Imagine this: meandering down a corridor in the great Globe Theatre full of relics of the past, all speaking William Shakespeare’s name. But, of course, before that day you had no reason to consider any other name nor had any such thought been presented to you. And then, it happens. You round the corner and before you is a wall that displays the names and faces of five men that could have been the writer of the plays.
This is what happened to me. I perused the names with interest and amazement. Like finding a rare antique at a yard sale that someone missed, Christopher Marlowe’s face stared back at me and my heart skipped a beat. How could the world have missed the obvious; how could I? The sparkling little trinket of truth that spoke to me as if his ghost whispered in my ear, “Tell my story. Foul deeds will rise though all the world o’erwhelm them to men’s eyes.”
I suppose I could have chosen any of the men, but something moved me. From the very moment, Marlowe’s allure buried in his mysterious eyes made me know a story lay there hidden, waiting to burst forth. Within a week and endless hours on the internet and at the library, the clues he left behind, the secret little smile in his Cambridge portrait and the knowing glint in his eyes lay before me. The pieces of the puzzle fit together like never before: the treasured words of Christopher Marlowe, the Muse’s Darling, and not the man from Stratford, linked into a beautiful and tragic telling of a man who knew the world. Here was the man who travelled the continent, who knew court life and country travails, politics and provocateurs, religion, science, languages, intrigue, love, betrayal, and exile. All the meaty experience to fill the pages of mighty plays and sonnets.
One of the first things that we are told as writers is, “Write what you know.” The adage cannot have changed since the 16th century. Marlowe wrote what he knew, leaving behind the clues, which were a common and clever tool used by writers of the day. So I ask, why buy a reproduction when you can have the real thing? It’s a lot more fun to dig for authentic Marlovian gold than float along with the crowd picking up synthetic Shakespearean souvenirs.
And if you listen closely, you may hear his voice, as well. “I have a whole school of tongues in this belly of mine, and not a tongue of them all speaks any other word but my name.”
“Blood and Ink” by D. K. Marley – published May 2018
Winner of the 2018 Bronze Medal for Best Historical Fiction from The Coffee Pot Book Club Awards
Winner of the 2019 Silver Medal for Best Historical Fiction from The Golden Squirrel Book Club Awards