Writing Marlowe as writing Shakespeare

Barber, Rosalind (2012) Writing Marlowe as writing Shakespeare. Doctoral thesis (DPhil), University of Sussex.

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This thesis consists of two components: a 70,000-word verse novel and a 50,000-word
critical component that has arisen out of the research process for that novel.

Creative Component: The Marlowe Papers
The Marlowe Papers is a full-length verse novel written entirely in iambic pentameter.
As with verse novels such as The Golden Gate by Vikram Seth, or The Emperor’s Babe
by Bernadine Evaristo, its inspiration, derivation, conventions and scope owe more to
the prose novel than to the epic poem. Though there is as yet no widely-accepted
definition, a verse novel may be distinguished from an epic poem where it consists, as
in this case, of numerous discrete poems, each constituting a ‘chapter’ of the novel.
This conception allows for considerable variations in form and tone that would not be
possible in the more cohesive tradition of the epic poem. The Marlowe Papers is a
fictional autobiography of Christopher Marlowe based on the idea that he used the
pseudonym ‘William Shakespeare’ (employing the Stratford merchant as a ‘front’),
having faked his own death and fled abroad to escape capital charges for atheism and
heresy. The verse novel, written in dramatic scenes, traces his life from his flight on 30
May 1593, through the back-story (starting in 1586) that led to his prosecution, as we
similarly track his progress on the Continent and in England until just after James I accedes to the English throne. The poems are a mixture of longer blank verse narratives
and smaller, more lyrical poems (including sonnets). Explanatory notes to the poems,
and a Dramatis Personae, are included on the advice of my creative supervisor.

Critical Component: Writing Marlowe As Writing Shakespeare
This part of the thesis explores the relationship between early modern biographies and
fiction, questioning certain ‘facts’ of Marlovian and Shakespearean biography in the
light of the ‘thought experiment’ of the verse novel. Marlowe’s reputation for violence
is reassessed in the light of scholarly doubt about the veracity of the inquest document,
and Shakespeare’s sonnets are reinterpreted through the lens of the Marlovian theory of
Shakespeare authorship. The argument is that orthodox and non-Stratfordian theories
might be considered competing paradigms; simply different frameworks through which
interpretation of the same data leads to different conclusions. Interdisciplinary
influences include Kuhn’s philosophy of scientific discovery, post-modern narrativist
history, neuroscience, psychology, and quantum physics (in the form of the ‘observer
effect’). Data that is either anomalous or inexplicable under the orthodox paradigm is
demonstrated to support a Marlovian reading, and the current state of the Shakespeare
authorship question is assessed. Certain primary source documents were examined at
the Bodleian Library, at the British Library, and at Lambeth Palace Library. Versions of
Chapters 2, 3 and 4, written under supervision during this doctorate, have all been
published, either as a book chapter or as a journal article, within the last year (Barber,
2009, 2010a, b).

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Schools and Departments: School of Media, Arts and Humanities > English
Subjects: C Auxiliary Sciences of History > CT Biography > CT0021 Biography as an art or literary form
P Language and Literature > PR English literature > PR0500 Poetry
P Language and Literature > PR English literature > PR0750 Prose
P Language and Literature > PR English literature > PR2199 English renaissance (1500-1640)
P Language and Literature > PR English literature > PR6100 2001-
Depositing User: Library Cataloguing
Date Deposited: 29 Jun 2012 05:55
Last Modified: 16 Mar 2022 15:37
URI: http://srodev.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/39699

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