Well, it is official. It has taken a while but Sir Derek Jacobi and Mark Rylance have convinced me after all these years. Not that my opinion matters in the least to them, after all, they are huge stars . . . and what am I? A mere unlettered writer who dreams of being a success. I guess I grew up with a fondness for the Stratford man, the Shakespeare we all know by his face and works, since I aspired to be another one of those wannabe writers who did not have the luxury of going to college but aspired to be something greater than a glove-maker.
While in high school, I learned of the extraordinary genius of Shakespeare, and marveled at how this man, a school dropout, could write such words. Mind you, I had big plans of going to college but life circumstances sent me down a different path, a path I do not regret – thus, as Shakespeare, life has schooled me in sometimes the most harsh and bitter way. Don’t get me wrong, Iife has also given me some of the most incredible gifts in the world (i.e. my family).
Anyway, for so long after graduation, Shakespeare was my idol. I absorbed everything he wrote and daydreamed about the day I might get to visit his home in Stratford. And then, it happened. No joke, I fell in KMart . . . slipped through a spilled bottle of detergent after passing two employees chatting nearby. For two months I had to go to a chiropractor to readjust by back but I was in heaven, for not only was my therapy paid for by the BigWigs at Kmart but I paid for my first trip to England with the funds. Two weeks roaming Britain. Ahhhhhh!!!!
1997. September, to be exact, my husband and I touched down at Heathrow airport. Two weeks after Princess Diana was killed. While I played the perfect tourist, gawking at every historical thing I could find, I will never forget the melted candle wax along the pathway to Kensington Palace and the flowers still in the gate. Heartbreaking!!!
We made the normal rounds of sight seeing, onward to Stratford-upon-Avon to see Shakespeare’s homeplace and walk the streets where he lived (suddenly I’m singing Freddie’s song from “My Fair Lady”). I was quite overcome with emotion and bought countless souvenirs in the local shops. When back in London, we visited the Globe Theatre in Southwark and took a tour. During the tour, a sort of exhibition was being held in the lobby area, a walk-through about Shakespeare’s life, and the very last display depicted the faces of five men with the headline “Who Was Shakespeare?” Needless to say, I had never heard the story, so I stood there and read every word. I’m not sure what drew me to Kit Marlowe but in his eyes I found the compulsion to write my first novel. For the next 15 years, non-college related, I studied and studied and studied . . . and wrote and revised, wrote and revised . . . on and on and on . . . all with the premise that Christopher Marlowe actually wrote the plays and sonnets attributed to Shakespeare. To me, the story was plausible but I have to say, I never confessed to be a scholarly historian, just a simple writer with what appeared to be a great idea for a book.
In my book, “Blood and Ink”, Marlowe is not killed in Deptford. He is exiled by Lord Burghley but continues to write and publish his plays through Shakespeare. There is a a lot of spies, intrigue, murder, betrayal, love, rejection, ambition; you know, Shakespearean stuff. I had the privilege of corresponding a few times with Mr. Peter Farey about the topic of Marlowe, and whose research fueled my writing to such an extent that I will be forever grateful. I, also, was fortunate enough to meet Sir Derek Jacobi and Mark Rylance at the Globe Theatre when I returned in 2007 at an authorship debate concerning the Earl of Oxford and Francis Bacon. I remember asking Sir Jacobi, “what about Marlowe?” He was so congenial and gracious, allowing a quick selfie on my phone (to which I lost ages ago), and even allowed me to tell him about my book. When I left the debate, I was not convinced about Oxford or Bacon, as my mind was fixed upon Marlowe’s star.
Now, thirteen years later after that debate, my book is published (and has won a couple of awards), and I was determined to hold to the idea of Marlowe as ‘the man’, the true author of the plays, even after meeting the two men who are advocates for the Oxford as Shakespeare idea.
That is, until recently. During this pandemic of 2020, as with most people I suspect, I’ve spent my days staring endlessly at the telly watching hours of movies, documentaries, and mindless soul-snatching dribble to fill the soul-snatching historical year. In my clicking and adding to my ever-growing ‘watch list’, I added items I know I’ve watched in the past but piqued my interest once more. “Anonymous” directed by Roland Emmerich and starring Sir Derek Jacobi, “Nothing But the Truth” and “Last Will and Testament”, two documentaries also starring Sir Derek Jacobi – all covering the topic of Edward de Vere, the Earl of Oxford, being the true author of the plays and sonnets of Shakespeare. I watched them all with intent, even finding myself chuckling at the same passages I used when referring to Marlowe’s life now being used to show Oxford’s life. Did it cement my resolve towards Marlowe? Well, here is the rub.
By Source, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=31673330
I am now a convert. The huge amount of evidence and reasoning portrayed in these documentaries, especially astounded me beyond anything so at the last I am declaring, “How can it not be DeVere?” While this does not at any rate take away from my novel Blood and Ink – I still stand behind what I wrote, after all, as I said before, I am a historical fiction author (alternate historical in this case) and not a historian. Whether it was Marlowe, Oxford, Bacon, or the actual Will Shaksper from Stratford-upon-Avon, you have to admit, the stories do make for great historical fiction. I still present my novel as a sound story. While not historical fiction, it is an alternate theory which will boost those in favor of Marlowe as the author. Who knows, maybe this second watching of these shows have sparked another novel in the making! And I am all for that notion!!
I loved some of the quotes they used in the second documentary, some of the famous men throughout history who also believed in the Earl of Oxford as the man, or at least believed the man from Stratford was not the true author.
Such as, Henry James, author of The Wings of the Dove and The Portrait of a Lady, who said:
I am “a sort of“ haunted by the conviction that the divine William is the biggest and most successful fraud ever practiced on a patient world.Or these others:
“In the work of the greatest geniuses, humble beginnings will reveal themselves somewhere, but one cannot trace the slightest sign of them in Shakespeare … I am not concerned with who wrote the works of Shakespeare … but I can hardly think it was the Stratford boy. Whoever wrote them had an aristocratic attitude.” – Charlie Chaplin, actor
The Egyptian verdict of the Shakespeare Societies comes to mind; that he was a jovial actor and manager. I can not marry this fact to his verse. – Ralph Waldo Emerson
“I no longer believe that William Shakespeare the actor from Stratford was the author of the works that have been ascribed to him.” – Sigmund Freud
“But what if it turns out, as it just possibly might, that William Shakespeare of Stratford was not the author of the plays ascribed to him? There is a theory, advanced by reputable scholars, seriously and, in my opinion, plausibly, that Shakespeare merely lent his name as a cover for the literary activities of another person … If, by some terrible chance, this theory should be proved, then straightaway Stratford’s tourist status would dwindle.” – Sir William Tyrone Guthrie, Tony award-winning theatre director
“Isn’t it odd, when you think of it, that you may list all of the celebrated Englishmen, Irishmen, Scotchmen … clear back to the first Tudors — a list of five hundred names, shall we say? — and you can … learn the particulars of the lives of every one of them. Every one of them except one — the most famous, the most renowned — by far the most illustrious of them all — Shakespeare!” – Mark Twain, author of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn
“I think [an alternative candidate] wrote Shakespeare. If you don’t, there are some awfully funny coincidences to explain away.” – Orson Welles, Actor
“I am firm against Shaksper — I mean the Avon man, the actor.” – Walt Whitman, American Poet
Thank you for reading my ramblings or listening to my Southern un-degree’d voice talk about high-falutin’ things!!
D. K. Marley