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fifty years of life was granted to Shakespeare ; Marlowe went to his grave before he had reached his thirtieth year.1
It remains to discuss briefly certain plays in which critics have alleged that Marlowe was concerned. These are the Taming of a Shrew, 1594; Titus Andronicus ; the old King John; and the 3 Parts of Henry VI. The wretched Larum for London,2 and still more wretched Locrine may be at once dismissed as unworthy of the slightest notice.
The Taming of a Shrew contains a number of passages that closely resemble, or are identical with, passages in Marlowe's undoubted plays— particularly Tamburlaine. This fact alone would make us suspect that Marlowe was not the author; for poets of Marlowe's class do not repeat themselves in this wholesale manner. But when we see how maladroitly, without the slightest regard to the context, these passages are introduced, then we may indeed wonder that any critic could have
i Some critics have seen an allusion to Marlowe in Midsummer Night's Dream, v. I:
“The thrice three Muses mourning for the death
Of Learning, late deceased in beggary.” Others suppose that he was the rival to whom Shakespeare refers in the 85th and 86th Sonnets.—There is no evidence to support these theories.
2 Mr. Collier had a copy of this piece with the following doggerel rhymes written on the title-page:
“Our famous Marloe had in this a hand,
As from his fellowes I doe vnderstand.
A perfitt coppie came to hand to late,"
been so insensate as to attribute the authorship to Marlowe. Here is a fair sample of the writing :
“Father, I swear by Ibis' golden beak
Plough up huge furrows in the Terrene main." This passage is patched up from the First Part of Tamburlaine : cf. I. 2 ll. 95-6, 191-2. The reference to “Ibis' golden beak" (in imitation of 1 Tamb. iv. 3, 1. 37) is delightfully ludicrous. In another passage we have a mention of
massy robe that late adorned The stately legate of the Persian king,” where (as Dyce remarked) the allusion would be quite unintelligible unless we remembered the lines in 2 Tamb.
Occasionally lines are filched from Faustus :
“And should my love, as erst did Hercules,
Entreat grim Pluto," &c.
In my judgment the anonymous writer was sometimes engaged in imitating Marlowe and sometimes in burlesquing him. But be this as it may, the absurdity of attributing the piece to Marlowe is flagrant. The author of the Taming of a Shrew was a genuine humourist; and Mr. Swinburne is speaking within bounds when he calls him “Of all the pre-Shakespeareans incomparably the truest, the richest, the most powerful and original humourist." Marlowe had little or no humour.
We may therefore safely dismiss the Taming of a Shrew; but with Titus Andronicus the case is different. As I re-read this play after coming straight from the study of Marlowe, I find again and again passages that, as it seems to me, no hand but his could have written. It is not easy in a question of this kind to set down in detail reasons for our belief. Marlowe's influence permeated so thoroughly the dramatic literature of his day, that it is hard sometimes to distinguish between master and pupil. When the master is writing at his best there is no difficulty, but when his work is hasty and illdigested, or has been left incomplete and has received additions from other hands, then our perplexity is great. In our disgust at the brutal horrors that crowd the pages of Titus Andronicus, we must beware of blinding ourselves to the imaginative power that marks much of the writing. In Aaron's soliloquy at the opening of act ii., it is hard to believe that we are not listening to the young Marlowe. There is the ring of Tamburlaine in such lines as these :
"As when the golden sun salutes the morn,
And, having gilt the ocean with his beams,
And overlooks the highest-peering hills.” Both rhythm and diction in the following lines remind us of Marlowe's earliest style :
“Madam, though Venus govern your desires,
Blood and revenge are hammering in my head." Aaron's confession of his villainies (in v. 1) will recall to every reader the conversation between Barabas and Ithamore in the third scene of the second act of the Jew of Malta. The character of Aaron was either drawn by Marlowe or in close imitation of him; and it seems to me more reasonable to suppose that Titus Andronicus is in the main a crude early work of Marlowe's than that any imitator could have written with such marked power. But the great difficulty lies in determining to whom we should assign the frantic ravings of old Andronicus. They appear to be by another hand than Marlowe's ; and they cannot, with any degree of plausibility, be assigned to Shakespeare. Lamb suggested that they recall the writer who contributed the marvellous “additions” to the Spanish Tragedy,-a suggestion that deserves more attention than it has received. What
share Shakespeare had in the play I must confess myself at a loss to divine. I have sometimes thought that there are traces of his hand in the very first scene,--and not beyond it; that he began to revise the play, and gave up the task in disgust. It is of Shakespeare rather than of Marlowe that we are reminded in such lines as
“ Wilt thou draw near the nature of the gods?
Sweet mercy is nobility's true badge.” But however closely we may look for them, we shall find very few Shakespearean passages. Of Marlowe's earliest style we are constantly and inevitably reminded.
That Marlowe had a share in all three parts of Henry VI. is, I think, certain. The opening lines of the First Part at once recall the language and rhythm of Tamburlaine, and the closing lines are suggestive of a passage of Edward II. The opening lines are :
“Hung be the heavens with black, yield day to night!
That have consented unto Henry's death !”
"Weep, heavens, and vanish into liquid tears !
Muffle your beauties with eternal clouds !”