Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Fashion or Flop? - Elisabeth de Valois

Here we see the lovely Elisabeth de Valois, donning black with burnt orange accents. However, what really seems to make this outfit pop is her extensive use of accessories. Her lavish jewelry collection is prominently displayed along her bodice, while she caps off her outfit with a heavily bejeweled hat. Though the dress itself is quite plain, the accessories seem to "make the outfit." 

What think ye?
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Thursday, August 11, 2011

Roguish Rake - Christopher Marlowe

Christopher Marlowe, looking a bit rakish.
Christopher Marlowe, a contemporary of Shakespeare has gone down in history as a spy, a homosexual, a heretic, a brawler, as well as a "magician", "duellist", "tobacco-user", "counterfeiter" and "rakehell."


Despite the great "Marlowe Myth," there is actually only a little historical evidence to back it up.

Let's take these allegations one at a time:

Marlowe the Spy

Sir Francis Walsingham.
Perhaps the original "M."

In 1587 the Privy Council ordered Cambridge University to award Marlowe his MA. Looking back through his college records, historians have found that Marlowe was absent for long periods of time during his studies. Absences this long were not allowed. However, the Privy Council argued that Marlowe was excused because he had been engaged in unspecified "affaires" on "matters touching the benefit of his country."

Sounds like Marlowe could have been the original 007 (Wait, would that make Walsingham "M"? Or in this case "W"?).

Marlowe the Homosexual

Marlowe was rumored to be a homosexual, however much like Shakespeare, there is little proof. According to one rumor, Marlowe said,  "All they that love not Tobacco and Boys are fools."Some have also said he alluded to homosexuality in many of his plays.

However, it is important to remember that what is often today termed "homosexual" or "bisexual" in Elizabethan England was more likely to be recognized as a sexual act, rather than an exclusive sexual orientation and identity.

Marlowe the Heretic

Typical fate of heretics.
Marlowe was a known Atheist. In a time of such heated religious controversy, not choosing a side might seem like a good idea, but in reality it made him a target for both sides. According to one contemporary source, Marlowe often scoffed at the Bible, often calling Jesus a "bastard," his mother Mary a "dishonest" or unchaste woman, St. John a homosexual, among other extremely controversial opinions.

A warrant for his arrest for heresy was issued shortly before his death.

Marlowe the Fighter

Scene from The Reckoning of Kit & Little Boots
On May 30th, Marlowe was killed. There are various accounts of his death. However, the most widely accepted is that he was killed in a drunken brawl.

The official coroners report read that Marlowe had spent the day of his death in a house in Deptford, owned by the widow Eleanor Bull, with three men: Ingram Frizer, Nicholas Skeres and Robert Poley. All three had been employed by one or other of the Walsinghams. (I like to think of them all as "00" agents).

These witnesses testified that Frizer and Marlowe had argued over the bill (now famously known as the 'Reckoning') exchanging "divers malicious words." Marlowe snatched Frizer's dagger and wounded him on the head. In the ensuing struggle, Marlowe was stabbed above the right eye, killing him instantly. The jury concluded that Frizer acted in self-defence, and within a month he was pardoned.

Prize fighter? Maybe not. But certainly rakish.

Marlowe and Shakespeare
Some have said that his murder was actually an assassination. Marlowe had been accused of heresy, and a warrant was issued for his arrest. He had not been apprehended after appear at court to answer the charges. Rather, he was told to go and come back alter. The three men with him all had important missions to carry out, yet they just "hung out" all day...ending in Marlowe's death...slightly suspicious.

Another theory is that Marlowe was not killed that evening in 1593, but went on to write under the name "William Shakespeare." The theory believes his patron, Sir Thomas Walsingham, would get the plays from Marlowe in England, copy them into different handwriting, and then continue to be the same man he was, only secluded. It is known as "The Marlovian Theory," but is obviously not widely accepted.


Whether these all of these rumors are true or not, it can certainly be seen that Marlowe was a respected writer of his time. He greatly influenced Shakespeare, and in return all of Western literature.

Now it is up to you. Will you listen to the rumors and conclude that Marlowe was perhaps the most roguish rake of them all, or do you see him as an unjustly slain play write, who influenced Shakespeare and, if he had lived, could have given the famous bard a run for his money? Pin It