willie, before you die…” Dick took his deformed hand and caressed it almost lovingly. “Do you think Master Jenkins will cry when his star pupil is gone?” He lowered his voice to a raucous whisper. “Or do you think he’ll be relieved?”

Rival Poet ARe

Rival Poet on Amazon

Shakespeare and Marlowe, star-crossed lovers?

This post and some links in it contain advertisements for my books.

DSC_0108_02Well, what do you know? When I fed the birth data of William Shakespeare and Christopher Marlowe into the online astrology service Astrodienst, this was the result (taken from the free sample):

“A relationship with composite Sun in the tenth house is likely to be a significant one. First of all, this position indicates that the two of you have an identity of purpose in your lives together, or at least that you are able to help each other attain the goals you have set for yourselves. If this relationship goes anywhere at all, it will have a strong effect on your life purpose. The composite Moon in the tenth house indicates that you will share a concern for getting ahead in life. You both want to get somewhere, and you feel that together you can do it better than you could separately.

The conjunction of composite Jupiter and Ascendant is a very good aspect for any kind of relationship. Jupiter here helps to ensure a positive relationship. In a business or professional association, this aspect indicates financial success. In a personal relationship, it allows the two of you to feel good about each other and about yourselves as a couple. You will find that being together broadens your range of experience, and together you will discover new aspects of the world that will help you grow as human beings.”

Wow… this mirrors my take on these two playwrights exactly! They are more than lovers, more than colleagues. They become more together than they could be on their own. It’s hardly possible to separate their love-making from their work, because it’s all bound up and wound up in each other. Theirs really is a “marriage of true minds”. It’s the perfect union, both on a personal and a career level.

Further:

“The conjunction of composite Moon and composite Venus is a most positive aspect for any personal relationship. It indicates a strong feeling of love between you that you will express openly. The relationship may even have something of a dreamy quality, as if it were too beautiful to be true. The basic inner strength of this relationship should be great enough to overcome all but the worst problems. In general, this is one of the most positive and useful aspects that a composite chart can have for a successful personal relationship.

The conjunction of composite Saturn and Ascendant can have several very different effects, depending on other factors in the relationship. On the positive level, it can signify a relationship that is bound together so strongly that almost nothing can break it up. This is not so much because there is a positive attraction between you as because you are intensely involved with each other in a way that seems strongly predestined.”

Yep. 🙂 These two are nothing if not soul mates. In a world where sodomy is a capital offence and where everything that’s written and performed on the stage must be run by the Queen’s censor, Will and Kit can only find true understanding in a fellow poet. They are mirror images of each other, one born to a cobbler, and the other one to a glover, both in the same year (1564), and, possibly, the same date in different months*.

Finally:

“Your experience of love within this relationship will very strongly affect the lives of both of you. On the psychological level, this relationship will aid both of you in discovering what you want to do with your lives. Loving each other should reinforce you and give you greater confidence in yourselves. At the same time, this relationship will teach you about the nature of love and how you relate to others on an intimate personal level. The only way you can learn what living with another person means is by doing so.”

Well, this is where it gets difficult, because in Elizabethan times, you couldn’t just go ahead and marry the person you loved. On the other hand, men often housed together, even slept in the same bed, to save money. It was a fine line to tread, and while Kit may have been devil-may-care, Will was more careful. In Rival Poet, he’s the one who insists on absolute secrecy. He does it to protect the two of them, but instead it contributes to the largest challenge in their life together-apart.

But in the end, as you can see from their chart, nothing can keep them apart. These two face some of the biggest hurdles of all my characters, but the reward at the end is worth it.

* There are no records of their exact birth dates, but judging from the dates of their baptism, they could be born on February and April 23.

Gatecrashing celebrity parties and being hijacked by a dead poet

This post and the links in it contain advertisements for my books.

A good friend of mine once said that writers are people who still have imaginary friends as adults. I have always believed this to be true, but it became really obvious when I started writing about Shakespeare. Even though I’m used to having fictional people clamoring for attention in my head all the time, I wasn’t at all prepared for being swept off my feet like I was by Kit Marlowe.

It all began in Liverpool, of all places. My husband and I went to a concert with a singer that he has admired since his teenage years. After the gig, we stalked one of his friends and gatecrashed the post-gig party. Now, I’ve never wanted to meet my idols, since I just know I would make a fool of myself. But my husband isn’t quite such a coward, so he went over and introduced himself. The singer was really nice and talked to him for a long while, and the memory of that stuck with me.

When I started researching for Rival Poet, I came across the only known (alleged) portrait of Marlowe. In it, he looks a lot like that singer. Rival Poet AReMulling over the connection, I decided that when Will first came to London he must have met someone he looked up to – a poet, probably. The two most likely candidates for such hero worship were Kyd and Marlowe, both successful playwrights at the time. Simply because of the link in my mind to my husband’s idol, I leaned toward Marlowe. Finally, after watching a BBC documentary where he was depicted as a madcap biker, I knew I had to go with him.

So I decided to write a scene where Will meets Kit and is really awkward – as a kind of flirtation with my own admiration for Shakespeare and how nervous I would be in his presence. It was just supposed to be a minor plot point. Little did I expect that both Will and I would fall head over heels in love with the man. In no time at all, he had completely hi-jacked the story, and in the end, the book was more about him than about Shakespeare himself.

And you know, it’s kind of ironic: I chose this profession because I like having full control over everything – only to end up at the complete mercy of people who don’t even exist!